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Mueller has produced 19 indictments, 5 guilty pleas. TRANSCRIPT: 05/23/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Richard Blumenthal

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 23, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump now that he`s in the White House wants the country to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. On this matter of real national security, Donald Trump cannot stand the truth. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: I`m obviously very loyal and very dedicated to Mr. Trump.

HAYES: Another Michael Cohen stunner.

COHEN: Keeping jobs in America, putting America first.

HAYES: Tonight, even more, evidence the Trump inner circle is selling American foreign policy to the highest bidder. Then --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of bad things have happened.

HAYES: New polling shows the Trump attack on the rule of law is working and new concerns Democrats are losing the political fight over the Russia scandal. Plus, my interviews with the first black woman nominated to be her state`s candidate for governor.

STACEY ABRAMS, DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, GEORGIA: We are writing the next chapter of Georgia`s future.

HAYES: And the woman trying to defeat Democratic Governor of New York.

CYNTHIA NIXON, DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, NEW YORK: This is my -- this is my party too, and I wasn`t going to be scared out of the room.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Almost every day, we see new evidence that members of the President`s inner circle has been willing to auction off American foreign policy to the highest bidder. And that might be more than anything the story of the corruption of this presidency. More even than the Mueller investigation which, of course, keeps expanding in different directions growing more and more complicated, so complicated it`s no surprise so many people seem to have lost the plot. According to a new report, 59 percent of Americans say the investigation has yet to uncover any crimes which could not be further from the truth. In fact, in little more than a year, the Special Counsel has secured 19 indictments and five guilty pleas, two of which were entered by the President`s former National Security Adviser and Deputy Campaign Chairman both now cooperating witnesses. The Campaign of the President of the United States including some of its most senior members was staffed with criminals. That is a fact. The basic outline of the Trump-Russia story hasn`t changed. We know Russia sabotaged the 2016 election to help put Donald Trump in his office. We know the President and his campaign openly welcomed and solicited that help. They didn`t care who it came from. What we don`t know is whether they actually broke any laws in the process. But here`s the really crazy thing and the thing that`s hard to understand as it happens right in front of our face. The Russia story is turning out it appears to be just a small piece of what is now emerging as the major all- encompassing scandal of the Trump Administration. Everywhere you look, people close to the President eager to sell out American interests to any foreign national ready with a check for a promise. It`s the precise opposite of what this President promised on the day he took the oath of office.


TRUMP: We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. From this day forward, it`s going to be only America first. America first.


HAYES: Except not so much because it`s quite clear now that in many cases America came in second to the interests of the President, his associates. His National Security Michael Flynn was secretly being paid by Turkey during the campaign and into the transition, pushing for more favorable policy towards the Turkish strong man. In an op-ed, he published on election day. Paul Manafort, the President`s former Campaign Chairman running the campaign at a certain point was deeply entangled with Russia and Ukrainian interests which he apparently tried to appease by leveraging his role running a presidential campaign quoting an e-mail of his, how do we use to get whole? The President`s lawyer and business associate, one of his closest advisers Michael Cohen was reportedly pitching the government of Qatar at Trump Tower during the transition soliciting a $1 million payment in exchange for access to the new administration. It turns out the President`s own son, Donald Trump Jr. wasn`t just interested in what Russia could do for the campaign. We now know he also met with an Israeli, an emissary from the Saudi government and the United Arab Emirates in the months before election. And these are just the instances we know about which publicly come to light. Today, we learned of what looks like, looks like yet another example of the President`s inner circle selling off U.S. foreign policy. BBC reporting citing sources and key of close to those involved, the President of Ukraine secretly funneled $400,000 to Michael Cohen to arrange a meeting at the White House. Cohen and the Ukrainian President both deny the report. It has not been confirmed by NBC News. But we do know the last summer, the Ukrainians got their meeting in the Oval Office after it was added to the President`s schedules the night before.


TRUMP: Thank you very much. It`s a great honor to be with President Poroshenko of the Ukraine, a place we`ve all been very much involved in and you`ve been seeing it and everybody has been reading about it.


HAYES: To help understand just what the President`s people are up to, I`m joined by MSNBC Contributory Jennifer Ruben, Columnist from the Washington Post and MSNBC Legal Analyst Nick Akerman, a former Watergate Prosecutor. Jennifer, this seems to me what is coming into view, the American -- America first presidency actually guided by perhaps the monetary interests of the people around the President`s inner circle.

JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right. They had their hand out from the beginning. They had some people who were contacting them. They had Michael Cohen reaching out to other people. This, of course, included corporate America and not just foreign interests but certainly foreign interests, as well. This went on during the campaign, this went on during the transition and we still have it going on. We still have the President`s son-in-law meeting with banking interests and then the next day receiving loans for a troubled property. We still see that UAE and the Saudis are interested in leveraging Jared`s interests, financial interests. So it has been one big scam from the beginning. And it doesn`t really matter I think whether they were quote successful or not successful. It`s illegal to solicit the help during the campaign. And if anything was exchanged of value, later on, that is just out and out bribery. And there`s no excuse that these people were somehow political neophytes so they didn`t know what they were doing. They were as you say bargaining away American foreign policy to the highest bidders.

HAYES: You`re someone who`s follows the Russia investigation closely.


HAYES: What do you say to someone who says look, you had the Ukrainian -- they met with the Ukrainian President so how could it be tilted toward Russia? How could there be a quid pro quo to Russia when they`re you know, meeting with Ukraine?

AKERMAN: Well, pretty simple. I mean, Michael Cohen six months earlier putting in this plan for peace with the Ukraine that involved basically getting rid of all the sanctions.

HAYES: Right. On Russia.

AKERMAN: On Russia and giving a lease to Russia to Crimea. So he doesn`t care. They just want the money. All they`re interested in is lining their own pockets. With respect to the Ukraine and the sanctions, that was part of the quid pro quo for the Russian help in the election.

HAYES: That`s your theory.

AKERMAN: It`s my theory and I`m almost certain it is correct because that`s what Flynn pled guilty to, lying about the sanctions with Kislyak.

HAYES: The thing I think about having covered machine politics in Illinois, right, Jennifer, you`ve got politicians where you know, the national politicians, we think of these as sort of deeply ideological parties, they are parties that have commitments that are based on the sort of coalitions they`ve assembled. But in machine politics in Illinois and in Chicago, they don`t do ideological commitments, it`s totally transactional. The Blagojevich quote about the Senate seat is I`ve got this thing and it`s golden and I`m not going to give it away for free. And if you view American foreign policy that way, you don`t have any commitments, Ukraine, Russia, Qatar, UAE, you can view -- anything you can sell.

RUBIN: That`s exactly right. Donald Trump doesn`t have any beliefs about anything and he really doesn`t have any beliefs about foreign policy. All he knows is whatever Barack Obama did must be wrong so he`s going to do the opposite even if it makes no sense whatsoever. So you`re right. Unless you are tied to some world view, some ideology, you`re just bouncing around. And guess where he`s bouncing? He`s bouncing where his financially lucrative for him. We haven`t even touched upon the emoluments that he`s receiving, the foreign monies from foreign states either in terms of bookings at hotels or trademarks from China. That`s an improper foreign influence, as well and that`s continued on during his administration.

AKERMAN: And the ramifications here, Chris, are enormous. I mean, first of all, he`s taking the side of the Saudis and the UAE against Iran so he dumps the Iran deal. He`s taking their side against Qatar which is one of our strongest allies in the Gulf and has a base for 10,000 American troops. And so he`s turning his back on them. It`s like one story after another. With China, he`s bashing China but yet all of a sudden was a ZTE, he was going to impose sanctions. He takes them off after all of a sudden coincidentally this company that he`s got in Indonesia gets money --

HAYES: Half a trillion dollars from the Chinese government. And the craziest thing when you talk about Qatar and the UAE, when you talk about Ukraine and Russia, there`s a similarity here Jennifer which is in both cases, Qatar and the UAE are having a beef, right? They`re fighting each other for U.S. influence. You`ve also got Ukraine and Russia, right, fighting each other for U.S. influence. What better of a situation if you`re an auctioneer than when have you, two bidders?

RUBIN: Exactly.

HAYES: And that seriously, that is what the picture starts to look like. Like both -- I mean, you`ve got Ukraine, we`ve got reporting on Ukraine saying the week after President Poroshenko returned home to Kiev, the Ukraine`s national anti-corruption bureau announced it was no longer investigating Paul Manafort. Everything starts to look a lot like quid and quo and you cannot trust the intentions.

RUBIN: That`s right. And it doesn`t really matter if what you`re doing is contradictory because you`re going to satisfy everyone. Sure, you can give defensive arms to Ukraine but you can also try to maybe lift some sanctions against Russia. So it doesn`t have to make any coherent sense. In fact, it rarely does. And you know, I do appreciate the difficulty of kind of explaining this in a simple form. But every time you look at this, there`s something new. What about the meetings -- the secret meetings in the Seychelles arranged by none other than the guy who started Blackwater? You know, practically in every country around the globe, there`s some form of intrigue, there`s some form of deceit. None of this was revealed during the campaign. People didn`t disclose it on their security clearance forms. If there was nothing wrong with this, why weren`t they telling us up front what they`ve been doing and who they`ve been meeting with?

