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Dems flip deep red district despite Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 03/14/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Leon Wolf, Henry Olsen, Jason Kander, Harry Litman, David Corn, Michael Isikoff

ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES March 14, 2018 Guest: Leon Wolf, Henry Olsen, Jason Kander, Harry Litman, David Corn, Michael Isikoff



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`re all watching because I won this district like by 22 points.

HAYES: Trump country turns blue.

TRUMP: This guy should win easily. And he`s going to win easily.

HAYES: Tonight, how the Democrats flipped a deep red district despite the President`s best efforts.

TRUMP: Look at all those red hats, Rick.

HAYES: And what it all means for November?

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: If you`re a Republican in a safe seat, you better be ready.

HAYES: Then, Michael Isikoff and David Corn on their new best seller. The suspected Russian attack in Britain and where the Mueller investigation will wind up. Plus, was Ben Carson just caught lying about his $31,000 dining set?

BEN CARSON, UNITED STATES HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: I don`t want to open the book and look at the numbers.

HAYES: And putting today`s historic student walkout to protest gun violence into perspective.

AMERICAN CROWD: Hey hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

AMERICAN CROWD: Enough is enough. Enough is enough.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. President Donald Trump and his party threw absolutely everything they had at last night`s special election in an effort to keep a deep red district from turning blue. And they failed. Pennsylvania`s 18th District is in the heart of what we like to call Trump country, the kind of place reporters would go to write their profiles of the working class donors, assembling at diners who are rallying behind the President a rust belt community where nearly 94 percent of the population is white. Donald Trump won the district by nearly 20 points, a huge margin. And when he campaigned there Saturday on behalf of Republican Candidate Rick Saccone, Trump came with a message for the candidate, these are my people. They love me and because of me, you will win.


TRUMP: They`re all watching because I won this district like by 22 points. That`s a lot. That`s why I`m here. Look at all those red hats, Rick. Look at all those hats. That`s a lot of hats. And we just had a poll we`re more popular now than we were on Election Day. This guy should win easily and he`s going to win easily.


HAYES: He`s going to win easily because everyone loves Donald Trump so much. Not how it worked out. Instead, the blue wave crashed into Trump country. NBC News declaring this morning Democrat Conor Lamb, the apparent winner in what was a very, very tight race. A source tells NBC News the Saccone campaign will likely ask for a recount but it`s a very long shot. Republicans are now trying to spin the apparent loss in all sorts of ways, even -- I`m not making this up -- placing the blame squarely on their supposedly lackluster candidate and specifically his mustache. They also cast Lamb, the Democrat as a Republican in disguise.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Both of these people, both of these candidates, the Republican and the Democrats ran as conservatives, ran as pro-gun, pro-life anti-Nancy Pelosi conservatives and I think that`s the take away we see here.


HAYES: Well, here`s the thing. Lamb doesn`t actually oppose abortion rights. So if that counts as pro-life to Paul Ryan, well, then all of American politics has been upended. Thank you. Lamb also isn`t particularly conservative having run against the signature domestic policy achievement of the Republicans, the would be the GOP tax law. And Ryan`s spin is especially rich seeing as how Republicans spent much of the campaign casting Conor Lamb as basically Nancy Pelosi with a buzz cut.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name is Conor Lamb but in Washington, he would be one of Nancy Pelosi`s sheep. Lamb would join the liberal flock and follow Pelosi`s lead voting the straight liberal party line for at the Pelosi`s extreme agenda.


HAYES: See? That was what they were saying about Conor Lamb three days ago. Republicans dumped more than $10 million into the race to run ads like that. Although hopefully, no one was charging $10 million to make that ad. But they couldn`t buy victory. And that`s because even in Trump country, there is huge anchor weighing him down. A president who may bring about one of the biggest Democratic waves in modern political history and whose tax cuts and tariff don`t seem to be changing the dynamic one bit. In special elections in the Trump era, Democratic candidates are outpacing a Hillary Clinton`s performance by more than 12 points in their states and districts. The swing last night was 20 points. And while there`s a lot of preposterous GOP spin today, at least some Republicans see the writing on the wall.


DENT: This is a very toxic environment and this is a district that`s 95 percent white. Trump won by 20 points. If you`re a Republican in a safe seat, you`d better be ready.


HAYES: Joining me now, Henry Olsen, Author of book, The Working Class Republican, Ronald Reagan, the Return of Blue Collar Conservatives and Leon Wolf, Managing Editor of the conservative Web site, The Blaze. And Leon, let me start with you. What is your take away? Is this -- is this panic time?

