Trump lawyer floated pardons for Flynn and Manafort. TRANSCRIPT: 03/28/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Kara Swisher, Jennifer Rubin, Barbara Boxer

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 28, 2018 Guest: Kara Swisher, Jennifer Rubin, Barbara Boxer

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: ALL IN with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet.

HAYES: A New York Times bombshell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say unequivocally that no one here has discussed pardons in this case?

HAYES: The president`s lawyer reportedly floated pardons for Flynn and Manafort before they were charged.

TRUMP: I`ve always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man.

HAYES: Tonight, the reporter who broke the story and what this means for the obstruction case against the President?

Then, did the Special Counsel just file evidence of Trump campaign collusion with Russia?

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: That`s what he said, that`s what I said, that`s obviously what our position is.

HAYES: Plus, the President announces the firing of the V.A. Secretary on Twitter. And Apple CEO Tim Cook on Mark Zuckerberg`s current predicament.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t be in this situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

HAYES: More from Kara Swisher and my exclusive interview when ALL IN starts right now.

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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. At every turn, the President has tried to undermine or hinder the Special Counsel Russia investigation of Robert Mueller. And now it turns out his legal team explored taking an absolutely extraordinary step to shield two of Mueller`s key targets, a presidential pardon. New York Times reporting today that President`s personal attorney John Dowd raise the idea of pardoning Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, both former top Trump aide as Mueller was building cases against those two men. Now, John Dowd who resigned from the President`s legal team just last week reportedly discussed potential pardons with Flynn and Manafort`s lawyers last summer. Since then, of course, Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and is now crucially cooperating with Mueller`s probe while Manafort faces two separate criminal trials on dozens of charges including money laundering and other financial fraud.

Dowd denies the Times story which was reported by five of the paper`s top journalists and attributed to two unnamed sources. But President`s current lead attorney Jay Sekulow, the last man standing as it were also claims that pardons have not been discussed and Ty Cobb who represents the White House, he`s a taxpayer-funded employee, in the Russia probe released a very carefully worded statement. "I have only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the recorded that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House." Asked about the report today, the White House Press Secretary repeatedly just referred back to Cobb`s statement claiming to have no first-hand knowledge of any pardon discussions.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the President direct John Dowd to talk to the attorney of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn about potential pardons?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: I`m not aware of any conversations of that nature at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the President have a reaction to these revelations?

SANDERS: Again --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask him specifically?

SANDERS: I did not talk to him about it specifically. But again, I`ve been in a number of conversations. It`s never come up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: OK, now as we know this White House does not have the best track record on things like facts or accuracy or denials that you can take to the bank and this is not the first indication the President has considered pardoning key witnesses or targets in the Mueller investigation. In fact, last summer, around the same period that was cited today by the Times, the Washington Post reported that Trump and I quote here, asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself according to one of those people. One day after that report was published, the President tweeted, "while I`ll agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is leaks against us. Fake news." Months later after Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to a federal crime, signed on as a cooperating witness, the President did not rule out the possibility of granting him a pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once and for all --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask you about Michael -- about Michael Flynn? Would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?

TRUMP: I don`t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We`ll see what happens. Let`s see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: MSNBC National Security Contributor Michael Schmidt is one of the Reporters who`s broke the story for the New York Times. All right, first, let`s talk about the timing and the context under which these discussions happened.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: So this happened last summer. This was at a time that Mueller was building his cases against Manafort and Flynn. This was when they were trying to figure out what evidence the government had. And there was concern within the President`s circle about what cooperation from these two would look like particularly by Flynn who had been around for the entire campaign and obviously for the first three weeks in the White House before he was fired.

HAYES: OK, but -- so the context is that the cases are building. There`s a worry I guess that they`re going to -- they`re going to talk and Dowd is talking to Flynn`s lawyers and Manafort`s lawyers individually and sort of floating the idea what if the President were to pardon you?

SCHMIDT: Dowd had the lead in dealing with both of these lawyers. They had non -- they had basically agreements to work together to strategize and share information together and it was in the course of those discussions that he raised that. Now, the question is, is that was Dowd doing this on his own? Was he out simply freelancing raising this with them, or was he doing it at the President`s behest? People that know Dowd find it hard to believe that he would go out and do something like that without talking to his client.

HAYES: And there`s precedent here. Dowd once claiming that he wrote a tweet the President sent out saying that Flynn was fired for lying to the FBI even though that wasn`t that plausible. Dowd is denying this report. So he`s saying it`s not true. Is he lying?

