Hope Hicks announces resignation after testifying. TRANSCRIPT: 02/28/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Olivia Nuzzi, Ashley Parker, Barbara Boxer, Mickey Edwards

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: February 28, 2018 Guest: Olivia Nuzzi, Ashley Parker, Barbara Boxer, Mickey Edwards

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- the bill through both houses of Congress. If he does, it will be great watching Trump actually going up against the NRA, sort of like King Kong tangling with Godzilla. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Come on up here, Hope.

HAYES: The White House loses Hope.

TRUMP: Where is Hope?

HAYES: One day after her testimony to the Russia probe, yet another top Trump staffer steps down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you be back?

HAYES: Tonight, what we know about the sudden departure of Hope Hicks. Then as the President demands his Attorney General investigates his enemies.

TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

HAYES: An NBC News exclusive report.

TRUMP: I love WikiLeaks.

HAYES: Robert Mueller is asking witnesses whether Donald Trump knew about the hack of the DNC before the public did.

TRUM: Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.

HAYES: Plus, what to make of the President`s gun show.

TRUMP: I like taking the guns early.

HAYES: With the lawmaker in the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you underestimate the power of the gun lobby.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is out one day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, where she acknowledged telling, and I`m quoting because it`s such an indicative phrase, white lies, white lies for the President. The President`s longest-serving aide is joining the extensive and ever-growing list of senior officials to leave the Trump administration. Hicks has been a player in some of the pivotal moments of the Russia saga as well as the whole campaign and presidency. She was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s team late last year and her departure comes just as Mueller`s investigation appears to be turning to the key question at the heart of the whole affair.

Did the President of the United States conspire with a foreign adversary to influence the 2016 election? According to an exclusive report from NBC News out today, Mueller`s team is now asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic e-mails had been stolen before that was publicly known and whether he was involved in their strategic release.

Now, we already know that members of the President`s campaign were aware of the e-mails. You`ll remember George Papadopoulos, that guy? According to his guilty plea about, a month after he attended that meeting with the candidate himself, that`s Donald Trump and George Papadopoulos sitting at the same table talking, about a month after that meeting with the candidate himself in March 2016, Papadopoulos learned from a Russian intermediary they the Russians had dirt on her. The Russians have e-mails of Clinton. They have thousands of e-mails.

OK, well, that`s an amazing thing to know before everyone else knows it. We know from those same court filings that Papadopoulos despite being described as "coffee boy" was actually in frequent contact with senior campaign officials. And we just found out from the memo released by Democrats from the House Intelligence Committee, and this got a little lost, so this is important, that Papadopoulos had been informed that the Russians could assist the campaign by anonymously releasing the Clinton e- mails, which sure as heck sounds familiar. Ranking member Adam Schiff explained the significance of that revelation right here on this program Monday night.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Our memo discloses for the first time that the Russians preview to Papadopoulos that they could help with disseminating these stolen e-mails. We knew from the Papadopoulos plea that the Russians had told the Trump campaign very early on in April of 2016 that they were in possession of these stolen e- mails. We now know that the Department of Justice presented to the FISA Court information that the Russians previewed what they would do with this information, their dissemination of it.

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HAYES: OK, so the Russians have previewed to a campaign surrogate, George Papadopoulos that they have the e-mails, thousands of e-mails of Hillary Clinton, what they would do, leaking it anonymously all before this all comes out publicly. And the question is with all the information swirling around inside the Trump campaign, did any of that information make its way to the man who was at the center of that campaign, the candidate himself? Did it make its way to Donald Trump and could it have had anything to do with these very memorable comments in July 2016?

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TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

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HAYES: Mike Memoli is an NBC News National Political Reporter who helped break that story. What do we know about these questions that Mueller`s team is asking?

MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Chris, thanks for having me on. As you know, this Mueller investigation has been very tight- lipped. There`s been very few leaks of any sort coming from it. So anytime we can offer the public insight into what they`re investigating, it`s significant. And in this case, what we`re reporting along with Carol Lee and Katy Tur, my colleagues puts a spotlight on the collusion aspect of this investigation. Specifically, not necessarily weather senior members of the Trump campaign and senior Russian government officials were coordinating but the nature of potential intermediaries in helping to facilitate leaks that could prove damaging to Clinton campaign. And the timeline partially as you just laid out was critical.

It was in March, we know that John Podesta`s e-mails were hacked. You have then in April, George Papadopoulos meeting with the Russian agent who informs him that they have dirt on Hillary Clinton. And then the timing of the release of these e-mails is significant as well. You have you in July of 2016, just as Democrats hope to really unite the party ahead of the Democratic convention, the DNC e-mails are leaked. And then in October, just as the Access Hollywood tape breaks, you have the Podesta e-mails leaked.

