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Trump heading for confrontation with Justice Dept. TRANSCRIPT: 05/02/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Robert Bennett, David Leonhardt, Harry Litman, Carol Leonnig, Mazie Hirono

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 2, 2018 Guest: Robert Bennett, David Leonhardt, Harry Litman, Carol Leonnig, Mazie Hirono

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It`s most likely to be what his former associates will say about him and that may have already happened. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL, RUSSIA PROBE: In the end, it is not only what we do, but how we do it.

HAYES: The clearest window yet into the Russia probe and signs that Mueller already has evidence of collusion.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russian collusion. Give me a break.

HAYES: What it means for the future of the investigation and Trump`s curious new stands on obstruction of justice.

TRUMP: I did you a great favor when I fired this guy.

HAYES: Then.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: They can`t even resist leaking their own drafts.

HAYES: House Republicans draft articles of impeachment for the Deputy Attorney General.

ROSENSTEIN: I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going be extorted.

HAYES: Plus, two of Scott Pruitt`s top aides quit amid growing ethics investigation. And Trump`s former doctor says he was raided by Trump`s long-time bodyguard.

HAROLD BORNSTEIN, FORMER DOCTOR OF DONALD TRUMP: Well, all his medical records, pictures, anything they could find.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s 49 questions for the President of the United States leaked to the New York Times reveal the scope and the seriousness of the legal peril the President now faces. And that might explain why the President and his staff set to work today to try to mislead the public about Mueller`s questions. Questions which cover both, both the President`s efforts to interfere in the Justice Department`s investigation and the numerous established documented contacts between his associates and Russian operatives. The President tweeted first thing this morning, so disgraceful the questions concerning the Russian witch hunt were leaked to the media. No questions on collusion. Oh, I see. You have a made up phony crime, collusion that never existed and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice." First of all, the leak appears to have originated with the President`s own legal team. More on that in a minute. And second, the list includes over a dozen questions about collusion. Nevertheless, White House officials got in on the act too insisting there`s really nothing to see here.


RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The overwhelming majority of those questions don`t focus on the underlying premise of this special counsel which was to focus on this issue of collusion with the Russian government. There`s been over a year of investigation. There have been dozens of witnesses, thousands of documents, millions actually of pages of documents provided and zero evidence, not a shed of evidence of collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government.


HAYES: Well, actually, we`ve already seen a ton of evidence of collusion and Mueller`s questions indicate it`s all very much a focus of his investigation. There are questions about, for instance, the Trump Tower Meeting and the Trump family`s relationship to Russian oligarchs, about Jared Kushner`s efforts to set up a Russian back channel, remember that, during the transition? Also about Roger Stone`s outreach to WikiLeaks during the campaign among other topics. One question, in particular, suggests Mueller may know a whole lot more than the rest of us. "What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign including by Paul Manafort to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?" That`s kind of collusiony. There`s no public information to date on any such outreach by Manafort or the campaign. Asked today why the President lied about the collusion questions, the White House declined to provide an explanation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s talked about how none of these questions relate to collusion. That`s not true. Over a dozen of them do. We`ve talked about accuracy from the President in the past. Why is he mischaracterizing these reports?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Once again, I`m not going to get into the back and forth on matters involving the special counsel and I would refer you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not involving the Special Counsel.

SANDERS: It certainly has implications with the special counsel and I`m not going to get into a back and forth on that. I refer you to the President`s personal attorney.


HAYES: Now, here`s a really important point. There is no reason to believe this list of 49 questions that was acquired by the New York Times that that was a list (INAUDIBLE) the President is comprehensive. Mueller`s investigators shared them with the president`s legal team at a meeting in early March to discuss the terms of a presidential interview. The President`s lawyers reportedly wrote the questions down and then that document was provided to the Times by a person outside Trump`s legal team. But that does not mean the special counsel`s team revealed all this in their hand. And if the President`s lawyers now led by Rudy Giuliani were the ones responsible for the leak ultimately, they would have an interest in withholding any questions that might incriminate their client. Regardless, the President`s attitude toward Robert Mueller appears to have shifted since his lawyers were given the questions in early March. He flipped, the President did from publicly crowing about his eagerness to sit down for an interview too for the very first time attacking Mueller by name on Twitter. Robert Bennett is a former Federal Prosecutor who represented President Bill Clinton when he was sued by Paula Jones. Bob, as one of the very few people any this world who have represented a President facing a very high stakes interrogation ultimately, what do you make of these questions?

ROBERT BENNETT, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s very clear when you read the questions that they`re trying to -- Mr. Mueller is trying to get into the head of the President. He`s trying to determine what was his intent and what was his knowledge. That`s the thrust of all the questions.

HAYES: What do you see as the risks for the President as represented in these questions?

BENNETT: Well, I mean, the risk is that it shows that Mueller has got a lot of evidence and I think the President would be very foolish to sit down and be interviewed on these questions because it`s the follow-through questions that could be so damaging to him.

HAYES: What do you mean by that?

BENNETT: Well, he`ll answer a question and then they`ll say but what about this, what about that? And my guess is there is not a person, the President, who can be really prepared for an interrogation by very sophisticated prosecutors.

