Top WH economic adviser Gary Cohn resigns. TRANSCRIPT: 03/06/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Josh Barro, L Joy Williams, Nick Confessore, Beto O`Rourke, Maya Wiley, Laura Bassett, Mark Mazzetti, Jane Mayer

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 6, 2018 Guest: Josh Barro, L Joy Williams, Nick Confessore, Beto O`Rourke, Maya Wiley, Laura Bassett, Mark Mazzetti, Jane Mayer

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- living off what you did or said yesterday, this morning or this afternoon or last night. To own now, you have to be talking in now, and right now, the President just tweeted, "We will be making a decision soon on the appointment of a new Chief Economic Adviser. Many people wanting the job." Well, choose wisely. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for -- "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now -- right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office, the want a piece of the West Wing.

HAYES: As the Mueller investigation closes in and staffers flee, the President says there`s nothing to see here.

TRUMP: So many people want to come in. I have a choice of anybody.

HAYES: Once again refuses to acknowledge the full extent of Russian election interference.

TRUMP: Certainly there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.

HAYES: Then Trump`s long-time adviser spooked.

ROGER STONE, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I have been accused of being a dirty trickster. There`s one trick that`s not in my bag, that`s treason.

HAYES: Just what does Mueller have on Roger Stone?

Plus, Jane Mayer on the spy who tried to warn us, and from side gigs with secret clients to flagrant violations of the law, the Trump administration`s corruption in plain sight.

TRUMP: It is the most corrupt group of people in all of Washington.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

TRUMP: Who can do better than Trump?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Today in the White House, President Trump announced to the world that everyone, everyone wants to work with him and that everyone wants a "piece of the Oval Office." It was just a few hours later the news broke that Trump`s top economic adviser was finally heading for the exits. All of it coming as Robert Mueller bears down on Trump`s world both inside and outside that White House. The New York Times broke the news that Gary Cohn, the President`s top economic adviser is planning to resign. Cohn, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs joined the White House at the beginning and stayed by the President`s side after Charlottesville, after he disparaged African countries after he tweeted about the size of his nuclear button. But tariffs, tariffs were apparently a bridge too far for Gary Cohn. Earlier NBC`s Hallie Jackson had noted Cohn`s empty chair during an event at the White House. The President at the event insisted morale remains high.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The White House has tremendous energy. It has tremendous spirit. It is a great place to be working. Many, many people want every single job. You know, I read where oh, gee, maybe people don`t want to work for Trump but believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office. They want a piece of the West Wing. I like conflict. I like having two people with different points of view and I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it. I like seeing it and I think it`s the best way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: We don`t know for sure why Hope Hicks or Gary Cohn are leaving the Trump administration, but yesterday we did get a public glimpse what Robert Mueller`s pressure is doing to the President`s associates. The unnerving spectacle of former political aide Sam Nunberg melting down on live television railing against the demands of a grand jury subpoena and vowing repeatedly not to comply. Now after all that, after Nunberg said he`d risk jail time to avoid turned over subpoenaed documents, he says he plans to cooperate, which was kind of a foregone conclusion. At his event today, the President managed to avoid somehow answering questions about the biggest revelations from Nunberg`s performance yesterday that Nunberg believes based on the questions Mueller`s team was asking, that the Special Counsel has the goods on the President.

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KATY TUR, MSNBC ANCHOR: You sat there in that room being questioned by Mueller`s investigators. I want to hear directly from you. Do you think they have something on the President?

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I think they may.

TUR: What?

NUNBERG: I think that he may have done something during the election but I don`t know of that for sure.

TUR: Why do you think that?

NUNBERG: I spoke to Steve Bannon for the first time last week after I went in there and the first -- and I spoke to him and Steve and I were discussing how we both feel, Katy, like I`m telling you that Trump may have very well have done something during the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Nunberg later told MSNBC`s Ari Melber that he believes Mueller is particularly focused on the President`s business interests. But the line of inquiry that most concerned Nunberg involved his mentor, long time Trump confidant Roger Stone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNBERG: They`re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger Stone and I`m not going to have them. Roger is my mentor, Roger is like family to me, and I`m not going to do it. I`m not going to do it. And Roger did not talk, Roger may have lied about it but Roger did not talk --

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Are you -- let me -- are you basing that --

NUNBERG: I`m not going to go in there for them to set up a case against Roger. Roger didn`t do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Roger Stone is a notorious political dirty trickster trained under Richard Nixon who literally has a tattoo of Nixon`s face on his back. That`s not Photoshop, that`s a real -- those were Roger`s back muscles. That`s Roger Stone. It was Stone who connected his former business partner Paul Manafort to the Trump campaign which is an interesting detail given all that we know. And during that campaign Stone raised a lot of questions when he communicate online with Russian cut outs and appeared to predict the hack of Clinton Campaign Char John Podesta. This is what Stone tweeted in August 2016. "Trust me, it will soon be to Podesta`s time in the barrel. The Podesta`s time near." Later, days before WikiLeaks released the Podesta e-mails, Stone had a lot to say about its head, Julian Assange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: An intermediary met with him in London recently who is a friend of mine and a friend of his, a believer in freedom and I am assured that the motherlode is coming Wednesday. It wouldn`t be an October surprise if I told you what it was but I have reason to believe that it is devastating because people with political judgment who are aware of the subject matter tell me this.

