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Mueller seeking to question Trump Transcript 1/23/18 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Richard Blumenthal, Sari Horwitz, Ben Wittes, Devlin Barrett

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 23, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Sari Horwitz, Ben Wittes, Devlin Barrett

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- advance of the forces seeking truth against those who are seeking to hold it tight to himself. If it were a contest of arrogance, Trump`s got a fighting chance. If it`s about the facts, Mr. President, let`s see. As Detective Columbo would say, just one more question, sir. And that`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mr. Mueller asked the President to submit to an interview, is that something that the President would be open to?

HAYES: New signs that Mueller time is coming for the President.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The witch hunt continues.

HAYES: As his sitting Attorney General goes before the Special Counsel.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: I would have gladly had reported the meeting.

HAYES: Tonight, why Jeff Sessions is the key to so much for Robert Mueller and what lies ahead for the President.

TRUMP: I`m not at all concerned. Thank you all very much.

HAYES: Then, as Chuck Schumer pulls the wall, why Democrats have the political high ground on immigration.

ANNE COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would deport the DREAMers before deporting MS-13 members.

HAYES: And how evangelicals are finding religion in the Donald Trump- Stormy Daniels affair.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: We kind of gave him -- all right, you get a mulligan. You get -- you get a do over here.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. We`ve got some breaking news from the Washington Post about the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the President. We`re going to tell you that in just a moment. It`s literally just been published. We learned today even before that the sitting Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement officer in the nation was questioned by the Special Counsel`s team in a criminal investigation of the President of the United States, his campaign, and associates for possible obstruction of justice and collusion with a foreign adversary. Just take that in for a moment.

The Justice Department confirming today that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did sit for hours last week with Robert Mueller`s investigators, accompanied by his personal attorney. They also learned today that James Comey, who of course the former FBI Director whom the President fired last May, was also interviewed by Mueller`s team late last year. On deck according to The Washington Post none other than the President of the United States himself. Mueller reportedly wants to question the President in the coming weeks about the departures of Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

As far as we know, Mueller`s investigation is proceeding on at least two separate tracks and Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General is implicated in both of them. First, there`s the question of Russian collusion with the campaign. Sessions was a key member of that campaign. And we know that during the election he met at least twice with the Russian Ambassador encounters he somewhat famously or infamously failed to disclose during his confirmation process under oath to his former colleagues. We know that Carter Page told Sessions ahead of time about his own trip to Moscow in the summer of 2016 where he met Russian officials and we know Sessions chaired a meeting attended by George Papadopoulos in March 2016 as you can see there on the screen. Papadopoulos spoke about his efforts through Russian contacts to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Sessions later claimed under oath that he couldn`t remember much about that meeting except, except his own response.

SESSIONS: I pushed back. I`ll just say it that way.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Did anyone else at that meeting including Then-Candidate Trump react in any way to what about Mr. Papadopoulos had presented?

SESSIONS: I don`t recall.

NADLER: OK. So your testimony is that neither Donald Trump nor anyone else at the meeting expressed any interest in meeting the Russian President or had any concerns about communications between the campaign and the Russians?

SESSIONS: I don`t recall it. I remember the pushback.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Then there`s the second track of Mueller`s investigation, the question of whether the President or his aides committed obstruction of justice which is a felony under felony law by Pressuring Comey to end the investigation and then firing him when he refused to comply. The Attorney General is elbow deep in the firing of Comey. He was one of the officials asked to leave the Oval Office before the President asked Comey one on one to let the Flynn matter go according to Comey`s sworn testimony. Comey testified that following that encounter, he implored Sessions to keep the President from communicating with him directly. Later after Comey have testified publicly twice on Capitol Hill, the Attorney General wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey according to The New York Times. The Justice Department denied that account but the Times stands by its story.

When the President eventually made up his mind to get rid of Comey for good, he reportedly brought Sessions into Oval Office to discuss it along with his deputy Rod Rosenstein. Ultimately it was Sessions who wrote the memo actually recommending Comey be fired used by the President as a short- lived pretext. Now, overall, Sessions has been both a target and a tool of efforts by the President to rein in the Russia probe and bend Justice Department to the White House`s will. We learned recently that Trump last year demanded that Sessions maintain control of the investigation dispatching his White House Counsel the press the Attorney General not to recuse himself. We know that Sessions` decision to recuse anyway enraged the president who threatened to fire Sessions and kept on attacking him months later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he would -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else. Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which frankly, I think it`s very unfair to the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: But Sessions appears to be doing the President`s bidding in other ways. Just last night we learned the current FBI Director threatened to resign, a fairly extraordinary step if you know anyone who has a job like this after Sessions taking a cue from the President`s own tweets pressured him to fire his deputy who has been the target of political attacks. Just moments ago, this report from the Washington Post. Andrew McCabe, that individual who is the Acting Director, who`s been targeted by President, targeted by the Trump T.V. and targeted by the President`s allies recounting that Trump asked him in a get to know you meeting whom he voted for during the Oval Office -- who he voted for during the election. McCabe declined to answer. Senator Richard Blumenthal is a Democrat from Connecticut, a Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which is conducting its own investigation into potential Russian collusion and obstruction of justice.

