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GOP conspiracy theories collapse as Mueller closes in Transcript 1/25/18 All In Chris Hayes

Guests: Spencer Ackerman, Asawin Suebsaeng, Michael Schmidt

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 25, 2018 Guest: Spencer Ackerman, Asawin Suebsaeng, Michael Schmidt

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- on this year 2018. To be lit up yourself, get a copy. Bobby Kennedy, A Raging Spirit. I spent years working on it. You`ll be inspired reading it. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you -- are you going to talk to Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m looking forward to it actually.

HAYES: As the obstruction case comes together --

TRUMP: I would do it under oath, absolutely.

HAYES: New collusion questions over Trump Junior`s Senate testimony.

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: For me, this was opposition research.

HAYES: And about that secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we find out secret society.

HAYES: Tonight, how Trump world conspiracy theories keep falling apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secret society.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Who`s in the secret society?

HAYES: Then a reality check on the Trump economy.

TRUMP: That`s a big thing. That`s very big.

HAYES: And as Stormy Daniels speaks out --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have a sexual relationship with Donald Trump.

HAYES: How the President has managed to remain silent.

TRUMP: Thank you all very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone.

TRUMP: Thank you.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. With the Mueller Investigation getting closer and closer and closer to the President of the United States, the President`s allies and defenders are getting more and more desperate as they spin conspiracy theories designed to absolve him. They`re pushing the kind of stuff that really usually seen in movies, evil secret societies, mysteriously missing test messages, bombshell truth- telling memos that the authorities won`t let you see. It`s like a spy thriller. And really, there`s just one little small problem. All their claims keep falling apart in truly embarrassing and indeed hilarious fashion.

On Monday, two GOP lawmakers announced on T.V. that FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page had exchanged text messages referencing, cue scary music, a secret society at the FBI. Strzok and Page had exchanged anti- Trump messages during the campaign and the implication was that the secret society was at the nexus of a nefarious FBI plot to take down Trump. Trump T.V. naturally went absolutely crazy.


HANNITY: Strzok and his FBI lawyer mistress Lisa Page talked about a "secret society" within the FBI? Is this a banana republic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI officials talk about a secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Part of a secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secret society.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anti-Trump secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A secret society. We have an informant that`s talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A so-called secret society of top cops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trey Gowdy is now demanding answers when it comes to this secret society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So of course, I`m going to want to know what secret society are you talking about.


HAYES: Of course you would want to know that. Now, from the start, I got to say all this seemed pretty suspect. For one thing, anyone in an actual secret society probably isn`t calling their secret society secret society. And we now have evidence that the text was likely what pretty much anyone with any common sense whatsoever assumed from the beginning, a sarcastic joke. Last night ABC News revealed that the full secret society text which made clear the comment was most likely in jest. For Senator Ron Johnson who had repeatedly pushed the existence of the secret society, and even claimed he had an informant confirming its secret meetings, that made things a bit awkward.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After reading those transcripts of the text messages, do you think it was made as a joke?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: It`s entirely possible. Let`s see what the next text.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the number of texts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you owe an apology sir for raising these concerns.

JOHNSON: We`ll see what the next texts there.


HAYES: You hear that there. He said we`ll see next ones, the missing texts. Yes, the missing text. Have you heard of that one? OK, Johnson is talking about five months` worth of text messages between Strzok and Page that the FBI had been unable to find and turn over to Congress. Now, to Trump`s allies, this was proof the FBI had something huge to hide. The President himself called the missing texts one of the biggest stories in a long time. Wow. And on Trump T.V. last night, Conservative Activist Tom Fitton said the Trump administration should actually -- this is real -- actually raid the FBI to secure them.


TOM FITTON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: If I were the Attorney General of the United States, I would be very concerned about what the FBI did here, and I would send an independent law enforcement like the U.S. Marshals to secure and recover this evidence.


HAYES: Just be clear, he`s recommending President send in loyal security services to raid the security service viewed as disloyal. OK, now today brought some bad news for the text truthers. The Justice Department recovered the texts. The DOJ Inspector saying in a letter they had succeeded in using forensic tools to get them back. It`s worth noting here that officials say the issue affected thousands of phones within the FBI, not just Strzok and Pages which doesn`t help the text truthers case. But here`s the thing. There`s always the next conspiracy theory to turn to. Cue House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes -- Committee Chair Devin Nunes who isn`t new to this sort of thing. He has drafted a classified memo many Republicans say will prove finally the Justice Department`s anti-Trump corruption once and for all.


HANNITY: Release the memo. #ReleaseTheMemo. Call the number on your screen, 202-224-3121, tell Congress the truth about one of the biggest scandals in American history and we have a right to know.


HAYES: Act now. In a letter yesterday, Assistant Attorney General Steven Boyd, a former Jeff Sessions staffer informed Nunes, I quote here, it would be extraordinarily reckless to release the memo without Justice Department review saying to do so would be a real risk to national security. And Nunes has allowed the entire GOP caucus to read the memo which Democrats say is widely misleading while denying access to those who might question it. And then there`s this --


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: At the time the Republicans voted to provide this flawed document to the House, I made a motion to allow the members to read the underlying materials before they voted on characterizing them in such a distorted fashion. They voted that down.

HAYES: Why would you vote to read stuff? Why would you vote to not have access to read things?

SCHIFF: The point was they didn`t care what was in the underlying documents. They wanted to make a political statement.


HAYES: And in the end, that`s what all this is about. From the made-up secret society to the text trutherism to the misleading memo, that is what it`s all about.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: It`s almost on a daily basis they create these false controversies to take off -- take the pressure off what is clearly Special Prosecutor Mueller is getting closer and closer to the truth.