SCHMIDT: Well, look, we got to a point that we felt very comfortable with the information that we had. We did a lot of work on this. And as you`ve seen some folks have gotten this confirmed, as well. When I talked to Dowd today, it was interesting though, he said I don`t know what we would have pardoned Flynn for. He said I don`t know what Flynn did wrong. He said Comey and Sally Yates had said that Flynn didn`t do anything wrong so I don`t know what he would pardon him for. And this mirrored some of the reporting that we had done that showed that Dowd was telling people close to the investigation that he and the President thought the case against Flynn was flimsy and that there was nothing there. So that added up in terms of what Dowd was telling us on the record today.

HAYES: So he raises this according to your reporting with both lawyers while they`re being investigated by Mueller. They`re ultimately indicted, like, what if the President were to pardon you. What happens after that is floated according to your reporting?

SCHMIDT: Well, that`s the thing. It looks like Manafort was not interested in it. Manafort has long pain maintained his innocence. He said he`s done nothing wrong and thinks this is a government overreach and he says he wants to fight it. On Flynn behalf, look, Flynn went and accepted a plea agreement from Mueller. He did not count on a pardon from Trump. Now, why did he do that? We don`t know. It`s probably a safer path maybe to go with Mueller. Maybe Flynn`s lawyers were concerned that taking a pardon would be obstruction. We don`t know. But in the end, Flynn does accept a plea agreement last November and has been working with Mueller since then.

HAYES: All right, Michael Schmidt, great reporting. Thank you.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal is a Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who`s been calling on Congress from the Justice Department to protect the Mueller investigation. And your reaction to the reporting the President`s own personal attorney floats the possibility of a Presidential pardon as both men are being targeted for possible indictment, ultimately indicted by the special prosecutor.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It`s powerful damning evidence of obstruction of justice particularly corrupt intent. It has to be investigated by the Special Counsel. He has to talk to Dowd and -- under oath. And if the attorney/client privilege is an obstacle, he may be able to pierce it because of the crime-fraud exception. And a complete investigation of this aspect of possible obstruction of justice is absolutely necessary by the Special Counsel.

HAYES: Michael Schmidt in the Times raising the possibility of obstruction. I want to read this to you. "Mr. Mueller`s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry. The legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice." Do you have an opinion on that?

BLUMENTHAL: The conventional wisdom, Chris, is that the pardon power is very broad, virtually limitless discretion. But it`s not so broad that it can be used to commit a crime to stymie or thwart an investigation, that is for a corrupt purpose. And so what we have here is potential use of that power to commit a crime to save himself to stop or stymie an investigation. The second point is that those cases about the broad and limitless discretion of the President are very old. They date from 1867 and 1871 and I think a court viewing what the President`s done here would be absolutely furious at his contempt for the rule of law, not to say he hasn`t demonstrated contempt for the rule of law continuously as President but in this instance, his misconduct goes to the core of the integrity of the criminal justice system. And I think that they could well make an exception or in effect rewrite the rule so as to apply and restrict his unbridled supposedly discretion.

HAYES: So there`s a lag here and it`s a little hard sometimes to keep track of the chronology right? Like, we know that the President tried to get Don McGahn to fire the Special Counsel again, last year. We only find out about it months later. This reporting about last summer, this being floated we`re finding out about it now. And the reason I raise that is that you and a bunch of your colleagues had a lot to say yesterday about protecting Mueller. It seemed to me out of nowhere, all of a sudden, Chris Coons and Thom Tillis bipartisan statement about protecting Mueller. A letter from Senate Democrats and you go in a tweet storm saying Trump tweets becoming more erratic and extreme as Special Counsel comes closer requiring public pressure from top DOJ officials who refuse orders to fire Mueller, Saturday Night Massacre now looming larger. Was there is something that set you off yesterday?

BLUMENTHAL: Really a combination of factors here as the pressure on the President grows greater. The erratic and extreme tweets that he has been sending, the prospect of three witnesses cooperating, three very potentially powerful witnesses with evidence against him. And his perhaps growing fear and above all perhaps these kinds of threats from his surrogates and others in Congress that they would stop the investigation. What I`ve asked the top officials of the Department of Justice to do who may be in the line of succession, Rod Rosenstein, if he`s fired, that they commit that they will not fire Robert Mueller that they will in no way restrict his authority and that they will continue the investigation without any interference. And that`s very important to avoid the kind of constitutional conflagration that we saw with the Saturday Night Massacre which occurred because Ruckelshaus and Richardson made the same kind of pledge and raised the country`s awareness and conscience about the Nixonian excess of power.

HAYES: I just want to be clear though. You did you not get some sort of specific behind the scenes intelligence or warning or something passed to you yesterday that caused you and your colleagues to raise that alarm yesterday?

