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Trump pressured Sessions on Mueller probe. TRANSCRIPT: 05/31/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Ai-Jen Poo, Lee Gelernt, Tim Mak, Adam Schiff, Jake Sullivan, Barbara Boxer, Paul Butler, Dan Goldman

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 31, 2018 Guest: Ai-Jen Poo, Lee Gelernt, Tim Mak, Adam Schiff, Jake Sullivan, Barbara Boxer, Paul Butler, Dan Goldman



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

HAYES: As the President tries to rewrite history.

TRUMP: The Attorney General made a terrible mistake.

HAYES: Tonight new reporting on the President`s personal behind-the-scenes pressure campaign to get Jeff Sessions to take over the Russia probe and investigate Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: For what she`s done, they should lock her up.

HAYES: Then, how the President`s series of pardons lays the groundwork for pardoning his own campaign.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR, ILLINOIS: I`ve got this thing and it`s (BLEEP) golden.

HAYES: And the Presidents attorney caught on tape.

MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: So I`m warning you, tread very (BLEEP) lightly.

HAYES: I`ll talk to the reporter Michael Cohen threatened to destroy when ALL IN starts right now.

COHEN: What I`m going to do to you is going to be (BLEEP) disgusting. Do you understand me?


HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. A major scoop today that adds to the overwhelming evidence of potential obstruction of justice by the President of the United States. Tonight, Axios is breaking the news the President`s private campaign to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions was much larger and more intense than we first knew. Axios reports that on at least four separate occasions the President personally appealed to Sessions to reclaim control the Russia investigation. At one point reportedly telling Sessions he would be a hero if he un-recuse and if he investigated Hillary Clinton. Sessions who was a part of the Trump campaign recused himself from the investigation of the Trump campaign last March after revelations he had met with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign, something Sessions did not disclose somewhat infamously during his confirmation hearing. And that meant that number two at the Justice Department Rod Rosenstein took over the FBI`s Russia investigation and eventually oversight a Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The decision by Sessions to recuse himself reportedly enraged Trump.


TRUMP: Sessions should have never refused himself. And if he -- and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else. If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said thanks Jeff but I can`t -- you know I`m not going take you. It`s extremely unfair and that`s a mild word to the President.


HAYES: The Times reported this week that Trump pressured Sessions to un- recuse himself last March at Mar-a-Lago after giving him the silent treatment for two days. Trump reportedly berating Sessions and telling him he should reverse the decision over dinner. Now Axios reports the Trump made that request at least four separate times and told Sessions that he quote be a hero to conservatives if he did the "right thing" and took back control over the investigation.

Trump also reportedly told Sessions he`d be a hero if he investigated Hillary Clinton, a direct appeal to prosecute fundamentally a political enemy that`s both the threat to the independence of the Justice Department but also an echo of the type of behavior that we see all the time from corrupt and authoritarian regimes the world over. Joining me now to respond to Trump`s pressuring Sessions, the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California. Congressman, the President pressuring the Attorney General to retake control the Russian investigation behind the scenes, is that appropriate?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA, RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No of course not. And there`s so much to be distressed about what we learned today. Here you have the President who is effectively telling the Attorney General you should ignore what the Ethics Lawyers of the Justice Department are saying.

I want you to reinstate yourself in an investigation that implicates either me or my campaign because you`re my Attorney General, it`s my Justice Department, and what`s more, you can be a hero to conservatives if you`ll investigate my vanquished rival. When we meet with parliamentarians from emerging democracies, we always urge them you know, when you win an election you don`t seek to jail the losing side. And here, our own President of United States is trying to do exactly that.

HAYES: How big a deal is it fundamentally?

SCHIFF: Well it`s a big deal in this respect. It`s further evidence of a corrupt intent on the President`s part, further evidence that he may have violated the law by obstructing justice in the firing of Comey but in other efforts as well. And one of the other disturbing signs we saw just today is the President`s announcement that he`s going to pardon someone who had violated campaign finance laws by surreptitiously exceeding limits. It looks a lot like a message to Michael Cohen who may also be implicated in exceeding campaign limits with that Stormy Daniels payment.

And then you have the further announcement by the President that he may pardon Martha Stewart, another T.V. personality who was convicted of guess what, obstruction of justice and lying to authorities. So he`s nothing if not transparent. The problem is that the fact that this is out in the open, that these actions to obstruct justice don`t make it any less problematic for the country or for the rule of law.

