Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 28, 2018
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Join me again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern. See you then.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Pretty much every day this year has brought new and dramatic stories about the presidency of Donald J. Trump, the investigation into the president and his allies, and the White House`s ongoing attacks on the rule of law. Tonight in a trio of interviews with some of the central figures in those story line, beginning with my latest conversation with former Trump Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page, a man who famously admitted for the very first time on this program last year that he did indeed meet with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention.
HAYES: I`m just trying to get a straight answer. Like, did you meet Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland? Did you talk to him?
CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I`m not going to deny that I talked with him. Although I will say --
HAYES: So you did talk to him?
PAGE: I will say I never met him anywhere outside of Cleveland. Let`s just say that much.
HAYES: The only time that you met him was in Cleveland?
PAGE: That I may have met him possibly, it might have been in Cleveland.
HAYES: Let me ask -- let me start with this. Has Mueller -- I know you talked to the FBI, right?
PAGE: Absolutely, yes.
HAYES: Have they --
PAGE: Which has been disclosed leaked to the Washington Post. That`s been out there.
HAYES: So have they ever asked you about that meeting back in the RNC?
PAGE: I told them you know, a lot of everything you know, I had essentially been doing for quite a long time, including obviously, you know, everything in Cleveland.
HAYES: So you did -- you did talk that? Yes?
HAYES: The person that you say brought you on to the campaign, right, New York State Republican Party official named Cox, is that correct?
PAGE: Chairman of the Republican Party here.
HAYES: Right, Chairman of the Republican Party. Sam Nunberg recently -- you know Sam Nunberg?
PAGE: I`ve heard of him. I don`t think I`ve ever crossed paths with him.
HAYES: He said that Lewandowski brought you onto the campaign.
PAGE: I have no comments about that. You know, the problem is.
HAYES: Wait a second. You told me it was Cox.
PAGE: Well, but he introduced me to people, let`s - and I`ve stated that to the House Intel Committee, as well, yes.
HAYES: Point being it`s not mutually exclusive Cox could have introduced to you Lewandowski who then makes the ultimate decision. Is that a safe assumption?
PAGE: It`s - I don`t assume anything, but there`s a --
HAYES: Well, did it happen. I`m just asking you.
PAGE: You know, here`s the problem, Chris. We`ve talked about this previously, right, where people sort of make stories out of nothing, right?
HAYES: Yes, I`m not saying it`s, like, incriminatory. I`m literally just asking a factual question, like who brought you onto the campaign. It was Lewandowski.
PAGE: Well, you know, again Ed introduced me to a few people and I had conversations with various people. Now, you know, in terms of campaign, remember I`m a volunteer.
PAGE: I was never paid one cent. I never gave anything to anyone in the campaign in terms of money or contributions or anything. So it was a pretty loose -- you know, it`s like someone volunteering in any campaign.
HAYES: So, there was -- I want to talk about two memos that you were writing back to the campaign. And I know how these circles work. I`ve been around other campaigns. There`s these kind of volunteer things, like, you`ll hop on calls. You know, campaigns will have like their telecommunication advisers, right, and then they`ll have a big call about like what`s our policy on net neutrality, that kind of thing. This is sort of what you were doing, right?
PAGE: Sometimes, you know.
HAYES: You -- so campaign adviser Carter Page presented before gatherings of the New Economic School, NES in Moscow, we know this, including the 2016 commencement ceremony, Russian deputy prime minister and NES board member Arkady Dvorkovich -- am I getting that right -- also spoke before the event. In a private conversation, Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems. You wrote that?
PAGE: That may - you know, I think that`s little segment of a long -- a long, you know, relatively longer document.
HAYES: But that`s accurate. He did express strong Trump -- support for Trump to you?
PAGE: He - we had a very brief hello, you know. It`s similar to -- you know, you mentioned Attorney General Sessions and you know Ambassador Kislyak in Cleveland. Those two, they walked by each other on the way out, you know.
PAGE: Then Senator Sessions was walking out of that meeting that`s cited in the Reuters report. And that was it. You know, it was a brief -- from what I saw, you know, it`s a massive.
HAYES: I`m talking about you and the --
PAGE: Well, it`s the same thing, right? I had a brief you know, hello to him as I was walking out. But I listened to him. He spoke at the same event where I spoke, right? And he gave a lot of interesting insights in terms of --
HAYES: The Russian perspective, totally. I guess - no, no, no, I mean this about a relationship that`s deeply broken in many ways.
PAGE: It was more about ways forward for the Russian economy, and you know, the world economy if you will.
HAYES: But I guess my question to you is like -- here`s the thing -- here`s the thing we`re having a hard time on the outside of this. And I get it. I understand how people -- you feel like things get manipulated. But it`s like it really does seem like you`ve got a deputy foreign minister telling you he supports Trump.
PAGE: He did not directly use those words. I am interpreting a lot of things that I`m hearing from him.
HAYES: But then it sort of feels like are you like - are you sort of inflating your importance back to the campaign?
PAGE: I was not -- I think you`re not reading the full context of that. I was talking about discussions -- you know, it was input had I from a lot of people. You know, you`re just -- you`re cherry picking.