HAYES: I want to circle back to something you said. You read these questions as showing that Mueller has a lot of evidence. Why is that?

BENNETT: Well, the thrust of the questions assumes certain facts. And they say many times what did you think about the fact -- what did you know, what did you -- the questions assume a lot of factual information.

HAYES: So if President Trump were your client and you were directing his legal team, you`re telling me you would advise him not to sit for an interview with Robert Mueller?

BENNETT: That`s correct.

HAYES: And then what would happen? I mean, in the case of Bill Clinton, if I`m not mistaken, his testimony in that deposition in the Paula Jones suit was ultimately compelled, that you declined that your client, Bill Clinton declined to voluntarily sit and then he was subpoenaed. Is that right?

BENNETT: No, that`s not right. He was subpoenaed in another proceeding. The President of the United States though has a hard time to refuse, but I think in this case, President Trump should because many of the underlying charges that Mr. Mueller is looking at could be difficult to prove. But if he lies to Mueller, if he disassembles, one of the easiest charges for a prosecutor to make is false statement. So I think that is the enormous risk to the President if he -- if he sits down.

HAYES: If he were to decline what you`re advising or what you would advise is you`re saying is that he should invoke the Fifth Amendment and flat out refuse all together even if compelled?

BENNETT: Well, I think if it came to that, the answer is yes. But there`s lots of ways he can say it. You see, I wouldn`t be at all surprised if -- and I don`t know this, if one reason that Trump`s side leaked these questions is so now the lawyers can write answers to the 49 questions which best serve the President and then say when they want to talk to him, you`re just harassing him. You had questions. We answered them fully. Why on earth are you forcing him to sit down? That`s the only reason I can think of as to why they would have leaked, and to those people who are fully supportive of the President, there`s some logic in that. What do these people want? He answered the question.

HAYES: I see. That`s a fascinating theory because I`ve been having a hard time figuring out why it would --

BENNETT: Well, I spent a lot of time today thinking about this, and that`s the only thing I can come up with. I don`t know if I`m giving them too much credit or not.

HAYES: Well, it`s a crafty idea. You`re saying if you leak this and it`s out there and then you -- and then you come up and say look, we`ve written them down. Here are the answers on a sheet of paper. Then that gives you some kind of modicum of cover to be like you don`t have a right to ask anything else.

BENNETT: That`s right. And it would be the lawyer`s answers to the questions.

HAYES: Of course, yes.

BENNETT: Not the President`s.

HAYES: Yes. Well, I`m sure everyone who gives testimony under oath would love to be able to have their lawyers write up some answers for them. Robert Bennett, great to have you with us.

BENNETT: Thank you. It`s my pleasure.

HAYES: For more on and what Mueller`s questions tell us about the investigation, I`m joined bid, David Leonhardt, he`s Op-Ed Columnist from the New York Times whose latest piece is tilted The Truth is Coming for Trump, and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman who also served as Deputy Assistant General. Harry, do you agree with Robert Bennett about the evidence that is manifested in the nature of these questions?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: More or less. that is, I don`t think it`s on the surface of the questions, Chris. What Mr. Bennett said was you know, it assumed certain facts. I don`t think that`s right. But you can just see from the course of the investigation and basically, the important point about these questions in each and every instance is -- in almost each and every instance is that Mueller almost certainly already knows the facts of the matter. They seem benign and open-ended. But you should ask with every question, where -- what does Mueller already know. He knows what Flynn told Kislyak. He knows what McGahn told trump. All of these go on and he`s got the goods already and that`s what explains those questions. Not on the surface, but you can just infer that from what`s happened in the investigation to date.

HAYES: David, what do you mean by truth is coming for the President?

DAVID LEONHARDT, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Donald Trump has spent his career lying. He did it as a businessman. We just saw the Washington Post published this piece last week where we had more evidence of him lying about his personal wealth to get on the Forbes list. His whole political rise was built on this lie where Barack Obama was born. He`s lied repeatedly as President. He just as Hallie Jackson just asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, he did it today in a tweet about these very questions. He just lies again and again and again. And that managed to worked out really well for him. That`s depressing for the rest of us but its worked out really well for him. There are sometimes though when lying gets really difficult. And when you`re dealing with a professional team of investigators from the Department of Justice, a lot of smart hardworking people who take their mission and jobs very seriously, it becomes much harder because they have the power that comes was being investigators and they can go through other evidence and they can put things together and they can say no, you may say this is the truth but it`s not. And we have plenty of evidence that it`s not and that`s what I meant. I don`t know how this is going to end. But we finally at long last have of some accountability for President Trump`s lies I think, about to happen.

HAYES: Harry, I want to give you some breaking news from the Washington Post. They just published a story. I`m just reading there now. But it appears to be a kind of a reporting on inside the meeting in March with the Special Counsel -- described as a tense meeting in which they told the special counsel that they didn`t have to answer the questions, they had no obligation to talk. Special Counsel Robert Mueller responded he had another option if Trump declined he could issue a subpoena for the President to appear before a grand jury according to four people familiar with the encounter. John Dowd responds this isn`t a game. You`re screwing with the work of the President of the United States. What do you think?