BLUMENTHAL: There had been swirling continuous reports unconfirmed and unspecific but still deeply concerning.

HAYES: That`s not a no.

BLUMENTHAL: No specific sign, but there`s too much smoke here for there to be no fire.

HAYES: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks for your time tonight.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

HAYES: For more on what this pardon news tells us about the President`s legal strategy, I`m joined by former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman, former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler both of whom are MSNBC Legal Analysts. Well, it certainly doesn`t look great.

NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I doesn`t even look close to great. I mean, this -- I agree with Senator Blumenthal. This is obstruction of justice. You can do legal actions that can amount to an obstruction. I`ll give you an example. As a defense lawyer, I can advise a client to take the Fifth Amendment. However, if my advice is given because I don`t want my client to rat me out and point the finger at me for having committing a crime, then I have the corrupt intent to impede, influence and undermine the investigation and I would be guilty of obstruction of justice for doing an innocent act which would normally be an innocent act of advising a client because what`s in my head my intent is corrupt.

HAYES: Right. That`s really crucial thing to keep in mind here, right? You can take legal action that because of the intent of the said legal action is actually illegal and obstruction of justice.

AKERMAN: That`s exactly right. And that`s why using the pardon power to obstruct this investigation, it doesn`t make any difference if it`s the pardon power or any other legal action if your intent is to impede.

HAYES: Right, Paul, you`re nodding your head.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So timing and context is everything here, Chris. So remember, Flynn is the target of a grand jury investigation. Manafort is about to be indicted. Their lawyer, Trump`s lawyer knows that they`re going to be pressured to snitch on Trump. So Trump`s lawyer goes to their lawyers and says, let`s see if we can work out a little something-something. My client happens to have this extraordinary power to pardon anybody. You know what I`m saying? The legal term for that is obstruction of justice. The fact that the President does have this pardon power doesn`t mean that if he uses it to thwart an investigation against himself that it`s not obstruction of justice. So again, it`s the same as when he fired Comey. He has the constitutional power, the legal authority to fire Comey but it`s still evidence of his corrupt intent.

HAYES: This brings to us this tricky issue that I feel like as we`re moving forward which is the case for obstruction seems to me very strong just on the face. I mean, if this weren`t the President, if we`re talking about someone else, all the actions he`s taken, but the question of like, what do you do with and what does that amount to in the absence of him having some sort of underlying thing that he did or what Mueller could even do with it.

AKERMAN: Well, you could do it by yourself. I mean, all of the Watergate figures were convicted for obstruction of justice. There wasn`t any --

HAYES: Not the President, you`re saying the people around him.

AKERMAN: Right, around Nixon, all people around Nixon were convicted for obstruction of justice. There was no proof that John Mitchell, the Attorney General broke into the Watergate or was involved in that. So it could be brought as a separate crime. However, I think here you`re going to see an underlying crime that the obstruction is going to be the motive for. And that I think is going to be critical to this prosecution.

HAYES: Paul?

BUTLER: I always agree with my man, Nick. So he`s right, but I don`t think Mueller would actually bring an obstruction case without collusion. But here`s the thing. Trump is sure acting like Michael Flynn has the dirt on him and Trump is acting like he will do anything to prevent that dirt from coming out. The good news from our democracy is that Special Counsel Mueller already knows so Flynn has pled guilty. He`s cooperating with Mueller. So Mr. President, a pardon at this point won`t do you any good.

HAYES: Well, that`s the other question. I mean the idea -- I mean, there was this period where it seemed like pardon really entered the discussion. That`s when we got are you going to pardon Flynn on the White House lawn? We got the tweet about it. We got the reporting. We`re now getting confirmatory reporting later that it was on the table. You wonder if that resurfaces at some point.

AKERMAN: Look, even if he does pardon him, you still have the State Attorney General in New York who can come in and fill the vacuum. There are some crimes under the New York penal code that are better than some of the crimes that can be used under the federal criminal code.

HAYES: Spoken like a real prosecutor.

AKERMAN: And if you had a choice between Rikers Island and Club Fed, what would you take?

HAYES: So where -- what about the idea -- I mean, what is the meta-story here with Dowd? Where -- it`s a strange thing for us to be learning this right now and I don`t want to -- I don`t know who the sources are. But it`s interesting to me that Dowd leaves and now we`re getting this presumably not from the Dowd himself. What do you make of that, Paul?

