Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: April 30, 2018 Guest: Chris Lu, Dara Lind, Elie Mystal, Megan Twohey, Matt Welch
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: - says is acceptable. So mark the date, Saturday, April 28th. It`s when Donald Trump got his critics down in the mud with him. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Kelly is one of the best people I`ve ever worked with.
HAYES: Multiple White House staffers tell NBC News that John Kelly calls Trump an idiot, and he believes he is saving America from the President.
TRUMP: Where is General Kelly? Get him out here.
HAYES: Tonight, one of the reporters who broke that explosive story joins me on Kelly`s future and the chaos inside the West Wing. Then, Stormy Daniels sues President Trump for defamation.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER, STORMY DANIELS: If he continues to lie about my client, there`s going to be consequences for that, period.
HAYES: As Michael Cohen faces new scrutiny about why the Trump campaign paid his legal bills.
TRUMP: He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.
HAYES: Plus, have foreign leaders figured out the key to influencing our President?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sure he`ll do the right thing.
HAYES: And the case of the missing tree, when ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. The President is an idiot. That`s what his own Chief of Staff said on many occasions, according to multiple current and former White House officials in a blockbuster report from NBC News. John Kelly said Chief of Staff, is denying it but four current and former White House officials have heard Kelly call Trump an idiot and a total of eight officials have described Kelly has repeatedly insulting the President`s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country. He says stuff you can`t believe said one senior White House official. He`ll say it and you think that is not what you should be saying. Two official said that Kelly is particularly contemptuous the President`s knowledge about immigration policy, told aides he prevented Trump from signing a deal on DACA that was insufficiently hard-line, quoting again. "He doesn`t even understand what DACA is. He`s an idiot, Kelly said in one meeting. We`ve got to save him from himself. The officials also said that Kelly, who told a patently false story last year to smear Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has made multiple remarks that have rattled female staffers in the White House, including repeatedly telling aides that women are more emotional than men. You`re going to want to stick around to hear out the White House defended him on that front. But the White House and Kelly declined to offer an on the record response before the story is published, although three White House spokesperson said on background they never personally heard Kelly called Trump an idiot. In a statement late this afternoon, Kelly said, "I spend more time with the President than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship, note, not a denial. He always knows where I stand, also not a denial, and he and I both know this story is total B.S. I`m committed to the President, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration`s many successes. Joining me now, MSNBC Host and NBC News Correspondent Stephanie Ruhle who broke this story.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Maybe it`s pathetic that people on your team are that willing to be sources on the story. Being pathetic is out there but I don`t think it`s pathetic that this story exists because there was plenty of sourcing on it.
HAYES: Well, here`s the thing about this, right? The White House seems to be saying two things. One, they`re trying deny that he never said it. And then they`re also saying, well, there are people out to get Kelly. But even if it`s the later, that doesn`t seem to me to reflect particularly well on the White House.
RUHLE: No. And there could be people out to get Kelly within the White House. Those things can both be true and it speaks to the White House in chaos that the President regularly, including today, denies. And the relationship John Kelly had with President Trump several months ago has simply deteriorated. A couple of months ago, he was with the President at all times, doing everything he could to sort of be hanging around the hoop. That`s not the case. He has retreated. And to say that he`s a man of his honor, a man of honor, he always speaks the truth, to the Federica Wilson point, you`re correct. John Kelly has denied in the past that he wants Jared and Ivanka far outside the White House. But we know he wants that to be true. So there are so many cases that we know of, put this story aside, that`s just not the case.
HAYES: Well, there`s also the Rod Porter situation, and I want to you know because that`s a place where he was at most charitably less forthcoming and less charitably lying about the Rob Porter situation. Here`s part from your reporting along with your NBC colleagues, "during a firestorm in February over accusations of domestic abuse against then-White House Staff Rob Porter, Kelly wondered allow how more Porter would have to endure before his honor can be restored, according to three officials who are present with the comments. He also questioned why porter`s ex-wives wouldn`t just move on based on the information he said he had about his marriages, the official said."
RUHLE: So at best, why is John Kelly opining on what Rob Porter`s wives, ex-wives should or should not be doing? It`s John Kelly`s job to take that information and then make decisions about staff. Absolutely not be openly discussing what he thinks they should do. And the more we reported on how John Kelly handled the Rob Porter situation, the more it points to that Kelly is the one who blew this up. Rob Porter, given his past, maybe shouldn`t have had a job in the White House to begin it. But did he deserve it to become an international incident that ruined his life, point to John Kelly and how John Kelly handled?
HAYES: That`s interesting. We do have reporting that the White House`s Counsel`s Office was made aware of those allegations as early as March 17th, 2017.
RUHLE: So the White House in general, when you say how did you handle this, and this speaks to John Kelly`s sensibility of we`ll handle this. Well, no. In 2018, in a safe workplace, this isn`t something that you boys can handle on the side and we`ll deal with the girls over here. No, sir.
