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Trump's legal troubles keep getting worse. TRANSCRIPT: 05/03/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Daniel Goldman, Chris Lieu, Victoria Toensing, Lisa Green, Maya Wiley, Harry Siegel, Mickey Edwards, Barbara Boxer, Ben Rhod

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 3, 2018 Guest: Daniel Goldman, Chris Lieu, Victoria Toensing, Lisa Green, Maya Wiley, Harry Siegel, Mickey Edwards, Barbara Boxer, Ben Rhodes

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer.

HAYES: The President`s legal problems grow exponentially. And the White House scrambles to explain Rudy Giuliani`s Stormy Daniels admission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They funneled it through a law firm?

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: Funneled through a law and the President repaid it.

HAYES: Tonight the latest Trump world excuse for firing James Comey inside the Trump legal strategy with the President`s informal legal adviser Victoria Toensing and the tortured relationship between the Trump White House and the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are the American people to trust or believe what is said here or what is said by the President?

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: We give the very best information that we have at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Tonight the President of the United States somehow finds himself in an even deeper legal crisis than he was just 24 hours ago. The President`s lawyer in the Mueller probe, Rudy Giuliani, you may have heard of him, just revealed seemingly out of nowhere that his client has been lying about the payment to Stormy Daniels and also managed to expose the President to further legal jeopardy. We found out that federal investigators have monitored the phone records of the President`s long-time attorney Michael Cohen and the Special Counsel just filed a request for 35 blank subpoenas to compel testimony against the President`s former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort when he goes on trial this summer. Even for an administration defined by chaos and a President who is already the subject of criminal investigation, things continually manage to get worse. The shock of the President`s own White House, his attorney -- his outside attorney Rudy Guiliani just gave a string of live interviews on national television and some to the print press as well, in which he revealed the President has been lying about his role in the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and that everyone around him has been part of the cover-up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegation?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You`ll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don`t know.

SANDERS: I`ve had conversations with the president about this. There was no knowledge of any payments from the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President was not aware of the agreement. At least Michael Cohen never told him about the agreement. I can tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: OK. We`ve been hearing that for months I guess. The President doesn`t know. Michael Cohen just sort of out of the goodness of his heart because he loves Donald Trump, just foots the bill for $130,000 to pay off a woman who did not have an affair with the President. OK, got that? Giuliani has now acknowledged that contrary to all those accounts, the President of United States, well, guess what, personally reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I`m giving you a fact now that you don`t know. It`s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they funneled it through a law firm?

GIULIANI: Funneled through a law firm and the President repaid it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I didn`t know -- he did?

GIULIANI: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Oh, I didn`t know that. No one did. I mean, Rudy Giuliani and President did, Michael Cohen did. And Giuliani claimed that because of the way the payments to Cohen were structured at the time, the President did not know he made them till a couple weeks ago. But even if that were true, it still exposes the President to a number of potential campaign finance and banking violations. Giuliani tried to invoke the same defense used successfully we should say by John Edwards in his campaign finance trial that the payment had nothing to do with his political campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: This was for personal reasons. This was -- the President had been hurt personally not politically, personally so much and the First Lady by some of the false allegations that one more false allegation, six-year sold, I think he was trying to help the family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Help his family. Giuliani blew up that entire argument within just minutes pointing out what seems obvious on the face of it, that Stormy Daniels was paid off to prevent a scandal in the days before the Presidential election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016 in the middle of the you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So to make it go away, they made you this payment.

GIULIANI: Cohen didn`t even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: For more on the President`s growing legal troubles, joining me now, MSNBC National Security Analyst and former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts and Daniel Goldman, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, the same office that`s investigating Michael Cohen, the same office that Rudy Guiliani used to run. What are the legal consequences of what Giuliani has now admitted?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, the legal liability now for the potential campaign finance violation shifts a little bit from what we thought was Michael Cohen making an excessive campaign donation by paying off Stormy Daniels 11 days before the election, now it goes over to Donald Trump who is allowed to give his campaign as much money as he wants but he must disclose what he gave. And so by saying that I knew about it and I repaid him, Giuliani referring to Trump, that is an indication now that Donald Trump may be in the threshold of a campaign, or the clenches of a campaign finance violation.

HAYES: What do you think, Clint?

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It`s hard to watch Giuliani talk. I mean, the more he waves his hands, the more you know that there`s something not right. And so --

HAYES: Well, I have to say, as a New Yorker and also as an Italian- American, I`m a little offended by that.

WATTS: The intensity picks up when the story gets crazy. And so whether you know, the way he is describing it, he`s essentially saying the President knew about this and he`s saying as he used in his own words, he is funneling money, which funneling is a term you usually don`t want to use talking about what the President is doing because it says you`re trying to covertly send money to an associate which is what this is essentially about which is why did you do this. If this was not that important and if Cohen didn`t need to do this, why just a few days before the election would you do this if it happened many years ago? And that comes down to intent.

