Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 9, 2018 Guest: Mark Caputo, Christina Greer, Michael Spies, Avery Gardiner, Betsy Woodruff, Jeffrey Lewis, Christina Greer, Sam Seder . (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m looking forward to it actually.
HAYES: New reporting the President wants a deal in return for talking to the Mueller probe. Then five days after defying the Special Counsel.
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: They`re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger Stone and I`m not going to have it.
HAYES: Look who just showed up to his grand jury interview.
Plus, the White House blows off a Republican investigation. Reaction to the President`s decision to meet with Kim Jong-un and today`s huge and historic loss for the NRA as a gun control bill becomes law in Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s get the rest of the country to follow our lead and let`s make school safe.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from Chicago, I`m Chris Hayes. You can rail against Robert Mueller all you want but actually defying the Special Counsel is another matter. This morning, former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, you might have heard of him, he showed up at a federal court in Washington where he was expected to testify before a grand jury in the Russia investigation. It has been just four days since Nunberg vowed not to cooperate with the subpoena from Mueller going on a media blitz to broadcast his defiance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: I`m not cooperating. Arrest me.
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: You`re not cooperating, arrest you?
NUNBERG: Yes. I`m not cooperating. You`re more than happy -- you`re going to arrest me, arrest me because know what? At this instance, and I`m not a fan of Donald Trump, Jake, and you know this.
TAPPER: You had a big falling out.
NUNBERG: I`m not a fan of his. You know what? When they start asking for stuff like this, Trump is right. It`s a witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: But Nunberg apparently changed his mind appearing in court today and telling reporters earlier that he would turn over subpoenaed documents to investigators after an initial meeting with Mueller`s team two weeks ago. Nunberg told MSNBC`s Katy Tur he thinks the Special Counsel is building a case against the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: You sat there in that room being questioned by Mueller`s investigators. I want to hear directly from you. Do you think that they have something on the President?
NUNBERG: I think they may.
NUNBERG: I think that he may have done something during the election but I don`t know that for sure.
TUR: Why do you think that?
NUNBERG: I can`t explain it unless you were in there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: If Nunberg`s turnaround this week is any indication, the President himself may not be able to avoid a face-to-face with Mueller`s team. It`s been two months since NBC News first reported that the President`s lawyers were in initial talks with investigators about a Trump interview. And as far as we can tell, those talks are still unresolved. The Wall Street Journal reports this today, that the President`s lawyers are trying to use a potential interview as leverage to induce Mueller to wrap up the Russia probe. Among the conditions, they are reportedly considering is that the Special Counsel commit to a date for concluding at least the Trump-related portion of the investigation.
Mueller`s office declined to comment while the President`s outside lawyer disputed the story to NBC News. But it`s clear that as Mueller continues to bear down on the White House with no immediate end in sight, the President finds himself more and more isolated inside his own administration. There`s been an exodus of senior aides, first Staff Secretary Rob Porter admitted domestic abuse scandal, then Communications Director Hope Hicks and now Economic Adviser Gary Cohn just a few days ago.
And in recent days, the President has increasingly appeared to be winging it on high stakes policy matters, imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on little more than a whim and committing himself in-person nuclear diplomacy with Kim Jong-un. Now according to Vanity Fair, the President is planning to clean house of some of the few high level staff who remain by his side. "Sources said the first officials to go would be Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, both of whom Trump has clashed for months. Next on the departure list are Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. The White House today was asked about the President`s general state of mind.er.
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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The President is in a great mood. The President has been in a great mood because we`ve had not just a successful couple of days, we`ve had a successful year and we`re very focused on making sure we have seven more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Gabe Sherman is an MSNBC Contributor and also a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair who wrote the new report on Trump`s "clean reset," and Betsy Woodruff is a Political Reporter for the Daily Beast. Gabe, I want to get your reaction to Sarah Sanders today in the briefing not really disputing the idea that H.R. McMaster is on the way out that something others folks including NBC News have reported along sort of in line with that. Take a listen and I want to get your reaction.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would we assume then that General McMaster will remain National Security Adviser throughout the duration of the negotiations?
SANDERS: I have no reason to believe otherwise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that means, so it could be in the fall of this year, it could be later, but he`ll still be on there to advise?
SANDERS: Look, I don`t have a crystal ball to predict the future but the President`s National Security Adviser is General McMaster. He`s a valued member of the President`s team and an important part of this process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not getting anywhere?
SANDERS: I`m sorry, I can`t hear you. He`s not leaving anytime soon.
SANDERS: Not that I`m aware of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Not that I`m aware of. What do you think, Gabe?
