Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: April 16, 2018 Guest: Lisa Green, Adam Schiff, Chris Murphy
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- handed justice, a profile in courage. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I`m obviously very loyal and very dedicated to Mr. Trump.
HAYES: A high stakes hearing for the President in federal court. What do investigators have on Trump`s personal lawyer?
STORMY DANIELS, PORNOGRAPHIC ACTRESS: Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law.
HAYES: Tonight, why a federal judge just rejected Trump`s attempt to intervene. The documents the President doesn`t want his own Justice Department to see. And Michael Cohen`s mystery client revealed.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: The liberal mainstream media, they`ve gone totally off the rails over the FBI`s highly questionable raid on Michael Cohen.
HAYES: Then, Trump versus the Trump White House.
NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Russia sanctions will be coming down.
HAYES: New reporting that Trump blocked the new Russia sanctions. Senator Chris Murphy is here to respond.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: There is a nonzero possibility that the Russians have some sway over him.
HAYES: Plus, a new push from some Republicans to protect Robert Mueller.
And about last night --
COMEY: I don`t think he is medically unfit to be president, I think he is morally unfit to be president.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Well, well, well, a federal judge right here in Manhattan just rejected an effort by the President of the United States to block federal prosecutors from looking at thousands of documents seized last week in the criminal probe of the President`s lawyer and associate Michael Cohen. It was an extraordinary scene at a federal courthouse downtown today where Cohen, the President`s personal lawyer and fixer was ordered to appear in person exactly one week since being raided by the FBI. Now Cohen was joined by a new attorney for the President, Joanna Hendon. That`s her right there representing President Donald Trump in attempts to limit the federal government`s access to those materials they seized last week from Cohen`s office, his home, his hotel room, a safe deposit box, and a number of electronic devices. It was the President`s lawyer in court arguing against the Justice Department prosecutors from the President`s own administration. Also in attendance, just to give it a little more spice, adult film actress Stormy Daniels whose hush money payment before the election is reportedly of interest to those federal prosecutors. Now she has also filed, of course, a civil suit against Michael Cohen that may be delayed while he is under criminal investigation.
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DANIELS: For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law. He has considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump`s fixer. He has played by a different set of rules, or shall we say no rules at all. My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens.
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HAYES: The day began with Cohen attempting to defy a federal judge`s order to reveal the names of his legal clients. There are not many, I should note. Now, Cohen is claiming the raids last week violated attorney-client privilege, threaten his client`s rights, but in a letter to the court this morning, Cohen`s lawyers agreed only to disclose two of his grand total of three clients are. You see them right there. That would a man by the name of Donald Trump, who is President these United States, and a man by the name of Elliott Broidy, who is a Republican fundraiser who you probably hasn`t heard about until well, he resigned from the RNC last week after he was revealed to have paid $1.6 million in hush money, through Michael Cohen again, that guy, to a former playboy playmate he had impregnated. He being there Broidy, not Cohen. It gets confusing. Now Cohen refuse to name client number three. One of his lawyers telling the court the client is a "publicly prominent individual and he didn`t want the name released to the public," piquing of course everyone`s curiosity. The judge however was not having it, forcing Cohen`s team to `fess up. And client number three was revealed to be, drum roll please, none other than Trump T.V. host Sean Hannity, who railed against the Cohen raids last week without disclosing his own connection.
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HANNITY: Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and if possible impeach the President of the United States.
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HAYES: Oh, it`s all hands on deck, Sean. It is definitely all hands on deck. Hannity insists he never formally retained Cohen`s services, claiming they occasionally had brief discussions about legal matters. But the real battle in court today was over how the government would separate out seized materials that fall under the protection of attorney-client privilege from material pertinent to the months-long criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. Now, ordinarily, a group of independent investigators known as the filter team through the FBI and the SDNY, or the taint team would be responsible for doing the separating, withholding any protected documents forever being used in the case. But in a remarkable letter to the judge last night, the president`s own lawyer asked the judge to suspend the government`s usual review process, making investigators instead hand all the seized documents over to none other than Michael Cohen so Cohen and the President could decide what`s okay to use. Think about that for a second. Their argument is that the subject of a criminal investigation who investigators did not trust to turn over material, hence the raids, instead of obtaining a court-approved warrant, should get to rule out what can be used as evidence against them. Not surprisingly the judge rejected the President`s request. Emily Jane Fox was in that courtroom today. She is a Senior Reporter for Vanity Fair and MSNBC Contributor. What a scene.