GOLDMAN: The best gloss on this, if you put some sort of method to the madness, it`s some argument that goes like this. Michael Cohen made the payment before the election but he knew he was going to get paid back by President Trump so it wasn`t a campaign finance donation. President Trump didn`t pay hip back until after the election so he wouldn`t have had to disclose it. OK, and somehow in that whole entanglement, maybe you have an argument there was no campaign finance violation, but that`s not at all what they`re saying and that`s not at all what Giuliani has been saying over the last 24hours. So --

HAYES: They should hire you. That is actually -- that`s a better legal argument on behalf of the President where like everybody has just enough knowledge to not violate the law. That`s essentially what you`re saying.

GOLDMAN: That`s the best -- I think that`s the best argument I can think of that they could purport. There are holes in it, but --

HAYES: The broader thing to me about this though is just like the level of sketchiness that is now -- here`s Rudy Giuliani basically saying like why are you guys all stressing out about this, this happens all the time? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I think when Cohen heard $130,000, he said my god, this is cheap. They come cheap. Let me get the thing signed up and signed off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, in other words, to make it go away rather than fight this allegation --

GIULIANI: Don`t you think a lot of these people would pay that when they can? I mean, I represented, I can`t disclose, I represented clients who paid substantially more than that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does this happen a lot like you said in the tweet when you`re wealthy --

GIULIANI: If you`re wealthy, you`re a target.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: It just seems to me like we know -- we know Michael Cohen is being looked at by the Southern District of New York, he`s been raided, subject of warrant. There`s a pen register of his call logs according to reporting today. It seems like there may be more there.

WATTS: Yes, if they`re already moving on this, and there`s one thing -- just in terms of the pace of this investigation, I would not imagine that simply a referral to Rod Rosenstein that gets sent to the Southern District of New York would go trigger such a rapid response. Just looking at this from the outside, it would seem they were already moving on some sort of investigative case whether it`s white collar, what have you. And this gave them that extra meat that they needed to really go for the more investigative steps like showing up at his door and actually doing a search warrant. It seems that this was a pile on. This wasn`t just the first thing that came out of the blue.

GOLDMAN: The focus has been so much on the Stormy Daniels payment and the campaign finance violation. But if you look at the filings by the prosecutors in the Southern District, they are emphasizing to the judge that most of their investigation and most of the communications that they are privy to through e-mail search warrants relate to Cohen`s business dealings, which is completely separate from the campaign finance violations. So as someone who worked there, there`s no way they`re doing you know, sequential search warrants for a home, office and hotel room based on campaign finance allegations.

HAYES: Finally, I want to get your reaction to something Rudy Giuliani said about the agents doing this raid and what he called them. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: The only possible violation there would be was it a campaign finance violation which usually would result in a fine by the way, not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.

HAYES: Stormtroopers

WATTS: Yes, can you believe this is the Rudy Guiliani on 9/11 that you know, that was the rallying person that literally brought the NYPD and FBI together so that we can counter terrorism and is now talking about stormtroopers, the same Rudy Giuliani there was talk of oh, you know, this is Trumpville in New York City going into election day. And or him to say that he`s literally trying to tear down institutions in the United States, he`s putting wedges in between local and federal government and it`s just a sad state to see what was once a storied individual take had route and really follow the President destroying U.S. institutions.

HAYES: Clint Watts and Daniel Goldman, thank you both for joining me. I learned a lot.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

HAYES: For more on what`s next to the President and his legal issues mount, Congressman Ted Lieu, Democratic from California, Member of the House Judiciary Committee. Your colleagues, Congressman, seem to be ramping up attempts to cut all this off at the pass. Where do things sit right now?

REP. CHRIS LIEU (D-CA), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I find it despicable that some colleagues of mine in the House are trying to impeach Rod Rosenstein and I think he absolutely did the right thing when he said the Department of Justice would not be extorted. And then, I was watching the very interesting conversation you had. I think it`s pretty clear that the President was using Michael Cohen as a straw donor to conceal the true source of the payment. That`s a flat-out campaign finance violation and because it exceeds $25,000, that`s a felony. And I think that`s enough to get FBI agents to show up on your doorstep.

HAYES: Do you think that`s what this is all about? Do you think at the core this there`s a serious question of a campaign finance violation?

LIEU: I think it is one aspect. I would not be surprised that there are business problems that Michael Cohen had. And what`s important is that this is an investigation run separately from Robert Mueller. It`s a U.S. Attorney`s Office for Southern District of New York. Those prosecutors and FBI agents are going to do their jobs. And because of Rudy Giuliani`s stunning admission last night about the President reimbursing Cohen, they`re going to want to talk to the President now. So now you`ll have two sets of investigators wanting to talk to the President of the United States.

HAYES: What does it mean that we now know the President lied about this?

LIEU: Well, you know, Chris, today is Thursday which means we find out that the President lied. But this was such a stunning number of lies. This is the fourth iteration of this story now. The first lie was oh, Stormy Daniels is all fake news, then it was well, it`s not fake but no money changed hands. Then it was, well, Michael Cohen made the money, didn`t get reimbursed, now, we know Trump reimbursed him. So the mounting number of lies shows that they were really, really scared of what the story was going to do and now it`s full blown in front of the American public. And at its base, right, it`s really about Donald Trump having an affair with a porn star trying to cover it up, but the way he did it violated campaign finance laws.

