White House does not rule out pardon for Cohen. TRANSCRIPT: 04/23/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Maxine Waters, Jennifer Rodgers, Eric Lipton, Chris Lu, Meike Eoyang, Jeffrey Lewis

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: April 23, 2018 Guest: Maxine Waters, Jennifer Rodgers, Eric Lipton, Chris Lu, Meike Eoyang, Jeffrey Lewis

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Who doesn`t want to avert that from happening? On that basis, who wouldn`t want this hand of Trump`s shoot the moon to win? And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is he worried Michael Cohen can flip over?

HAYES: As the President fixates on Michael Cohen, the White House insists Trump is not worried.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The total witch- hunt.

HAYES: Tonight Congresswoman Maxine Waters joins me to discuss pardons, witness flipping, and the bipartisan push to protect Mueller. Then another day, another Scott Pruitt scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Scott Pruitt is doing a great job.

HAYES: New signs tonight that Pruitt`s job could actually be in jeopardy. And after year of President Trump, guess what Republican candidates are campaigning on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t need to investigate our President. We need to arrest Hillary.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. While the presidential families gathered over the weekend to mourn the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, the current occupant of the White House was golfing, rage tweeting, and attempting it appears to influence the testimony of a potential witness against him. First Lady Melania Trump attended the funeral on Saturday, posing for a photo with the Obamas, the Clintons and two generations of Bushes but her husband stayed behind at his estate in Florida where he had plenty of time to catch up on Twitter and cable news, two of his favorites, and where he somehow seems to have come across this story published Friday on his allegedly abusive treatment of long-time aide Michael Cohen. Since Cohen was raided by the FBI a couple of weeks ago, according to The Times, Trump`s lawyers and advisers now fear Cohen could turn on the President. The President responded the New York Times and a third-rate reporter named Maggie Haberman known as a Crooked H flunky who I don`t speak to and have nothing to do with are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hopes that he will flip. They use non-existent sources and a drunk drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is businessman for his own account/lawyer who I`ve always like and respected. Most people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble even if it means lying or making stories. Sorry, I don`t see Michael doing that despite the horrible witch-hunt and the dishonest media. A lot to parse there, for starters, this would be the report he`s referring to, Maggie Haberman, a New York Times Reporter whom the President claims he does not speak to and has nothing to do with. He talks to her all the time. Also, her work just won a Pulitzer Prize. And the drugged/drugged- up loser referred to by the President appears to be referring to Sam Nunberg, remember him? A former aide who fell out with the President a couple of years ago and spent all day on cable television saying he was going to defy Muellers` grand jury testimony and then recently actually gave grand jury testimony in the probe. Nunberg is quoted in the Times report along with a handful of other on the record sources including Trump confidante Roger Stone. Now, we have come to expect this kind of outburst and vitriol from the President but it is really stunning to watch in real time as the President sends what appears to be a signal to Michael Cohen calling him, "a fine person with a wonderful family, insisting he has always liked and respected Cohen, and claiming Cohen is not the type of guy to flip. It`s a very clear message from the President of the United States to a potential witness against him right out in the open for all of us to see. Now, the President`s Press Secretary was asked about those comments not surprisingly this morning in a session with reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump tweeted over the weekend that he doesn`t expect Michael Cohen to flip. Has he been offered any assurances from Mr. Cohen?

SANDERS: I`m not sure about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have they spoken?

SANDERS: I`m only aware of the conversation from a couple of Fridays ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is he worried --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he worried Michael Cohen could flip over?

SANDERS: I think he said even in that that there isn`t anything there for that to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not tweet that, then? Why open the opportunity for to flip? It suggesting he has something to hide doesn`t it?

SANDERS: No, I don`t think the President has anything to hide. He`s been quite clear on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, is the President open to a pardon for Michael Cohen?

SANDERS: I don`t think that we`re going to talk about hypotheticals that don`t exist right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: But the President does seem to have pardons on the brain. Over the weekend he tweeted apparently out of nowhere, he`s now considering a full pardon for boxer Jack Johnson thanks to a phone call from Sylvester Stallone if you have that in your news bingo, you win, which creates a number or questions we won`t address here. And the President just pardoned Scooter Libby, the former Bush administration official convicted of lying to investigators in the Valerie Plame Affair. This afternoon`s press briefing, the Press Secretary did not rule out a pardon for Michael Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was noticed by some that you didn`t close the door one way or the other the President pardoning Michael Cohen. What is your - - what`s your read on that right now?

SANDERS: It`s hard to close the door on something that hasn`t taken place. I don`t like to discuss or comment on hypothetical situations that may or may not ever happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat of California joins me here tonight in New York City. It`s nice to have you here in studio.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be here.

HAYES: What is your read of the message the President is or is not sending to Michael Cohen?

WATERS: Well, it`s quite obvious that he is sending a message that he will pardon him. I understand that he treated him very badly. He had no respect for him and despite the fact that Cohen has said he would take a bullet, I don`t think so. I don`t think he`ll take prison. And so when people talk about him flipping, I think it just drives the President crazy. And he is sending him a message surely that don`t worry, I`m going take care of you. And he`s demonstrated that he will pardon. Now what he has done? He pardoned at least two people, Arpaio and Scooter Libby. And so yes, it`s quite clear to me and I think to anybody watching that that`s what he is trying the do.