EMILY JANE FOX, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It was a day today. You know, they were in court all day on Friday. Michael Cohen was not there and Stormy Daniels was not there on Friday either. But I thought it couldn`t get much more spectacular than Friday when you had Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels` attorney walk in and you had a surprise visit from the woman who`s now representing Donald Trump. That was a pretty miraculous day in court. And today it just got even crazier. I have to tell you, the moment -- there was a long drawn out debate over whether or not this third client would be named. It went on for quite a long time, and there was a lot of back and forth. And finally, the judge said this client has to be named. You have no standing under the law. And so Michael Cohen`s attorney said well, I can give it to you in a sealed envelope, or I can just say it out loud, and the judge said well, whatever you feel comfortable with. You can do whatever you want. And it felt like there was that moment, that pause where it was going to happen. They were going to say now, after the commercial break. There was so much tension and build-up and it was such a reality show moment. And when the name Sean Hannity came out of his mouth, not only did most of the audience in the courtroom which was primarily filled with journalists, I don`t -- I don`t know how to describe it, there was a laughter and a sigh and almost-- hands over his head
HAYES: Oh, come on, you got to be kidding me.
FOX: Exactly. But the energy in the room felt like the whole courtroom was going to explode.
HAYES: That -- you see, you`ve got that moment, and we don`t know -- I mean, what the nature of their legal relationship is unclear. There`s sort of I would say slightly different stories coming from each man about it? Would you say that`s fair to say?
FOX: From a source who I talked familiar -- talked to about it who`s familiar with the situation, there was some sort of real estate discussion. I don`t know. I have no backup for that claim.
HAYES: I will just say this. Sean Hannity make (INAUDIBLE) or can higher whatever lawyer he wants to in New York, whatever team of lawyers, whatever troop of lawyer, division of lawyer, army of lawyers. What he is talking to Michael Cohen about legally, that`s sort of interesting, kind of an odd coincidence.
FOX: Michael Cohen is friendly with a lot of personalities in New York, certainly in the media. He deals with people in the media all the time. Every time I have interviewed him, ten reporters will call him the course of the time that I`m interviewing him. So it`s not uncommon for him to speak to reporters.
HAYES: But you don`t -- I mean, people that talk to Michael Cohen don`t have attorney-client privilege, they`re not clients under a court.
FOX: It is certainly unusual and absolutely unexpected, as we could tell by the reaction in the courtroom today.
HAYES: All right, Emily Jane Fox, great to have you. I`m glad you got to witness that firsthand. I`m jealous of that. For more to Michael Cohen`s investigation, I`m joined by former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman and Attorney Lisa Green. Let`s talk about the substance today. So we got judge Kimba Wood, Senior U.S. District Judge who`s presiding over this. The filing by the President of the United States was for what?
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: To try and keep the documents from the prosecutors. What he is concerned about is that Michael Cohen was probably in Prague in the summer of 2016, and there is bound to be evidence in that cache of documents about his visit to Prague. That`s what they`re worried about.
HAYES: Well you don`t know that.
AKERMAN: Well, you do know from the McClatchy report just recently.
HAYES: Yes. There is reason to be --
AKERMAN: There is reason to believe that why else would Donald Trump be going to this length to stop something --
HAYES: Because he doesn`t know -- Nick, because he doesn`t know what`s in there.
AKERMAN: Well, he must know what`s in there because he is not going to care about Stormy Daniels, that`s already out. He doesn`t care about the Playboy bunny, that`s already out. What he is worried about are the -- is the Russian investigation and Cohen`s involvement in Prague and the Trump Tower in Moscow. There are bound to be documented in that seizure that relate to both of those issues which completely undercut the entire Republican narrative that`s been leveled against the Mueller investigation since day one.
HAYES: So you think -- your suspicions that this is all about Russia fundamentally?
AKERMAN: It`s all about Russia.
LISA GREEN, ATTORNEY: I just want to get to a more technical point. Lawyers I know, former federal prosecutors are really outraged about what`s going on. Here`s why. This is not abnormal, having, you know, a clean team and a dirty team to review documents. Lawyers for the SDNY made the point in court filings that look, there`s no -- nothing in it for us to inadvertently give over attorney-client privileged information because then the defense can come at us, sue and maybe the case is done.
HAYES: Of course.
AKERMAN: I used to do this all the time.
GREEN: Yes, there was no incentive to turnover -- hey, B, again, three clients, thousands of documents? One client is someone he had a casual conversation with real estate about like at bar? This is not a giant cache, Chris, of attorney-client privileged information. And to that end, what I would also say is people who are sort of gaming out today`s ruling by Judge Woods are completely missing the forest or the trees because in fact the President and Michael Cohen have sort of already lost this war.
HAYES: Why? What do you mean by that?
GREEN: Because there`s never going to be a wholesale return of all this information.
HAYES: That`s just not happening. This idea that they were -- I mean, the filing which says tell you what, tell you what, why don`t you just go ahead, give us all the evidence. We will look over it, and we will give you what is relevant. There`s no way a federal judge is ever going to ever sign off on that.
AKERMAN: No way. Not in a million years.