GABE SHERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s -- if I was General McMaster, that would not inspire a lot of confidence in my job security. Now, look, Chris, you know, this is clear that the President has wanted to clean house for months now.
He is surrounded by people that he doesn`t really know, doesn`t feel that they have loyalty to him and he is desperate to bringing in people back from the good old campaign days, back from New York who he can feel comfortable with and clearly as we saw earlier this week, you know, he has had you know, conversations with Sebastian Gorka, he`s on the phone routinely with Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, Dave Bossie, a former Deputy Campaign Manager. So, clearly this a President who wants to bring in people that feel like they would allow him to be the impulsive freewheeling executive that he fashions himself to be.
HAYES: You know, Betsy, I have a theory about what we`re seeing right now and it has to do with the tax cuts. The first year of the domestic policy agenda of President Trump was outside of you know, scuttling TPP off the bat and the emigration stuff. The large portion of it was essentially Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell domestic policy and the tax cut bill was the ultimate example of that. And once that was done, Gary Cohn says good- bye and there`s really a question of like what the shared project between the Donald Trump White House and the Republican Party is and that gives Trump kind of leeway to just follow his instincts wherever they take him.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: That`s actually a good point. And I think one of the interesting things that we`re seeing on the congressional side of this whole story is that Mitch McConnell is telegraphing that the single thing he cares about for the indefinite future is just confirming judges which obviously, that takes nominations from the White House. But we`re not talking about complex legislative negotiating.
We`re not talking about anything where the President`s art of the deal background is going to come in handy. McConnell is just pushing through these district and circuit court level federal judges that are going to have extraordinary power for the rest of their lives deciding what laws actually mean.
That in and of itself is obviously massively consequential. At the same time though, it highlights like you pointed out this rift in sort of this diversions perhaps of interests between your traditional George W. Bush- style Republicans on Capitol Hill and President Trump who seems to be sort of going his own way, doing things his own way and kicking his heels up a little bit.
HAYES: Yes, and he seems to be on both the tariffs and the announcement on North Korea, Gabe, you know, following his impulses I guess is the most sort of charitable way to describe it.
SHERMAN: Yes, I think, what`s so troubling to many people close to the President is that these two very significant policy decisions were made outside of the policy-making process. There was not buy-in from the relevant stakeholders. You know, we saw just yesterday morning, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there would not be talks with North Korea.
And what did we have at the end of the day, a very dramatic White House announcement that Donald Trump had agreed to sit down with Kim Jong-un? So this is clearly a president who is just breaking down all barriers. And I think what the risk is, this is -- this is not a game, this is not a joke. We are now talking about an impulsive executive who is dealing with the highest stakes issue which is nuclear diplomacy.
HAYES: But I think it`s -- to Betsy, your point about judges I think is a really good one. And it`s so sort of indicative to me that when they were in the shared project of repealing ObamaCare tax cuts, like reigning him in was so important. At this point, I`m not quite sure like what the incentive is even op their sort of on the congressional end. It`s like, well, he`s going to nominate judges and we`ll confirm them. And maybe he`s just going to do a lot of crazy stuff in the White House and we`ll cross our fingers and see what happens. That seems to be the attitude at the moment.
WOODRUFF: And let`s also remember that relations between Capitol Hill and the White House have never been ideal. Additionally, anytime it`s an election year and even under the Trump presidency, I don`t think we`re going to see an exception, Capitol Hill all but shuts down. They just don`t accomplish very much. We should not expect to see anything major happening in the coming months. And one thing that I can is that folks and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan`s inner circle are essentially operating under the assumption that` they`re going to lose the House. The polling has been mixed on this by speaking broadly, it doesn`t look great for Republicans.
And especially when you have a tax bill that puts Republicans in blue states -- by the way, blue states Republicans are essentially necessary for Republicans to keep control of the House. When you have a tax bill that puts those guys and gals` careers on the line, people all of a sudden just stop being chatty and stop being cooperative, and the result, of course, is that people in Paul Ryan`s circle and Mitch McConnell`s circle, all of a sudden may feel less compelled to try to reign in the President and keep him focused on specific projects.
HAYES: Seriously I imagine like you know, a month from now, it`s like Corey Lewandowski and Seb Gorka and Donald Trump, the three of them like in an empty White House running the entire U.S. government sort of making decisions on the fly which is a sort of dystopic vision. Gabe Sherman and Betsy Woodruff, thank you, both.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Sure thing.