HAYES: The you boys thing, it`s really, you know, it`s striking when you watch this White House how many events consist of 20 men sitting around a table, 18 men and two women sitting around the table. You can just sort of feel what the gender dynamics of the White House are just from looking at it. Here`s more reporting I would like you to elaborate on. The White House spokespeople said they haven`t seen Kelly have a negative effect on the morale of women staffers. If anything, they said, during meetings Kelly is the bigger gentleman who steps in when aides use foul language to note, and I`m quoting here, this is White House spokespeople defending him, a lady is present, similarly says you shouldn`t use foul language in front of a lady if he`s used on expletive. The spokespeople who would not speak for the record said it`s possible Kelly may have said women are more emotional than men with one of them remembering that general speaking, women are more emotional than men.
RUHLE: (INAUDIBLE) I`m going to speak for women at large. We have a much less problem with people who are cursing than we do saying women are simply too emotional. You know, us mothers out there, how could we possibly handle life in the tough workplace. And if this is -- if the issue is you`re too emotional to be successful, I turn you to President Donald J. Trump`s Twitter feeds. What do you think that is filled with? Emotion.
HAYES: I mean, the funny thing is that Twitter feed would be a fireable offense for just about anyone working anywhere except for the President of the United States.
HAYES: Except for the President of the United States. And this issue really that people throughout the White House, to say that John Kelly hasn`t hurt morale, this is a guy who regularly is telling staff how lucky they are that he is there. And if it wasn`t for him, the situation the President would be in, possibly impeached, maybe we would be at war. And those people in the White House are scratching their heads saying, are you kidding me that this guy regularly says things like that? But he does.
HAYES: It`s one thing to think that, it`s another to say them out loud in front of everyone in the White House.
RUHLE: You know, that`s exactly what we keep hearing. People saying, listen, the President may say or do some outlandish things and our internal voices may say oh, my gosh, is this what is happen here? But nobody but nobody is articulating things out loud quite like John Kelly did.
HAYES: Right. And he who is not thought of their boss as an idiot cast the first stone, right? Stephanie Ruhle, thanks. With me now for more on the John Kelly fallout, Dara Lind, Senior Reporter at Vox, MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst Matt Miller, former spokesman at the DOJ, and Chris Lu, former White House Cabinet Secretary and Assistant to President Obama. Chris, let me start with you. You know, when -- I worked through kitchens, waiting tables all through high school and college and there`s this idea of like the thing that things said in kitchens don`t count, right? Like you call people idiots, you call them jerks, you curse at them. The White House is a high-stress situation. Is there some argument you made that this is just kind of par for the course?
CHRIS LU, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CABINET SECRETARY: You know, look, people obviously say things in frustration but you know, I worked for Rahm Emanuel. Rahm Emanuel was not one to mince words and I never heard him come anywhere close to this in his remarks about President Obama. Here`s the thing. For the relationship between the President and the Chief of Staff to work, there needs to be mutual trust and mutual respect. Whether or not John Kelly called the President an idiot or not, it`s very clear there`s no mutual trust and mutual respect. And the fact that you have other White House staffers that are putting out these allegations suggest that people who work for Kelly don`t respect him. There`s no way that a White House can function in that climate.
HAYES: You know, Dara, I wanted to ask you about the DACA part of this reporting because we -- how does that jibe the idea that he said the President is an idiot who doesn`t know anything about DACA. We have to save him from himself. How does that jibe with what you reported on and saw play out during the various attempts of a DACA deal?
DARA LIND, SENIOR REPORTER, VOX: I`m not at all surprised that this -- any of this happened or that Kelly was taking credit for it. It seems very apparent at the time that you know, the President said as much that if there were a deal, he would sign it and he wasn`t particularly concerned about what was in it. And time after time his staff would come forward and say actually we have three pages of demands, eight pages of demands, the things that President says are important like the wall are not the things that we think are important, like changing asylum policy, like cutting legal immigration. So I think a lot of us intuited that John Kelly was one of the staffers who was really pulling that back, and it`s good to see that confirmed. But it absolutely does seem accurate that had John Kelly not been in the room, Donald Trump might have gotten something like an $18 billion for the wall and in exchange will give permanent legal status to DACA recipients and that did not happened.
HAYES: I`ll never forget the detail but it was Kelly who called Chuck Schumer to say the deal is off. And that, I mean, that leaves you with this question about this White House which is like, who speaks for the President? What is the administration policy? These very simple things about what the administration does or says, whether they can be trusted, which really, really matter now as they do high stakes nuclear diplomacy.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: The President speaks for the President and no one else does. And sometimes the President will change his mind as we talk about immigration. The president was you know, for an immigration deal on the record in front of T.V. cameras in the Oval Office with Senators sitting in the room and a day later was against it. So it creates real problems for international diplomacy, but for everything, for dealing with Congress when you don`t have anyone whose word can be trusted because you know, no one really has the permanent faith and confidence of this President. Because you know, one of the things that we heard Stephanie talking about this the last thing she said in the report, it`s fairly common knowledge it seems a lot of people in this White House think the President is an idiot. I mean, how could they not? But they`re not supposed to say it. So if you have all these people that are acting like this in this you know, kind of snake pit where they don`t think highly of the President, they don`t think highly of each other, they`re at each other`s throats leaking all the time, it makes it impossible for anyone in the press, on the Hill or internationally to have confidence that anything they say can actually be counted on.
