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Trump demands investigation into Russia probe. TRANSCRIPT: 05/21/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Matt Zapotosky, Chris Murphy, Nancy Gertner, Elie Mystal

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 21, 2018 Guest: Matt Zapotosky, Chris Murphy, Nancy Gertner, Elie Mystal

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- words will survive you. That's HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very disappointed in my Justice Department. I have decided that I won't be involved.

HAYES: The President demands an investigation.

TRUMP: I may change my mind at some point because what's going on is a disgrace.

HAYES: Tonight the fallout from Trump's meeting with Rosenstein and Wray. How the President is attempting to eviscerate the rule of law, and what it means for the Mueller probe and beyond.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.

HAYES: Then --

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: People are trying to reach out all the time with this.

HAYES: Fallout from the explosive news of a second Trump Tower meeting with foreign powers the looking to help the Trump Campaign.

TRUMP JR: Listen, I think politics is a dirty game.

HAYES: And the Democrats find a rallying cry to take back the government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most compromised, corrupt administrations in history.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I'm Chris Hayes. The President has now crossed one of the brightest red lines in the American rule of law, demanding the Department of Justice open a politically motivated investigation designed to sabotage the criminal and counterintelligence probe into the President's own campaign, into his family and close associates, and of course into the president himself. It's a straightforward as that. The President is now in front of all of us, as we're all watching, attempting to use federal law enforcement as a political weapon to get himself out of very serious legal jeopardy. And in a certain perverse way, it kind of makes sense since no president in history arguably has faced this much legal peril on this many fronts. His former Deputy Campaign Chairman and National Security Adviser both plead guilty to felonies and have been cooperating with investigators for months. His long-time lawyer, business associate, one of the men he is closest to is under investigation, has been braid the FBI and could be indicted at any moment. And we just learned his own son held multiple meetings with agents of foreign governments offering help in the 2016 campaign. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Now, it also turns out that the FBI back in 2016 was so alarmed by the Trump Campaign's various suspicious contacts with Russia, it reportedly sent an informant to meet with three different campaign aides starting the summer before the election. And now the President, his lawyer, and his allies in Congress are trying to use that incriminating fact in a kind of weird jujitsu move to discredit the investigation itself. Just a few weeks ago, the President warned us this moment might come.


TRUMP: I've taken the position, and I don't have to take this position, and maybe I'll change, that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I have decided that I won't be involved. I may change my mind at some point because what's going on is a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which try and stay away from, but at some point, I won't.


HAYES: There you go. At some point, I won't. And that point seems to have arrived. The President tweeting yesterday, "I hereby demand and will do so officially tomorrow the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI, DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for political purposes and if any such demands or requests were made by people in the Obama Administration." Today, he summoned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray to the White House to make his demand in person. And for now, the Justice Department has asked its Inspector General to review the issue instead of opening a full-blown criminal investigation. Rosenstein saying in a carefully worded statement, "if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, keywording there, we need to know about it and take appropriate action." But this is not over, no, no, no, no, far from it. The President and his allies are going to keep escalating until they meet hard resistance or until they succeed in derailing the Mueller probe. They've already signaled they won't accept the Inspector General's findings.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: It will not be enough to have Rod Rosenstein and others of the Department of Justice investigate themselves. We got enough investigations where the Justice Department is investigating themselves more than almost anything we've discussed in the past. This is a basis to appoint a second special counsel.


HAYES: For weeks the President's congressional allies led by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes have been pushing to expose the FBI's confidential source over the strenuous objections of the Justice Department. Today with the President's backing, they won what could be another major concession. According to the White House, it was agreed that Chief of Staff John Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested. Joining me now is the Matt Zapotosky, National Security Reporter for the Washington Post for more on what happened in the meeting with the President and Justice Department officials. Matt, what do we know about what happened in that meeting today?

MATT ZAPOTOSKY, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I mean, I think one point before we get to what happened in the meeting is President Trump personally wanted these guy there to answer these questions and I think that's particularly significant. So what happened? Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray, Dan Coates go over to the White House. There's some talk about this document request. Congress has been beating the drum for the Justice Department to turn over documents about this confidential source who brushed up against the Trump Campaign, as part of the Russia investigation. They come to an agreement, which is pretty surprising. The Justice Department had seemed to draw a red line overturning over documents about this source. But the agreement doesn't exactly make them do that. They agree to come back for another meeting which John Kelly will apparently spearhead, and they'll provide information to some lawmakers, I guess, about this source that does seem to be the Justice Department going a little farther than maybe they otherwise would have but they have briefed lawmakers in the past. So maybe this is the department sort of playing bureaucratic, just making a bureaucratic move to get the White House off its back at least temporarily.