HAYES: Benjamin Wittes is an MSNBC Legal Analyst and Editor-in-Chief of the Lawfare blog. And Ben, let`s start with the news from the Wall Street Journal today. I should say the President`s attorney pushes back on this idea. But the headline was Trump`s lawyers seek deal Mueller to speed end of Russia probe. And to me, the kind of most interesting and sort of comical nugget was the idea of trading the President`s availability for a date certain deadline to wrap up the investigation. Do you think that`s going to fly?
BENJAMIN WITTES, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the fact that you found it amusing is sort of gives a sort of answer to the question. Look, federal investigations don`t end by negotiation on timelines for interviews with subjects of the investigation. That`s not how it works. The Mueller investigation will end when Bob Mueller is done.
And the President, short of the ability to fire him, has really no ability to control that. It`s not up to him no matter what he thinks and so his lawyers certainly have some leverage to you know, to negotiate the terms of an interview or the terms in which he would answer questions to the investigation, but that is not a condition they`re going to be able to attach to an interview.
HAYES: Do you think the president`s leverage about that interview increases or decreases over time? Like the longer he draws it out, is he in a better or worse position?
WITTES: Well, that`s a really interesting question. I don`t think time is on anybody`s side in this negotiation. It`s not on Mueller`s side because people want resolution to this. And the longer it drags out, of course, the more people will suspect that you know, there may be political ambitions to the investigation. I happen to think that`s nonsense but I do think that`s always the risk for a prosecutor in this situation. Similarly, it`s really not on Trump`s side either because the Mueller investigation is hanging over his entire Presidency and it is you know, a real disease for the presidency that he cannot get this thing behind him. And so the longer he drags it out, the worse it hurts.
And also the more the drip, drip, drip of day-to-day stories damages him. So I don`t think time is really on anybody`s side. It`s probably less on the President`s side than Mueller`s but I think the fact that nobody has as interest in a protracted negotiation much less a lengthy litigation which is what would happen if Mueller had to issue a subpoena here tends to militate toward negotiated resolution I would suspect relatively quickly.
HAYES: You have followed this case as closely as anyone and I wonder what your mental model is of the scope of this investigation because I have to say tracking it myself, we`ve now got an intermediary for the Qatari government and a meeting in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. We`ve got a whole bunch of stands. There`s a Dutch lawyer from Skadden Arps who has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. And sometimes it seems just enormously sprawling and I wonder how it can wrap up at any point given the sort of strands and tentacles that we just get glimpses of.
WITTES: Well, so right. So this is a really important point. We know what Mueller has done and we know from witnesses and their lawyers about certain things that he`s asked questions about. But what we don`t know is what the connective tissue is between things that he`s asking questions about and things that he may do. So for example, you know that there are questions being asked of cooperating witness about the meeting in the Seychelles but you don`t know does that mean there`s an expansion of the investigation or does that mean it`s fundamentally a Russia issue where there`s a Russia element to that meeting. And so it`s hard to tell actually how much the investigation is expanding and how much is the -- there`s just a lot of information there in that core Russia matter that they are working their way through.
HAYES: Right. Benjamin Wittes, it`s always great to have you. Thank you.
WITTES: Good to see you.
HAYES: Ahead, putting the scale and scope of today`s big loss for the NRA into perspective as they announce tonight immediately upon losing they`re suing the state of Florida for passing gun safety laws in the wake of the Parkland massacre. Full details ahead. Next, after making a spectacle of announcing the President`s plans to meet with Kim Jong-un, is the White House already walking it back? That in two minutes.
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SANDERS: We`re not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea. The President has accepted that invitation on the basis that we have concrete and verifiable steps.
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HAYES: Less than 24 hours after historic news of a planned summit between Donald Trump and North Korea`s Kim Jong-un, the first time in the history of those two countries the leaders met face-to-face, the White House appeared to walk back that commitment only for senior administration officials to then walk back the walk-back if that can be done, leaving everyone asking what exactly is the gameplan here. The confusion over the meeting criteria underscores the administration`s lack of preparation for this kind of high stakes face-to-face nuclear diplomacy. And if it feels like the meeting came out of nowhere, well, that appears to be just what happened. Washington Post reporting tonight that "Trump personally intervened into a security briefing intended for his top deputies inviting the South Korean officials into the Oval Office where he agreed on the spot to a historic but exceedingly risky summit with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un." Jeffrey Lewis is an expert in non-proliferation in East Asia, a Columnist at Foreign Policy where he wrote today that Donald Trump agreeing to meet with Kim Jong-un is like "Richard Nixon going to China but if Nixon were a moron"" which is a funny line. All right, I like that as a starting place, Jeffrey, because I think it seems worthwhile to start with the exercise of separating the policy from the individual implementing it. So let`s just start with the policy. It does not seem crazy to me to agree to a face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un given how intractable those problem is and given how long the North Koreans have sought that the kind of meeting.