LITMAN: This isn`t a game. It`s about the rule of law and Trump, like anyone else like Richard Nixon, is subject to it. And that means having to answer to a subpoena. At the end of the day, Mueller has strategic considerations but he has the legal draw on Trump as it were. He may have to take it to the Supreme Court. Trump may try certain arguments but Mueller is right. It also makes the point, Chris, people are sort of taking these questions as the current state of play. This was a month ago. What they really is are is the end of the road. They`re the point when the negotiations went off course and Trump and company said we are not going to try to give terms of an interview anymore. So it`s really I think with this Washington Post report and what`s happened to date reading between the lines, we`re looking at a legal battle. It`s much more likely than it seemed three weeks ago that Mueller will serve a subpoena, Trump will try to quash it and we`re off to the races in the federal courts.

HAYES: What does that look like to you, David?

LEONHARDT: I mean, it looks on the one hand like a big mess but this is a mess we should want. I mean, as Harry said, this is about the rule of law. We are supposed to be a nation of laws. We`re supposed to be a place where power does not allow you to subvert and twist the justice system. And it`s clear that Donald Trump has this view and it should let him do so. That`s what he means when he says he wants Jeff Sessions to be loyal. That`s what he means when he said, yes, I fired Comey because he was looking into me and I didn`t like it. And that on a very deep level is un-American. And so, I think this is going to be a real clash but a clash we should welcome because the alternative to a clash is that a president essentially snuffing out the rule of law because he has power and because he doesn`t like the idea of being held accountable.

HAYES: I want to bring in -- we have Carol Leonnig who has a byline on that piece in the Washington Post who broke that story I was just reading. Carol, what did you learn about this what sounds like quite an intense meeting between the President`s lawyers and Mueller?

CAROL LEONNIG, STAFF WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, this was an interesting meeting that seems to keep producing interesting news. It was March 5th. The President`s then lead lawyer and co-lawyer sat down with Mueller in his office to basically talk about whether or not they were going to do the interview. A lot of things happened. Some of which we`ve already reported. You know, this is the meeting where Mueller tells Trump`s lawyers that Trump is not a criminal target of his investigation at that point but just a subject. But now we`re learning that in that meeting, Mueller raised the possibility, not in a threatening way but kind of a veiled threat of I can subpoena your guy if you don`t want to voluntarily bring him in. And it caused not harsh words but some tense conversations about how the Mueller investigation from Trump`s point of view was ruing his presidency and casting a shadow over everything he did.

HAYES: So it`s this -- is this as far as your reporting indicates the last time that there was this kind of meeting between the President`s lawyers and Mueller himself?

LEONNIG: So no, we did report about another meeting after John Dowd then the lead attorney resigned in late March. There was one more when Rudy Giuliani came on the scene, yes, just this month -- I`m sorry, forgive me in late April. I want to say it`s last week and it feels like a month ago but it was just last week. And in that -- in that session, Rudy Giuliani is saying hey, like to get to know you again, Bob and want to talk about the evidence you`re sifting through and get a feeling about this investigation from you.

HAYES: And you also reported that it was Sekulow, who`s one of the President`s attorneys and a person who sort of is known more as kind of movement person, part of the Washington conservative establishment, hosts a radio show than a kind of top-flight litigator or criminal defense attorney. But he was the one that wrote down this list of questions, topics that we`re now seeing. Is that correct?

LEONNIG: Yes. I think there`s been a lot of confusion about these questions.

HAYES: Agreed.

LEONNIG: They were -- they were not provided by Mueller`s office to Trump`s lawyers. What happened was the March 5th meeting sets in motion a lot of anxiety. One, Trump`s lawyers know that maybe Mueller is game to subpoena the President which would be a big deal, akin to the time that Ken Starr subpoenaed Bill Clinton. They also asked for more information about the kinds of questions if they`re going to consider even recommending this to their client that he sit down with these investigators. And when they ask for more information, they get a few more nuggets of topics we`d like to cover. OK, we said we wanted to ask you about Kislyak. Well, we want to ask you about conversations you had with Michael Flynn about Kislyak and also about other conversations you had with other Trump aides about Kislyak. So that produced the Trump lawyers then in this case Jay Sekulow then began just writing down questions that he extrapolated from the comments that Mueller`s deputy made to him in a March 12th conversation.

HAYES: Right. So this is -- this is all being channeled, this is a sort of meeting and a conversation that`s then channeled through one of Trump`s attorneys and then is now out in the public. And that`s how we sort of know what we currently know?

LEONNIG: Correct. You know, a lot of people are breathing heavily, you know, this is the list, the end all, be all list that Mueller is going to ask Trump. I highly doubt that Mueller would limit himself to these questions as they were written by trump`s lawyer.

HAYES: Based on your report -- based on your reporting, I`ll come back to you guys in a second, David and Harry but one more question here which is based on your reporting, how likely do you think it is that they essentially decline?