LEON WOLF, MANAGING EDITOR, THE BLAZE: Well, it`s very difficult to put lipstick on this pig if you`re a Republican. I mean, you kind of saw the montage there. I think if you`re looking for a bright light, the honest think you would have to say about Conor Lamb is not that he was a particularly conservative candidate, it`s just that he was a particularly good candidate. He`s telegenic, he works hard, he relates well to the people in his district, and you might say, look, most Republican challengers are not going to draw a candidate who`s as good as Conor Lamb for their opponent. But still, it`s worrisome and probably more worrisome are things like the number of retirements that the Republicans are facing. The redistricting in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin is going to cost them some seats. Just the realignment politically may wipe out the GOP in New York and California and a lot of moderate seats that have been held. So they`re facing a lot of structural problems going into November for sure.

HAYES: You know, Henry, the biggest warning sign to me for Republicans was this item. It was from Politico. Republicans abandon tax cut message in Pennsylvania`s special election. And let`s -- if you put aside the substance of whether you think it was good or bad policy, let`s just put that to the side, for now, this was going to be the big political winner. I mean, I heard Republican after Republican saying this is the thing we delivered. We got it done. And what they found on the ground in this district was people didn`t really care.

HENRY OLSEN, AUTHOR, THE WORKING CLASS REPUBLICAN: That`s absolutely right, is that it may excite some hard-core Republicans but it`s not going to move soft former Republican-leaning voters away. The people who are upset at Donald Trump who are former Republican voters are people who are upset about culture, they`re upset about presidential behavior, they`re upset about chaos in the White House and there`s no amount of a tax cut that you can pass that`s going to change that. The House Republicans need to look back into their bag of magic tricks because tax cuts is not going to work for them.

HAYES: In fact -- Leon, today, Kevin McCarthy was saying, well, we`re working on another -- we`re thinking about another round of tax cuts. I thought, I don`t think that`s the issue here.

WOLF: No, and you know, I think it`s most likely you`re going to see something this very similar to what happened to by Bill Clinton in 1994 and to Barack Obama in 2010. I mean, it`s a fairly common phenomenon and might hit Trump maybe harder than either of those guys. Well, at the end of the day, I think it`s a fairly common phenomenon in America that once we elect a new President and people see what he`s all about as in actual governing, you know, president as opposed to a candidate, they say well, we need to put the brakes on this a little bit, are probably applies to Trump a little bit more than even your usual president.

HAYES: Yes, I should say that was Kevin Brady, not Kevin McCarthy who floated a new round of tax cuts. I do think there`s -- here`s my theory of this, Henry. And I was sort of perusing your book before you came on the air. I think one of the things Donald Trump really did successfully in the primary connected to a certain part of The Republican base that isn`t really that excited about the supply side bible and have a bunch of cultural concerns that he spoke to and actually have the sort of impulses about tariffs and protectionism they like. And it seems like the Republicans have ended up with the worst of both worlds in this. They don`t have that part of the message cemented to those voters and they`ve also got a guy who seems reckless in the White House as opposed to the best of both worlds.

OLSEN: Yes, well, they can`t change the guy in the White House. The guy in the White House is the person who can change himself. But I think it was very telling that the last poll that came out in this race, the Monmouth poll that had Conor Lamb winning by a few points also had tariffs popular in this district. This is the sort of thing that House Republicans need to understand, is that the swing voter, the voter who can be moved back is the voter who actually wants direct government action to help people on the ground whether it`s gun violence or whether it`s tariffs to protect American jobs. Supply-side is not a political elixir and it`s not going to save the Republicans when it comes around to November elections.

HAYES: Leon, there`s something like 100 seats that are more competitive than this one at least on paper. Do you think it the Republican Party is ready for the amount of contested seats they might face?

WOLF: Yes, I mean, I think that the one saving grace is, of course, you know, kind of the Senate side of the equation is going to be a very difficult road to hoe for Democrats for them to even pick up two seats which is what they would need to take to control the Senate. But privately, a lot of people are saying that the House could indeed be a 45- 50 seat bloodbath if not worse. And if so, then you have to wonder what if anything Donald Trump will be able to be accomplished in the remaining two years of his first term?

HAYES: Henry Olsen and Leon Wolf, thanks to you both for your time tonight.

WOLF: Thank you.

OLSEN: Thank you.

HAYES: Joining me now, former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, now President of Let America Vote which fights voter suppression and MSNBC Political Analyst Cornell Belcher, Democratic Pollster and Strategist who I have right here in studio. OK, your big take away from last flight?

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: A big takeaway from last night is revolt in the suburbs, right? You see these suburbs around the urban areas, college-educated moderate, especially women who have been breaking Republican over time. They are turned off by what they see coming out of Washington, turn off by the President. They don`t think this president represents tear values. They`re uncomfortable with that. You know, we can say how great a candidate he was all we want, and Lamb was a great candidate. We don`t flip a 20-point district without a backlash to Donald Trump and that backlash is being seen with moderate suburban women in particular.