BUTLER: You know, the President doesn`t so much like lawyers as fixers. And so he gets these people to do things that I think are questionably in terms of ethics but they do it. And at some point, they start to have regrets. And so, Dowd has now resigned. His posture publicly was that he wanted the President to cooperate with the investigation, but he did not want the President to go into an interview with Mueller because he knows that Mueller would eat the President alive. So I think I can`t imagine a more difficult job than being a lawyer for Donald Trump. So my sympathy goes out to these guys.

HAYES: Nick Akerman and Paul Butler, great to have you both. Next, how Robert Mueller may have just drawn the most direct line yet between the Trump campaign and Russian collusion, the window into the Mueller investigation in two minutes.

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HAYES: Special Counsel Robert Mueller may have drawn his most direct line yet between the Trump campaign and Russia. In a newly filed document, Mueller reveals the significance of an individual he describes as Person A, was a business associate of Trump Campaign`s former Chairman Paul Manafort and crucially former Deputy Chairman Rick Gates. "That Gates and Person A were directly communicating," and here`s the really significant part, in September and October 2016, right? This is after Manafort leaves, Gates is still there right before the election, that that was pertinent to the investigation. FBI special agents assisting the Special Counsel`s office assessed that Person A, the person that Gates is talking to has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. According to The New York Times, a person with knowledge of the matter identified Person A as Konstantin Kilimnik who for years was Mr. Manafort`s right-hand man in Ukraine. MSNBC Contributor Natasha Bertrand is a Staff Writer for the Atlantic covering national security in the intelligence community and MSNBC Terrorism Analyst Malcolm Nance, a veteran U.S. Intelligence Analyst, the Author of The Plot to Hack America. All right, let`s start. It`s a little complicated because we`ve got these characters here. So let`s start with Kilimnik. Kilimnik is who, Natasha?

NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So Kilimnik is a Ukrainian-Russian dual citizen and he worked for Manafort and Gates for years Kiev. He was essentially their translator. And he worked for Russian military intelligence back in the 80s as a translator. He got his training there and then he left and he went to work for another institute in the `90s. He was recruited from that institute by Phil Griffin, one of Manafort`s top spokesman in Ukraine to do all this translating work. But essentially U.S. intelligence officials, according to this filing, now believe that he still has those ties to Russian military intelligence that he had back when he was training there as linguist. So now we have Paul Manafort of course getting into the new cast of characters here. Paul Manafort and Rick Greats who were in touch with someone who had Russian military intelligence ties during the campaign thereby drawing the most direct line as you said between the campaign and Russia that we`ve seen.

HAYES: And not just that. Just a reminder to folks because this character has arisen before. Remember when the e-mails come out, Paul Manafort gets the job on the campaign and he sends an e-mail to someone on the ground in Ukraine saying has this is Russian oligarch we do a lot of business seen this? Can we use this job to get me at hold? The person he`s sending those e-mails to is this individual, right, Konstantin Kilimnik, is that right, Natasha?

BERTRAND: Correct. And he actually met with Konstantin twice during the campaign, once in May and another time in August, they met in person and at least one of those conversation, they did discuss the presidential campaign. So not only did they exchange those e-mails in the spring of 2016, they also met face-to-face twice during that year.

HAYES: All right, so he got Kilimnik, he`s in Ukraine, he`s on the ground for Manafort and Gates. We know Manafort`s e-mailing of him about getting on the campaign, about using it as a means to get made whole whatever that means with a very shady Russian oligarch. Malcolm, this question of ties to Russian intelligence, I always feel like that terms ties is very non- specific. I never know what to do with it in any kind of news reporting, people would say ties to terrorists, ties to organized crime, ties to intelligence. How should we interpret that here?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, first off, Kilimnik`s background as a translator is not just a translator, he was an officer of the GRU, Russian military intelligence. They don`t just produce translators to go out in the field and do point to point interpretation. He was either from the clandestine service side as a human intelligence officer or he`s from their signals intelligence side which means he`s still out there collecting intelligence on people and that was his background. When he was in the Ukraine working with Manafort as the translator so to speak, he was also a liaison. He would have to be a liaison. Every good translator is the middle man 0 who gets you your points of contact.

HAYES: Right.

NANCE: And also hands off information. Kilimnik being tied to Russian military intelligence could be he is no longer an active service officer, he`s a civilian who is in direct communications with known intelligence officers and is still handling people for them.

HAYES: OK, so now here`s the thing that popped out to me the most. I want to get both of you to respond to it by I want to set it up because it is a little confusing. So this document from Mueller was in the charging of this lawyer Alex van der Zwaan who was the one who is working with Manafort and Gates and was convicted or pleaded to lying to the investigators, right? Now, here`s the thing that`s fascinating about this. During his first interview with the Special Counsel`s office, Alex van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, meaning the intelligence connection between Person A and Russian intel stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian intelligence officer with the GRU. Natasha, the issue here now becomes, did Gates know that Kilimnik was talking to, working with Russian military intelligence as he is talking to him during the campaign, right?