JEFFREY LEWIS, COLUMNIST, FOREIGN POLICY: I think it absolutely makes sense to pursue diplomacy. The question is, when you deliver the President? You know, I think the thing that most of us have bought is that the North Koreans more than anything else value a visit from a sitting president. And so, at least in the past, that`s the big deliverable we have. That`s the biggest thing we have to offer that we should probably trade for the biggest concession. So it`s a good idea to do it but front- loading it and just giving it away, that`s where I start to have some questions about whether there`s anybody really at home.
HAYES: Well, let me ask about this. I mean, the U.S. coverage of this is focused understandably on the President and Kim Jong-un but the South Koreans are obviously an incredibly interested party. They have more to lose than anyone else of course from North Korea and from a war on the Korean Peninsula and Moon Jae-In, the President of South Korea, has been you know, very clear on this seeking rapprochement using the Olympics to pave the way for that. It was their summit up in Pyongyang that pave the way for this. They do seem to be four square behind this, right?
LEWIS: Oh, yes, and in fact, I think the South Koreans are really driving this. I mean, if you look at the things they attributed to Kim Jong-un from that meeting, he was convivial and positive but he didn`t say all that much. I think the South Koreans have been very entrepreneurial in making the case that there is something here if only we push hard enough. So yes, I think they are fully behind this policy. And again, I`m not against diplomacy. I actually think we do need this kind of engagement. I just -- I get nervous when the President pops into a meeting and you know, suddenly declares he`s going to up end all of that careful work and just go and fix it himself.
HAYES: Well, so now let`s talk about the individual who will actually (INAUDIBLE) in the process you said. I mean, apparently, South Koreans were over for a deputy`s briefing. The President pops in, invites them in and then before they even layout the case basically says I`ll do it. It cuts off the sort of discussion. And now there`s a real question of like who`s around? We don`t have an Ambassador to South Korea. How does this get built? Can you build the plane in mid-air essentially?
LEWIS: Well, I mean, the first thing you have to start with is what is it that we`re trying to achieve. And it think my fundamental worry is that when the President seems to talk about it, he seems to act like he would be going to North Korea to pick up Kim Jong-un`s weapons. I don`t think that`s what the North Koreans have in mind. I don`t think North Koreans have any intention of relinquishing the weapons. They`re interested in reducing tensions. So you know, you have to get to a point where there is some productive purpose for the meeting where we`re going to agree on something. The worst case scenario is for Donald Trump to show up, have unrealistic expectations and then come home disappointed, you know, and then trying to decide who`s at fault. He`s not going to blame himself, he`s probably going to blame Kim Jong-un.
HAYES: There`s also the question to me about whether this happens. I mean, we saw the President sit on live television and say I`m going to sign a DACA bill, whatever you bring me. We saw him say that two people are -- people are too squared of the NRA and I`m going to endorse a whole bunch of gun control legislation. We`ve seen him say I can`t wait to sit down with Robert Mueller. You know, none of those three things have happened. It seems like there`s ample room for this essentially to just be memory-holed by the White House.
LEWIS: Yes, I think the reason that you see the walk back and then the un- walk back of the walk-back is that you know, the President was freelancing, got way out ahead of where everybody else is and there probably a lot of people on staff who don`t want him to go. So right now, they`re going to have to have their own internal deliberation and they`re going to have to work it out. But I think there`s a substantial chance actually that as it becomes clear that this is not about Kim Jong-un giving up his weapons that Trump`s interest may wane. On the other hand, you know, 10,000 people in a Pyongyang stadium holding up little cards that make a picture of his face, he may like that.
HAYES: I absolutely so. And Jeremy Scahill, the Writer for the Intercept said I can totally see Trump going full Dennis Rodman on a trip to North Korea which kind of cracks me up. Jeffrey Lewis, thank you for your time. Coming up, the Trump administration`s stonewalls on yet another big scandal setting up a White House showdown. I`ll explain right after this.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you troubled by Rob Porter`s employment in the White House?
REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Yes. Who knew what when and to what extent and if you knew it in 2017 and the Bureau briefed him three times, then how in the hell was he still employed? I don`t -- the security clearance is a separate issue. I understand it`s an important issue but it`s separate. How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The White House is now refusing to cooperate with the request from the Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Trey Gowdy sent a letter on Valentine`s Day to the White House giving Chief of Staff John Kelly two weeks to answer questions on why Rob Porter, the former White House Staff Secretary and accused spouse abuser was allowed to work with an interim security clearance for so long. Last night Talking Points Memo reported the White House just refused the request.