HAYES: Chris, I want to ask you about this one sort of remarkable moment in the story in which according to the reporting John Kelly basically apparently persuade as President not to withdraw all U.S. troops off the Korean Peninsula unilaterally. For Kelly, the exchange underscored the reasoning behind one of his common refrains which multiple officials described as some version of I`m the one saving the country. The strong implication being if we weren`t here we would have entered World War III or the President would have been impeached, one former senior White House official said that. What do you think of that?
LU: Well, look, there`s certainly the irony of that comment, true or not true. And now the President is taking credit for what is happening in the Korean Peninsula. You know, as frightening as I find so many aspects of the story, I`m also frightened about what happens when Kelly leaves the White House. And to be clear, his days are numbered at the White House at this point. We already know that Donald Trump has said he doesn`t want a chief of staff. So imagine an already chaotic Presidency completely unleashed at that point. And the question really comes, if that happens, will Congress, the Republican Congress start to act like a coequal branch and put some guardrails around this President?
HAYES: Narrator voice, no. Dara, do you agree -- do you agree with that concern of Chris Lu?
LIND: I`m not sure. I think that because Kelly has always been a little bit public about his disdain for politics and the work he is doing, even if he hasn`t been telling the public he thinks Trump is an idiot, we know Trump has started working around Kelly in a lot of ways, that he is not looping him into his conversations, his phone calls. So I think it`s easy to overstate how controlled things are now. We don`t know where the ceiling is on how uncontrolled things can be.
HAYES: Well, part of what I think I find somewhat infuriating about all this, Matt, is all the reporting suggests people inside the White House -- I mean, Reince Priebus is on the record saying imagine how it was 50 times worse than what you imagined about how chaotic the White House is. All the people inside talk to reporters every day off the record saying it`s totally crazy. The highest level principles apparently call the President an idiot and a moron and yet the White House turns around and says you terrible people, bad people in the press, it`s all you. You`re the crazy ones who want to bring the President down.
MILLER: Yes, of course. Look, I think it`s possible that the version of the Donald Trump that we see in public, as hard as it is to believe is actually the best version of him. And the version that they see every day behind closed doors is much, much worse. Like I said, as hard as that is to imagine. So, you know, it is just so chaotic there. You know, and to your point about them blaming the press. One of the things about this story, there is no reason to take John Kelly`s word for any of this -- any denials. He has a track record here both in the Rob Porter situation when he not only lied personally but directed others to lie for him to the press and blamed it on the President but also with the Frederica Wilson incident --
MILLER: -- where not only did he lie, but then when there was video evidence that what he was saying wasn`t true, he didn`t back down. There are lots of times that chief of staff -- staffers will make a mistake and if it comes out that what they said wasn`t accurate, they`ll come clean it up. They`ll apologize or will say what it was they were really trying to get across. He never did that and it kind of as par for course with this White House that whenever problems they have internally, as you said, they always blame it on someone else.
HAYES: Why do you this he can`t survive, Chris?
LU: Well, I think it`s about the credibility at this point. I mean, he clearly doesn`t have the respect of the President. The President`s cutting him out of conversations, nominations. You clearly have at least eight staffers now who are bad-mouthing him. And at that point, the Chief of Staff doesn`t function if he doesn`t have the respect above and below. I mean, it really is one of the most important relationships between the President and the Chief of Staff. In many ways, more important than the one between the President and the Vice President and it seems frayed beyond repair at this point.
HAYES: All right, Dara Lind, Matthew Miller, and Chris Lu, thank you all for your time tonight. Next, Stormy Daniels is suing the President again, this time over something he tweeted. I`ll explain in two minutes.
HAYES: Stormy Daniels is suing the President for a second time, filing a defamation lawsuit over a single tweet. It involves the sketch released by Daniels` lawyer a few weeks ago showing the man that Stormy Daniels says threatened her in 2011 after she told her story about her sexual relationship with Donald Trump. After that artist rendering was released, President Trump tweeted, "A sketch years later about a non-existent man. A total con job playing the fake news media for fools, but they know it." Daniels said that tweet falsely asserts that she is lying about being threatened. Elie Mystal is the Executive Editor of the must-read legal blog Above the Law, what do you make of the case?