BERTRAND: Well, the Special Counsel says that he at least told Van der Zwaan that Kilimnik was former GRU. So that was kind of an open secret. Whether or not he knew that he was still connected to Russian military intelligence during 2016 kind of remains to be seen. But I think it`s really interesting because what we also see in this court filing is that Mueller deems this pertinent to the investigation. He thinks that Kilimnik is a valuable tie perhaps between the Trump campaign and Russia. And the fact that he`s now using Gates` words against Kilimnik because Kilimnik has essentially denied ever having any ties to Russian Military intelligence, he acknowledges that he was trained at a school for translators but he says that he was never recruited by the intelligence services. So the fact now that Gates and of course Phil Griffin, Manafort`s spokesman in Ukraine are now coming and saying no, it was actually an open secret is pretty remarkable.

HAYES: What do you think, Malcolm?

NANCE: Well, you know, I think it`s remarkable in the effect that he actually traded on his -- on his past you know, links to Russian military intelligence that that`s what his job was in the past. But there`s just no way you could be running around this sphere of influence within Moscow dealing with Oleg Deripaska, dealing with Yanukovych, all these big player who are very close to Putin and not have this particular string being pulled in one way or the other.

HAYES: Right. Natasha Bertrand and Malcolm Nance, thank you.

BERTRAND: Thanks, Chris.

NANCE: My pleasure.

HAYES: And another Trump cabinet firing announced on Twitter. The member of Trump world that is taking his place right after this.

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TRUMP: We`re having a meeting tonight at what we call effectively the southern White House. It seems to be the most convenient location. Everybody always wants to go to the southern White House. Are you going to be at that meeting? You heard about it right? Great. All about the VA.

(END VIDEO CLP)

HAYES: Yes, have you heard about the meeting about the VA that we`re going to have tonight at the southern White House that you, the head of the VA, won`t be at?

Donald Trump today announced on Twitter that David Shulkin, the man there seen grimacing and nodding, the head of Veterans Affairs, is stepping down to be replaced by the president`s personal physician. No, no, not that the personal physician, the man who once wrote that Trump would be, quote, "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." No, no, not that one. This one, Dr. Ronny Jackson, who coincidentally said earlier this year the president was just one pound shy of obesity.

Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post. There`s a pattern here. There`s a bunch of patterns. One is leaving Shulkin out to dry, which he likes to do. Two is not firing him in person, and three is picking someone that he knows personally.

JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Correct. And someone who has gilded the lily, to put it mildly, on his behalf. And a fourth would be someone who has absolutely no qualifications for the job. Simply because have you been a doctor, does not mean you`re qualified to a run mammoth bureaucracy with all kinds of long-term embedded management issues. He has not been a hospital administrator. He hasn`t run a large organization. And way back when when the Senate used to consider its job to be serious and would actually go through a vetting process, they would say to people like this I`m sorry, you`re not qualified for the job.

But what Trump knows is that the Republicans in the Senate will rubber stamp just about anyone he sends up there. So, he will send up anyone. And he will send up someone who really has no qualification other than the fact he`s personally loyal, and frankly willing to sort of shade the truth for the president. And that`s a bad thing for the United States.

HAYES: We should say that Dr. Ronny Jackson is very well respected, that he was in that position before. Obama world people sing his praises to the high heavens. I want to bring in former Senator Barbara Boxer of California to ask you, senator, this, which is Jennifer`s point, which is - - if I`m not mistaken, I think this is maybe the second largest administrative job in the federal government.

Is this person qualified for the job? Should the Senate confirm him?

BARBARA BOXER, FORMER CALIFORNIA SENATOR: I don`t know enough about him, which is right away saying what? This is a huge operation. It`s got hundreds of thousands of employees. It`s headed toward I believe $200 billion, one of the largest entities, but I think what this is about is follow the money, because I think the problem that Shulkin had, outside of the fact that he had some ethical lapses, but by the way, nothing like others in the administration, which we could get into, such as Zinke or Mnuchin or Carson, just to name a few, it`s really that will Shulkin went slow on privatization. And when you say follow the money, that`s the answer. You know, I know this because I`ve seen it over the years. And the Veterans Administration has a lot of problems. And Shulkin was starting to fix those problems, Obama and Trump.

But the whole goal here is to, you know, frankly take all that money and give it over to some of Donald`s friends. I think that`s what this is about. And I think there`s going to be a whole lot of screaming from veterans organizations who don`t want to lose the VA.

