Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: April 19, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Josh Marshall, Ryan Costello
CHRIS HAYES, MSBNBC HOST: Tonight on "ALL IN."
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I've always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent Man.
HAYES: A rare window into the Mueller probe. Prosecutors say they suspect Manafort had back-channel talks with Russia.
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: It's absurd and there's no basis to it.
HAYES: Tonight new reporting on Trump's personal lawyer and his alleged ties to Russian money.
MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: I'll do anything to protect Mr. Trump, the family.
HAYES: Then, why did Michael Cohen just drop his BuzzFeed lawsuit over the Steele Dossier? TRUMP: I think they ought to apologize to start with, Michael Cohen. HAYES: BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith joins me exclusively on Cohen and what they have verified from the dossier. TRUMP: I'm also very much of a germophobe, by the way. HAYES: And as Republicans lay the groundwork for obstruction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rod Rosenstein's real problem right now is more with Congress than it is with the President.
HAYES: Guess who's joining with Trump Legal team?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What difference at this point does it make?
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I'm Chris Hayes. One of the top lawyers on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team reportedly confirmed a pretty remarkable bit of information in open court today, that investigators started looking at Paul Manafort because they suspected the former Trump Campaign Chairman might have been serving as a back channel to Russia. The revelation came during a hearing in Washington, D.C, where Manafort is claiming that Mueller overstepped his authority in the Russia probe by indicting Manafort for financial fraud and other charges. But according to a Senior Justice Department Prosecutor, Mueller's team was entirely justified in investigating Manafort because of his role in the campaign. I'm quoting here, he had long-standing ties to Russia backed politicians. Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things. This is the second time Prosecutors have mentioned the possibility that Manafort was serving as a secret liaison for the Trump campaign to Russia. Court filing a couple weeks ago noted, Manafort's ties to Russian Associated Political Operatives, Russian backed politicians and Russian oligarchs affirming the investigation would naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communication. That was the same court filing in which we learn that Deputy General Rod Rosenstein had in a memo last August approved two separate tracks in the Manafort investigation. Possible financial crimes related to Manafort's work in Ukraine and potential collusion with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. The first track, of course, has already resulted in charges. The second, however, is still very much an open question. Manafort has repeatedly denied any ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you, or your campaign and put in and his regime?
MANAFORT: No, there are not. That's absurd. And then there's no basis to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So to be clear Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs?
MANAFORT: That's what he said. That's what I said. That's obviously what our position is.
HAYES: Manafort already faces two separate criminal trials later this year and his circumstances could be a preview of where Michael Cohen ends up. I say this because to date, Cohen and Manafort are the only two members of Trump world to be raided by the FBI. And while Cohen has yet to be charged, reports suggest that like Manafort, he could be on the hook for possible financial crimes. But their connections do not end there. According to the infamous Steele Dossier, which remains largely unconfirmed, it was Cohen who took over secret communications with Russia after Manafort was ousted from the Trump campaign. According to Steele "a Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen in the on-going secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoons campaign and the Russian leadership. Cohen's role had grown following the departure of Paul Manafort as Trump campaign manager on August 2016. Prior to that, Manafort had led for the Trump side. Again, none of that has been confirmed but it is reason to believe that while Cohen is now being examined by prosecutors in Manhattan on a variety of things, he may still be a subject of Mueller's Russia probe. But Cohen has popped up over and over again in stories about Trump and Russia. He was the point man on efforts during the campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He spearheaded other Trump projects in former Soviet Union countries. He was involved in a proposed peace plan for Ukraine on terms (INAUDIBLE) Russia and he has personal and professional ties to Russian organized crime in New York that go by decades. Now as the Cohen investigation moves forward, the question is, how far does Cohen's loyalty go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, could Michael Cohen flip? Are you worried he's not loyal?
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. I hope you saw the crowds in KeyWest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Big crowds. The President did not answer that question but according to the reports, his allies are increasingly worried Cohen will flip on his long-time boss, the President of the United States. Pretty telling that just about everyone in the President's inner circle on and off the record seems to believe there's some kind of criminal conduct for Cohen to spill about. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Have you noticed that too that when people talking about Michael Cohen and the President there's this question of will he flip? There's very little of, well, there's nothing to flip on.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D-CT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I can tell you as a former Prosecutor, I've seen a lot of potential witnesses say they are going to be completely loyal, that they know nothing and Michael Cohen may be saying that now, and the President's Allies may be hoping or counting on him standing firm. But there is nobody who knows more about Donald Trump than Michael Cohen. And he has the means and motive and opportunity to cooperate.