HAYES: Final thing for you about Watergate.


HAYES: Everyone knows the central story of Watergate which is that there was a break-in and it turned out the President need the break-in. That`s the central story. But there were a lot, there were tons of other criminal activity sorts of interlocked with all the president`s inner circle, bribery, money changing hands. It`s very complex and have been lost in history.

AKERMAN: Right. This campaign contribution issue is huge. I mean, thousands of dollars -- millions of dollars in cash being transferred. Her comeback, the President`s personal lawyer, kind of like Michael Cohen was right out there as the bagman. The same role that Michael Cohen is playing here. I mean, the parallels are absolutely striking. You`ve got people making money on the side doing all kinds of things back then that are similar to what is happening now. But I`ll tell you, I think that the Trump Administration in terms of lining their own pockets, asking what their country can do for them and how much money they can make for their country rather than what they should be doing for their country, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, is really off the charts.

HAYES: We`re going to find out, I mean, ultimately, where all the money went and if the payments -- if it`s confirmed that Michael Cohen got this $400,000, the other payments are millions of dollars still unaccounted for and where they ended ultimately. Jennifer Rubin and Nick Akerman, great to have you both. For more on this pattern of foreign influence in over the President`s associates, I`m joined by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator, are you confident that American foreign policy isn`t being essentially auctioned off at this point?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: All the indications are in fact that this administration has a for sale sign at the door, not only domestically but also in its foreign policy. And the stakes couldn`t be higher. After all, President Poroshenko is seeking access to the White House through the fixer, through a payment to Michael Cohen because he needs Trump on his side to defend his country literally under the threat of Russian invasion, through their proxy. So his democracy and future are at stake. And he comes to Trump seeking favor and then very, very importantly, drops the official investigation of Paul Manafort and shuts down cooperation by his government with the Special Counsel. So the links go deeper and deeper here. And this whole administration has a culture and a modus operandi of pay to play and influence peddling. The fish rots from the head because Trump himself through his own organization is receiving benefits from foreign governments, the reason that we have sued for violation of the Emoluments Clause and why we`re also seeking a stronger office of government ethics through legislation that we just offered.

HAYES: The President has very much escalated his attacks on the civil servants in the country, the people that are make up much of the government calling them the criminal deep state sort of ominously threatening the people might find themselves criminally prosecuted. What do you make of the President`s rhetoric over the last several days?

BLUMENTHAL: Over the last several days, he has doubled down on seeking to undercut the credibility of law enforcement. That`s really his modus operandi. He is seeking to diminish the credibility of the FBI and the Department of Justice through these allegations of spies and so forth that are the result of his fantasies and imagination more than fact. And the purpose is to essentially create doubt and distraction but also to undercut the credibility of the investigators before they conclude the investigation of him. And the meeting tomorrow is very, very troubling involving these classified documents.

HAYES: Yes, I want to get your response to that. Democrats have asked to be included in that meeting. They will not be included in the meeting. The White House saying that the gang of eight, which is the sort of top intelligence oversight members of Congress will be briefed later but it`s going to be two Republicans in there in that room with Director of National Intelligence and the Head of the FBI and an official of the Justice Department. Is it -- is it legitimate for Democrats to be excluded from that meeting?

BLUMENTHAL: Highly illegitimate and unprecedented for intelligence to be shared on a partisan basis particularly in the midst of a highly charged partisan controversy as is ongoing right now.

HAYES: Let me -- I want to stop you there because you have expressed faith in bipartisan cooperation to protect Robert Mueller and to protect Rod Rosenstein and protect the integrity of the investigation and the basic institutions of independent dispensation of justice in this country. And I wonder if that faith is starting to wane as you watch what members of -- Republican members of Congress are doing?

BLUMENTHAL: My faith certainly has been challenged. But I still have basic hope having talked to many of my colleagues over these last few days that they will come around to the point of view that Rod Rosenstein needs to be protected as much as the Special Counsel.

HAYES: Do you understand -- let me interrupt you. Do you understand why people watching this play out, watching the House Republican Caucus do what it`s doing feel like maybe that faith is not earned?

BLUMENTHAL: I understand totally. And in fact, there are moments of every day, more than a few moments when my own faith wanes. And I fear and it is an existential fear that our democracy is in danger as never before. That our institutions are in peril because the president has shattered all norms, he is operating without the normal rules that guide our democracy in terms of respect for the basic rule of law and justice, and I fully understand why Americans are losing faith in a system that is failing to react as it should. I can only hope that this wishful thinking on the part of my Republican colleagues will wane also.

