Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 11, 2018 Guest: Robert Maguire, Seth Hettena, Nancy Gertner, Harry Litman, Nick Confessore, Joyce Vance, Eric Lipton, Sam Seder, Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jennifer Rubin
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look very much forward to the inauguration.
HAYES: Robert Mueller is now following inauguration money.
TRUMP: We have great talent, tremendous talent.
HAYES: Tonight, new reporting that the Special Counsel is tracing foreign- linked donations to President Trump's inauguration.
TRUMP: And I think they're going to pay a big price.
HAYES: Plus --
TRUMP: Drain the swamp.
HAYES: New details about the secret slush fund of the President's lawyer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain what might this is as a definition of draining the swamp.
HAYES: Then, the new Scott Pruitt scandal involving a cover-up and an accused Catholic Cardinal. And on the anniversary of his last tough interview --
TRUMP: I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
HAYES: How the president has spent a year inside the Trump T.V. bubble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And joining me now by phone, the President of the United States.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
TRUMP: I will say Fox ratings are phenomenal.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I'm Chris Hayes. Every single day we learn more about what the members of Trump world were up to after winning the election as they moved to take power in Washington. And everybody day we learn that Robert Mueller is way ahead of us. ABC News reporting today that Mueller has been questioning witnesses about millions of dollars given to the President's inauguration from donors with ties to Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Those donations, let's be clear, are not illegal. Inaugurations aren't regulated the same way campaigns are, so we don't know exactly why Mueller is interested in those. What we do know is that his team is already interviewing Tom Barrack, realest state investor and longtime Trump confidante who chaired the President's Inaugural Committee. Preview in the ceremony in early 2017, Barrack neglected to mention the role played by foreign connected donors.
TOM BARRACK, CHAIRMAN, TRUMP INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: You're going to see a tribute to America so this President-Elect has said very simple direction that this is for the people and by the people, American-oriented events to self-focus on the things that are important to us.
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MELBER: And also the Qataris. According to the Associated Press, Mueller's team interviewed Barrack months ago. Barrack's deputy of the Inaugural Committee, of course, was Rick Gates, remember him? He has been cooperating with investigators since he pleaded guilty to charges related to his work with Paul Manafort in the Ukraine. We also know that there is a giant unsolved mystery at the heart of Trump's inaugurations finances, one that my colleague Rachel Maddow has been covering for over a year.
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RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: These images here, these are images from the biggest presidential inauguration we ever had as a country. This is the first Obama inauguration in 2009. It was immense, biggest ever inauguration, biggest ever event of any kind in the city of Washington, D.C.to pull off that inauguration, the Obama Inaugural Committee raised more money than had ever been raised before for an inauguration. They raised tens of millions of dollars.
They raised $53 million. Let's just put that on the -- can we put that up on the left side of the screen. All right, 2009, really big inauguration. Now on the right side of your screen is an inauguration that was not nearly as big. The Trump inauguration, which is the picture on the right, just as a matter of fact, it was much, much smaller than the one we saw in 2009. And it was of a different character, right? There were no mega concerts, there were no internationally-known celebrity performers flying in and having hundreds of thousands of people turn out to see them.
I mean, the entertainment for the Trump Inauguration was, like, middle school bands and baton twirlers. But the Trump folks collected from donors $107 million to put on this inauguration, the one with the baton twirlers and the high school bands. And nobody at all lining whole big long stretches of the parade during the inaugural parade. I mean, if this is what your inauguration looks like, what do you need $100 million for, $107 million?
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HAYES: That report was more than a year ago. And here's the thing, we still don't know what happened to all that money they raised. In subsequent tax filings reviewed by ALL IN, the Trump Inauguration claimed to have spent a total of $94 million excluding payroll and $5 million donated to charity, $94 million.
That's about $50 million more than the first Obama Inauguration spent on the same category of expenses. Somehow, despite holding a much smaller celebration, the Trump Inauguration says it's spending more than doubled that of the previously largest inauguration ever. OK.
There's also a Russia angle to this story which raises a whole bunch of new questions. According to ABC News, Mueller has specifically asked about two inauguration donors, both linked to Victor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch who attended the President's swearing-in. One of those donors is Vekselberg's cousin and American investor named Andrew Intrater who gave $250,000 to Trump's Inaugural Committee.
Intrater's company has already been in the news this week for having paid half a million dollars to the president's longtime lawyer, fixer and bagman, Michael Cohen over the last year. According to the Washington Post, a source reported that Cohen, Intrater, and Vekselberg were all seen together at -- you guessed it -- the inauguration. Now, Vekselberg and Intrater have reportedly been questioned by Mueller's investigators.