HAYES: Well, that is how it's being widely interpreted, I think. To circle back to the first point you make. I mean, this is the President of the United States whose own campaign is the subject of a counterintelligence and criminal investigation that is established, we all know that we've known that for over a year, summoning two of the people supervising that investigation to intervene in that investigation in the White House, right?

ZAPOTOSKY: It's really interesting. Look, the President is the chief executive. The Justice Department is a part of the executive branch. So he's got to meet with these guys. But in this context, it's pretty weird. He's meeting with them a day after he has essentially ordered an investigation of the investigation of his campaign. That's pretty weird.

HAYES: and it's also fairly unusual for the President to have any kind of interaction about specific investigations even if it didn't have to be the president, right? In terms of my understanding of the protocol, if Barack Obama were to summon the head of the FBI and the Attorney General of the White House to talk about the Robert Menendez, Bob Menendez investigation, Democratic Senator, that would be viewed generally as highly unusual, correct?

ZAPOTOSKY: Yes. So there are these protocols in the Justice Department. Again, while the Justice Department is part of the executive branch, the President exerts his authority over it usually on big policy questions, you know, on immigration, on our policy for charging all sorts of suspects, getting involved in individual investigations is sort of frowned upon. Now, if he thought there was great fraud or waste and abuse at the Justice Department, sure, I guess you would want the President to get involved. But when it touches him, that makes it pretty unique. And others would point out, look, there isn't quite the evidence to back up the charge that he is making, at least not yet about this informant. He is saying, well, this guy was embedded in my campaign and spied on my campaign. We don't quite see the evidence for that yet so he is asking for an investigation of the investigation of him, and does he even really have the predicate to do that? I think those are two interesting points.

HAYES: Right. I mean, investigations can't be launched for no reason. They have to have a factual predicate. One more point that seems worth noting here, and I just wanted to see where you are on this, the FBI we understand NBC's reporting did warn the President in 2016 that summer that the Russians were trying to infiltrate his campaign. So this is not -- the idea that look, we're concerned there are people trying to get to you was not kept from him as far as we understand.

ZAPOTOSKY: Sure. Now that said, I do think there are some interesting questions that still have to be answered about this source, how the FBI used him, what the FBI directed him to do. But I would also say that the FBI using confidential sources, that's what they do when they're running investigations. That's a lot less intrusive than putting a wire up on somebody or you know, kicking the door to somebody's house. So this is what they do. While I agree that I would love to know more information about this guy, this is the FBI does and it doesn't necessarily mean there is anything untoward about what they did.

HAYES: Washington Post Matt Zapotosky, thank you very much. For more on the high stakes of this confrontation, I'm joined by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. There's been lots of talk about words like constitutional crisis and things like that and Saturday Night Massacre and where are we today after what the President did today?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: We're getting really close. I worry that the Justice Department is starting to become complicit in the erosion of our democracy. They very clearly buckled here. Whether it's to save individuals' jobs, we don't know. But listen, the President is not to be afforded under the Constitution any greater protection from investigation or prosecution than you or I. If there was an investigation occurring into either of us, and we had not been charged, we couldn't go to the FBI or to the law enforcement agency that was in charge of that investigation and ask for information about their sources and methods and information because that would be helpful to us in covering up our tracks, as it will potentially be to the President as he starts to get information about a pending investigation into his wrong doing. So I'm very worried about what happened today. Clearly, the Justice Department still has to go through this internal investigation. But the very fact that they are beginning to crack greatly worries me.

HAYES: The President saying this about handing over documents, to your point. If FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that's a really big deal. Only release or review of documents the House Intelligence Committee, or the Senate Judiciaries asking for conclusive answers. Drain the swamp. Do you fear the President is trying to get these documents for his own defense?

MURPHY: Well, first of all, there's absolutely no credible evidence that the allegations the President is making is true. So if the precedent gets set that the President can make a wild allegation and thus becomes -- and thus the Department of Justice is required to give him and all of his friends evidence and information about their investigation, then there is no end. The President will get everything and ultimately, be much more successful in stymieing the investigation. So I really worry that once this precedent gets set, once the Justice Department starts to share investigatory information, we will never be able to stop it.

HAYES: Yes, I mean, you're up for reelection this year, aren't you, Senator Murphy?

MURPHY: Yes, I am.

HAYES: You were just nominated I think just a few days ago I believe in the convention there in Connecticut. I mean, what happens if the President tweets I demand the DOJ investigate Chris Murphy?