HAYES: Congressman Charlie Dent, retiring Republican from Pennsylvania says there should be hearings on this matter. He said if Obama were doing it, we would be "waving the bloody shirt." What would Congressional oversight of this in particular on your committee look like if the members and the majority wanted to exert it?

LIEU: We would have hearings next week when we come back from recess. And I have to say I was deeply disturbed when Paul Ryan threatened saying hey, if the Democrats take back the House, we`re going to be subpoenaing people. Well, yes. We`re going to be executing our responsibility to be a check and balance on executive branch and we will be issuing subpoenas to make sure we have appropriate oversight over the executive branch and all the bad things happening.

HAYES: Do you think -- do you have any confidence that would happen short of Democratic -- Democrats taking the majority?

LIEU: Only if a lot more Republicans retire because I`ve seen a lot of courage from Republican who are retiring.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Ted Lieu, thank.

LIEU: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, how will the President handle the mounting legal pressures? Victoria Toensing, she`s one of the President`s informal legal advisers joins me in just two minutes to talk about the latest in the Mueller probe. I think that`s going to be pretty interesting. Don`t go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn`t a target of the investigation. He`s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that and she -- he couldn`t get that so he fired him and he said I`m free of this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The latest rationale for Donald Trump`s firing of former FBI Director James Comey. And joining me now to discuss the latest on the Trump investigation, former Federal Prosecutor Victoria Toensing, and former Legal Adviser of the President who is set to formally join Trump`s legal team in March before conflicts prevented her from doing so, and it`s really nice to have you on the show. I really appreciate it.

VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thanks, Chris. Just to clarify, I`m not advising the President about this special counsel matter, so the only way he`s going to hear what I`m going to tell you is if he`s tuned in and I`m sure he is.

HAYES: Well, a boy can dream. Let me start with what Rudy Giuliani said there. If the President fires the FBI Director because he refuses to publicly clear him in an investigation, there are some who argue that that on its face is obstruction of justice.

TOENSING: I don`t know who those would be but I think they didn`t make it to law school. The President under Article Two has the unfettered authority to hire and fire people. Don`t forget you know, the civil service protection isn`t involved here, but he can hire and fire all of these executive branch people. I mean, certainly Comey and Kelly and -- because of Article Two. But how would firing Comey ever be obstruction of justice? There`s 15,000 more FBI agents that are there as the fired and the investigation continued. So what does that obstruct for goodness sake?

HAYES: But that -- it seems to me -- I`ve heard that argument before, Alan Dershowitz made a version of it, Joseph diGenova, your husband made a version of it which it basically --

TOENSING: Liberals and conservatives, Chris.

HAYES: But it`s impossible to obstruct justice when the President is exercising his full article two --

TOENSING: No, no, no.

HAYES: No, let me finish the sentence.

TOENSING: OK.

HAYES: That it is impossible for a President exercising his rightful constitutional authority under Article Two to obstruct justice by doing it, right? That anything he does there, he has unfettered power to hire and fire, he can`t obstructing justice.

TOENSING: That`s right.

HAYES: But it seems -- it seems that proves too much. Like, if President Obama comes in when the FBI and the Justice Department investigating Robert Menendez in New Jersey, right? And he says look, I need that Senator`s vote and he fires the U.S. Attorney in Newark because he wants him to stop going after Robert Menendez, he`s obstructing justice clearly even if he has the power to do it.

TOENSING: No, he`s not. He can fire U.S. attorneys--

HAYES: You think that`s fine?

TOENSING: I`m just -- I`m just telling you what the law is.

HAYES: No, I`m --

TOENSING: I know your wife`s a lawyer. Maybe she can tell you what the law is.

HAYES: No, but this is --

TOENSING: OK, let`s take your argument, Chris. Let`s go with it. It`s obstruction of justice, so a possible crime.

HAYES: Right.

TOENSING: Now, Rod Rosenstein talked with the President about the basis for firing Comey. Rod Rosenstein wrote a blistering, scathing memo saying -- which is entitled "restoring the credibility of the FBI," and gave the President -- I think it was three-pages of reasons why Comey should be fired. So, therefore, Rod Rosenstein under yours and Mueller`s theory that it might be obstruction --

HAYES: Right.

TOENSING: -- is at best a witness under my theory but a co-conspirator under your theory.

HAYES: Although he gives --

TOENSING: Now, Mueller who reports to Rod Rosenstein, that`s a conflict.

HAYES: But I just want to be clear here. The Rosenstein memo, right, because this is what`s so strange about the shenanigan here.

TOENSING: The May memo, right, the May memo.