PAGE: You`re not reading the full --
HAYES: Carter, I`m quoting you. He expressed strong support for Mr. Trump.
PAGE: He expressed strong support for policies that I think aligned well with you know, some of the things -- some of the important steps, some of the important possibilities that were things that then candidate Trump was talking about. But you know, it was in the macro --
HAYES: The macro.
PAGE: Well, the macro you know, view of the world economy and the Russian economy. Again, this is a speech --
PAGE: -- to graduating students at a --
HAYES: At an economics school.
PAGE: -- you know, economists, right? So this, this is my interpretation. I will also note, Chris, I wrote that memo.
PAGE: Sitting at JFK airport after taking a 10-flight and then flying back to London. I wasn`t able to get a direct flight so this is just sitting in the -- in the waiting area, you know, right near the gate at JFK airport putting together some thoughts. You know, the fact that I would be talking with you on national television, you know, almost two years later, you know, after having on a day where I`m traveling 8,000 miles and just putting out some you know, some basic ideas of my interpretation.
HAYES: Right, I mean, right. It seems from your perspective - from my interpretation of your perspective, there`s a very profound sense of how did I end up here, right? Is that fair?
PAGE: Chris, there`s a great quote from your book, right? You say - for subjects -- for subjects of authoritarian rule, humiliation is the permanent state of existence, page 71. I mean, this is -- I mean, it`s just been a complete.
HAYES: You think we live under authoritarian rule?
PAGE: I think - you know, it`s interesting, on your privatization discussion with Dr. Shulkin, there`s debates as to you know, what should be privatized and what should not be. I mean, that`s a policy discussion. What`s interesting in 2016 is the CIA and the FBI, NSA, you know, some of their key functions, not to mention DOJ, were you know, for all intents - privatized by the DNC with you know, this fake dodgy dossier which is then you know, leading to abusive process in federal courts. This is a really big deal.
HAYES: So let`s talk -- let`s talk about -- your big complaint is that the --and this is essentially the argument of the Nunes memo, is that the foreign surveillance warrant issued against you was wrong. It was improper. It should never have been issued against you, and that it shouldn`t have been subsequently renewed multiple times, right? That`s your contention.
PAGE: From - you know, I can`t imagine anything which could possibly warrant such a warrant.
HAYES: Do you - are you on the same page? My feeling about it is, I just want to know - I want to read the warrant.
HAYES: Like just declassify the warrant. Let us - let Carter Page and Chris Hayes and everyone else read it and come to a determination about whether it was proper or whether it was improper.
PAGE: Which is we`re completely on the same page. And you know many people have been working on this. You know, there`s a number of non-profit organizations, Yale Law School, New York Times have a big case.
HAYES: To try get FOIA that warrant.
PAGE: Judicial Watch. You know, a lot of people. So, you know, unfortunately, what we`ve had so far is some of the most disclosure has happened in other courts where you know, a billionaire Russians or multimillionaire Russians who are suing Buzzfeed are getting a lot more disclosure than even House Intelligence Committee was able to get for a long time. And so you know, I`m pretty excited that as more details come out, some of the you know, court battles will start being handled more fairly.
HAYES: Final question. Have you talked to anyone in the White House in the last year?
PAGE: Not in the last year, no.
HAYES: In the first year?
PAGE: No. Not that I can think of.
HAYES: Are you sure?
PAGE: Not that that I can think of, no. Again, I mentioned because it was forced out of me in the House Intelligence Committee with the, you know, in this eight-hour day where I`m just being grilled nonstop that you know, I had a brief conversation with Steve Bannon and you know things like that.
HAYES: He told you not to come on my show.
PAGE: It wasn`t your show.
HAYES: Oh, OK, OK. Well, I feel -- I don`t feel as insulted by Steve Bannon then. All right, Carter, it`s good to see you.
PAGE: Great to see you, too.
HAYES: And I hope things go well for you. And I hope we end up getting to read your warrant. I think we`re both on the same page about that.
PAGE: I hope so. Well, there`s some talk about late July that there`s - even DOJ is kind of talking about that. There`s been some reporting. So, we`ll see.
HAYES: All right. You can come back and we can go through it together. Carter Page, good to see you.
PAGE: Great to see you, Chris.
HAYES: Up next, my conversation with another key figure in the Trump- Russia orbit, convicted criminal, former spy and trump business partner Felix Sater. Stay with us.
HAYES: There is perhaps no more mysterious and compelling figure in the Trump-Russia orbit than Felix Sater, the man who tried to build Trump Tower Moscow. A Soviet-born businessman has quite a resume. He spent a year in prison for slashing a man`s face in a bar fight and was convicted for his role in a mafia-linked stock fraud scheme. He was also remarkably an intelligence operative for the U.S. government, who among other things obtained Osama bin Laden`s phone numbers before September 11th. Sater partnered with Trump on a string of real estate projects. In 2015, he wrote an e-mail to Michael Cohen vowing to build Trump Tower Moscow with Vladimir Putin`s help. Sater writing, I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.