Here to help break down all these new developments, Investigative Reporter Seth Hettena, Author of Trump Russia: A Definitive History and Robert Maguire, Investigator at the Center for Responsive Politics. And Robert, let me start with you because you've been focused on the inauguration. Am I wrong to say that there are $50 million missing in that -- in front of everyone that we don't know where they went?
ROBERT MAGUIRE, INVESTIGATOR, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: It's not wrong to say that, it's -- you know, I think a part of it -- there's a lot of different things happening there. There's the fact that you have certain established companies that appear to have just sort of taken the inaugural committee to the bank. You have a company called Hargrove Inc., for example, that President Obama's first inaugural paid. And again, that was the large inauguration.
They paid them $5 million. In 2017, you have the Trump Inauguration paying them $25 million. So it seems -- you know, there's no explanation for that. But this is a company that puts on events. It has experience putting on inaugural events. But then you have these other payments like, for example, the payment to someone close to Melania, $26 million.
This is a person who has a history of putting on sort of fancy galas in New York but no experience putting on an inauguration. And she's paid more than any single contractor was paid in the last, in the first Obama Inauguration. So that there are a lot of questions of, when you have this much money pouring into a committee, and it sort of they're just handing it out to people, it's -- it raises questions of whether they were, you know, if there was good oversight of their spending but also, you know, who else was getting paid?
Because the tax documents that they filed, the tax document that you showed are really bad at informing us because they don't outline, you know, the dates of expenditures. They don't outline, you know, who or what maybe subcontractors were paid. And so this could have been, you know, a boon to anyone who wants to grab that money and could be close enough to grab it.
HAYES: Seth, you're someone -- you have written a book about sort of Trump and Russia and there's a lot in there about Michael Cohen. You're just sort of looking at him and his life and the way that he kind of butts up against folks from the former Soviet Union. What do you make of this one line in that Washington Post story that Vekselberg, Intrater, and Michael Cohen are seen together at the inauguration?
SETH HETTENA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: So you know, what's interesting to me is -- and this is -- this story becomes endlessly confusing because what I said in my book is that Trump's ties to Russia are so deep and so complex that you have people -- you don't know who they are and who they represent, whether they represent Russian mafia or Russian government or both.
And you know, the interesting thing about that line you pointed out is when you open a lobbying shop, you know, the phone just doesn't ring. You open a lobbying shop and you build pre-existing -- you build with pre-existing relationships. So the fact that Vekselberg or people connected to Vekselberg were his clients suggest to me that these are relationship again that go back a long way.
HAYES: Yes, go ahead.
MAGUIRE: I just want to break in and also remind people that Intrater and Blavatnik are two people -- they are two of three donors that are really important. Simon Kukes is somebody who often gets forgotten here. This is a guy who was born in Russia, came to America in the 1970s. He never gave a contribution, he's been a U.S. citizen for decades.
He never gave a contribution to a politician or party or anything. And then in 2016 after the Trump Tower meeting, he gives $283,000 to the Republican Party and to Trump's Campaign. He had given $2,700 to Trump in the primaries, but all of that came late in the -- in the cycle. This is a person who was hand-picked by Putin in 2003 to run a state-owned Russian oil company and he -- you know, he is an American citizen, so it's not illegal --
HAYES: Yes, I just want to be -- I want to be clear because we just put up Simon Kukes, this is someone who is accused of no wrongdoing, was an American citizen, it's entirely legal that he did what he did. Just so that we're not -- you know, just -- I don't want to tar by association because you have been born in Russia.
MAGUIRE: Absolutely, right.
HAYES: But here's the question for you, Seth, which I think gets to the complexity here, right? It can be hard to sort of keep track of this web, but there's a way that you can view it as inculpatory o terror or exculpatory which is to say this. If there's already a bunch of pre- existing Russia connections because Trump is connected to Russia and getting money from the former Soviet Union, then maybe it doesn't look so weird in light of collusion that there are all these connections. What do you think of that argument?
HETTENA: Well, you know, the way I see this is to -- I try to step back a little bit and I think when you look at what these guys were -- to me the interesting part is that they were investing in Michael Cohen's you know essential consultants, which is both a pay-for-play kind of operation and a slush fund at the same time. And what they were buying there or what maybe they thought they were buying was influence.
So this to me is another, in a series of attempted by people connected to Russia, trying to get a food in the door in the Trump Campaign and this goes all the way back to the, you know, to the April of 2016 when George Papadopoulos is approached and goes into the Trump Tower Meeting and the NRA and they're just repeated attempts to try to get, you know, to try to knock on the door.
And the reason they're doing that is because the door was opening. They were let -- they were being let in. So, you know, they're going to try and whatever way possible, and this is you know, the more conventional way of just giving to an inauguration or to a lobbying firm, to do that.