HAYES: The President tweeted this today that not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia. The corrupt mainstream media loves to keep pushing that narrative but they know it`s not true. Of course, the president said he was thinking of Russia when he decided to fire James Comey in that infamous Lester Holt interview. Why do you think he`s saying that now?

SCHIFF: Well, I think he realized that he`s in some legal jeopardy that much of what Mueller is looking at involves the issue of destruction and that goes to his intent and he`s got a problem. He laid out his intent for millions of viewers on NBC in that same mainstream media that he is now bashing. He told the American people that he had Russia on his mind when he did it.

And of course, the pretext he`d now like us to believe that he fired Comey over Comey`s mishandling of the Clinton e-mail investigation doesn`t square at all with the fact that he had been praising Comey for exactly that previously. So it really makes no sense from a logical perspective he`s contradicting himself, but from a legal perspective he knows he`s in jeopardy and I guess he thinks that if he muddy the waters further, it will make it that much more difficult for Bob Mueller to establish intent.

HAYES: I want to get your reaction to something one of your colleagues said on the committee that you work on. This is Trey Gowdy and he had this to say about the President`s claims about conspiracy, a spy implanted in his campaign. Take a listen what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when the president says Spygate, that`s not a -- there was no spy inserted into the campaign. Have you seen any evidence of that?

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I have not. That`s an espionage term, that`s not a law-enforcement term.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You believe the FBI acted properly in this matter?

GOWDY: Based on what I have seen, I don`t know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia.


HAYES: Rudy Giuliani also saying that Trey Gowdy has drunk the Kool-Aid. He`s drinking the Kool-Aid when he decided to say that. Have you -- have you been feeding Trey Gowdy the Kool-Aid? What do you -- what do you think is fairly definitive pronouncement on this score?

SCHIFF: No I don`t think direct ray Gowdy is drinking the Kool-Aid but he`s also not running for your re-election. And we have seen among a great member -- great many members of the House and Senate who are not running for re-election that they feel more free to be truthful and straightforward about the false statements of the President, shortcomings of administration, potential corruption problems in administration, even so there are very few of the Republican members at all, even those leaving office that are willing to speak out and I`m glad he is here.

HAYES: Do you -- do you have in your mind a kind of threshold break glass moment? I mean, when you look at -- the President is clearly increasing pressure from the Justice Department. I don`t think there`s any question about that. We`re getting more and more reporting about that pressure. You know, what is the -- what`s the -- what toggles over into crisis in your mind? What`s the break glass moment?

SCHIFF: Well, the break last moment I think is if he affirmatively fires people at the Justice Department. That to me I think is you know, goes well across the line and really prompts a national crisis. And it`s a constitutional crisis because the Constitution gives us no clear direction about what should happen under those circumstances. But look, what we`re seeing I think in small steps, sometimes not so small steps is the slow undoing of our system of checks and balances.

That is not quite as visible as a Saturday night massacre, but it`s this abuse of the pardon power, it`s this browbeating of the Justice Department. Rudy Giuliani is now saying if we don`t get access to materials that should not be provided to the defense but we don`t get access that we`re not going to make the President available and essentially trying to browbeat the Justice Department into giving Congress materials that can be then surreptitiously shared with the President`s defense team. All of that ought to concern us in the aggregate as much as any particular firing.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for being with me.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: For more on the Russian investigation, the President`s ongoing campaign to upend it, former Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Host of the podcast Fight Back with Barbara Boxer and former State Department official Jake Sullivan who`s Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And Jake, let me start with you. Your reaction to hearing that in private the President has been doing what he has done publicly which is urging his own Attorney General to investigate Hillary Clinton?

JAKE SULLIVAN, DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Well, you alluded to this at the top of the program, Chris. This is a tin-pot dictator mentality. The President basically believes the Justice Department is his personal playground for him to direct the law enforcement apparatus of the United States to go after his political enemies and that is a deeply dangerous proposition. But it`s consistent with his broader worldview. He thinks that if the press criticizes him, he should yank their licenses.

He thinks the U.S. foreign policy is there to advance the business interests of himself and his family. So all of this adds up to a particularly deeply held view of Donald Trump about the Presidency of the United States being above the law and about him not being hemmed in by institutions of democracy and it really falls to the rest of us to push back hard against that because if he gets his way ultimately there`s going to be a lot of harm done to our country.