HAYES: So you think this is -- this is a part of what I think people like yourself and others argue as a sort of on-going slow motion obstruction effort by the President?

WATERS: Absolutely. He`s obstructing justice right before our very eyes. And he does not stop. He continues to, you know, use the powers of the president to send a message to those who would flip on him or who would cooperate with the investigation that he`ll take care of them and he`s done it consistently.

HAYES: You know, there`s -- a lot of people have made the point recently that ultimately, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions who has recused himself from the Russia investigation and Rod Rosenstein`s overseeing that, that he has to be praised for essentially defending the independence of the Department of Justice and protecting that investigation. There`s reporting saying that he told the White House last week that if Rosenstein were fired, he may have to go as well. You`re someone very critical of the Attorney General. What do you think of that piece?

WATERS: As you know, he did recuse himself, as you just said, and the President has not been kind to him, despite the fact he was an early supporter of the President, endorsed him when nobody else would, the President said he wanted to fire him at one point. And so now that he`s refused to leave and he is taking up for Rod Rosenstein, I`m surprised. I`m surprised and I certainly didn`t expect very much of him and I don`t know why he didn`t leave after the President humiliated him so. And so I don`t know what`s going on.

HAYES: Do you derive pleasure from his humiliation given how low your opinions is of him?

WATERS: I`m always surprised when individuals take that kind of beating. I`m surprised that they don`t stand up for themselves, that they don`t feel as if they have been undermined and humiliated to the point where they don`t want to serve. I don`t know why he wanted to stay.

HAYES: You`ve also have very strong criticism of James Comey, the former FBI Director. I want to play this clip.

WATERS: I know.

HAYES: It`s a notorious clip. Well, you know, it made an impression. Take a listen to this.

WATERS: OK, all right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congresswoman, can you tell us anything about the discussion in the briefing room?

WATERS: No, it`s classified, and we can`t tell you anything. All I can tell you is the FBI Director has no creditability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: Yes.

HAYES: That was during a transition. It was a briefing that Director Comey gave to Members of Congress which was classified which I guess you cannot speak about still.

WATERS: That`s right.

HAYES: But you and Donald Trump do agree on that. That sentence you said, the FBI Director has no credibility. You and Donald Trump were agreeing on that.

WATERS: No, absolutely not. I tried to clarify that and to say yes, coming out of that classified briefing, I said that, and I certainly meant it. However, I think it is quite different when you take a look at Comey and his relationship to the President what he said, what he`s done, I believe him.

HAYES: You believe him?

WATERS: I believe him, yes. And so then was then and now is now.

HAYES: The White House keeps saying now, and I want to -- they have a new talking point about the firing of Rosenstein or Mueller which seemed very close and then seemed to diffuse a little bit recently. Here`s what they`re saying. I`m going to play you a few short clips of White House spokespeople saying they don`t have any intention to fire Mueller. Take a listen.

WATERS: Yes, yes, yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: When is he going to fire Rosenstein? When is he going to fire Mueller? We have the same conversation. As far as I know, the President has no intention of firing these individuals.

SANDERS: As we`ve said many times before, we have no intention of firing the special counsel. We`ve been beyond cooperative with them.

SHORT: The president has no intention of firing Robert Mueller. It`s impossible to say what the future is going to hold because you never know how far off it`s going to fear as far as investigation but there are no plans to dismiss Robert Mueller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Do you believe them?

WATERS: No, I don`t believe them. And let me tell you, he would fire them in the hot second if he didn`t think he would get the kind of pushback that he`s been warned about. You have Senators on both sides of the aisle saying you better not, you better not do this. And I think that he is not prepared to cross them at this time because he does not know what will happen. Perhaps they`ll join me, they want to impeach him.

HAYES: Are you -- are you -- the belief that Democrats should make impeachment a centerpiece of the midterm elections?

WATER: Well, they have indicate they`d do not want to do that. They think that the Republicans --

HAYES: Who`s the "they"? Who`s the "they"?

WATERS: The leadership. You know, whether we`re talking about the DNC or the DCCC, they all believe that the Republicans will just use that and say they`re mad because they lost the election, and they don`t particularly think that that`s good way to go with this. I don`t agree with him.

HAYES: You don`t agree.

WATERS: No.

HAYES: You don`t agree both tactically and also substantively. I mean, I guess my point is I know that you substantively feel he has committed impeachable offenses.

WATERS: That`s right. That`s right.

HAYES: Are you not persuaded by the idea that it would be a tactical mistake politically?

WATERS: No, I`m not persuaded by that idea. You know why? Because I tell you everywhere I go, people are talking about why can`t you all get rid of him?

HAYES: Right.

WATERS: Why don`t they impeach him? What`s wrong with the other Members of Congress, why don`t they stand up with you? This man is dishonorable. He lies all the time. He`s a con man. They say all of these things and I`m not just talking about my district, whether I`m on the airplane, I`m walking down the street in New York, wherever I am, I`m hearing it and I`m told that 70 percent of women who have been polled say that they want him up peached.

HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, thank you very much.

WATERS: You`re welcome.