HAYES: The may memo is a manifestly and obviously pretextual as we learned from the President and Rudy Giuliani --

TOENSING: No, no, no. Chris, you have to understand how all of us were appalled, all of us who have been a part of the Justice Department and know how Comey usurped the role of the lawyer. He may have a law degree but he was an investigator as head of the FBI. We were appalled. You just need to know that.

HAYES: Wait, appalled by the fact that he gave -- because he was too mean to Hillary Clinton?

TOENSING: Well, yes, that`s the other reason. He usurped the role of the Attorney General and then he revealed information uncovered in an investigation. You`re never supposed to do that.

HAYES: I watched the President -- I watched the president and the Republican Party, lawyers and not lawyers, all those people in the circle quote James Comey at that event all the time. No one said that he shouldn`t have released derogatory information.

TOENSING: Well, I did. Well, I did, Chris and I`m saying it again today.

HAYES: Well, I praise you actually for your consistency because I think -- I think -- I agree with that. That was a position of the show. But I guess my point here is fundamentally this. Is it the case that the President with corrupt intent can use his constitutional authority to fire people in pursuit of obstruction of justice or is that not -- you don`t grant that`s conceptually possible?

TOENSING: You cannot -- no, you cannot -- you cannot delve into his intent in a matter where he has unfettered authority. Let me give you another example. But by the way, before we go there, Chris, will you -- will you address the issue of Rod Rosenstein supervising a case where he is at best a witness and at most a co-conspirator? I think that`s a real problem, a legal problem. I`m a lawyer before I`m a Republican. I didn`t go to law school to be a Republican.

HAYES: All I know -- all I know, what we know from the reporting, right, is that he has checked in with the Ethics Department there at the Department of Justice about whether he should recuse and followed the recommendation. Did they make the wrong recommendation? I don`t know the substance of what`s inside the black box, the redacted memo of Rod Rosenstein so I don`t have a position on it, right? Like, Rod Rosenstein or no Rod Rosenstein, what I am driving at is whether the president in a fundamental sense is above the law. And I want to give you another hypo here, OK. Can we do this? Let me give you another one.

TOENSING: OK, I can give you an example of unfettered authority. May I do that?

HAYES: Yes. OK.

TOENSING: OK. Bill Clinton received $450,000 from Marc Rich`s ex-wife and Hillary Clinton received $100,000 for her Senate Campaign and Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich. And you know who opened up a case against Bill Clinton? Do you know? James Comey. I know this case well because we represented somebody in the matter. And guess what, he had to close the case because Bill Clinton even having received over half a million dollars in -- personally for the pardon, they could not look into the intent of the President for that. And I`m saying all these questions Mueller has posed are improper because they`re looking into his intent in Article Two authority.

HAYES: You will -- now, you concede, of course, right, that the President can commit crimes, right?

TOENSING: Yes, of course.

HAYES: I mean, obstruction, right? So if he does things like he conspires to violate the computer fraud and abuse act or he -- you know --

TOENSING: If he destroys documents or if he tells somebody to lie, simple stuff.

HAYES: Right, all of that stuff. And you`re of the belief the only remedy for that is impeachment, right?

TOENSING: That is because the Justice Department has a long-held opinion in OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel that says that a president cannot be convicted -- cannot be indicted in both parties you know, for many years.

HAYES: Do you understand why people have a hard time with the credibility of the president`s denials?

TOENSING: It doesn`t -- what do you mean, denials of what?

HAYES: Everything. He said that he didn`t pay off Stormy Daniels and he did.

TOENSING: I said I would not talk about Stormy Daniels on your show so I don`t appreciate it coming up.

HAYES: I don`t care about Stormy Daniels. I`m not -- listen --

TOENSING: I do not opine about -- like the media, I do not opine about things that I do not know about.

HAYES: No, that`s right. I don`t want to -- I don`t want to talk about Stormy Daniels, my only about that has nothing to do with the case, is nothing -- we can be talking about what he ate for breakfast. What I`m saying is there`s a material misrepresentation that comes from the White House. There`s a lot of materials misrepresentation from the White House. Do you understand why people are skeptical when they say like we`re on the up and up here on how we`ve conducted ourselves?

TOENSING: I`m talking about this case and the special counsel and I`m saying it doesn`t matter if one day the president says he fired Comey because he wouldn`t come out publicly to say that he was not a target or if the next day he says that it`s because I was mad at him and didn`t like the cut of his jaw. It can be ten reasons, it can be no reason. It is unfettered just like the pardon power for Bill Clinton when he got half a million dollars.

HAYES: Or if he said, if he just came right out and said, look, I told him to lay off Michael Flynn. He didn`t and so I fired him. You think that -- if he -- even if he came out and said that, that would be fine.

TOENSING: Yes, he can do it for any reason. You may not like our Constitution but that`s the way it is. Now, if he went to a witness and said I want you to lie about Michael Flynn to help get him off, that would be a crime.

HAYES: Last question here. If the pardon power --

TOENSING: That`s the only one more? Only one more?

HAYES: Well, you`ll come back again. I enjoy doing this. The pardon power is unfeathered, right? If the president`s you know, bagman goes and intimidates a witness and he gets caught for it and the president pardons him afterwards, that`s fine?