And so, what we have been told here in our reporting is that Mueller is zeroing in on whether senior members of the Trump campaign or any allies of Trump including Roger Stone may have been suggesting to the President, the then-Candidate in that July famous comment, that clip you just showed whether he was with knowledge of what was to come pleading with the Russians to release this. And it`s also important what you point out in terms of what we learned from the Democratic memo. This is not just information -- because the Carter FISA application is part of the precursor to what is now the Mueller probe. So when they went to the FISA Court, they`re presenting this potential link between what Papadopoulos learned in his conversations with Russians with other aspects that were of interest to this investigation. So it lends a lot credibility to it.

HAYES: And so the timing here is also key, right? That they`re zeroing in on these key sort of plot points in this drama particularly that the WikiLeaks first set of Podesta e-mails coming out, I think they`re tweeted a half an hour after the Washington Post story on Access Hollywood.

MEMOLI: That`s right. And not to be lost the DNC e-mails, as well. The comment that you played from then-candidate Trump was at a press conference just days after those DNC e-mails were posted. And then, of course, again, the role of Roger Stone. Remember the tweet he cryptically suggested that you know, Podesta`s turn in the barrel was coming. And of course, the question that Mueller and his other investigative team is asking is did he tweet that with knowledge that in fact Podesta`s e-mails had been hacked were ready to be released. What we`ve heard from Roger Stone is, of course, denying any link with WikiLeaks, any direct contact with Julian Assange. He testified before the House Intelligence Committee last Fall and said much of the same.

And what he also said in his opening statement before the Committee at that time was that when he was referring to Podesta`s time in the barrel, the context was key, that it was because his friend, his childhood friend, Paul Manafort, had just resigned as the Trump campaign chairman and this was in connection to his own contacts with foreign governments and that`s what he was suggesting his tweet was in reference to at the time. But investigators want to know more and they also want to know whether Roger Stone was still in contact with Donald Trump had himself.

HAYES: NBC`s Mike Memoli, great to have you.

MEMOLI: Thanks, Chris.

MELBER: All right, for more on where Mueller is headed next, let`s bringing in former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman, former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler, both are MSNBC Legal Analyst. And Paul, let me start with you. A kind of -- let`s say devil`s advocate posture here. I mean, at some level, it`s not surprising Mueller`s team would be asking these questions since their questions that you would have to ask if you were getting into collusion anyway, is it news to you these questions are being asked now?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s big news, Chris. So first of all, the focus of Mueller`s investigation of Trump has seemed heretofore to be about obstruction. The firing of James Comey --

HAYES: Right.

BUTLER: -- the meeting on Air Force One where he and Hope Hicks ginned up that false narrative what the meeting with the lawyer was about. But prosecutors have always had this question if Trump only has allegations of obstruction or even evidence, would he bring a case. Now, we`re thinking squarely about collusion. So the obstruction of justice would be supplemental to Trump actually colluding with the Russians to subvert democracy to steal the election. The thing there is that collusion by itself is not a crime. Conspiracy to defraud the United States, on the other hand, is a five-year felony. And today we`re getting evidence that Mueller thinks that Trump might have been involved in some kind of conspiracy. Chris, if he was involved in any way with coordinating the release of hacked e-mails, he`s got criminal exposure.

HAYES: That`s criminal.

NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: That`s even bigger than a five-year felony. What we`re dealing with here is a conspiracy to break into the Democratic National Committee, steal e-mails and use those e-mails to help Trump get elected. And the quid pro quo for that was the dropping of sanctions. What was left out of this whole narrative was the one end with Michael Flynn who was dealing with the Russian Ambassador over sanctions and the whole notion that the Trump administration was going to get rid of all of the sanctions after he took office.

HAYES: We should say, there is reporting indicating that that was the order that was sent sort of top-down on day one was we want to get rid of the sanctions and there was a sort of rebellion in the State Department.

AKERMAN: And if you go to the other end of this conspiracy, what you have is the June 9th meeting where you`ve got the e-mail to Don Junior stating that they`re going to bring all of this dirt on Hillary Clinton up to New York to this meeting from Russia. The dirt is the equivalent of the e- mails. That`s what he Papadopoulos tells us. That`s what`s in this letter the Democratic letter issued last week. So all of these e-mails come up to New York, they realize it`s too hot to handle, the campaign --

HAYES: Again, I have to be clear. This is the Nick Akerman theory of the case of what happened.

AKERMAN: Right. But this is exactly where it`s going because what happens next is within days, Roger Stone is dealing with Guccifer 2.0, he`s dealing with WikiLeaks. We know he`s dealing because the new communications just came out that contradict what he was saying about his later dealings. And then what happens, all of the stuff gets released from Guccifer 2.0., it gets released through WikiLeaks. There are contacts between Don Junior and WikiLeaks. The President, now President was telling everybody to go to the WikiLeaks, go to this Web site. He was encouraging at least a dozen times. He did that during the course of the campaign.

HAYES: Look, here`s the thing, Paul, short of the Nick theory, right, so you have a theory of the case which what you just laid out which is essentially a quid pro quo that involves essentially co-conspiring in this criminal conspiracy.

AKERMAN: Right, but based on evidence.