A move that has prompted the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings to ask Gowdy to issue a subpoena or "step aside" to allow the rest of the committee to vote on it. I want to bring in Political Science Professor Christina Greer and Sam Seder, Host of the Majority Report. Christina, there`s a fascinating thing happening between this White House and the Republican-controlled Congress in terms of oversight which is basically there has been none. And then there seemed -- maybe there was going to be a little bit. What is your bet about what we see as the next step from Congress here?
CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: You know, Chris, we`ve been talking about this for over a year. I mean, my biggest worry and my biggest fear is that the house is not going to do their job as mandated by the Constitution. So there -- you know, a lot of committees that are either giving the public the run-around and they`re saying that they may investigate things. I think part of the problem is, there are really no adults in the room on the executive side or on the legislative side.
And so there`s no one who`s really putting the feet to the fire to make the Republicans in the House really follow through in these committees. The Democrats are trying but I really think that we`re not going to see any movement until actually after the midterms and you know, if the Democrats take over the house, really forward movement with these committees to actually have some sort of success with all of the scandals. I mean, we don`t have time to list all of the different scandals that are currently going on this particular White House.
HAYES: Sam, you`re nodding your head.
SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT: Yes, I agree. In fact, I wouldn`t even go as far as saying it`s not a question of there`s no adults in the room. There are adults, it`s just that their incentive structure is such that they have no incentive to pursue this White House whatsoever. I mean, this is the same dynamic as to why every single Republican elected official who is not resigning was not going to buck Donald Trump.
And in fact, the most surprising thing to me in this drama involving this committee is that Trey Gowdy felt like he had to perform like he was going to provide oversight, right? There was a day or two where I was like I wonder what Trey Gowdy`s angle is? And it turns out just it was very convenient to pretend like he was actually going to provide oversight and now that it requires a slight bit of effort or that he can shift the blame outside of himself, there`s nothing.
HAYES: Well, partly -- I think partly, right, it was that the Rob Porter scandal really stuck for a long time, and it stuck for a few reasons. One is that we saw a picture of a woman with a black eye and we saw this individual standing next to the president, and he had been allowed to work and he had been warned by the FBI four times. So, there`s taht. We never really got resolution. John Kelly told a story that doesn`t hold up what he did with that.
But I wonder also -- I mean, Cristina, there`s something that`s changed structurally, right, as a political science professor, this is something you think about. You know, the constitutional design at the beginning was there was this sort of rivalry between the branches and that`s largely been replaced by a kind of partisan rivalry, that congress in the control of the president`s party is sort of looking out to help the president and vice versa. And I don`t see anything changing that, right?
CHRISTINA GREER, NYU: Here`s what worries me and what keeps me up at night. You know, the constitution is laid out as essentially an equilateral triangle, right, so it`s supposed to be the judicial, the executive and the legislative branches as an equilateral triangle, not an isosceles, and not an obtuse, right. Pull out the eighth grade geometry if you have to.
HAYES: I`m trying.
GREER: And so what`s happening is that we see this abdication of the legislative branch. And this is exactly what George Washington warned us about during his farewell address, right. He said if we actually don`t pay attention to the structure that the framers have laid out and allow this red state, blue state, red team, blue team partisanship to actually take over our politics, then we are on a dangerous road and weakening our democracy by the moment.
And what we`re seeing with the Republicans is you know, Donald Trump is like the anti-Midas, right, everything he touches turns to rust and every person around him is willing to sort of prostrate themselves in front of him, but their careers suffer.
So, I think, you know, we`ve talked about many Republicans are essentially bracing themselves for an embarrassment in November, not only because of the national tide that the party of the president usually loses seats during midterm, but this particular president isso erratic and I think that those little tax cuts, the $1.50 that a lot of Republicans are seeing in their paychecks is actually not going to be enough by the time midterms come around. And they`re going to see, you know, look, we`re just constantly distracted, right. We`re talking about North Korea today because we`re talking about, you know, a porn star yesterday.
So, I think that we`ve seen the power of white supremacy sort of hold through this administration for quite some time, but I do think by November, when people go to the polls, there`s going to be a certain level of frustration with their elected officials actually not behaving the way they should and could.