HAYES: There are a lot of people -- one thing the White House has done quite effectively is they basically kind of put out this idea that there's a Russia investigation, and if there's, "no collusion," which obviously the White House insists there isn't, that anything else that happens that gets investigated outside of this sort of narrow question of did the President and Vladimir Putin, you know, talk to each other or something, isn't legitimate, what do you what's your response to that?
BLUMENTHAL: The scope of the Mueller investigation is very, very broad. It is appropriately and necessarily broad because what the Special Counsel is investigating is not only potential collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign but also obstruction of justice. In other words, interference, and intimidation in that investigation and there are potential links if Michael Cohen is convicted and he faces very serious potential charges of money laundering and wire fraud. And the information that he has could be extremely incriminating to the President of the United States. HAYES: There is a Bloomberg story today that said that Rod Rosenstein, who is the number two at justice under Jeff Sessions, a person who is Running the -- sort of supervising the Mueller investigation which Session were accused, told Trump that Trump is not a target in the Mueller or Cohen probes, response to that. BLUMENTHAL: Again, as a former Prosecutor, to be a subject or a target, the line is very thin. Right now Donald Trump is a subject. But that line is readily and swiftly often crossed in these investigations.
HAYES: There is news today that Rudy Giuliani will be joining the President's legal team, and he says he's joining the legal team to negotiate an end to this. What does that mean to you?
BLUMENTHAL: The most significant thing that Rudy Giuliani said is that he thinks that the Special Prosecutor should be permitted to conclude his investigation. Rudy Giuliani is a big name with star power. But what the President needs is a serious litigator with brainpower. And Rudy Giuliani could provide it if he does and the President listens. And if he does, what he will tell the President of the United States is, cooperate truly with this investigation, commit that it will be concluded without your interference or firing Robert Mueller, and support the legislation that's now pending and I'm one of the drafters and sponsors of it that would protect the Special Counsel and make sure that a court would view any interference by firing in that investigation. HAYES: On that legislation, Chuck Grassley said he's going to bring it to committee vote, right? Is that going to happen?
BLUMENTHAL: It will happen next week -- next week. HAYES: Next week. Mitch McConnell says it's not coming to the floor. So then what happens?
BLUMENTHAL I think Mitch McConnell is going to face a groundswell within his own caucus.
HAYES: You really think so?
BLUMENTHAL: I think if there are Continuing threats and rants and tirades from the President, in other words, if he fails to follow what I hope will be Rudy Giuliani's advice, that he should state unequivocally and publicly that he will permit this investigation to finish. I think there will be that ground as well. You know, there is a growing sense of real alarm among Republican colleagues. Democracy is not shatter-proof, and our democracy is under attack. Time is not on our side. The time for wishful thinking --and I think Mitch McConnell has expressed his wishful thinking that we have nothing to worry about. That time is over. And I think it may not be next week, but at some point, if Donald Trump continues these threats and the danger to our democracy continues as well, I think you will see a groundswell within that caucus.
HAYES: And finally what do you say to people that say you are putting more faith in your colleagues' good faith than maybe has been demonstrating publicly thus far?
BLUMENTHAL: I have to put good faith in my colleagues because it's the way we --
HAYES: You work there every day?
BLUMENTHAL: I work there every day. I work with them every day and I hope that they will do the right thing. This legislation --
HAYES: Hope is not a plan, Senator.
BLUMENTHAL: This legislation is bipartisan, but let me just be very clear. Ultimately my colleagues can count and what will really count is the American people. They have to rise up. They have to express to my colleagues that kind of pressure.
HAYES: Senator Richard Blumenthal, it's always a pleasure to have you here in studio. Thank you very much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HAYES: For more on the mystery of Michael's Cohen's tie, I'm joined by Josh Marshall, Editor and Publisher of Talking Point Memo and MSNBC Legal Analyst Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate Prosecutor. And Josh, let me start with you. You wrote a great post. You've been writing a lot about Michael Cohen from the beginning. He's an object of your fascination, which is now bearing out, I think. What -- where do you see him fitting into this because I think one of the things that happened was that the raid happens and there's all this reporting. It's like, it's about Stormy Daniels, taxi medallions, it's about this or that, it's not about Russia, but I'm not convinced that that's the case.