MURPHY: Right. I mean, listen, that's why there is a reference. There has been this very clear separation between the President and his Justice Department. And democracy starts to crumble when the executive can start to use his enforcement agency for political reasons. And if he can demand that they change an investigation into himself and into his friends, what's to stop him from using that power of the Justice Department to come after the rest of us? So, again, there are really important walls being torn down today between the President of the United States and the Justice Department. And once they get torn down, I worry that you can't put them back up again.

HAYES: One of your colleagues, Republican colleagues Senator Cornyn, he is the number two Senate Republican, had this to say. I think the special counsel needs to wrap things up as soon as he can consistent with accomplishing the job he has been given. I would think so that he should finish before the midterm, saying Mueller's team should avoid what happened with the Clinton probe. This seems to be an emerging consensus a little bit, Republicans more and more are calling for this to wrap up.

MURPHY: I think Mueller has to go until he's found the truth. And the fact of the matter is, as he continues to get more guilty pleas, as he continues to get more individuals close to the President who are willing to cooperate with him, he is likely finding new avenues of investigation that he has to pursue. So I think Mueller has to continue this investigation until it reaches its logical end. I understand Republicans want it to go away. I understand the President wants it to go away as more of his friends are being rolled up. But that's not the job that he was given by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. His job was to find out whether there was any collusion between the President and the Russian government and I have a feeling he's not close to the end.

HAYES: I want to ask you also before i let you go, ten Americans, ten people murdered on Friday with a gun in a school three months or so after Parkland. This is an issue that you have been incredibly forthright on and focused on. Is Congress any closer to doing anything now than in the days after the Parkland massacre?

MURPHY: I think a shooter could walk into a school and kill 100 people and Republicans wouldn't bring a debate on gun violence before the House of Representatives or the Senate. I think Republicans have made it very clear that they have no intention to debate the issue of gun violence in the Senate or the house before the midterms because they don't want to expose their members to votes that would make them very unpopular as they head to the polls. What I do know is that Congress's silence is giving an effective green light to these shooters. You and I talked about this before but I really do believe that these very troubled young men who are contemplating those acts of violence noticed that the highest levels of government have offer no meaningful condemnation to the acts of previous shooters, and in their minds, they pervert that silence into permission. And so I do believe that there is blood on all of our hands if we don't step forward and pass meaningful legislation to try to stop this. These are copycat killings, and these killers are taking some very strange and unintentional signal from our silence.

HAYES: Senator Chris Murphy, thanks for your time tonight.

MURPHY: Thanks.

HAYES: All right, here to break down what all the of the day's news means for the rule of law, I'm joined by retired Federal Judge Nancy Gertner and MSNBC Legal Analyst Paul Butler, a former Federal Prosecutor. I've seen debate in legal circles about Rosenstein's reaction to this demand from the President. And I want to get your reaction. Paul, I'll start with you. What do you think of kind of saying yes but shunting it over to the I.G. in what many interpreted as a sort of punt?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, the President has ignored all of the ethical and procedural guidelines of the department and hereby demands an investigation? I know Rod Rosenstein. He knows better than this. This is not how the system is supposed to work. So in the worst case scenario, Rod Rosenstein is being played by President Trump just like President Trump played him to get him to write that memo justifying the firing of James Comey. The best case is that he's trying to appease the President to avoid a Saturday night massacre. But Chris, you can't apiece a tyrant. You can't mollify a despot. All you do is embolden him.

HAYES: Nancy, what do you think?

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Well, I mean, I think he's trying to do by indirection what he knows and has been told he shouldn't do by direction. In other words, what he wants to do is fire Rosenstein, what he wants to do is fire Mueller. So I think what he is doing is setting up trip wires, you know, that if you don't do this, then that provides the justification to take action against Rosenstein. I agree with Paul that I think it's unfortunate that Rosenstein complied, although it is a sort of half-baked compliance, as you said at the top of the hour that's you know, looking for inappropriate influences through an informant rather than appropriate inferences. So I mean, it's a little bit of a weasel, and sending it to the I.G. is also not having -- not distorting the Department of Justice to do this kind of investigation. But it really is sort of manipulating it by indirection and accomplishing the same task.

HAYES: Yes, I mean, again, I'm not a lawyer. I'm following this very closely and talking to a lot of people both sort of anonymously and who work in government and work in -- I think we're watching the President rattle the cage and it's a question about whether it's going to break at this point. I mean, Paul, you worked in the public corruption unit, right?

BUTLER: I did. I worked with Rod Rosenstein. And again, that's why I understand that he gets it. You know, he said that the Department of Justice will not be extorted. Today we got pretty close. And the concern, Chris, is that Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller are all we have to ensure that the rule of law continues in the United States. Rod, please protect us. Save us from the despot you are working for.