HAYES: Well, and Sam, I mean, Betsy said at the top of the show that they`re sort of internally planning to lose the House, which, you know, that may or may not happen. What I do think is happening now, which I think is fascinating, and I think the Gowdy sort of poking his head up to play with the idea of oversight as part of that is I think this partnership has become a kind of silent and estranged one in the wake of the tax cut passing. Like I think it`s -- they don`t have anything they`re doing jointly. You know, the deregulatory agenda is happening at the agencies. McConnell is going to ram his judges through. But at this point, it`s not like they`re turning against him, but there is this kind of like we`ll go our separate lanes.
SEDER: It`s a holding pattern, right. I mean, it`s sort of like a four corners in.
HAYES: Yes, exactly. That`s exactly right.
SEDER: There`s no agenda here. And I think to a certain extent, look -- and they should be, the Republican Party is probably sort of amazed that they were able to do these tax cuts.
SEDER: And everything else we`re going to mitigate the damage and hold the ball in the corner of the court and hope that we can maintain the senate. Today Dean Heller floated some rumor that Anthony Kennedy was going to -- was going to retire over the summer. And to me that signals that Heller has a problem with fund-raising. He wants to get the early funders in now and saying -- basically floating this possibility that if Kennedy leaves, there`s going to be an open seat on the Supreme Court and to a large extent, Mitch McConnell says that he was responsible for Donald Trump because he kept Merrick Garland out of that spot. And so this is the dynamic going on. And I think we`re going to see a lot of this.
And frankly, you know, just raised white supremacy. I think we`re going to see Donald Trump return back to that agenda of waiting for a black African -- excuse me, an African-American athlete to come out and say something that he can spend two or three weeks talking about. I mean, this is what they`re looking for, the culture war.
HAYES: Yeah, in the absence of legislative action, the culture war is going to only get more intense as we approach election day.
Christina Greer and Sam Seder, thanks for joining us.
SEDER: Thank you.
GREER: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Coming up, the spending habits of Trump`s best people back in the headlines. Guess which cabinet secretary is explaining $130,000 for office doors? Trump`s best people ahead and why drain the swamp when you can subsidize a ferry on it? Jared Kushner is tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYE: Thing One tonight, Donald Trump changes his mind about a lot of things, but one issue where he`s been unwavering is infrastructure.
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TRUMP: We have to rebuild our country. We have to rebuild our roads and our bridges and our tunnels.
We will build new roads and bridges and tunnels and highways all throughout our land.
We`re going to make our infrastructure modernized.
Infrastructure, we`re going to start spending on infrastructure big. And not like we have a choice, it`s not like oh, gee, let`s hold it off.
We can rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and we will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, there`s a perfect project ready to go right now in Trump`s home state. Rebuilding the crumbling century old rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River connecting New York and New Jersey. The tunnel serves about 200,000 passengers every weekday, and it`s key to 20 percent of the nation`s GDP. Fixing it seems like a no-brainer, right?
So it was, well, surprising when President Trump told Republicans in congress not to fund a project to build new tunnels.
The Washington Post calls it a direct challenge to a key political rival, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who has been among the most powerful and vocal backers of federal funding for the project.
So while a project that Democrats and Republicans say is essential to a fifth of our economy is out, at least for now, there is a smaller one nearby that the Trump administration curiously does seem rather interested in. And would it surprise you if Jared Kushner was somehow involved? That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: So, Donald Trump is reportedly trying to kill a massive tunnel between New York and New Jersey just to spite Chuck Schumer. But elsewhere in the Tri-State area, down the Jersey shore in Long Branch, the Trump administration is involved in a much smaller infrastructure project developing a ferry service that would bring passengers to the doorstep of a resort co-owned by none other than Jared Kushner, the president`s son-in- law, who along with solving Middle East peace has been known to advise his pops on infrastructure.
The Federal Transit Administration has been advising the town of Long Branch with the project which, as the AP notes, places the federal government in the awkward position of helping steer a project that will benefit President Donald Trump`s son-in-law and senior adviser. Since the value of those condos co-owned by Kushner could rise as much as 50 percent if the project is completed. And given Kushner`s role advising Trump on policy issues ranging from Middle East peace to infrastructure, some question whether those small town business ties now pose a conflict of interest.
Rebuilding America, one Kushner project at a time.
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TRUMP: We have to get the best people. We can no longer be so politically correct. You know, we do things today. We`re so politically correct. People are afraid to walk. They`re afraid to talk. We need to get the best and the finest. And if we don`t, we`ll be in trouble for a long period of time.