Let`s begin with Andrew McCabe, who of course was a career FBI official. He was Deputy Director and then Acting Director after Comey`s firing. He has come under tremendous criticism from the President and his allies. New reporting tonight suggesting the President in their first meeting asked him squarely who he voted for. What do you make of that?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It is explosive because what it shows is even more powerful evidence of obstruction of justice and interference with the FBI and an attack on the FBI itself through Christopher Wray and trying to fire McCabe after asking Andrew McCabe a long-standing career professional in the FBI whether he had political involvement in the sense that who he voted for. And I think it adds context also to the continuing work of the Judiciary Committee. We should be looking into whether or not this kind of interview involving President of the United States and a career professional of the FBI represents an attack on this institution. It is one of the premier law enforcement institutions in the world and it is now under attack by Republicans a relentless all-out assault on our law enforcement institutions.

HAYES: Do you see a pattern here insofar as James Comey testified the President cleared everyone out of the room or had him over for a one-on-one meeting, asked had him for loyalty. When he did not offer loyalty, he also continued to asked him to see his way to letting Flynn go and then fired him when he couldn`t, that`s person number one. That`s the first person. Then Andrew McCabe, brought in for a one on one get to know you and asked essentially of loyalty who did you vote for, a kind of proxy question, lo and behold the President calls for him to be fired. We now have reporting he pressured Wray to fire him and then McCabe ultimately retires.

BLUMENTHAL: It is definitely part of a pattern, Chris. That`s absolutely right. And I saw your very excellent insights earlier on Ari Melber`s show "THE BEAT" where you said that only one person knows what Donald Trump did. Well, there is evidence here of what he did and what he thought at the time in that pattern, also in his tweets about his contempt for the FBI, the investigation by Mueller being a hoax or a witch hunt and, of course, his firing Comey which is central to all of what he did after he demanded loyalty in that kind of pattern and wanted him to go light on Flynn. So it is all part of a pattern and the most recent report adds very strong powerful evidence to the obstruction case.

HAYES: Jeff Sessions, who has given -- has given an interview to Mueller`s investigations, Attorney General of the United States sitting for an interview into a criminal investigation into the White House. Do you have confidence in him? Do you have confidence that he has safeguarded the independence of the Department of Justice or have you lost that confidence?

BLUMENTHAL: I had no confidence from the very start of his tenure. I voted against him. I was one of the first Judiciary Committee members to say that I would oppose his nominations and then raised the issue of his untruthful testimony before the Judiciary Committee and his need to come back and explain that testimony about his meetings with the Russian Ambassador. He is linked in so many ways to this case, his contacts with the Russian Ambassador, while he was involved in a campaign, then as a Senator, now as Attorney General, his potential involvement in this cover- up and all of these threads, these lines of liability, lead to the Oval Office. And that`s the significance of the other Washington Post report that the Special Counsel now wants to interview the President, no question that that was predictable but the timing may be a little bit different, may not come right away but you`re absolutely right to raise that question.

HAYES: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for giving us your time tonight.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

HAYES: More on these developments, the Russia investigation, I`m joined by -- now by Sari Horwitz who covers the Justice Department for the Washington Post and Paul Butler, former Federal Prosecutor and MSNBC Legal Analyst. Let me start with the Washington Post piece about McCabe, and Sari, let me start with you. How unusual is something like that to bring the new Acting Director in and just say, who did you vote for in the first meeting?

SARI HORWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it`s obviously highly unusual. He talked to McCabe, what we are reporting tonight is that the President asked the number two person in the FBI, Andy McCabe, who he voted for but he also brought up contributions to his wife`s campaign in Virginia. You know, Andy McCabe has been under pressure, so has the FBI Director, Chris Wray, from the White House, from Sessions. Chris Wray, we`ve written this story also, the FBI Director has been under pressure to get rid of Andy McCabe and to put other people who are not connected to former Director Comey. We have a story today that he is bringing in a new chief for his office, a Chief of Staff, a new general counsel, and of course, we know that Andy McCabe is leaving. So, you`re going to be seeing a lot of new faces at the FBI and this is directly because of pressure from the Justice Department and from the White House.