ELIE MYSTAL, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW: Donald Trump is going to learn today, right, that if he so much as thinks about Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti is prepared to sue his brain stem, OK? Trump is -- thinks that he can kind of say anything about anybody to anybody and Michael Avenatti is doggedly pursuing him at every opportunity. And so, you know, it`s kind of an officer and a gentleman. He is using every means fair and unfair to get Donald Trump into a deposition at which point Avenatti wins.
HAYES: Right, but I mean, it this -- I don`t know, there is two things about this case I thought. One is can you sue the President?
MYSTAL: Yes, you can. They`re suing him in his personal capacity so they`re able to sue him. Look, the case is light on the ground.
HAYES: What does that mean?
MYSTAL: We had had a few defamation cases based on Twitter. But that is still a relatively new and novel way to go about defamation because Twitter is so fleeting that it tends to be more like an opinion. And opinions, generally speaking, are protected from defamation suits. You know, all -- you know, the kind of people who said, I don`t like that P.C. talk, there is a reason why people do, right? There is a reason why you say in my opinion, this is a con job. If Trump had said that, he might actually be much more safe. The fact that he refuses to use these allegedly, it doesn`t seem to me, like I can say right now I`m not sure if Tom Brady assaulted Stormy Daniels because that`s what the picture looks like but you see how I couched that, right?
MYSTAL: Trump refuses to couch things and that`s kind -- that could get him in trouble.
HAYES: There`s a broader question about the way that Twitter has created legal headaches for him. I mean, if you were his lawyer, what would you tell him about his use of Twitter?
MYSTAL: Stop! Just stop, man. There is nothing good that happens to him legally on Twitter and that`s I think the other way that we kind of get back into Avenatti`s case. I`m going give Avenatti credit for being very smart and for understanding that his case, as alleged right now, is not the strongest thing in the world. But we`re talking about President Snowflake here. He is easily triggered.
MYSTAL: And if Trump takes this lawsuit as the reason to get back on Twitter and go off on a whole another Stormy Daniels rant, we`ve already seen that`s very easy to amend the complaint to include further allegations.
HAYES: Oh, so you think this is partly laying a trap?
MYSTAL: I think it`s a little bit -- he`s poking the barrel a little bit. And Trump so far has proved completely -- like he is too stupid to follow the legal plan, right? So if you poke him a little bit, and his lawyer says OK, don`t say anything else, that doesn`t mean that Trump is not going to say anything else.
HAYES: Here`s what Avenatti said about how much he likes it when the President talks. Take a listen.
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AVENATTI: The more they talk, the better our case gets. And that`s really one of the reasons why we brought this suit over this tweet. I mean, that tweet should have never been sent. It was irresponsible. It`s undisciplined. And if the President wants to be undisciplined in politics, that`s one thing but if you`re undisciplined in litigation, that`s when you get hurt.
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MYSTAL: Exactly. Look, con job, that could be an opinion that could be a statement offered a fact. But the next time he tweets, the next time he calls her a liar, the next time he says something untoward about Stormy Daniels, we have a readymade defamation suit for just -- for the next tweet to just slide right on in.
HAYES: I have a theory that one of the reasons that they keep the President relatively locked down is because of precisely this problem precisely with this case.
MYSTAL: Look, again, it`s really -- and I know so many people don`t like this about the law and lawyers and whatever. But there is a reason why lawyers have to be cautious and there`s a reason why -- there`s a reason why when you talk to somebody, if you interview somebody who is in the middle of litigation, they`ll say, well, Chris, I can`t answer you, it`s part of pending litigation. That`s not nothing. If you talk during pending litigation, you open yourself up to get in more trouble. Trump doesn`t understand that these P.C .rules are not there -- they`re not trying to rob him, they`re trying to protect him.
HAYES: Do you think ultimately -- there is a 90-day stay. Do you think Avenatti can get him into a deposition?
MYSTAL: I really do. I don`t know that this case wins. But in the other Twitter lawsuits that we have about defamation, we have seen it go through discovery. The case against Cohen, that is almost certainly going to go through discovery. And the whole thing about the 90 days right now, this is the -- this is the other Stormy Daniels NDA lawsuit, I don`t know that the court did Trump any favors by delaying it 90 days because if you think about it, 90 days from now is right in the middle of the midterms when Avenatti can start having more discovery.
HAYES: They`re also waiting for an indictment shoe to drop on Michael Cohen which might change everything.
MYSTAL: Exactly. So I definitely --
HAYES: You know you`re in bad shape when you`re waiting for the indictment because that might bail you out of the civil suit. Elie Mystal, thank you.
MYSTAL: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, a (INAUDIBLE) of Trump world attacks. Michael Cohen, why the National Enquirer may be trying to discredit the President`s lawyer after this break.