TOENSING: Yes, he can pardon. Yes, completely unfettered power.

HAYES: So those are the two powers. He can fire whoever he wants and he can pardon whoever he wants and neither of those things in your mind can be obstruction of justice?

TOENSING: No, not just in my mind, in the mind of many legal scholars both on the left and the right.

HAYES: Yes, although -- right, although not unanimously. I just want to be clear about that. There`s --

TOENSING: Well, some people don`t understand the law and they`re very bad at it.

HAYES: People always say that, even in (INAUDIBLE) decisions. Victoria Toensing, thank you for being with me. I`d like to have you back if you will come back.

TOENSING: OK.

HAYES: All right, thank you. Coming up, 35 blank subpoenas requested by Robert Mueller. What this means for the Manafort investigation right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: And here to sift through that Attorney Lisa Green, Author of On Your Case, Maya Wiley, former U.S. Assistant Attorney, Professor at the New School and Harry Siegel, Senior Editor at the Daily Beast. So the position that Victoria Toensing was -- held there which is one that a bunch of people sort of defending the President have, what do you think of it?

LISA GREEN, ATTORNEY: Well, I would take issue and I thought you did a deft job of pushing back. It`s a much more nuanced topic.

HAYES: Whatever you think about it, it`s definitely not just like something everyone knows. This idea that like, oh, this is open and shut. The president can do whatever he wants.

GREEN: No, that is not true. The President cannot do whatever he wants, but I think what we`re seeing in her argument is the strain of a larger argument we`re going to start hearing when his new lawyer comes to suit up and start working asserting executive privilege. A much more assertive, defensive obstreperous role saying, you can`t touch this.

MAYA WILEY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, THE NEW SCHOOL: You can`t touch it. Corrupt intent --

HAYES: Right.

WILEY: That`s what you have to show to show obstruction of justice is that there was corrupt intent which he has essentially argued is that the president is above the law because he can dismiss someone with corrupt intent not -- because certainly if he was dismissing Comey for some other reason, it would not be corrupt intent.

HAYES: Of course. Cause, policy disputes, et cetera.

WILEY: But to suggest that the President of the United States is somehow protected from any kind of criminal violation that has corrupt intent as part of it to protect himself from violating -- from an investigation about violating other criminal laws is essentially to argue that the President of the United States is not subject to the laws of the land.

HAYES: It does feel like we`re running up against -- we`re headed towards another fight with the Nixon precedent here about whether fundamentally -- whether we view the President as subject to laws.

SIEGEL: We`re potentially just rolling past it, like we don`t know if this is a legal fight or just a political one or what. So, my 6-year-old, you know -- it`s, I didn`t do anything wrong and you can`t punish me. And that`s not the point, ha ha. You`re in trouble now. And that`s effectively what`s getting argued here is that you can`t judge presidential intent, and anyway`s the president`s intent was fine, and anyways and anyways and we`re not going to stop.

HAYES: I mean, we should also say that like we just don`t know the full facts right. Like, when the full facts are out, it`s -- but what was interesting is that she conceded that even if he fired Comey because of Flynn, even if he said to him, let my buddy go, stop investigating my dude, and he didn`t and he fired him for that, if he admitted that.

WILEY: He can pardon Flynn. It`s like -- here`s the thing, he can pardon Flynn so what he was really trying to do is protect from the investigation. He has all -- he could have used his executive privilege to protect Flynn by saying if there was an investigation and then an indictment and then an actual prosecution and Cohen is not -- he could then pardon him.

Well, but then you would suffer the consequences of -- I mean, I think you would still suffer some political consequences of pardoning.

HAYES: Right.

GREEN: So this was a weird end run.

HAYES: Well, but here`s the other thing, too. I feel like this is laying the ground for what is going to be escalating aggressiveness, right. Maybe moving against Rosenstein at some point. YOu could already see they have their knives out for him. Maybe pardoning people -- you know, give Michael Cohen a blanket pardon, right. All of that stuff seems possible.

And Rudy Guiliani right now, Harry -- I know it`s someone that you`ve covered for a while -- he seems at the center of this. And I can`t figure out what he`s doing.

SIEGEL: He doesn`t care. I`m serious. Rudy Guiliani is not so smart, is not so foolish. He`s in the middle of his third divorce. He was hanging out by himself in the Grand Nevada Club (ph) in Jared Kushner`s building smoking cigars not having gotten a role in his administration. And now we`re all calling -- we`re all talking about him and he`s pretty happy.

Last he was seen, he was working with former AG Mike Mukasey to defend this guy Zarab (ph) who was breaking the Iran sanctions. Rudy Guiliani trying to rat out justice to cut a deal on his behalf. And that might have been part of why when Zarab (ph) started cooperating, and that didn`t work...

HAYES: He didn`t have a gig.

SIEGEL: Yeah, right.

So, here he is. Suddenly people care about him again. He`s sucking up that attention. And if you look at that Fox interview.

HAYES: Very Trumpian.