HAYES: Joining me now MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst Matt Miller, former Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department and MSNBC National Security Analyst Clint Watts, former FBI Special Agent, a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Clint, let me start with you as someone who works in the FBI. I mean, what do you -- what is it like to watch a sort of portion of the American political system, these institutions like Trump T.V. and conservative media and the White House, its allies essentially sell the story to people that the FBI is this kind of like liberal fifth column that trying to bring down a president?

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I mean, just historically to ever perceive the FBI that way doesn`t make any sense. But it is a very conservative organization. I mean, you wear only two color shirts, you know, white or blue. Everywhere pretty much is you know, buttoned-down there. And I would guess we never talked about who is a Republican or a Democrat but I would guess it is strongly conservative and of all the organizations you would tend to think that because it`s law enforcement. What`s baffling is why you would do this because even in just a battle like this, political battle transactionally, it`s no gain or minimal gain. And ultimately it hurts our country.

If you were going after a federal law enforcement institution at the same time you`re advocating for the opioid, you know, crisis and we`ve got to take these networks down trying to going after MS-13, these -- you`re going after an Trump country as an FBI agent and they`re saying I can`t talk to you, you`re part of the deep state or a member of some secret society and I don`t want to aid you in this investigation. So you`re shooting yourself in the foot. I think that`s why you saw the Department of Justice today, they`re just confused about what`s going on in this Congressional setting.

HAYES: Matt Miller, what did you make -- I mean, you now have had sort of the standoff between the Trump Justice Department under the direction of Jeff Sessions and a former Sessions staffer writing to Devin Nunes basically saying cut this nonsense out.

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, that was an extraordinary letter because it was signed as you pointed out in the intro by a former staffer to Jeff Sessions. And remember the attacks they`re making all relate to a FISA warrant that was approved during the 2016 election when Loretta Lynch, a Democrat was the Attorney General when Jim Comey was the Head of the Justice Department, Jim Comey a Republican who now every Republican hates. And in this letter, you got a Republican former Sessions staffer speaking on behalf of Trump appointee Rod Rosenstein and Trump appointee Chris Wray coming out and saying, you know what, actually we`ve looks at the FISA warrant -- the FISA application from the 2016 application and there was nothing wrong with it. So they`ve now gotten the Republican Justice Department to come out and say what the Democratic-led Justice Department did was completely -- you know, completely 100 percent within the law.

But the further claim that they make that for Devin Nunes to release this memo would be extraordinarily reckless and could jeopardize national security. I can`t think of a time when a Justice Department of one party has written to a Committee Chairman of the same party with that big of a claim. And it`s even more strange because you have on the other side -- you know, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Justice Department at the White House, you`ve had Sarah Sanders saying they want that memo to come out in the full interest of transparency contradicting the very people that Justice Department have actually at it and know that it could actually harm security.

HAYES: The White House has taken has the side of its Congressional allies and of its allied media organizations against its own Justice Department and FBI. Here is Raj Shah, spokesperson talking about the FBI today. Take a listen, Clint.


RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: There are serious questions about political bias at high levels at the FBI. They`ve existed for some time under the leadership of the previous Director James Comey.


HAYES: I mean, it`s pretty remarkable for the President`s spokesperson to call it the integrity of his own FBI into question.

WATTS: Right. And they also selected certain text messages that fit their story and left out a lot of others that didn`t fit their story. The thing is, any text message, you give me your text messages, I can make any story in the world. I can make you believe anything.

HAYES: Absolutely true.

WATTS: And the way social media and Congress and the President played all these things in public, it continues on this barrage. And it`s release the memo, one day, it`s release the tests the next. It`s the same playbook we saw in the campaign against Hillary Clinton with lost e-mails.

HAYES: Matt, they also do those seem to be cycling through a bunch of different ones. I mean, I`m old enough to remember when they were -- they were all about Uranium One for about a week. That didn`t stick.

MILLER: Unmasking.

HAYES: Yes, what do you -- what do you make of the ways in which they procedurally move through these?

MILLER: Well, they just have to move from one to the other because what happened, they pick ones, say Trump Tower being wiretapped. That doesn`t pan out. So they move to another one, unmasking. That doesn`t pan out. So they move to Uranium One. They just have to have something to attack the FBI --- with which to attack the FBI so they can focus on something other than the fact that we keep seeing you know, embarrassing and damaging new revelations about the President. You know, there`s a certain amount of partisanship that is kind of baked in in Washington that you sort of understand.

We are far beyond partisanship when you see the texts. These are dishonorable actions by dishonorable people who are launching these attacks when they know the underlying evidence contradicts their claims with no regard to career servants who have spent their careers trying to protect national security, with no regard for the credibility of these institutions that they`re damaging, and all to thwart and subvert an investigation into how a foreign country interfered with our is appalling behavior from the Republican Party.

WATTS: #Hysteria. They`re the masters of #Hysteria. The people that read those hashtags have no idea what they even mean. We saw it with President Trump saying 50,000 text message. We have no idea how many messages are even missing.

HAYES: Matt Miller and Clint Watts, thanks to you both. For more on the dubious Devin Nunes memo, I`m joined now by a pair of Daily Beast Reporters, White House Reporter Asawin Suebsaeng and National Security Reporter Spencer Ackerman. Spencer, you`ve been reporting on this. I mean, what are they doing? What is the game plan here?

SPENCER ACKERMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: So, this is somewhat like -- this is somewhat like when Galileo ends up transforming our view of a heliocentric universe and in order to sort of fight off that transformation, you have to get into ever more exotic theories --

HAYES: Right.

ACKERMAN: -- to kind of explain this. And you end up getting the idea of like the retro grade motion of gestalt.