HAYES: What kind of man are you, Felix Sater?
FELIX SATER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BAYROCK GROUP LLC: I guess complex, to say the least. You know, I`m an immigrant that came to this country at the age of seven, grew up here, went to school --
SATER: -- went on to work on Wall Street, had a very successful career on Wall Street as a young man. Unfortunately, one night in a drunken bar brawl, one guy went for a beer bottle, I went for a margarita glass, and that changed the trajectory of my life.
HAYES: You did a year for that.
SATER: I went to jail and I did a year for that bar fight. When I came out, I had no money. Young child, had no money and in a moment of weakness, nothing that I`m proud of then or now, or have I ever been, got involved in the stock scam which is the shady side of Wall Street which was something that was devastating to me because I had planned to have a very successful Wall Street career. And I did that for less than two years, left voluntarily on my own, got out of it and -- because I just hated it. I despised every day and every minute of it. And when I used to go to sleep, I used to hate it.
HAYES: Let me ask you this, how did you meet Donald Trump?
SATER: I - we formed a company in 2000 to do real estate development.
HAYES: That was in his office?
SATER: No, we were in the building. We were in Trump Tower. We were on the 24th floor. Trump Organization was on the 26th floor. I basically knocked on his door, said I think we should become partners. I have great real estate deals. I`m going to be a very successful developer and you want to work with me.
HAYES: It`s a very Trumpian move.
SATER: I don`t know. I think it was a very Felixy move.
HAYES: Did you guys get along?
HAYES: How would you characterize your relationship?
HAYES: Talked a lot?
SATER: Sometimes a lot, sometimes --
HAYES: When you worked on a deal, talked a lot, talked on the phone, talked in person?
SATER: Mostly in person. I was two doors down. I just go upstairs and speak to him.
HAYES: One of the things you do where all these sort of different threads come together is you`re working on Trump Moscow, right?
SATER: Well, no, no, no. This is -- we`re now speaking about 1997, `98 --
HAYES: Right, but I`m saying though as a person who you have contacts from Russia, you speak fluent Russian.
HAYES: Later in your life you sort of become a business partner with Donald Trump. You guys work on Fort Lauderdale, right?
SATER: Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix, Trump Soho, a whole host of other projects.
HAYES: Right, a bunch of different place. But you end up working on Trump Moscow.
HAYES: That`s an important project that is -- that is -- that produced those e-mails and everyone knows about it`s the project that a lot of people are curious about and I want to ask you about your involvement in that project and what happened to it if you would stick around after this break. Will you do that?
HAYES: All right. Let`s go.
HAYES: Felix Sater. Let`s talk about this Trump Moscow deal.
HAYES: You`re trying to build a deal there -- you tried to do business in Russia with Trump. At one point, you`re over there with the Trump kids, right?
HAYES: With Ivanka and Don Junior.
HAYES: How connected are you in Russia at that point?
SATER: I know some business people there. I know enough business people to try to put together a deal, plus I speak Russian. Plus I have no problem knocking on somebody`s door and saying hi, I`m here and we`re going to build something beautiful and let`s do business.
HAYES: The Trump Moscow deal you`re pursuing, that e-mail, here`s the way people read that e-mail, is that there`s some -- basically that there`s some back story here in which the deal is part of the election interference. There`s some quid pro quo or there`s some idea. And here`s the one -- we talked about the "we can get our buddy elected." But here`s the one I think is interesting in the New York Times characterized the e- mails. They said Mr. Sater was eager to show video clips to his Russian contacts of instances of Mr. Trump speaking glowingly about Russia and said, he would arrange for Mr. Putin to praise Mr. Trump`s business acumen if he says it, we own this election, Mr. Sater wrote. You wrote that?
SATER: Yes. I did wrote that. Yes.
HAYES: Why did you -- why in these e-mails? There`s two of them here. Why are you guys making this connection between building this building in Russia and his electoral success?
SATER: Me personally, I was trying to build the tallest building in the world or in Europe.
HAYES: One second, why is Donald Trump going to be elected President if he builds a building in Europe -- in Moscow?
SATER: Well, because doing a gigantic deal, it would have looked good. It was -- it was good for business. It could have potentially ushered in an era of detente or good will between the nations because a businessman came in and it`s better than politicians.
HAYES: At no point at any point did any Russian communicate to you interest in cultivating Donald Trump on behalf of the Russians, Russian government, Kremlin-friendly forces?
SATER: I have risked my life to try to protect our country for over 20 years in situations and places that would make your hair stand on end. The insinuation that I would get together with anyone, especially Russia of all places or any other country in the world for the detriment of our country is not only insulting but laughable.
HAYES: That may be the case but I`m just -- did not answer the question.
SATER: I`ll be more than happy to answer the question.
HAYES: Did anyone -- did anyone ask -- suggest to you an interest in cultivating Donald Trump on behalf of either the Kremlin, Kremlin allied forces, people in Russian intelligence when you were working on this Moscow deal?
SATER: Absolutely not.
HAYES: Was it ever communicated to you that they were interested in Donald Trump for reasons other than business?