HAYES: Senator, you served in the United States Senate through a variety of presidential administrations. Have you ever seen anything like what`s the president already done public that`s been described tonight of him essentially you know, twisting the arm of his Attorney General?

BARBARA BOXER, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: No, I`ve never seen it. I started my career when Ronald Reagan was President. I left after Barack Obama finished his second term. Not one of them ever tried to use the Attorney General as a fixer. All you need to do is just go back and look at what the job of the Attorney General is. It was stated in 1789 and it`s been the same ever since. The Attorney General, that`s the people`s lawyer, not the president`s lawyer. And this is using -- this what he wants to have is a fixer a la Michael Cohen. He acts yes you could say a dictator, yes in a third world country or you could say a mob boss. I`ve never seen anything like it and it continues to play out day by day.

HAYES: There was this tweet to the Senators point, Jake, about the role of the Attorney General. Joe diGenova is a former U.S. Attorney and briefly considered to serve as the President`s lawyer. He`s on cable news a lot. He said the recusal Jeff Sessions was an unforced betrayal of the President of the United States, and the President tweeting back clearly as an endorsement, a betrayal of the President, the recusal in the guidelines of the DOJ Ethics Office, what do you make of that?

SULLIVAN: Well, really you just have to follow the logic train. I think the Senator laid it out very well. The logic train is that Jeff Sessions has let the President down because he didn`t maintain control of the Russia investigation and cut it off and closeout the Russia investigation. So basically what the President and diGenova and all of his allies are saying is Jeff session -- Jeff Sessions has made an error here because he didn`t take an ongoing criminal investigation that has already produced more than a dozen indictments and several convictions and shut it down. And that`s pretty scary stuff.

HAYES: Senator, the President today is saying well, I didn`t -- I never fired James Comey about Russia, it`s worth replaying what he said to Lester Holt. And I would note, the last interview he gave to -- the last television interview he gave to a sort of not explicitly friendly outlet, take a listen.


TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.


HAYES: What do you think he`s backtracking?

BOXER: Listen, he`s scared to death because he knows that he said in plain sight that he fired Comey because of Russia. He even told the Russians, remember they were in the Oval which was so shocking at the time.

HAYES: The next day. Yes.

BOXER: And he said, I had to take the pressure off myself. I mean he is caught just right there. But I do want to say that I served with Sessions for a long time. We never agreed on a thing, but Sessions knows what it is to obstruct justice and he`s not going to be a part of it. We know he met with the Russians during the campaign. That came out. It was a little hard to get the truth out but it came out. He`s smart enough to know that he needs to walk away and good for him. And now Trump is trying to insult him every which way to get him to quit. And I hope he hangs in there.

HAYES: You know, Jake, there`s this real question about the institution`s independence the Department of Justice. There`s news that just broke tonight that after the Inspector General the Department of Justice recommended review of the actions of Andrew McCabe, of course, the number two at the FBI who has been a huge -- has a target painted on by the President both in the campaign and subsequently that he was not candid with FBI investigators. That was referred to prosecutors to look into and prosecutors have now interviewed people looking into whether he should be actually criminally charged. I guess my question for you is given everything that`s gone on, do you feel like we can trust the integrity of anything that`s coming out of the Justice Department as pertains to these kinds of investigations?

SULLIVAN: Well, this is exactly the kind of trap that Trump is trying to catch the entire country in because he`s trying to so discredit the basic institutions of our democracy whether it be the FBI or the Department of Justice or the press for that matter. And he wants us to question whether any of this is real. So that if it ever lands at his door he can say this is all just political.

So I believe that at the end of the day that we currently have a Department of Justice at the moment and we`ll see how long this lasts that is capable of making credible, serious decisions about prosecution and that`s exactly what will happen in the McCabe case and it`s exactly what will happen with Bob Mueller`s continued investigation of the Russia matter. I just really hope that we don`t fall for Donald Trump`s trap, that we don`t start saying, you know what, he`s right actually. The DOJ and all this it`s just a bunch of political hogwash because if that happens then we are in real trouble.