HAYES: Spencer.

ACKERMAN: And it`s an interesting thing to watch as applied to this memo which to be very clear, I have not read and we only get you know, snippets from what we can report on. What we know right now from our reporting last night myself and my colleague Betsy Woodruff at the Daily Beast that the memo names particular sort of conservative (INAUDIBLE) of the moment to include the former FBI Director Jim Comey, the current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and as one of the more famous targets at this point by the President the Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe. Now, among the things all of these people have in common is that they have been involved in really substantial ways in the investigation to Trump and Russia. The question is sort of what`s the through line there that connects them and what we sort of have seen from rather selective leaks, it`s to make an argument that the FISA an process that led to the surveillance warrant on Carter Page last year was in some way tainted. And that`s where again from other leaks we`ve gotten, the idea is that they relied on Christopher Steele dossier.

Now, at the risk of stating you know with an FBI agent who`s been an asset in the FISA process sitting right next to me, the people I`ve talked who have been involved in the FISA process say that there`s simply no credible way that you would have a judge ever approve for a title one FISA warrant a statement for probable cause, an application for probable cause that relies on a dossier where the affiants involved can`t say where the guy`s information comes from or whose informants that they actually are. So the question that we`re facing for this memo, I personally would like to read this memo very much, is how all of this knits together in some kind of coherent way.

HAYES: Asawin, it seems to me also that the White House is very clearly in on this, right? That there`s this is sort of back and forth between their allies on the Hill and the White House with the aim of subverting and discrediting their own Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Absolutely. And before I get to that, I must address what you were mentioning earlier especially regarding the secret society conspiracy theory imploding in on itself. It really does the way it imploded resemble an episode of Veep. Like if Armando Iannucci have written that, he probably could have done better himself. Back to what you`re saying earlier, yes, a lot of this is ridiculous but part of the problem why this has legs and will not die is because according to people I have spoken to in the White House over the last few days, the President of the United States is absolutely obsessed with these theories and something he sees as something of an Abscam level scandal of the deep state or whatever out to get him. So no matter how many of these things get debunked or there`s no reason to take them seriously from anybody reasonable or objective, you can expect the President of the United States to talk about this and tweet about it for quite some time.

HAYES: Partly because he`s consuming this stuff.

ACKERMAN: That`s right. It`s --

HAYES: It`s like you know, the snake is eating its tail here. The President watches this on his television. He then tweets about it and the sort of cycle repeats itself.

ACKERMAN: Well, let`s talk about some of the ramifications of this because you mentioned the judicial watch guy proposing that the U.S. Marshals raid the FBI. Now, we hear a lot particularly during this life span of this story about the deep state, that this is some sort of conspiracy by the security agencies to go after Trump, undo you the results of the 2016 election and you get like coup talk thrown in from people like Alex Jones. The irony is, what a deep state actually is, is a rogue security apparatus pursuing its own highly politicized agenda and particularly is prone as we see in countries like Egypt and Turkey to attacking the unfavored security agency.

HAYES: Exactly.

ACKERMAN: The irony that`s happening here is ultimately you could create a real feasible prospect, a real -- you know, a circumstance that for all of the rhetoric is a rather dangerous one where you politicize the security agencies and particularly create loyalty tests for security agencies as we heard the President apparently asked the Interim Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe who he vote for, that could actually result in some sort of, you know, some sort of conflict or otherwise result in this co-optation of one of these agencies against basically all-American laws and traditions. And that`s a really serious thing to play with.

HAYES: It`s laying the foundation for precisely the kind of thing that engenders what we call deep state. Asawin Suebsaeng and Spencer Ackerman, thank you, both for joining me. Next, Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian conspiracy are back in the headlines tonight. The back and forth today over Trump Junior`s Senate Judiciary testimony and why one Democrat says the transcript may be material to the Mueller investigation in two minutes.


HAYES: Breaking news just in the last few moments from the New York Times, just published a few minutes ago and I`m going to read you from the Times article headline. Trump ordered Mueller fired but backed off when White House Counsel threatened to quit. President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert Mueller III, the Special Counsel overseeing the Russia investigation according to four people told of the matter but ultimately backed down after the White House Counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.

This is last June, the West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the Special Counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the President obstructed justice. Barbara McQuade is a former U.S. Attorney from Eastern District of Michigan and MSNBC Legal Contributor. I know that you have literally just seen this a few seconds ago as I have now sitting here at the desk. Your reaction?

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s really extraordinary. Whenever I hear talk about the President firing Robert Mueller, I think about the Saturday Night Massacre which was really the tipping point for Richard Nixon`s demise. And so, I always think it would be an incredibly politically dangerous thing for President Trump to do. Certainly, there`s a question of what are the legal ramifications of it. Does he have the power to do it? Probably. But like you know, like any power of the President, if it is done for a corrupt purpose, then that could be more evidence of obstruction of justice. So I can understand why his White House Counsel counseled him against it, even going so far according to the story as threatening to quit, quite extraordinary.

HAYES: One of the things that`s interesting here is that it appears as I look at this that the timeline is that this is when it starts being made public that the White House, that, Mueller is interested not just in Russia and the possibility of collusion with an adversary who obviously commit a crime to interfere in an American election but also with obstruction in the wake of the Comey firing. That they were actively attempting to obstruct justice in terms of how they handled that. And there`s a kind of I don`t know, again, self-preferentiality here which is that they discover that he thought about firing Mueller himself in the course of investigating the possibility of obstruction.