HAYES: Paul, you shook your head vigorously no when I asked about how appropriate or inappropriate, how unusual it is to come out and ask the FBI`s second in command that question. Why?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Chris, I`ve never seen anything like this. All of today`s developments are breathtaking. We have the Attorney General and former Director of the FBI as witnesses in a criminal investigation against the President of the United States. And we know that President Trump has this pattern of making inappropriate overtures to people who are overseeing investigations of him. It`s not just today, Deputy Director McCabe, it was former FBI Director Comey, it was the National Intelligence Chiefs and it was Attorney General Sessions. You know, the main question for Mueller now is that it`s clear that the President has tried to impede the investigation. The issue is whether he`s corrupt or whether he`s clueless.

HAYES: Sari, what is -- what is your reporting say about what the Department of Justice is like right now. I mean, I found two bits of information pretty eye-opening. One, the Times reports after Comey testified you`ve got Sessions asking for a negative story about him every day which makes you think the A.G. is actively working as a sort of political henchman of the President. And then two, the fact that he is -- he was putting pressure on Wray directly to get rid of McCabe which again, makes it look like the Attorney General is acting as a very squarely as a kind of defacto tool of the White House here.

HORWITZ: Right. We don`t know a lot of what`s going on behind the scenes with the Attorney General. But you know, it`s highly unusual. He is the only cabinet member that has been interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller. We know it went on for several hours. As you said earlier, is he so key because there are sort of two prongs of the Mueller investigation. One is the possible coordination between Trump campaign officials and the Russians and the other, of course, is the question of obstruction. And he -- you know, I`m sure with questioned about both issues because he was very involved in the firing of FBI Director Comey who at that point was overseeing the Russia investigation.

He met with him beforehand, he and Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, met with the President before he fired him. He sent over a memo along with the Deputy Attorney General`s long memo to Trump. So you know, there are a lot of questions around the whole obstruction of justice issue and you know, that is something that Special Counsel Mueller wanted to talk to him about.

HAYES: Paul, you know, the facts that we already know that have sort of been established and in some cases not even disputed in any real way, show the President is doing a lot of things over the Department of Justice with this investigation. He`s nudging it, he`s pushing it, he`s pressuring it publicly for all the world to see on Twitter. I guess to your -- the question -- your point about corrupt intent, like, at what point does violating these norms of independence cross into something more nefarious or sinister?

BUTLER: I mean, when they go on and on as they keep seem to do with President Trump. So you know, I think with Sessions, Mueller has questions about him about collusion, which was the original subject of this investigation. Sessions ran the Trump campaign`s foreign policy. He conveniently forgot about his meetings with the Russians which is why he had to recuse himself even though George Papadopoulos puts him square at meetings in which Russians and even the specter of Trump meeting with Putin came up. But obstruction is the key with Sessions.

So as Sari said, obstruction with regard to why he fired Comey, why the president fired Comey but it`s also important questions about Trump trying to get rid of Sessions. First trying to not have him recuse himself and when Sessions does appropriately recuse himself from the Russian investigation, then Trump wants to fire him. So that`s all part of this pattern which I think again, leads rational investigators to start thinking less about cluelessness and more about a corrupt intent.

HAYES: Sari, do you think -- is your reporting suggesting that there`s any kind of legal restraint being offered on the President right now? I mean, it`s just remarkable to me that he would -- as your paper is reporting, that he would even say this to Andrew McCabe, given the amount of scrutiny under, given the legal liability that he`s exposed himself to in terms of James Comey? It`s a sort of astounding action to take to do that in a way you have to know will get out.

HORWITZ: Well, that`s an interesting question. And we are reporting tonight that Trump`s lawyers are negotiating, discussing with the Special Counsel`s team, the idea of having an interview in the coming weeks and whether that will be done face-to-face or whether part of it will be written. And there are some people who are close to the President including Roger Stone but there are others who are advising him not to do this interview. There`s a lot of concern that he could cause more problems for himself legally because of things he may say, libelous things he may say. There`s a lot of concern that maybe he shouldn`t sit down and do this interview. And so, that`s all being worked out right now.

HAYES: Paul, final question for you. You worked, if I`m not mistaken in public integrity, right, when you were a prosecutor.

BUTLER: Yes.

HAYES: You worked in corruption cases which meant public officials, office holders folks like that. Given that background, what is your thinking about what the approach is if and when the Mueller team or Mueller himself interviews the President of the United States?