JOSH MARSHAL: Well, for viewers if you want to go really deep on this, we did a special episode of the Josh Marshall Podcast today. Again, if you want to get deep, deep, deep, go download that. I think that the key -- it's probably something to do with Stormy Daniels, but if you've looked into Michael Cohen's background, he has been involved his entire life in, you know, businesses like the taxi business and real estate in New York and casino cruises. These are all industries, businesses that are heavily infiltrated by the Mafia. And through his life, he has been associated with Russian Mafia figures all through his adult life. So if you -- if you look at his history, it's very obvious if you've looked at that past, this is not someone who would survive first contact with serious prosecutorial scrutiny. There is -- I mean, again, I don't want to say things that are not facts and evidence. HAYE: Yes. He's saying -- he's saying that of course, he's not a criminal. He's done nothing wrong. I want to be clear on that.
MARSHALL: Exactly, there are -- there are a lot of leads that prosecutors would want to look at about money laundering, about money from abroad, particularly from Russia and Ukraine. He was brought into Trump's orbit in 2006-2007 as a conduit for money from that part of the world. He was not brought in to really be a lawyer. He's a deal maker, and he had access to that money. There's a lot to look at.
HAYES: His wife is Ukrainian, his father-in-law, it seems they were buying a lot of Trump Tower apartments. Jill, there's all this back and forth about cooperation. Again, the premise always seems to be, well, of course, there's stuff for him to cooperate on, which I find kind of funny. The President -- one of the President's former lawyers, Jay Goldberg, has been doing a lot of interviews, has been talking to a lot of folks. Here he is talking to Lawrence O'Donnell about his sort of gaming out of Michael Cohen's propensity to cooperate. Take a listen.
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JAY GOLDBERG, FORMER LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: I said Michael Cohen is of the type that he's interested in protecting himself, and he'll say whatever he thinks is necessary to get a deal with the government.
LARRY O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: It sounds pretty bad. You say Michael Cohen will turn against the President talking to the special prosecutors.
GOLDBERG: He will turn against Donald Trump if that be his conclusion that that's what the prosecutor wants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What do you think of that?
JILL WINE-BANK, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It's impossible for me to predict because I don't know Michael Cohen, and I do know that he said, I will take a bullet for the President, something that Gordon Liddy said during Watergate. Gordon Liddy lived up to that and never spoke, never flipped. But this is a person who knows him, and I would possibly think that he has a reason to say that and that Donald Trump has a reason to be really worried because Michael Cohen knows a lot of the places where bodies are buried. He did deals for him. He's been with him a long time. And so there's a lot to be worried about, and we'll have to wait and see whether he talks or doesn't talk. HAYES: Josh, there's a question about his finances too which is how liquid is this guy and he's got some very serious legal bills piling up. MARSHALL: Yes. He is -- when everybody saw Michael Cohen in the 2016 campaign, probably for the first time kind of as Trump's sort of bully lawyer and mouthpiece, they probably didn't get that this is a very wealthy man in his own right. It's sort of a mystery how many of his assets, are those really his assets, or is the kind of holding on to someone else's assets? But he's just as one example. Just back in 2015, he purchased an apartment building on the Upper East Side in New York for $58 million. So this is -- HAYES: That's a lot of money. MARSHALL: Yes. This is not just a kind of a salaried lawyer. He's a wealthy man. But liquidity and what's his and what's not, that's vague. That's unclear. HAYES: And it's -- I think he claimed he took a loan out to pay Stormy Daniels for $130,000, so there's a little bit of a mismatch of I bought a $58 million building, but I needed to take a loan out for $130,000.
MARSHALL: I think anybody who is familiar with his finances, something does not add up about, I'm taking out, you know, a home equity loan on my house for $130,000. He clearly has access to and seems to possess hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars. Now, maybe it's tied up and not liquid, maybe it's not really his but something is weird about that. He's not someone who needs to take out a home equity loan for $130,000.
HAYES: Jill, I had former Attorney General Eric Holder here at the table just a few nights ago, and he said from his perspective, he always thought this was a two-year investigation. Now, those were his words. He actually thinks that Mueller has been moving at break neck pace. Given the raid on Michael Cohen just last week, where do you think we are? BANKS: I think that a two-year investigation would be on the short side given how many different aspects there are to this case. And the raid on Cohen came from information developed in the course of this investigation but wasn't done by Mueller. It was done in a different office for very good and valid reasons. And whatever is found there is going to lead to further investigation so that once you get one piece of information, you have to follow it up. And so when we talk about Rudy Giuliani saying, I'm going to negotiate a quick end to this, you don't negotiate an end to an investigation. That's number one. If you want to quickly get it over with, then you step away, and you let it proceed as it is intended to. Let it go to its natural conclusion and follow all the leads. That's the only way the American people will ever have complete confidence that they know the truth about whether the President did or didn't do something. And that's what we need is to have a conclusion to this that says, this is the facts. HAYES: Exactly. BANKS: This is the truth.