HAYES: Nancy, is that -

GERTNER: Yes, but -- when you -- when you step back from this, again, you have to sort of keep on thinking about what the usual response should have been. So if there was a concern that people that he has described as lesser functionaries in his campaign, he didn't know Carter Page, he didn't know Papadopoulos very much, didn't have major roles, if that were true, then why should this matter? Then why shouldn't you say, well, gee, let's goat to the bottom of this at some peripheral character was involved in talking to the Russians. And I'm glad you got to the bottom of this. That's not the way he's doing this and he's creating more smoke.

BUTLER: Yes, that's right. We know this is not about national security or the integrity of our justice system, this is about the president's criminal defense. Rudy Giuliani said today that any secret documents that are turned over to Congress, the President's defense team should also get them. Again, that's unconscionable. It's impossible to imagine this happening in any other administration except the Trump Administration.

HAYES: I just feel like the red line here, Nancy, is very clear to me. I mean, if it is the case the President of the United States can order, can hereby demand the Department of Justice, the Fbi to open investigations with no factual predicate, even with a factual predicate, he shouldn't be initiating it, but without anything just because he watched a Fox News segment, that's it. That's the whole ball game. I mean, the President could go out tomorrow and say there are six Democrats running for Senate in the reelection in red states, and I want investigations on Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill, and every other one. And then we've got essentially a non-functional rule of law.

GERTNER: Well, no, if you remember, I mean, a couple of years ago during the Obama Administration, there was a great brouhaha, appropriate, about whether the IRS was manipulating its investigations for political purpose investigating not for profits. This is so far, you know, so much more than that. The President can say I think you should look into this. The President, as any citizen, can, refer something to the DOJ for investigation. This criminality came to my attention and therefore you should look at it. But what he can't do is direct them to investigate. He directs them to consider, brings it to their attention, frames the outer limits of what he is interested in but he can't say you must investigate. The other thing is his language is so chilling. My Department of Justice? Mr. President, it's not your department of justice.

HAYES: His praetorian guard, Nancy Gertner and Paul Butler, great to have you both. Next, should anybody believe Rudy Giuliani when he says what he claims Robert Mueller tells him? Sort of a weird source. The latest reporting that blows up another Giuliani claim in two minutes.


HAYES: President Trump's confrontation with the Justice Department is just one part of the broad effort to fight the Mueller investigation in public. Rudy Giuliani is even trying to pass along tidbits about what Robert Mueller supposedly told him, and clearly trying to jam Mueller into a corner by doing so. Elie Mystal is the Executive Editor of the legal blog Above the Law and MSNBC Legal Analyst Joyce Vance is a former Federal Prosecutor and Professor at the University of Alabama Law School. So you got these Giuliani quotes. He's a quote from the New York Times. I want to get both of your reactions, Jill. I'll start with you, Elie. Mr. Giuliani says the office of the Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III shared its timeline about two weeks ago on the negotiations whether Mr. Trump will be questioned by investigators, adding Mr. Mueller's office said the date, which is September 1st according to this reporting was contingent on Mr. Trump sitting for an interview, a spokesman for the Special Counsel's declined to comment. Do you buy it?

ELIE MYSTAL, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW: It's sad where we live in the world where we have to treat these fever dreams as if they're possible realities, right? Giuliani is trying to force a timeline on this thing as if we're playing basketball, but it's not basketball, it's baseball.

HAYES: Right.

MYSTAL: You're going to have to get 27 outs before this thing is over and so the-- not to say (INAUDIBLE) but the investigation will be over when the investigation is over and not a moment before.

HAYES: What do you think, Joyce?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I tend to agree. I think it's unfortunate that we've reached a point in this investigation where when Rudy Giuliani comes forward and claims that he is channeling what the Mueller investigation is going to do, we have to qualify that as that by saying Giuliani says because over and over he's been proven to be wrong. In this case, this investigation will be done when Bob Mueller has decided who to indict, who not to indict and what to include in his report and it won't be any time before that.

HAYES: And yet the strategy here is to me clear and clear. Ty Cobb, who has been fired, right?

MYSTAL: And was actually good at his job.

HAYES: Well, Ty Cobb's whole thing was look, we're cooperating because the President didn't do anything wrong and obviously we don't love being investigated, we want to wrap it up and we're cooperating. This is -- Giuliani is basically offense against Mueller and he's trying to sabotage and jam him up.

MYSTAL: Saturday Night Live literally got it right this weekend when Giuliani's strategy seems to be at this point being like, even if we did obstruct justice, even if we did collude with Russia, so what? That's the strategy right now. No matter what happens, so what? It was OK because the President magically makes everything OK.