BUTLER: So you know, the President doesn`t have a lot of bargaining power with how the interview goes. Mueller could always subpoena him and then he has to come and testify .his only way of getting out of it would be to claim the Fifth Amendment which politically would be untenable I think or he could continue these bogus claims of executive privilege. That`s just not going to fly. So again, I think that the terms of the bargain will be how long the length of the interview, Bill Clinton got Ken Starr to agree to only four hours, the subject. So I think Mueller will insist on collusion questions and obstruction questions but probably agree not to ask any questions about money laundering. And then the question the venue, the Courthouse or White House venue. It looks like it might be the White House. But if you lie under oath or not under oath when you`re talking to the FBI, it`s still a crime.

HAYES: Yes, well, Michael Flynn found that out the hard way. Sari Horwitz, Paul Butler, it`s great to have you both. I want to bring in MSNBC Legal Analyst Ben Wittes. He`s the Editor-in-Chief of Lawfare who have been covering the story daily, day in and day out fashion. Let`s start -- you`re someone who has written a lot about what you see as sort of attacks on the integrity of law enforcement of the FBI, of Comey and folks around him. I want to first start just your reaction to the President of the United States asking Andrew McCabe straight up who do you vote for and then asking about his wife`s campaign contribution.

BEN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LAWFARE: Well, so after I pulled my chin off the floor -- jokes aside, I mean, think it`s really important to start with just a sense of how outlying this behavior is. You simply do not ask a career FBI agent involved in political investigation, investigation of politically loaded things whom he voted for. That -- it`s like asking him to watch pornography with you or something. It`s so -- it`s so outrageously inappropriate. And it`s so defiant of the entire culture of the FBI and I think it`s breathtaking.

HAYES: McCabe, of course, is one of several individuals in the bureau. Comey, of course, being the Chief among them who was -- who was fired. But then other investigators and investigators who worked on this case who have come in as to be kind of targets of the President and the President`s allies as essentially corrupt operators who have a hatchet out for Donald Trump who are Clinton hacks and who have been attempting to bring down the President nefariously. There`s been a lot of pushing of that story. If you watched Trump T.V. today, there was about the texts between two investigators who are having an affair. What do you -- where do you think that is going?

WITTES: Well, it is an endless circle of attempts to distract from the issue. You know, sometimes it`s the text messages and sometimes it`s the Steele dossier and sometimes it`s Nunez memo which nobody`s actually seen or at least the underlying information and sometimes it`s you know, pizzagate. It`s this random collection of things that may distract some very large number of people from the actual issue at stake, which is a very serious set of investigations of the President`s campaign, of its interactions with a foreign intelligence actor that does not have U.S. interests at heart, of the criminal behavior of certain people associated with the campaign and the administration, and of the President`s own interactions with his law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of which this latest disclosure about his conversation with Andy McCabe is the latest example.

HAYES: I want you to -- if you can stick around Ben, I want to bring in one of the Washington Post Reporter who actually broke that story we were just telling you about on then acting Director Andrew McCabe, Devlin Barrett who joins me by phone. Devlin, literally you published it the moment I was getting on air a few moments before. So can you tell me the timing and the circumstances under which McCabe gets called to the White House and this -- and this meeting happens?

DEVLIN BARRETT, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Sure. So it happens at a really key time in the course of events last year. That`s shortly after James Comey`s fired as the Director of the FBI. And McCabe goes to the White House, we`re told that he speaks to the President in the Oval Office and in that ha conversation, one of the things that the President asks is, how did you vote for? And we`re told McCabe demurred on that and says I didn`t vote in the last election. And then the President proceeds to essentially speak critically of McCabe`s wife who had run as a Democrat in a state legislative race in 2015. And that`s always bothered the President. He has -- he has complained about that since the campaign. And it`s -- you know, it`s clear that as tense as that moment was and as high as the stakes were, you know, that is still something that the President has never let go of and is just frankly constantly you know, critical of McCabe.

HAYES: We should say that that story about McCabe`s wife`s run for office and, of course, all sorts of people in this world are -- have all sorts of spouse who have all sorts of political views that are distinct from their spouses as you may know. That story has been, of course, a very common theme on Trump T.V. and they`ve run with that a lot. But my question to you is, are the public criticisms of McCabe that emanate from the President which do happen, those are after this meeting is what you`re saying?