HAYES: As a non-lawyer, it sounded preposterous to me, but --
AKERMAN: You`ve got people who believe that the attorney-client privilege applies just because you`re talking to an attorney or attorneys are in the room or attorneys got your documents. That doesn`t work.
HAYES: This seems to be to your point, I mean, it seems to me like the kind of idea here is that Michael Cohen is like, I`ve got a law degree and I`m licensed to practice in New York. Hence, when I`m Talking to you when we`re having a cigar outside the hotel, or we`re maybe coming up with some hustle, we`re doing taxi medallion business, whatever it is, we`re in the umbrella. We`re in the cone of privilege, and it`s all good you. You could say whatever. Not the way it works?
GREEN: Tell that to all the lawyers we know, including ourselves who have worked really diligently when you do a document production, even in a civil case, and you`re carefully reviewing every document and taking notes and stamping it privileged. This is not a joke and it`s not casual.
HAYES: Point being there`s got to be some sort of substantive. Like, attorney-client privilege is a thing that pertains to an actual on-going relationship with an attorney and a client and not just like anything that happens with a lawyer in a room.
AKERMAN: No, you can`t just go to a cocktail party and approach somebody and ask for legal advice. That`s not privilege. There has to be an attorney-client relationship. In New York State you have to have an engagement letter. I mean, according to Hannity, he didn`t even have an engagement letter.
HAYES: Well, that`s the thing. I mean, what do you make of the Hannity part of this?
GREEN: I can`t figure it out but I`ll tell you this. The fact that he didn`t pay his lawyer is definitely not indicative of not having a lawyer- client relationship, because we`ve all chased clients who don`t pay, not to mention pro bono clients for whom you work for free because they`re indigent or because they`re immigrants under -- you know, I`m sure Hannity falls in that --
HAYES: Sean Hannity is not indigent.
GREEN: So for sure this wasn`t pro bono. But the fact that no money exchanged hands is no importance at all.
HAYES: Here`s -- let me just say what -- let me play this. This is Hannity sort of giving his side of the story on this radio show today. Take a listen.
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HANNITY: I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. Not one of any issue I ever dealt with Michael Cohen on ever, ever involved a matter between me and any third party. I never gave him a retainer, never received an invoice, never paid any fees. I might have handed him ten bucks. I definitely want attorney-client privilege on this, something like that.
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HAYES: Is that the way it works?
AKERMAN: Of course not.
HAYES: I give you ten bucks? Here`s ten bucks, give me attorney-client privilege.
AKERMAN: And he must have asked about a parking ticket that he got. I mean, this is ridiculous.
HAYES: Plus, the other thing is that if the Hannity account of it is accurate, it`s weird for Cohen`s lawyers to say we have three clients and one is this guy, that we have this -- right?
GREEN: Chris, go back and look at the letter that Cohen`s lawyer gave to the court on Friday and it goes to great lengths, ambitious lengths to protect the nature, the relationship with this particular unnamed client at the client`s request. Fast forward to today, not so much.
HAYES: And Hannity is saying that I was not a party. I never made this request. So like, someone is not telling the truth here. And that`s just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, your point here, I think which is an important takeaway from today is they are not going to get away with some scheme in which they get the documents back.
GREEN: No. It`s really unfortunate that what we`ve done today is sort of muddy the waters and I hope people don`t leave this with an -- a misunderstanding of how limited the privilege can really be.
AKERMAN: But this is really significant, really significant.
HAYES: I feel pretty clear on that. Nick Akerman and Lisa Green, great help. Thank you both.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
HAYES: Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff is the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee. You`re -- you have worked as a federal prosecutor. You`ve worked in courts. Your response to the President`s personal attorney filing a motion to sort of upends standard operating procedure from the Department of Justice?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What I find refreshing about this, Chris, is the fact that the rule of law won the day here. The President`s lawyer wasn`t treated differently than any other lawyer. The same procedures that would be used in any courtroom in the country to decide what is attorney-client privilege and what is not were applied by this judge, which will probably mean the judge earns the condemnation of the President. But I think it is very encouraging for country to see that no one is above the law, including the President`s lawyer or the President himself. The Justice Department was going to dot every I and cross every T before they ever sought any warrant on an attorney, let alone the President`s attorney. So you have to think they put a lot of thought, did a lot of scrutiny of this before they went forward. The fact that he has been under investigation apparently for months means this is very serious business, and they wouldn`t go to this step lightly, so you know, the right ruling by the judge here. Frankly, Chris, the deal that you were marveling at that the Trump and Cohen lawyers wanted where they got to decide what they turn over to the prosecutors is basically the deal they got from our majority in our committee. We wanted to subpoena Michael Cohen`s travel records. We wanted to get his credit card records. We wanted to determine did he go to Prague or did he go to somewhere else that he had this meeting? And interestingly, Chris, the allegations in the Steele documents about Michael Cohen are that he was the fixer, brought in to fix the Manafort problems, the information was coming out about Carter Page. He was the fixer brought in. So that is certainly consistent with the kind of work he was doing for the President. But we were never able to pursue it. Basically, Cohen was able to decide, I`ll let you know what I feel like turning over to you.