HAYES: No, no, no -- right, I`m not saying based on evidence, I`m just saying this. But in some ways, Paul, I mean, what I`m hearing from you is that short of any of that, let`s say there was no quid pro quo, there was no promise, if you know in any way what they`re doing and you help them disseminate the e-mails, what you`re saying is there`s criminal exposure right there.

BUTLER: Yes, so I think help is the key. Again, if the President is being more or less passive and understanding that the Russians have this information, this dirt on Hillary and it would be really cool if it came out but I don`t have anything to do with it, then I don`t think that`s -- he`s going to be the subject of an indictment or a report to Congress recommending impeachment. On the other hand, if he was active in any kind of participation, any kind of active coordination about when the e-mails would be released or who should be targeted, what journalists or other folks should be targeted with this dirt on Hillary, then he`s going down.

AKERMAN: And it`s exactly the same thing he did in the Oval Office. What you showed with that clip before where the President -- Trump gets up and says Russia, get those e-mails, he does it in public. He did the same thing in the Oval Office with the Russian Ambassador where he released classified information that he got from the Israelis. This is a man who is very cagey, does this thing in a public way where it doesn`t look like he`s actually helping the Russians but the bottom line is, he is. And that`s where he`s going to go down.

HAYES: And that point I think is a key one which is that if you can show the President knows about what Russia is doing vis-a-vis the e-mails, even if the Papadopoulos information is passed to him, then him saying publicly, Russia, if you`re listening, is no longer a joke. He`s literally in public giving a directive as part of the conspiracy plausible.

AKERMAN: Right. Does he sound like he`s joking? He claimed it was a joke afterward but that didn`t sound like a joke to me.

HAYES: Nick Akerman and Paul -- yes, go ahead, Paul.

BUTLER: So again, that`s where Paul Manafort, again, at some point, Chris, Paul Manafort is pleading guilty. He`s 69 years old, he`s looking at 40 years. The case against him is really easy to prove. If he`s got dirt about the President of the United States, Robert Mueller is going to get that dirt.

HAYES: I will say that he pleaded not guilty today and they set a trial date in mid-September which should be interesting. We`ll keep our eyes on that. Nick Akerman and Paul Butler, thanks for being here. The President launches a very public attack on his own Attorney General who apparently his nickname for is Mr. Magoo for not investigating his personal political enemies. And tonight, word that Robert Mueller is interested in Trump`s attempts to fire Jeff Sessions. That story ahead, and next, the White House Communications Director quits one day after facing the House Russia probe. We`ll get the latest report on why Hope Hicks is suddenly resigning in two minutes.

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TRUMP: Now, Hope Hicks is a tremendously talented person. She started off with us right from day one.

Hope Hicks, this is Hope, this is Hope, this is Hope. Nobody takes more phone calls I think in a day than Hope. The legendary Hope Hicks. Come on up here, Hope. Come, come, come. She`s shy. Get her up here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: A shock resignation tonight. Hope Hicks Trump`s longest-serving aide announcing she is leaving as White House Communications Director apparently telling colleagues she had accomplished what she felt she could. Olivia Nuzzi, she`s covering Hope Hicks from New York Magazine, she wrote a great profile for G.Q, a little while back, Ashley Parker is reporting on the Hicks resignation from the Washington Post. Ashley, let me start with you. What -- why did this happen? What happened?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: So that`s what we`re still trying to unpack a little bit. Our understanding is that she had told at least some close friends before her testimony on the Hill yesterday that this was planned. And this job took an incredible personal toll on her. In addition to sort of working with Trump for three years, weathering the sort of the chaos and the maelstrom of just being in Trump`s orbit, if you just look at the past month, she was dating Rob Porter an alleged domestic abuser, she had paparazzi staking out her house. She was described by friends to us as deeply shaken about that and she was also facing this testimony, yesterday`s testimony an encroaching Mueller probe and was sort of frankly exhausted. And my understanding was as the news broke, she was crying but also in some ways deeply relieved to be exiting this White House.

HAYES: Olivia, how important is Hope Hicks to this White House?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I mean, she`s extremely important. I would say she`s one of the most, if not the most important aide there. Remember, Donald Trump has not existed without Hope Hicks by his side since the winter of 2015. That`s months before he even announced that he was running for president. I mean, she has outlived Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, like I could go on and on and on. And Trump doesn`t seem any different in terms of his emotional state, I`ll put it that way, without those people around. But I think without Hope Hicks, things might be different.

I also -- I also want to point out, you know, everyone`s pointing to the testimony yesterday as being you know, what they think is related to her resignation and maybe that`s true but I think a different event yesterday which was the resignation of Josh Raffel who is her very close friend, who she knows from a P.R. firm that she worked for in New York that helps make strategies, I think him leaving probably maybe has more to do with her exit than the testimony even does because she really -- they are very close friends. She doesn`t like Washington. She`s not very social here, but they are social together. They hang out all the time. And I think it will be more difficult here for her without him around.