BARRETT: After and before. I mean, this -- so this comes in May of 2016 just after Comey has been fired. And by that point, you know, the President has criticized McCabe pretty regularly on the campaign trail, once in office, but it`s interesting, one of the things we`re told is that the President complains whether McCabe`s in the room or not, the President complains on a near daily basis about Andy McCabe. He seems to have a bit of fixation on the point just and it seems to again, we`re told by people who speak to him, intensely dislike Andrew McCabe. And that frankly, has really bothered a lot of people in the FBI.

HAYES: Do you have any sense of what McCabe`s reaction was to this happening?

BARRETT: Well, I think -- I think he`s -- you know, he`s concerned about it. He`s uncomfortable about it. You know, anyone who has been in government for any significant period of time will tell you this is not the way conversations are supposed to go in the government. These are -- these are -- that`s one of the questions you know, who you voted for that you`re just not supposed to ask of people in almost any situation. And you know, I also think, frankly, that at that particular moment, it`s particularly challenging because McCabe is the Acting Director, his boss has just been fired by the President and there`s obviously a lot of tension about that.

HAYES: Right.

BARRETT: And about where the Russia investigation may go.

HAYES: Ben, you talked about picking your jaw off the floor and I think someone as sort of embed in the world of the FBI and Justice Department as you are find this question so horrifying. Any other reactions to in this as it might pertain to subsequent criticisms that the connection to the Comey firing, et cetera?

WITTES: Well, so one important nuance here that -- is that it puts a really interesting light on what Andrew -- I don`t -- I can`t reconstruct the exact sequence of events here but remember that Comey is fired at the beginning of the week, and at the end of that same week, I believe, McCabe goes up and testifies in front of Congress.

HAYES: Correct, yes.

WITTES: And in that testimony, contradicted the White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the FBI being in turmoil and gave a quite spirited defense of the FBI and also of its relationship with the Director who are just been fired. So one interesting question is when in relation to that testimony did this meeting with Trump take place? In other words, was this -- if the meeting with Trump was before that, then that makes that testimony even more kind of defiant and courageous. If the meeting with Trump is after it, think how uncomfortable that must have been for the new Acting Director having just gone up to Congress and publicly contradicted the White House to then have the President of the United States ask him whom he voted for and (INAUDIBLE) him over his wife`s political affiliation and campaign contributions.

HAYES: Final question for you, Ben, do you think Mueller will want to talk to Andy McCabe given the fact that we know he is actively looking at the question of obstruction?

WITTES: So I assume, look, with the obstruction investigation, there are four bodies of information. One, there are all the people at the FBI who know anything. Andy McCabe is certainly one of those people. Number two, there`s all the documents at the FBI. Number three, there`s all the people at the White House who know anything.

HAYES: Right.

WITTES: Number four, there`s all the documents at the White House. Those are your four bodies of information and I assume that Bob Mueller will be exhaustive in examining all of all four pieces of bodies of information and that would mean at some point interviewing Andy McCabe.

HAYES: All right, Devlin Barrett who broke that story and Ben Wittes of Lawfare, many thanks to you both gentlemen. Still ahead, Chuck Schumer takes the wall off the table -- sort of the next metaphor -- in any deal with Donald Trump and how Democrats may have grabbed the political high ground on immigration for the oncoming DACA fight. We`ll talk about that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: One of the most dangerous places for border crossings in this country is the Sonoran desert in Southwest Arizona. And humanitarian organizations have been known to leave out bottles of water so that migrants who are attempting to cross there do not die of thirst which is something that happens fairly frequently. But in these images, those gallon bottles of water are being kicked and destroyed by border patrol agents. The images range from 2010 to 2017 documented by two humanitarian groups including a group called No More Deaths.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting a good shot. Because (inaudible) somebody left it on the trail. It`s not yours, is it? All you have to do is tell me. Is it yours? Not yours. You`re not going to tell me, huh?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Volunteers for these groups, according to the report, found that the water containers were vandalized 415 times, about twice a week, over an 800 square mile swathe of the desert affecting more than 3,500 gallons of water.

Hours after that report was released, a volunteer for one of the humanitarian groups, Scott Daniel Warren, was arrested. According to The Guardian, his arrest last week came after border patrol agents conducted surveillance on a building where two immigrants were given food, water, beds and clean clothes, according to federal court records.

An activist with the humanitarian group did not accuse authorities of retaliation, but said we see it as an escalation and criminalization of aid workers.

If it seems shocking that aid workers like that, and humanitarian aid, bottles of water in the middle of the desert so people don`t die, if it seems shocking that would be a target under the guise of border security, you`re not alone in thinking that. And that`s just part of the crackdown. All over the country right now, people are being rounded up to the shock and dismay and disappointment of the communities that think of them as Americans, like the Polish doctor, a green card holder, who has lived in Michigan for 40 years since he was brought here at age 5. ICE arrested and detained him based on two misdemeanor convictions from 26 years ago.