HAYES: Yes. It's such a good point. That is the ultimate result here that matters the most. Whatever those facts end up being, that just we know what happened. Josh Marshall and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you both for being here. Stay where you are. We have a very big night coming your way right here on MSNBC, including the story of Michael Cohen dropping his defamation suit against the Web site that first published the Steele Dossier. Ben Smith is the Editor in Chief of BuzzFeed, and he will join me exclusively here tonight. Next, the Republican Congressman trying to protect Robert Mueller as his colleagues in the House try and soften the ground for the firing of Rod Rosenstein and as if that were not enough. We're minutes away from Rachel Maddow's interview with the FBI Director that Donald Trump fired during the middle of the Russia investigation. James Comey is in the building. He will be on "MADDOW" for the hour. Sit tight. No flipping. We'll be right back.
HAYES: 11 House Republicans are demanding the investigation of a long list of political enemies of the Republican Party, of the President urging the FBI and Justice Department to prosecute. Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Loretta Lynch, Sally Yates and others. But six Republicans are doing something very different, supporting bills to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from the President. One of the Republicans trying to shield Mueller, Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania joins me now. Congressman, you're one of six Republicans who are on this legislation. Why?
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, right now the Department of Justice regulations lay out the reasons by which a special counsel could be removed. We're just looking to codify that because I don't think -- I think a number of things. Number one, Mueller shouldn't be fired. Number two, if that were to happen, it wouldn't be good for anyone, rule of law in this country, the President, Republicans, Democrats, everyone. And I think this is the responsible way to lay it out there. I know obviously your previous guest, Senator Blumenthal had indicated the Senate is looking at this. They may get this out of committee. I just think it's the appropriate course of action, Chris. HAYES: Have you had any conversations with leadership about where that would or would not go? COSTELLO: I have not had any conversations with leadership. I do think the genesis of this will come out of the Senate. Speaker Ryan has indicated he doesn't think that the President will fire Mueller. He has not made any points beyond that. So this legislation was just introduced by my colleagues last week -- earlier this week, I think. And so those conversations have not taken place. HAYES: There are a number of your colleagues in the Republican caucus who have been putting a lot of pressure on Rod Rosenstein to hand over memos that James Comey authored that were part of the initial parts of this entire investigation. They got those memos today. There are many people who believe that the House caucus' moves against Rosenstein and criticisms of him are grounds for sort of -- are ways of softening the ground for the President to fire Rosenstein. What do you think of that?
COSTELLO: Well, Chris, as with any special counsel -- and we can go back to Whitewater, we can go back to the 1980s with Iran Contra, anytime you have a President investigated, you're going to have members of his own party look to do that. You're also going to have those among Democrats who are going to look to turn over every rock and maybe speculate on where an investigation may be going that ultimately proves to be inaccurate. I supported the appointment of Mueller before it even happened. The investigation has to run its course. I would echo what Chris Christie said a couple weeks ago. There is no way to shorten this investigation. There's nothing that anyone can do. There are ways to make it longer or elongate it. You know, if my colleagues want to see certain memos that Mr. Rosenstein is ethically able to provide them, have at it. I mean that's perfectly fine. I don't -- I don't take issue with that. What people's motivation are for different things, I'm best off not speculating on that. HAYES: Well, that's fair enough. But, you know, you've got 11 House Republicans who wrote this letter calling for all these people to be investigated and possibly prosecuted. And it's quite a list. It's Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, who did get a criminal referral from the I.G. today, Loretta Lynch, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Sally Yates, Dana Boente. What do you think about writing a letter saying that all these people need to be investigated and possibly prosecuted? COSTELLO: Well, I think two things. Number one, I suspect that that is a consequence of the four-page memo that was released in the dossier and how it came to be funded. That in and of itself, Chris, I don't see an issue with, and here's why. Because ultimately the Attorney General's Office is going to have to take the factual predicates and determine whether or not there's a legal basis for pursuing it. HAYES: Right. COSTELLO: And we have to trust the Department of Justice to be able to do it. I take issue when Republicans or Democrats attack the FBI or our law enforcement. It is not good for the long-term credibility of that institution. The rule of law does matter. And so just to reiterate, if they want to call -- ask the DOJ to investigate, that's just Members of Congress putting something on a piece of paper and signing their name to it. DOJ must operate with integrity and objectivity, and I have faith they will do so. HAYES: So I take it when the President describes a warrant being served on Michael Cohen as the FBI breaking into his residence, you don't think they broke into his residence? COSTELLO: I do not think they did. HAYES: I guess the final question here is you sound like someone who's confident that the Department of Justice, the sort of institutions and norms of independence can endure here or are enduring as of now. COSTELLO: Oh, I think actually they -- the answer is yes, and they are enduring. And the interesting thing here, Chris, is a year ago I had a lot of folks really up in arms saying, Russia, Trump, what's going on? We need the Intelligence Committee. We need oversight -- we need congressional hearings on this. And my response was if you think Congressional hearings are going to get to the bottom of something like this, I would respectfully suggest the better course of action would be to get an independent counsel because there would -- obviously I think Attorney General Sessions was correct on the conflict of interest question, and allow Mueller to do his job. He's now doing his job. And interestingly, you mentioned earlier on the Manafort issue, when Manafort took issue with the scope of the investigation, at that point in time, Mueller, I believe, sought the referral, got it, and the explanation as to why that investigation is continuing is a consequence of what the order was in the first instance. So the justice system is working the way that I believe that it should. It doesn't work as quickly. We don't always know what's going on from minute to minute but that's the way it's supposed to work. HAYES: All right, Congressman Ryan Costello, thanks for joining me. COSTELLO: Thank you. HAYES: Next, so just what exactly is Rudy Giuliani going to do for the Trump legal team and why does he think he can wrap this whole Mueller probe up in, "a couple of weeks?"