HAYES: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for your time.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

HAYES: Next, the logic behind President Trump`s attack on the rule of law and a new claim from his lawyer who said today to quote -- I`m quoting here, "the truths is relative" in two minutes.


HAYES: In case you didn`t think there was a method to his madness when Trump goes in the attack, listen to Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes tell a story of a rare moment of honesty she witnessed from the President.


LESLEY STAHL, CORRESPONDENT, 60 MINUTES: At one point he started to attack the press and it`s just me and my boss and him, and he has a huge office. He`s attacking the press and there were no cameras. There was nothing going on. And I said you know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You`re doing it over and over and it`s boring and it`s time to end that. You know, you`ve won the nomination. And why do you keep hammering at this? And he said you know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and mean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you. He said that. So put that in your head for a minute.


HAYES: That`s very much the Trump playbook. It is precisely, precisely the strategy he`s using right now to discredit the legitimacy of the FBI, and the Special Counsel`s investigation in the eyes of the public. And as we have discussed, you can make an argument it`s working. For more on the President`s strategy, I`m joined by Natasha Bertrand, a Staff Writer for the Atlantic and MSNBC Contributor. Matt Miller, former spokesperson for the Justice Department and MSNBC Justice Analyst. Do you think it`s working, Matt?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE ANALYST: It`s working certainly with members of the Republican Party. And you see it not just with people out in the country but with the leadership. I think you know, there are a number of things that he`s trying to do. One is discredit the investigation so if Bob Mueller does produce results, people in the Republican Party you know, reject those results. One is to try to actively interfere with the investigation and make it harder for investigators to do their work. But I think, you know, what he does is by sowing this doubt with voters, it really has ramifications on Capitol Hill. So you see -- you know, if you talk to Republican politicians, you know, they`re kind of in two camps there. You know, the one camp who are just the hardened you know, true Trumpers like Mark Meadows and Devin Nunes who are working hard and there are a bunch of others who know that what Donald Trump doing is wrong. And they know that there are long-term ramifications but won`t say anything because they`re scared of Trump voters. And I think Trump knows that and he knows that by you know, ginning up these doubts, it has a way of locking people in on the Hill who know better and who could stand up to him and could protect people like Rod Rosenstein and keep things like this new Inspector General investigation from happening. It keeps them from standing up and doing so.

HAYES: There`s also this kind of throw anything against the wall approach that Giuliani has been taking. I mean, Giuliani as far as we know doesn`t -- he hasn`t -- he`s not taking paycheck for this. He`s just going around giving interviews, he`s saying all sorts of stuff telling what Robert Mueller told him which who knows if it`s true, right? He recently told Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed that he hasn`t talked to the President in two weeks and he also says this today that he`s worried about the Trump interview with Mueller would be a perjury trap because the truth is relative which is a remarkable thing for a former U.S. Attorney to say.

NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: What is Rudy Giuliani`s actual job? Is he the President`s lawyer or is he the spokesman? We really don`t --

HAYES: He`s the press dude. Yes.

BERTRAND: He`s essentially the press dude at this point. And so for him to be the spokesman, to be going out there and speaking on behalf of the President saying that Mueller has been telling him these things and on the other hand say that he hasn`t spoken to Trump in two weeks and then, on the other hand, say, well, I`ve gotten permission from the President directly to say everything that I`m saying to you now, it just makes absolutely no sense. And everything that Giuliani is doing and saying is just kind of more Trumpian by the day. I mean, for him to say that truth is relative, that`s essentially the same thing to saying there are alternative facts. So this is a transformation that we`ve seen from Giuliani where it`s not only his willingness to attack the FBI and call them Stormtroopers, it`s also this media approach he`s taking to discredit the entire thing.

HAYES: And this to me, Matt, is -- the term once they got rid of John Dowd and Ty Cobb who either left or were fired sort of unclear, it`s a turn from the legal strategy to fully a kind of political media strategy to try essentially try to control the levers of trust of what people will come to view as the shared facts of the case.

MILLER: That`s right. It doesn`t have to be consistent. You know, people say one thing one day and then come out and say almost the exact opposite the next. I mean, the point is really just to do two things. One, as you said earlier to try to undermine the investigation. But then just to keep the news cycle moving. One of the challenges they have always had is that you know, there continue to be -- you know, when Bob Mueller does his work, Bob Mueller is not leaking but new facts come out, either investigative reporters dig them up or they talk to people interviewed by the grand jury and we see new things, new damaging revelations that Mueller might be looking into and he creates bad news cycles. So they just have to keep something else going which is why you saw over a year ago starting with the fact that you know, the allegation that Trump Tower was tapped, moving on to unmasking, moving on to allegations that Jim Baker at the FBI leaked things, moving on to Uranium One, they just have to come up with a new allegation you know, every few weeks. It doesn`t have to be founded because what can happen is, you start with an allegation, you then move it into process. A committee on the Hill starts investigating or they put enough pressure on Deputy Attorney General, there`s an I.G. investigation. There are now two separate I.G. -- they`re combining the one that the I.G. is looking at two separate things. They just have to throw enough chum in the water that there`s a little bit of distraction from the constant drumbeat of negativity.