HAYES: For more on what comes next in the Cohen investigation, I`m joined by Jennifer Rodgers, former Federal Prosecutor with the United States Attorney`s Office of the Southern District of New York and MSNBC Justice Analyst Matt Miller who is Chief Spokesperson at the Justice Department under President Obama. Matt, starting with you, you just heard the Congresswoman say that she thought this was a sort of effort at witness manipulation. What did you think?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE ANALYST: Yes, I think it`s absolutely clear that`s what the President is trying to do. He`s been trying to tamper with witnesses in this case going back well into last year. You know, he sometimes, you know, kind of implicitly at one point in 2016 kind of threw an intermediary, sent a message to Mike Flynn that he should stay strong. And then when that wasn`t enough, he had his attorney John Dowd or at least John Dowd reached out maybe on his own, but most likely at the President`s direction and dangled a pardon in front of both Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort in the days before one of them was indicted and one of them plead guilty. So we know he`s flirted with pardoning people involved in this case already and I think if you look at all the evidence over the last two weeks, the Scooter Libby pardon, the strange out of nowhere Jack Johnson pardon float, and these kind of stay strong words again to Michael Cohen, I think it`s absolutely clear that`s what the President is trying to do.

HAYES: Is that your interpretation?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think that`s right. I mean, I think he`s saying that. The problem is of course with the President, you know, you never know. I don`t think if I were Michael Cohen, I would be taking a lot of comfort from these overture because --

HAYES: Oh, no. I would not take the tweet to the bank to make my decision about whether I was going to cooperate not.

RODGERS: But he`s definitely sending that message. I mean, the Scooter Libby thing the same day, this was four days after the search warrant execution, he places a personal call to Cohen that`s same day even though they`re now in the mid of this criminal investigation so it`s a message.

HAYES: I mean, as a lawyer, as a former prosecutor, like what would -- what would be going through your head if you were watching this happen in a case you were prosecuting? If someone, as bound up as the President is, was like reaching out to witnesses that you were -- you know, that you just served warrants on, things like that.

RODGERS: Well, in some ways you`re kind of salivating, right? Because you`re like, if I ever do get Michael Cohen in the chair opposite me, you know, one of the first questions is hey, remember that day when the President give you a call? You know, let`s hear it. So you know, they`re creating problems for themselves and as a prosecutor, you`ve always got an eye out for those.

HAYES: Let me ask you another question about another figure in this drama which is Keith Davidson. It`s sort of an interesting case here. So Keith Davidson is a lawyer who`s been on the other side of Michael Cohen on a bunch of these settlements. He represented -- he represented the accuser or the woman who was impregnated by Elliott Broidy, that was the RNC Chair who had quit his job after a $1.6 million payment was unearthed, Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels originally as well. He is now cooperating with federal law enforcement .what do you make of that?

RODGERS: Well, you know, when you say "cooperating," it`s not at all clear to me there is any criminal liability here for him. I think he`s being cooperative. I think he is talking to them. You know, I just don`t see any legal trouble for him. I think there`s ethics trouble for him as far as the BAR because it looks like he may have actually conspired with Cohen.

HAYES: It sure does look like that. It really does look like that.

RODGERS: So I think he`s in trouble in that sense, you know, or civil trouble, right? I mean, they certainly could sue him if they got a better deal with the lawyer who was really representing their interests. But I don`t think he is a cooperating witness in the criminal sense of the word.

HAYES: Matt, what does it mean to have Cohen just sort of hanging out there? I mean, I have this sense just watching the news play out. This is -- everything that`s happening now is with this other shoe and there`s a lot of shoes that haven`t dropped. But the -- you know, they raided the guy`s office and they`ve been reading his e-mail for months and it`s just got to be strange to just go to work every day at the White House, knowing that that`s out there.

MILLER: Yes, well, you know, one of the weird things about looking at this from the outside, we don`t know that the raid on Cohen`s office or even Cohen`s potential testimony actually means any real criminal liability for the President. But if you watch all the President`s aides and all the people close to the President, if you watch the President`s meltdowns on Twitter, they all seem to think that this investigation poses real criminal liability for the President. So if you`re a staffer, and you look at the way these staffers -- you know, take the firing Mueller example -- you know, take the firing Mueller answers, for example. They don`t know how to answer these questions from reporters because they have no idea what the President is going to do on any given day, and they can in no way have any idea what kind of criminal liability he has related to Michael Cohen. You know, a lot of them worked on the campaign and you know, they may not have the full picture of what happened with Russia, but they might have some picture from being on the campaign, same with being in the obstruction of justice side of it. They`ve at least been around the White House so they might have some idea what the President has done. They have no idea what he did in his private business dealings with Michael Cohen and what Michael Cohen could say about the President.

HAYES: Right.

MILLER: And that has to be awfully, awfully terrifying to anyone that works in the White House that.

HAYES: That is a great point. Jennifer Rodgers and Matt Miller, thanks for making time. Next, amidst the mounting scandals coming out about Scott Pruitt, almost too many to keep track of, new reporting there is new behind the scenes action to start push him out. Could Scott Pruitt`s scandals finally catch up to him? The latest in two minutes.