LEONNIG: I think it`s highly likely they decline at this point. That could change. Remember, this has changed three times, Chris. In January, the President was eager to do it. In February, he was leaning against it. In March, he told his lawyer he wanted to do it, and in April, when Michael Cohen`s office was raided, he said there`s no way I`m doing it. So it could change again. But at the moment, I think there is some reservation in the team about putting the President in front of Bob Mueller and a team of seasoned investigators.

HAYES: Well, Carol, before you came on the line and you were busy breaking yet another blockbuster story, we had Rob Bennett who represented Bill Clinton who knows a thing or two about this says, there`s no way I would tell my client to go into that meeting if you were the President of the United States. Carol Leonnig from the Washington Post, thank you thank you for coming on. Great bit of reporting.

LEONNIG: Thanks, Chris. Take care.

HAYES: All right, so I also still have with me David Leonhardt, he`s an Op-Ed Columnist from the New York Times, his latest piece is titled The Truth is Coming for Trump, and like I said, former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman who also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General. David, had you something you want to say?

LEONHARDT: Yes, sorry about interrupting earlier. I was just going to say, Carol made the point that Mueller is not going to limit himself to this list of questions. It`s also the case that Mueller is not just a lawyer. He`s a political animal, right? He`s held political appointments, he`s been in Washington a very long time, he understands how the game works. He understands he`s at risk of getting fired by the President of the United States. And so, I think we should assume that they`re -- I`m not saying I have knowledge of this, but there`s every reason to believe that Mueller would actually want to hold back the most damaging information that he has found until very late in this process. And so I would assume that if he had found very damaging stuff, he wouldn`t necessarily be previewing it at a meeting weeks or months before he might ever sit down with the President. And so we should view these questions as not only months old but probably deliberately curated by Mueller and his team.

HAYES: Right. I want to, Harry, read to you what Clint Watts, who`s been a guest a lot. He`s an MSNBC Contributor, former FBI agent, he said, these are very dangerous questions for the President because he doesn`t know everything that Mueller team knows, as you mentioned and the President never seems to do good vetting of his own people and know what they are up to. And Ryan Goodman and Alex Whiting writing for just security making the same point you made, Harry. Mueller`s questions show collusion show that it`s likely Mueller has already identified crimes involving collusion. Mueller is asking here only about Trump`s possible knowledge and personal involvement. Do you think the legal team has been undertaking a strategy under Giuliani to lay the groundwork to just say the President is not going to do it?

LITMAN: Yes, that`s my best take on the -- on the leak. That they are trying to say this is too broad, he`s out of control, possibly some halfway strategy of the sort that Bill Bennett identified we`ll do written answers to the questions knowing -- I mean, this was -- where the rubber hits the road is Bob Mueller will never accept answers not given under oath by the President, period, full stop. And that`s the number one thing that they want to avoid. So I think the leak is designed to begin to portray an out- of-control prosecutor. Of course, these are all very kind of obvious straightforward questions to anyone who has been following the probe and I don`t think they play very well as overreaching.

HAYES: Yes, and it seems, David, we are hurtling now, I mean, we`re hurtling toward some confrontation as you said, right? There`s going to be a fight. If it comes down to -- if the President says no, Mueller then sends a subpoena, then it goes to a court. I mean, this is -- this is where things get very serious.

LEONHARDT: I think we are. And I think it`s important to remember, this is an inherently political process, right? There`s some debate about this but the legal expert who`s I find persuasive don`t think the sitting President of the United States can be charged with a crime. Again, there`s some debate about it. I would be stunned if Mueller decided to do that in this case.

HAYES: I agree with that.

LEONHARDT: So this is really a political process, right? It`s a process and what matters is for Trump is how Mueller`s report and findings affect the American people`s attitude toward President and affect Congress`s attitude toward the President. And so it is hurtling toward a conflict. Let`s remember, it`s not just a legal conflict, it is as much a political conflict as a legal conflict.

HAYES: All right, David Leonhardt and Harry Litman, thank you both for being here.

LITMAN: Thank you. Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Now, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave an interview today where he seemed remarkably untroubled by a report that Trump allied House conservatives have drafted articles of impeachment against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any reaction to the news that certain members of the House Freedom Caucus have talked about drafting up articles of impeachment despite your best efforts to comply with their document requests?

ROSENSTEIN: They can`t even resist leaking their own drafts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you care to elaborate on that.

ROSENSTEIN: I saw that draft. I mean, I don`t know who wrote it. I just don`t have anything to say about documents like that that nobody has the courage to put their name on and that they leaking that way.


HAYES: Impeachment articles are drafted by the Freedom Caucus. And that group`s Chair Republican Mark Meadows told the Washington Post the articles of impeachment would be a last resort if the Department of Justice fails to respond to his request for more information. Rosenstein today responded.


ROSENSTEIN: There have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly against me for quite some time and I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. We`re going to do what`s required by the rule of law and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.