HAYES: And then they -- and then they escalate too because it`s not just pundits, right? It`s Congress has powers and they have some sort of -- they have Constitutional equities here and they`re going to have this meeting tomorrow and they`re already telegraphing -- they`re going to come out of the meeting saying it`s not enough.

BERTRAND: Right. They`re definitely is -- there was an attempt to set up this confrontation between the Justice Department and the President for perhaps the purpose of giving him an excuse to fire Rod Rosenstein. That has been the express purpose of people like Devin Nun and his allies like Congressman Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan for the better part of a year now is to set up a confrontation between Trump and the Justice Department not only to discredit the Justice Department but to give Trump the leverage that he needs in order to do this big thing that could be politically disastrous for him but to have an excuse to do it. And also note that it`s really interesting how we`re kind of seeing the legal strategy shift here a bit when Ty Cobb and John Dowd were surrounding Trump, the strategy seemed to be well. There`s nothing to hide.

HAYES: Yes, we cooperate because the President is innocent.

BERTRAND: Right. There`s no reason for Trump not to sit down. And now Giuliani is saying -- is seeming to be of the mind that well, Trump is -- he`s acknowledging that Trump may be guilty and therefore, it might be dangerous for him to sit down with Mueller.

HAYES: They are -- they are literally arguing in the alternative in front of our faces. If we did it, it`s not a crime and also we didn`t do it, we were set up. Those arguments being made simultaneously sometimes in the same sentence by Rudy Giuliani. Natasha Bertrand and Matt Miller, thanks for joining us.


HAYES: Coming up, as Republicans fight the Mueller investigation with everything they`ve got, new evidence Democrats are letting the political fight slip away next.


HAYES: Max Bergmann from the Center for American Progress had a tweet storm last night that really caught my eye started like this. "Democrats are unbelievably losing the political fight over the Russia scandal. This is of their own doing. They`ve ceded the field and aren`t fighting the fight. They want this to be bipartisan but the GOP has decided to go on offense, witch-hunt, deep state, liberal FBI." And of course, I think he`s right. Despite all the coverage here and elsewhere in the Russia investigation, Americans are amazingly uninformed about the most basic facts. Robert Mueller has already obtained 19 criminal indictments, five guilty pleas, as we mentioned before. He`s uncovered a remarkable trail of criminality and his investigation is ongoing. And despite that fact, a new poll found that just 41 percent of registered voters know that Mueller has uncovered crimes. The rest, 59 percent, wrongly believe that Mueller has found nothing.

Joining me now to break down what the Democrats are doing wrong, MSNBC political analyst Jason Johnson, political editor at The Root; and the man behind tweet storm I just mentioned Max Bergmann, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Give me your argument, Max.

MAX BERGMANN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: So my basic argument is I think Democrats have been in a tough spot, right. Democrats want to get to the bottom of this. They want to have a thorough investigation and they want the investigation to play out before they come to judgment. That is a responsible way of proceeding. The problem is, the White House, President Trump, and his accomplices in congress are going on offense. They`re attacking the investigation. They`re saying it`s a witch hunt. They`re attacking the credibility.

And what we`re seeing is that it`s having an impact, that they`re basically running a disinformation campaign that is throwing sand in the eyes of the American public, that`s confusing the American public. And so what`s happened is that Democrats by defending the investigation and really focusing on just defending Mueller, the public has lost sight of what this investigation is about. They have become confused.

And so I think it`s important for Democrats to learn that lesson and to go back and explain to the public this investigation is producing results. It is producing indictments, and then also to remind the public about what this is all about, and to go back and to remind them the Trump campaign had all these meetings with the Russians. They lied about all of them. And to really try to tell a clearer story to the American public and remind them of basic facts. And I think that`s getting lost in the whole deluge of news that is constantly coming out and in the White House and Republican attacks.

HAYES: To your point about sort of comparisons, 538 put together this sort comparison of the Russia investigation with other investigations. It`s remarkable how much it has produced in a relatively short period of time when you compare it to other things like Iran-Contra and other scandals.