HAYES: As Trump learned, Michael Cohen braces for a possible indictment, what might have crossed his mind when he saw this? The extremely Trump friendly National Enquirer which has squashed stories damaging to Trump in the past, now explicitly attacking Michael Cohen on this front page. The headline touts Cohen`s secrets and lies, and the story claims some are questioning Cohen`s role, alleging blackmail, threats, hush money payoffs and even collusion with Russia. And just in case there was any doubt about the Enquirer`s loyalty, is it also features this story. Trump passed polygraph proving no Russia collusion, spoiler alert no, no he did not. It`s not true. All of this as ABC News suggests the Trump Campaign is footing some of Cohen`s legal bills. Here to help me understand what this means for Cohen and for Trump Megan Twohey who`s reporting help the New York Times win the Pulitzer for Public Services this year, MSNBC Legal Analyst Paul Butler whose a former Federal Prosecutor, and Matt Welch Editor at Large of Reason Magazine. Megan, you reported on AMI and David Pecker at the National Enquirer. What is that relationship between Trump world and that publication?
MEGAN TWOHEY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it`s been very close. In fact, several months ago when my colleague and I we reporting on the relationship and zooming in on Michael Cohen and some of the various things that he`s done with AMI related to Trump during the campaign, AMI released a statement acknowledging owning close -- the close personal relationship that David Pecker, the head of AMI had with not just with trump, but also Cohen.
HAYES: That`s what is so crazy about this. It`s not just Trump. Michael Cohen has -- knows Pecker and has been involved in some of these sort of what`s called catch and kill stories, right?
TWOHEY: Yes, absolutely. So this was a real turn-about. I mean, this was a very -- the AMI is completely changing its tune in terms of now not just going on the attack, but going on the attack viciously against Cohen.
HAYES: How do you interpret that?
MATT WELCH, EDITOR AT LARGE, REASON MAGAZINE: They`re in the same business, right? I mean, they`re in the same the print version of Michael Cohen.
WELCH: They have been running interference for Donald Trump. I mean, to the extent of paying six-figure sums to sexy time ladies so that they don`t have their story. So them flipping, that`s it. I mean, it`s not just the dead fish on the doorstep, it`s the horsehead in the bed at this point.
HAYES: Although it seems to me like a miscalculation. Like, don`t you want to keep him in the tent?
WELCH: Well, here`s the thing. He`s being prosecuted on the state level.
HAYES: Not yet.
WELCH: Well, I mean, he`s being investigated, he`s being search warranted. His life got real bad and so did President Trump`s when that search warrant came and started looking at attorney-client stuff on the state level. The President has no impact on that. He can`t pardon his way out of that. And so I think the most significant phrase in the whole National Enquirer story is they brought up collusion with Russia. So they know Michael Cohen really well. What does it say that they thought as a firewall here we`re going to talk about collusion with Russia? That`s very indicative about something.
HAYES: I should not, it was a federal -- it was a federal search warrant with the FBI. It`s unclear yet how the criminal prosecution of it might unspool. What do you think as someone who is a former federal prosecutor thinking about the psychology, which at this point that`s the most important thing, right? What does Michael Cohen do?
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: And he is scared to death because prosecutors are going after him like he is a gangster with a law degree. I think it`s possible that he`s being triple-teamed. One by Mueller, who is interested in collusion, did he go to Prague? Did he not go to Prague? The federal New York prosecutors were interested in bank fraud and possibly illegal campaign contributions. And maybe even the New York State Attorney General taxi medallions. I mean, come on. Again, 16 cell phones were recovered in this search warrant.
HAYES: That`s a hell of a detail, isn`t it?
BUTLER: And they share everything. So all three sets of each prosecutor can share information and again, it`s not looking really good for Michael Cohen.
TWOHEY: I would point out actually that part of the -- when the feds went in and gathered all these records from Cohen`s -- well, the hotel where he has been staying and from his office, some of the records that they collected were related to AMI. I mean, there have been allegations that AMI actually colluded with Michael Cohen in silencing Karen McDougal when it purchased her story.
There has been evidence that Cohen was actually McDougal was in contact with AMI as it was working to catch and kill her story there are questions here not just about Michael Cohen, but also AMI that may now be under criminal investigation.
HAYES: Well, that`s a great point about whether -- I mean, AMI is -- do they function essentially as a first amendment protected media entity, which would be my strong bias to view them that way for criminal purposes, or essentially like another adjunct of Trump?
WELCH: I mean, if money is changing hands so that stories get quashed and activities happen, that`s just a different category under the law.
TWOHEY: Well, and there is an active complaint that it actually is an end of itself, a separate campaign finance violation.
HAYES: Oh, is there really?
TWOHEY: There is, yeah.
HAYES: Did you teach Michael Avenatti law?
BUTLER: I`m actually very proud to say that I did, taught him everything he knows.
HAYES: Yeah, you did a good job, because he obviously has set a lot of this, it seems to me set a lot of this into motion.
BUTLER: Yeah, you know, he did. And earlier, you were talking in the previous segment about defamation. Another way that we know Michael Cohen might be flipping is he dropped his defamation suit. He was concerned about allegations in the dossier that were about him. And he said oh, that`s not true. He has changed his tune.