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HAYES: From time to time, we like to quickly check in on the various people working in the Trump administration, you know, the best people. Like for instance, oil and gas industry darling Scott Pruitt, the climate change skeptic Trump put in charge of the EPA. The New York Times reported today that Pruitt sought to stage public debates challenging climate change science possibly to be broadcast live. Though the president expressed enthusiasm for the idea, not surprising, it was reportedly killed by John Kelly and other top officials.
Another of Trump`s best people is of course Mick Mulvaney who is currently doing double duty as budget director and the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he once called a sick, sad joke. In January, Mulvaney`s CFPB dropped an investigation into a payday lend that had contributed to Mulvaney`s congressional campaigns. The AP now reports that two days later, the CEO of said company, who had just resigned, wrote Mulvaney asking to be put in charge of the CFPB, citing her, and I`m not making this up, in-depth experience of what a CFPB investigation is like. No word yet on whether Mulvaney And Trump plan take her up on the offer.
And then there`s the head of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, the man who demands a special flag be raised whenever he`s in the interior department building. The AP reported the Interior Department is spending nearly $139,000 to upgrade three sets of double doors in Zinke`s office. The spokesperson claims Zinke was not aware of the contract.
That news comes shortly after we learned that under Ben Carson, the department of Housing and Urban Development placed an order for a $31,000 dining room set. Carson sought to cancel the order in the wake of the media scrutiny.
Oh, and speaking of HUD, CNN reports the senior adviser there has spread a false conspiracy theory on Twitter that Hillary Clinton`s campaign chairman was a satanist. That adviser, former conservative commentator John Gibbs, still has his job but he has set his Twitter to private.
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STATE REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ, (D) FLORIDA: When we sit here and think about how hard it is to vote, push the green button, push the red button, I just remind myself that this isn`t hard. Putting your kid in the ground is hard. This is a button.
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HAYES: This week, for the first time in more than two decades, Florida lawmakers defied the NRA. The Republican-controlled House and Senate passed new gun restrictions, a law which was signed today by Florida`s Republican Governor Rick Scott. A big "L" for the NRA`s king pin in Florida, former NRA President Marian Hammer, described in this week`s New Yorker, as the most influential gun lobbyist in the United States. And hours after the bill signing, Hammer and the NRA announced they are suing Florida.
With me now is contributor to New Yorker magazine Michael Spies, the author of that fantastic profile on Marion Hammer and the power of Florida`s gun lobby; Politico`s Mark Caputo, a veteran reporter of Florida politics; and Avery Gardner, who is the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Mark, let me start start with you as someone who I`ve been reading your coverage of this very closely and you have the lay of the land there. It was a real open question about whether this was going to happen or not, as my understanding was. What was determinative, ultimately?
MARK CAPUTO, POLITICO: Well, I think what`s determinative is crisis. And most legislative bodies react to crisis. And when you`re in the middle of the Florida legislative session and you have got 17 people who are killed in a mass shooting, 14 of them kids, it is almost impossible to ignore.
Still, I have been a reporter in Florida for 20 years, and I grew up in the state. And I have never seen them pass gun control. The idea that a Florida legislature controlled by Republicans and a Florida Republican governor would sign any measure of gun control no matter how slight it might seem to gun control advocates, is almost mind-blowing, yet it happened.
HAYES: And Michael, you talk about how Marian Hammer has been able to kind of keep a lock on that state, and that is a model for other states. What methods has she used, and why did they fail here?
MICHAEL SPIES, THE NEW YORKER: I think what made this instance completely different and a total aberration from other sessions or other opportunities to pass legislation is that the Republicans are fairly united in jumping off the cliff together. I think you had some 67 Republicans with A or A plus ratings combined in the House and Senate who decided to support this bill. And it`s pretty difficult to punish all of them.
I mean, it`s usually, when you have a couple people that are straying from the flock, you can focus on two, three, one person. But that`s a really, really high number. And it`s also important to point out that the folks who were carrying those bills are in line to become the House Speaker next year and the senate president next year. So, if she wants to start punishing their respective members, you know, you are going to wind up in a situation that`s going to be an all-out war.
HAYES: Yeah, that`s a great point. It`s like a legislative wildcat strike. If everyone goes, right, then you can`t do anything to them.
HAYES: Avery, I mean, Mark`s point here about the singularity of what happened in Parkland, the incredible horror of that massacre there, there are two ways to interpret this. This is a one-off or this is the start of something, which way do you see it?