SATER: Absolutely not.
HAYES: Why does the deal fall through in Moscow?
SATER: Because the Trump Organization announced that they are not going to do any more international deals.
HAYES: Did you seek to acquire funding through Russian banks for the deal?
SATER: To build a building like that in Moscow, the only banks you go to are Russian banks.
HAYES: Was one of them VTB?
SATER: Yes. It was.
HAYES: So you did seek to acquire funding through VTB?
SATER: Well, there was developer -- it wasn`t my deal. There was -- I put the deal together. I came to Michael Cohen who`s old and dear friend, part of the e-mails says I`ve known him since I`m a teenager. So it`s basically two old friends saying hey, our guy can become president. We were excited. It wasn`t something surreptitious, it was two guys who knew each other over 30 years excited somebody that you --
HAYES: Wait, can I -- can I say something about. I`ve heard -- I`ve heard you say that before.
SATER: And that`s true.
HAYES: I understand that. But you`re a very -- you`re not a kid and not a naive dude.
SATER: No, of course.
HAYES: Right? I mean, you just told me you`ve been in situations where your hair stands on and you`ve been flipping Taliban people, you`ve been talking to La Cosa Nostra, right? The idea that this was just -- do you understand why people might be skeptical this is like giddy enthusiasm?
SATER: Yes, I`m sure -- I`m sure they are. And the e-mails may sound damning. But at the end of the day, it was e-mails between two friends about a real estate transaction and me from my -- from my perspective, from my side, I`m trying to build a billion dollar deal. So the reality is, Putin, Trump, and if I knew people in China, I would have tried to get the premiere of China involved and get a trifecta going.
HAYES: Let me just make sure that I nail this part down. So the people associated with the deal, you said you put the deal together, it wasn`t your deal, a developer Russia was looking to VTB for financing.
SATER: I had a local developer there and I had the Trump Organization here and I was in the middle. And the local developer there would have gotten financing from VTB and or another Russian bank but VTB was at that point the go-to bank for real estate development. That`s why VTB.
HAYES: Your business has been sued before, Bayrock.
HAYES: And I want to read you part of that lawsuit and I know you deny this but I want to get you on the record.
SATER: No problem. No problem.
HAYES: In a lawsuit that was filed by -- filed by someone in Bayrock of course, was the group that helped develop Trump Soho here in New York City.
HAYES: Someone that you worked with said in the lawsuit, tax evasion and money laundering are the core of Bayrock`s business model. The lawsuit alleges it said Trump Soho building specifically which you also developed with the President was a monument to spectacularly corrupt money laundering and tax evasion.
SATER: Yes, it was an employee who first reached out to me who said let`s get money from your partner and from the law firms and he sued me and 12 other law firms and over 100 individuals for $1 billion. Subsequently, in that lawsuit, a federal judge referred the lawyers who were handling that for criminal prosecution to the U.S. Attorney`s Office.
HAYES: Do you think this is just -- that`s not a denial though.
SATER: It`s absolute denial. It`s 100 percent denial.
HAYES: Did Bayrock -- did Bayrock ever launder money.
SATER: Absolutely not.
HAYES: Did the Trump Soho deal depend on money that was being used -- purchases that were being used to mask transaction for the purpose of laundering?
SATER: No, absolutely not.
HAYES: You can know that definitively?
SATER: Well, us building the building and the money that came from came from Tom Sapir, who was a very large landowner in the New York. That`s what we -- that`s the money that we used to build it. The buyers of those units, well, like anyplace else -- HAYES: You don`t know.
SATER: Some of them are LLCs. You don`t know who the owners are. You don`t know who`s behind it. But whether you were involved in selling to someone for the purpose of masking anything, absolutely not.
HAYES: How interested is Donald Trump and the people on the other side of the deal from him?
SATER: Like any developer, very little. If they bring a check to buy an apartment, and the check clears, they`re a good customer.
HAYES: That`s his M.O.
SATER: No, that`s every developer in New York`s M.O.
HAYES: Not every developer in New York though has run for president, right?
HAYES: So all of a sudden, you take that M.O., you put it in a different situation like would you take a meeting for dirt on your opponent, right?
SATER: I don`t know. I`m not a politician. I`m assuming every politician would but I don`t know.
HAYES: My question to you is having worked with the guy, is he the kind of person who would be open to that kind of thing?
SATER: I don`t believe that Donald Trump would -- open to what type of thing money laundering?
HAYES: Accepting dirt from a foreign adversary about his opponent. We know his son said if it`s what you said, I love it, about that Trump Tower meeting. I`m asking about the President, someone who`s character you know, someone who`s business M.O. you know, and just described as a person in a development situation who`s if the other person on the side of the deal`s check clears, he doesn`t want to ask questions. My question to you is in a political context if the other person on the other side of the deal is offering dirt on his opponent, is he the kind of person who says I don`t want to know where this came from but I`ll take it.
SATER: Well, I guess from the reports of the meetings that happened, obviously the answer is yes.
HAYES: For Don Junior, I`m talking about the President.