HAYES: He also, Joyce, he seems to be contending the President can't be subpoenaed. The Reuters is running a piece, experts bash Giuliani claim Mueller can't subpoena Trump. That seems to me that people who I've talked to, there are a few outliers, but most people seem to think that yes, Robert Mueller can subpoena the President.

VANCE: You know, he likely can be subpoenaed. And even aside from that technical legal question, Chris, what Giuliani is doing is running the strategy that defendants who are guilty run. He's trying the investigators, trying to prosecutors. He's using technical legal arguments you can't subpoena me as opposed I've done nothing wrong. And over time this increasingly gives the impression that there is something to hide, and that that something is serious and significant.

HAYES: There's also an interesting thing he's doing where it's like we want to cooperate, but. He said this thing about well, things just keep coming up. So now it's we'll cooperate but first we got to learn more about this informant.

MYSTAL: Yes, this is the most recent informant red herring, right? I'm sure many crime bosses would love to know who the snitch, right? But it kind of doesn't work that way. Look, if Trump wants to know what information they have on him, if he gets indicted, that's when he will be entitled to discovery, and not a moment before. The critical thing, though, and I totally agree with Professor Butler in your last segment, the critical thing is at what point will the Justice Department itself, will the institutions themselves start to stand up to Trump as opposed to their current posture, which is you know, Rosenstein tends to roll over on his belly, roll over on his back and show Trump his belly and say oh, I'm so -- please don't hurt me, I'm so innocuous, right? At some point the institutions have to stand up and tell these Trump people no, you can't visit, just because you asked for it.

HAYES: What do you think of that, Joyce?

VANCE: So I disagree that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is rolling over and showing the White House his belly. I think that he and Chris Wray, the Director of the FBI are trying to walk a very narrow tightrope. It's a difficult time to be in the Justice Department. I don't think that we can make any pretense that it isn't. They are trying to permit a very important investigation to continue while at the same time upholding the traditions of the Justice Department. The issue that they'll ultimately have to confront is how far those traditions can bend before they break. It's not an easy job, but it's two fine men trying to do the right thing in a difficult time.

MYSTAL: And I think we're already broken. I think -- the part where the institution have broken are behind us. And now we need to be in the phase where we have to figure out what to do now that they're gone and how we're going to fight now that -- now that Trump has, as you put it in your last segment, crossed every red line imaginable.

HAYES: The question becomes what he does next, right? If this is a sort of incentive for -- sorry, incentive for him to keep going with ask and what that next ask might be. Joyce Vance and Eli Mystal, thank you both. Coming up, a second Trump Tower meeting, previously undisclosed, previously not reported, but a second Trump Tower meeting in which a foreign government was looking to trade campaign help for favors. Does that sound familiar? This time around, the quid pro quo is right in front of our face, apparently, next.


HAYES: Perhaps the biggest news story from this weekend is the revelation of a second Trump Tower meeting in 2016 with, lo and behold, Don Trump Jr., where this time a representative of two Middle Eastern countries offered to help out his father's campaign. According to a superb piece of reporting from The New York Times, Trump Jr. met in August of 2016 with none other than Erik Prince, former head of Blackwater, George Nader, an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and a Israeli social media specialist named Joel Zamel.

It is unclear if the meeting connects to the rest of Mueller's investigation, but it certainly got the president's attention yesterday when he tweted The Time's piece was, quote, "a long and boring story."

With me now to talk about the significance of the story is Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel to the general counsel for the Department of Defense, and co-editor of the chief of the Just Security blog, which is a great read you should be checking out; and Jonathan Chait, a columnist for New York Magazine.

And Ryan I'll start with you. What do you think the significance of this story is?

RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR JUST SECURITY: So, I think there are a couple of implications to it. The first major one would be that this is another indication of a campaign finance violation. You're not supposed to take any support from a foreign national. And The New York Times report says that Don Jr. responded approvingly. So everybody at that meeting has got a serious legal issue if the reporting is correct.

The second item is that Erik Prince actually testified to congress and seemed to omit this particular meeting. We could call that a concealment of a material fact. In other words, it's a federal violation, it's perjury if, in fact, the meeting took place and he decided to not tell congress about that, instead to tell congress another story about a lack of connections to the campaign.

HAYES: Yeah, in fact this is questioning with Congressman Rooney. He says to Erik Prince, "OK, so aside from writing these papers, donating, supporting..." "The yard sign in my yard."

"Yeah, so there was no other formal communications or contacts with the campaign?"


This would seem to belie that.

GOODMAN: It would seem to directly belie it.

And I think that Erik Prince is in deep trouble, because he also interviewed with Mueller's team, and Mueller knows everything about this meeting.