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HAYES: Tonight is a brand-new batch of scandalous Scott Pruitt headlines draw Bloomberg reports. The White House is deterring Republicans from defending Pruitt in public in a sign the administration support for the embattled EPA chief may be waning. Among the latest damaging headlines, a group of Democratic lawmakers say they have new documents they have obtained that raise serious questions about the EPA`s security expenditures. And this as Scott Pruitt is now the target of at least -- I think we`ve counted this correctly -- ten federal investigations focused on his spending habits and possible ethics violations. Someone over the last month who has reported exclusively on Pruitt scandals, Eric Lipton from the New York Times who joins me now and Chris Lu who serve as assistant to President Barack Obama and a White House Cabinet Secretary where he interfaced with members of the cabinet. Eric, let me start with you. There is so much that I begin to lose track so let`s start a little bit on a story you broke this weekend about the person, the couple from whom he rented that infamous condo. I want to play you sound of what he said about whether they had any business before the EPA whatsoever to Ed Henry. Take a listen.

SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: Why does it matter when the ethics officials look at the lease and the terms lease to determine whether it`s ethical or not?

ED HENRY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Why does it matter? It`s because you`re renting it from the wife of a lobbyist.

PRUITT: Who has no business before this agency.

HENRY: Hold on a second. So is that Williams and Jensen, right? Major lobbying firm. ExxonMobil is a client.

PRUITT: Mr. Hart has no --

HENRY: Does ExxonMobil have business before you, sir?

PRUITT: Mr. Hart has no business or clients before this agency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Is that true, Eric?

ERIC LIPTON, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: It`s not. And his own lobbying firm filed a disclosure report on Friday that said that he, in fact, did have a client that he was representing before the EPA, and not only that, but he met with Pruitt in July of 2017 with that client. And even though both Steve Hart and Pruitt there said that they did not have any such interactions, Pruitt was a tenant in his wife`s condo for $50 a night at the same time as Steve Hart the lobbyist was meeting with Pruitt on behalf of a friend of his who wanted to push for more funding for Chesapeake Bay and improving the environment in the Chesapeake Bay.

HAYES: Just to be clear here, I just want to be clear. He said they had now -- there`s no business.

LIPTON: Right.

HAYES: So Steve Hart meets with Scott Pruitt. Scott Pruitt is the head of the EPA. Steve Hart is the husband of the woman who is renting his condo for $50 a night on fairly sweet terms with another -- a third party to lobby before an issue at the EPA?

LIPTON: That`s right. And there are e-mails that show that correspondents has started in May of 2017 to a meeting in July of 2017. I mean, the argument that Steve Hart makes is that this meeting which was set up via e- mails from his own lobbying firm you know, to Pruitt`s office and chief of staff, he says he did it on behalf of a friend and he was not paid for this work but his own lobbying firm has now filed disclosure papers saying he was lobbying on behalf of Smithfield Foods which is a major client of the lobbying firm.

HAYES: Chris, what do -- what do you think of that?

CHRIS LU, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Look, this is just the latest issue of scandals for Scott Pruitt. I mean, it is hard to keep track now of all the ethical improprieties. It is everything from the travel spending, the furniture, the security details, the kickback from the lobbyists, the hiring practices, the pay raises. Frankly, if there`s an ethics impropriety, Scott Pruitt has probably already committed it. And frankly, when I was working for President Obama, and I worked for him for 11 years, if I had done even one of these things, I would have been out on the streets. So it`s remarkable that Pruitt still is hanging on at this point.

HAYES: Well, Eric, you -- the raising reporting suggesting this is -- this is kind of how he rolls and has for a while. I mean, Walter Shaub summarize some of your reporting about what he did back in Oklahoma by saying, well, Pruitt was in state government, the New York Times said the lobbyists sold him a home for $100,000 less than she had paid for. Her telecom employer paid the difference. He then voted to let the importer raise its rates. At the EPA he hired her and the banker that lent him money. Is that an accurate characterization?

LIPTON: Yes, most of that is right. I mean, two of my colleagues, (INAUDIBLE) that wrote a story about the days of Pruitt when he was Attorney General and he bought a house from an essentially AT&T lobbyist and he got it for $100,000 less than she had paid for it. And then he took actions while he was a state legislature, a state legislature that benefitted AT&T. So it certainly -- it looks like, again, a relationship that with a lobbyist that benefitted the lobbyist client and is sort of an echo of something that would sort of come much later again, here now that he serves as Head of the EPA.

HAYES: Josh Dawsey at the Washington Post just tweeted this which I thought was interesting, Chris. Lots and I mean lots of folks in the White House want EPA head Scott Pruitt gone. The one who makes the ultimate decision doesn`t seem to agree so Pruitt hangs on. What do you -- what do you think, Chris?

LU: Well, look, a couple of weeks ago, the reporting was that John Kelly called Pruitt and said look, it`s got to stop. No more of these disclosures. And seemingly every single day there is another one of these new things. What`s important to recognize is that until last week, there wasn`t a number two at EPA. That person Andrew Wheeler has now been confirmed. Look, his policies aren`t great either in terms of the environment but he will probably destroy the environment, but he`ll do it in an ethical manner. And so there`s now certainly somebody in charge who can take over if Pruitt is moved out.

HAYES: Eric, are you confident we`ve learned all there is to learn or are there more threads that are getting pulled on?