SATER: I don`t know if I can answer that. I don`t know if I can answer that question. I don`t believe that Donald Trump would ever meet or collude with a foreign power against our country. I certainly would never even speak to him if I ever thought that was the case. I don`t believe that other than getting dirt on an opponent, that it was thought through a lot. I don`t believe the idea was thought through of where it was coming from, who it was coming from. It was political. Oh, we`ve got some dirt on our opponent, great, let`s take it.
HAYES: Do you think the Russians meddled with the election.
SATER: 100 percent.
HAYES: What`s your feeling about that?
SATER: I think they attacked us. I think it`s an act of war and I am absolutely disgusted that our politicians are having a one and a half year post-mortem about how they meddled and what they meddled. I grew up in Brooklyn. It`s a very simple place. Somebody attacks you, you punch them back not once but twice. And at this point, doing something about it is very important for America to show everyone don`t mess with us.
HAYES: So why is -- why is the man that you worked with, that you know, why is he not?
SATER: You have to ask him that question.
HAYES: But I`m asking you because you worked with him. I didn`t.
SATER: I worked with a lot of people. I can`t speak for all of them.
HAYES: But you know something about how the guy operates, right?
SATER: Yes, I believe so.
HAYES: Let me put it this way. There is a supposition of some that the reason that he is not acted more forcefully against Russia is because they have something on him or he is engaged in a quid pro quo. Is that plausible story to you?
SATER: No, it is not.
HAYES: It`s not a plausible --
SATER: I do not believe so. Look, anything`s possible. I wasn`t in every meeting. I don`t know. I wasn`t part of the campaign. I wasn`t part of the election. And I was out of the Trump Organization in 2010. That was years before and I only showed up just to do the Trump Moscow deal. I don`t believe so but I don`t -- I wasn`t there and I don`t know. And I don`t believe so but if you showed me proof that it happened, I certainly would take a look and say, or course.
HAYES: One of the things the President says, I got no deals in Russia. And we know that`s true. I mean, there`s no -- he doesn`t have deals in Russia, right?
SATER: That`s right.
HAYES: No building bearing his name. The question everyone wants to know is, is there Russian money directed into his properties? Was it money that passed through different LLCs? Do you know the answer to that?
SATER: Do his properties?
SATER: I have an assumption about that. For anyone in the Russian government to pass money through to the Trump organization through his properties, which had to have happened way before the election, I doubt anyone has a crystal ball and truly believed that one day this developer is going to be the president of the United States, so let`s start funneling money to him.
HAYES: But they did take an interest in him.
HAYES: The Russians. They bring him over for the pageant.
SATER: Yes, of course. But that was business.
HAYES: Well, wait a second, wait a second. This story starts with you telling me that you`re at a business meeting about telecom industry in Russia and an American intelligence guy pulls you into the bathroom and says these are all hiring operatives that we need to get you interested. So then you can`t just turn around and say, well, that was business, because it seems like business and other things are pretty intertwined in Russia.
SATER: Yes, they are, absolutely. 100 percent. 100 percent.
HAYES: So, Donald Trump is going and he`s doing the pageant in Moscow with the Agalarovs, right, the Kremlin knows what`s going on. They`ve got people in the room.
SATER: 100 percent.
HAYES: Right. Did you know the Agalarovs?
SATER: I`ve met one of them, but I don`t know them personally well at all.
HAYES: You met them in person?
SATER: I`ve met one in person.
HAYES: In what context?
SATER: Dinner party in Moscow.
HAYES: This is my final question for you.
HAYES: It`s established that you worked with the government as an intelligence asset, right?
HAYES: There is no parenthesis, no bookend, no close on that relationship, correct?
SATER: No, there is no bookend and close in. And I would work with my government in any capacity that they would ask me today, tomorrow, until the day I die.
HAYES: You worked for the FBI?
SATER: Yes, I did.
HAYES: You worked with Andrew Weissmann.
SATER: Yes, I did.
HAYES: Who is a lawyer at the DOJ.
SATER: Yes. He signed my cooperation agreement.
HAYES: He signed your cooperation agreement.
Andrew Weissmann now works for Robert Mueller, correct?
SATER: Yes, he does.
HAYES: People look at this and they maybe start to think two and two equals four. You`re a guy who knows how to talk to people and pass information along. You have a relationship with the FBI and you have got a relationship with Andrew Weissmann. Andrew Weissmann is currently working for Robert Mueller. Are you working for Robert Mueller?
SATER: I`m not working for Robert Mueller, nor have I ever worked for Robert Mueller.
HAYES: Have you cooperated with the FBI in its investigation?
SATER: I`m sorry, I cannot answer any questions about anything about any ongoing investigations that are happening. That`s not for me to say.
HAYES: Do you understand why people might come to that conclusion?
SATER: Of course. That doesn`t mean that it`s true, just because they come to conclusion.
HAYES: Felix Sater. You can read more about his pretty incredible life in Buzzfeed. And it was great to have you on the show. You`re welcome to come back.
SATER: I would like to say that all I can say is after so much terrible things written about me, I`d like to thank Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold...