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HAYES: He was we should not off by two days. It came Friday, not Wednesday. Today in an interview with Chuck Todd on this network, Stone distanced himself from Nunberg performance yesterday and maintained that he himself has done nothing wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: I never had any advanced knowledge of the content, the source, or the exactly timing of the WikiLeaks disclosures. I never predicted that John Podesta`s e-mails would be hacked. I predicted that his business activities would come under scrutiny.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Have you turned over anything yourself to Mr. Mueller?

STONE: I have not been asked to do so. I have not received a subpoena nor a request for an interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Matt Miller is A Chief Justice Department Spokesperson under President Obama, now an MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst. Maya Wiley is a Civil Rights Attorney, former Federal Prosecutor, and Laura Bassett, a Senior Political Reporter from the Huffington Post join me to discuss what is happening in Trump world right now. And there`s almost too much to get to. I feel like a panic rising in me as I try to like outrace the rolling rock behind me that is the news. But -- so let`s start with this with looking up close at the pressure on these folks and what you saw yesterday. Sam Nunberg crediting you with your live on air legal counsel. I hope you send him the bill. Ex-Trump said Sam Nunberg says he decide to cooperate after he got on set legal advice from Maya Wiley. She`s very, very smart. And under appreciative thing I think is if you have never been on the wrong side of this kind of legal pressure, it is -- it can really send people around the bend.

MAYA WILEY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: It`s devastatingly stressful and I think it`s important to acknowledge that. I do want to make one quick correction. I was an Assistant United States Attorney here in New York in the Civil Division --

HAYES: In the Civil Division, not a prosecutor. Yes.

WILEY: -- as I was civil prosecutor, not a criminal prosecutor. But I think what`s important here is that this is a White House and Sam is an example of this, of people who do not have a lot of political experience. And the reality of this kind of investigation would be devastating under any circumstances to anyone. But I think we`re not just seeing that with Sam Nunberg, we`re also seeing that with folks in the White House. I believe Hope Hicks, for example, in, her resignation had to have been under a lot of stress since we know it came after --

HAYES: Hours of testimony.

WILEY: -- hours of testimony. And when you are being interviewed by seasoned prosecutors, with e-mails or other documents that they may be questioning you about, you suddenly realize that you have a level of vulnerability that you might not have understood you had at the beginning of the process.

HAYES: Yes, like oh, I might have done something wrong or I might have the committed a crime that -- or a thing that I thought was like gray area or like they`re never going to pursue that.

WILEY: Or like spin in the context of a sworn statement equals perjury.

HAYES: Right. Matt, what did you make -- I saw you sort of reacting to Roger Stone`s interview with Chuck Todd today and Stone is an interesting figure on this because he`s sort of floated around. He`s been invoked in a lot of the stories. There`s lots of these things that seem on their face incriminating. He said he didn`t work for the campaign. What did you make of that interview today after Nunberg basically says he`s doing all this for Roger?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Roger Stone, the last bit of the clip you played, he said that he`s not been contacted by the FBI and he`d not been contacted by Mueller`s team. I don`t think that`s probably a great fact for him. There are really three possibilities there. One, Mueller has looked at everything about Stone and concluded he has -- there`s nothing he needs to talk to him about at all because he didn`t do anything at all. That seems very unlikely and impossible to believe. Two, that he `s been working his way through and just hasn`t gotten to Stone yet. That seems hard to believe, too. It`s possible but this late stage in the campaign -- in the game knowing how many other witnesses he talked to including very senior people, that seems unlikely. But then -- and it leaves the third possibility that Roger Stone is somebody that`s making the case against, that he`s one of the targets of this investigation. He already has all of his e-mails. He may, you know, have been pursuing even more aggressive techniques listening to his phone calls. And Roger Stone is very much a target and Roger Stone is going to find out he`s been indicted you know, very shortly before the event happens. I thought that was -- you know, he hold that out at something that might be exculpatory for him. I think that something that should give him a great deal of concern.

HAYES: Mueller keeps surprising people too which I think has to be adding to the psychological weight of all this on everyone.

LAURA BASSETT, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Of course. I think that -- I mean, it`s not just that this investigation is putting people under pressure. A lot of these -- I mean, this guy Nunberg was fired twice before he was fired for racist tweets. I don`t think this was a stand-up guy who knew exactly what he was doing and was completely had it all together before he starred working for the Trump administration. I think what all this points --

HAYES: Trump campaign, I should --

BASSETT: Right, for the Trump campaign, excuse me. I think what`s interesting about all of this is just the never-ending conveyor belt of Star Wars characters that -- I mean, it`s dozens now that have left the Trump administration, some fired and leaving in disgrace, others kind of running away screaming from the White House. I can just picture Hope Hicks kind of quietly weeping in a corner somewhere. They all seem traumatized after having worked for him. And it`s amazing to me that he can -- he can stand there today and say, everyone wants a piece of this Oval Office. Who? He`s not exactly attracting the best and brightest.

HAYES: Well, and then for Gary Cohn, for the news to break on the day the President stands there and brags about this and also for Gary Cohn, for the straw that breaks the camel`s back to be aluminum and steel tariffs.