And so, you know, prosecutors look for signs that someone has that psychology where they want to turn into a snitch. And he is showing -- Cohen is showing -- all of those signs.
HAYES: Jonathan Chait in a piece today sort of floating the idea of Cohen already flipping. But you can imagine that the panic that would inspire.
WELCH: Oh my god. But Rick Wilson, the Republican consultant who is very anti-Trump is fond of saying that Trump kind of ruins everything that he touches. And I think what we`re seeing is the broader circle around the president right now just kind of one by one, whether it`s just like staff in the John Kelly case at the top of the show or specifically his lawyers, his bag mens, his intimates, that circle is just getting closer. And each time someone is hived off, they are turned against with a certain ferocity. That has a bad place to be at the center of.
BUTLER: Yeah. Ask Michael Flynn, ask George Padopoulos, ask Rick Gates, these were all the president`s boys and they all turned on him.
TWOHEY: Right, and nobody is a bigger boy of Donald Trump than Michael Cohen. I mean of all the people, of all the associates you`ve just mentioned, I mean, Michael Cohen was the one who was by his side for 10 years. And not just handling sort of high profile litigation or some of the big business deals, but we have now seen growing evidence that his job was to cover up damaging information about Trump.
So if there is somebody -- if there is somebody who is a danger of flipping, he`s your guy.
HAYES: I mean, the fascinating thing is to consider that both David Pecker at AMI and Michael Cohen probably know derogatory things about each other from the things that they have done together.
WELCH: Let`s also keep in mind, let`s throw in a little civil libertarian bone in all of this. If a highly motivated federal prosecutor wants to shake someone down, and Trump world has a lot of people involved in a lot of stretchy things.
WELCH: Michael Cohen, the ProPublica piece about him leads you to indicate that if you -- a motivated prosecutor wants to make him turn on anybody in the country about anything, he probably can be turned in that sense.
So we should be hopefully at the end of the rainbow. When someone is turned it`s for a good reason.
HAYES: Yeah -- well, or that it`s truthful.
BUTLER: Yeah, let`s right. Just like innocent people take the Fifth Amendment. So, it doesn`t mean that he is actually guilty that he took the fifth in the lawsuit about defamation, but in this case it actually could., because again has got mad exposure on any number of federal and state levels. And just to be clear, the state exposure means that the president cannot pardon him, the president is not able to pardon anyone for a state crime.
HAYES: Final question about the money. There is $200,000 plus in legal fees apparently being paid by the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign says it`s all Russia-related stuff, right, so it`s by the boards that this was - - you know, he was exposed to it because of his relationship with the Trump campaign. We`re not paying for anything else because that would be a problem.
BUTLER: Yeah, so if it is campaign-related, then the president`s campaign is able to reimburse Cohen for his expenses. If it`s not, for example, if it`s about Stormy Daniels or hush money, that doesn`t count. Another reason he might be going to jail.
HAYES: Last thing I`ll say is that you can`t take any of these declarations at face value. So, like we`ll see. I mean, right, they`re saying it`s campaign-related. Who knows.
BUTLER: But it`s in the Enquirer.
Megan Twohey, Paul Butler, and Matt Welsh, thanks for your time.
Still to come, have foreign leaders figured out the secret to influencing the president? From props to flattery, what the Trump playbook looks like ahead.
Plus, missing tree, last seen here on the White House south lawn. That`s tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, when French President Emmanuel Macron visited the White House last week, he arrived bearing a special gift: an oak sapling from the site of a World War I battle in northeast France that took place 100 years ago this June.
And so of course there was a ceremonial planting of the tree on the first day of Macron`s visit. The Trumps and the Macrons traipsed out to the south lawn wearing some frankly fairly impractical outfits for yard work, then the men picked up their golden shovels and proceeded to dump, well, five shovelfuls of dirt around the tree. The still photos somehow captured the awkwardness of the moment even better than the video, sparking all sorts of memes like this one from Twitter user Matthew Von Roar (ph), "the new Sopranos season is the best."
Or this Hunter Lurie (ph) who asked, "which Pink Floyd album is this?"
So, with their landscaping duties completed, the first couples headed off to Mt. Vernon for dinner, but that`s not where the story ends. Because over the weekend, the photographers of the White House noticed something was missing. And all that remains is a patch of yellow grass. The mystery of the disappearing French oak tree is Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: A mystery on the White House south lawn. The oak tree planted just last week by President Trump and French President Macron went missing over the weekend with nothing left but a faint patch of yellow turf.
Well, tonight I`m happy to report we have good news about the tree. It is alive and well in an undisclosed location waiting out a quarantine period that is mandatory for all living organisms imported to the U.S., more regulatory red tape, if you will.
The French ambassador to the United States confirmed on Twitter the roots were enclosed in a plastic protection during a ceremonial planting last week so that no potential disease could spread to other White House plants in the short time the tree was in the ground.