HAYES: All right, Seth Hettena and Robert Maguire, thanks for joining me.
HETTENA: Thank you.
MAGUIRE: Thank you.
HAYES: For more on what all this tells about the Mueller investigation I'm joined by Nancy Gertner, retired Federal Judge from the District Court of Massachusetts, a former Criminal Defense Attorney and Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman who also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General, it's very nice to have you both here in New York.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Great to be here.
HAYES: I want to talk about two pieces of information we know and the possible connection. So one of them was the Wall Street Journal story that just crossed that said, Mueller also asked Ford about an approach from Michael Cohen or Michael Cohen came to them and said, hey, Ford, you want to hire my Essential Consultants Delaware LLC?
NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Right. (INAUDIBLE)
HAYES: Yes, exactly. And they said you know what, no thanks. And Mueller asked him about this. And here's why I think that's interesting. That on its face has nothing to do with Russia, right? Am I wrong?
GERTNER: No, nothing on its face, right.
HAYES: And so I guess the question is, when you look at him having moved the Cohen stuff over to the Southern District of New York, there are different theories about why that is. One of them is he found stuff that didn't have to do with Russia and wasn't in his portfolio so he passed it off. One of them is he's trying to protect the investigation. I wonder if you have feelings about those two theories.
LITMAN: The theories about why he passed it on?
HAYES: Yes, exactly.
LITMAN: So first of all, I think Rosenstein who passes this on and I think it's probably playing it fairly straight. Obviously, there's some leverage here or you could even say arbitrage of risk to have some in the Southern District.
But in fact, I think the bulk, and it doesn't have to be 100 percent, but the bulk of the crimes really concern something outside of Mueller's marching orders. And there is also the possibility, and that's explicit in the transfer order, that if something really back in Mueller's backyard emerges, it can return to him.
GERTNER: Right. I don't think we know because we don't -- everything is sealed, but you get a sense from the coverage that it was probably something that had to do with banking transactions, money laundering, the amount of cash that's going into this who knows what entity. But I agree, that if anything comes up related to the Russia investigation, it will go back. But it really is -- it's a really great concept of basically offloading the risk to Mueller by offloading this to the Southern District, and maybe we thought to the New York A.G. as well.
HAYES: There's also the question, I think here about what you find when you start pulling on threads as an investigator, right?
LITMAN: Totally. First of all, as Robert and your other guest said, it's you know, it's a bit of a mystery. What we have is just a few more threads in an unbelievably tangled web. But you have these perfect confluence of like Trumpian themes of secrecy and big money and enrichment of friends and family.
The $26 million to the Melania -- I mean, that was something that have been formed just a few weeks before. And then, this wild card that just keeps coming up three days a week and it all has to do with Russia. There's just -- there's just some Russia wild card that, you know, emerges from there and so it's a rich brood that all comes together.
GERTNER: Well, also, your previous guest were talking how these may have been pre-existing relationships with the oligarch and so maybe it wasn't related to Trump becoming President. The only thing is, then what is the explanation for the cover-up with respect to all of these Russian contacts? If this was so, these are my buddies, I've known them for a long time, why was it so necessary to not disclose these contacts?
HAYES: You know, that drew a line here again as people that you know, sat in a courtroom in front of criminal proceedings, as someone who was a prosecutor, you know, this idea of this sort of acting guilty, right? This sort of -- you know, with the Essential Consultants thing, right? I'm seeing a lot of people saying, oh, pay-for-play in Washington, people do like start lobbying for Cory Lewandowski, hung out a shingle and said, I'm going to do this and he wasn't like a secret LLC known for getting bank transfers.
GERTNER: And if this is also the time that the Supreme Court had already said by now in the Governor McDonnell case that you know money for access was OK. So money for access to people in power was OK, so why did you have to do this through some who knows what LLC?
LITMAN: Right. And I mean, I think it's clear, everyone is saying, yes, typical pay-for-play. It wasn't. Cohen was selling something else, secrecy. You know, by not registering as a lobbyist, he was given the opportunity for Novartis and these other companies to have what they hoped to have been quiet influence. I think you really saw that when everything exploded a couple days ago. They were caught flat-footed, they had very poor explanations. They obviously wanted not simple influence but the kind of backroom triple bank shots to Trump that they thought Cohen could provide.
GERTNER: Still not illegal, right? I mean, just sort of something is going on. Not illegal.
HAYES: Right, on its face you're saying.
GERTNER: That's right.
LITMAN: Well, with one possibility, and that is we know the sort of M.O. - - I agree, but we know -- there's no proof of this, but the M.O. of Donald Trump throughout his life has been to lend out his name and take a piece. So could he have been so foolish as to actually be enjoying tribute payments from Michael Cohen's $400 million?