HAYES: You`re trying to clear your name, that`s what you`re doing.
SATER: I`m not trying to clear my name, I`m just trying to give everyone a full picture of everything that I`ve done, a full picture so that there can be a balance instead of just reporting what I did in any 20s -- and I`m 52 years old -- and reporting them as it happened last Tuesday, which it didn`t.
HAYES: And there is a lot.
SATER: There is a lot, yes. There is a lot.
HAYES: Thank you for coming by. I really do appreciate it. Come back.
SATER: Thank you.
Coming up, Eric Holder on Donald Trump`s attacks on the Justice Department and the rule of law. That`s next.
HAYES: The man who used to lead the Department of Justice, former Attorney General Eric Holder, has watched as President Trump has repeatedly attacked the DOJ, and in the process, undermined the rule of law in an effort to save his own skin.
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TRUMP: They have this witch-hunt going on with people in the Justice Department that shouldn`t be there. They have a witch-hunt against the president of the United States going on.
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HAYES: You`re here at this table at a time that many people feel that the Republic is in peril, and that we`re nearing a crisis point. Do you feel that way?
HOLDER: I think I`ve said this, and I don`t think it`s hyperbolic, that I think our democracy is under attack. If you look at the question of gerrymandering, the question of voter suppression, if you look at the way in which the norms that have normally kind of cabined the way in which government interacts with the people, the way in which people in government interact with each other. A lot of these things are fall big the wayside.
HAYES: What do you say to the people who say, you know, well, it`s all held so far. You know, the country hums along, and unemployment is low, and Robert Mueller is continuing.
I mean, look, you talk about independence of the Justice Department, SDNY raided the president`s lawyer the other day. That`s a pretty -- it looks like everything is actually functioning.
HOLDER: Yeah, our systems are holding, but they are certainly being pressure tested. And that`s not necessarily a good thing. I mean, the fact that we have the ability to say that a lot of this pressure is being placed on these systems, and that they are standing in place, it`s not necessary. In a normal situation, that pressure should not be applied to the situations, the institutions in the way that they have been.
HAYES: Does the president have the authority to fire Rod Rosenstein?
HOLDER: Yes. Yeah, he could do that.
HAYES: Would that be -- would that constitute in your mind more evidence obstruction were he to do that?
HOLDER: I`m not sure it would necessarily by itself constitute obstruction, the question would be what was his intent in doing so, but it would play into a narrative that I think leads one to conclude that the president probably has engaged in some obstructive behavior.
HAYES: You know, James Comey obviously making the rounds this week, and someone that you worked with, had interactions with while in government. What is your assessment of his character and his truthfulness?
HOLDER: I think he is a truthful person. I think he is a man of honor, a person of integrity. I think he is also a person who made some really serious mistakes. And I wrote an article after he held that -- after he released that material in which I said that good men can make mistakes. And I think that`s what happened to Jim in 2016.
But in terms of his credibility, I think that that is a touchstone for him. He tells the truth.
HAYES: One of the things about watching Mueller go to work right now, it sometimes feels to me like is it true that there is just a bunch of really egregious white collar crime that is just hanging out there that is not prosecuted.
Like, Paul Manafort`s pattern of doing what he was doing with his various bank accounts and business dealings, it was out there in the public. WNYC reported on it. And here comes Mueller. And he puts down an indictment that tracks that the reporting on it. And it makes me wonder, like, should I think that there is a lot of stuff like this that isn`t being prosecuted or is there something special happening around the president`s circle?
HOLDER: I`m not sure about that.
You know, there is a s a lot of crime that happens I think generally that doesn`t get reported. People are stealing things at a grocery stores, there are people doing things in banks that they shouldn`t be doing.
HAYES: A lot of drugs moving around that never get busted.
HOLDER: Yeah. But when it comes to the things that are truly consequential, truly important, I think that law enforcement generally, generally, not all the time, but generally focuses its attention on those kinds of matters and a generally holds people to account.
HAYES: What is Mueller`s strategy here, as you watch it develop?
HOLDER: I think this is a classic case. He is building from the bottom up, you know. And people have to understand this is going to take some time. We`re only about a year or so into this. From my view of this, I always thought this was about a two-year case.
HOLDER: Yeah. But I think they`ve been moving almost at light speed what they have done in that first year.
But this is building from the bottom up. You build the cases that you can and try to flip people until you work your way up to the top. It`s a classic public corruption case.
HAYES: I want to play you something that Mitch McConnell said about protecting Mueller, and I thought it was interesting about whether there would be legislation introduced. There has been some movement in the Judiciary committee. There is some interest from Tom Tillis, Republican from North Carolina, Chuck Grassley, a Republican as well. This is what Mitch McConnell had to say about it today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a move afoot among some of your colleagues just to make sure the president doesn`t get rid of Mueller, to institutionally shield Mueller from being fired. How do you feel about that?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: Well, that`s not necessary. There is no indication that Mueller is going to be fired. I don`t think the president is going to do that. And just as a practical matter, even if we passed it, why would he sign it?
I`m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That`s my responsibility as the majority leader, and we`ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What do you think of that?