MCQUADE: Yes, I guess the analogy of the snake eating its tail comes to mind again as you head in the last segment. You know, the irony piles upon itself. But you know, as we`ve discussed before, Chris, when you know, the President exercises a power like the power to fire or the power to appoint a federal judge or to grant a pardon, he has power to do all of those things. But if he does it for improper purpose, say, for example, in exchange for a bribe, that`s an easy example of when it would be a corrupt purpose, similarly, if he were to fire Robert Mueller because he`s afraid he`s going to get too close to learning the truth about what happened with Russia, that would be obstruction of justice or at least some evidence of it. So I think it`s an important factor that Robert Mueller will throw into the whole mix of all the things he`s looking at to decide whether President Trump had a corrupt purpose in all the things he`s been doing.

HAYES: I want to bring back Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast who is one of the White House Reporters who`s very well sourced in that White House and get -- explain your reaction to this.

SUEBSAENG: Absolutely. The interesting thing about this is it`s not entirely surprising given that the President has floated or flirted with the prospect of ordering the sacking of Robert Mueller for months. And as is clear in this story, basically every senior official in his White House and close to him and in his administration has been urging him not to do so because they recognize what Don McGahn according to the New York Times recognized that doing so would set off a potentially presidency-ending or presidency-defining political Armageddon.

HAYES: Yes, that is what -- there`s a few things that pop out here. One is McGahn`s ability to stop him from doing what would be, I think you`re right, a presidency-ending move or the beginning of the end. I mean, to Barbara`s point about the Saturday Night Massacre, it was the firing of Archibald Cox by President Nixon that sort of began the ends for him. We should also say, I`m going to read you one more paragraph here because also pertains. And Barbara, I`d like to get your reaction to it. Another option that Mr. Trump considered form discussion with his advisers was dismissing the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and elevating the Department`s number three official Rachel Brand overseeing Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein is overseeing the investigation since March when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. What do you think about the possibility? How would that work if you were to reach in and remove Rosenstein?

MCQUADE: You want me to answer that question?

HAYES: Yes, Barbara, please.

MCQUADE: I think that would have similar political ramifications. Rob Rosenstein is a career, respected Deputy Attorney General. He`s been a U.S. Attorney in both Republican and Democratic administrations. To remove him in that scenario without any just cause I think would cause a lot of alarm and panic. So I don`t know that it would really be any better than firing Robert Mueller because it would suggest that you`re trying to elevate someone who might be more sympathetic to your views in overseeing the investigation. So I think that too would be a disaster for President Trump.

HAYES: Asawin, can you talk about the -- talk about the mood or the atmosphere in that White House with respect to this investigation because you know, we know the President is obsessed with it. He watches a channel that talks about these sort of conspiracy theories. We know he`s been railing against Mueller and Sessions publicly and against the FBI publicly. What is the mood there? Like, it seems like from what I can tell on the outside and the reporting that there`s this kind of hoping to stop him from doing something that would genuinely be absolutely catastrophic.

SUEBSAENG: That`s 100 percent true and currently something that advisers both inside and outside of the White House have been trying to convince the President to do or at least urge him against is as the President said last night during his impromptu White House press gaggle that oh, sure, I definitely within the next two or three weeks, I`d be willing to sit down under oath for an interview with team Mueller. That`s exactly something I would like to do because the President does not believe he`s done anything wrong and refuses to believe there is any reason anybody should think he did anything wrong. People inside the White House and outside of it have been strongly urging him to A, listen to your lawyers and B, do not submit yourself to something like that. In fact, perhaps don`t even submit yourself to an interview at all because they are concerned of his propensity to run his mouth and trouble he could potentially get himself into in that kind of intense situation.

HAYES: The fact that he, Barbara, the fact the President had to be restrained from taking this action which really would have been both cataclysmic I think politically and also some real rule of law questions. What does that say about what he`s learned over the course of his Presidency? I mean, this is in Junes about the rule of law and about what he did wrong in firing Comey?

MCQUADE: Well, I guess he didn`t make the same mistake twice. So I guess that shows he`s a little bit coachable, that he ultimately took the advice of White House Counsel. But if it`s true that White House Counsel had to threaten to resign to get him to stop, then maybe he was just limiting his political damage at that point realizing how bad it would look. And so I`m not sure he`s learned any lessons. He just knows what a political disaster it would have been for his White House Counsel to resign.

HAYES: Let me just bringing in -- Asawin for a second. Joining me now on the phone is one of the Reporters that broke the story, the byline of the story Michael Schmidt of The New York Times. A pretty remarkable bit of reporting, Michael.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, if you look back at June, it`s a month after Mueller has been appointed and the White House has experienced the firing of Comey and seen the enormous impact that that had and McGahn was deeply concerned about it and was willing to put his job on the line to try and stop it.

HAYES: You have four different people telling this. What were -- what was the context or the trigger for the President wanting to fire Mueller?

SCHMIDT: Well, the President thought that Mueller had conflict of interest issues. The President thought that Mueller who had been a member of his golf club in Northern Virginia, that had a dispute about membership fees, and that was one of the reasons he had to go. The other reason being that Mueller had worked at a law firm that represented Jared Kushner and that Mueller had interviewed to be the FBI Director the day before he was made Special Counsel. And the President thought those were things that were reasons for him not to oversee the Russia investigation.

HAYES: Has this kind of desire to get rid of Mueller, has it -- has it pertained or has it -- has it gone away over time?

SCHMIDT: Well, the President has changed his tone towards Mueller. He has -- since Ty Cobb came in in July, he has really ratcheted back his criticisms and he has even as recently as December said he thought Mueller would treat him fairly. I think he has been coached to the point that to realize that criticizing Mueller doesn`t get him anywhere. It only antagonizes and only drags this process out. If he`s done nothing wrong, then he shouldn`t do that.