SIEGEL: Oh, big-time. He kept talking about we, and you could see the pleasure in his face. It was like he was reanimated and now he got to say all the stuff he says to his friends about how the FBI is full of storm troopers, the bosses, not the rank and file who leaked to him, which, by the way, we`re still waiting for the IG report on.

GREEN: Yeah, it was almost like Rudy had attended for extra credit this Studio 54 school of law.

What do I mean? He and Trump are saying outrageous things, they`re sort of casually misogynistic, and it`s attention getting. But this is not a joke. And we`re not in a discotheque. And the `80s are over. And here we`re watching someone who seems to be at odds with what we just talked about seconds ago, which is a disciplined approach. We heard it from Victoria to really put pressure on prosecutors by attacking the basis for their investigation.

WILEY: And it works with the base.

HAYES: Right.

WILEY: And it works with the base. And I think, you know, what Giuliani definitely scored points on last night, although all of us can pull apart it from a legal and analytic standpoint, is nothing happened here.

HAYES: I got to say, though, that part of what is being peeled back is just -- like I keep saying the sketchiness factor here. What these folks are -- here`s Giuliani talking about this deal where he has just has this like little parenthetical about like with a little profit thrown in for Michael Cohen. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: Everybody was nervous about this from the very begin. I wasn`t. I knew how much money Donald Trump put into that campaign. I said $130,000? He`s going to do a couple checks for $130,000.

When I heard Cohen`s retainer of $35,000 when he was doing no work for the president, I said that`s how he`s repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Michael`s got to get his beak wet, too, you know. Like that`s what that -- no, seriously.

GREEN: Michael`s been demoted. Last on this show we talked about how he had only done a tiny amount of work for the president and now Rudy says essentially no work at all for $35,000, which I guess is a great deal for Michael Cohen.

SIEGEL: Looks like it was over $300,000 in incidentals on top of the payoff.

Look, when Rudy Giuliani runs for president in 2008 and Pat Robertson endorses him, at that point you know he`s pro-abortion, previously pro-gay marriage, cross dressing, living with gay people in the middle of the second divorce. And he`s choice of the evangelical community, that`s the moment when all bets were off and this stopped being about any pretense of principles and became about power.

And that auger is where we`re at with Trump and makes his return in this setting fitting in a way.

HAYES: And all we get from the reporting is that these are as thick as thieves, Trump and Giuliani, right. You`re hearing him saying no one else can break into. They have a generational connection, which I guess is one way of saying it.

Lisa Green, Maya Wiley, Harry Siegel, thank you all.

Ahead, what to do with a White House that so openly and regularly lies to the American people, which by the way, includes Scott Pruitt and he`s tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two and it`s a very good one next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Thing One tonight, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been involved in so many scandals over the last year and gotten away with all of it, so far at least, that we are way past asking the usual questions like whether he`s corrupt or if he is fit to run the EPA or if he should get fired. No, now we`re just watching in kind of awe wondering how far he can go. It`s like watching Michael Phelps rack up medals, except Pruitt is competing in the swamp Olympics.

You`ll remember Scott Pruitt got in hot water over a $50 a night apartment he rented from a lobbyist in D.C. who had business before the EPA. And now we know he once bought a house with a lobbyist. The grand home in Oklahoma City was registered to a shell company owned by Pruitt, who was a state senator at the time he purchased it, as well as a lobbyist, Justin Whitefield and four other associates.

The New York Times reports Whitefield was a registered lobbyist who was pushing for changes to the state`s worker compensation rules, changes that, well, lo and behold, Pruitt championed in the legislature.

And this is the best part, so he`s purchasing with a lobbyist. They purchased that house at a steep discount from another lobbyist who worked for a telecommunications company with business before the Oklahoma state legislature.

But Scott Pruitt isn`t going to win the swamp Olympics by his own questionable dealings, no, he also has to bring down the competition. How he`s trying to do that is Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: So Scott Pruitt`s team is trying to distract from the EPA chief`s many transgressions by pointing fingers at other scandal-ridden members of the president`s cabinet. The Atlantic with a great scoop today that a member of Pruitt`s press team, Michael Abud (ph), has been shopping around negative stories about leaks coming from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke`s staff with the intention of taking the heat off Pruitt.

But when reporters started making calls about those claims, staffers at the Interior were able to figure out it was Abud (ph) behind the stories, lodged a complaint with the White House personnel office. You remember that particular office from a Washington Post report earlier this year, which describes the PPO as something not unlike a frat house.

But it sounds like they pulled it together since then. They responding strongly to the interior complaint about Pruitt`s aide, even inquiring into whether they were able to fire him. But only Pruitt has that authority.

Now, we don`t know how much of this whole plot Pruitt knew about, but a White House official with knowledge of the event summed it up nicely, quote, "absolutely nothing Scott Pruitt did would surprise me."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: The president of the United States, he`s getting ready to negotiate probably one of our most historic agreements since the opening to China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Nixon another with (inaudible).