HAYES: Since you brought up Prague, I want to ask you about this McClatchy reporting that broke Friday. We covered on this show that sources -- Mueller has evidence -- I want to be careful here -- has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016 confirming part of the dossier. Did that come as news to you? Is that credible to you?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it came as news to me what the special counsel has. As I was mentioning, we were never really allowed to pursue this. And it was you know, part of a trend with our committee. The only subpoenas, the majority was really interested in pursuing were subpoenas against our own government, not against witnesses who were trying to be recalcitrant or stonewall us. And so they subpoenaed the Justice Department, they subpoenaed the FBI. They threatened to impeach the FBI Director. But can we get a subpoena for Michael Cohen`s travel records? No. Can we get a subpoena to get Steve Bannon to answer questions or Hope Hicks or the President`s son? No. So we were not able to get the answers we needed which is why there`s so much work left undone. Why we can`t figure out whether Roger Stone was being truthful or whether Erik Prince was being truthful. That work is still going to have to be done, if not by us, then by the Special Counsel.
HAYES: There`s a school of thought I hear coming from Republicans, allies of the President that there`s something illegitimate, if it ends up being the case that the investigation into Russia and the possibility of collusion and Russian interference leads investigators towards other evidence of wrongdoing or crimes committed by people in the President`s circle or by the President himself. That stuff somehow doesn`t count. It`s in some other category. The only thing that matters is this sort of narrow question of did the President collude. What is your response to it?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, the scope of the investigation, the charter that Bob Mueller has been given is to do a Russia investigation, the relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign, but also to investigate anything that arises from that. Now, I don`t know that you can say that the Stormy Daniels stuff -- and I`d have to look back at the origin of it, that seems to arise independently and it may be part of the reason why that was referred to the Southern District of New York and not pursued by Bob Mueller. Now it may very well be that when they go through these documents that they do find evidence that`s very pertinent to the Mueller investigation, which case it would be provided to Bob Mueller. But just because there is a Russia investigation doesn`t mean the President or his lawyer or anybody else gets a get out of jail free card if it comes to the attention of law enforcement that they have violated the law. So I think the Justice Department, I think Bob Mueller are doing exactly what they should. I think the judge today did exactly what the judge should. And this is evidence of the system working. But of course, that system is at risk every time the President threatens to fire people at justice or the special counsel because he doesn`t like the way the system works.
HAYES: Finally, Congressman, do you have an opinion on Sean Hannity and the President sharing a lawyer apparently?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it is interesting, of course, why this particular lawyer who doesn`t have an expertise in real estate, why would Sean Hannity of all people seek out legal advice from Michael Cohen? And if -- you know, the insinuation of Sean Hannity is I paid him ten bucks because I wanted to make sure that that conversation couldn`t be disclosed unless it was some kind of a shady real estate deal, that really doesn`t make sense either. If you`re just asking about flipping houses or where good investments or you know, how do I get the deed for something. That`s not the kind of thing you worry about needing to protect from attorney-client privilege.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for your time tonight.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, Senator Chris Murphy and the President`s sudden decision to reverse Russia sanctions just one day after they were announced. Senator Murphy joins me in two minutes.
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HALEY: You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn`t already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used.
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HAYES: Yesterday U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced new Russia sanctions. And then today, after Russia complained, President Trump walked them back. Washington Post reporting Trump was, "upset the sanctions were being officially being rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them." Joining me is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And Senator, this fits with a broader pattern in which the President seems to be at odds with his own administration over Russia. What do you make of it?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, the foreign policy of this administration is a slow-motion car crash. And every single time that an administration official gets trotted out just to be overridden by the President hours or days later, it weakens American credibility across the board. So separate and aside from the specific question of what the heck our policy is vis-a-vis Russia, we are seeing American influence atrophy because Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley are often contradicted by the President within the news cycle. I have no idea what the President`s policy towards Russia is. On one hand, he has been very slow to sanction Russia. He is walking back Haley`s commitment with respect to these latest sanction. On the other hand, he did take steps that the Obama administration was unwilling to take, sending lethal arms to the Ukrainians in the middle of that fight. The sanctions he finally did announce a week and a half ago resulted in a ten percent diminution of the Russian stock market. It just seems to be you know, a policy that`s made up on the fly on a day-to-day basis. And you know, ultimately, you know, that makes no sense to the rest of our allies who are trying to be in this with us together.