HAYES: Jason, what I though most remarkable here is this -- you know, the President go -- they throw everything they had at this race. A race that by the way, when it first popped on the map -- by the way -- the race exists because the former pro-life congressman of that district tried to get his mistress to have an abortion, by the way. When that -- when that race first pops on the map, no one thinks it`s going to be particularly contested. It sort of flies under the radar. They throw everything they have at it, the President, Vice President, Don Junior, the clothes, and the hair net, and the candy factory and can`t get it done.

JASON KANDER, PRESIDENT, LET AMERICA VOTE: Yes, I mean, not to mention the fact that Democrats actually didn`t run a candidate 15 months ago in this district. I mean, so yes, it`s a pretty big swing. And what it says to me is that the momentum that you feel out there, it`s real, you know. To anybody out there knocking on doors making phone calls, they should know that this is real, what`s happening. I`ve been to 34 states you know, campaigning for Democrats, speaking to Democratic audiences since President Trump took office and what I`ve seen over and over again is an enormous amount of people who have gotten involved politically for the first in their lives since January 20th, 2017. So this is quite real and they can expect more of it.

HAYES: One thing that happens when we`re analyzing exit polls, we sort of slice up the electorate. Like, well, they`re doing well. And -- but one thing my sort of first look at the precinct by precinct is what Lamb did was he sort of did better across the board, like even in the places that weren`t his go to demographic strengths, he performed higher than Hillary Clinton had and Saccone performed worse. That also seems like a key through line in these, is that actually, we`re seeing is Democratic performance better than 2016 in a bunch of different subgroups.

BELCHER: But not only is he performing sort of and support better but also, this is something that I think you and I have talked about before. An off-year election is Democratic precincts don`t turn out the same level as Republicans, right? They`re ten-15 point below. What we last night was and what saw in Virginia, we`re seeing Democrat precincts over-perform and just raw numbers. So you have more Democrats. That`s why in Virginia, had you an electorate that was -- that was more partisan Democrat than it was when McAuliffe won. And I think you`re seeing that across -- you`re seeing that across the board. But I`ve got to tell you, Chris, in 2006 when we saw a wave election while I was working for Governor Dean, we didn`t see suburban college-educated women breaking this hard away from Republicans. And I got to tell you, if they spent $10 million in that district and lost it, it opens up the battlefield for Democrats in a way that we didn`t see in 2006.

HAYES: Well, here`s my question to you, Jason as someone who has been on the ground. Is that being channeled effectively right now with the existing infrastructure and fund-raising and organizing to take advantage of the terrain as it currently is constituted?

KANDER: Yes, that`s a great question. And the key to taking advantage of it. You know, everybody says there`s this is energy out there, how do we harness it. I mean, really it`s pretty simple. You harness it. You ask people to do more than call their Member of Congress six days a week. They get kind of tired of doing that. It`s important, don`t get me wrong but at some point people say, you know, my member of Congress knows what I think. And so, you got to give them the opportunity to get out, knock on doors and make phone calls.

Clearly, Conor Lamb`s campaign did that. That`s what`s we at Let America Vote were able to do in Virginia, what we`re doing in other states where we`re active. But that`s the key. Is everybody has to remember, this is not a weather event, right? This is not something where everybody`s very upset with this president, very -- you know, they are upset with the president. People are upset with their Republican members of Congress who won`t stand up to him. But it`s not magic. You`ve got to out there and do the work. If we keep doing the work, then this is going to keep happening.

HAYES: Speaking of doing work, one also aspect of this is organized labor in this district where it is strong, where you had the steel workers and mine workers both working for Conor Lamb and also kind of a vision of what has been eviscerated in a lot of parts of this country where what formerly was a very powerful organized labor of presence on the ground you don`t have.

BELCHER: Right, well, organized labor can be speak to the working class. Actually those working class, those blue-collar whites in a very important way and in the rust belt, they`re a very important part of the Democratic coalition and they came out -- they showed muscle in this past election in a way that quite frankly we haven`t seen in a long, long time from labor. And if they can replicate that through the rust belt, and I think Democrats can do really well a lot better this time around with blue-collar whites than we saw in 2016.

HAYES: How much, Jason, do you think that the underlying structural conditions are going to sort of are baked in, how much does what happens in the next six months matter?

KANDER: Well, what happens in the next six months matters a lot because what has to happen in the next six months is we`ve got to execute. We got to get out and we got to do the work. You know, the structural conditions are people see a president who promised that he was -- you know, the basic deal that President Trump made with everybody was he said, look, you don`t like me, you don`t like the way I treat people but it`s made me very personally successful so I`ll do that for the country. And it`s not like people said, you know, oh, that`s awesome. A lot of people said, well I`m willing to give that a try. And then what happened was -- is they still don`t like him. He`s still not nice to people. And now he still just does it for himself. So that`s the structural condition is that people aren`t - - that`s the big -- you know, that`s the big betrayal really of Trump that people don`t talk about. He`s not looking out for the little person -- for the little guy. He`s not doing that. He`s looking out for himself.