GIULIANI: Yeah, and we got Kim Jong-un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today. And I`ve got to go there, and Jay Sekulow and the - - we have to go there and prepare him for this silly deposition?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Rudy Guiliani is not a member of the administration. He doesn`t have security clearance, he`s just the president`s personal lawyer. And yet there he was on Trump TV this morning making a major foreign policy announcement of matters of life and death, almost as an aside, telling the world that apparently North Korea was planning to release three Americans being head prisoner today.

The White House said they cannot, quote, confirm the validity of what Giuliani said.

I`m joined now by one of the people who is instrumental in shaping pre- Trump geopolitics, Ben Rhodes former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and was the president`s right-hand man on foreign policy.

What do you think about this president`s approach to Korea at this point given the news that these hostages or prisoners might be released?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I mean, Chris, it`s hard to tell. First of all, part of what is so confusing right now is that he`s at the beginning stages of a negotiation with North Korea, has not really gotten in the room with them. And yet, he`s tearing up a deal with Iran, or threatening to, that already imposes constraints on the Iranian nuclear program and prevents them from getting a nuclear weapon.

So, at the same time that he`s initiating negotiations with North Korea, he`s threatened to scrap an agreement that actually achieves what he`s trying to achieve with North Korea with Iran in a way that will undermine our credibility.

And frankly it`s also confusing to me -- at no point in my eight years in the White House would we have outsourced to some external legal team a negotiation over something like prisoners or even brief them on those types of things. It`s a question of well how does Rudy Guiliani know this if he doesn`t have a security clearance.

HAYES: What do you think accounts for the seeming contradiction and the approaches between North Korea and Iran?

RHODES: Well, I mean, the simple fact is, you know, Trump hasn`t articulated what would be a successful deal with North Korea. They`ve made a commitment to denuclearization. They`ve done that in the past -- with Bush, with -- through the Obama administration. So, that`s not new. Of course, we`d like that to succeed. It`s certainly preferable to conflict. But there`s no scope of what timeline they`ll denuclearize, what the inspections will be.

I think what you can take away from this, Chris, is that he is as opposed to anything Barack Obama did, and Barack Obama, with several other countries, negotiated the Iranian nuclear deal. That has very strict constraints on the Iranian nuclear program, has an inspections regime to prevent them from cheating. And yet, he`s prepared to scrap that at the same time that he is, you know, celebrating the fact that he might negotiate with Kim Jong-un and suggesting that he should get the Nobel Peace Prize when in fact we don`t even know what that agreement would look like.

HAYES: You know, he`s being lobbied very hard by Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates as well. Those three countries, in particular, hate the Iran deal. They hate it, hate it, hate it. They will tell anyone they find they hate it. They kind of hate you because they think you were part of it. No, they do.

RHODES: I`m aware.

HAYES: You are hated by them, you are hated by the people that they hire. You`re hated by the people that view them -- why do they hate it so much?

RHODES: Well, I mean, Chris, all I can really take from this is that the Iran deal prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. It`s not a broad rapprochement with Iran, it deals specifically with the fact that we want to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. What I take away from it is what they would really like is a conflict with Iran, and an escalation with Iran, and potentially regime changing with Iran. And that`s why this is so dangerous.

There`s not any reason to be precipitating this crisis with the Iranians. There`s a deadline of May 12 to renew the sanctions waivers that allows us to stay in the deal. Trump has already done that twice, Iran is complying with the deal, despite what Bibi Netanyahu says. And the fact is if we do pull out of the deal, it risks a confrontation with Iran and it may be that those governments want that confrontation between the United States and Iran. They want a conflict between the United States and Iran. And frankly, it`s not in our interests to get into another war in the Middle East, particularly with a country as significant as Iran that could frankly be much more complicated war than even the wars we`ve had in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So I think that those countries are very focused on escalating a confrontation with the Iranians. But I don`t think it`s in America`s interests to lift these constraints on the Iranian nuclear program and risk that confrontation.

HAYES: All right, Ben Rhodes, thanks for making time tonight.

RHODES: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Still to come, a look at the White House`s comfortable relationship with telling lies. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was put on the spot about that today. Her response next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said on March 7 there was no knowledge of any payments from the president, and he`s denied all of these allegations. Were you lying to us at the time or were you in the dark?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has denied, and continues to deny, the underlying claim. And again I`ve given the best information I have at the time and I would refer you back to the comments that you yourself just mentioned a few minutes ago about the time line for...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That statement was in reference to the reimbursement, the payment.

SANDERS: Again, I gave you the best information that I had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Sarah Huckabee Sanders was caught red handed today having deceived the American people. But this is of course par from the course. Nothing that comes from this White House, particularly from this president, can ever be assumed to be true, no matter how minuscule or mundate the subject ever.

Here me to help me understand the toll this kind of constant deception takes, Barbara Boxer, former Democratic Senator from California; Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.

Mickey, am I crazy to think that there is a level of deception here that is different in kind or degree of other administrations, other politicians?