HAYES: I want to be clear, because there`s a lot of reporting that supports that. Nancy Pelosi`s statement today mentioning that there`s been a longstanding effort to essentially privatize the VA, and lots of reporting that interpreted the sort of Shulkin battles happening inside were essentially a proxy war over that policy direction.

But there`s also the question, Jennifer, of the sort of Harriet Miers test. You know, Jonathan Swan, I think, reporting that someone told him off the record this is Harriet Miers again, who is the president`s White House tried to elevate her to the Supreme Court and Republicans, Repblicans said no.

RUBIN: Right.

Well, unfortunately, that sort of check on the system doesn`t happen much. And although I think there are good and real policy debates that are going on and will be going on, I think Shulkin very much like the other people that Senator Boxer named did dig his own grave, abusing once aain, the taxpayers` money by paying for a vacation for himself and his wife, perhaps not being entirely honest, and then becoming kind of a paranoid lunatic having people stand guard, really going to war with his staff to the point in which it was becoming an embarrassment even for this White House, I suppose.

So I would go back a couple steps and say, listen, Shulkin may not have been the right person for this president to have appointed, but we know, as we know with every other position, whoever comes next is going to be worse. And that`s going to be the pattern throughout the administration.

He was starting with a very low talent pool to begin with, because people who were honest, who were capable, who had criticized him took them out of the running or he took them out. So, you begin with a lower than average starting pool. And now that he`s circling through and throwing these people off, each successive replacement gets worse and worse and now you really are down to people who are only there, because Trump met with him once or they said what he wanted to say or they were good on TV.

And you remember this guy was good on TV. He gave a press conference that was one of the better ones that anyone in this administration has given. So, that`s enough for Donald Trump.

HAYES: Senator, it seems to me that if your concern, and I think a lot of concern by Democrats and others about the future of the VA, that this is one of those times when the appointment itself becomes a kind of point of action of rallying to have exactly that fight.

BOXER: Oh, absolutely it does. And it`s a very important point because if you listen to the veterans, they don`t want to lose the VA. They really don`t. But again what you see with Donald Trump is, how much he can really help his friends.

You know, I hate to bring up Russia again, but you talk about oligarchs, you talk about people who have basically taken big companies that belong to the country and they stole it, you know? And that`s a whole other show you could do.

But there is a big -- there are many people out there who are just chomping at the bit to get that $200 billion. And I think that`s what`s important.

It`s what`s important are the vets themselves. Let`s hear what they say. And I don`t think you know, the leadership it should come from anyone but the vets. And let`s hear what they say. They`ve put their lives on the line. They`re suffering from PTSD. They need a VA that they can trust and that they can know is there for them.

HAYES: Yeah, it`s the largest, the closest thing we have to socialized medicine in America. And there`s lots of people who have had a target painted on it for awhile. Jennifer Rubin and Barbara Boxer, thank you.

Be sure to listen to Senator Boxer`s new podcast, Fight Back with Barbara Boxer, which launches tomorrow.

All right, ahead an MSNBC special event as the country learns more just about the power and influence of Silicon Valley in ways good and bad had in the election. I co-hosted a town hall with one who knows the Silicon Valley as well as anyone: Apple`s CEO Tim Cook. More on that coming up.

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

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HAYES: Thing One tonight, when The New York Times dropped its bombshell story today that Donald Trump`s lawyer had raised the idea of pardons for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort as special counsel Robert Meuller was building his cases against them, Twitter predictably blew up with reaction from Trump watchers. Congressman Eric Swalwell, who sits on the House intelligence committee, said breaking new Trump Russia evidence unearthed.

Friend of the show Matt Miller tweeted, "this is just straight up corruption. Every lever Trump has to try and impede the investigation he has used. From Harvard professor Lawrence Tribe: "pardon me? More #obstructionofjustice."

And then, well then we noticed this one from Twitter user George Conway who commented simply, quote, this is flabbergasting. And we agreed, George Conway, husband of Donald Trump`s top adviser Kellyanne Conway. It is flabbergasting. George Conway`s rogue twitter account is Thing Two in 60 seconds.

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HAYES: Kellyanne Conway is, of course, one of the president`s most trusted advisers and she always is ready to come out and deliver the Trump line.

Take a listen to this one example about presidential pardons.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House prepping pardons for everyone?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The answer is no. And I discussed this with the president directly, that`s another part of the hoax.

His point is exactly what he says at the end of that tweet, which is that why are we talking about -- there`s nothing to pardon. There`s no one to pardon. Why are we talking about presidential pardons where there`s not presidential crime.