HAYES: Although one of the most -- although one of the most remarkable things is that you`ve got a situation in which the top line economic numbers in terms of GDP growth and jobs and unemployment should be favorable to the incumbent party and even with that, it is not which again, I think where I`m advising Republicans seems to me like warning signs. Jason Kander and Cornell Belcher, thanks for being with me.

Still to come, across the country today, students of all ages walked out of their schools taking part in really remarkable gun violence protests across the nation. Can these scenes precipitate real change? We`re going to talk about it ahead. And next, as the President cleans house, the latest threat to the Justice Department by way of Jeff Sessions in two minutes.


HAYES: There was another alarming turn in the President`s -- turn in the President`s attack on the American justice system today. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe may be fired before he can officially retire because an internal FBI review is recommending it according to The New York Times. Now, OK, so there`s a recommendation from the internal disciplinary review. But here`s the thing, it is hard to know if that is why McCabe may lose his pension or if it`s because he`s been a villain to Donald Trump who as President made clear McCabe should be fired, who even complained that McCabe was about to retire with full benefits. Mccabe`s main sin seems to be that he`s married to a women who temerity to ran for office as a Democrat. So it`s ironic the internal FBI review surrounds McCabe`s decision during the presidential campaign to allow FBI officials to speak critically of Hillary Clinton.

The final word on McCabe`s fate falls to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as reports of his dismissal continue to surface. More on just what`s going on inside the Justice Department, what Donald Trump is up to, Harry Litman, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice. And this to me is is the entire conundrum of this president has relation to Department of Justice. On the one hand, you got an internal review that seems to indicate that McCabe may have misled investigators about allowing his people to speak to the press and he should be fired for it. On the other hand, the President has been railing against him and it is hard to trust the good faith here. What do you make of it?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It`s impossible to trust it, Chris, because the fact is, yes, there was an internal review but the process has not run its course. The process provides for another step for McCabe. That`s review at the Attorney General level. That`s what happened if you recall with John Yoo at least as controversial figure on the left as McCabe is on the right. He had his final review after OPR had initiated some disciplinary recommendation and in fact, that recommendation was lowered. That is part of the process here and there is no way they can force him out by Sunday which is what they`re trying to do unless they short-circuit that process and that means no way they can do it unless it`s by political pressure from the very top based on spite and mean- spiritedness.

HAYES: So that`s interesting. So what I`m hearing from you is that you view this as a jam job. That basically you`ve got this -- Trump T.V. has been railing against McCabe, you`ve got the internal process that hasn`t played out yet, you`ve got the White House sort of berating the A.G. and all these stories about how Sessions might be next to go and basically this is the White House attempting to get this done via vendetta.

LITMAN: 100 percent jam job, again, because of the timing. In a couple months, if the process had played out as they`re claiming that it will, he had the sort of chance that John Yoo had had to make his case and the professionals in the department had dismissed him, that would be one thing. But here that hasn`t happened. We haven`t run the full course. They`re using it as a shield to try to shoo him out of there. That`s exactly right, jam job the exact word.

HAYES: So here`s -- so here`s a bit of reporting from Gabe Sherman at Vanity Fair, and again, we don`t -- you know, things are in tumult over the White House, but here`s what he`s reporting. Two Republicans in regular contact with the White House, there have been talks that Trump could replace Jeff Sessions with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt who would not be recused from overseeing the Russia probe. Your reaction to that?

LITMAN: I mean, would that be the classic Trump move? For Sessions to oust McCabe, absolutely cementing his reputation as loathed within the department and then reward him by firing him as he had done say to Mitt Romney or to Chris Christie. It would -- it would put on display so many of the characteristic qualities of the President. And Pruitt has proven himself to be an absolute water carrier for the President. It would be an absolute tour de force. You wouldn`t think things could get much lower at the Department of Justice. This would be the test of that.

HAYES: Well, here`s my -- here`s the way that I see things. We have watched the President out in the open attempt to subvert the independence of the Department of Justice at every turn. From firing Comey and telling him to you know, let Michael Flynn go, according to Comey, to berating the Attorney General, to having -- telling Don McGahn his White House Council to fire Mueller and direct Mueller to be fired, to berating Rod Rosenstein over and over. He has as of yet it appears not been successful particularly, he`s not gotten criminal prosecutions of his enemies, he`s not gotten rid of Mueller, but the question is how long that wall holds up?

LITMAN: Right. And have some bricks already fallen. You`re right. Some of the big signature items that he wants to achieve still are left undone. But you know, a 40-year career guy, real stand up fellow to everyone who`s worked at DOJ resigned yesterday citing the problems at the Department. Morale is really abysmal. He`s done a lots to make the department and the bureau feel that they are completely unappreciated and even reviled. So I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t say that he`s done no harm yet.