MICKEY EDWARDS, FORMER REPUBLCIAN CONGRESSMAN: I`ve never seen anything like it. But I mean, Donald Trump is still in the persona of a New York developer, hustling money to build buildings. You know, and he tells lies, nobody checks on it. You know, you can do that when you`re building buildings in New York City. You know, but as Barbara knows, you know, when you`re in congress and certainly more when you`re in the White House, every time you say something, people write stories and they check to see if it`s true. And he just doesn`t get it like there`s so many things he doesn`t get.

HAYES: Does he not get it, Senator Boxer, or does he just pay no consequence for it?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA: I think Donald Trump doesn`t know what he says from one day to the next.

HAYES: Right, yeah.

BARXOER: Seriously. If this is an incredible situation, and I think The New York Times is actually looked at all presidents, and yes all of them have lied from time to time, and they actually made a point that Donald Trump has lied more than 2,000 times. Look at other presidents, Republicans, Democrats, 85s, 95s. This is unbelievable.

And I feel for Sarah Huckabee Sanders because maybe he tells her one thing and she goes out there and says it, and the next day he says something else. But, look, she`s got to be the one to decide if she wants to do this. All she says is talk to the president`s lawyers, talk to Giuliani. Why didn`t she stand up there and apologize that Rudy Giuliani actually compared this country to Nazi Germany when he said the Justice Department acted like storm troopers. I am stunned at that from a man who pulled us together after 9/11. This is a sick situation.

HAYES: You know, even trivial matters, Mickey, I`ve been slightly obsessed with the doctor situation, Ronnie Jackson comes out and gives this glowing account of the president`s health. The previous glowing account of the president`s health with Dr. Bornstein, we now know that it was dictated by the president, the astonishingly excellent healthy letter.

I guess I feel like you have to kind of assume -- I don`t know, how do you navigate thinking about this White House having to assume that they are lying all the time?

EDWARDSS: Well, you know, everybody who works for him knows that in order to keep him happy you have to lie. You have to do whatever story he`s telling at the moment. And part of the problem here, Chris, and Barbara referred to this, you know, he knows that the base he has -- and he has to keep his base happy, and they either don`t care. They either believe everything he says, or they don`t care. You know, they`re with him no matter what. And so he can get away with it.

And the problem he`s going to run into -- I mean, I watch this and I saw Victoria Tensing on here before you know trying to do the Richard Nixon defense if the president does it, it`s not wrong. And it`s not going to work. You know, he`s digging himself in deeper and deeper. And it`s all coming out of his own mouth.

HAYES: You ever work with someone -- Yeah, please, go ahead.

BOXER: Sorry. I was going to say he`s so right. We know no one is above the law. We know that in the congress. You have the ethics rules if you break them, eventually you`ll get in trouble. And we know that when you`re president and you have an entire country with a free press watching what you do, you know, you`ve got to walk the walk. This man, and Mickey is right on this point too, he never was used to telling the truth in his business. We know that he never paid the bills of people who did work for him. He comes with an attitude that is frankly more like the mob than it is running an administration. It`s like a criminal enterprise.

But here`s the point, Mueller`s on the case. And Mueller knows the truth. So, whether we know the truth or we don`t know the truth, I believe Mueller knows the truth and has the goods in so many areas here. It`s getting very close.

HAYES: A question I`d like both of you to answer in your respective political careers, and I`ll start with you, Mickey, you ever work with someone or have someone who you served with that was like this, that you just could not trust a single thing they said?

EDWARDS: No, Chris. And I`m a republican and when I was in the House it was completely dominated by Democrats and we often were on opposites side, but I never doubted they were being truthful.

HAYES: Really? You did not run into people like this?

EDWARDS: I did not run into people like that. They were people who lived in the public spotlight. They understood that what they said would be challenged, that people were going to be looking at what they said and checking it out. No, I can`t think of a single instance where I served with anybody in either party who was just so cavalier with the facts.

HAYES: Senator, how about you?

BOXER: Well, it`s absolutely true that when you`re in congress and you`re working to get things done, by the way, for the American people and somebody looks you in the eye and they say I`m with you on that one. You could take it to the bank?

HAYES: Really?

BOXER: Maybe they have other problems in their life, I don`t know about that. But I can tell you when it comes to work, your word is your bond. And you never get anything done if you cross someone or lie to someone. It just doesn`t work.

HAYES: Right, so it`s like -- it`s interesting, it`s not necessarily the character of these people, what you`re saying is that the environment that you`re in just out of necessity there`s a certain degree of trust that has to happen for people just to get the job done and someone like the president who didn`t come up through that, who, as Mickey said, came up through the New York real estate world, has a very different mode that he`s adapting to.

Barbara Boxer and Mickey Edwards, it`s always great to have both of you. Thank you.

EDWARDS: Thanks, Chris.

BOXER: Thank you.

HAYES: On nights like tonight when we have so many great guests and fascinating interviews, I didn`t write that copy, I would call my own interviews fascinating, the guests are fascinating. I want to make sure you know you can catch them any time, anywhere with All In podcast. Make sure you subscribe.

That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

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

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