HAYES: And we should just say. I mean, there's no evidence of that right now. But we also do know that it's a thing the politicians from, you know, New Jersey local politics to Illinois local politics to the Mayor of Detroit -- no, I want to -- I want to be ecumenical here -- Louisiana, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, that that's a thing that happens, right? I mean, these sorts of -- these sorts of schemes. And I'm sure that there are things in your careers, both in -- as a judge and as a prosecutor, it's the kind of thing you've seen before.
GERTNER: Well, that's why following the money, I mean, it's a trite thing to say, but following the money, following the money coupled with secrecy, following the money coupled with absolutely no transparency with respect to -- this after all, right, it was the same slush fund that paid Stormy Daniels that is into which the AT&T money is going. This is not the way an ordinary business operates.
HAYES: Thank you.
LITMAN: You could have been a good prosecutor. Although there's one other thing about it, and they said, (INAUDIBLE) some of it actually went -- it was supposed to go to charity redecorate Mike Pence's home and --
HAYES: The inaugural money?
LITMAN: That's right.
GERNER: The inaugural money, not the Michael Cohen money.
HAYES: No, no, no, the inaugural money. Well, and the inaugural money, I mean, the question about the inaugural money, I have to which is the same thing about the Michael Cohen bank records, is that I mean, somewhere there's some records that show what the facts are, right? That's my obsession in this. It's just we're peering through these black boxes.
LITMAN: There's a (INAUDIBLE) that they have to file eventually.
HAYES: Right. But I mean -- but it's very unitemized, right? So the stuff is like, oh, we have -- we gave $26 million, but someone has bank records from Melania's personal friend party planner, right, somewhere, I'm not crazy?
LITMAN: Two People.
HAYES: There are people that have --
LITMAN: That person and Robert Mueller.
HAYES: Right. You think Robert Mueller has them? Right, that's the key. Nancy Gertner and Harry Litman, great to have you both here.
GERTNER: Thanks, Chris.
LITMAN: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, as I mentioned, yet another major American corporation said they were approached by President Trump's attorney. More on what we're learning about Michael Cohen's activity and how these big corporations are scrambling and responding in two minutes.
HAYES: AT&T is one of several the corporations that paid the President's personal attorney hundreds of thousands of dollars through a shell company. Today the AT&T executive who oversaw Michael Cohen's contract was forced out. And AT&T following the footsteps of drug maker Novartis who also gave a lot money in secret to Cohen apologize today for its bad judgment.
But many defenders of Trump and even some of those who cover Washington argue this is just how things work in our nation's capital. Is that true? To help figure whether this is really normal Washington behavior, I'm joined by Nick Confessore, Reporter for the New York Times, Write at Large for their magazine where he wrote a story last year about lobbying in the age of Trump called "How To Get Rich In Trump's Washington". Also with me Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor.
I want to start with a tweet the President sent out that I thought was interesting because it seems to acknowledge tacitly the allegation here. He says, "Why doesn't the fake news media state that that Trump administration's antitrust division has been and is opposed to the AT&T purchase of Time Warner in a currently on going trial. Such a disgrace in reporting." I will note, I did make up point about that last night. But this seems to me that he understands precisely what is being alleged here.
NICK CONFESSORE, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: It's exactly why they hired Michael Cohen, was to try to move the president or his administration off of that position. It's the whole reason or to understand what is happening inside the White House and can they move out of the position. So what's different here, Chris, you know, is the secrecy, right? So the Cory Lewandowski model was like bang a tin cup, walk around Washington and say I'm the President's guy, I'm of the President. Come to my fancy office on Pennsylvania Avenue, hint, hint, is right by the White House. But this was dark money basically, the kind of dark lobbying money.
HAYES: Or even just -- I mean, even just Cory Lewandowski had a Web site, he had an office, like he was -- this as his -- this was his industry, right? It was -- it was crass and it was vulgar but it was an actual job he was doing.
CONFESSORE: And on top of that, so Cohen had an agreement with the major lobbying firm, through which he could have done this business more or less out of the open and bought business into them for traditional lobbying or consulting and do the half-and-half kind of thing. So the fact that the entire thing appears to be at least wholly or partly separate from that, means that it wasn't really lobbying in the sense that we think it is or even the sleazier version of lobby where you don't say you are a lobbyist, but you have a consultant full-time.
HAYES: Worked for a lobbyist, right.
CONFESSORE: This is a secret non-lobbyist lobbyist.