Jason, there`s been a line that`s come from -- it`s been interesting, it`s both sort of I think Democratic political consultants and people kind of across the political spectrum that says, look, voters don`t care about this, they care about health care, talk about that.

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: Yeah, that`s true. And here`s the thing, Chris, I think it`s important -- I have another number that goes along with this recent poll. 58 percent of the American public -- and I looked at every single sort of poll about the Russia investigation going back to December. The number of Americans who believe that the Mueller investigation should continue has gone up. It has continued to go up. 58 percent of Americans, as of just last month, were saying, hey, look, we want this investigation to continue.

So it`s not so much of an issue they have to know all the specific details. As long as the American people believe in the integrity of the investigation itself, as long as they believe what Robert Mueller is doing, then the Democrats are doing a good job. They don`t need to make this the primary focus in 2018.

HAYES: I also think, Max, Mitch McConnell taught this less under Barack Obama, which was that if you deny your party`s votes to the agenda, it polarizes everything. And I think in the first year of the Trump administration when the two big items were health care and the tax cuts, neither of which got Democratic votes, there was a very clear line between the parties. Since then, we`ve seen Democrats vote for a bank deregulation bill, given 17 votes in the Senate, 33 in the House.

We`ve seen the vote -- Democrats that vote for the CIA director appointed by Donald Trump. The secretary of state, appointed by Donald Trump. Do you think that those votes eat away at a message that says this guy is an existential threat to democracy?

BERGMANN: So, I think those votes really reflect the differences in the parties, right. I think Democrats voted on each of those and allowed their caucus to vote the way they thought best. But that`s not what we`re seeing from the Republican side when it`s related to the Russia investigation. Yeah, Jeff Flake will come out and say -- will, speak out sometimes about the Russia investigation, even because he`s not running for re-election, but what we`re not seeing are Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee speaking out.

So, we`re not seeing any of that from the Republicans. And I think what this means is that Democrats are really in a tough position, because they don`t want to make this partisan, but Republicans decide whether it`s bipartisan or not and they`re deciding not to make it bipartisan.

And so Democrats need to punish Republicans and also the White House when it is violating norm after norm, attacking the rule of law, when it is all the corruption that`s being revealed. And Republicans that tie themselves to the White House, to defend the White House, need to pay a price politically or else this will just continue.

HAYES: What do you think of that, Jason?

JOHNSON: Well, I agree, but the problem is how do you make them pay the price, right? Nancy Pelosi comes out and she`s like, hey, this is a problem. Democrats comes out and say this is a problem. Making the Republicans pay the price for essentially being obstinate and not caring about America hasn`t done anything.

What the Democrats need to focus on is winning some races in the fall. And that means you can pat your head and rub your tummy, you can chew gum and play basketball at the same time. But I think again this idea that, hey, they`re not beating the drums enough on Russia it runs counter to what we`ve seen in these special elections where people are winning and flipping Republican seats and they don`t have to talk about Russia.

HAYES: It is remarkable to me that the fact the president was surrounded by criminals in his campaign, that`s just a fact, the president was surrounded by criminals, that`s a true statement, is not a thing Democrats say every time they`re in front of the camera. That is just a true thing about the president of the United States. He was surrounded by criminals, some of the highest aides in his campaign are criminals and that has been -- we already know that. You almost never hear that word leave the lips of Democratic politicians.

Jason Johnson, Max Bergmannn, thank you for both being with me.

HAYES: Still to come, history in the making, the first female African- American gubernatorial nominee in American history joins us right here as does the Democrat challenging Mario Cuomo, Cynthia Nixon. That`s just ahead.

Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two: kneeling in in the NFL starts next.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, remember the time Vice President Mike Pence, in the lamest of political stunts, went to an NFL game for the sole purpose of leaving it? It was last fall at the height of the controversy over players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. On President Trump`s orders, Pence interrupted a West Coast trip to fly 1,800 miles back to Indianapolis for a Colts/49ers game, then surprised and offended when some players, predictably, took a knee, made a big show of walking out of the game.

Minutes after he left the stadium, Pence tweeted out this fancy graphic, which was certainly not prepared in advance, saying in part I stand with President Trump. I stand with our soldiers. And I will always stand for our flag and our National Anthem.

Today, the NFL, feeling the Trump heat, announced new rules: all players who are on the field when the National Anthem plays must stand or face fines. Mike Pence celebrated with a spontaneous tweet "#winning."

Well, maybe not so fast, Mike Pence. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: President Trump has made NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem a political issue, a national political issue. And today, the league handed him a win, announcing a new policy that all players who are on the field while the anthem played must stand or their teams will be fined.

This comes after audio leaks last month of an NFL meeting on the kneeling issue where Patriots owner Robert Kraft referred to Trump`s divisive and horrible politicization and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie called Trump`s presidency disastrous.