As this happens in communities across America, large and small, it is becomes clearer and clearer that the politics of this issue are not actually on the side of the immigration hard liners, something that will be a crucial thing for Democrats and Republicans to understand as they head into the next phase of this fight. And that is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Protesters on Capitol Hill today rallied to support Dreamers and slammed senate Democrats who voted to end the government shutdown before getting a deal on DACA.

Now the narrative push by the White House is that Democrats caved because they overplayed their hand politically. But today, we learned that Chuck Schumer, Democratic leader in the Senate, has withdrawn his offer to fund a border wall in negotiations with the president as one of the things they struck a deal on on Friday.

And the polling seems to show that this isn`t the Republican victory the White House would have you believe. An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found that 56 percent blamed either President Trump or Republicans in congress for the shutdown, 39 percent blamed Democrats in congress. Perhaps more significantly, a morning consult poll found that support for DACA increased as the brief standoff wore on. In the days leading up to the shutdown, the pie chart in the left, 42 percent said a bill to protect Dreamers was worth a government shutdown. But after the shutdown began, the pie chart on the right, 47 percent said it was worth the government shutdown.

MSNBC contributor Victoria Defrancesco. Defrancesco is a political scientist. And Victoria, how do you read -- the politics of the shutdown are one thing and the sort of brief period of who had the upper hand and could they sustain it, but when you put aside the shutdown, how do you read public opinion on the specific issue of Dreamers right now?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, when it comes to Dreamers, have you anywhere between two-thirds to three-quarts of the population saying we support them. We think they should stay here. You know, they`re innocent kids. They didn`t have any say in coming here. So, that`s one number I want you to keep in mind. And that`s positive. That says, OK, this is going to give us some capital to have a deal.

But then, Chris, I look at the numbers from that same NBC/Survey Monkey poll that says 81 percent of Americans oppose a government shutdown. That gives me pause. So, even though you have Americans supporting Dreamers, they don`t like the idea of the shutdown. And that`s where I start to get nervous. And that`s where I think that if we`re going to have DACA, and a permanent solution to DACA, not temporary fixes, coming every couple months, but a permanent solution, I think Chuck Schumer is going to have to put the wall back on the table.

HAYES: So, it`s interesting. You saw Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a bunch of people said fine. You took the DACA hostages to pay for the wall that Mexico is supposed to pay for. You ended DACA very explicitly because you wanted a DACA for wall deal. And even though Mexico was supposed to pay for it, now the American taxpayer is going to pay for it, Gutierrez, Chuck Schumer in the Friday negotiations, you`re saying now basically Democrats should take that deal. They should say how much do you want for your wall? We`ll write you the chick and give us a permanent solution to Dreamers.

DEFRANCESCO: I am, Chris. And, look, it`s a toy, it`s an expensive, useless toy, but it`s this tantrum that Donald Trump is having. And he wants it. Remember, he launched his campaign in the summer of 2015 based on the wall. It`s his pride and joy, having that wall. But you know what, at the end of the day, the cost of having that wall is minuscule compared to pushing close to one million Dreamer youths into the shadows, over 90 percent.

HAYES: Go ahead.

DEFRANCESCO: I was just going to say, these are kids that are employed. They are paying taxes. If we take them out of our economy, we`re going to have a multibillion dollar hit to our economy.

HAYES: But it doesn`t seem like the wall for Dreamers is even still on the table. I mean, it seems that they`ve moved the goalpost to it`s not just border security, we want to completely overhaul American immigration to get rid of family reunification and to have the most restrictions since 1920. Do you think they should take that deal.

DEFRANCESCO: I know, they`re trying to go back to the quota laws.

You know, my one here -- my hope here is that you`re going to have those moderate Republicans pull it back. You know, they`re talking about e- verify and very strict internal enforcement. But at the end of the day, those Republicans in agricultural heavy industries know that you cannot go there and still have our industries survive without immigrant labor.

So I think that that is going to be, at least I hope that is going to be, the force that reins in the far right of the Republican Party. Put the wall back on the table.

HAYES: They are as of yet unreined in. They`ve got like an 11-year winning streak of vetoing anything. Victoria Defrancesco, thank you.

DEFRANCESCO: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Still to come, how are evangelical leaders reacting to the president`s alleged affair with an adult film actress? Apparently, they are just going to give him a mulligan. The political math of the Christian right ahead.

And the cabinet member reportedly sleeping on the job in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.