HAYES: Is there a risk there? It seems to me that it`s fair to characterize the Trump administration as both being more solicitous and easier on Russia and Putin, and also more aggressive at the same time.
MURPHY: Yes. Listen, and I think you have to be fair that you know, this policy has been somewhat schizophrenic. There have been aggressive steps taken and then there have been moments in which Russia has gotten much of what it wanted. But this the broader sense, let`s be clear that Russia is the winner in this relationship over the last year and a half because let`s set aside these specific policies regarding sanctions. By America`s withdrawal from the Middle East, Russia has inserted itself in a way that has empowered it in a region that they have long been asking for power. The assault on the State Department, which is the primary means by which we push back against Russia`s asymmetric methods of warfare in and around its periphery, has been a gift to Russia. So whether or not we`re you know, going to do the next round of sanctions, Russia is getting a gift by America`s general withdrawal from the places that it cares about.
HAYES: Finally in this, do you -- do you think the President is motivated by being compromised in some way?
MURPHY: There is certainly a possibility of that. I mean, it`s hard to understand why he has been unwilling to take steps that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have wanted him to take. And the message that he has sent overall to the Russians is that they are by and large free to manipulate the 2018 elections in the way they did in 2016. And I think we are all trying to figure out what the reason is for this very bizarre positioning that we`ve watched on Russia.
HAYES: The President ordered strikes on three sites in Syria controlled by the the Assad regime, alleged to be involved in the production or storage of chemical weapons. On Friday night, he said this via Twitter. "A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you for France, the United Kingdom for their wisdom, and the power of their fine military. It could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished." Was it mission accomplished?
MURPHY: What was your mission? If your mission was to look tough and dominate a news cycle, he did that. But if your mission is to actually bring the civil war to an end, to save the people of Syria, then there is no way the mission is accomplished. Evidence suggests that these surgical missile strikes end up just quickening the pace of Assad`s assault on his own people. That`s what happened after last year`s strike, and the politics of escalation in which American actions get met with equal or greater reactions from the Iranians and the Syrians and the Russians is ultimately awful news for the people of that country. So that mission is certainly not accomplished.
HAYES: I would just interject that there is some reporting indicating there has been further strikes just in the last hour perhaps carried out by the Israelis. That`s not -- it`s all sort of unconfirmed. That`s sort of floating around right now. But that`s in the background. Do you -- I just want to be clear. Did you oppose the strikes? Do you oppose them?
MURPHY: Yes, I did oppose the strikes.
HAYES: Substantively, not just on a sort of legal basis?
MURPHY: On both strategic and legal grounds. I understand that it makes us feel good to hit Assad, and he deserves everything that he gets. But ultimately if our desire is to bring this civil war to an end, we are going to have to live with some very unsavory terms. That will likely mean that Assad or some successor to Assad stays in power. And every time that we continue this policy, which has been the Obama policy and the Trump policy of providing just enough pushback against Assad to keep the civil war going, but never enough pushback to actually dislodge him from power. All we are doing is postponing the misery of the Syrian people without actually having any policy that will mean that Assad is removed from power. And so I argue for a reorientation of our policy here that seeks a diplomatic end that may end up with Assad or his allies staying in power for a period of time but ends the carnage.
HAYES: Finally, you announce today you`re a no on Pompeo for Secretary of State. Quickly, why?
MURPHY: Yes, listen, Pompeo may end up being a better Secretary of State than Rex Tillerson, but that`s a pretty low bar. What I`m worried about is that there`s going to be no one walking into the President`s office that is going to recommend diplomatic solutions to big complicated problems in the world. Bolton is going to advocate for a military response. Traditionally, the Department of Defense comes in with military options. Now Pompeo, who has a reputation of thinking about military options before diplomatic options will just add fuel to that fire. And so I see both sides of the ledger with Pompeo. I actually think he will restore some morale to the Department. Ultimately I`m worried about the advice that he will give side by side with the advice that the President is going to get from his new National Security Adviser.
HAYES: All right, Senator Chris Murphy, thanks for being with me tonight.
MURPHY: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, over 500 former staffers at the DOJ say the attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller are so concerning, Congress needs to act. The efforts to protect Mueller after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Can you assure the American people that Rod Rosenstein and the special counsel are safe, that the president will not move on them until the work is completed?
KELYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: So the president and his team have complied with everything that they`ve been asked to do.
CUOMO: Not the question. Is there a chance that he will get rid of Rosenstein.
CONWAY: No, no. I`m saying -- you want to say Kellyanne struggles to answer the question. She won`t...
CUOMO: You are struggling to answer the question. Do you think there is a chance that the president will remove Rod Rosenstein and/or Bob Mueller?
CONWAY: The president has done everything that he and his team have been asked to do to comply with this investigation, and you know it.
CUOMO: Why aren`t you answering this question?