HOLDER: You don`t build a hurricane wall when you see Katrina five miles out from the shore, you know. I think there is a basis for us to conclude that Bob Mmueller potentially could be fired by this president. So let`s put in place mechanisms that would prevent that from happening.
You think about the chaos that would be unleashed in this country, the constitutional crisis that this nation would have to face and undoubtedly we`d have to try to endure. You can take this preventative measure that would stop all of that in its tracks.
HAYES: Why do you think they won`t do it?
HOLDER: I think that they are afraid of angering the Trump base, which is the Republican base. And we can`t make that distinction anymore. This notion that there is a Trump base, which is different from the Republican base is inconsistent with all the polling I think that we`ve seen. They are concerned about making sure that their base comes out, that their base votes in November, that their base is behind them, that people who still have to deal with primaries, and I think at some basic level, at some basic level, they`re afraid of them.
HAYES: Do you understand that base is motivated primarily or in large part by racial animus?
HOLDER: No, I`m not sure about that. I think there is a lot of fear that this president has certainly stoked, and he has certainly used race as a mechanism to engender that fear. But I don`t think that is a primary motivator of the Trump base.
HAYES: What about Jeff Sessions?
HOLDER: You know, he is -- he is an interesting case. He`s a person I think who is kind of stuck in the 1980s, you know, in the failed policies of that era. The notion that we want to get as many people as we can, put them in jail for as long as we can, and think that that in and of itself is the way to keep the American people safe, without really looking at all of the things that have happened since then.
HAYES: Does it strike you there`s a contradiction between the way the president talks about the rule of law when it`s people like Rob Porter who was accuse of domestic violence by two different women and he talks about there`s no due process for him and he talks about how there`s no attorney/client privilege. He`s a real kind of almost bleeding heart liberal public defender-minded person when he talking about due process and protection for people in his inner circle. And when he talks about drug dealers, he says we should execute drug dealers and we should deport all these immigrants. How do you make sense of those two different ways the president talks about law and order?
HOLDER: Well, believes in situational law and order. And there is no way that I think you can resolve the tension that you have you just described. He is not a believer in the rule of law. He wants to make sure that those people who he likes, the people who support him, are treated in one way and those other people, whoever those other people are, are treated in a different way.
HAYES: We`re going to now do something slightly strange, which is going to play a game of Eric Holder, this is your life with an individual that you worked with at the Justice Department who is going to come and join the table who is a friend of the show. Matt Miller is going to join us. We`re going to talk about what is going on the in that Department of Justice right now and the attacks that are happening on it. Stay with us if you would. We`ll be right back.
HAYES: We are back with my guest, former Attorney General Eric Holder. Also joining me, MSNBC Justice Analyst Matt Miller, chief spokesman at the Department of Justice when Holder was the attorney general.
We talk a lot in this news cycle about the independence of the Justice Department. It`s a word that has a lot of force and meaning. But I think for people outside it, what does that actually mean, lik day-to-day lived reality how you think about it and the culture of that place when you were there in the Obama administration?
HOLDER: Given the power that the attorney general has, the ability to deprive people of their liberty, the ability to actually execute people, that power has to be used in a way that is independent of any political influence. And so on a day-to-day basis, we were -- we made sure that we made our decisions on the basis of the law and the facts without any consideration of what the White House wanted us to do, sometimes to the detriment of the relationship that we had with the White House, not anything that was necessarily expressed directly to me, but things that I heard, you know, maybe some time thereafter.
Because I think in the Obama administration, the president realized that an independent Justice Department was something that was important.
HAYES: What did it mean to you when you were there, Matt?
MATT MILLER, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SPOKESMAN: Well, I came to the Justice Department from politics and learned pretty early that you had to take this job -- you had to look at this job differently than any job you had ever had, because there is this culture inside the department. And you learn it on day one. And everyone understands it that you don`t talk to the White House about criminal cases. You can talk to them about some things. You can talk about policy matters. You can talk to them about communications matters, but you don`t talk to them about criminal cases. And you never in a million years would talk to him about a criminal case that involved someone at the White House or someone close to the White House, which is what has made watching this White House so hard is that the White House intervenes all the time about the things that affect the president, things that affect the president`s friends. And the other side, too, trying to affect the president`s political opponents, so trying to get them to prosecute Hillary Clinton.
HAYES: I mean, here`s the president -- these are just some tweets from the president. "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department isn`t looking into all the dishonesty going on with crooked Hillary Clinton and the Dems." "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes. Where are emails, DNC server and intel leakers?" Why is AG Jeff Sessions asking the IG to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse will take forever. Has no prosecutorial power. Isn`t the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers. Disgraceful."
I mean, this amounts to the president ordering his AG publicly to prosecute his political enemies.
HOLDER: Right. And that`s a very frightening thing.
And, you know, our institutions have held. And I think our institutions will probably hold. But these are tests of our institutions and we have seen these kinds of things in other countries in earlier times. And I think we have to be cognizant of that.
This is -- there are things that are at risk here by that kind of conduct of the president.
HAYES: But here`s the thing -- yeah, go ahead.