AVERY GARDINDER, THE BRADY CAMPAIGN CO-PRESIDENT: Oh, this is absolutely the start of something. And I think we have to look back before Parkland. We have to look back to October 1, to Vegas, which was the deadliest mass shooting in American history. And congress did nothing and the states really did nothing. And then we have to look to what happened a few weeks later at a church in Texas in Sutherland Springs, where people were massacred at church.
And I think those two events having happened so close in time to Parkland are part of why we are seeing a different reaction now both in Florida, in other states and at the federal level. Because the American people were fed up after Vegas, they were fed up after Sutherland Springs, and now they`re really fed up after Parkland.
HAYES: You know, Mark, there is some complicated politics here, because one of the provisions included in the legislation -- let me just run through what`s in there -- there`s a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, minimum age is raised to 21 to buy a firearm. It bans bump stock sales. It funds school police officers and allows sheriffs to arm some school personnel. That last provision was controversial. The civil rights group The Advancement Project putting out a statement today saying they oppose the legislation, other groups whipping against it.
Rick Scott even saying at one point he might veto it over that. How controversial is that provision?
CAPUTO: Oh, it`s huge. You know, this bill needed Democrats votes both in the Florida Senate where it passed only by one vote, and in the Florida House. And I mean, we spent hours and hours listening to debate and discussion over this one provision, the quote, arming teachers provision.
Had it not been in the bill it`s probably safe to assume it would have gotten much more Democratic support, maybe a little less Republican support. It was probably put in there to curry support from Republicans. But in the end, it was really controversial and for good reason.
However, I do need to say one thing is that this is a voluntary program. Most of Florida`s big urban counties are not going to participate. They already said they aren`t. So, it`s not going to be in a lot of the counties, and a lot of the places where you have minority representation, or big minority populations, where people are concerned about racial profiling and disproportionate treatment of minority students in classrooms and by the police.
HAYES: Yeah, it`s a good point, because when you -- please, go ahead.
GARDINER: I was going to say that we are already hearing from activists all over Florida that they are going to now take their effort to those local districts and say, really, you don`t want to participate in this voluntary program. It is not going to make your school safer. It has a real risk of having a disproportionate burden on students of color. So, I think we`re going to see now a lot of that activism that we were having in Tallahassee move to the local districts to say, OK, don`t participate in this part of the law, it`s really not going to do much to keep children safer and it really could do a lot of harm.
HAYES: Michael, do you agree with Avery`s assessment of this as something more than a one-off?
SPIES: It`s -- at this point pretty hard to tell. I mean, it`s is worth pointing out that while relative to what`s happened in Florida over the last couple of decades, it is a really big deal that these modest reforms passed. There were a whole lot of amendments that Democrats tried to add onto the bill that got shot down. You know, that includes obviously setting new restrictions on magazines, banning assault weapons, or for that matter, I think, even narrowing the definition of what is an assault weapon.
So, you know, it`s hard to tell, but I am not sure. I think it`s -- to me, it seems like it, in Florida, anyway, that this is a really unique moment and that it was pretty difficult for them not to act , but ultimately what they did was, in the grand scheme of things, you know, you mentioned this earlier, and certainly it is worth celebrating some of the reforms that got into that bill. Still, you know, still modest for them.
HAYES: And Mark, what`s interesting now is the politics of this continue, right. They don`t just sign it and walk away. Because of the NRA`s lawsuit today, now you have Rick Scott, governor of Florida, who will have to send his state solicitor general out to defend this thing in court.
CAPUTO: Right. Well, actually the Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, who is named in this as a defendant.
HAYES: Pam Bondi.
CAPUTO: I know, Pam Bondi, noted liberal! She, in the end, Rick Scott is probably going to run for senate. And one of the things he has been doing through a variety of policies, included by not limited to say offshore oil drilling, he has started to turn more to the left or to the center. So, the more it looks like he is, quote, defying the NRA, the happier Rick Scott is as he looks to a general election.
HAYES: That is a great point. Mike Spies...
GARDINER: You know, we can`t -- I am sorry, Chris.
HAYES: I`m sorry, I have to stop you there, Avery, because I have to give the show over to Rachel because we`re up against the break. Mike Spies, Mark Caputo, and Avery Gardiner, thank you all for joining me tonight.
Really quick, this is my last chance to remind everyone in the New York area that this Sunday I will be at an event in Brooklyn for the launch of the paperback version of my book "A Colony in a Nation." I`ll be in conversation with Isa Kohler Houseman (ph) who wrote an absolutely incredible new book about broken windows policing. It`s called "Misdemeanor Land." She`ll be there as well. Tickets are just ten bucks. There is a talk and Q and A. It will be a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.
And that is ALL IN for this evening and for this week. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END