CONWAY: He makes the personnel decisions around here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway refusing to answer whether the president will fire, and then commenting on her refusal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now a bipartisan group of senators plan to introduce legislation to protect Mueller but it faces a very tough battle in the senate. If Trump does fire Mueller or Rosenstein, my next guest says it will be an attack on the very foundations of the country. Ian Bassin is a former associate White House counsel and executive director of Protect Democracy, and he joins me now.
You guys came out with this letter, hundreds of ex-DOJ workers signing a petition to protect Mueller and Rosenstein. Who are these people? And what are they saying?
IAN BASSIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: Look, these are hundreds of officials who have served in our Department of Justice from everyadministration between Kennedy and Trump. They come from 43 states. They served under Democrats and Republicans. If you total it up, they have served the public for more than 5,320 years.
These are people who are saying this is not a partisan issue, this is about the rule of law and the foundation of our republic. We are at a Rubicon moment, and they are telling the president we are a nation of laws and not of men, and firing Mueller or Rosenstein would be a very dangerous moment for the very foundation of our country.
HAYES: Do you view them as equivalent in terms of the danger, in terms of firing either is essentially the same?
BASSIN: I think I do for this reason: none of us, as American citizens, get to choose our own prosecutors, our own investigators, who decides what we did or what we didn`t do, or whether what we did was right or wrong, neither does the president. We only give power to elected officials in this country under certain constraints. And what the president would be doing by removing either of them is saying those constraints don`t apply to me. And that`s completely inconsistent with American government.
HAYES: The other side of that, though, and this is the argument that some make -- Alan Dershowitz is one of them, prominently, is that none of us get to decide who the deputy general is, right. Like, there is something special about the president, and the special thing is he runs the federal government, and one of the things he does is he nominates and appoints people, and he also fires them. They serve at sort of at his pleasure.
BASSIN: Within certain limits, and this is, I think what is really being missed in this entire debate, right. People are talking about, well, the president has the power to appoint and remove certain officials. Yes. Except for one restriction, he took a oath and the constitution requires him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Removing an official for a corrupt purpose such as blocking an investigation into one`s self is not a faithful execution of the law.
So, this is fundamentally not just potentially evidence of obstruction, but it`s a violation of the constitution of the president`s oath.
HAYES: Paul Ryan has been very circumspect about taking any actions. There has been some movement in the Senate. Thom Tillis, Republican Senator from North Carolina talking about getting behind some sort of bill to protect Mueller, Chuck Grassley making some noise about that in the house. You hear basically nothing. Here is Paul Ryan talking to Chuck Todd this weekend. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Do you believe that if the Senate passes this bill to protect Mueller, protect the (inaudible) firing, you`ll bring it up in the House?
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: I don`t think it`s necessary. I don`t think he is going to fire Mueller. I think it would be...
TODD: Insurance isn`t necessary -- insurance might not be necessary, but you buy it. I mean, this is an insurance policy.
RYAN: First of all, I don`t think he should be fired. I think he should be left to do his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Is that enough?
BASSIN: Chuck Todd`s point, you could take a step further, right? This is like saying I`m not going to get insurance for my house because I don`t think it`s going to get robbed, except in this case the robber has told you that he is trying to rob your house. He has told his associates to case it. He even tweeted, hey, I`m looking at your house, right.
HAYES: He is standing outside with a boombox playing a song calling I`m going to rob you.
BASSIN: And is someone said that about your house, you wouldn`t just get insurance, you would get heavy-duty security. So, it is absolutely remiss of any member of congress to say, as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have no, there is nothing going on here. There`s nothing that worries us. That`s just -- they`re looking at a different reality than the rest of us.
HAYES: Ian Bassin from Protect Democracy, thanks for making time.
BASSIN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Still to come, as Trump world remains in attack mode, the important takeaways from the first day of James Comey`s book tour, have you heard of that guy?
Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, we all make mistakes, this show included for sure. But the Trump White House has become somewhat notorious for its frequent and careless errors. For instance, the slew of typos like the president`s official schedule listing his travel on Air Force once, a snapshot story about the secretary of education that managed to somehow misspell the word "education," or ahead of Trump`s first meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, misspelling her name three times which matched the spelling of a former British porn actress.
Now, to be fair, those mistakes were relatively harmless. But even on the most crucial matters, issues of war and peace, life and death, this White House has shown they little regard for the accuracy or veracity of just about anything they put out.
Last week when the president was considering taking military action in Syria, the White House statement released reading in part we are continuing to asses the intelligence. And the day after Trump ordered strikes on Syria, his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, quote, "last night the president put our adversaries on notice. When he draws a red line, he enforces it," along with a photo of Trump and senior staff in the Situation Room. There is just one problem. See Vice President Mike Pence there sitting right next to Trump`s right? Pence was over 3,000 miles away from the Situation Room on Friday when Trump ordered the strikes on Syria. And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent out this tweet on Saturday, "last night the president put our adversaries on notice. When he draws a red line, he enforces it," along with a photo captioned "inside the Situation Room as the president is briefed on Syria."