PARKER: And to Olivia`s point, two things. One, when this whole thing started, it was basically a tabloid scandal before there were any domestic abuse allegations, it was sort of her and Rob Porter stepping out on the town. The third wheel in this date who was not named was Josh Raffel. I mean, he is sort of always there and very close to Hope. And to her other point, that it was also very astute is this idea that Hope has been with Trump from the beginning. And now that she`s gone, this President is someone who runs the White House as we all know like a family business and likes to surround himself with people he is comfortable with and familiar with. And with her gone, the only people within the White House, the only friendly faces that people he actually trust and likes to be around and who can sort of help manage his moods in the margin admitted are Dan Scavino, the Social Media Director and Ivanka Trump.

HAYES: There`s also -- Hope Hicks has some exposure in various ways. I mean, one of them is, of course, that she was part of the drafting of that very flagrantly misleading deceptive statement about the Trump Tower meeting. The second though, just to return to the Rob Porter thing, and I`m unclear about whether they`re still dating or not but she was part of essentially an effort to cover-up and protect a senior White House aide whose background check had come back red flagged four different times because both of his ex-wives have accused him of violence against them. She was part of that effort.

NUZZI: Yes, I mean, look, Hope Hicks since 2015, as they said the winter of 2015, she`s repeatedly found herself in very difficult positions in this job with Donald Trump and surrounded by very difficult men who I think she often finds herself defending or taking -- putting out statements on behalf of and it makes her look bad, right? And I think you know, in a lot of ways it`s just the nature of this job though. I find it very difficult to conceive of anybody having this job as the White House Communications Director or Donald Trump`s campaign spokesperson and not finding themselves in similarly precarious positions.

But -- also I would point out on the Rob Porter thing, there`s been -- there`s some conflicting reports about her role in the drafting that have statement and how much discussion there was between her and John Kelly. And it`s very difficult like so much other things involving this White House to really get a clear answer about who said what, who wrote what, and who was responsible for what. I can`t get a clear answer on the record about who wrote what involving those statements and Rob Porter.

HAYES: Quickly, Ashley, though, she knows a lot. I mean, she`s a person who`s now floating out there knowing a lot.

PARKER: She absolutely is. She is sort of one of the key people anyone would want to talk to who is investigating President Trump for Russia collusion or obstruction of justice and she is one of the key people they actually are talking to. That said, I don`t think she`s one of these people now that they are cast out are more dangerous on the outside than they are on the inside. She is fiercely loyal as she said perhaps problematically before the House Committee yesterday. She tells white lies on behalf of the President so I assume she will continue to defend him and do whatever she can to protect him wherever she may be.

HAYES: Yes, that`s all of us saying define white lie. Define non- substantive lies. Olivia Nuzzi, Ashley Parker, thanks for joining me.

NUZZI: Thank you.

PARKER: Thank you.

HAYES: All right, next as Robert Mueller closes in, the President lashes out at Jeff Sessions. Tonight the breaking news that the Mueller probe is asking all about Trump`s attempts to fire Jeff Sessions. That story after the break.

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HAYES: Today (AUDIO GAP), and we have more breaking news in the Mueller investigation. Certainly does seem like things are kind of fast and furious in the moment. So, this latest one. According to the post, the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining the President`s an apparent efforts to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions last summer. People familiar with the matter is telling The Post that a key area of interest for the inquiry is whether those effort were part of a month-long pattern of attempted obstruction of justice. The news breaking just hours after the President went after Sessions again today on Twitter. Republican Mickey Edwards, former U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma and Democrat Barbara Boxer, former U.S. Senator from California.

So I want to just set up for you guys the President`s tweet today at Jeff Sessions which he`s done a bunch of this. And he can`t help but feel this is in the context obviously of the Mueller investigation. And this is about Jeff Sessions opening an I.G. investigation into FISA use. He says, "Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse? It take forever, has no prosecutorial power, already late with reports on Comey, et cetera. Isn`t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use justice appointed lawyers. Disgraceful." Mickey Edwards, this seems to me like the President publicly urging or ordering his A.G. to open a criminal investigation of his political enemies which on its face seems a plausibly impeachable offense. What say you?

MICKEY EDWARDS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN FROM OKLAHOMA: Well, it does. I mean, you got to understand, this President is sort of like a junior high school bully who`s used to getting his way and has people around him, his little gang who will do whatever he tells them to do. And he thinks that he`s president and he can just tell them, you know, go ahead, investigate Hillary, investigate -- and he doesn`t understand that there are some people going to stand up against him. And look, it`s not only outrageous that he`s doing this, it`s stupid because I don`t know if you remember the history with Jeff Sessions, but when he was nominated for federal judge, he was turned down. He didn`t even get out of committee in the Senate. And so getting elected to the Senate himself and now Attorney General is a way of him getting some kind of validation, some kind of -- and there`s no way he is going to let his reputation go down the tubes in order to bail out Donald Trump.