HAYES: House Republicans who this week threatened to hold Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in contempt or possibly even impeach him, those Republicans have now gotten their way. A less than an hour ago reports emerging that the Justice Department has sent versions of the Comey memos - - these are memos written by Comey that are the birth of the investigation into the Trump/Russia and collusion, that they have sent those memos over to Congress. According to the DOJ letter obtained by NBC News, the Justice Department is "providing a requested memorandum in both redacted and unredacted formats for your convenience.
Well, the decision heads off a subpoena for the memos, which House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced he would issue last night. The capitulation could have long lasting ramifications. According to former Justice Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, this is an area governed solely by precedent and DOJ is setting precedent that it is OK for congress to interfere with and receive documents pertaining to active investigations.
With me now, Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official; and Nancy Gertner, a retired federal district judge, who has an op-ed in The New York Times today called "Smearing Robert Mueller."
So this question, Chuck, about whether it's appropriate, correct to send these memos over to congress, where do you come down on that?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Bad idea.
HAYES: You think it's a bad idea?
ROSENBERG: Yeah. So I don't know that it's literally unprecedented, meaning it's never, ever happened. I can tell you it's extraordinarily rare. And the reason is when you have an open investigation, it has to remain sort of cloistered. You want very few people, except you want the people working on it to know everything about it, and you don't want anything else to know anything about it.
And as we've seen many times, Chris, when stuff goes to The Hill, it gets made public, and that's not the way you conduct a sensitive criminal investigation.
HAYES: They're almost certainly, I think, either going to leak either parts of it or all of it.
ROSENBERG: I'm not a betting man. If I were, they're going to leak it.
HAYES: Well -- and Nancy, I thought about this thought experiment with Senator Robert Menendez, who was on the show last night, who, of course, has faced federal prosecutors, right, through the DOJ public corruption unit brought charges against him. You can imagine -- I mean, what would happen if while you were a judge presiding over that case, and it was sort of working its way through, someone on The Hill subpoenaed a bunch of investigative documents about the case?
NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL DISTRICT JUDGE: Well, by the time I got to the case, everything had already been out. So in an ordinary criminal case, I would have been in orbit if that had happened. But in this particular case, I came at the end of literally four investigations, which was why I'm so clear that Mueller was not involved in the case involving the four men wrongfully accused because his name was literally in not a single report.
So everything had already been leaked and was out virtually by the time I got the case. So, it wasn't an issue. But I mean I take Chuck's point that you don't -- you know, you don't leak in the middle of an investigation, and you certainly don't leak in the middle of an investigation as fraught as this one is.
HAYES: I want to clarify just the case you're talking about, which you wrote the op-ed about. Tell me about that case and why you wrote the op-ed defending Mueller.
GERTNER: Well, there had been statements made by Alan Dershowitz, by Hannity, by Limbaugh that were that somehow Bob Mueller was responsible for keeping -- was responsible, that he was in the center of the case that kept four men wrongfully imprisoned in Boston. And this would have been in the '60s. And they were then imprisoned for 25years. Two died in prison, and that somehow Mueller was responsible.
And I presided over the case in which those men and their families sued the FBI under the Federal Tort Claims Act. I presided over that. There were thousands and thousands of pages of documents, and when I was listening to these stories, I could say without hesitation that Mueller was not even mentioned in these materials, that he wasn't in a position, in fact, to intervene. He wasn't in a position of responsibility during some of this period he wasn't even in Boston.