An official from President Macron`s office explained to Reuters that this was the plan all along, quote, "it was actually a special favor from Trump to France to be able to plant the tree the day of the president`s visit. Since then, it has returned to quarantine and will soon be replanted in the White House gardens. Don`t worry, the tree is doing very well."
HAYES: As the U.S. faces monumental decisions about nuclear diplomacy on two continents, with the potential to reshape the world for years to come, world leaders are scrambling to influence the president of the United States using the best way to his heart: extravagant flattery. Call it the audience of one doctrine of international diplomacy on full display today from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who of course opposes the Iran deal, nuclear deal, knows the joint comprehensive plan of action, or JCPOA. He gave a presentation to the press in English using giant texts and plenty of pictures, even a big display of props to try and persuade the president to kill the deal before an upcoming May 12 deadline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: The Iran deal, a nuclear deal, is based on lies. It`s based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception.
President Trump will decide, will make his decision, on what to do with the nuclear deal. I`m sure he`ll do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, never mind the material Netanyahu presented appears to come from before the deal was put in place, much of it reviewed years ago by the UN`s nuclear watchdog. That agency`s former chief inspector told The Guardian, quote, "I just saw a lot of pictures I had seen before."
And never mind that Iran`s dishonesty about its nuclear program was a major reason for doing the deal in the first place, as the president`s own defense secretary told congress last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I will say that it is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat. So the verification, what is in there is actually pretty robust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: None of that matters, all that matters is that a certain person caught a few minutes of Netanyahu`s performance on TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What Israel has done today with the news conference and Prime Minister Netanyahu just gave a very -- I don`t know if everybody has seen it, but I got to see a little bit of it, and that is just not an acceptable situation. I think if anything, what`s happening today and what`s happened over the last little while and what we have learned has really shown that I`ve been 100 percent right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All right. Mission accomplished, Netanyahu.
Now, Netanyahu is allied against the Iran deal with, of course, Saudi Arabia, which went above and beyond to massage the president`s ego during his visit to the kingdom last year. The Saudis have a kind of inside track on this as they are pretty used to public displays of monarchial flattery.
They`re pitted against European leaders who support the nuclear deal and who have been trying to mount a charm offensive of their own. We, of course, saw French President Emmanuel Macron`s lovefest with the president just last week followed by an unusually friendly visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And just as the president is poised to undue a verified accord that has thus far prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he is also simultaneously plunging head long into face-to-face talks with a regime whose record of lying about its nuclear program and defying international norms is arguably as bad, if not worse, than Iran`s.
The only real difference seems to be that one of those regimes already signed a deal with the president`s predecessor.
South Korea President Joon Jae-in, who wants diplomacy with the north, has been as adept as anyone at playing to the president`s vanity, praising Trump for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table and letting him take credit for saving the Olympics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`ll tell you, we did a great job on the Olympics. President Moon of South Korea said without Donald Trump the Olympics would have been a total failure. It`s true. True. You know? Might as well say it, nobody else is going to say it, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, the South Korean leader has a new ploy about the president of the United States. What it is and how it`s being received by the audience of one next.
HAYES: Following last week`s historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is making sure to share the credit, saying today that if anyone wins the Nobel prize for the talks it should be Donald J. Trump.
And it`s hard to imagine a more powerful motivator for this president to pursue nuclear diplomacy than the sheer thrill of hearing rallygoers chant the name of the world`s most famous peace prize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Nobel! Nobel! Nobel! Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!
TRUMP: That`s very nice. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired army colonel, served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell; Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council, author of "Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy."
Colonel Wilkerson, let me start with you. How do you make sense of this president and this White House`s different approach, as it appears, to the nuclear issue with respect to Iran and North Korea?
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I have to look at North Korea first and I have to say that I`m stunned by two things: one is amateur hour in the White House is still going on and it`s added to and augmented by the musical chairs with some of the critical positions like the secretary of state and national security adviser.
But the thing that worries me most is the utter void of history, the utter void of reading, the utter void of knowing what`s happened in the past. Kim Dae-jung, president of South Korea, got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for this very same thing, for sitting down with the north and talking and negotiating and coming very close to a peace treaty.
We forget that Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State, was in Pyongyang three hours with Kim Jong-un`s father, Kim Jong-il. This has happened before.
The difference is that we now have amateur hour in the White House to deal with it. That`s my profound concern about North Korea.
HAYES: Trita, I wonder as someone who has been very invested in this Iran deal, written a book about it, been a very active participant in the debate over it and in favor of it, the way that it gets talked about is the hawks, the military -- you know, the people that want war are fighting the deal. But then what does it say to you when you watch the president at a rally in Michigan being cheered by his adoring fans who I think probably hate the Iran deal cheering "Nobel, Nobel" about the possibility of sitting down with Kim Jong-un?