HAYES: All right, Harry Litman, thanks for you insight.

LITMAN: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Next up, the high stakes collision course between the U.S., Britain, and Russia. Michael Isikoff and David Corn on the latest escalation in their new book, Russian Roulette after this.


HAYES: Sharply escalating tensions tonight between NATO allies including the United States and Russia. British Prime Minister Theresa May expelling 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for a chemical attack on a former Russian agent on British soil this month. And U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said this was a defining moment. The United States also believes that Russia was responsible for that chemical weapons attack. NATO and Russia appear to be on a high stakes collision course thanks to a chain of events and actions, the most significant of which so far is, of course, the Russian sabotage of the 2016 election. And that happens to be the subject of a new book, Russian Roulette, The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. The authors of the new book, David Corn, and Michael Isikoff join me now. Congratulations, the book is doing very well and it`s very good. It`s a really good book.



HAYES: Let`s start with the sort of -- you lay out part of this book, this sort of spectrum of what Putin was up to. And part of the thing that`s coming into view here is just, this was not -- you know, you got a lot of irons in the fire and yes we`re fussing with this like there was a lot that went into this operation.

CORN: Well, yes. And we report for the first time that in 2014, there was a Kremlin official talking to a U.S. official working in Russia and who told him for the first time, secretly, he wasn`t a spy but he was giving intelligence to the Americans that Putin was interested in waging a massive, massive campaign to undermine liberal democracies, democratic institutions in the west and the United States that would include information warfare, social media activity, propaganda, and we saw that in 2016. We saw it evolve. And it was on all those fronts, it`s brazen. It`s Putin basically saying I`m at -- I`m at war with the west secretly and now with what`s happening in the U.K., we see that he is again repeating what he`s done in the past but stepping over some very basic norms and unlike what we`ve had in this country in response in terms of the Trump administration, Theresa may is saying wait a second here. What are we going to do about this?

HAYES: We should say there was a statement put out by the White House where it was rather strong. It basically agreed with the U.K., did not sound like the way Donald Trump talks about it. But one of the big questions here is, there`s sort of different ways to view Trump`s views of Putin. One is that he likes all kinds of strong men. You know what I mean?

ISIKOFF: Autocrats.

HAYES: Like he was -- he was on the campaign stage --

ISIKOFF: One autocrat to another.

HAYES: I`ll never forget, he was praising Kim Jong-un and one of them was like, you got to (INAUDIBLE) the guy`s tough, he`s killing his brother, he`s killing this, he`s killing that. It was like, what are you saying? So one is just that has a sort of personal disposition and affection, one is that this is part of some quid pro quo. But you guys report about the history the two of them have and the admiration of he got.

ISIKOFF: Right, and how this evolved. Look, I mean, yes, there is the just affection for a fellow autocrat or somebody who acts like an autocrat. But there was something more here which is and we go back, we start the book with that Miss Universe Pageant in 2013 when Trump goes to Moscow. And why is he -- why else is he there? What`s really motivating him? He`s trying to do a business deal. And for the first time, he has a partner Aras Agalarov, the billionaire Russian oligarch known as Putin`s builder who had partnered with him on Miss Universe and can partner with him on a Trump Tower Moscow. And what`s so attractive about Agalarov, he`s close to Putin. What is Trump obsessed with during that trip? To meet with Putin. He keeps asking everybody around him, is Putin coming? Have we heard from Putin yet.

HAYES: He tweets will he be my best friend?

ISIKOFF: Right, right, right. So, this was all in Trump`s mind as best we can tell. It all fits together. He wanted Putin`s blessing for this deal he was forming with Putin`s builder Agalarov, and he saw a real opportunity for a real business deal he had wanted for many, many years.

CORN: And he knew that you can`t do a big tower in Moscow without the approval of the government. So people have been wondering about why he is so positive about Putin. I do think it`s his aspirational affinity with a strong man. But I also think he was smart enough to realize that you get get these deals done if you`re dumping on the guy for his human rights records, for the treatment of gays, from a regime in which journalists are murdered. And that continues on into the campaign in 2016 where yet again, there`s another deal on the table while he is a presidential candidate to build a Trump Tower once more.

So when he goes on the shows, he`s praising Putin while his lawyer Michael Cohen, who is in the news for other things these days, is dealing with a former felon named Felix Sater (ph) to try to get a deal with the Russian government, which would have to be approved by the government.

So, he has these alternative motives, psychological, financial, that have driven him. And when we put this all together in the book, which it looks kind of stark, because a lot of these stories have come out intermittently, but when you put them down one after the other, oh, the pattern turns out to be not so hidden.

ISIKOFF: And I should point out that there`s -- on that first Trump Tower deal with the Agalarovs, what happened to it? There was a letter of intent signed in Moscow. Donald Trump Jr. is put in charge of the project. Ivanka flies over to Moscow in February 2014 to scout potential sites with Amin Agalarov (ph).