MILLER: I was going to say, so the institutions have held. You haven`t seen Hillary Clinton be indicted and them trying to prosecute.
But you see the Justice Department scurrying around all the time trying to do little things to make the president happy. So, appoint a U.S. attorney to document review, coming over and meeting with the president to turn over documents about the Clinton investigation. You see them freeing up a so- called whistleblower on the Uranium One thing to go testify to congress because the president was angry and had his White House counsel call over.
So, you see all these little...
HAYES: Chipping away.
MILLER: ...lines being crossed. They can`t give the president the big thing he wants. They can`t fire Mueller. They can`t prosecute Hillary, so they do these little things to try to make him happy.
HOLDER: But taht erosion on the margins has an impact, you know. And it`s something that we should not discount.
There is not a huge line between having a system that works correctly and one that works incorrectly, and the more of this little stuff that you do, that line disappears.
HAYES: That to me is the most profound take away from this moment. As I sit here every day and try to process and listen to the news is, you know, we think about the constitution -- everyone talks about the constitution. Like, all this stuff we`re talking about, the Department of Justice, the White House, none of is it in the constitution. The Justice Department doesn`t get created until the Grant administration, if I`m not mistaken, during Reconstruction.
All this stuff about -- well, the president shouldn`t just direct people to prosecute his enemies -- that`s not in the constitution. You can do that, right. I mean, I guess the question is, at the end of the day, what is stopping it? What holds it back?
HOLDER: There are norms that have -- we`ve always had.
HAYES: God, does that sound insufficient to the task.
HOLDER: Insufficient to the task, and yet it is part of I think the American DNA, the American governmental DNA. But we`re being tested now.
And the question is whether or not we have sufficient amounts of that DNA in our system.
HAYES: But there`s got to be -- what does that DNA look like? Like, there`s got to be something -- that means people -- when you say DNA, what that means is people make decisions, like the people in the SDNY make the decision that we are going to be a search warrant on the president`s lawyer, because that is what our job in the law demands.
MILLER: Yeah, it`s in the -- right now it`s the DNA kind of embedded in people at all level of the department. But if you had an attorney general, for example, who decided he wanted to take a different approach and said, you know what, the president wants this done. I`m going to do it. You could see that change.
You would see, I think, people resign. You would see people walk away, but the attorney general could probably do some of it.
I think the question that will happen -- you know, trump is going to go away some day, I hope. And one of the questions we`ll have to look back and say, you know, kind of like after Watergate, are norms enough or do we need to codify some of these structures that prevent this kind of interference?
HAYES: Do you have faith fundamentally in the judgment and integrity of Jeff Sessions to uphold the norms we`re discussing?
HOLDER: I worry a great deal.
HAYES: That`s not a yes.
HOLDER: It`s not a yes. And this is a very difficult thing for me to say. It`s a very, very difficult thing for me to say. I`m not a person who likes to criticize my predecessors, successors, because I know how tough the job can be, and yet the actions he has taken in response to criticisms that he`s received from the president, his desire it appears to me to curry favor with the president who views him disfavorably worries me a great deal. I`m not at all certain that he has got the steel that an attorney general has to have.
I mean, in my conference room, as Matt will note, you get to pick four attorneys general that you display. I had Elliott Richardson, left, two down, to remind me that at some point an attorney general has got to say no to a president. And maybe you`re going to lose your job as a result of that. And I don`t have faith in Jeff Sessions that he would look at Elliott Richardson in the same that way I did.
HAYES: I`m not sure I`ll get the most honest answer from you for this question, so I`ll ask you, is he running for president? Is Eric Holder running?
MILLER: I keep asking him, because I want to know if I have to quit my job and move to Iowa, so I don`t know...
HOLDER: If he will promise to be my press secretary, I might consider it.
HAYES: You are considering it.
HOLDER: Yeah, I`m thinking about did. But I`ve not made any determinations and focusing on the work I`m doing with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and trying to deal with gerrymandering.
HAYES: Which successfully got Scott Walker to call a special election he was trying to get out of.
HOLDER: Yeah, and we elected a Wisconsin supreme court justice there, campaigned there, and got into a bit of a Twitter war with Governor Walker.
HAYES: Dude, stay out of Twitter wars. First person, let me tell you. If there`s one piece of life advice I can offer you, Eric Holder, it`s -- there`s one thing I know about really deeply, is stay out of Twitter wars.
HOLDER: Native New Yorker, born in the Bronx. Can`t take too much...
HAYES: Born in the Bronx here, as well.
All right, former Attorney General Eric Holder, you are invited to come by this table any time you`re in New York City. I loved having you. And DOJ former chief spokesman Matt Miller, who recently had a child in your family. Congratulations on that. I haven`t had a chance to congratulate you.
MILLER: Thank you.
HAYES: Just over 16 months into the Trump presidency and every night brings a plethora of news about this White House and the Mueller investigation. If you miss any of it here on All In, you can now listen to our show wherever you get your podcasts. And while you`re there, you can subscribe to our brand-new podcast Why is This Happening?
That`s All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
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