HAYES: To that point, Senator Boxer, this is the Sessions response and I`d like to get your response to it. Usually, he shrugs this off. I should say he gets a lot of abuse, we`ve got reporting today the President calls him Mr. Magoo, complains about him, hates the fact that he has removed himself from the Russia inquiry, he wants him gone, yadda yadda. But his response today, "We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon as necessary. As long as I am Attorney General I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor. This department will continue to do its work in a fair and partial manner according to the law and Constitution." That sounds like step off, Mr. President.

BARBARA BOXER, FORMER SENATOR FROM CALIFORNIA: Well, I have to say this whole thing is unbelievable. I don`t know if Mickey can remember back, I don`t remember any time that a President turned on his Attorney General that he handpicked. That was his first supporter in the United States Senate. It`s extraordinary and I guess it`s kind of a new version of you`re fired, The Apprentice. He is he trying to force Sessions out. He doesn`t want to say the words, you`re fired because that could set him up for obstruction of justice.

HAYES: Right.

BOXER: Because as we know, Sessions is recused from Russia investigation and if Trump puts someone else in there and fires Mueller, (INAUDIBLE) the door. So this thing is a nightmare. And I really think -- I never agreed with Jeff Sessions. We served together for a long time in the Senate. We were going toe to toe against each other on women`s rights, immigrants` rights, gay rights, but I have to applaud him for staying in there and hanging in there. So if you`re watching, Jeff, stay in there.

HAYES: Oh, he watches every night.

EDWARDS: I`m sure he does. But you know, Barbara, it`s also true you know, that I think Donald Trump`s picking a fight with the wrong guy because --

HAYES: Right.

EDWARDS: -- this is something that Jeff Sessions has wanted all the time. Now, he supports Trump because of policy agreements, because Jeff is a conservative. But he is not going to let himself go down in history as somebody who became Attorney General and blocked a legitimate investigation. He`s just not going to let that happen.

HAYES: And to that point, I mean, there`s -- Mickey, you raise the idea, right, that this has a way of essentially stiffening the resolve of Sessions, right? I mean, if you keep doing this in public like people have some sense of dignity and honor. Here`s what happened tonight, besieged Sessions dines with Rosenstein in show of solidarity, Senator Boxer, which seems to me like that`s him basically saying like, I will not wilt under your pressure.

EDWARDS: You know -- go ahead, Barbara.

BOXER: Let me say, yes. I totally agree with that. I was just going to say, I totally agree. I mean, Jeff -- I mean, Mickey`s right on point that Jeff Sessions always worried about the fact that he once got turned down for judge and he`s been trying to make up for it ever since. And now, even though Trump agrees with every single thought I think that Jeff Sessions has, it`s all about Russia. And everything keeps coming back to Russia. And he`s furious, Trump is, at Jeff Sessions for recusing himself, which was the honorable and correct thing to do.

EDWARDS: Let me just add quickly, most presidents bring into the White House with them people who are competent and they say who can I bring in here who can do the job. What Trump looks for is who can I bring in who will be loyal to me, and that`s totally different way of looking at it.

HAYES: I will just finally say this that, you know, we already know Robert Mueller is investigating obstruction. That`s been clear from the very beginning. The president behaving this way publicly is not helping. Whatever -- if you`re conceding about is this an individual capable of attempting to obstruct justice, or to -- this is obvious and public, and I imagine that his lawyers are not happy with him.

Micky Edwards and Barbara Boxer, it is always such a pleasure to have you both. Thank you.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Chris.

BOXER: Thanks.

HAYES: Sll right, still ahead, you should not fall for the president`s performance today if you can call it that actually, because it`s one he`s already tried to use before. More on that ahead.

Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.

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HAYES: Thing One tonight, congress is now investigating Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. House oversight chair, Republican Trey Gowdy, is now probing, quote, "excessive spending on the redecoration of Carson`s office," a story we brought you last night. Now, that comes after several reports yesterday that a senior official at HUD who said she was demoted for rejecting Ben Carson`s costly office revamp.

The New York Times reporting that HUD spent $31,000 on a new dining set for Ben Carson`s office. spokesperson said he didn`t know the table had been purchased, but does not believe the cost was too steep and does not intend to return it. That last line is kind of funny.

Late last night, Guardian reporting that HUD has agreed to spend, I am not making this up, $165,000 on, and again I quote, "lounge furniture for its Washington headquarters, which I`ve been to and don`t recall a lot of lounges in.

Just as a reminder, Ben Carson is the guy who warned last year don`t make housing for the poor too cozy. Interesting advice. And the Trump administration is also trying to cut nearly $7 billion HUD`s budget, cuts that would directly affect poor and homeless Americans, lavishly spending government money on lounge furniture and dining room sets doesn`t look great for Ben Carson, but I will say this for Ben Carson, he at least did not try to pull pilots from fighting wildfires just so he could fly charter.

The secretary who allegedly did that is Thing Two in 60 seconds.

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HAYES: So last month, the Interior Department said it made a mistake after Newsweek reported that it tapped wildfire preparedness funds for Secretary Ryan Zinke`s unrelated helicopter tour last summer in which he did not visit any fire zones.