HAYES: All right, Barbara Boxer and Jake Sullivan, that was really illuminating. Thank you both for being with me. Next, the President now floating a pardon for a man who is found guilty of some of the crimes that could be facing his closest inner-circle. The unmistakable signals Donald Trump is sending with his pardons in two minutes.


HAYES: The President of the United States has once again used the power of the pardon to send a message about who is accountable of the rule of law and who is above accountability signaling to his confederates currently in legal jeopardy and there are quite a few whether intentionally or not they`re all going to be taken care of. You see out of nowhere this morning, the President just tweeted that he had issued a pardon to Dinesh D`Souza. D`Souza right-wing demagogue whose Twitter feed makes Roseanne look tame, whose politics are so toxic he was banned from this year`s CPAC.

That after he ridiculed the children who had just survived the murder of their classmates in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He`s also fun fact, a convicted felon who pleaded guilty in 2014 to purposefully making illegal campaign donations, the same type of crime for which the President`s longtime henchman Michael Cohen is reportedly under investigation.

D`Souza has claimed to be the victim of persecution by politically motivated government of instigators, the deep state if you will. The judge in his case laughed that off telling D`Souza in court the claim of selective prosecution legally speaking is all hat no cattle. But the President shockingly found D`Souza`s argument persuasive telling reporters, "I`ve always felt he was very unfairly treated and a lot of people did -- a lot of people did. What should have been a quick minor fine like everybody else with the election stuff and what they did to him was horrible." It`s the same argument he made about his two of his previous high-profile pardons, both granted two political allies whose crimes echo those now being investigated by the special counsel.

There was Scooter Libby, the former Dick Cheney aide found guilty of lying to investigators and obstructing justice in the Valerie Plame affair. The President said in a statement, I didn`t -- I don`t know Mr. Libby but for years I have heard they`ve been treated -- he has been treated unfairly. And then there was, of course, Joe Arpaio, the notoriously anti-immigrant former Sheriff from Arizona convicted of willfully defying a federal court order in order to continually racially profiling Latinos in his jurisdiction.


TRUMP: Sheriff Joe is a patriot, Sheriff Joe loves our country, Sheriff Joe protected our borders, and Sheriff was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration especially right before an election, an election that he would have won.


HAYES: The President says he`s not done yet. After pardoning D`Souza this morning, he told reporters he`s thinking about doing the same for two other celebrity convicts. Lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart found guilty of obstructing justice again, familiar and lying to investigators, rings a bell, about a stock sale and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich -- this is the best one -- who is currently in prison after being convicted on 18 counts of corruption including trying to profit off of President Barack Obama`s vacant Senate seat in 2008 at an effort that was famously picked up on a wiretap.


BLAGOJEVICH: I`ve got this thing and it`s (BLEEP) golden and I`m just not giving it up for (BLEEP), nothing. I`m not going to do it and I can always use it to (BLEEP) parachute me there.


HAYES: I`ve got this thing and it`s effing golden. You can imagine Michael Cohen saying the exact same thing at the election as he said about trying to monetize his relationship to the new president. And according to the President, there`s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Saying of Blagojevich, you read his statement, it was a foolish statement. There was a lot of bravado but it does not -- plenty of other politicians said a lot worse. He shouldn`t have been put in jail. For more on the message these pardons send I`m joined by a former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler who worked in the Justice Department`s Public Corruption Unit and Dan Goldman former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York which prosecuted Dinesh D`Souza. He did not personally prosecute him but it was your office. First as someone who worked in that office watching this pardon today, your reaction.

DAN GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, it`s quite -- it`s hard to react to this. I mean, the guy pled guilty and admitted in court that he violated campaign finance laws. So this was not a situation where he was tried and he maintained his innocence and there was anything unfair in the verdict or in any way. He was charged with a crime and he admitted to that crime.

HAYES: He also didn`t do -- I mean, there`s -- sometimes people get commutations or pardons when there`s such incredible disproportionality between the thing that they`re convicted of and the sentence. You know, you hear these cases like the case of the woman Kim Kardashian was advocating for, warmest sentence, nonviolent drug offense. He didn`t do any prison time.