But today they gave him what he wanted anyway and Trump was happy and Mike Pence #winning and no one ever knelt for a National Anthem again. The end.

Well, no, because only a couple of hours after the big rule change announcement, there came dissension in the ranks, not surprisingly. The chairman of the New York Jets told Newsday his players are free to keep on kneeling, saying if somebody on the Jets takes a knee that fine will be born by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players.

And the players themselves are not backing down either. Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins tweeted this statement saying in part "while I disagree with this decision, I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting. The national conversation around race in America the NFL players forced over the past two years will persist as we continue to use our voices."



STACEY ABRAMS, DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, GEORGIA: We are writing the next chapter of Georgia`s future where no one is unseen, no one is unheard, and no one is uninspired.


HAYES: History was made in Georgia last night. Never before in in our nation`s history has an African-American woman been chosen as a major party nominee for governor until Stacey Abrams last night coasted to victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Georgia.

I`m thrilled to have her join me now. Stacey Abrams, Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, welcome. Congratulations on your victory last night.

Why did you win?

ABRAMS: we won because we did the work of talking to voters across the state. We won 153 of 159 counties, which meant we pulled together a coalition of voters from across the state with very different backgrounds, but I think with a common interest in actually having a governor who is looking out for their interests.

HAYES: What is this election about, do you see, as you go up against your Republican opponent? What is the sort of central issues in this upcoming election?

ABRAMS: Look, the current governor has done some good things in some areas, but in other areas he has been a disappointment. And the Republican leadership has failed to expand Medicaid, to really do the investments we need to do in education and to think about how we help small businesses thrive. My mission is to make certain that as the next governor, every Georgian feels that they have the freedom and opportunity to thrive. And I think that tension is really going to be the core of this issue.

HAYES: You had a line last night I found was interesting. Talking about Medicaid, you said the Republicans have been too mean and too cheap to expand Medicaid. Are the voters of Georgia willing to pay for expanded services for their own citizens?

ABRAMS: Absolutely, because Georgia has lost more than seven hospitals already in rural communities. We have 15 that are on life support. And we know that Medicaid expansion is not only about health care, it`s about saving those hospitals and it`s about jobs. More than 50,000 jobs coming to Georgia in the next 10 years. Those are issues that cut across demography, cut across region, and really animate voters in every part of the state.

HAYES: You know, you and I -- I interviewed you down in Atlanta years ago. I think it was 2014, I think it was. And you were talking about the sort of the math of that state, the math of Georgia, and it`s a little like Texas in that it is sort of tantalizing for Democrats, because it does seem if you look at the math there should be enough votes to cobble together to assemble a coalition that can elect Democrats statewide.

It hasn`t really happened recently. What are you going to do differently?

ABRAMS: It`s like having all the ingredients you need, but you have to have the right chef. And that`s what we`re doing differently. We are putting those ingredients together, this coalition of available voters, including more than a million Democrats who vote in some elections, but do not vote in midterms.

We lose elections as Democrats by about 200,000 votes. My mission is to have a clear resounding message that is bold and ambitious and that is detailed, and that we take to every single voter. What we are doing differently is that we spent the bulk of our investment not on television, but on the ground, building an army that we believe we can scale and we can take the entire state with by November.

HAYES: Do you think that`s the difference? And when you think about those voters, this the key to Democratic politics nationwide, right, to the power of any kind of enduring Democratic Party, particularly in a state like yours, which is those voters who sometimes vote, but not always. What do you understand as the reason they sometimes don`t vote and how you turn that around.

ABRAMS: Voting for the presidency is something we`re trained to know to do, because billions of dollars are spent every two years, basically, to talk about the presidency. But we don`t talk what the governors do. We don`t talk about state legislators. We`ve started doing that in recent years because we finally saw what the impact is.

What we`ve done differently in this campaign, and what I think Democrats can do across the country is actually take the time to explain to voters the connection between this election and their lives.

I`m running as a candidate who has spent 11 years in the legislature, spent 20 years as a tax attorney and as a small business owner. And they know that I`m talking about how I can make their lives better, no matter who they are, no matter where they live.

HAYES: All right. Stacey Abrams, congratulations on your historic victory. It was remarkable to get that push notification from The New York Times last night. It really was, you know.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

HAYES: You think about the country`s history. Thank you so much for your time tonight.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

HAYES: Stacey Abrams is part of a bigger story as well, we should note. There is a remarkable surge in women Democratic nominees this year. Among Democratic nominees, just in the House of Representatives, this year, for example, over 40 percent just so far are women compared to 2016 when under 30 percent of candidates were. And that`s just for House of Representatives races.