HAYES: Jonathan, you wrote about this story and you wrote about what you think it triggered in Donald Trump. I want to read a great line. You said, Trump has no poker face, no chill. The closer the investigation gets to incriminating evidence, the more intensely he rages. He resembles a suspect at a crime scene screaming at the police not to go into the attic. Now that attic looking awfully interesting.

What do you mean?

JONATHAN CHAIT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, what I mean is that this aspect of the Mueller investigation is the most mysterious, even to though of us who have been following it pretty closely from the beginning. We don't really know what the Gulf angle means. We don't really know what relationship these figures had with Russia and how important it was.

We know about the Seychelles meeting. There are some intimations that they had some financial role in possibly transferring some of the money around, but it's pretty mysterious. And the fact that Donald Trump responded so vehemently, first on Twitter, and then also with this extraordinary demand that you discussed of the Department of Justice suggests that he's really upset, really worried about this, in particular. So, maybe there really is a lot in this room.

HAYES: We should note, right -- so, one o fthe arguments that the president tried to make in that tweet, and other defenders, like, oh, they haven't found -- that there is no collusion with Russia, so now they're moving on to other countries, but in fact there is tremendous overlap. Two of the people in this meeting was Erik Prince and George Nader, who is this bizarre figure who has a child pornography plea that he plead to in the United States and a child molestation charge in Prague who is a fixer for various sort of strange interests in the Middle East.

It's George Nader who shows up at the transition with the head of the United Arab Emirates, and it's George Nader who shows up at the Seychelles meeting with Erik Prince and with a Russian emissary in this very mysterious meeting.

GOODMAN: Right, so there seems to be quite a bit of potential overlap, let's say. I don't think this is disconnected from the Russia collusion story, and it makes sense as to why Mueller has spoken with Mr. Nader, apparently seven times, seven times, including four times Mr. Nader has appeared before a grand jury.

I think that there is a lot of overlap in the very fact that Mueller himself is interested in Nader's connection to the Seychelles., And the Seychelles, based on The Washington Post's reporting, is trying to set up back channel between Erik Prince as the surrogate for the Trump campaign and the Russians. So why are they trying to set up back channel if they're actually going to be the administration unless there is something a little more nefarious going on?

HAYES: Jonathan, when you take a step back, one other thing that emerges is you have got the America First campaign has Michael Flynn working as an unregistered foreign agent for the Erdogan government in Turkey writing an op-ed on their behalf on election day. Paul Manafort working for the campaign essentially undeclared foreign agent for Russian and Ukrainian interests, and then a whole bunch of other foreign interests thinking they could essentially bribe the campaign, get what they want out of going to them?

CHAIT: Yeah, absolutely. The irony here of like you say of the ultra- nationalist, the demonization of foreigners and the refusal to work with them in normal rational ways that help us as well as helping them, the demonization of treaties and international institutions and agreements, and not to mention the fact that Donald Trump promised to get rid of not anyone working for his administration, and then going to work as a foreign lobbyist. Even the fact that he would be a president, and then subsequently go lobby for a foreign government was scandalizing to Donald Trump the candidate, but now basically people have been working for Trump while simultaneously working for foreign interests in one capacity or another. The irony is really staggering.

HAYES: The question that hangs over all this to me is a lot of foreign governments appear to think these are easily bribable folks. Whether they're right or not is sort of the question, but everyone's acting, the more we learn, like they think that.

GOODMAN: They do. And I think they have good reason to think that. According to The New York Times report, after this August 3 meeting, the Trump campaign embraced Mr. Nader and they met frequently with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn.

HAYES: I will note one thing, the president broke with tradition by making Saudi Arabia, of all places, his first trip as setting president. It was one year ago today that he posed in front of the orb. And one wonders, of course, how did that meeting come about? Why did he break with tradition and go to Saudi Arabia first? We might learn more that as we learn more about these meetings.

Ryan Goodman and Jonathan Chait, thanks for joining us.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

CHAIT: Thank you.

HAYES: Still to come, Democrats today unveiled a unified campaign message to take back government and it's all about Donald Trump and corruption.

Plus, Bill Gates returns to the show in tonight's Thing One, Thing Two, next.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, you may have seen or heard about the exclusive video of Bill Gates we aired on this show just last week. And if you haven't, oh you must check it out tonight on our Facebook page. It's Bill Gates talking about his meetings with Trump, and there were quite a few moments of note, the part where Trump apparently ogles Gates' daughter has gotten its fair share of attention, as has the story of Trump leaving an event in a car only to return to the same event in a helicopter just so he can make a grand entrance.

There is one anecdote that seemed to get more attention than all the rest.


BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: He asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill effects of vaccines, and somebody -- his name was Robert Kennedy Jr. was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things. And I said no, that's a dead-end. That would be a bad thing. Don't do that.

Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV. So I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other.


HAYES: That's right. The president asked Bill Gates on two separate occasions if there was a difference between HIV and HPV. Well, now he is getting schooled on sexual health from an unexpected source. That's Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: In the day since we released video of Microsoft founder Bill Gates talking about the two separate times President Trump asked him if there was a difference between HPV and HIV, a lot of people have spoken out expressing interest in better informing the president about sexual health. A top trade association for the porn industry wrote an open letter to Trump, writing, "we understand that science is hard and certainly a challenging concept for people who do not believe in facts. However, your willingness to acknowledge your own ignorance is the first step in the learning process. So please, be proud of your progress."

The letter then went on to explain in great detail the difference between the two viruses, but it also included an expression of gratitude to the president saying, quote, "we are honored by the tremendous efforts you have paid for showcasing industry talent. The spotlight on our industry has never been brighter."



REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: You have a situation with Qatar where allegedly they didn't go through with the transaction with the Trump family, and then they got punished by the U.S. government. You have the situation with China where the president originally said he was going to revisit One China policy, and when he decided not to, Ivanka gets trademarks. He decided to -- through his Treasury Department sanction the Chinese firm ZTE. He reverses course when China makes a $500 million investment in a Trump branded property in Indonesia."


HAYES: There is so much evidence of corruption by President Trump and his alleys just a fraction of which detailed by Adam Schiff. We could do a whole show, honestly, on corruption every single night.

Just look at what is going on in Washington tonight. There is a big fundraiser for Mitch Mcconnell's super PAC with featured speaker Mike Pence at where, Trump's D.C. hotel, which made $40 million last year. It's one of his best performing properties, and that is because lobbyists and foreign officials and Republican power players all want to curry favor with the president, so they spend money there, money that goes right into the pockets of the president and his family.

Whether it's Michael Cohen selling influence in exchange for millions of dollars in secret payments into his presidential mistress hush money account, or EPA chief Scott Pruitt flying first class on the public dime, getting a sweetheart deal on a condo from the wife of a lobbyist with business before his agency, or Republicans handing a $670 million income tax windfall to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Adelson then rewarding them with a $30 million check for the mid-terms.

The biggest single through line of the Trump presidency has been a manifest corruption unseen since at least the Nixon administration, and quite possibly long, long before that. An abuse of the public trust that is unprecedented in both its breadth and it's brazenness.

And now congressional Democrats are betting that Americans' outrage over that corruption will help sweep them back into power this November.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: President Trump has embraced the most egregious establishment Republican norms and appointed the most conflict of interest-ridden cabinet in my lifetime. The swamp has never been more foul or more fetid than under this president.


HAYES: Democrats' new plan to spotlight the Trump web of corruption and what it can mean for the for the mid-terms, right after this.



REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: The American people are confronted with one of the most compromised, corrupt administrations in history. Instead of delivering on its promise to drain the swamp, President Trump has become the swamp.


HAYES: Democrats today unveiled a series of anti-corruption proposals and a new message: elect Democrats in November to clean up the chaos and corruption in Washington. Joining me now to discuss whether that message is likely to work and the unprecedented corruption of the president and his allies, Michelle Goldberg, columnist for The New York Times; and former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander, president of the voting rights group Let America Vote.

Michelle, I want to start with you. You have been doing a lot of reporting on the ground in special elections with people working to get Democrats elected and volunteers, and there's been this kind of idea that you know cable news talks about the Russia investigation, but on the ground they're talking about health care. And this -- I wonder where you think this corruption message fits into that.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEW YORK TIMES: So my sense is that, well, part of the confusion is -- or part of the difficulty is that these have been kind of unique districts often, you know, often districts with strong Republican lean. So you're trying to convince people who might be Republicans but dislike Trump why they should come over.

And so it's been less in the places I've been about how this administration is so appalling than sort of relying on people's underlying disaffection and also on the fact you have these cadres of hyper-engaged women in general who, you know, you don't need to tell them why Trump is despicable, it's what they think about from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed.

HAYES: Right, you have to message that.

GOLDBERG: ...right, the candidates want to talk about. The candidates can talk about stuff that is super specific to their districts, at least that's what I've seen.

HAYES: What do you think, Jason?

JASON KANDER, PRESIDENT, LET AMERICA VOTE: Well, I think that you can't just address the problem. It's interesting what's happening here. The Democrats aren't saying we're going to tell people that the Trump administration is corrupt. People know that. What the Democrats are saying here is they're saying we're going to put our money where our mouth is. We've got ideas on what to do about it, and that's a pretty important distinction.