GOLDMAN: He didn`t do any prison time, he spent eight months of home confinement, five years of probation. He -- it was you know, it was on a the scale of public corruption prosecutions in the Southern District. It was a relatively minor which makes it all the more remarkable in some way that Donald Trump has never met the guy. He apparently called him last night and spoke to him for the first time and he didn`t go through the normal procedures. And so this is just aside from the message that you`re -- you know, we`ll talk about in a minute, I`m sure, this is also just another effort of Donald Trump to undermine the general practices policies and regulations of the Department of Justice. It is trying to cut the legs out of the Department of Justice.

HAYES: As a former of Public Corruption Prosecutor, you see what he`s doing here. You see what happened with Blagojevich, what is your takeaway from this?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So the Presidential Pardon Power is one of the few parts of the Constitution that comes from the English Divine Right of Kings and so it`s perfect for Donald Trump.

HAYES: It is, yes.

BUTLER: It`s consistent with the way that he uses presidential authority. There is a procedure in the Justice Department, five years after you served your time you express remorse, you make it clear that you`re not going to commit another crime, you accept responsibility and then very, very rarely they give you a pardon. In the first two years of the Trump -- the Bush administration, Obama administration, Clinton administration, nobody got pardoned and so this is expressive. This is a message to people like Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, hey, hold on guys hang tight. Santa might just has something in his gift bag for you.

HAYES: I mean, to that point, let me just say that Michael Flynn Jr. whose father has already like Dinesh D`Souza admitted to a federal crime (INAUDIBLE) to prosecutors, Michael Flynn Jr. saying the political hit job in Dinesh D`Souza was a disgrace. That`s what the Obama administration was good at, targeting those they disagree with and trying to silence them. Man, this sounds familiar. That raises a lot like message received from the son of one of the people who is cooperating with federal investigators/

GOLDMAN: There`s a view of this where Donald Trump is somewhat crazy like a fox which is he is sending these obvious messages, someone who committed campaign finance fraud, false statements you know --

HAYES: Obstruction of justice.

GOLDMAN: Obstruction of justice, public corruption, I mean, these are all things that are being investigated right now in connection to him and his associates. But it -- he also likely recognizes that if he were to actually go down that road there may be some serious problems because I think that it`s never been tested because the president has never been under investigation other than Nixon quite like this and Nixon didn`t pardon anyone as part of an investigation. But just like you cannot if fire James Comey for a corrupt purpose, you cannot use a presidential pardon for a corrupt purpose. It`s never been tested.

HAYES: I mean, you say that now sitting here my T.V. studio. I mean, I would like to think that`s the case.

GOLDMAN: Well, it`s never been tested. It`ll be interesting to see it but I don`t think Donald Trump wants it to be tested. And so there`s one view of this which is he is sending these messages to hold on, to hang tight. Michael Flynn hasn`t so that`s a bit of an issue but maybe it`s just a unfulfilled promise so he doesn`t actually have to carry out the deed but he`s leading them to pasture.

HAYES: Well, here`s on the other side this. This is a former White House official who says it`s not three-dimensional chess telling BuzzFeed, Trump is playing the sort of three-dimensional chess. People described decisions like this more of them than not. He`s just eating the pieces. That`s a good line by the way, nice quote.

BUTLER: But he`s also paying back. This is not only a signal, it`s about payback. So if you look at the people who are floated now, so Martha Stewart she was prosecuted by James Comey. Dinesh D`Souza was prosecuted by Preet Bharara who`s been very critical of the President and Blagojevich was prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald. Guess who Patrick Fitzgerald is representing right now, James Comey.

HAYES: Yes, and let me just also say this as possible. I think this is an absolute honest expression of the President`s view of law and law and order which is that the law is for little people, it`s other people and it`s not for him and it`s not for people like me. And Martha Stewart`s a person like me and Blagojevich, these are powerful people, these are famous people, these are not the thugs of MS-13, these are not the thugs of the Central Park jogger case, those are the people that deserve to be in prison. Those are the people who law should be used against. And people like me and the people that go to my parties and buy my condos and occupy my offices, the law means nothing to them. And he is -- he is using that philosophy to govern the country right now in front of all of us and using the pardon power and it`s going to get worse before it gets better. Paul Butler and Dan Goldman --

GOLDMAN: Don`t forget the Apprentice, Blagojevich was on the --

HAYES: That`s right, of course. Thanks for joining me. Coming up, audio recordings of the President`s lawyer threatening a journalist during the 2016 campaign, my interview with the reporter who took the verbal abuse that Michael Cohen taped ahead.