HAYES: Do you have reporting that suggests what the views of other folks other than obviously McGahn was so dead set opposed to this according to you reporting he threatened to resign, other people in that White House, their views of it at the time?

SCHMIDT: I don`t think that anyone thought this was a good idea. Very few people thought the firing of Comey was a good idea. I think there was some support at DOJ and some support amongst folks like Jared Kushner. But I don`t think anyone thought that getting rid of Mueller would really solve anything. At that point, there was a full-blown investigation into the president`s conduct in office. And I`m not sure what anyone thought getting rid of Mueller would do to that. If anything, maybe it would lead Republicans to be even more critical of the president and say, well, if you`re getting rid of Mueller, what do you really have to hide?

HAYES: Do you think that the political calculation that was made, or the legal one made by Don McGahn, like, do you have any sense of what that did to their relationship in terms of McGahn`s ability to retrain impulses like that from the president?

SCHMIDT: McGahn and the president have been through so much together. They went through the Comey firing together. The president tried to get -- had McGahn lobby Sessions in March not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. There`s this incident.

McGahn is a central player in every major incident except for the plane ride that Mueller is looking at. McGahn was the White House`s top lawyer. And had to try and figure out how to balance not breaking the law with what the president wanted to do.

HAYES: And one more thing, just to make sure I understand the detail here that your report suggests, or I think it says, that Mueller himself and their team found out about this in the course of their investigation into the possibility of obstruction.

SCHMIDT: Correct. The -- you have to understand Mueller spent the past several months interviewing many White House officials about the president`s conduct to try and understand the president`s motivations. Why did he fire Comey? Why was he so obsessed with having someone loyal that oversaw the Russia investigation.

And in the course of that, he has learned a lot of different things. You have to remember, the White House has exerted no executive or attorney/client privilege and allowed its officials to speak openly with Mueller. And Mueller has learned these things through that.

HAYES: Michael Schmidt, who is one of the bylines along I believe along with Maggie Haberman on that New York Times article, the headline again of that that`s breaking just at this moment, Trump ordered Mueller fired, but backed off when White House counsel threatened to quit. Micahel, thank you so much for popping on the phone. Appreciate it.

I want to go back to Barbara McQuade and Asawin Suebsaeng.

The idea, Barbara, that the White House has allowed their folks to talk to Mueller, and the president is now saying he will talk to Mueller. What do you think about the likelihood the president actually goes through with that?

MCQUADE: I think at some point it`s going to be difficult for him to stay in office without talking to Robert Mulener in some way. My guess is his lawyers are trying to negotiate some limits on that so that he is not there fully exposed talking for hours and hours with all the dangers that brings to it. That`s why I`m sure it made them a little crazy that he said yesterday I`ll talk to him under oath no problem, because I`m sure they`re very involved in some very careful negotiations to try to limit those terms.

But my guess is that Robert Mueller really can`t close this investigation one way or the other without at some point talking to President Trump to try to probe his intent at the time he was saying those things, if he said them, and making those decisions.

HAYES: Asawin, how often do you think it happens in that White House that someone threaten tosses to quit or throws himself across the tracks as it appears that McGahn did here?

SUEBSAENG: Way more frequently than I think people in the White House find appropriate or at all comforting or that we here would find appropriate or comforting.

But something I think that`s important to keep in mind regarding the reported June desire expressed desire and almost explicit order from President Trump in terms of ordering the sacking of Robert Mueller, when you take that in itself, it is vital to realize that is more extreme than the position that has been held by some of his more extreme, or shall we say, hard-core allies or current or former administration officials.

Even someone like Steve Bannon, who obviously is now no longer in great terms with the president, but used to be after he left the White House. Shortly after Bannon left the White House, he advised the president on the phone to get rougher and tougher with Robert Mueller and get yourself some new lawyers, and basically start as the president would say, fighting back more when it comes to Robert Mueller and his team of investigators.

But even then someone like Steve Bannon never urged the president to order the sacking or the firing of Robert Mueller.

HAYES: That`s a great point. Barbara McQuade and Asawin Suebsaeng, thank you both for sticking with us as we cover this breaking news.

I have here at the table, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, who happens to be the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. We were -- when we booked had you to come to the show tonight, we were going to talk about what we were learning about the case for obstruction of justice, the facts that have been entered into evidence that are sort of publicly known and confirmed. And then we just got this bit of news. So your reaction to this news.

REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK: Well, my reaction to this news is that in retrospect, it`s not surprising. The president and the people around him have been doing everything they can to discredit the special prosecutor, to discredit the investigation, to discredit any agency that cooperates with it -- the FBI, et cetera -- with a view toward disabling the investigation and discrediting whatever report that may come out. And this is the behavior of people with something to fear, of people who think there`s a high likelihood that the special counsel will either decide the president`s guilty of a crime or recommend -- or issue a report that might lead to impeachment or something.

And the fact that he tried to or that he wanted to fire him before he was warned off by his lawyers is not surprising in that regard, but it is more evidence as to intent in doing everything he can to obstruct the investigation.

HAYES: You know, it`s interesting to me McGahn -- I mean, I keep feeling that we are going to head toward some moment where we have a real kind of institutional showdown, at some point there`s going to be a question of what holds like there was in the Saturday night massacre. You had people sprinting to the FBI. In this case, it seems McGahn was the one who said you cannot do this. But my question to you is, given the way that your colleagues, Republicans, have conducted themselves, particularly in the House and particularly with respect to the FBI and the Nunes memo, are you confident that if he were to sack Mueller that they would be upset and hold him accountable and takes steps to do that?

NADLER: No, I`m not confident. That would be a great test for the Republicans, assuming they were still in the majority at that point.