WILEY: Yes. What are you going to say? Look, the thing that everyone needs to understand about governing a country or a city or anything that involves people`s actual lives is the stakes are always very high, right? So whatever you`re dealing with is a matter of the business of the job which is simply governing the country, that in and of itself is an extremely stressful thing. So to have a senior executive in this case Donald Trump who is literally instead of creating teams actually sowing dissent between people, having advisers whose advice he does not take who are actually experts, I mean, in the case of Gary Cohn, you can`t say he`s not -- he doesn`t understand the economy. I don`t agree with him but it`s not that he doesn`t understand.

HAYES: Right. He has some technical expertise.

WILEY: He actually has some technical expertise and certainly more than Donald Trump. So to be in that kind of position, to be under that kind of pressure and to watch a train wreck coming as we have seen from governments from around the world, from Wall Street itself, from everyone who understands what these tariffs represent, what we`re actually seeing is someone potentially either quitting because they can`t keep the trains from crashing or frankly, being pushed out because Trump refuses to listen and only wants yes people, which is a real possibility.

HAYES: And there`s a question of who comes in, right? I mean, there`s -- what goes out and what comes in at this point particularly with the investigation looming. The President also at that press conference had something to say about Russian interference. He was asked about Russian interference. I want to play that and get your reaction. Take a listen.

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TRUMP: The Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever but certainly there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But are you worried about Russia trying to meddle in the midterm election?

TRUMP: No, because we`ll counteract whatever they do. We`ll counteract very strongly and we are having strong backup systems and we`ve been working actually -- we haven`t been given credit for this but we`ve actually been working very hard on the `18 election and the `20 election coming up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: What did you think of that?

MILLER: I don`t think they`ve been working very hard. You know, we just still never see the President really acknowledge in mysterious way. You can see him continue to downplay it there by talking about there may have been other other countries. There`s no evidence that there were other countries interfering in our election. He continues to misstate the facts around this. And if you want to think about you know, what might happen in the midterms election, I mean, just as a little thought experiment. Imagine that you know, a Democratic Senator running for re-election, say Joe Donnelly in Indiana or Claire McCaskill in Missouri, imagine if their e-mails suddenly started showing up on WikiLeaks in October. Do you think the President of the United States would stand up and say this is inappropriate foreign interference in our campaigns and our elections or do you think he would use those e-mails, those hacks to his advantage? I think most people -- I would answer that question by saying he would use that to his advantage. And that tells you he still doesn`t get did the extent of the problem. He would likely you know, try to benefit from it the same way he did last time.

HAYES: Or there`s another explanation which is that he`s guilty and knows what`s going on. I`m not saying that`s the case. But like, I feel like there`s a sort of presumption we all have. People write about him like he`s so offended by the idea that Russia won him the election that his brain freezes. It`s like, well, that`s possible. It`s also possible, I don`t know but it is also a possibility in the world that he has a guilty conscience.

BASSETT: Of course. Well, he`s not acting like an innocent man by any account. He`s randomly calling into Fox News. I thought it was interesting people were kind of laughing about Nunberg yesterday drunk dialing all you know, all of these cable news hosts. Trump kind of does the same thing, randomly calls into cable news and starts -- tweets at people at 5:00 a.m. I mean, he`s not -- he`s as unhinged as the people he`s hiring which leads me to believe that he`s got something to hide.

HAYES: Matt Miller, Maya Wiley, and Laura Basset, it was great to have you here to process all this. Breaking news tonight, all right? There is a new witness in the Mueller investigation. New York Times reporting that George Nader, a Lebanese-American who represents the Saudi Crown Prince who is essentially runs the United Arab Emirates is cooperating with the Special Counsel and gave testimony last week to a grand jury. According to Times, Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump`s political activities, has asked witnesses about the possibility that George Nader funneled money from the Emirates to the President`s political efforts. OK, of particular interest and this is where this gets extremely interesting and also a little baroque so bear with me. A meeting organized by his boss that Nader attended in January of last year, this is before Trump is sworn in, with a Russian investor and Blackwater Founder Erik Prince who was informally advising the Trump transition team. One of the reporters who broke the story tonight, Mark Mazzetti, Washington Investigative Correspondent for New York Times joins me now. And Mark, all right, who is this individual first? Let`s start there.

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: George Nader has been sort of an international man of mystery for some time. He as you said worked for Blackwater. He did back-channel negotiations between the Israelis and Syrians in the `90s and most recently he sort of reinvented himself as an adviser to the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates. He most recently has been someone who had developed close ties with Senior White House advisers including Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon and he was in the White House several times for several meetings early in the administration last year.

HAYES: OK. So this is a guy who sort of got ties to the United Arab Emirates, he`s got ties to the White House. We know he was in the White House so we also know he has testified before a grand jury and is cooperating with Mueller. Is that correct?

MAZZETTI: Yes. As we reported tonight, he arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington in January. As soon as he arrived, he was served with a subpoena and search warrants. The FBI seized his electronics and they interrogated him for several hours. He is cooperating with the Mueller investigation and he`s been questioned at least once by the grand jury. And so then the question is, you know, what does he know and who he could potentially implicate?

HAYES: And if you would, please, tell the viewers where he was headed when he landed in the United States and was apprehended by the FBI.

MAZZETTI: He was actually on his way to Mar-a-Lago for the planned one- year anniversary of President Trump`s first year in office.