In that photo, President Trump is surrounded by senior members of his staff, including Sanders herself on the far left, and Vice President Mike Pence to Trump`s right. That, however, doesn`t quite add up because Vice President Pence was in Peru on a Friday when Trump issued the order to strike Syria, so this couldn`t possibly be a picture of Trump ordering decisive action against, which was roundly mocked on Twitter until Sanders Tweeted a clarification the next day, the photo was taken Thursday in the Situation Room during Syria briefing.
HAYES: Time once again to check in on the cartoonishly corrupt EPA chief Scott Pruitt. Today, the General Accountability Office, the budgetary watchdog, found that the EPA broke the law with the installation of that $43,000 soundproof phone booth Pruitt insisted on for his office. According to their regulations, any renovation over $5,000 requires congressional approval. So, that`s a $38,000 overrun.
Now the EPA, in its defense, argued the super secret soundproof booth was, quote, analogous to other functional items an employee might require to perform his job duties, such as a high speed computer, high speed copier/scanner, or television.
The Government Accountability Office did not buy it. We should note that a totally secure area for communication known, as a skiff, already exists on another floor at the EPA.
And all this, of course, comes amid a seemingly endless stream of Pruitt revelations, including his first class travel, his massive, totally unprecedented security detail, which is quite expensive to boot, his $50 a night sweetheart deal to stay in a lobbyist`s condo, his big pay raises to certain staffers going around the White House, which he denied but which appeared to have originated with him and his attempt to have an EPA souvenir coin be redesigned to strip off the EPA logo and name on it. Today, the GAO report concluded the EPA must officially report its own law breaking to congress with regard to the phone booth. As for everything else, we are left to wonder when Scott Pruitt will finally be fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don`t buy the stuff about him being mentally incompetent, early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who`s tracking conversations and knows what`s going on. I don`t think he`s medically unfit to be president, I think he`s morally unfit to be president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Nearly 10 million people watched that interview with fired FBI Director James Comey last night. It seems the president was one of them, not surprisingly rage tweeting this morning at Comey claiming Comey committed many crimes.
Here to help me process all of this, MSNBC contributor, New York Times investigative journalist Nick Confessore; MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin, a columnist at The Washington Post; and Jason Johnson, MSNBC political analyst and the politics editor of The Root.
Jason, let me start with you. What was your takeaway from the interview last night?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: I thought that if -- look, Comey could either be right or he can be liked. I didn`t find him to be particularly likable, but he seemed to really make the case of the corruption that`s going on in this administration. I think he was still inconsistent about why he made some of the decisions that he made. And I think -- I mean, this guy threw more shade than Lenscrafters. I mean, every other comment he made about Donald Trump, about his tie, about his hair, about he`s got above average intelligence and can track a conversation like he`s a chihuahua or something else like that. I don`t think he came off personally particularly charismatic, but the facts he laid out are the facts. And this administration seems like they`ve been obstructing justice.
HAYES: What did you think, Jennifer?
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think two things. One, you can be honest and also have horrible judgment. And I think both things are true of Mr. Comey. I think he honestly related what happened with the president.
If I were the special prosecutor, I would not be pleased with a witness who is so obviously, shall we say, biased against the president. I share that bias with Mr. Comey, but he wouldn`t want me as a witness either, so that`s not good if you`re trying to make the case this is a guy by the book.
But with regard to Hillary Clinton, again and again this guy showed such a lack of self-awareness, such ego, that he was going to race in and save the day. He was going to run over the normal protections that we have, like you don`t explain why you`re not prosecuting someone, like you don`t step into a election cycle 11 days before, because he was going to save the day. He was going to protect the FBI and himself, by the way.
And you just have to go back and look and say guy, you know, you really should have been a little bit more humble, a little bit more self-aware.
HAYES: And the rules -- I mean, one of the things I find interesting here, Nick, is this back and forth between Loretta Lynch where he`s got this kind of stuff in the book and the interview about doubting her, how neutral she was, her integrity, one foot in, one foot out. And she put out a long statement in response. I thought this part was very interesting. She said, "at critical early stages of this case, I followed the department`s long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying the fact of an ongoing investigation. The policy both predates my tenure in the department and will live on long after the current debate is over. It neither misleads nor misinforms, instead both protects investigations and guarantees equal treatment of those under scrutiny whether well known or unknown. Any suggestion I invoked this bedrock policy for any other reason is simply false."
NICK CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIMES: Listen, I`m not sure that either Comey or Lynch comes out great in this scenario. It seems pretty clear that Lynch was putting some pressure on him to take some pressure off Hillary Clinton, that she was interceding.