They have so far failed to exercise their duty as members of the House and Senate to hold the president accountable, to have -- to supply checks and balances that one branch is supposed to supply against the other and to exercise oversight. They instead have conducted themselves increasingly like football linebackers making way for whatever the president wants to do and participating in trying to discredit any institution that we depend on to hold the president accountable.

So, no. Now, if the president were to -- if it did come to a crisis (ph), would some of the -- some of my Republican colleagues say to themselves, enough is enough, politics is enough. I`ve got to be a little patriotic here and uphold the institutions, maybe.

HAYES: Maybe.

NADLER: Maybe.

HAYES: We now know -- I mean, we have a bunch of new pieces in -- there`s the sort of two stories, right. There is the stories of what the Russians did. There`s a story about -- and subsidiary to that is whether they had help from Americans or anyone in the campaign or the president`s campaign. And then there`s a second question about whether the president obstructed justice. Did he act with corrupt intent to stop a criminal investigation.

NADLER: Or is he continuing obstructing justice right now.

HAYES: Well, that`s the question. I mean, I guess -- it seems to me that there`s a case to be made just on the facts that we know, particularly this doesn`t -- this bolsters the case that he has done that. Isn`t that fairly -- isn`t that a pretty makeable case?

NADLER: Well, I think you could make a case.

Now, there are two separate cases, remember on obstruction of justice. One is could you make a criminal case, and the criminal law of obstruction of justice can be quite technical, it turns on intent and maybe you could make that case and maybe you couldn`t. And that`s really up to the special counsel to decide, and to make recommendations.

The other is the question of impeachment. Obstruction of justice, not as a criminal case, but as a factual matter was the key of one of the articles of impeachment voted against Richard Nixon. And people many people don`t understand this, but high crimes and misdemeanors as an impeachable offense do not have to be crimes under the criminal code. Equally, crimes under the criminal code may not be impeachable.

So, there are two separate tests and we`d have to see at the time.

HAYES: Would firing Mueller, were he to do it, right, which it`s unclear to me that it`s necessarily that this is a passing fancy that he`s now let go of. I mean, if he went so far as to order his White House counsel to do it, and the White House counsel says I quit, is that an impeachable offense to you, is that a bright red line?

NADLER: The act of -- the act of firing Mueller by himself -- by itself is not an impeachable offense. The act of firing Mueller as part of a pattern of acts designed to impede an investigation, to obstruct the judicial system in investigating a crime, the crime after all was the Russians hacking into the DNC and using that information that violates our laws and the possible collusion by Americans -- perhaps in the Trump campaign with that crime -- that would be impeachable if you could show that it was part of a pattern and designed for the improper purpose of obstructing that investigation.

HAYES: You know, all throughout this period, and particularly with respect to this investigation, it`s felt like there`s been these sort of tests against the institutions, you know, whether they`ll hold or not. And you`ve got a situation now where the president`s allies in congress are fighting with the Justice Department about possibly releasing classified information the Justice Department said it would do harm to the country, threaten the national security. You`ve got the president and his allies casting aspersions on the integrity and trustability of the chief law enforcement operation that he runs.

NADLER: Whose leaders he appointed.

HAYES: And whose leaders he appointed.

You`ve got him kind of railing against his own -- asking the FBI director - - acting director who he voted for. How worried are you? I mean in the scale of how you stay up at night about where we are institutionally in this country at this moment, where are you at?

NADLER: I`m very concerned. I don`t know how this is going to turn out. The president not only in the Russian investigation, but in all sorts of other ways is breaking every norm and seeking to denigrate every institution we depend on to protect our liberty and to protect our constitutional form of government, whether it`s trashing the press or trashing the judiciary or trashing the law enforcement agencies, it`s all of the piece.

And we will find out if our institutions are viable enough still to handle this. I certainly hope so. It`s not a guarantee.

HAYES: I mean, the glass half full way of interpreting this story that we just got -- and again if you just happened to be joining us, The New York Times publishing a report that the president in June ordered Mueller to be fired. He backed off when his White House counsel, Don McGahn, who has sort of been in the crosshairs of all of this from the very beginning, threatened to quit over it, that`s how bad an idea he thought it was.

The glass half full way of looking at that is that he backed off, right, that this thing that he could have done he does have the constitutional authority to fire the special prosecutor. He has to go through -- you know, he has to get Rosenstein to do it and, et cetera, and Department of Justice regulations, but he has the constitutional authority to do it. And the fact he didn`t, that he -- you know, that his White House counsel convinced him, the glass half full idea is that it worked.

NADLER: Well, and so far it has. So far it has. And we have to hope that it will and we have to do everything we can to hold the feet of all the people, all the players, which means the Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate to the fire.

HAYES: The fear is that it holds until it doesn`t and then when it doesn`t, it`s too late.

NADLER: That`s possible. I mean, we`ve seen democratic governments fall into other forms of government before. Hopefully, we are resilient enough and hopefully the people of the country are sensitive enough and devoted enough to a democratic form of government that they won`t permit this to happen, that Republican members of the House will not go beyond a certain point, that the population will not go beyond a certain point.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler, it`s great to have you here tonight. I appreciate it.

NADLER: Great to be here.

HAYES: I want to bring in former Watergate assistant prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Nick Ackerman who joins me by phone. Nick, your reaction to the story.

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR: Yeah, I guess my first reaction is, is this is just astounding evidence of consciousness of guilt. Why would he want to fire Mueller unless he`s trying to cover something up and it`s clear to me that what he`s trying to cover up is the conspiracy between him, his campaign, and the Russian government. This whole thing that`s been going on the last few weeks where he says he wants to cooperate, he`s looking forward to testifying, I mean it`s all a big charade because that`s what this shows.