HAYES: Joyce, Nance Gerner, former Federal Judge who was just here mentioned this that you know, we're living in a world right now remarkably where the Supreme Court in the McDonnell decision essentially kind of legalized a certain form of bribery. They basically said it's OK to take money for access to a politician as long as there's no specific act or quid pro quo. Does that end up providing a lot of legal protection for whatever Michael Cohen was engaged within here?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, it might, Chris. It depends on the facts but McDonnell was a real blew to prosecutors. It made it much more difficult to prosecute the sort of pay-to-play conduct where an individual company has to pay money to a politician or his designee in order to have access or get contracts. So McDonnell has really done a lot to make it much more difficult for prosecutors, whether that's helpful for Cohen will depend on the specific fact of what he did here.
I think Nick makes this really great point, though, why didn't Cohen just go ahead and register as a lobbyist? If what he was doing was, in fact, setting up calls with the White House, he himself talking to the White House, nudging them on the issues, the easiest route to do that would have been to register. And the fact that he didn't register and that this all happens in the dark gives it a little bit more sinister of an appearance.
HAYES: I think there's something also interesting. The Wall Street Journal has this story on the approach to Ford as well, and Ford rejected that. But if you look at what we know -- so there's an approach to Ford, we know AT&T went in for Novartis, the President on the campaign trail talked about drug prices and really putting the screws the drug companies for drug prices.
He talked specifically about Ford making cars in Mexico and bringing them back to the U.S. and were going to hammer them on that and he talked about opposing the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Like, there starts to look like a pattern where the President is saying, putting the screws to these company and Michael Cohen is like going to those companies mean like you need a friend.
CONFESSORE: Look, and it really depends if there's coordination here which we know the President and Cohen on these topics. But even at a best guess -- if there's no coordination at all, what it looks like is that the business Cohen was engaged in was identifying company that were under the hammer from the President walking up to them very quietly and saying, give me some money, I can help you. And you know, even if he didn't have the access he thought he had or couldn't change the policy, it's pretty sleazy.
HAYES: What would you -- what would you want to know as an investigator, Joyce, if you were -- if you were sort of looking into this?
VANCE: So the most important question to me is where did Cohen's money end up? And we'll find out the answer to that, or Mueller will probably has, based on the bank records that Cohen has that will come from his financial institutions and whatever the government was able to seize during the search warrants they executed recently. If that money somehow gets funneled towards Trump, towards the White House, that will be really the most interesting piece of information from a prosecutorial point of view.
HAYES: Yes, so we're getting a clear sense of all the reporting. Just to be clear, all of our reporting is about where the money is coming in from. We know where some of the money went to, Stormy Daniels, the $130,000 in an anonymous play rate, at $1.6 million for Elliott Broidy. Finally, Nick, you cover money and politics. You cover influence peddling. You cover dark money. You cover this sort of beat for years as well as anyone. I got -- have you ever seen something like the vehicle that Michael Cohen created?
CONFESSORE: No, not in lobbying. What we normally see are the consultancies that are thinly disguised lobbying companies and they do what they have to do --
HAYES: To not register.
CONFESSORE: Yes. Because Chris, for some reason, they think being a lobbyist is bad. I interview that but actually, you know, an actual lobbyist is the most honest person in Washington. They are a person who registers and says, I'm a lobbyist.
HAYES: On the issues, they write disclosures.
CONFESSORE: I'm a paid -- I'm a paid advocate. I'm talking about these four things. That's very honest. There's a whole world subterranean of people who are on the lighter end of what Cohen was doing who set up consulting and say you know, I'm actually an advocate or strategic consultant or an adviser and they always have connections back to somebody in power.
HAYES: All right, Nick Confessore and Joyce Vance, thank you for joining us. Coming up, the New York Times breaks a Scott Pruitt scandal that is so far beyond anything you could imagine a Scott Pruitt scandal could be. The EPA Administrator's alleged cover-up of a dinner with an accused cardinal and the reporter who broke the story will join me, next.
HAYES: Of all the scandals involving EPA Chief Scott Pruitt the latest one may take the cake. The "New York Times" reporting that on a now infamous six-figure trip to Italy last year, Pruitt had dinner a five-star restaurant with a Roman Catholic Cardinal, who is not just a climate change skeptic, he was also under investigation in connection with child sex abuse, which explains why EPA staffers deliberately tried to hide the dinner.
"The New York Times" reporting that a move to keep Cardinal Pell, that's his name, off official schedules came after Cardinal Pell was charged on June 29th. The reporter who broke that story and many more about the EPA, Eric Lipton is joining me now. There are two things here, Eric. There's the decision to have the dinner with this Cardinal and then what they did to hide it. Let's start with the dinner itself. How did that come about?
ERIC LIPTON, REPORTER WITH "THE NEW YORK TIMES:" The whole trip and aspects of it are quite irregular. All the get-togethers that Pruitt had at the Vatican, he visited the Vatican library, he visited with Vatican officials, were arranged by Leonard Leo who is the head of the Federalist Society, a group funded by Charles and David Koch, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups that are quite critical of the Obama regulatory agenda.