HAYES: OK. Now here`s the thing that really got me sort of my eyes cocked. This meeting in the Seychelles, this is a weird, weird meeting. It`s a weird new story. It`s already been broken before and it basically is that you`ve got Erik Prince, the Blackwater dude who`s a sort of informal adviser to the Trump campaign but an adviser and you got a Russian fund manager and they meet in the Indian Ocean in the Seychelles and what do we now learn about George Nader this third person`s role in that meeting?

MAZZETTI: Well, we know that Nader was at the meeting in his capacity as adviser to the Crown Prince. And the reason why it`s significant is it kind of ties together these threads that we`ve been looking at, we reported on Nader over the weekend and this role as a possible conduit for Emirati money into the campaign. But now it sort of looks that it`s tied directly to Mueller`s main effort of course, which is Russian attempts to disrupt the 2016 campaign and any Russian contacts the Trump administration had in the past year. So Nader`s role in the meeting is significant. And you`re right, it`s been this question, this mysterious meeting, what was going on there. And at the very least it, appears that the emirates was trying to kind of play matchmaker. They were trying to see the United States and Russia develop better relations and that they could in the process be power broker. And so you have these sort of informal advisers Dimitriev, who`s an adviser pretty close to Putin. You have Erik Prince who the emirates was thought was very close to the transition and that was what was going on at this meeting.

HAYES: I should note during that during transition period, we`ve got Flynn talking to Kislyak lying about it to the FBI, Jared Kushner meeting with Kislyak in secret in Trump Tower, smuggles into them, talks to him back channel. Jared Kushner meeting with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank, a meeting in the Seychelles between someone who`s close to Putin and someone representing the Trump campaign, all of this is happening during that transition period that Mueller has his eyes on and all of that I think is sort of interesting to think about in the arc of this story. Mark Mazzetti, thank you for your time.

MAZZETTI: Thank you.

HAYES: All right, the news of a new Mueller witness tied directly to the influence of foreign money comes on the heels on one of the most incredible piece of reporting on Trump and Russia. New Yorker Writer Jane Mayer has profiled Christopher Steele, author of the famous dossier. Joining me is Jane Mayer who`s piece on Christopher Steele is in this week`s New Yorker. And Jane, I was -- I was thinking about the piece which I`ve now read twice and you as I was processing the new news which is what Steele did first was kind of see a bunch of dots and start to try to collect them and make sense of them. And I think we`re all trying to make sense of these like, is this just a bunch of random names? Are these a bunch of random meetings? What is going on here? What did you come away learning from reporting this piece about how Steele went about making sense of what he was seeing?

JANE MAYER, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORKER: So I think that`s a good way to think of it. And actually, one of the intelligence people I interviewed said this is a collecting of the dots rather than a connecting of the dots. What it is, is kind of an early peek at the idea that there were a lot of Russian contacts with people in Trump`s circle, his team. They seemed to be -- they kept probing and pushing in various directions and what you can see is they had an interest in trying to get sanctions lifted and other sort of policies that were good for Russia and they were offering things to the Trump campaign. They were offering dirt basically on Hillary Clinton. And all of that becomes visible to Steele very early on. He`s a trained former intelligence officer whose expertise is in Russia. And he`s looking at this even from the -- it`s June 2016 and the first report he does, he gets back this information and he`s kind of horrified by what he sees. And he worries that the U.S. is in trouble. And he starts to kind of sound the alarm the Russians are coming.

HAYES: This is in June of 2016. He is, of course, working for a firm called Fusion GPS which we later learned was originally hired by a Republican donor who opposed Trump. This was then handed off to a lawyer at Perkins Coie who was hired by the Clinton Campaign. But one of the things that`s fascinating in the article is you basically -- your reporting seems to indicate that there`s almost a wall separating the work product of what Christopher Steele is producing from anyone in the Clinton campaign actually knowing what he`s producing. Like none of them were actually reading these memos.

MAYER: It`s actually completely true, literally almost. This lawyer who was the general counsel whose name is Marc Elias was a firewall for legal purposes. He wanted to make sure that the people in the campaign didn`t have to answer questions about the sort of the people who were digging up dirt, doing opposition research on Trump. And so there`s an attorney/client privilege there and nobody on either side breached the wall. So you`ve got Christopher Steele who is remotely finding all kinds of incredible things out about Trump, and some of it works its way up towards campaign officials but it has to go through this firewall first and they only kind of get a filtered view of it.

HAYES: I have to say, I`m someone like a lot of people who read the dossier when it was first published by Buzzfeed, I had heard rumors of its existence beforehand. And I read it and thought this seems crazy or it seems like maybe a conspiracy theory. I don`t know. I didn`t know what to make of it. Obviously, there`s the more salacious allegation of you know, sex workers urinating in a bed. But all of it seemed pretty remarkable. And then stuff has happened. I mean, when people say the dossier is discredited, is that true?

MAYER: Well, it`s really not true. I mean, and you`ve got Dianne Feinstein who used to be the you know, the Democratic Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and now is at the Judiciary Committee saying nothing in it has been discredited. There are people like Michael Cohen, the lawyer for Trump, who says that it has items wrong about him and he is suing about it but basically an awful lot of it seems to look better and better over time. And that`s -- don`t just take it from me, but I interviewed a number of intelligence officials there, sort of three top people from the CIA who have been looking closely at it and they point out that you know, bit by bit, seems lots of little pieces of it are being proven out.