And you put that in combination with the fact that he has all of these surrogates out there doing the dirty work with this ridiculous four-page memo that Nunes has come up with based on totally crazy ideas, I mean, this is like the fifth or sixth edition of this sort of attack on the Mueller prosecution team. They`re just hoping that something sticks.

And it`s obvious to me based on this new news tonight that the president is behind all of this, that he says one thing but he`s got other people doing other things. And to me, the bottom line is, it just shows he`s guilty.

HAYES: So, what you`re --

ACKERMAN: I`m not exactly sure yet what it is he`s guilty of, but he is clearly guilty.

HAYES: That has been your view from the beginning, I should say that is -- that you have been quite certain I think for months now there`s something there and you`re someone who obviously was on that prosecution team for Watergate.

What you`re saying is that you don`t think that the president wanted him fired because Robert Mueller had a fees dispute with a northernern Virginia golf course that Trump owned. That doesn`t stand for you?

ACKERMAN: That doesn`t stand up. The idea that he was angry because he couldn`t play golf and the fees were too high just doesn`t make a lot of sense.

I mean, none of this does other than the fact that we know a crime was committed. We know that the Russians broke into the Democratic National Committee, they stole emails. We know that you know, a month later, that Papadopoulos, who was his foreign policy adviser, was told about this. We know that June 4, Goldstone wrote to Don Jr. saying he is going to bring the dirt, these documents, likely the emails, to Trump Tower. We know that a few days later, Donald Trump said he was going to talk about all the bad things the Clintons did, then he didn`t. And then a week later, Guccifer 2.0 starts publishing this dirt, these emails, and it continues right on through the campaign with Donald Trump encouraging everybody to look at the WikiLeaks site.

And then you`ve got his henchman Roger Stone who had communications with both Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks.

I mean, to me, the outline of what has happened here is pretty obvious at this point.

HAYES: As someone who went through the Watergate process, do you think -- what is your reaction to hearing that McGahn threatened to fire? Because it sounds similar to you know, what happened over the Department of Justice under Richard Nixon when they were ordered to get rid of Archibald Cox.

ACKERMAN: Yeah, I think it`s very similar. I mean, this is exactly what Nixon ordered Elliott Richardson to do who was the attorney general. He refused. Ruckelshaus, who was the deputy, refused. And basically they had to in order to keep the White House from taking over the Justice Department, both Ruckelshaus and Richardson got Bork to agree to fire Cox so it could be done by at least a Department of Justice as opposed to a White House takeover.

Here`s, Trump is clearly -- has no respect for Department of Justice, he has no respect for the rule of law. And he would stop at nothing to try and fire Mueller if he could do it and thought he could get away with it.

HAYES: I mean, to your point, I mean, McGahn threatening to quit apparently you know convinced him otherwise. But even if they went through with it, there would probably have been resignations at the Department of Justice in incredibly analogous fashion. I mean, you would have ended up, if the White House actually did it and people at the Department of Justice resigned over it, you would have a direct history repeating itself.

ACKERMAN: You would. There`s no question about it. That`s exactly -- that`s exactly what we`re seeing here.

But in the Watergate situation, I mean, at least Nixon didn`t take such a prominent role. He had his main -- main lieutenants in the White House doing most of his bidding. This is a situation where I think Trump was involved in this from the beginning on his own. People that were involved with him were very close family members and long time confidantes. And I think there`s others around him that realize the dangers in what he`s trying to do to extricate himself from all of this.

HAYES: All right, Nick Ackerman, thank you for joining us tonight. Stick around.

We`ll be right back right back with Sam Seder and Christina Greer with more on this breaking news. Don`t go anywhere.


HAYES: Sam Seder is an MSNBC contributor, host of the Majority Report; and Christina Greer is a fellow at the McSilver Institute for poverty policy and research at NYU.

And we`re all kind of reacting to this news -- I mean, so at one level, it`s not surprising. The president is running around saying publicly on Twitter he`s being railroaded into the -- but the fact that it came as close as it did and was as serious as it was and that it took McGahn, who is not necessarily stuck his neck out a ton so far, he didn`t do this, for instance, over Comey, right, that he went as far as he did in threatening to quit over it. What do you make of that?

SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT: You know, I don`t know that it`s that surprising. To me, what is most interesting is like why do we know this? How do we know this now? I mean, who interest is it for us to know this story? That`s usually what I`m most wondering about when we hear leaking coming out of the Trump administration.

Clearly, this does not benefit Donald Trump. And if I`m Don McGahn, I`m -- maybe I want it on the record as we move forward, because look, we`re getting towards the end. There was a report today.

HAYES: Let me just be clear, because we just had Michael Schmidt on, we don`t know -- I literally have no idea who their sources are.

SEDER: I`m completely speculating. But I mean, I think it`s clear this doesn`t benefit President Trump in any way.

HAYES: No, it does not look good for him. It does look good for Don McGahn, you are correct. If you were to say, who does this look good for and bad for?

SEDER: And you`ve just got to ask, why now and why this piece of information? We`re talking about information that is seven months old.

HAYES: True.

SEDER: And there has been a lot of people who have left the administration that could have told this story and they didn`t.

HAYES: That is also a good point. I mean, one of the things is there are a lot of people out there now, no longer inside the tent necessarily, who have knowledge of what happened during that time, who may have secrets that they are willing to tell or divulge.

CHRISTINA GREER, NYU: Well, the number of people who have left administration, almost are the number of people who are left in the administration. And I think when you have someone like Mueller who is being very meticulous and systematic and we have a president who is a known liar, right, four decades of business in New York, we know this, there are a lot of people who I think possibly lied by omission or just kept quiet, and now when you`re looking at Mueller, when he`s coming to your office or having you come to his office and asking you point blank questions, I think a lot of people realize their silence won`t protect them and Donald Trump will throw you under the bus whether you`re in his party or his family.