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HAYES: Thing One tonight, remember when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wore a pair of $500 custom made velvet slippers with the Commerce Department logo to the president`s address to congress last year? Or when he described an American air strike on Syria as, quote, after dinner entertainment? Or when he seemed thrilled that a trip to Saudi Arabia with the president was somehow, amazingly, not met by protests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY : I think the other thing that was fascinating me, there was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there, not one guy with a bad placard. Instead...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Ross, that may be not necessarily because they don`t have those feelings, but because they control people and don`t allow them to come and express their feelings the same as we do here.

ROSS: In theory, that could be true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: In theory, yes, Mr. Secretary. In practice, protesting is a crime punishable by up to death in Saudi Arabia.

But all that happened in 2017 when Ross was seemingly the apple of Trump`s eye. This year, according to a source, Ross has reportedly not only fallen asleep at every meeting he`s been in with source, but that he drools, uses his tie to clean it up.

And now the president is reportedly unimpressed, that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I spoke with the president about it directly this morning. He has 100 percent confidence in Secretary Ross. He loves Wilbur, thinks he`s doing a great job and has been a strong advocate for the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: He loves, Wilbur. Who doesn`t love Wilbur? White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back yesterday on a report the president has lost faith in commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, partly because he, quote, keeps falling asleep in meetings. The president, according to Axios, reportedly said, quote, "Wilbur has lost his step. Actually, he`s probably lost a lot of steps. And that he`ll never again trust the 80- year-old to be his killer negotiator."

Today The Washington Post blew the whistle on Ross in a tweet for being a no-show at his Davos panel this morning on global manufacturing to which 91-year-old former congressman John Dingell replied somebody go wake him up.

To be fair, Ross`s alleged propensity for dozing off is not just in meetings. He was caught on camera taking a little cat napping during the president`s speech in Saudi Arabia last year, but in his defense, he was up pretty late the night before.

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HAYES: A quick reminder now about a story that is somehow not the biggest story of the country. Before he was elected, the president of the United States allegedly had a sexual encounter with an adult film actress who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, while his newborn son was all of 3 months old.

And then right before election the soon to be president`s lawyer, Michael Cohn, allegedly paid said adult film actress $130,000 in hush money not to reveal the sexual encounter.

Cohn and the White House deny the encounter, but not the $130,000 payment. So you, dear viewer, can draw your own conclusions there.

Daniels, herself, detailed the alleged encounter in excruciating detail in a 2011 interview that was published last week, and now watchdog group Common Cause has filed a complaint arguing an alleged payment to her may have violated campaign finance laws. You might think that reports the president`s lawyer paid off an adult film actress to cover up an adultrous sexual encounter would, I don`t know, give pause to the president`s evangelical supporters. You would be wrong. Here`s the head of the Family Research Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about porn star stuff? What about all of that? That doesn`t do anything?

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: We kind of gave him, "all right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here. You can start...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A mulligan for 70 years of his life?

PERKINS: Hey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Why evangelicals just can can`t quit Trump and how they rationalize it right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY FALWELL JR., PRESIDENT, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: President Donald J. Trump is a man who I greatly admire, and who I am proud to call my friend and my president.

TRUMP: 2 Corinthians, right? 2 Corinthians, 3:17. That`s the whole ball game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, it`s good to have you here with us. You inspire us all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Inspiring.

Despite having been married three times and evincing a, shall we say, tenuous grasp of scripture, Donald Trump has enjoyed strong support from white evangelical leaders. And they`ve remained steadfast, even amid allegations that before he became president he had an adulterous sexual encounter with an adult film actress who was paid $130,000 in hush money right before the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL: Did he have an affair with his wife? I have no clue. But I believe at 70 years of age, the president is a much-different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, ten years ago, whatever.

I don`t think it`s hypocritical, because he`s a flawed man for me to try to support him and help him and pray for him. I`m a flawed person. And I would hate for people to see all of the baggage I have in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this give you pause at all? I mean...

PERKINS: Well, only if the president -- I think he`s maturing as president and back to what we said earlier, I think from a human being standpoint, from a spiritual being standpoint, he`s maturing, as well.

If the president were to all of a sudden, revert back to some of that behavior as president, the evangelical support will not be there for him. So, it`s based on -- we kind of gave him, "all right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin, conservative columnist for The Washington Post, and Edward Isaac-Dovere, chief Washington correspondent Politico, host of the Off Message podcast where you just heard him interviewing Tony Perkins. And Isaac, it was a really fascinating interview. Do you think his claim -- I want to zero in on thing he said, if he went back to this -- so let`s say something like this happened now in the White House and evangelical support wouldn`t be there. I don`t believe him. Do you?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, POLITICO: Well, I don`t know. Look, you could question whether that refers just to the sexual proclivities of Trump in the past.