HAYES: One of the themes here and one of the things I think that`s been hard to track and made the (INAUDIBLE) is that like -- is the use in all these cases of cut-outs. You have all these sort of figures, characters popping up. There`s Carter Page here and George Papadopoulos there and he`s meeting with a Maltese professor in London who`s linked to the Russians and now we`ve got Erik Prince going to the Seychelles, the Crown Prince of the UAE has got a Russian fund manager and some Russian lawyers going to Trump Tower through some Russian singer`s kid. That seems to me purposeful and was part of what Steele was kind of putting together it seems to me. He was trying to figure out where all these cut-outs related back to the original push by Russians.

MAYER: You have to remember that Steele was at MI6, the secret service intelligence service of Great Britain for about 20 years and his expertise was in Russia. So he knows this kind of technique, and he understands how Russia works and how their intelligence system works and so this is somewhat familiar to him. And he`s looking at this pattern and he`s thinking watch out. Oh, my gosh. You know, they`re really trying to sort of seduce Trump and the people around him.

HAYES: Jane Mayer, it`s an amazing piece in the New Yorker, a long reported piece on Christopher Steele, the best thing I`ve seen written about him was the sort of mysterious figure at the enter of all this. Thanks for being with me.

MAYER: Great to be with you.

HAYES: Even more breaking news tonight. I can`t -- this happened five minutes before we went on air. Stormy Daniels is suing the President of the United States. That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Breaking news this very hour. NBC News reporting tonight that adult film actress Stormy Daniels is suing is the President of the United States, Donald Trump, saying the hush agreement she signed is invalid because Trump never signed it. The civil suit alleges that her agreement not to disclose her intimate relationship with Trump is not valid because while both Daniels and Trump`s attorney Michael Cohen signed, Trump never did. According to the lawsuit, Clifford and Trump -- Clifford being her given name had an intimate relationship that lasted from the summer of 2006 well into the year of 2007. That affair allegedly began while Trump was married to Melania and after the birth of their son Baron. Trump has never addressed the alleged relationship publicly which is somewhat remarkable. Investigative Producer who broke that story for NBC News, Sarah Fitzpatrick joins me now by phone. And this lawsuit has been filed, Sarah, is that correct?

SARAH FITZPATRICK, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Yes, it was filed late this afternoon in Los Angeles.

HAYES: And presumably, I mean, what`s going on here? Presumably, the signatures have been missing it the whole time. It`s a little hard to make sense of.

FITZPATRICK: Right. So you know, the suit alleges that Trump must have been aware that this you know, payment had taken place but that he may have not signed it by design so that he could distance himself from it if it ever became public.

HAYES: So she`s now saying that he intentionally didn`t sign an agreement about which she`s if the agreement were to obtain she can`t talk about, right?

FITZPATRICK: Right. So she`s basically alleging that because he never signed it, the agreement is null and void and therefore not enforceable.

HAYES: So this doesn`t have to -- this is not in response to any actions he has taken as President of the United States or anything he or his allies or emissaries have said about her. It harkens back to the original -- the original settlement that they had?

FITZPATRICK: That is correct. However, she does note in the suit that as recently as last week, Donald Trump`s lawyer Michael Cohen has tried to keep her quiet by initiating arbitration proceedings. So although this is harkening back to the fall, it`s very much something that`s going on right now.

HAYES: Didn`t Michael Cohen also at one point produce a letter like allegedly from her but with a signature that didn`t look like hers?

FITZPATRICK: Yes, so she claims that in the suit she alleges that he falsified that letter.

HAYES: I`m sorry, say that again?

FITZPATRICK: She alleges that letter is false. She did not sign that letter.

HAYES: So, she is accusing the president`s personal lawyer of forging a letter for her in response to reporting about the existence of an agreement between himself and adult film actress to pay hush money to stop her from speaking about the affair she had with the president of the United States?

FITZPATRICK: Correct. She even calls it intimidation and coercive tactics, that`s a forced -- I`m sorry, I may have misspoken, forced her into signing a false statement.

HAYES: There`s an interesting legal question here, and I guess the most relevant precedent is Bill Clinton when he was sued by Paula Jones, in which the Supreme Court if I`m not mistaken unanimously -- and I think to the regret later of some of the justices who even were on that opinion, allowed that suit to go forward because it was for actions prior to the president becoming the president presumably the same would pertain here.

FITZPATRICK: You know, I`m not a lawyer so I can`t speak to that, but it definitely raises some interesting questions.

HAYES: All right, Sarah Fitzgerald, great reporting. Many thanks.

FITZGERALD: Thanks so much.

HAYES: L Joy Williams is a Democratic strategist; MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, writes often about the administration at Business Insider; and MSNBC political analyst Nick Confessore is a political and investigative reporter at The New York Times.

JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: So the bit about arbitration, because the question would be what`s she suing for? Like, you know, she has the money. What does she want to get? But if they`ve initiated a arbitration proceeding, this is what happened with Sam Nunberg during the campaign. You may remember that Nunberg was in the media running his mouth about the president and he had signed a nondisclosure agreement, as many people working around the president had done, and they tried to bring an arbitration proceeding against him and then Sam Nunberg filed a lawsuit in court in order to basically spill that out in the open, prevent Donald Trump from doing this privately.