So it was the old saw that you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. And I felt like I needed to say, really, these facts are just very different than what these guys are reporting.
HAYES: You know, you're making a response to charges that have been leveled at Mueller that by a certain portion of people that are clearly sort of attempting to defend the president. It's a shame...
GERTNER: Right. That was just flat out wrong. That was just flat out false.
HAYES: It's a shame, Chuck, that you're not a betting man because I'm just hearing in my ear the AP has now acquired the memos. So these are now going to be...
GERTNER: Oh, good lord.
HAYES: These are now going to be made public.
ROSENBERG: Too late to get a bet down, you're saying.
HAYES: Yes. That's exactly. Sorry.
What does this do? I mean, what is this going to do to this investigation?
ROSENBERG: The answer is probably nothing, because the memos are written by Jim Comey, and Jim Comey is as reliable and consistent and truthful and honest as they come, right? So he's going to testify perhaps someday to precisely what he wrote, and there's not going to be any real difference or distinction between those two things -- the oral version and the written version of what Jim Comey saw and heard.
But it's just a really bad idea. It opens the door to a practice that as a former federal prosecutor, I would disdain, which is...
GERTNER: But how many doors have already been opened in this case?
ROSENBERG: Oh, well...
GERTNER: I mean, you know -- and to some degree Comey hitting the airwaves as he has is also unusual and certainly arguably undermines the prosecution.
ROSENBERG: Well, yeah, so it's rare for me to disagree with a federal judge. But I...
HAYES: Well, that I'm not sure I buy but...
ROSENBERG: When I do it, I always try to do it politely.
GERTNER: I have no power. Don't worry about it.
ROSENBERG: Nor do I anymore, but I think in this case, Chris, the fact that Jim is out promoting a book is fine because Jim's a private citizen. He wrote a book, and he's going to talk about it, and that's what private citizens get to do.
Jim, as a witness, is a little bit different. And the prosecutors really control that process, or at least would like to. And that's precisely why they don't want this stuff floating around, particularly on the Hill. As you said, it's already out.
HAYES: I wonder, Nancy, how you think about how this process -- it's a very unique process, now. You've got the special prosecutor. You've got the Hill sort of trying to nose in on it. You've got the president in front of everyone pressuring his Department of Justice to prosecute his political enemies. I mean how can a process like this have a fair, just outcome?
GERTNER: Well, it's going to be complicated, there's no question about it, that so much of this is going to be in the public. But when you talk about the process, you've got to sort of step back and say there's a criminal process on the one hand.
GERTNER: The people who are purportedly prosecuted in court. And it's going to be -- whoever presides over those criminal trials is going to have a hard time picking a fair jury, trying to disentangle what the press has been from what the story that comes out in the court.
But on the other hand, if there is an impeachment here, if there's a Mueller report as opposed to a Mueller prosecution, that is already a public process.
GERTNER: And so to some degree, it's not a surprise that all of this is fleshed out as it is.
HAYES: Chuck Rosenberg and Nancy Gertner, that was really illuminating. Thank you both for making the time tonight.
GERTNER: Thank you.
HAYES: Still to come, why did President Trump's attorney suddenly drop his defamation suit against BuzzFeed for publishing the Steele dossier? BuzzFeed editor- in-chief Ben Smith joins me exclusively ahead. I think I have the biggest exclusive on the network tonight.
Plus, a new level of humiliation in tonight's Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, Time magazine revealed its 100 most influential people of 2018. Somehow your humble host was not on the list. But no surprise that as President Donald Trump would be among them. Then the magazine chooses interesting people to write tributes for each person, sort of a pairing thing, for its Time 100. And so we got this full-throated defense of the Trump presidency. Get ready for some very purple prose. "President Trump is a flash bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America, the same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump's popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump's achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans." I love ordinary Americans, they're my favorite kind.
And the man who wrote that was someone who candidate Trump once lavished with his own unique kind of recognition.
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TRUMP: It's L-y-i-n, apostrophe. Lyin' Ted. The Bible held high. He puts it down and then he lies.
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HAYES: And the relationship between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, at least one of them changed. That's Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Former presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz wrote a fawning testimonial for President Trump in the Time 100 issue. And yet it seems like Cruz wasn't always quite so fond of Donald Trump. I could have sworn there was some kind of a rift, perhaps that time during the primaries that Trump used that classic campaign attack in which you say your political opponent's father is actually an assassin.
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SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. I'll tell you what I really think of Donald Trump. This man is a pathological liar. The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him.