So these meetings are set up by Leonard Leo and why is the guy from the nonprofit that's funded by the industry is arranging meetings for the EPA administrator?
So even before the trip occurred, folks back at the agency were looking over the people that Leonard Leo and others had urged them to get together with and they noticed on the schedule these names. Their job is to vet the people that the administrator is going to meet with and the name Cardinal Pell shows up. Someone is vetting it and says, wait a second; this guy is under investigation for potentially being involved in sexual abuse. So they advised Pruitt's aides to cancel the get-together. They went ahead with it anyway. So it was a irregular from the start.
HAYES: So you have this -- there's an internal debate to proceed with the meeting with Cardinal Pell. You have people going back and forth on whether they should do it and basically, they urge him to cancel. They have the dinner anyway. Okay. We also know from the FOIA documents that they knew exactly what they were doing, like they were having dinner with this guy on purpose, it's in an internal schedule, right? We have a document, you have a document in which they have on the schedule, dinner with Cardinal Pell.
LIPTON: No. There's e-mails from may of 2017, where they are debating this trip, it's going to occur in June, about having a dinner with Cardinal Pell. Although it was on different night and a different restaurant, but as early as may 2017, they were planning to have the dinner with them.
HAYES: All right so then they have the dinner, we don't know what they talk about It's a very expensive dinner. It's a nice restaurant. The Cardinal, I'm sure is a fascinating guy. He's a Roman Catholic Cardinal at the Vatican. He's a climate change skeptic. Then what happens when you ask for documents of the cabinet secretary's schedule?
LIPTON: Well, what happens is a few weeks later when he was criminally -- when he was subject to suspect criminal charges in Australia, back at the agency, they are like, wait a minute, this guy who we had heard, maybe we shouldn't meet with is now facing criminal charges. So what we have been told by three different people at the agency, including one of them on the record, who was the deputy chief of staff for Pruitt, was there was a decision to keep Cardinal Pell's name off the official schedule they were going to release to the public.
Now, I don't personally -- it was probably a mistake to meet with Cardinal Pell. Okay, fine. But the real mistake is to think that you can change a record or keep something off of a record because it's embarrassing. The public documents are public documents and the public has a right to know who the cabinet secretary is meeting with, and the agency officials don't have the right to decide they want to exclude something because it is embarrassing.
HAYES: Right, this is all public information. It's FOIA-able. It's how you have gotten your hands on it, the public gets to know what the schedule of the people who are in their government, like people that run the EPA, what they're doing and who they are meeting with.
LIPTON: Right. They are working for us. They are funded by us and they are -- and those documents, every document that they create are our documents, and they are entitled to be released, and they are required under law to keep correct and complete records of their activities.
HAYES: So they just violated that. They went back and tried to change history.
LIPTON: I don't know that they changed the documents. I have not -- I have no proof that they changed anything, but what we know is there were discussions to keep Cardinal Pell's name out of any record that they were going to produce. We have four different schedules now discussing that trip. We have three detailed schedules and one summary schedule. Cardinal Pell's name is on none of those schedules.
HAYES: Wow, Eric, thanks for joining me and for the dogged reporting you have been doing on the EPA. Really appreciate it.
LIPTON: Thank you.
HAYES: Still ahead, the widely popular campaign promise the President just broke today. A check in on that swab training (ph) ahead plus a special anniversary in tonights, "Thing One, Thing Two" starts next.
HAYES: Thing 1 tonight, the one-year anniversary of President Trump walking right up to the line of admitting that he obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I did is, I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not --
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You had made the decision before he came in the room.
TRUMP: I was going the fire Comey. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse.
HAYES: This Trump/Russia thing, maybe I should fire Comey. That was also the last time the President gave a network news interview, probably not coincidentally. Who he's been talking to over the last year, well that Thing 2 in 60 seconds.
HAYES: President Trump claims he's eager to talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller but over the past year he hasn't even done a network news interview. He might want to beef up his training.
TRUMP: But I did not (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in his hearings.
TRUMP: Well it's wasn't - it wasn't very stupid. I can tell you that.
PAT ROBERTSON, POLITICIAN AND FORMER SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER: I'm so glad to see you. I'm so proud of everything you're doing. What do you see as the major problem facing the world today? What's the major (inaudible)?
TRUMP: Well, we have many problems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me get right to the most important question I'm going to ask you today. Tell me how good is your Press Secretary?
TRUMP: You guys want to start with good news?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want some good news?
Trump: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. You don't get a lot of good news in the media.
TRUMP: Well, you don't get so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The market is up 25% since you won.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After 18 months, not any kind of reference to any collusion.
TRUMP: There is no collusion.