So, you know, Stormy Daniels has been on her, you know, wink and nudge media tour. I would be interested to know what they`re trying to do with her in arbitration, whether they`re trying to assert...

HAYES: To get the money back.

BARRO: Or to get her to stop talking, even though she isn`t exactly saying she`s had the affair, you know, there is this nondisclosure agreement out there. And so it`s interesting both that she would be asserting that the agreement is not valid, but that also that she would be doing it in a forum that is going to be public, that is going to end up on MSNBC, basically trying to prevent them from doing this privately.

L JOY WILLIAMS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s what I think overall in terms of thinking about what the desire is here is, you know, clearly sort of going out in the public and having this conversation, going on a tour. This is just another example how I can prolong the conversation to keep myself in the conversation.

And I see that with a number of people within the Trump organization.

HAYES: That is exactly...

WILLIAMS: How can I prolong my time in front of the camera, and I think that`s the same thing.

HAYES: That is a very astute point.

It`s also remarkable I think the president -- I mean, again, given everything that`s going on in the world and in this administration, the fact that he`s got like a bunch of people pleaded to felonies around him, like this is not the biggest deal in the world, but it is remarkable the president hasn`t had to answer a single question on this.

NICK CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, it is kind of fascinating and only speaks to how many other pressing issues and scandals are enveloping this White House. Frankly, if I was a White House reporter, I might not use my question on this, and I -- it is amazing if half of his inner circle is going down in the Mueller probe, that there is this other thing that in any other administration.

HAYES: Oh my goodness.

CONFESSORE: Would be catastrophic. Think of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and how it almost brought down President Clinton. This is like Trump saying hold my beer.

HAYES: Yeah. And there`s also -- I mean, this sort of relates to the general sort of cumulative effect we`re seeing with this particularly I think at this point in this presidency, partly I think because they got the tax cut bill passed and there really does seem a kind of total drift policy-wise, like it`s really unclear what their project is.

WILLIAMS: It changes every day.

HAYES: What anyone`s focusing on over there. And really what there are every day is just a drum beat of scandals. There`s a drum beat of scandals that are Stormy Daniels level, there`s a drum beat of scandals like maybe the president`s son-in-law used American foreign policy to punish someone that wouldn`t lend his dad money. But, it does -- you know, Ben Smith had this an interesting essay in Buzzfeed where he said the corruption is going to matter. That like, you know, the Russia scandal or Stormy Daniels, any individual thing might not matter, but the idea of these people are corrupt, they`re self-dealing, is going to matter politically.

WILLIAMS: Well, here`s the thing I question about that is because there is a constant onslaught of different scandals, right -- there where we call the mini scandals of the Stormy Daniels to the larger one of corruption and the Russia investigations and sort of all of that at the same time and then some of them are so where you have to explain it out, you`re basically taking out one thing.

HAYES: Yes. That`s true about Russia particularly.

WILLIAMS: It`s very confusing. And so I think what was argued in this essay here is if you can get down to the basics of they are fraudulent, they`re corrupt and they`re stealing our money, right, which is -- and this is the reason why I think you don`t see a lot candidates across the country sort of using that in their district is because you have to get down to the basics.

They are stealing money. You know, this money from you, from us as taxpayers, and that`s what you need to make the connection because the Russia thing, again, big complicated for a number of these things, even with tying Kushner and all of the stuff.

Again, you have to explain it.

HAYES: Complicated, yeah.

WILLIAMS: If you can get to the basics.

HAYES: well, that`s what brought down Tom Price. Now, it`s an easy story. It was like, oh, you`re spending $100,000 on private flights for yourself.

BARRO: Right. And it`s clear that the White House thinks these sorts of stories matter because the reporting was that the president spent a long time berating Tom Price when he fired him.

HAYES: Or the $31,000 dining set of Ben Carson. Again, the kind of thing that`s like...

BARRO: Yeah. And so the White House reacts to these scandals. And when they are -- someone is expendable as Tom Price, people get fired over these sorts of scandals.

So, I think, you know, what`s going to be interesting see, what some of the stuff coming out of the probe and this news about the Seychelles meeting, what exactly were they discussing, you could imagine some sort of scandals that would come out of this that would be a lot simpler than the Russia stuff.

And then the other thing is, you know, part of the thing that has made I think the Russia scandal not connect that well with people is that it`s about abstract foreign policy interests that most voters don`t fundamentally have a strong opinion about. If the idea is.

HAYES: Should we have sanctions because of Crimea, like I don`t know...

BARRO: Right. Yeah, what Russia is getting out of this is not something that a lot of people feel like they`re losing something in particular because they had no stake in Russia policy to begin with.

CONFESSORE: OK. I think Americans are usually people are thinking about the corruption in the macro sense, right, the system is rigged, or Wall Street has it, right. What this does is bring it down to human size. So the secretary of the treasury took a plane flight down to watch the eclipse and his wife is Marie Antoinette, or these various people in the cabinet are having security guards or expensive furniture? People can understand that.

And what`s interesting about it is, it`s so small, it`s not just that it`s minor, it`s small.

HAYES: The smaller the better.

CONFESSORE: It`s coming from the top.

HAYES: That`s the key.

BARRO: Wimbledon tickets.

HAYES: Wimbledon tickets for David Shulkin, who is secretary at Veterans Affairs.