HAYES: Joining me now, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who was a Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She`s been fighting to protect the Special Counsel`s investigation. Senator, your response to that remarkable statement from Rod Rosenstein, the Department of Justice will not be extorted?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I completely agree with him. And contrary to the President`s belief that everybody works for him including the Justice Department. Rod Rosenstein is a professional. He`s doing his job. And this is why the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bipartisan bill that would ensure that Special Counsel, not just Mueller but going forward that they would protect it from political pressures, the kind of political pressure that the House Republicans Freedom Caucus, don`t make me laugh. You know, we should be free from Russian interference in our elections. What the Freedom Caucus is so prepared to support the President in any way, shape, or form that they`ll just leak their own non- signed articles of impeachment which Rosenstein said, you know what? If you`re going to do something like this, at least have a factual basis, at least have the courage to put your names to it.

HAYES: What do you think them leaking their draft of possible impeachment proceedings against Rosenstein is about? What do you make of that?

HIRONO: Well, I think it`s a big telegraph to the President we`re on your side, Mr. President. We`ll do whatever we can do to put the skids on this impeachment. So that is not where our country should be.

HAYES: That`s -- that would be a nonstarter in the Senate, wouldn`t it?

HIRONO: Well, considering they`re going to need I think two-thirds vote, that`s about 67 votes, I don`t think that even if the House gathered up the courage to do something that can`t be substantiated, I don`t think it will pass the Senate. But these are unusual times. Who knows? So what this all points out to is the importance of the Mueller investigation. It needs to proceed. And I`m very disappointed, more than disappointed that Mitch McConnell has unilaterally taken the position that he`s not even going to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in spite of the fact that the chair of the committee, the Judiciary Committee in the Senate in a bipartisan vote wants this vote.

HAYES: You were on the committee that before which Rod Rosenstein testified when he was confirmed to the position. Has your confidence --


HAYES: -- or view of him changed over time? Has it improved? Has it declined?

HIRONO: I`m glad that he`s staying the course and when he came up for confirmation, I asked him if the President asks you to do anything immoral, unethical or illegal, would you be prepared to resign and he said yes so I`m holding him to it. And so far, he`s behaved in the professional way that I expect from the person who is overseeing this most important investigation.

HAYES: All right, Mazie Hirono, thanks for joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you.

HAYES: Ahead, remember when Donald Trump`s doctor wrote in a letter that Trump would be the healthiest individual ever elected? Well, now the doctor says Trump dictated that statement himself and only after we found out the doctor`s office was raided by Trump`s security guard. That incredible story is ahead. Still to come, the President`s messaging strategy for the Mueller probe and why it may actually be working.


HAYES: All right, we`ve got breaking news of this hour from the Washington Post about a meeting between Trump`s attorneys back when John Dowd was on the team in March with Robert Mueller himself in which the attorneys have floated the idea that if the President wouldn`t be talking to them and Robert Mueller floated back the notion of subpoenaing the President of the United States. It was apparently a tense meeting and was in that meeting - -


RODGERS...those implicate classified information. So, it is important, and it takes time to get these clearances. You know, obviously expedited for the president, but it does take time to go through the background and get these done. So, it`s a problem for them. It`s going to slow things down.

HAYES: Why is this happening? Why the shake-ups?

ACKERMAN: It`s because no one wants to be Donald Trump`s lawyer.

HAYES: Well, (inaudible) apparently does.

ACKERMAN: Yeah, but the lawyer is Donald Trump. I mean, they`ll realize it. He`s going to get more lawyers before this is over. There is going to be more turnover.

The fact of the matter is the chief legal strategist in the White House is Donald Trump. He doesn`t listen to his lawyers. He tells his lawyers what he wants to do. And when they give him advice, he doesn`t pay attention to it. So if you`re a lawyer, what`s the point? You might as well get somebody off the street to come in, give him the title lawyer because it doesn`t make any difference with this president.

HAYES: Do you agree with that?

RODGERS: I do. I mean, I think that`s why a lot of people have turned him down. I mean, I think there are some people who might take it to kind of try to make their name, but history has shown us even though it hasn`t been that long that people have been kind of a revolving door, so I don`t think anyone will risk that.

HAYES: I continue to not understand really the dynamics of this negotiation over the interview.

ACKERMAN: I think it`s being played up bigger by the White House than it really is. The bottom line is, they`re going to give him a grand jury subpoena. And he`s going to have to obey it. The idea that he somehow thinks he`s going to get away without having to address a grand jury subpoena and appear in front of 23 people in the District of Columbia and give testimony, he`s living in a dreamworld.

U.S. V Nixon is pretty much on point. Nixon was forced to give up the tapes. The case stands for the fact that every man, no matter whether they`re president, whatever their position is in this country, that the government, the Justice Department, has the right to take their evidence. I mean, for all we know, Trump could be giving evidence about other people not necessarily himself.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, he has got to go in there and testify. And if he does, he won`t have his lawyers in there with him. They`ll be outside the grand jury room. And he is going to have to ask permission each time he wants to go out and speak to his lawyers.

HAYES: I want to play -- you worked in the Justice Department, I mean, in the U.S. attorney`s office, part of the Justice Department. What Rosenstein had to say about sort of protecting that independence. Take a listen.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time. And I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. We`re going to do what`s required by the rule of law and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.


HAYES: I asked David Cicilline about that quote and he said that`s what he wanted to hear. What do you think of it?