LIPTON: There`s more still to report. We still have various you know, avenues that we`re pursuing. I mean, I think the most troubling thing right now for Pruitt is that Trey Gowdy, the Head of the Oversight Committee in the House has asked some of his top aides to come and in give what he calls transcribed interviews. I mean, that`s a formal investigation. Here you have the first formal investigation by House Republicans of a Trump cabinet member and so that`s -- you know, that`s got to be troubling.

HAYES: Eric Lipton and Chris Lu, thank you both.

LU: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, guess which Republican just backed off his very deeply principled opposition to President Trump`s nominee for Secretary of State. The dramatic finish to Committee vote for Mike Pompeo next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I have changed my mind. I`ve decided to go ahead and vote for Director Pompeo because he`s assured me that he has learned the lesson, that he does and has incorporated the idea that the Iraq War was a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Just hours ago with Republican Senator Rand Paul dropping his objections after heavy lobbying for the President, Mike Pompeo`s nomination to be the next Secretary of State received a positive recommendation from Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a party-line vote. Pompeo is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate later this week with at least three Democrats already saying they will vote in favor. Now Pompeo was the one who met secretly with the President of North Korea few weeks ago to lay the groundwork for a summit with President Trump this spring. And as Secretary of State, if indeed confirmed, he will have his work cut out for him. Meike Eoyang, is former Staff Member for the House Arms Services Committee and House Intel Committee, Jeffrey Lewis, Director of East Asia Nonproliferation for the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, and MSNBC National Security Analyst Ned Price is a former Special Assistant to President Obama. This is kind of a crazy time, Meike, right now. You`ve got no secretary -- you got an Acting Secretary of State, no Ambassador to South Korea, and the President halfway down the road towards the first ever state-to-state summit with the Head of North Korea. Where are we right now?

MEIKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, HOUSE ARMS SERVICES COMMITTEE: I`m not sure that anyone could tell you and I`m pretty sure the Trump administration doesn`t have a map to this either. You know, we`re missing a lot of the people that you would need to work out the details of a summit like this. This is really high stakes diplomacy. We are talking about a high-wire trapeze act here with no net underneath them. And the risk of this President slipping is really quite high.

HAYES: Jeffrey, you follow this issue closely for a while. I want to ask you about the veracity of one of the President`s tweets. North Korea announced they`re suspending tests of their weapons the last week. The President tweeting we haven`t given up anything they have agreed to denuclearization. So great for world. Site closure, no more testing. Is that true?

JEFFREY LEWIS, DIRECTOR OF EAST ASIA NONPROLIFERATION, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I mean, it`s true-ish. You know, the North Koreans are willing to say that they are going to talk about denuclearization. But I think the place where that gets a little bit messed up is denuclearization for North Korea does not mean North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. So yes, they`re going to take a pause in testing long-range missiles and they`re going to take a pause in testing long-range missiles, and they`re going to take a pause in testing nuclear weapons, but at the end of the day, North Korea is not going to give up the nuclear weapons that it has now, and so that`s where I think it`s not true.

HAYES: Well then, so what is this all about? I mean, if that`s -- that seems like you`re saying the conclusion is already fixed here, that they`re not going to give up their weapons. So then what`s going on?

LEWIS: I have no idea what the president thinks he is doing. I mean, that`s what is so bizarre about this. The North Koreans have made it clear, and they just release another statement the other day that the reason they`re stopping testing is because the arsenal is finished. They call it their powerful treasured sword, and that they don`t have any intention of giving it up.

I think the president has I think the idea that he`ll go and that there will be a summit, and that magically North Korea will give those nuclear weapons up. But really, what the North Koreans just want is the summit. They want to reduce pressure. They want to be seen as a legitimate power. And ultimately, they want the U.S. to accept that they have nuclear weapons. And the president is just sort of bumbling into that.

HAYES: Is that your read on what the North Koreans are after, Ned?

PRICE: Well, it certainly is, Chris. I think they`re after that, and at the same time, if they can divide our alliance. If they can divide our relationship with the Japanese and the South Koreans, primarily, that`s just an added bonus for them. You will note that in the North Korean statement over the weekend late last week there was no mention made of shorter range missiles. And those are some of the programs that are of most concern to South Korea and to Japan.

That is what the North Koreans have been trying to do for much of this time is to take Washington and to move them squarely away from both Seoul and Tokyo. And unfortunately, President Trump has actually given them an opening by first being more confrontational and bellicose than probably either the Japanese and certainly the South Koreans would want. And now seeming to rush -- almost willing to rush to Pyongyang on the first Air Force One flight over there. That does the North Koreans` work for them in some ways.

HAYES: But wait a second. It is the government of South Korea that has sort of put the foot forward on all this. They led the diplomatic initiatives. They did all the stuff -- all the rigmarole for the Olympics and the joint hockey team. Moon Jae-in ran on this. The administration ran on sort of a conciliatory line towards North Korea, towards a possibility of peace. They`re the ones that announced the diplomatic breakthough in the White House. So, why shouldn`t the U.S. follow their lead? Now like what`s so bad about giving this a shot I guess is the question?

PRICE: Oh, absolutely we have to give it a shot. Look, rushing towards peace is so much better than rushing towards war.