And the smallness I think matters because it`s tangible, $31,000 dining set. You can -- there`s also the fact that the ethical message being sent from the top. I mean, you had a remarkable thing that happened today, which is there`s this thing called the Hatch Act. It`s an important piece of legislation that tries to create a kind of church state separation between official government duties and politicking.

And that`s a tricky thing in the White House. You know, everyone in the White House at some level is constantly working on politics. But Kellyanne Conway goes on TV in her official capacity and basically endorses accused child molester Roy Moore. And this sort of watch dog lawyer called the Office of Special Counsel says today you violated the Hatch Act twice. And the White House says yeah.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. That`s the...

HAYES: And that`s the message.

WILLIAMS: Right. And I never understood anyway why -- I mean, I kind of understand it as a strategist and why you need to keep Kelly close. But I don`t know why they wouldn`t keep her in the political arm, you know, in, that way.

But it`s all again a narrative of the mismanagement and the corruption. But again, it`s dangerous for even Democrats or others to try to use because then it is perceived.

HAYES: No one`s running out of any district. It`s fascinating. There`s no one running on it.

WILLIAMS: Because it could then be perceived as, well, they`re just constantly attacking them and this is just another thing. And so can I believe this or not. Right, and so it then becomes the media is just spinning something. Every day it`s something else and not something tangible that you can say, no, this person is actually bad at managing the country and corrupt.

BARRO: So try explaining what the Hatch Act problem is to a voter, it`s that someone in the White House did something political.

HAYES: Right, that`s right.

BARRO: And while the Hatch Act is a law, it`s fundamentally a norm. I mean, what the penalty is, is that the head of your agency decides how to punish you. They can fire you. They can reprimand you. And the head of the agency in the White House is the president.

So, the law only means what the president cares for it to mean. So, it`s toothless. And this isn`t one of the key outrages in the White House. Because as you say, it`s a fine line.

HAYES: No, but for me what it is is it`s symbolic, and it`s -- you understand, you understand why you`re going to have larger and larger license taken in that kind of environment.

L Joy Williams, Jose Barro and Nick Confessore, thank you all.

Still to come, the first midterm season in the Trump era begins tonight. Democrats are eyeing Texas, perennially, as a state to flip. Will it actually happen this time? I`ll talk to the man preparing to take on Senator Ted Cruz ahead.

Plus, a little confusion on a nuclear level in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Thing One tonight, President Trump has often called for the nation to update its nuclear arsenal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: In fact, a week after becoming president, Trump ordered the Department of Defense to conduct a new nuclear posture reviewing detailing how secure and effective our nuclear arsenal is. That review was released this week. There`s one obvious problem off the bat, at least one person received a hard copy that looked like this, with all the pages past the cover printed upside down.

This was tweeted by Hans Christianson (ph), the director of the Nuclear Information Project, at the Federation of American Scientists, not a great look for the preeminent government document about America`s nuclear weapons, but good news, it appears other recipients got their copies right side up, including NBC News, which received a correct copy.

So, it seemed it was just a simple printing error. And besides, there are worse mistakes that could have been made like, for instance, if the president confused North Korea with South Korea. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: President Trump sounded cautiously optimistic today in response to reports that North Korea is willing to hold nuclear talks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: I think that their statement and the statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive. That would be a great thing for the world, great thing for the world. So we`ll she how it all comes about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The other bit of good news, the president did not mix up North Korea and South Korea. At the Gridiron Dinner Saturday night, the president appeared to say he had actually gotten a call from North Korea which is a kind of woe if true thing, quote, "and they bay the way called a couple of days ago and said we would like to talk and I said so would we, but you have to denuk. You have to denuke."

But an unnamed official on the National Security Council told South Korea`s Yonhap News Agency that President Trump did not have a call with the North Koreans. The official said Trump was referencing a call with the South Korean president on March 1.

No big deal, just confusing the Korean antagonist nation with nukes and the other Korean nation that`s a close ally that just hosted the Olympicss. But no one said nuclear diplomacy was easy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that North Korea`s recently willingness to talk is sincere or is it an effort to buy time for their nuclear program? And to what do you owe this recent openness to talk?

TRUMP: Ne.

No, I think that -- nobody got that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Who made history?

We made history.

Who made history?

We made history.

Who made history?

We made history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The longest strike in the history of West Virginia is over. The governor signing a bill today giving teachers and all state workers a 5 percent pay raise, and 5 percent raise was part of a deal teachers struck with the governor last week, but the teachers crucially stayed on strike after the deal was struck, because they didn`t trust Republican controlled legislature to actually pass it. And that turned out to be a totally valid concern when the state senate balked, initially and passed only a 4 percent raise earlier this week.

Although, Republicans got on board with the 5 percent raise today, they say it will have to be paid for with painful cuts elsewhere. One senator suggesting Medicaid would be among the cuts, though they are not included in this bill.

Still, for the teachers of West Virginia, today marks a big success. They went on strike and had demands met. It`s the kind of thing that might give ideas to other underpaid teachers like, oh, say, the teachers in Oklahoma who haven`t gotten a raise in a decade and are the lowest paid in the nation.