But what`s going on at that time? Putin is annexing Crimea, he`s intervening in Ukraine. The U.S. imposes sanctions.

HAYES: He`s engaging in some of the most sort of reckless aggression.

ISIKOFF: But what happens as a result of that? The deal is killed.

You know, and from when you want to look where did Trump get his view about sanctions on Russia, the sanctions killed his business deal. It helps explain the positions he took later during the campaign.

HAYES: All right, David, you published the first piece about the Steele dossier, if I`m not mistaken, in Mother Jones during the campaign. I`m going to ask you both this question. I want you each to answer. There are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who think the tape exists, the infamous kompromat tape referred to in the Steele dossier and there are those who don`t. And I really mean that. I mean that in like a profound sense in that there are people who think there is something really messed up that has come -- that has happened and people who think, you know. Where are you or what is your thinking about that?

CORN: Well, in the book.

HAYES: Is the tape real is what I`m saying?

CORN: YEah, in the book we detail Donald Trump`s 36 hours, whatever it was in Moscow. And we show that it`s probably, the time available for this was short. It was very short. And we also report for the first time that Christopher David Steele, who wrote the dossier, has been telling associates that he thinks when it comes to that particular allegation, it`s 50/50. He believes that the big picture items, that there was some Russian effort to cultivate and co-op Trump, was there. And I think he hit the number on that earlier than anybody else.

So, we also report that there are people associated with Trump who have talked about him taking other trips to Russia where he engaged in wild activity that might lead him to -- lead the Russians to have compromising material.

So, I think the pee tape is not the end of the story. And right now no one`s been able to prove that it does exists.

ISIKOFF: Look, I`m with Christopher Steele on this.

CORN: 50/50...

ISIKOFF: 50/50 is about the best.

And I`ve got to say it is unfortunate and actually rather deplorable that an allegation that the guy who brought it forth can only say is 50/50 ever got into the public sphere in the first place.

That said, you know, it`s worth noting that Trump`s chief alibi on the pee tape is Keith Schiller who has told congress, yes, there was an offer to bring prostitutes.

CORN: He was the bodyguard.

HAYES: Yes, right.

ISIKOFF: The bodyguard, yeah.

HAYES: But he declined it.

ISIKOFF: ...bring prostitutes, and he declined and said we don`t do that sort of thing. It so happens that Stormy Daniels, who has been in the news of late has said, her principal liaison for getting in touch with Donald Trump was Keith Schiller. She would call him. He would set up meetings in the hotel room.

HAYES: You have identified how the a plot and the b plot of this tale are going to end up together perhaps. David Corn and Michael Isikoff, thank you very much.

ISIKOFF: Thanks for having us.

HAYES: Again, the book is called Russian Roulette. You can find it on Amazon where it`s been number one for like 24 hours.

All right, still to come, the $31,000 dinette set that HUD secretary Ben Carson just can`t seem to shake. An update on the best people running the government ahead.

And the president chose his latest hire from the as seen on TV section in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, in the first year of the Trump administration, the president`s nominee for the Supreme Court has his hearing before the Senate, which produced this semi-hilarious Lindsey Graham moment.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I think you`re a man of the law, and I really want to congratulate the president to pick you. Quite frankly, I was worried about who he would pick, maybe somebody on TV. But President Trump could not have done better in choosing you.


HAYES: Ah, that is good comedy because filling the most important positions in the U.S. government with people you saw on the boob tube would be LOL ridiculous, right? That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: Today, the White House announced the president`s new top economic adviser will be long-time CNBC television host Larry Kudlow. The announcement apparently came as a surprise to Larry Kudlow.


LARRY KUDLOW, CNBC HOST: I didn`t know that. I wasn`t watching TV this morning and the president called. And he said, it`s out. Because I don`t think he was intending to put it out till tomorrow or Friday. And I said oh. And he said you`re on the air. And he said I`m looking at a picture of you. And he said very handsome, that`s so Trumpian.


HAYES: Now, think of that for a second. Larry Kudlow, who is on cable TV wasn`t watching TV, but the president with the busiest job in the world was.

Now, Kudlow is a fixture on cable TV. He also served in the Reagan administration, was chief economist at Bear Stearns, so there is more to his resume than TV talking head, but the president does appreciate that qualification in his recruits, from reality stars to relatively unknown figures with questionable doctorates.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: The message I have, it`s a simple one, it`s a bumper sticker, Sean, the era of the pajama boy is over January 20 and the alpha males are back.


HAYES: Apparently not back for long. He, of course, lost his job.

But Trump TV is a pipeline for Trump hires. He reportedly considered replacing Sean Spicer with Fox co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Fox & Friends co-anchor Heather Nauert was hired to be State Department spokesperson last April and she just got a promotion. Despite having zero prior experience in diplomacy, Trump just installed Nauert as the acting undersecretary of State for public diplomacy, after firing the prior one undersecretary along with Rex Tillerson yesterday.