HAYES: Right. Yes, exactly.

PRICE: But we can`t do this -- we can`t do this in a haphazard way, Chris.

Look, I think Jeffrey is right. And President Trump sees himself as a deal maker. And President Trump wants nothing more than to get to the table and to face Kim Jong-un mano to mano and at the end to waive a piece of paper around and say look, I solved what my predecessors could not. But there is a real threat here. There is a real potential that what he waves around is not a negotiated commitment with verifiable, permanent and irreversible steps, but really just an empty road map, really just something that will kick the can down the road even farther.

HAYES: Or Mieke, essentially in trying -- I mean, this to me -- again, I`m not a nuclear expert or a North Korea expert, but it does look like what they`re after is essentially to be recognized as a nuclear power.

BOYANG: That`s right. And they want people to stop treating them like a pariah state. They want this face-to-face meeting with the president for their stature. The concept of face is very important in Asia.

But what we`re seeing here, and I think there is a real risk of this, is the United States, and specifically Trump, could get played by North Korea and China. Because one of the things they want is to reduce the U.S. military presence in the region. The U.S. is the dominant military power. The Chinese don`t like it. The North Koreans don`t like. It`s not just about the conventional missiles, it`s about the troop presence that we have here.

And Trump is a guy who will give away too much without getting anything for it. And we see this over and over again. His deal making is more like concessions and giveaways.

HAYES: But I guess my question, Jeffrey, is like is there anything gettable, right? I mean, if you reason back from the standpoint which is that they`re not going to give up their nuclear arsenal, they`re not going to agree to any actual inspection regime that would hamstring them. If that`s your starting place which is what you seem to think and North Korea experts I read seem to think, then what is there?

LEWIS: Well, look, this is why this is such a difficult thing coming on and be a pundit about. Because the fundamental issue here is you`ve got two problems, right. You`ve got North Korea, which is a nasty unpleasant neighbor for South Korea and does all kinds of bad things, and then you have North Korea`s nuclear weapons. And traditionally what we`ve said is North Korea is this terrible, horrible country.

But the first thing we have to solve is the nuclear weapons problem. And then we can talk about making the relationship better.

HAYES: Right.

LEWIS: What the South Koreans have done is flipped that, right. And what they have said is, hey, let`s forget the nuclear stuff. Let`s just say we`re for denuclearization and push that off into the distance and let`s try to improve relations. I`m not against that per se. But it`s just that it`s not clear to me the president understands that`s what he is doing.

And when he figures it out, what`s he going to do? Is he just going to go ahead and sign the peace treaty? Or is he going to freak out and turn the keys over to Bolton?

HAYES: Ned, do you have confidence, trust in Mike Pompeo to navigate this?

PRICE: Well, look, Mike Pompeo has been at the tip of the spear with this, but in many ways he has been there because it`s been the process of elimination. We have had no secretary of state during that time period. Over the Easter weekend, we had no real national security adviser because H.R. McMaster was on the way out, John Bolton was not yet there. We have no ambassador to Seoul. And we have no envoy for the North Korean issue.

So Mike Pompeo, yes, he has the trust of the president, but he was really the only person standing when it came to deal with.

But look, Mike Pompeo has taken on a diplomatic role, which is not a role that he has taken on in the past with North Korea. In the past, he has spoken of separating Kim Jong-un from his nuclear weapons arsenal, including potentially with the use of force. He has joked about potentially assassinating Kim Jong-un, so he is not someone who really plays the part of a diplomat all that well. The question will become whether he can make that transition.

I have profound doubts and profound concerns about him at Foggy Bottom. But it sounds like we`re all going to get a chance to see it for ourselves.

HAYES: All right, Mieke Boyang, Jeffrey Lewis, Ned Price, great conversation. Thank you. Thank you.

HAYES: Still ahead, as Republicans struggle to find a message during elections in the age of Trump, their reverting to an old favorite. How candidates are putting Hillary Clinton on the ballot ahead.

Plus, a bad alibi, a bad alibi in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Thing One tonight, one of the most striking revelations from the Comey memos is President Trump`s apparent fixation on the most salacious part of this Steele dossier, you know what I`m talking about, explaining why what he called the golden showers thing could not have happened. Couldn`t have happened.

Comey writes in his January 2017 memo Trump said he had spoken to people who had been on the Miss Universe trip with him, and they had reminded him that he didn`t stay overnight in Russia for that. He said he arrived in the morning, did events, then showered and dressed for the pageant at the hotel. He didn`t say the hotel name, and left for the pageant.

Afterwards, he returned only to get his things because he departed for New York by plane that same night. Now Trump apparently brought it up for the second time just a month later, according to Comey, explaining as he did at our dinner, he hadn`t stayed overnight in Russian during the Miss Universe trip.

So the, quote, golden showers thing couldn`t possibly be true, because Trump says he didn`t even stay overnight in Moscow, except that`s not what the flight records say. And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: So, the president allegedly told James Comey multiple times that the, quote, golden showers thing could not possibly be true, saying the proof was that he didn`t even stay overnight in Moscow. According, however, to flight records obtained by Bloomberg, Trump departed from Asheville, North Carolina, arriving in Moscow early Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. on November 8 and then Trump stayed in Russia until Sunday, November 10 for nearly 46 hours, flying out of Moscow in the wee hours Sunday morning back to the New York City area.