One woman who hopes the momentum in general behind female candidates, particularly on the Democratic side, can help take her all the way to the New York governor`s mansion, Cynthia Nixon, joins me live, next.


HAYES: Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. She is challenging incumbent Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in the primary largely from the left. And Cynthia Nixon is here with me now on the day that the state had its nominating convention on Long Island.


HAYES: OK, so, I saw someone say this -- I think it was Jonathan Alter, and I`ve heard other say, you know, in this environment, the Republicans are so damaging and Donald Trump is so damaging, why focus energy and resources in a bruising, bloody intra-party Democratic Party fight?

NIXON: Well, it`s really important for us in 2018 to elect more Democrats, but I think it`s equally important to elect better Democrats. I think what we saw in the last presidential election was we can`t just give people something to vote against, we really have to actively give people something to vote for.

And this is where in New York State certainly our voters, our constituents, are ahead of their leaders. And they know the progressive leadership that has been missing here. And all the things that are being enacted in other parts of the country that aren`t being enacted here. And we have to really give our Democratic base, our young people, our women of color, our working class, we have to start showing up for them, because if we stop -- if we don`t start showing up for them, they`re going to stop showing up for us.

And it is candidacies like mine that I think really get our base excited and give them faith again in the Democratic Party that it`s not becoming just more and more like the Republican Party, but that the Democratic Party actually stands for Democratic Party values.

HAYES: You know, there is a question about who do you think of as the base. You said the base. And you sort of mentioned some people. Who do you think is the base of the Democratic Party?

NIXON: I think African-American voters, particularly African-American women, are most faithful, reliable core voters. I think we`re -- I think that there are progressive parts of the Democratic Party that are really tapping into young people. I think that`s so important. But I think -- I think we`re losing, we`re losing our credibility with the working class.

I mean, Donald Trump was speaking to the working class. He was lying to them about what was possible and what he was going to do, but I think unless we start addressing inequality, by which I mean gender inequality and racial inequality, but also income and wealth inequality, the Democratic Party is just going nowhere fast.

HAYES: So what do you say to someone who says, look, you, I like your politics. I like you. You`re a charismatic individual, but, you know, we just elected a person to be the president who never had public office before. You know, he never even run a district. He wasn`t a city council person. Politics like anything else, it takes some experience and some know-how. New York is a huge state, like how are you going to be the governor having never done this before?

NIXON: Well, I`m not an Albany insider, that`s absolutely true. Andrew Cuomo is. But if you look at experience, it`s what your experience has brought you to. Andrew -- experience doesn`t mean squat unless you`re actually good at managing a state. And I think that Andrew Cuomo`s record shows he is not.

The governor is directly responsible for a couple of basic things: the transit system and economic development, both of these have been disasters of management under Andrew Cuomo.

I mean, certainly the New York City subway is now infamous. We have the worst on-time record of any transit system in the world. We keep hitting new lows. And his economic development has been rife with corruption and cronyism and very little job creation to show for it.

HAYES: So I`m going bracket that, whether that is true or not, that is the case against Andrew Cuomo and you are making the case.


HAYES: But I`m asking you, Cynthia Nixon, like what are you going to do about it? And how -- why should voters trust that when you sit there and you have to deal with the craziness that is Albany and the craziness that is state house politics, and the craziness as the MTA, which is a bureaucratic nightmare, that you`re going have to the experience to pull the levers to get thing done.

NIXON: So what we need now in New York for a leader, we need somebody with a big, bold progressive vision, the ability to articulate that vision, and the ability to coalesce people around that vision that New York has been so hungry for. I mean, one of the major problems, we`re 2-1 Democratic state. We`re a very progressive place. But what`s happened under the last eight years is Andrew Cuomo has empowered the Republicans by incentivizing a group of Democrats to vote along with them.

Two weeks after I entered the race, we have reconciled that group because of pressure from our campaign. And come November, I predict that the Democrats are going to control both of our state houses, and together with Andrew`s (ph) cousins in control of the senate, we`re going to have a Democratic agenda that all of the major players in government will be really fighting for.

Our governor now doesn`t want that. He wants a centrist vision that will not be too progressive so he is well positioned to run for president and so he doesn`t have to pay for things that has a price tag.

HAYES: As a New Yorker all my life, a smoothly running Albany would be a first.

So, Cynthia Nixon, thank you for joining me.

NIXON: Thank you.

HAYES: And don`t forget that All In is now available as a podcast. Make sure you check out our other new podcast exploring the big themes behind the news each week, Why is This Happening? This episode this week on the rule of law. Both are available wherever you get your podcast.

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


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