Heather Nauert is now the fourth highest ranking official at the State Department, which means that in just 11 months, less than a year, Heather Nauert has gone from Fox & Friends to number four at the State Department.


GRAHAM: I really want to the congratulate the president to pick you. Quite frankly, I was worried about who he would pick, maybe somebody on TV.



HAYES: We`ve got some damning developments today in the case of Ben Carson`s $31,000 dining set. You may remember when news first broke late last month about the furniture purchase, Secretary Carson claimed ignorance. A HUD spokesman saying at the time that Carson didn`t know the table had been purchased, but Secretary Carson didn`t have a problem with it, and he was going to keep it.

However, we also found out that a former top HUD official was demoted after claiming that Carson`s wife demanded she, quote, "find money to purchase furniture above the $5,000 limit mandated by law." Then, after some more digging by reporters, Carson said he and his wife did participate in the furniture shopping, but shocked by the price, Carson said he wanted to buy used furniture but wasn`t allowed.

So he was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered and requested the order be canceled.

Today, new emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed the Carsons were directly involved in selecting the $31,000 dining set. One email referring specifically to print outs of the furniture the secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out, and others revealing Carsons wife candy was involved scheduling an appointment with an interior decorator reviewing options and in fact pressuring staff to find more money for the redecoration despite HUD staff and lawyers counseling against making any purchase over the $5,000 statutory limit.

In Carson`s defense, $31,000 is less than the $43,000 cost of a soundproof chamber in EPA administrator Scott Pruitt`s office or a $139,000 for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke`s office doors. but there may be more scandal in Carson`s future. According to our own Stephanie Rhule who tweeted ominously this afternoon the dining furniture may be setting the table for his last supper. Worse news to come.

Next, a look at the truly remarkable scenes that unfolded across the country today as thousands of students walk out of school. The strengthening movement protesting gun violence after this.



MICHAEL SOLOMON, STUDENTS: In an ideal world, the 20 first graders and kindergartners who died in Sandyhook would be in middle school today. In an ideal world, the 58 concert-goers who were gunned down in Las Vegas would have gone home and returned to be with their families. In an ideal world, 32 students who died at Virginia Tech would be employed professionals. And the 17 victims from Stoneman Douglas would probably be eating lunch at school right now and the only thing they`d be worried about was a test for next period.


HAYES: That young man with one of thousands of students across the country today who walked out of their schools in protest of gun violence, it culminated in 17 minutes of silence, one for each person shot to death a month ago today at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

More than 3,100 walkouts were scheduled from Washington, D.C. to Albuquerque to Colorado. There were elementary school students in Virginia who had a press packet ready for reporters when they arrived. There were high school students in Atlanta who took a knee. And these kids just outside of Los Angeles who want to let congress know that they`ve had enough of their inaction against gun violence.

With me now, Rebecca Fisher, executive director for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Dorian Warren, president at the Center for Community Change Action; and the Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC`s Politics Nation.

As someone who has been involved in protests and marches and social justice action, what were you thinking watching these kids today?

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: I was very impressed that they showed a real diversity in involvement. I think when we saw not only marches in the suburbs, but when we saw Lawndale (ph), and we saw Bed Stuy, we saw the Bronx, these young people have shown something that I have not seen in a lot of the organic movements, and they have defined goals. They`re talking about legislation. They`re not talking about overthrowing something as much as saying, we`re going to make government work.

And I learned growing up in the aftermath of Dr. King`s assassination as part of his organization, that if you don`t have defined goals, you can not decide how to gauge victory, because you really haven`t announced you`re after anything.

So they`ve shown where they want to go. They`ve reached out. They came to New York and met with us in Action Network. They went to Chicago. A lot of them have shown a maturity, even though they`re younger, that makes me very hopeful.

HAYES: What do you think about that point from the Rev about, you know, I think sometimes gun violence is very concentrated in America, particularly in poor community, and particularly in communities of color. Sometimes the national face of the sort of anti-gun violence movement doesn`t necessarily look like that, not always, but that there was a real kind of coalition today across all different kind of racial categories and socioeconomic categories.


I mean, I think mass shooting after mass shooting, those are the -- that`s the gun violence that`s getting the national headlines, but today you saw that there were students from across this country from all demographics that were stepping forward and raising their voices. And in our program that we have at New Yorkers Against Gun Violence in high schools across the city, our students were participating. And they know that this moment might not have come for them.

HAYES: What do you mean by that? Explain that.

FISHER: I mean, look, these students are students that are experiencing gun violence in their neighborhoods on a monthly basis, right. You know...

HAYES: They are not in schools that have a big, huge news event, massacre.