So, we know Trump spent Friday night there in Moscow, and we also know most of his schedule. Trump went to eat Friday night with Russian business tycoons at Nobu. You see that picture there. Then he attended a birthday party for the pagent`s host, developer, Ares Agalarov (ph). What happened after the birthday party is a mystery. The only thing we know about the night that Trump slept in Moscow comes from his bodyguard Keith Schiller when he reportedly told congress he turned down an offer from a Russian to send women to Trump`s room. Schiller testified he stood outside Trump`s hotel room for a time and then went to bed.

The next time Trump is seen publicly is next day. Before the Miss Universe pageant on Saturday, Trump sat down for an interview NBC interview looking a little bleerly-eyed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a relationship with Vladimir Putin, a conversational relationship, or anything that you feel you have sway or influence over his government?

TRUMP: I do have a relationship. And I can tell you that he is very interested in what we`re doing here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: There is yet another special congressional election tomorrow, this one in Arizona, to fill the seat formally occupied by staunch social conservative Trent Franks who once warned that the, quote, secular left would bring the downfall of America and who resigned in November after accusations he had offered $5 million to a female employee to be a surrogate mother to his children, and that she and another female employee worried the lawmaker wanted to have sex as a means of impregnating them.

It`s not the kind of thing you should really ask your employees.

Arizona`s 8th district should be very safe for Republicans. The GOP has a 17.8 registration advantage in the district, it includes a solidly Republican golf-oriented Sun City Retirement Community, home of many of the staunchest supporters of Joe Arpaio, the infamous anti-immigrant former Maricopa County sheriff who Trump infamously pardoned last summer.

And in light of all this, it would be a genuine shock if the race were won by the Democrat, doctor and Indian immigrant Hiral Tipirneni. But Republicans are spooked. Outside groups have already spent more than $700,000 to boost Republican Debbie Lesko. Paul Ryan and other top Republican have gotten involved in the race. Even if Lesko wins, as is likely at this point, keep an eye on that margin. If the Democrats keep things close in a district Trump took by 21 points, it will be yet another sign of what even some Republicans admit may well be coming in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Certainly the energy, the enthusiasm, and the anger is on the Democratic side in this election. There is no sugarcoating that. So there is a big wave coming. And some members are going to have to get off the beach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: When we come back, the New York Times reporter who took the lead in covering Hillary Clinton`s 2016 presidential campaign will be here to discuss her new book on the behind-the-scenes drama and why Republicans are still targeting Clinton in 2018. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The media also ignores Hillary`s Uranium One deal, and more.

We don`t need to investigate our president, we need to arrest Hillary.

Republican Don Blankenship stands with President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That was a campaign ad in the Year of our Lord 2018 for a convicted felon Don Blankenship who spent a year in jail for his role in a mine disaster that killed 29 people, calling for Hillary Clinton to be locked up in a campaign ad in 2018.

The AP reports that Republicans are making Clinton the star of their midterm election strategy despite the fact she currently holds no position of power, isn`t running for, well, anything. But their tax cut message falling flat, Republicans are betting big the ghost of Clinton will serve them well in 2018.

Joining me now, New York Times writer at-large Amy Chozick, author of the new book "Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling."

You spent a lot of time with Hillary Clinton.

AMY CHOZICK, NEW YORK TIMES: A lot.

HAYES: What is your reaction to seeing that story in the AP about how -- like, she`s not in public life anymore, and they`re going to try to run against Hillary in the2018 miss terms.

CHOZICK: It`s unbelievable. They`re betting on Republicans to have this Pavlovian response to even seeing her face.

I mean, I write in the book about when I first met her growing up in Texas when I was 16, and like everyone I knew hated her. There has been a this largescale psychic phenomonon of Hillary hating for as long as she`s been on the national stage. And I thought once she stepped back from the national stage we wouldn`t see that, but clearly we still are.

HAYES: You wirte -- the book is a really interesting book. It`s very well written. You write about some conclusions you come to about the campaign and the campaign coverage that maybe you didn`t see at the time, particularly around the email coverage and the Podesta and the hacked emails.

What kind of -- in retrospect, what do you think about the way the hacked emails were covered?

CHOZICK: Right. Well, I was on my way to the newsroom. It was December. I was still in the post-election haze a lot of us were in. And my colleagues wrote a great Pulitzer-winning story about how the Russians had pulled off the perfect hack. And they said part of that was turning The Times and every media organization that covered these into a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.

And that really stopped me in my tracks, you know, and kept me up at night just wondering what were we doing? And it`s not that I think we handled it wrongly at the time or shouldn`t have covered it, but I think we need a lot more introspection about what we do with these hacked documents going forward. I mean, there`s clear signs that the Russians are going to try it again in the future. And so how does the media not become that instrument of Russian intelligence while still disseminating what`s newsworthy?

HAYES: What`s the answer?

CHOZICK: I don`t -- that is above my pay grade, I think, but I`m glad people are debating it.

HAYES: But everyone has got to figure it out. I mean, I was just going back and forth on Twitter with your colleague Nick Confessore about what we do on that.