The department said the $39,000 chopper was charged in error to the wrong account and prompted Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to call for an internal investigation. But aside from misusing funds, Secretary Ryan Zinke may have pulled fire fighting personnel for the tour while there were 21 wildfires in the region that very day.

CNN reports that Lucas Rea (ph), a helitak (ph) crew supervisor whose Facebook page shows he was actively working on wildfires through September is listed on the flight manifest with Zinke for five stops on July 30th. Interior did not say if Rea (ph) was pulled from firefighting duty to accompany Zinke. It appears there were other requests for charter flights that went unfulfilled, including a separate trip in July due to the active fires, an internal email says, we`re having trouble getting two pilots for the charter flights in Nevada and New Mexico. We`re still waiting to hear from one more vendor, but please let me know if we`re willing to proceed with the flights if there is only one pilot.

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HAYES: Even more breaking news tonight for this already scandal plagued White House just today, OK? While we`ve been on air, The New York Times has just publish a story, moments ago, that the company of a private equity billionaire who met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner at the White House and discussed a possible job at the White House, ended up lending millions to Kushner`s family real estate firm.

Joining me now Asawin Suebsaeng, White House reporter at The Daily Beast; Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at The Atlantic; Gabe Sherman, MSNBC contributor and special correspondent for Vanity Fair.

And Gabe, you`ve been reporting on Jared Kushner. This story is not your reporting. But basically, you`ve got someone coming and meeting with Kushner about infrastructure plans, maybe a White House job, and then his firm lending Kushner $184 million, triple the size of their average real estate loan, to a real estate holdings that are very cash strapped at the moment and desperately seeking creditors.

GABE SHERMAN, VANITY FAIR: Exactly right, Chris. I mean, this is the story that raises all of the questions that people were asking when Jared Kushner went into the White House, which is how does he separate himself out from his real estate empire that is facing cash calls on its crown jewel 666 Fifth Avenue.

Now, Kushner has said he`s divested himself from his family business and yet, he`s taking meetings with these investors. And as The Times reporting, is then receiving his family is receiving hundreds of millions of loans from the very people Kushner had met with.

Even if he, as his lawyer and spokesman have said, did not discuss business or his real estate holdings with these individuals, the fact that they are then turning around and giving his family money is a direct conflict of interest even on the appearance of its face.

HAYES: Asawin, this has been quite a week for Jared Kushner. And he lost his security clearance. You`ve got the New York State Department of Finance Services have done an expansive and comprehensive inquiries to several banks about the relationship with Kushner and his finances. You`ve got a kind of war brewing between him and Kelly. What is going on for him right now? He seems in danger to me.

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, something to take note is when I was talking to senior Trump aides just a few months ago and over the summer and on about Jared Kushner`s increasingly precarious situation, several of them would jokingly refer to Kushner with terms such as and I quote, a made man, meaning that as much as things may seem precarious for him in the West Wing or outside of it, that because of his relationship with Donald Trump, because he`s his son-in-law and married to Ivanka, that he was essentially untouchable, and that there was seemingly no bottom to the floor of what he could get away with.

Now, when we try getting senior officials in the Trump White House to defend him even off the record, the number of people willing to do that again even completely off the record seems to be dwindling rapidly.

I am not saying that that means Kushner is short for this world in Trump world or the West Wing, but what I am saying is that people increasingly seem unwilling or not wanting to have his back.

HAYES: Well, and here`s part of the problem, right, Natasha? Is that this is the problem with having a special counsel investigating you in a general sense, which is you know, in a normal world like this is scandalous and maybe looks bad, impropriety, maybe there`s a House oversight. But we know that Robert Mueller is asking questions about investments into Kushner, about investments that happened overseas or about courting investors overseas. You`ve got to imagine anything like this is crossing their desk, as well.

NATASHA BERTRAND, THE ATLANTIC: Exactly. This shows a very, very problematic -- it`s a very problematic sign. I wouldn`t say necessarily a pattern, because we don`t know if it extended to more than just this one incident. But of course we know that Jared Kushner with the 666 Fifth Avenue property that Gabe mentioned, he was trying to get investors for that property even before he entered the White House, right.

So, during the transition period, he was frantically looking for people to salvage this building that he had on Fifth Ave. And one of those meetings that he held with the sanctioned Russian CEO, the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank, who he says that he met with as part of a transition team effort as a diplomatic kind of channel, but who the bank CEO said it was a matter of business.

HAYES: Right.

BERTRAND: And then of course he met with Chinese investors and there was going to be a big investment by a Chinese insurance company.

So, there`s a lot of questions now that we know that Kushner has been actually received a big loan from one of these companies that whether or not he actually did the same or courted foreign investors on purpose.

HAYES: Just to take two steps back, here`s what we got. We`ve got the son-in-law of the president of the United States, wholly unqualified in any tangible sense for any of his portfolio, who is incapable of passing an FBI background check, according reporting, whose family empire is desperately cash starved and desperately looking for creditors around the world, freelancing meetings with interested parties domestically and foreign who are possibly looking to extract leverage out of loans to him, Gabe.