TRITA PARSI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: Well, this is what we get when we have a president who`s far more concerned about optics than he is about substance. Even if he were to get a nuclear deal with the North Koreans, it is impossible for it to be anywhere close as tight and as restrictive as the deal that Obama negotiated with the Iranians.
The problem, though, was that Obama had his name on that deal and Trump doesn`t care about the substance, he just wants to make sure that he has his own deal with his name on it. And as a result he`s really gambling with U.S. national security, because this Iran deal is critical. Without it, the United States and Iran will start drifting toward war once more.
HAYES: Brian Schatz, senator from Hawaii, tweeted making your point saying the reason they want to undo the Iran deal is Barack Obama.
Do you think, Colonel Wilkerson, world leaders have figured out essentially how to cater to the ego of this president when dealing with these weighty international issues?
WILKERSON: I think they have. And I think it`s very dangerous. I watched Macron. I watched Merkel. I watched Theresa May. And I watch other leaders like Moon Jae-in, and I see how they are exploiting the amateur hour in the White House. I see how they`re exploiting the narcissism, the egotism, the arrogance in the White House.
And I understand they`re not exploiting it to the credit of the United States, they`re exploiting it to the credit of their own countries. And it worries me, because what it`s turning out to be is the U.S. isolated, the U.S. increasingly alone, and the U.S. having to stand up for itself making America great again, if you will, in the sense that we`re really making America weak again and divorcing ourselves from all the things post World War II -- policies, both security and foreign, that made us strong in the first place.
HAYES: Trita, Netanyahu`s presentation today centered on the basic idea -- that it went like this -- the Iran regime has been deceptive and lied about the intents of their nuclear program in the past about what they were doing with it. They`ve always maintained it was purely peaceful. There`s evidence that`s not the case, and ergo, because they are deceptive and because we can document this, they are not a regime with whom one can have a deal.
What is your response to that?
PARSI: Well, it`s actually the argument the Israelis have been making for quite some time, because if you can`t make a deal with them, what are you left with? Well, then you have to go to war. And that`s what the Netanyahu government has been pushing the United States to do, quite unsuccessfully, but nevertheless that`s been what his agenda has been consisting of for quite some time now.
And I think what we see with what is taking place right now is that if the North Koreans are -- some people are arguing that the North Koreans are not, you know, affected by what the Iranians will do. But the Iranians are following the North Korean case very, very closely, because they`re going to draw the conclusion I fear that they will say, well, look, Iran made a mistake by only having enrichment. If they had gone further and actually tested a bomb and tested missiles that could reach the American mainland, then they would get a deal with the United States that the United States also would be adhering to.
This is a very, very dangerous development, not to say that we shouldn`t have a deal with the North Koreans, but not at the expense of killing the existing deal that actually is working.
HAYES: What do you think about that, colonel, about what incentive messages the current sort of dual track sends?
WILKERSON: Well, I agree with Trita. If I were sitting in Tehran right now, whether I were leading the RGC or I were the Ayatollah or indeed President Rouhani, I would come to the same conclusion: the way to beat the United States is to build a nuclear weapon and then negotiate. And I would start forthwith.
HAYES: Colonel, what do you see as the consequences if the U.S. were to pull out of this deal given that it`s negotiated with a bunch of other countries, including Russia, China, and some of our closest allies?
WILKERSON: I think we continue to put real ruptures in the Transatlantic link. I think we continue to send signals to our allies in the Pacific like Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, that we`re no longer trustworthy. And I think we start a situation that will fold, as Trita indicated, right into Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman`s plans, and that is for the United States to take Iran on and change the regime there and keep the region destabilized, because as long as it`s destabilized then neither the Persians nor the Arabs can get together against Israel.
HAYES: Trita, where do you think Mattis is on this?
PARSI: I think Mattis came in -- I mean, Mattis has a history of being quite hawkish on Iran. He got fired from the Obama administration, because he actually wanted to have a small confrontation with Iran. He believed that a small war would actually be necessary to push back the Iranians.
I think he has kind of changed his mind, not in the sense that he`s a fan of the nuclear deal or that he`s changed his mind about the Iranians. I think he`s changed his mind, because he`s fearful of the United States being at war with a country like Iran when the commander-in- chief is named Donald Trump.
HAYES: So you think that`s what`s flipped him.
PARSI: I think so. I think he`s just seeing that this is a reckless president that doesn`t understand international politics and it would be as bad as it is right now, imagine how bad it would be if the United States was at war with Donald Trump at its helm.
HAYES: Colonel, you`re nodding your head.
WILKERSON: I think Trita`s right, and I think there`s another dimension to it too. I think Mattis has learned just how much trouble the all-volunteer force is. It`s in physical trouble, ethical and moral trouble. It`s in real trouble. And he does not want to take on an enemy as big, as strategically deep and as ultimately guerrilla warfare powerful as Iran could prove to be.
HAYES: That`s an excellent point. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson and Trita Parsi, good to have you both.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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