RODGERS: I like it. I like the new feisty Rosenstein.

I mean, it`s one thing to have former DOJ folks and other outside the system saying this is a real problem, they are attacking our institutions. We can`t stand for her and we have to uphold the rule of law, but that doesn`t say much about the resolution of the people there. So, I like that Rosenstein said -- just flat out listen, we`re doing our jobs. We`re keeping our head down and we`re going to do what`s necessary to uphold this institution and the rule of law. We will not be extorted.

That to me says he`s feeling strong about this. He`s going to be resolute. And I think that`s an important message to get out.

HAYES: Ultimately, it seems like what you were saying, that there`s all this talk about the sort of back and forth between these entities. But there`s a fairly clear road it seems to me, right, towards a confrontation.

ACKERMAN: Absolutely. And it`s not going to be that big of a deal.

I mean, if you look at...


ACKERMAN: Look what happened with the Watergate tapes. In May of `74, the district court ordered the White House to turn over the tapes. They then, after that appealed to the court of appeals, but then the special prosecutor went straight to the Supreme Court.

By July...

HAYES: They gave them over.

ACKERMAN: By the 24th, it was 8-zip, one justice had to recuse himself. But that was it.

HAYES: OK, but here`s the difference with tapes, which are being subpoenaed in the president`s testimony. He can`t just plead the fifth, right?

RODGERS: He can.

ACKERMAN: Of course.

HAYES: I mean, I feel like everyone I talk to, every lawyer I talk to is like there`s no way the president will plead the fifth. But isn`t he just going to plead -- like I just feel like there`s all this talk about is he going to testify or not. It just seems to me that naturally what is going to happen is he is going to be subpoenaed and then he can plead the fifth.

RODGERS: I`m with you actually. Because at the end of the day, pleading the fifth is a political issue for him, you know, not a legal issue, really. And he so far has skated by without much political consequence for what he does, so I agree with you. I think he takes the fifth here.

ACKERMAN: Look, nobody in the Watergate investigation took the fifth. Every major political figure went into the grand jury and perjured themselves. Every single one, AND they were convicted of perjury.

HAYES: Right, that`s true -- well, they probably should have taken the fifth.

ACKERMAN: They should have.

HAYES: Were they ordered not to or was it...

ACKERMAN: No, it was a political consequences. You had to take the position we did nothing wrong. There was nothing we did. And they went in and they just came up with all kinds of stories and they paid for those stories.

RODGERS: They didn`t set up the witch hunt the right way, see, this is what we`re seeing now.

HAYES: well, that`s what you think this is about, ultimately. And the White House using increasingly Trumpian language about the investigation, not even pretending to say well of course we`re going to let it run its course, we`re innocent. They`re now setting up the witch hunt parameters.

RODGERS: Correct.

ACKERMAN: But Nixon called it a witch hunt, too. I mean, it was no different. It was the same thing. They were attacking the prosecutors. They were attacking us. They fired Cox. they thought they got rid of all of the prosecutors, and then the public outcry pushed them the other way.

HAYES: Well, that was the question. I mean, things crumbled. It`s going to be -- we will see as this is sort of moves from a kind of explicitly political one, which I sense the terrain shifting a little bit how that goes.

Nick Ackerman and Jennifer Rodgers, thanks for joining us.

ACKERMAN: Thank you.

RODGERS: Thank you.

HAYES: Still to come, Vice President Mike Pence heaps praise on former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. What that reveals about the man a heartbeat away from the presidency ahead.

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


HAYES: Thing One tonight, the GOP senate primary in West Virginia gets stranger by the day and the fight is getting so nasty, that one attack ad shows Republican Patrick Morrisey, shaking hands with the hated Hillary Clinton, but it turns out the image is a fake. The image at left of Morrissey shaking hands with President Trump was photoshopped to create that fake image of him shaking hands with Clinton.

It`s an ad by his Republican opponent Evan Jenkins. A Jenkins campaign ad confirmed the fake image saying the campaign took creative license.

But that`s far from the craziest part of this race. Take the third Republican contender in West Virginia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Mr. Blankenship, isn`t it true that you live in Nevada. You pay taxes in Nevada. And in fact your probation officer is in Nevada and yet you`re running for U.S. Senate in West Virginia?


HAYES: And that`s still not the end of the offenses of Don Blankenship. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: So convicted criminal Don Blankenship, who recently finished a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety laws when an explosion at his mine killed 29 people, that guy is the third Republican contender for the U.S. senate race in West Virginia. And he`s trying to so hard to position himself as the anti-establishment candidate, he`s unleashed bizarre quasi racist attacks on senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

In one ad, Blankenship calls McConnell Cocaine Mitch based on some very, very tenuous and bizarre claims that drugs were once found on a shipping vessel owned by McConnell`s father-in-law.

Blankenship also claims McConnell has a conflict of interest with the nation of China citing McConnell`s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and her family.


DON BLANKENSHIP, REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, WEST VIRGINIA: I don`t have any problem with Chinese girlfriends, Chinese anything. But I have an issue when the father-in-law is, you know is, a wealthy China person and there`s a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China.