Look, I think we see in this interview...
HAYES: I`m not sure that -- I think it seems pretty clear that`s the case.
CONFESSORE: It is to me.
HAYES: I think he interpreted that as being the case. Go ahead.
CONFESSORE: All right.
But look, this whole rollout shows a side of Comey -- Comey is a politician. And he hates that idea. And I`m not saying that to criticize him, but he is a politician. The institution he happens to lead or led was the FBI, but he acts as a politician. And so what happened -- this is the great irony of Comey, right -- he did all these things he said to keep the bureau away from politics, but at every point his decision dragged the bureau into politics.
CONFESSORE: Right from the decision. And I think the real questionable one really on its own merits from his description was to announce the reopening of the email investigation, which was then over in a matter of days. There is no compelling argument -- with his experience, he should have known that they could easily have figured that out in a few days.
CONFESSORE: But instead he jumped the gun.
HAYES: And he still defends it.
I think, Jason, my thing about Comey, and obviously there`s a lot of reason that he has had a very storied career and incredibly impressive guy, very smart, accomplished. I know a lot of people that worked with him in both the Bush and Obama administration think very highly of him.
There`s a bit of like a roommate problem with him, which is that if your buddy has got a bad roommate and your buddy is complaining about that roommate, that`s fine. But if your buddy has a succession of six bad roommates in a row you start to think like maybe you`re the bad roommate. And there`s a little bit of like James Comey is always the last honest man surrounded by all these people who aren`t as virtuous as he is.
JOHNSON: Right, isn`t it funny the self-righteousness of like I just don`t understand why everyone else doesn`t have my ridiculous level of Boy Scout ethics. But here`s what`s interesting, in the process you managed to ignore what your boss said -- I mean, Loretta Lynch, regardless of what her personal biases may be, she`s absolutely correct in saying we don`t talk about any of this, James. We don`t talk about any of this. That`s the most ethical and responsible way to go forward.
He ignored his boss. He endangered basically the presidency of the United States by involving the FBI. He damaged the FBI`s reputation all because he claims he didn`t know any better, but he was supposedly sick to his stomach.
You know, all of that is extremely problematic and these problems always go back to him. If we had a more ethical president these will be legitimate reasons to fire the guy.
HAYES: Well, here -- this sort of segues, Jennifer, to the way that he talks about the president. And I thought there was nothing, I think substantively new in the interview last night, because a lot of it had been previewed, but what I did think was interesting was his characterization of Trump as canny and as wily and attempting to suborn him at every turn in ways that weren`t haphazard, but rather quite intentional. And I think that picture of him to me at least quite convincing. What did you think?
RUBIN: I did. I think Trump has an intelligence not that you and I might recognize as book intelligence, but a way of persuading and manipulating people. And I think that`s what Comey saw. It was pretty obvious, actually. He didn`t try to straighten himself or try to conceal it at all. He makes a lot of references to the mafia references.
So I think Trump is like a bulldog. He knows what he wants. And he`s just going to roll over anyone and anything, of course any norms or rules, to get what he wants. And I think that was right, that was Comey was viewing.
And by the way, on the subject of politics what is this guy doing prognosticating the election? He said we were all operating in the world that Hillary was going to win. That`s exactly why you don`t have people making decisions that could affect an election 11 days before.
HAYES: I also thought his impeachment answer was almost a parody of some kind of version of centrism where he says like the guy`s unfit to be president, possibly obstructed justice, I can`t definitively say he`s not compromised with the Russians, but impeachment would be too easy an out for the American people who need to stand and vote again.
CONFESSORE: I mean, look, Comey has an opinion on so many things about the president, so many things from the size of his hands and to his height. And yet on this one thing -- now, look, it maybe a legitimate view on his point, right. And there`s a certain argument you could make that the country needs like a bloodletting or something to get rid of this.
But look, he chose his shots very carefully. It was all very deliberate. And I think what he was saying about the president was that the president has an instinct for leverage and influence, and so keep that in mind as you watch this play out.
HAYES: Yeah, and that to me was important, because I think sometimes -- and I had Hillary Clinton was sitting right in that chair when I interviewed her for almost an entire show, for an entire show. The first exchange we had was on this, you know, that which school are you in, the kind of like dottering accidental doofus or the very canny and wily operator? And she is wholly in the latter, and Comey is. And I think a lot of the people that have had the experience of being on the underneath the truck that he is driving come away feeling that, and that was interesting to me about that interview last night.
Nick Confessore, Jennifer Rubin, and Jason Johnson, thank you all for being here.
I would be remiss, of course, not to mention that James Comey is sitting down with our own Rachel Maddow this Tthursday night in what I`m certain will be a phenomenal interview which I am going to be watching and you should too.
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