Some of them are even teaching in the dozens of schools across the state that have cut back to four days a week. A lot of those teachers are now saying they are going to follow in the West Virginia teacher`s footsteps. And we will definitely keep our eyes on that story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: The 2018 midterms have officially begun. Polls started to close in the Texas primaries just under an hour ago, and while today`s votes are still being counting, early voting suggestions the surge of Democratic voters up 105 percent from 2014 across Texas`s 15 largest counties compared to a 15 percent increase for Republicans, which means Democrats might actually have a shot maybe at electing one of their own to statewide office in Texas for the first time in a generation.

One of the big seats they are eyeing belongs to Republican Senator Ted Cruz. He will likely be facing Democratic challenger Beto O`Rourke, a 45- year-old congressman from El Paso in November. And Beto O`Rourke joins me tonight.

Ted Cruz had some words about you tonight that I wanted to read to you and get your reaction. He says of you, Congressman O`Rourke is a left wing liberal Democrat. He is running like Bernie Sanders across the state and the voters of Texas will have a decision of what policies and values reflect their own values.

Are you a left wing liberal Democrat?

REP. BETO O`ROURKE, (D) TEXAS: You know, I`m somebody who is doing my best to represent my constituents in El Paso and now seeks to represent all 28 million of us in Texas. I`m going to every single part of the state. I`ve been to 226 counties so far, listen to people in Lufkin and Houston, Austin and Woodville, Amarillo, everywhere. Everyone deserves to be listened to and to be heard and to be fought for. And I`m not asking party identification, I`m talking about that the things that people are bringing up in these town halls, making sure everyone can see a doctor, not as a function of luck or circumstance but as something that they can depend on so that they are healthy enough to go to school or got to work or start a business or write a novel or whatever they are intended to do in life, making sure everyone has got the education and the training and the certification to command a job that pays more than a living wage in Texas and making sure that our state, the defining immigrant state, is the one that leads the country on immigration going forward, not just stopping walls, but making sure that we make the most out of everyone who is working in our communities today.

HAYES: Do you oppose the wall?

O`ROURKE: I do. It makes no sense at a time of record, safety and security. And any wall that will be built in Texas will be built on the land of ranchers and farmers and private property owners. We would have to use the power of eminent domain to take that land from Texans to build a wall that will cost $30 billion that we have no use for whatsoever.

HAYES: You know, it`s interesting to me. The president`s approval ratings in the state of Texas, according to the Texas Politics Project, which is a great state polling outfit, has it at 46 percent. That`s I think lower than I would have guessed.

Why -- what do you make of the president`s current reputation in your home state?

O`ROURKE: I don`t know, but what I`m hearing from folks in Texas as I travel the state is we want no more of the fear or the pettiness or the divisiveness. We want to move forward with the big things. We want to lead the way from going from the state with the lowest levels of health insurance, 4 million plus Texans cannot see a doctor to the one that leads the way in making sure that everyone can see a doctor.

We want to be the state that leads the way on immigration, and we want to return our democracy to its roots, back to people. So, this is a campaign that takes no PAC money, no special interest contributions from the NRA or anyone else, and it is not just the right way to do things, it is a winning strategy.

Those are the things that people in Texas are excited about right now, less against anyone whether it`s Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, more for what we want to achieve.

HAYES: Do you think politicians that take NRA money are tainted?

O`ROURKE: I do, because it makes people wonder who it is that that office holder is working for. Are they working for the NRA? You know, if you`re Ted Cruz and you received more than $300,000 from the NRA in2016, then someone in Texas can be forgiven for wondering if you work for the NRA or the people of Texas.

When we take not a dime from the NRA or any political action committee, any corporation, any special interest, folks in Texas know that I`m only working for the people in Texas.

HAYES: Let me ask you this, there has been a lot of hope about turning Texas blue, statewide office, Democratic office holders, Wendy Davis in the last gubernatorial race. It has been very hard. And it`s clear what Ted Cruz is going to do. He`s going to say, like, this guy is a Democrat. He`s a liberal. We don`t like that here in Texas. You`re not going to want to vote for him. Like that will be the message hammered over and over again. And that message has been incredibly effective. Like what have previous rounds of statewide candidates who get their butts kicked every two years done wrong? Why will it be different this time?

O`ROURKE: So, two weeks ago we had just left a town hall in Wichita Falls, stayed overnight in Archer City at the Spur Hotel. I`m walking across the street the next morning to have a town hall at Mern`s (ph) Restaurant in Archer City. And someone stops me on the way in, takes out a black and white photograph of LBJ campaigning in Archer City in 1948. And this guy says that`s the last time, 70 years ago, that we saw a Senate candidate from either party campaigning here. I hear that in La Grange. I hear that in Woodville. I hear that in Coleman. I hear that throughout the state of Texas. They haven`t seen anyone.

And so if you don`t show up and you don`t listen and you`re not fighting for those people, then why in the world should they ever vote for you? And that carries for places like Cashmere Garden in Houston or the Fifth Ward. Every part of Texas deserves to be heard and listened to and fought for and that`s why I`m showing up to every single part of Texas.

I don`t know that we`ve seen a campaign like that in Texas, at least in my lifetime.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Beto O`Rourke, thanks for making time tonight.

One last big piece of news tonight, you can now get my latest book "A Colony in a Nation" in paperback. It comes with a brand new afterward about Donald Trump`s rhetoric on Law and Order. You definitely want to check out, if I do say so myself. I think it`s worth reading.

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