SHERMAN: Yeah.

HAYES: That`s a bad scene.

SHERMAN: It`s on its face just the case that you laid out. It`s devastating.

And I think as one thing we should point out, though, is that Chief of Staff John Kelly has effectively maneuvered Jared Kushner out of a job by rescinding his access to classified intelligence because of, as you had just mentioned, his lack of a permanent security clearance.

So, it`s unclear to me since I cover this White House and others what exactly Jared Kushner does all day because he can`t really run point on the Mideast peace process as was part part of his portfolio. He can`t be a direct line to China, because all of that work relies on classified information and even his relationship with Mexico and him being another channel between the Trump White House and the Mexican government to me is unclear, again, because of the intelligence question.

So I think the White House really needs to answer in a forceful way what exactly is Jared Kushner`s job.

HAYES: Asawin, it also seems like they`ve got a -- there has to be some public reckoning here about what`s going on with him. Like, someone should say something -- Jared Kushner, the White House, someone, but what is -- to Gabe`s point, like what`s his job? And what he is qualified to do? And they should also probably clear up all this stuff with whether he`s trading influence for loans.

SUEBSAENG: Well, I`m also going to make a bold prediction here.

HAYES: Make it. Be bold.

SUEBSAENG: And I somehow -- I don`t think that Jared Kushner, even before all of this investment scandal, was going to solve peace in the Middle East or bring peace to the Middle East. I don`t think those -- that was in the cards for him or this administration.

But the funny thing is, a lot of the stuff that he is working on nowadays that he can work on without that top security clearance is kind of reduced to sort of b-copy Trump administration fodder, pet projects such as criminal justice and prison reform, which actually do not have that much momentum in this administration and certainly Republicans on Capitol Hill don`t have much of an appetite for.

So as his portfolio shrinks and starts getting smaller, you`ll start hearing about him working on more b-team stuff like that.

HAYES: To that point about prison reform, he was on the Hill yesterday on prison reform. And I thought, oh that`s kind of funny that he`s on prison reform. Then I remembered, well in the Shakespearean sense, Jared Kushner inherited a real estate empire from his father who went to prison who was successfully prosecuted by none other than Chris Christie, also part of this amazing sort of plot twist. He has seen intimately and up close what it is to be on the other side of a prosecutor who is coming at you. And I just wonder like what is the inner life of Jared Kushner like right now.

BERTRAND: I mean, the amount of confidence that he must have had to enter into the White House and be at the same time kind of seeking out foreign investors for his Manhattan real estate project is really something else. I mean, I don`t think that he ever expected necessarily to be under criminal investigation. But now that he is, this is obviously something that Mueller is going to be looking very closely at. And people in that world must not be very confident about, or according to my conversations anyway, they`re not very confident about Jared Kushner getting off kind of squeaky clean after this probe ends. They say that there`s a lot of exposure he has in terms of possible money laundering charges and.

HAYES: Yes.

BERTRAND: Just.

HAYES: I think he`s --

BERTRAND: -- improper activity.

HAYES: -- incredibly exposed.

Asawin Suebseang, Natasha Bertrand, Gabe Sherman, thank you all for joining me.

SUEBSAENG: Thank you.

HAYES: Next, just like his bipartisan meeting with lawmakers on DACA, today President Trump put on a gun show at the White House. We`ll talk to one of the lawmakers who was in the room.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re determined to turn our grief into action. I really believe that. I think that the people at this table want it. I mean, I see some folks that don`t say nice things about me, and that`s OK. Because, if you turn that into this energy, I`ll love you. I don`t care. We`re going to be able to do it.

And I think we`re going to have a vote. I think it`s going to be a very successful vote, and I will sign it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: President Trump meeting with lawmakers today, promising to love them, a meeting on possible gun control measures. And if what he said seems familiar? It`s because the president sounded equally willing to compromise on DACA and immigration just last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: When this group comes back, hopefully with an agreement, this group and others from the Senate, from the house, comes back with an agreement, I`m signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I`m not going to say oh, gee, I want this, or I want that, I be signing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut who represents the district with Sandy Hook Elementary, she attended this afternoon`s meeting with President Trump on gun violence. And starting on that clip, the president said bring me a DACA bill, I`m going to sign it. And like I say I want this, I want -- he was brought two compromises, both with bipartisan backing and rejected them both. Why is that a preamble?

REP. ELIZABETH ESTY, (D) CONNECTICUT: Well, I tell you, I represent Newtown, Connecticut. I got elected and less than six weeks later, 20 six and seven-year-olds were shot in their classroom and six of their teachers. And I`m never going to give up. I don`t have to like or dislike the president to know what my job is, and my job is to get something done for the people of America.

So, might he blow up a deal? Absolutely, he might. But if we have a chance to get something done, we have to do that.