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HAYES: Hmm. Nothing to pardon. No one to pardon. See, right on message. Unfortunately for Kellyanne, her own husband appears to have gone way off message, calling the news that Trump`s lawyer did discuss pardons for two of his former aides last year, quote, flabbergasting and that is just the latest in a series of tweets from George Conway where he appears to be trolling the Trump White House.

Mr. Conway was a quiet infrequent Twitter user until this month when he unleashed about 200 tweets and retweets roughly half of which are critical of Trump, according to the Huffington Post.

George Conway certainly has a right to his own opinion no matter who his wife works for. And we know how Kellyanne feels about a man`s right to tweet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: Literally people will seriously say can`t you delete his Twitter app?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was actually one of my questions.

CONWAY: Of course. It`s not for me to take away a grown man`s Twitter account.

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HAYES: Have you noticed that Donald Trump is laying very low, like lock down level low. For five straight days, the president of the United States has not made a single public appearance. But while Trump stays hidden, his legal problems just keep growing. Last night, shortly after he appeared on this very program, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, filed a motion in federal court seeking to depose Trump and lawyer Michael Cohen for no more than two hours.

If the effort is successful, Trump will have to explain, under oath, what he knew about the $130,000 hush money payment made to Daniels shortly before the election to cover up her alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

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MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS ATTORNEY: What we want is we want the truth. I mean, we want to know the truth about what the president knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it as it relates to this agreement. We`re going to test the veracity or the truthfulness of Mr. Cohen`s, his attorney`s, statements. And we`re confident, Gail (ph), that when we get to the bottom of this, we`re going to prove to the American people that they have been told a bucket of lies.

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HAYES: A hearing on the motion is set for April 30th. Meanwhile, federal judge has ruled that D.C. and Maryland may proceed with a lawsuit against Trump alleging that Trump`s business dealings have violated the constitution`s ban on receiving improper emoluments or payments from individual states and foreign governments.

At issue is the Trump International Hotel in D.C., which has has become an absolute magnet for foreign officials since Trump`s election. And the plaintiffs claim those officials are effectively making an illegal and unconstitutional payment to Trump and that the arrangement has hurt nearby businesses.

And then of course, there`s Trump`s own legal team. Ten different lawyers have either turned down offers to work for the president or left his team as he has continued to grapple with Robert Mueller`s investigation, a situation that prompted a defensive sounding Trump to insist that many lawyers in top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case.

Now, Trump has finally found someone willing to take the job, kind of. Trump`s legal team has elevated a little known Atlanta attorney named Andrew Ekonomou, who is already assisting one of Trump`s personal attorneys to a more significant role on the legal team. No word on whether Trump is still looking for more people willing to defend him. But with all the legal troubles, it`s safe to say this particular president really could use all the lawyers he can get.

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HAYES: In an attempt to win back the trust of Facebook`s users after data firm Cambridge Analytica got access to the private information of 50 million of its users, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to try and explain what happened before congress in two weeks.

Now, the Cambridge Analytica story has created a crisis for Facebook and a whole new level of scrutiny for Silicon Valley more broadly.

Earlier today, Recode`s Cara Swisher and I had a chance to interview the CEO of the biggest company in Silicon Valley, and indeed the biggest in the world, by market cap, Tim Cook of Apple.

During the interview, which will air in full next week right here on MSNBC, I ask Cook what he thought of the Facebook scandal and about regulation.

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TIM COOK, CEO, APPLE: We`ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people that have incredibly deep, personal information that is patched together from several sources, should exist, that the connection of all of these dots, that you could use them in such devious ways if someone wanted to do that, that this was one of the things that were possible in life, but shouldn`t exist.

CARA SWISHER, RECODE: Right.

COOK: Shouldn`t be allowed to exist.

And so I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation. That is the best regulation, because regulation can have unexpected consequences, right?

However, I think we`re beyond that here. And I do think that it`s time for a set of people to think deeply about what can be done here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: And my co-host, Cara Swisher, asked about the issue of privacy. The Apple CEO did not hold back.

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COOK: We`re looking at every app in detail. What is it doing? Is it doing what it`s saying it`s doing? Is it meeting the privacy policy that they`re stating, right? This is something we`ve always felt, you know...

SWISHER: Mark Zuckerberg, what would you do?

COOK: What would I do? I wouldn`t be in this situation.

SWISHER: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

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HAYES: And back with me is Cara Swisher, executive editor of Recode, host of the podcast Recode, Decode, and my co-host for that Apple town hall.

What did you think of that, Cara?