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HAYES: OK. But Cruz got over that. A month before the election, he even phone banked for Trump. And yet I feel I could swear that we're forgetting something. Oh, right. That's right. That would be the time that Trump attacked and insulted Ted Cruz's wife, including tweeting this from his personal account. And after that, well, you could see not only Cruz's fury, but the spine that would carry him through to this day.
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CRUZ: It's not easy to tick me off. I don't get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So will you support him as the nominee?
CRUZ: I'm going to beat him for the nomination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not...
CRUZ: I am answering the question. Donald Trump will not be the nominee.
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HAYES: History was made on the Senate floor today by this very young woman, Miley Pearl Bowlsby, the first baby allowed on the Senate floor during a vote. Miley's mom is Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, someone who is not unfamiliar with firsts. She's the first disabled woman elected to congress; she lost her legs while serving as an army helicopter pilot in Iraq. She is the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office less than two weeks ago. And today she became the first Senator to bring her baby to the floor during a vote.
It did require a rule change. Duckworth's colleagues voting just yesterday to allow Senators to bring a child under 1-year-old on the Senate floor and to breast-feed during votes, which is important.
Senator Duckworth thanked her colleagues for, quote, helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century. And when it looked likely she would have to cast a vote today, Senator Duckworth sent out this adorable tweet, writing "Miley's outfit is prepped. I made sure she has a jacket, so she doesn't violate the Senate floor dress code, which requires blazers. I'm not sure what the policy is on duckling onesies, but I think we're ready."
Be ready, too, for Miley and Senator Duckworth and all the women out there breaking down barriers and making history.
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SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, (D) ILLINOIS: It meant so much to be able to able to cast a vote as a new mom and be able to do my job and take care of my baby at the same time.
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TRUMP: Michael Cohen of the Trump organization was in Prague. It turned out to be a different Michael Cohen. It's a disgrace what took place. It's a disgrace. And I think they ought to apologize, to start with, Michael Cohen.
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HAYES: The they there would be BuzzFeed. They took a ton of flak last January for publishing the so-called Steele dossier, which laid out explosive and unverified allegations compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele concerning President Trump, his campaign, and Russia. And to undercut the dossier, Trump seized on this passage, which alleged that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had a secret meeting with Kremlin officials in August 2016 in Prague. Cohen quickly claimed he had never been to Prague, and he sued BuzzFeed and the firm that employed Steele, Fusion GPS, claiming his reputation had been damaged by the, quote, "entirely and totally false accusations."
Then, last week, McClatchy reported that Robert Mueller has evidence that Cohen was, in fact, in Prague in 2016.
Now, NBC has not confirmed this report, nor has anyone else as far as we can tell. We don't know if it's true. But today in the wake of the FBI raid on Cohen's office, Trump's embattled lawyer dropped his lawsuit against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS.
And joining me now, the man who made the decision to publish the dossier, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith.
What's your understanding of the timing?
BEN SMITH, CEO, BUZZFEED: Of the timing of his -- you know...
HAYES: Of dropping the lawsuit.
SMITH: I don't know. I haven't talked to Michael about it, though he loves to talk to the press, and we're always happy to talk to him. Easier now that he's not suing us. But one thing that is clear in the context here is that when we published the dossier, there was obviously a lot of criticism, certainly, including from Michael Cohen, and questions, I think reasonable questions I think people believe over whether was this an important public document, was publishing this in the public interest? I think it has been incredibly clear over the course of the last year, and it seems to me clear to Michael Cohen's lawyers that that question has been resolved.
HAYES: Was that the question that the sort of case would ultimately turn on?
SMITH: Yeah. I mean, I think the question of whether this was an important government document and whether publishing it was in the public interest or important journalistic and legal questions.
HAYES: You know, I was one of those people who thought you shouldn't have published it at the time.
SMITH: Do you still think that?
HAYES: No, no, I don't actually. I think you made the right call.
But at the time I thought that, because, precisely for this reason, right. I mean, are there were people who were alleged to have done things in there that they may not be guilty of and now you've got this thing floating out there with their name attached, and that's basically the grounds on which Michael Cohen sued you.
SMITH: Yeah. I think what was clear to us at the time, and I think has become clear, is this wasn't any document with some allegations, this document had been briefed to two presidents of the United States by the top national security officials. And what's become really clear over the last year, and, you know, it's one thing that Jim Comey and Devin Nunes agree on, is this document was really important to the investigation. It was involved in a FISA warrant, all sorts of things like that.
So, as you said, some of these -- you know, these are -- like the Prague trip. I mean, we also have not been able to confirm that. Lots of reporters chasing it, has not been knocked down, hasn't been stood up. The fact that the document was at the center of a lot of what's been happening over the last year is very clear.