MALE: New York, we welcome the world's most famous New Yorker in history! This man is single-handedly restoring the country to greatness. The kid from queens, President Donald J. Trump.
TRUMP: Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate it.
TRUMP: Well, congratulations. I tell you what, I haven't done these phoners (ph) in awhile. I used to do them, hey Bernie, I used to do them all the time so I said, let's do it on Melania's birthday. So Happy Birthday to Melania.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to tell us what you got her?
TRUMP: Well, maybe I better not get into that because I may get in trouble. Maybe I didn't get her so much.
HAYES: Donald Trump was in full campaign mode in Indiana last night, standing on stage in front of large signs proclaiming one of his slogans, promises made, promises kept. And one of the most popular promises he made during the campaign was to change the law so that the government could directly negotiate prescription drug prices with drug manufacturers. A move that would both save the government money and crucially mean lower drug prices for about 60 million Americans.
TRUMP: The problem is, we don't negotiate with the largest drug producer, with the largest drug buyer in the world. We don't negotiate. We don't negotiate. You pay practically the same for the country as if you go into a drugstore and buy the drugs. If we negotiated the price of drugs, Joe, we would save $300 billion a year. Now, these candidates, I'm going to do it. The candidates are all controlled by the drug companies, the lumber companies; they're never going to do it.
HAYES: Let's be clear, this is a liberal idea. It's something that prominent Democrats have been pushing for a long, long time and Donald Trump, well, he promised that he alone would follow through because he's not bought and sold like all those other guys.
Well, today, Trump finally unveiled his plan to lower prescription drug prices, and guess what? It does not authorize the government to use its huge purchasing power to obtain lower prices by negotiating directly with drug manufacturers. Promises made, promises broken. Now, we don't know exactly why Trump broke his promise, but here are two things we do know. One, the drug companies he was talking about in the clip did not want the government to negotiate because they would cost them money; and two, the drug company Novartis paid Trump's fixer, Michael Cohen $1.2 million, which they claimed got them nothing.
Trump cast himself during the campaign as and different kind of Republican, someone who would stand up to the greedy drug companies and fight for the average American. Instead, he's pushed the same policies we have seen from Republicans for decades. The only difference is he and his supporters keep pretending that drain the swamp is a real thing. More on that right after this.
HAYES: This week alone we learned the President's fixer took millions of dollars in secret payment from corporations. We witnessed the President abandoning a campaign promise the drug companies didn't like and we got new revelations about the corruption of the Kristi Yamaguchi of the swamp Olympics, Scott Pruitt. Yet somehow Donald Trump supporters are still doing this.
AUDIENCE (chanting): Drain the swamp!
HAYES: Joining me MSNBC contributor Sam Seder host of the "Majority Report" podcast, MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin, conservative columnist with the "Washington Post", and Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal Editor in Chief of Kaiser Health News, author of "An American Sickness How Health Care Became a Big Business and How You Can Take It Back."
And Libby, let me start with you. I think we have forgotten just how heterodox Donald Trump was on the subject of healthcare and promises he made during the campaign versus how he's governed including today's drug decision.
DR. ELIZABETH ROSENTHAL, EDITOR IN CHIEF OF KAISER HEALTH NEWS: Sure. I mean he said that we should be able to negotiate drug prices at a large- scale level, and today what we saw is a proposal with 50 points turning somersaults not to allow the government to do just that.
And some of the proposals are good ideas; let's put the price of prescription drugs in those ads, let consumers get some of those drug company rebates, but nothing does what every other developed country does to control drug prices which is allow for large-scale direct negotiation, and that's not just countries that have a single payer system or government-controlled health care system or socialist. It's every other country, whether it has a market-based system or single payer system.
HAYES, And Sam, to me there's a method to this madness because the things he's promised that he walked away from, the things were popular. They were both breaks with other people in the Republican field that distinguished him, and they were always politically popular.
SAM SEDER HOST OF THE "MAJORITY REPORT" PODCAST: Right, and I think in terms of economic populism the only thing he's basically stuck to his guns on to some extent is the tariffs, right? But he's been very good about remembering to rip apart families at the border.
HAYES: That's exactly right.
SEDER: He's been very good about unleashing I.C.E. to go and terrorize --
HAYES: He's kept those promises.
SEDER: He's kept the promises about letting police knock people in the heads when they get into the patrol cars. I mean, he's kept a certain.
HAYES: That's a great point.
SEDER: -- subset of promises --
HAYES: That's a great point.
SEDER: -- because he understands who his core audience is and they want to see those type of things. And frankly, I don't know, I watched that Indiana -- or Indianapolis rally and the idea that they're chanting "drain the swamp" this week of all weeks, where it can't get more explicit that they are the swamp, I think is indicative of a problem that exists in the base of the Republican party.