SWISHER: Well, it was something else. He came to play, I think. He really did make a lot of statements. It was a great conversation on a range of issues, not just Facebook, but on immigration, on education and all kinds of things, and privacy.

But I think you know him calling for regulation, calling the situation dire was really striking, because people think of Silicon Valley as a monolith, and obviously it isn`t. There are a lot of people who disagree with each other there.

HAYES: That`s what -- one of the most interesting things to me was seeing that in real-time, right, because the business model for Apple is different, the business model for Facebook and Google is different from Amazon, and so from his perspective he was happy to kind of talk about some of the sort of flaws and weaknesses of those other business models.

I thought the exchange on Amazon, another one of the sort of big titans of Silicon Valley is interesting. I want to play that and get your reaction. Take a listen.

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COOK: We`re not doing the beauty contest kind of thing. We`re not -- that`s not Apple.

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HAYES: What do you think about the beauty contest model? I`m watching cities line up to essentially throw subsidies and in some cases hundreds of millions of tax dollars at Amazon to get them to come. You`ve got Foxconn in Wisconsin that signed this big contract and the subsidies are now looking like they`re hundreds of millions of dollars there. What do you make of that kind of competition?

COOK: I think that each state, I think a great thing about the U.S. is, is freedom. And I think if states want to compete for things, then god bless them. I think that`s, that`s sort of, that`s a part of America. And so I don`t, I don`t condemn it. I think it`s their decision.

But from our point of view, we didn`t want to create this contest, because I think, because I think what comes out of that is you wind up putting people through a ton of work to select one. And so you wind up -- that is a case where you have a winner and a lot of losers, unfortunately. I don`t like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: What did you think of that?

SWISHER: I thought that was striking. I mean, a lot of people -- Amazon`s done a great job in getting people interested in Amazon and what it`s doing to bring jobs to the U.S. And I think they`ve created a contest, and he was sort of giving it a back of the hand.

HAYES: He was -- it was interesting to watch more broadly just sort of his worldview and how he`s approaching this. You know, this kind of ethos of Silicon Valley is so -- it struck me there. It`s strong. It`s almost kind of like a catechism for a lot of them, right, this idea of meritocracy, that equal opportunity, education is going to sort of solve American inequalities, globalization is a fact. Do you think his worldview is particularly distinct? Or is it what those in the Valley kind of share?

SWISHER: Well, he`s an -- you know, they`re from an older group of companies. You know, Facebook and Google are newer, and Apple has been around a while. And, you know, Tim Cook, is an older executive. He`s more experienced. He leads a much more complicated company, which has dealt with lots of controversies over the years. And I think what he is trying to say is that, you know, we`ve got a -- this is a new era. I think he used the word dire many times as an important era for tech to step up to their responsibilities.

But I think he showed that tech companies are different. It`s not a monolith. And at the same time, he was pushing the Silicon Valley line is that we can help. We`re here to -- you know, we can help people with education, with jobs, and other things. And you don`t have to be scared of us and the future.

HAYES: They have, I think -- Apple a little less so, although I think they may be in a similar situation, but it`s interesting to watch conservative media go after Facebook right now, Facebook and Google. And the ways in which they are facing critics on both the left and the right, which I think is a dangerous and perilous political situation for them.

SWISHER: For Facebook and Google? Absolutely. I think everybody is sort of angry at them. And the idea -- you konw, this stuff has been going on for years, but I think because of Trump all this political stuff has entered the picture and it`s created divisions. And they are at the center of media. They`re at the center of distribution of communications, and so it feels as if their platforms have been misused. In Facebook`s case, the main Facebook platform in Google`s place, YouTube more than anything. And so I think people feel that something`s happened here that isn`t quite so friendly and wonderful, as tech has been.

Tom Friedman wrote about it today. The first inning was wonderful. The second inning, maybe a little more difficult.

HAYES: He was also pretty outspoken about immigration, specifically, DACA today.

SWISHER: Yeah, he was. It was really -- you know, I think he essentially found it appalling. And he used an unusual metaphor. He said that guns should not have been fired and thought it was sort of against -- he made a moral argument about the idea of DACA and keeping these Dreamers in this country.

HAYES: Yeah, Cara Swisher was my co-host for today`s event. We did it in Chicago at the great Lane Tech High School (ph). Thank to everyone there who hosted us. And I enjoyed it, Cara, I hope we get to do it again.

SWISHER: We will. We will. We have a lot of stuff to discuss, Chris, a lot of big issues for this country.

HAYES: All right, don`t forget to mark your calendars. Our town hall Revolution: Apple Changing the World airs next Friday, April 6, 8:00 eastern. It was a lot of fun so do not miss it.

That is ALL IN for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

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

END

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