HAYES: Respectfully, Congresswoman, this really feels like Lucy and the football, to an outside observer. I have watched him say a million things and do the same thing and do the opposite 100 times. I just wonder like when you`re in that meeting is there any sense that anything he says there is going to be an actual accountable promise that`s going to have any legislative effect?

ESTY: Well, there are really two choices. It has a legislative effect, or it`s going to have an electoral effect. We`re going to hold him to account, you know. He made a lot of promises today. He said he was going to stand up to the NRA. He said he was going to support comprehensive background checks. He said he`d support bills like mine to deal with extreme risk, to take guns out of the hands of people who are desperately in need of being separated from their guns because they might hurt themselves or someone else. He said he would support CDC funding, a bunch of stuff we`ve been fighting for.

Now, obviously, the proof is going to be in the pudding. But if he doesn`t, if he doesn`t, you have a bunch of students in Parkland and across America who are looking, and you know what? Walmart is paying attention. Guess what, Dick`s is paying attention, so is United, so is Delta. They understand that they are talking about the next generation. They are angry. They want the action, and the time for action is now.

HAYES: He basically, as you said, essentially endorsed what sounded like a Democratic package effect, more or less. What was the reaction -- what was it like in the room?

ESTY: There was some pretty stunned faces around the room. I have to say, Steve Scalise, the majority whip, was stunned, and so were the rest of the Republicans, when twice, the president directly rebuffed his, his ask to have, you know, concealed carry reciprocity included. And he said it`s not going to happen. You don`t have the votes. That shouldn`t be in the bill.

And he said it twice.

Now, people are not used to that kind of direct talk, and the president also said directly to several of the Republicans, I`m not afraid of the NRA. You shouldn`t be either. That is a little different message, and we`ll see if he follows it up with action. You know, talk is cheap, action is hard. We`re going to be fighting hard to get real action. And we`re going to be holding everyone to account.

HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, who was in that meeting today. Thank you very much.

ESTY: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: MSNBC political analyst Jason Johnson, politics editor of The Root. Am I crazy? I mean, I understand the congresswoman`s job, and it`s her job to go to that meeting, and it`s her job to attempt to turn those words into action, but I just felt sitting, watching the whole thing, which was compelling episode of Apprentice: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That like -- what are we talking here? This guy will say anything and then lord knows where he`s going to end up.

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: YOu know, it`s whatever narrative the president wants to tell himself or the country at the time, Chris. Remember, less than 48 hours ago, he was going to run into a school and save a bunch of kids. So I guess he`s going to run interference with the NRA and protect members of congress if they vote for gun control. I just don`t believe it.

HAYES: Well, to that point, that`s a key point. He kept saying you`re afraid of the NRA. I can stand up to the NRA. He literally said an identical thing about DACA. He kept saying I will take the heat. He kept saying -- he kept sort of in this open room setting in front of the cameras being like I`m the courageous one. I`ll stand up to interest groups. Guess what happened after they worked him over behind the scenes.

JOHNSON: They don`t have to work him over behind the scenes. They do it publicly. And he gets publicly dragged and attacked by these organizations. And he automatically cowers, Chris. This is one of the things -- look, I respect the congresswoman for going. I respect HBCU presidents for going, everyone has to at least try to work with President Trump. But everything we`ve seen over the last year shows it`s not just Lucy and the football or pulling away the fishing rod.

The man is kind of a pathological liar. And you can`t trust anything he`s saying.

HAYES: Slash, I don`t think -- I think he`s convinced by the last thing he heard. So, look, I`m going to play this clip in the -- let`s play the counter factual game, which can get worn and sort of cliched. But let`s play it in this case, anyway. If Obama had said this. This is an exchange about taking guns away. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: Allow due process, so no one`s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any, any weapons in the possession --

TRUMP: Or like take the firearms first and then go to court. Because that`s another system, because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court to get the due process procedures, I like taking the guns early, so you could do exactly what you`re saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: I like taking the guns early. Take the guns first, also due process procedures for those playing along at home.

JOHNSON: Right. That`s not just stomping on the second amendment, that`s burning it, throwing it up in the air and then setting a flame to it, like you`re the president from Idiocracy.

Here`s the thing, though, and I also think this is really important, you know, if -- we`ve already seen that if Obama did a third of the things that Trump did he never could have gotten elected, he would have been kicked out of office. But I think what`s really problematic is for men and women who sincerely want policy solutions on the right and the left, when you have a president who consistently lies or is incapable of remembering what he said yesterday, it makes it difficult for everybody.

HAYES: That is a great point. And it`s not just that. Even if you say this -- even if take out lying you just say doesn`t actually have positions, this was the whole problem with DACA. If the White House just said you`re not getting a deal, then everyone could have gone on their way. It was the fact there was never actually clear what the White House wanted that created the confusion that led to that short shutdown. We`re going to get the same thing here, unless you know what the White House wants you cannot do anything. All the actors in the drama are playing off of that. Jason Johnson, thank you very much.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: That is All In for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END