But let`s look at the Charlottesville incident over the summer last year where there were a lot of questions about what kind of leadership, moral leadership were coming out of President Trump. That`s something as president that is after the point where a lot of evangelical leaders said that they were not counting. What is the response there? He did not change the level of support among evangelical leaders for him. And in fact, what you see is a strengthening of support among evangelical leaders who point to things like his policy on abortion, the Mexico City letter, the religious freedom executive order and say that they are happy getting that and that it means more to them to get that than even on immigration where you see a number of evangelical leaders, including some on the president`s evangelical advisory counsel, saying that they are not happy with what is going on with the Dreamers.

HAYES: Yeah, it`s not particularly Christ-like to dump water out in the desert that`s left out for people trying to cross the border.

Jennifer, what about -- I mean, look, I actually don`t think the analysis and the judgment made by evangelical leaders is incorrect. There are two coalitions in American life, and they have put their chips in with one of those coalitions. They genuinely want to see abortion outlawed in this country. The president will appoint Supreme Court justices, he has already appointed one who I think will reliably be an anti-abortion vote. So, like, they are just making the calculation everyone makes about which political coalition is going to vouchsafe their interests.

JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s right. You have to forget the notion that they are religious or they`re religiously motivated. They are obviously not, because they don`t care about the poor. They don`t care about some of the issues that you`d think -- health care that you think that religious leaders would be. They really don`t care about his behavior. Remember, he also endorsed Roy Moore, the alleged child molester. So, let`s put aside the hokum that these people are religious. You`re right, it`s transactional.

They have their list of demands. They don`t like gays. They don`t like abortion. They don`t like secular America. And he`s going to champion the issues that they need.

Now, the hypocrisy, of course, is that they have used as a cudgel moral issues -- family values against every Democrat, against every Republican they never liked, but for Trump, they would give him a pass, a mulligan as it were. So, the hypocrisy is a little bit gall.

HAYES: Well, there is sort of -- there is some data here to back that up. This is where I think there really is something remarkable happening, Isaac. This is polling. Can an official who commits an immoral act still behave ethically and fulfill their duties? This is just seven years ago in 2011, only 30 percent of white evangelicals say yes. Now, it`s 72 percent that say yes. There has been an absolute complete change in the attitudes of evangelicals about personal morality of their elected leaders, Isaac.

DOVERE: I don`t think it`s the passage of time to answer that. I think that what you`re seeing is a political calculations made about President Trump. And look, as Jennifer was saying, this is a calculations.

And to your point, right, there are two coalitions here, the Republicans and Democrats. Generally going to do better with the Republicans. But what I think surprises a lot of people about evangelicals making this calculation is they say that it`s based in morality that they have their positions. It`s not based on politics. It`s not based on partisan warfare. And that is where they get into a tricky spot.

HAYES: And they also -- it forces them to say manifestly preposterous things like he`s a godly man, which -- whatever you think of Donald Trump, we just all know that`s not the case, that`s just not a true thing.

DOVERE: I mean, one of the things that struck me, Chris, in the interview that I did with Perkins, and I would really -- it was -- I should say this about every podcast interview I do on the Off Message podcast, but this was particularly interesting.

And towards the end of it he said, look, we`ve been beaten down by Obama and the leftists for so long, we just needed a schoolyard bully to go punch people in the face. And I said isn`t -- what about turn the other cheek? And he said, well, you only have two cheeks. And that is I think explaining a lot of what is going on here. There is such a level of grievance and frustration about where things are, that they are ready to go beyond.

HAYES: And Jennifer, relative political powerlessness. I actually think they are less powerful politically than they were 10 years ago.

RUBIN: Right. They are a diminishing share of the electorate. They are a diminishing share of the population. White Evangelical Christians are now for the first time not a majority of the Ameican people. So, Isaac is exactly right. They are not religious leaders, they are grievance leaders. They feel this put upon discriminated against, angry sentiment that their followship voices. They don`t like being displaced for a position of authority in society. They think women, they think immigrants, they think gays are somehow displacing them, taking what is rightfully theirs and these people are out to claim it.

They believe in -- some really interesting polling, they think that they are the victims, not African-Americans, not gays in terms of discrimination in America. That`s how twisted it is.

HAYES: Jennifer Rubin and Edward-Isaac Dovere, thank you both for being with me tonight.

That is All In for this evening.

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