HAYES: Have you guys been trying to confirm parts of the document?
SMITH: Yeah, I think, you know, starting when we got it before we published, we had reporters in Prague, elsewhere, running around, trying to confirm it.
HAYES: What is your assessment of it now?
SMITH: There are obviously elements of the dossier that have been confirmed -- and there are a few specifics, including -- and I think as well as the big picture, which -- you know, when Steele was writing the dossier was less clear than it is now that there was obviously an organized Russian campaign, a lot of it happening, you know, in like Facebook groups and things to feed support for Donald Trump.
That wasn't an obvious thing to say when Steele wrote the dossier. It's obviously -- I think a consensus now.
HAYES: Were you able -- Michael Cohen is a notorious like the president, he speaks very insultingly of the press often in public, but he really likes talking to reporters. As far as I can tell, he does that essentially all day. Were you guys talking to him while this was happening? Was he a source while he was suing you?
SMITH: This is something that our lawyers were not necessarily thrilled about, but yes. Michael Cohen -- I think something to understand about Trump and about Cohen is they come out of this New York tabloid world, It's possible they don't always exactly mean what they say. And so, yes, I think our reporter -- Michael Cohen has always talked to reporters. He, in fact, while the lawsuit was going on, he told my colleague Anthony Cormier to tell me that he thought I was doing a good job and that when he owned BuzzFeed as a result of this lawsuit he would consider keeping me employed.
HAYES: It's -- there's a certain milieu that is just hard -- you grew up in New York City. YOu grew up around New York journalism. I grew up in New York City. You know, there's a certain milieu of like New York hustler tabloid figures who are both like suing everyone, but also trying to make deal with the same people they're suing, and then also talking to the press about it that is such a specific type and so what Michael Cohen and Donald Trump are.
SMITH: Yeah, although when some of the things that Donald Trump says about the press, which are -- which is easy, I think for me or for you to see as kind of New York tabloid gamesmanship. When you say it from, you know, the Rose Garden, I think a lot of that audience -- your audience is not in on the joke.
HAYES: You think it a joke? Like when he gets up there and he talks about BuzzFeed being garbage, which he did at that press conference, of course, after you published the dossier. You think he doesn't actually mean it?
SMITH: I have no idea what he means, and it's definitely not a joke when the president of the United States says it.
HAYES: There were a lot of people that were angry at you. You got incoming about publishing the dossier from a bunch of different directions, right. So, it has been used very cynically by defenders of the president to show that the whole thing is ridiculous, because it's on its face manifestly absurd that the president hired two sex workers to urinate on each other in a Ritz Carlton bed.
But there were other people who other fellow reporters who were not happy with that decision.
SMITH: Yeah, but I think there's a tradition in journalism that really comes from the notion that, well, we control the printing presses, we control the broadcast pipes. The only information you're getting is information that we broadcaster, newspaper printers, decide to give you.
HAYES: And have verified, I mean crucially.
SMITH: For sure. I mean, that is in the higher parts of the press, that is -- it's not the universal tradition. But there's a kind of judgment you make of this is something everybody on the inside knows but do we really want to share it with our audience? Maybe we should protect them from this information.
I think that is broadly true that for better or for worse people -- the audience, your audience has to deal with sources of -- with sources of information that you can't control. deals with sources of information you can't control.
Now, this document was something different. I think in the old days, this same argument, which is this documented has been briefed to two presidents of the United States, this is not some random scrap of paper, still holds.
HAYES: I have -- I have said before on the show there are two people in the world. There are people who believe the Kompromat tape is real, the Steele dossier alleges, that there there is compromising tape of the president with two sex workers in a Ritz Carlton hotel room, and people who think it's not. Which are you?
SMITH: I am the third kind. I am just waiting on the reporting.
HAYES: I don't believe that. You have a hunch.
SMITH: No, actually, I think with a claim like that.
HAYES: You're being careful and lawerely, Ben Smith.
SMITH: Journalistic is the word.
HAYES: Journalistic, I guess. But there's a -- we'll see. I mean, there's a lot of stuff in that document that if it proves to be true would be one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the republic, I think it's fair to say.
SMITH: I mean, I think we've already seen many of the most remarkable stories in the history of the Republic play out in the last couple of weeks.
HAYES: Ben Smith, who is editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, great to have you, man.
SMITH: All right. That's All In for this evening. You were waiting for it to end, I know. Although Ben was very entertaining.
The Rachel Maddow Show starts now with special guest James Comey. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END