And awful these other policy issues, whether you're talking about health care or anything else, people look at these debates and they see, for instance, on the tax bill that President Trump is getting a bunch of money for himself. They see what Sheldon Adelson is doing. People can see that corruption is at the heart of this, and what this is is it's they're saying we have some ideas about what to do about it.

Now, frankly, as Democrats, people like me, we've been talking about ideas like this for a long time. We've wanted to do them. And President Trump just -- he is an illustration. He is a personal demonstration of why this is needed and that presents an opportunity to get some positive things done like make it easier to vote for eligible voters, do something about the problem with money and politics, that sort of thing.

HAYES: Adam Serwer (ph), I thought, had a really smart piece in The Atlantic called there is only one Trump scandal, where he basically says that's what unites it all. The thing that the Russia investigation where they're essentially trying to benefit themselves by possibly colluding with a foreign entity and the tax cut where both the president, his family, and the Republican donor class are benefiting from the policies, is that they're trying to get theirs at your expense.

GOLDBERG: Right. And people are always down on the Democratic Party and kind of always talking about how they're doing it wrong, but I actually think this is a pretty smart frame for exactly that reason, because rather than having to explain a bunch of extraordinary, complex, interlocking scandals, you can kind of put this one umbrella and then also target individual congresspeople, because there's going to be all these districts and different congresspeople are implicated in this kind of unprecedented corruption in different ways.

HAYES: Yeah. And I think it also relates back, you just said this, Jason, to the big signature domestic policy accomplishment of the Republican congress, which is independent from Trump, which is the tax cut, which is hundreds of billions of dollars to the richest people in society.

KANDER: Yeah. Everybody gets that what's happening here is that President Trump and the Republicans are just trying to get theirs, right, like that's not something we need to convince people of. And I used to tell my soldiers when I was a platoon trainer in officer candidate school, I would say don't just come to me with a problem unless you're also coming to me with a solution.

So, this is not Democrats around the country -- you know, I've been in 40 states campaigning for Democrats since President Trump took office, and what I see candidates doing is not just saying, boy, isn't Trump and isn't the Republican congress bad, they're going, here's what we would do instead, and that's really important in any situation. Don't just say what the problem is. Everybody knows what the problem is. Say what you would do differently, and that's what this is.

HAYES: There's a Supreme Court decision today that made me think of this, right? So, there's a 5-4 decision with Gorsuch, right? Gorsuch, the seat was held open for Gorsuch, he wrote the opinion basically saying it's fine for employers to make you waive your right to sue as a sort of condition of your employment, basically kind of what it is.

And I want to connect that to there's a million-dollar mystery gift to the inaugural fund, right, to the Trump inaugural fund that turns out to have been from a conservative legal group. And it's like when you start looking at the quid and the quo everywhere you start seeing it everywhere.

GOLDBERG: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And in some cases it's just sort of blatant self-enrichment, right. I mean, it's not just that Trump protects his friends and cronies, he also protects himself from -- he's somebody who's been sued many, many times.

HAYES: Right, of course.

GOLDBERG: By his own employees.

HAYES: Right. And this is where the point of the spear is, Jason, in terms of what the Republicans broader than Trump are doing right now, which is we have seen a real concerted effort on behalf of the Republican donor class to kind of get what they can get before the cops show up at the scene.

KANDER: Yeah, that's right. I mean, they know that there's an expiration date on this deal or they at least strongly suspect it. What we have to do is deliver on the expiration date of them actually controlling government up and down in every direction. And the surest way to do that is it's not enough for people to say look, if you just change the party in power everything will be different. People know that that's not necessarily the case in every situation, and frankly, Democrats in the past, I think, have made the mistake of saying just the other side is bad and not here's what we're going to do differently.

HAYES: This is concrete stuff. This is, hey, here are some changes to government that we want to make that it's not just a response to President Trump, it uses President Trump as the example of what's wrong, but it says these are changes that desperately need to be made and people know that if we don't actually try to do them they're going to know we weren't being real with them. And I think you'll see we'll take the house and I think take the Senate too very possibly, and then try to do these things.

HAYES: Michelle Goldberg and Jason Kander, thank you both for being with me.

Don't forget we now have two podcasts wherever you are. You can listen to this show, All In, as a podcast. And make sure to check out our other brand new podcast. It's called "Why is This Happening?" It features deep dive conversations about the big themes and ideas driving this moment in history. I've had a lot of fun doing it. On the next episode, which drops just mere hours from now, Kate Shaw, truly remarkable legal mind, and my wife, joins me to discuss the unprecedented legal quagmire the president finds himself in.

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


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