Do think there`s a -- do you -- I feel like sometimes the people in the press and the campaign press of 2016 have a real defensiveness when they get criticized for their coverage of 2016.

CHOZICK: Completely. Yeah.

HAYES: What is that about?

CHOZICK: I think -- there is a real

HAYES: It`s like really intense. And let me just say, I`m sitting here -- I have a television show. Like, of course we -- there were things that I would -- that we screwed up. Like, we made wrong judgment calls. I mean, I`m proud of our coverage generally, but yeah, like, yeah, you screw stuff up. That`s human beings.

CHOZICK: I get the instinct to focus looking forward. There`s a lot of investigative reporting that needs to be done about the Trump administration, so I get that. But for an industry that thrives on investigation, we`re not very good at self-reflection at all, or investigating ourselves. And I think we do need some of that most-mortem, especially when there were these unprecedented factors like the Russians inferring to help Donald Trump get elected.

HAYES: Part of the issue, too, right is that -- and this -- it comes sort of in the book I think well is that in a campaign setting everything is zero sum.

CHOZICK: Right.

HAYES: Like, if something is hurting one candidate, it is helping the other necessarily, because that`s just the way the whole thing is set up. So, when someone puts a thumb on the scale, like the Russians did in this case, it`s hard to say we`re making this independent news judgment.

CHOZICK: Right, right. I mean, one of my colleagues, David Leon Hart (ph) wrote about a year ago a column about the French elections. And remember Macron, his emails were hacked. And the French media said they would not cover it -- it was like four or five days before the election -- they would not cover that until after the election. They didn`t want to put their hand on the scale.

And so whether that`s the answer -- it`s not a zero-sum game. It`s not let`s completely ignore it or let`s completely sensationalize it, there`s somewhere in the middle that we need to reach and need to figure out.

HAYES: What - in the decade you spent covering Hillary Clinton -- and I agree, I mean, the hatred for her is -- will blow -- will singe your eyebrows.

CHOZICK: Visceral.

HAYES: It`s visceral. And I think, in my personal opinion, completely detached from who she is as a human being, totally out of proportion to her as a person, and also I think driven by a lot of sexism. What`s your conclusion?

CHOZICK: I mean, her politics -- this is what`s fascinating to me about Hillary-hate, is like her politics are like pretty centrist and not that -- they shouldn`t be that offensive. It`s not about her political stance.

HAYES: That`s exactly correct. I think we can all agree, the way people feel about Hillary Clinton and the hatred they have of her is not about like the substance of the Hillary policy agenda.

CHOZICK: Right, it`s not like an Elizabeth Warren -- I mean, you know, another woman, but it`s not about her stances being so offensive to them or so extreme. So, you know -- I mean, she has always been -- you know, ever since she came on the national stage, she was someone who was a lightning rod. And I think partly not of fault of her own, you know, she was a -- the first working woman in the -- working First Lady. And when she said I could stay at home and bake cookie, you know -- women saw her as an affront to who they were. And she`s always been this incredibly divisive figure. And I think not a fault of her own largely.

HAYES: But what -- is it sexism?

CHOZICK: A lot of it, I think.

You know, I would talk to voters all the time, even voters who didn`t -- hated Trump, but they would say, I would vote for a woman, just not that woman. I always heard that again and again, just not that woman.

And when you dig into that, why is she that woman? And it was like 30 years of sexist attacks have made her that woman. And I sort of think does every woman become that woman when they reach a certain height?

But it was -- I got that again and again. Oh, I don`t have a problem with a woman president, but that woman.

HAYES: Right.

That always seems a lot like -- I`m not racist, but sort of preface.

CHOZICK: Right.

HAYES: When people are explicitly saying...

CHOZICK: I think history will be able -- you know...

HAYES: Yeah, what is history going to say about -- because I think there is a case being made that, like, it was -- sexism was so central to what happened in 2016, even more than I think -- people were -- some people were willing to admit at the time.

CHOZICK: And even though we didn`t see -- I mean, we really thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. You know, the polls showed her ahead. And we sort of assumed she was going to win. I covered Obama in 2008. And I remember whether all the conventional signs said he was going to win, we were still like are we really going to elect a black -- there was that hint of like is the country really ready to elect a black man?

But with Hillary, everybody just assumed she would win. And I think that we should have had a lot more hesitation of is the country really ready to elect a woman? That we had in 2008.

HAYES: And there`s -- there`s a case being made that that assumption, that broad-based assumption she would win, is in some ways the thing that helped Donald Trump the most.

CHOZICK: Absolutely. She complains about the media coverage. She complains about The New York Times, but I think her biggest complaint should be the widely held assumption that she was going to win. I mean, people didn`t vote. People said she`s going to win anyway, and I don`t like her.

HAYES: Weirdly Donald Trump`s biggest complaint, too, honestly. He always complains about that as well, that like, no one said I could win. It`s like, yes, actually that was the thing that...

CHOZICK: But you didn`t think you could win either.

HAYES: Right, that`s also true.

Amy`s Chozick, whose new book, "Chasing Hillary" is out tomorrow. Thanks for being with me tonight.

CHOZICK: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: Before I go, it`s that time of night when I remind you of the gift that is our podcast, the All In podcast.

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

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