And so I think now we`re going to start to see people realize it is getting hot in this kitchen, and they might want to protect themselves.

HAYES: You know, that`s a great question about the loyalty here, right? What are people willing to do for Donald Trump. Right, right. But what that means for what the calculations that other people make, there is the fact that when we sit and put it together, right? He has Comey over. He asked Comey for loyalty. He asked Comey to drop the Flynn probe. He then fires Comey, right?

He then pressures Sessions to not recuse himself, threatens to fire Sessions over the fact he recused himself. He brings in the new FBI director, Andy McCabe and asked him who he votes for and berates him for fact that his wife got political donations and ran as a Democrat. And then tries to fire Mueller.

Like, that`s quite a pattern of attempting to muck with, one might even say obstruct, the investigation into you.

SEDER: Look, a very charitable view is that he just demands some type of personal loyalty, thinks that he`s some type of capo (ph), and that that`s the way that you run these things.

This is not someone who went into the presidency.

HAYES: So, you`re saying like the most charitable view is that it`s not evidence of guilt or a guilty mindset, he just doesn`t like the fact he doesn`t control this stuff.

SEDER: Well, also I would go even a little bit further than that, that he`s used to operating in a certain way.

Now, that has also not necessarily exculpatory as to what he was doing leading up. I mean, if he doesn`t know the norms of being president, he may not know the norms of being a candidate either. That`s no defense of anything.

GREER: I mean, he doesn`t realize, though, you know, you are the president. We`ve always said he doesn`t respect the office, he doesn`t understand the office. The difference is this isn`t some building inspector from Queens, right, this is the federal government. And you can`t just bully your way through to policy or to however he`s been governing by chaos. It`s worked to a certain extent, but at a certain point in time his time will be up when Mueller essentially is collecting receipts from all these unemployed former Trumpites. And they`ve seen systematically how he berates people, how he throws them under the bus when they are no longer in the White House. So, at a certain point in time, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say why am I standing by this man when I know for a fact he will not stand by me if the rubber hits the road.

HAYES: We should note that a lot of big stories have happened when the president has been out of the country. The revelation that big Trump Tower meeting happened when he was in Europe. The president right now is in Davos where he is meeting with the global (inaudilbe) I think is fair to say.

Do you -- how do you think -- here is a question that I`ve been trying to get my head around, which is there seems like there is -- the pace is quickening. I mean, when you talk about this point about the Mueller wants to talk to the president, everyone we`ve talked to has said that comes at the end.

SEDER: Right.

HAYES: What is your feeling about the political parties in Washington and how prepared they are for whatever comes next?

SEDER: I think there is a lot of people who have just said, you know, I`m riding this all the way out. There is no other choice.

HAYES: On the Republican side.

SEDER: On the Republican side, because we`re going to hit the wall at one point and we might as well get as much as we can before that wall comes. I mean, I don`t know if the pace is quickening, but we`re just at a different stage. I mean, because I feel like we have said the pace is quickening for a year.

HAYES: Yeah, it`s felt very quick the whole time.

SEDER: But I do think like, look, there is a lot of things that are coming out that are old news, right? Over the past couple weeks. Since Steve Bannon has been basically cut adrift.

The Stormy Daniels thing --

HAYES: You seem to have a theory.

SEDER: Well, look, there is a period of interest to the Stormy Daniels thing, but there are 11,000 LLCs that were established on the day that the one that paid off Stormy Daniels. Somebody tipped those reporters off. And why they got this tip --

HAYES: Oh, that`s a good point. You can`t just go exhort through the paperwork.

SEDER: That would have taken -- you need to be looking for something.

HAYES: Great point.

SEDER: And so someone told them. And someone told them about something that happened a month before the election where there was already plenty of evidence of this relationship from an interview from years before.

HAYES: Right.

SEDER: So there is something that`s still out there that is associated with that payment that someone, it was in someone`s interest to have the press report on. That`s the only thing we know for sure. But these things that are cropping up now are interesting, and the reactions to them are also interesting.

GREER: But I think, you know, going back to your point, though, Sam, you know, I don`t necessarily feel like the pace is quickening. Keep in mind, you know, Nixon was under investigation for two years minimum. So, I mean, we still have some likes. And maybe Mueller is switching it up, right. I mean, this is a chaotic presidency and a chaotic president. Maybe he will interview the president. Maybe it`s not the last stop, right, maybe he`s got -- he`s reversing the strategy just because Trump is all over the place.

But I think we also have to remember there are so many Republicans who aren`t running for reelection because they have passed this tax bill and everyone says they are retiring. They are cashing out. So, I think a lot of Republicans are like listen, this is a smash and grab at this point. This man, who knows what he`s going to do. He`s off the rails. God willing at least we still have a country in 2020. So, it`s like -- let`s just take what we can get.

And that tax bill couldn`t have been more clear to the American public that they are in it to win it for themselves, not even the party. So, I mean, I think they see this blue wave coming, they don`t really know how it`s going to shake out. The Democrats clearly need to get themselves together in a much more structured way, but Republicans are just in it for the money. You know, listen, we`ll say anything. Sure, he`s with prostitutes. You know what, he`s a Christian. We love him. I mean, everything is mulligans. They don`t really care anymore. All of their values are just gone.

HAYES: I should say, it was not a sex worker that he was with, it was a --

GREER: Oh, a porn star.

HAYES: -- an adult actress.

GREER: My apologies.

HAYES: The details.

Sam Seder and Christina Greer, thank you to you both.

That is All In for this evening.



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