FISHER: No. The press is not come running to them when they lose their loved ones, but now that they see that this is a moment in time in which students are getting attention, and their voices are being raised. They`re not going to step back. They`re going to step forward. And that`s what they did today when they walked out of their schools here in New York City and across the country.

DORIAN WARREN, CENTER FOR COMMUNITY CHANGE ACTION: I think we`re in the midst, Chris, of an incredible what scholars would call protest cycle or protest wave. So, if you add it all up together over the last couple of years, think the fight for 15, fast food workers striking, think about the movement for black lives over the last several years, and the protests that were often seen as a bit differently than these protests.

HAYES: Absolutely. There weren`t a lot of #brands that were like getting on board.

WARREN: Exactly. So, you think of the movement for black lives, think of the immigrant rights movement, think of just last week 34,000 teachers, public school teachers in West Virginia, not just protesting but going on strike, which is a very, very hard and risky form of collective action to take, I think there`s been the ground laid for this moment by lots of organizing that`s been behind the scenes. We haven`t -- it hasn`t been visible. And so now we`re in the movement cycle. And the thing movements do is force issues onto the national agenda when politicians want to force them off.

HAYES: I want to get your -- I want to get your reaction, but I just wanted to interject quickly that -- for some of these students, they were taking significant risk, right. So, some schools were very happy with it and celebrated it and the teachers went out, but in some they were threatened with detention. Students in Concord, California broke through a gate to leave campus for the walkout after staff at Mount Diablo, high lock gates around campus. I saw people on Twitter today who were tweeting out images of students essentially locked in their rooms who were either laying down or taking a knee in protest. So, there were people who -- kids were taking real disciplinary risk.

SHARPTON: I think that that`s true. And I think it showed they were determined.

But I think the point I was going to make after Dorian is that that`s why today was so hopeful. Because I remember when I was a kid, when I was about 13 or 14, and it just has started in King`s group, we had all of these movements. It was protest cycle -- anti-vietnam war, SDS, Black Panthers, Black Power, those of us that were in so-called established organizations. And the result was, they remained so fractured, Richard Nixon won that November.

And what we saw today, is if we can come together, even though we may not all agree on everything, we don`t listen to the same music or go to the same place, it is the broad base that will in many ways change the politics of this country.

HAYES: Well, and there`s also a challenge of taking protest moments and putting them into -- I mean, the NRA is there like day and night, right. The folks on the other side, they may not have a walk out, they may not have -- but they know what they`re doing and they have the number and the contact info of everyone in Albany or in state capitals, the challenge of moving that into something more concrete and lasting.

FISHER: I mean, look, I think that we have been working and building up the foundation for this moment since the Sandy Hook massacre.

HAYES: That was like a real sort of disjunctive moment, right. I mean...

FISHER: It was. You know, I think you saw Americans coming forward. They were galvanized. They thought that there would be meaningful reform at the federal level and it didn`t happen. Congress sat on their hands.

But we have seen state and local legislatures making -- enacting laws that are meaningful and are effective at the state and local level. And now I think what we`re seeing is that Americans realize that until we see change at the federal level, 30,000 Americans are going to continue to die, not just in mass shootings, but, you know, the suicide rate is going to continue to go up and kids in disproportionately communities are continuing to suffer.

So, until I think that Americans are willing to come forward at the polls and vote accordingly, we will not necessarily see meaningful change in congress.

HAYES: Well, and part of what is remarkable about maturity that you spoke about is -- I`ve just been watching the interview of some of these student activists, and they are talking about their -- you know, they`re talking about their solutions that don`t increase incarceration, that don`t exacerbate racial disparities. They`re talking about the danger of having more armed police in schools and what that would mean, there really is a sort of analysis being brought to bear here.

WARREN: Well, they`re being intersectional without using the term, in a sense, right, of bringing together issues of race and class and gender and in this case generation and age.

It`s so helpful, because the other element of successful social movements is to recruit new people to the fight. So, this is an entirely new group of people, young people that are in this fight and will be in this fight for a long time.

And then secondly, how do they maneuver around entrenched interests and opponents? And so I don`t think it`s insignificant that in Florida last week, an imperfect bill passed, but it dethroned the power of the NRA. That`s a huge significant moment.

HAYES: They`d never lost.

SHARPTON: But I think it also shows that, you know, many of us that have come out of communities and are in communities where this is normal, as she said, where you have gun violence almost all the time. Look at Chicago, look at Baltimore, look at even all of the urban centers -- this has given a lot of those young people as Dr. King used to say, where you become maladjusted, because you cannot adjust to gun violence. Those kids said today we`re no longer going to accept this as normal.

HAYES: If you get a chance to look on social media today, there`s just a lot of amazing images of teenagers. Again, it`s across he country, the sort of amazing patchwork of American youth.

Rebecca Fisher, Dorian Warren, the Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you for joining us. That was great.

HAYES: That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.