HAYES: So much going on in that quote. Any quote that starts with I don`t have an issue with Chinese girlfriends, but you know is going somewhere really good. He actually said at the end a weirdly PC attempt at a racial slur, which he was confronted with at last night`s GOP debate. And his answer, well, I guess gets points for creativity.


BLANKENSHIP: This idea that calling somebody a China person, I mean I`m an American person. I don`t see this insinuation by the press that there`s something racist about saying a China person. Some people are Korean persons and some of them are African persons. It`s not any slander there.



HAYES: Vice President Mike Pence appeared yesterday in Arizona in a campaign style rally organized by a Trump supporting dark money group called America First Policies.

Now, you may not have heard of the group, but you may have heard of one of their latest hires, a guy by he name of Carl Higbie who resigned in January from the federal agency that manages Americorps after CNN`s K-file unearthed a string of sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-Muslim comments he had made in the past.


CARL HIGBIE: I have somebody who lives in my condo association that is has five kids. And her and her husband with the five kids and the mother -- or grandmother of the kids. And they can`t -- they don`t have jobs. They are there all the time. I bet you can guess what color they are. And they have no jobs.


HAYES: I bet you can guess what color they are. Pretty nice, right?

Higbie apologized for his comments when he resigned in January, but now he says he was the target of a mainstream media hit job.


HIGBIE: Look, I had a radio show. I mean, look, how many times have you said something on radio that could possibly be construed as very controversial when taken completely out of context. You could not have been more far off base by putting that headline out there, however it fit their narrative, and because I made a statistical observation, they think that`s racist.


HAYES: Ah yes, the old statistical observation. I`ve seen those before.

Carl Higbie says he was being taken out of context when he said, for instance, he doesn`t like gay people and that African-Americans have lax morals, and that people with severe PTSD have weak minds.

So, let`s be fair to Carl Higbie, here are some comments -- just picking somewhat at random -- he made about Muslims completely in context.


HIGBIE: I was called an Islammophobe the other day. I said no, no, no, no, I`m not afraid of them. I don`t like them. Big difference. And they were like, well, you`re racist. I was like, fine, if that`s the definition of it, then I guess I am.


HAYES: Yes, Carl, that actually is the definition of it.

Now, Carl Higbie isn`t the only unsavory character the vice president associated with in Arizona last night. What he said about notorious former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and what it tells us about who Mike Pence really is. Next.


HAYES: The infamous former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio, is both a Senate candidate and a convicted criminal. Arpaio ignored a court order to stop unconstitutionally racially profiling people and was then convicted of criminal contempt of court when he ignored them, only to be subsequently pardoned by President Trump.

Yet despite his law-flouting record, vice president Mike Pence hailed Arpaio as a champion of, of all things, the rule of law.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law who spent a lifetime in law enforcement. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I`m honored to have you here.


HAYES: Joining me now, Christina Greer, fellow at NYU`s MicSilver Institute for Poverty, Policy, and Research; MSNBC contributor Sam Seder, host of the Majority Report podcast; and McKay Coppin, staff writer at The Atlantic and author of the piece "God`s Plan for Mike Pence."

McKay, lat me start with you. I`ve seen a lot of never Trump conservatives who are sort of Mike Pence curious, I`ll call them, or sort of like Mike Pence. They dabble in Mike Pence, being pretty who horrified by the Joe Arpaio shout-out.

MCKAY COPPINS, THE ATLANTIC: Yeah, I`ve actually been surprised by that, the amount of shock among a lot of anti-Trump conservatives at this. You know, having spent a lot of time talking to people close to Mike Pence, researching his life, reporting out that profile, the thing that has become most clear to me is he has erected a moral, ethical, theological framework for himself that essentially justifies doing anything in this current office that President Trump asks him to do. And I don`t say that glibly. I mean, the reality is he believes that there was a divine intervention at play in his ascent to the vice presidency, that his current job is to serve President Trump loyally and faithfully until the moment, if it comes that he is supposed to ascend to the presidency.

And when you look at everything he does in this current office in that context, you realize that none of this should be that surprising. He is going to be a good Trumpian soldier until the moment that it doesn`t suit his interests.

CHRISTINA GREER, NYU: Yeah, correct. I mean -- McKay, it`s a great piece by the way.

COPPINS: Thank you.

GREER: But here is the piece with Mike Pence and this entire administration that is so frustrating, if you wake up at 6:00 every morning and go jogging in Central Park and you meet up with 10 people and guys go jogging for, say, a year and a half, two years. You`re a jogger. That`s what it is, right?

HAYES: Yes. And so we keep seeing -- you are what you do.

GREER: You are what you do. And we keep seeing bigots and racists and anti-Semites. And we keep saying, well, that`s them, but Pence and Trump, they`re not them. Yes, they are. They are cavorting with these same men that are either in the administration or allied with the administration. And they`re upholding all the same values.

Pence is no different than Trump or anyone else in this crew. The difference is he sort of waves this evangelical flag and his great moral values with his wife. He is a complete and total hypocrite. And we do know he is just watching the shock clock so when Trump goes down he can say the lord wanted me to do it and ascend here.

SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT: When he was a talk radio show host, he referred to himself as a Rush Limbaugh, you know, on less caffeine, or something to that effect.

HAYES: Yeah, the guy comes from the world of talk radio. He is the one, like the serious guy.

SEDER: Right. He has put on a veneer.

But also, if you contemplate that notion, if he is genuinely looking a little forward, like what`s going to happen perhaps? I mean, let`s play the odds here. There is a decent chance maybe he`ll be in a position to run for president.

HAYES: Right.

SEDER: Slide into president. Now is the time for him to make these sort of signal to these people, the Arpaio people, the Carl Higbies, those folks, I`m with you. Down the road, I may not be able to cavort with you as much because it`s like I`m going into the general, if you will. But right now it`s sort of the primary, and this is the time for him to do that.

HAYES: I also think, McKay, the Carl Higbie story, in the grand scheme of things, it`s a small story. But I find it really generally appalling, really appalling. I mean, this is someone whose...


HAYES: Well, right. But I mean, this is someone who got hired in the administration and you can say, well, it was a vetting problem. The dark money PAC hired him as soon as all that was made public. It is explicit white supremacy. It is explicit bigotry. He is a racist by his own admission. And they hire this person. And Mike Pence has appeared at I think a dozen plus events with him.

COPPINS: Right. That`s the thing. It`s not just -- they`re not even trying to maintain the pretense of distance. Mike Pence is showing up at these events, giving his endorsement for this man and his organization. And you can`t at some point -- you have to just tell -- you have to say, look, if you`re showing up at this event, you obviously have no problem with what this man has said. You have given him a pass.

SEDER: That`s exactly what he wants. I mean, this is not...

HAYES: Right, right. The feature is not a bug.

SEDER: The feature is not a bug. And I think he wants to establish I am Carl Higbie friendly, if that`s going to be the euphemism. And so when he moves on into a wider audience, they know he is with them, but they know that he has to pretend that he is not. And I think that is...

HAYES: That`s interesting.

SEDER: I think that is calculated.

GREER: Right.

Well, he needs this base, right? He need`s Trump`s base to come along. He knows he`ll have the evangelicals. He knows that he`ll have some moderate Republicans, because he looks the part. And in the past, they can sort of look quickly, he was a governor. I mean, he held office. He sort of checks off certain boxes. I mean, the fact that you are cosigning a known racist, I`m sorry, but the laws transitive property say if you spend time with the racists, if you say things that racists say, P.S. you`re a racist.

COPPINS: By the way, I know that this maybe is belaboring the point, but the fact that that comment you played by Higbie about Muslims, I mean, Mike Pence is a man who has staked his entire career on the issue of religious liberty. You would think that that issue theoretically should bother him a little bit right.

GREER: Yeah, but people don`t see Muslims as having a religion, right?

HAYES: It`s like having...

GREER: ...having a religion...

HAYES: It`s like law and order issue, right. Like it`s like law and order for whom, religious liberty for whom?

COPPINS: I would also say that hypocrisy in talking about these people, it makes no sense.

HAYES: Right.

SEDER: I mean, there just simply a different set of principles they`re operating on.

HAYES: Well, I think McKay`s point, I mean, the last time McKay was on to talk about this, I talked about the term antinomianism, right, which is a religious belief that like to the holy all is allowed, right, which annihilates the conceptual category of hypocrisy, like because you are the receiver of god`s grace, you are allowed to do these things because the grace is prior to your acts, right? It`s like...

GREER: But he and Trump in so many ways are so similar because Trump says, because I am Trump I can do these things.

HAYES: Yes, it`s the secular version of it.

GREER: Yes, Pence says because god has chosen me to be here, this is why we can take money away from women and children. This is why we can do all these things that are the antithesis of what the bible says. But he is selling it as though I`m chosen and I`m divinely tapped by the lord to move forward this horrible agenda.

SEDER: We`re describing the Republican Party.

HAYES: Right.

SEDER: Because none of these value voters, none of these evangelical voters, are holding any of this stuff against Donald Trump or any of them. And I think it lays bare -- I mean, you could say the same thing about the deficit, I mean, on and on and on. It lays bare that the hypocrisy is sort of baked into the cake.

HAYES: But in a particular way, McKay, it also says to me that, you know, the wings have all collapsed. I mean, this is a point that gets made a lot, but it is just the case that like this is the Trump-Arpaio-Pence Party, whatever that is. And maybe soon it`s going to be the Blankenship party too, or the Roy -- like, it`s all those things. That is what the party is at this point.

COPPINS: Well, that`s exactly right. I talked to Joe Arpaio shortly after he announced his bid for senate. And the thing that struck me most about my conversation with him was how much Arpaio was -- how confident he was that the Republican Party had come fully in his direction. And that`s where we are. And he knows it and we all know it.

HAYES: All right, Christina Greer, McKay Coppins, Sam Seder, thank you for being with me tonight.

Gentle, Friendly reminder to subscribe to Sam`s daily podcast, the Majority Report. And to our daily podcast. Every day, the latest episodes of our show, even if you just watched it. Now, you could listen to it too. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.

That`s All In for this evening.


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