HAYES: What do you think, Jennifer?
JENNIFER RUBIN, "WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST: Absolutely. You'd never know it from watching Fox News, which is where these people get their news and that is the problem. It's a closed system. So I absolutely agree. The core of Trump's message was actually racism and xenophobia and that's why he keeps going back to it again and again whenever he gets into some political trouble or there's a scandal. He goes back to the wall. He goes back to illegal immigrants and that's his bread and butter.
But on the economic populism and it's not just of course drug prices, he promised he wasn't going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. He came out with a proposal that wanted to cut Medicaid. He said that he was going to give us a healthcare bill that was super duper, was better than what we had, more choices, lower prices, and all it was was a big cut for Obamacare. So again and again, whether it's healthcare or of course on taxes, there again, no economic populism there.
That was a tax cut for rich people and corporations. You can think that that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's not populism and I think because the Fox News environment and because the ecosphere of the Republican party is now so heavily race-based, so heavily filled with this white resentment that that is what they focus on again and again and the rest of it kind of goes over their heads or by the wayside or they don't care about it.
HAYES: There's also a connection I think, Libby, to the promises kept and promises not kept, right? Which is that one of the conceits of the Trump campaign, we saw in those clips we played, it's I'm self-funding, ergo I will stand up to the interest groups that run Washington, and so all these people that want things, Sheldon Adeleson where he played a rant of him, were the healthcare companies that are very hard to go against, I will go against them, and that has not borne out.
RUBIN: Yes, I thought what was interesting about the speech today, on the one hand he could say, you know, these are -- the pharmaceutical companies are the biggest lobbyists in Washington. At the same time as Michael Cohen, as you said, was taking $1.2 million from Novartis and that didn't seem like a contradiction to people.
HAYES: And there's a way in which, to Jennifer's point, the 40% of the country that's with him, the people in that room are sort of -- are hermetically sealed off it seems.
SEDER: Right, well I mean it's not just Fox. I mean let's be honest. The entire leadership of the Republican party has been nurturing this base for years. I think it's been clear for at least some folks from the outside what's been going on. They thought they could contain it and just sort of ride it to electoral victory year in, year out. So that hermetically sealed quality is not just a function of media. Paul Ryan could pierce that hermetically sealed bubble. Mitch McConnell could pierce that. In fact, show me an elected Republican official who is not retiring who has even attempted to pierce that bubble, and you win a cookie.
HAYES: Yes and everyone says oh, yeah, he's retiring, he's retiring, she's retiring. And Jennifer, it interacts with what we just were doing in Thing 1, Thing 2. It is a remarkable fact when you step back and think about it. This President cannot sit down for an interview with essentially a non- friendly outlet even when he's got a big achievement like he frees three hostages from North Korea. His Vice President has to do the round robins because the President can't afford to talk about what's going on.
RUBIN: He cannot get out a cogent sentence. He doesn't know the details of even the good things that he accomplished, as you said, the freeing of the hostages. He certainly doesn't know the details of something like the Iran deal. He has no conception whatsoever what was in there. He just knew it was Obama's, so it had to be bad and it had to be good to get rid of it and now we're better off and we're safer because we don't have the agreement. That's the level of thought process that goes into this. I would also say that the die was cast once he set his cabinet. If you're going to have a populist economic agenda, you do not stock it full with people from Wall Street.
RUBIN: You do not put people like Steve Mnuchin in your cabinet and have him drafting tax policy. So on one hand he had this populist message, which you're right, it would have been interesting to see if he'd actually governed that way. I think the Democrats were nervous that he might, but he decided to instead on the economic stuff go double and triple down what Paul Ryan and what the Ted Cruzes of the world had been wanting, which is a lot of slashing in government, a lot of wealth transfer, and a lot of loosening of regulatory restraint on big business.
HAYES: Which reminds me of the infrastructure, the much-anticipated -- which again, central part of the campaign, very politically popular, distinguished him from other candidates, essentially officially died this week.
SEDER: Yes, and Jennifer's correct. At the beginning of the Trump presidency there was some Democrats who said if he comes with an infrastructure bill --
HAYES: I talked to them.
SEDER: -- we will look at it. And of course that never materialized. On to the next, I guess anti-immigration thing.
HAYES: Sam Seder, Jennifer Rubin and Libby Rosenthal, thanks for joining us on this Friday night. In case you missed my big news last night, we're launching a new podcast. It's called "Why Is This Happening?" and in it I will explore the big themes of the news. It launches this Tuesday. Right now go to Apple podcasts or tune in or whatever you use. Check out the quick trailer it tells you more about what we've been up to. We've got some extra special music by my buddy Eddie Cooper in there. Make sure you subscribe so you know when the first episodes go up.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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