COHEN: So I`m warning you, tread very (BLEEP) lightly because what I`m going to do to you is going to be (BLEEP) disgusting.



HAYES: A backlash is growing tonight against the Trump administration`s inhumane policy of tearing immigrant families apart at the border taking away children as young as 1 year old from their parents with the separation sometimes lasting months with little or no contact.

Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California announced that she will introduce legislation to stop this practice. And across the country, people are organizing rallies and protests tonight and tomorrow.

One of the people organizing protests against this practice, Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Also with me Lee Gelernt, a deputy director of the national immigration rights project of the ACLU who was just recently in El Paso.

Ai-Jen, let me start with you. Tell me about what you are organizing for tomorrow?

AI-JEN POO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DOMESTIC WORKERS ALLIANCE: So, I think the Trump administration`s policy of separating parents and children is creating a real moral crisis and choice point for us in this country. The fact that in the span of 13 days 658 children were separated from their parents is absolutely outrageous.

And I think every parent can identify with this experience of having been in a grocery store and suddenly your child ducks behind an aisle and you can`t find them and that feeling of panic. Imagine what these parents are experiencing as they`re leaving their home countries, escaping violence to try to bring their children to safety, the trauma of having to venture into the unknown to find safety, then to arrive at our border and have your child torn from your arms, babies, toddlers, and not knowing when or if you will see your child ever again.

And that is what is happening, an average of 66 children being taken from their parents every day. And I think parents started to awaken to that this weekend and almost broke the internet with outrage.

And what you`re going to see tomorrow at our national day of action for children is that thousands of people, parents, mothers, fathers, people of conscience are going to take to the streets in cities all over the country. There are over 130 events being planned for the day of action tomorrow. And I think what you`re going to see is people of conscience all over this country demanding an end to this practice of separating children from their families and asserting that families belong together.

HAYES: Lee, you were on the program I believe on Friday night. There has been, as Ai-Jen was just saying, this huge crescendo of attention. You`ve got members of Congress of both parties saying this is outrageous. You have got Feinstein introducing legislation.

What -- you were just down in El Paso, how have things progressed?

LEE GELERNT, ACLU: Things are bad, you know, and I think that`s a resilient community down at the border, but things are bad. I was meeting with one of our plaintiffs. And she spent eight-and-a-half months and she still hasn`t gotten her kid back. And every day, that`s all that`s on her mind.

HAYES: I want you to tell me about this woman. She`s from Brazil. And she crossed the border. She was fleeing domestic violence. She was -- she was taken, and then tell me what happened with her.

GELERNT: Yeah, so she was prosecuted for illegal entry, a misdemeanor, even though she`s an asylum seeker. And so that shouldn`t be happening.

But let`s assume for the moment that they`re going to prosecute. They put her in jail for a few days. She comes out expecting to get her kid. No. A month goes by, two months. It`s now eight-and-a-half months. She hasn`t gotten her kid back.

HAYES: Where is her kid?

GELERNT: Her kid is in Chicago.

HAYES: And she`s in --

GELERNT: And she`s in Texas.

HAYES: So they took her kid away, sent a 14-year-old son, is that right -- sent her 14-year-old son, by himself, away from the mother to Chicago?

GELERNT: Right. And so secretary.

HAYES: And they haven`t returned him?

GELERNT: Exactly. And it`s closing in on nine months.

Secretary Nielsen keeps saying, well when they`re in jail, there`s no place for the kid. OK. But she`s been out of jail eight months now. Where is the kid?

HAYES: Is there -- Ai-Jen, is there leverage over politicians on this issue, do you think?

POO: Absolutely. I mean, I think we have a real chance at creating a moral crisis for this administration. The amount of outrage that`s out there and the latent power behind it, I think we`re going to see some of it tomorrow. And this is just the beginning. There are marches planned for June 14 already in 57 cities as well as the next step. People are calling their members of Congress. Republicans and Democrats alike are hearing from their constituents that this is absolutely outrageous. I think this is going to be an issue in the 2018 elections. And I think a lot of people who are in -- you know, if their seats are vulnerable are going to need to think twice about whether they want to be associated with a policy of separating babies from their parents.

HAYES: You know, it was striking to me that the reaction to this issue getting more attention was the president trying to blame it on Democrats. Mark Meadows -- like, people didn`t want to own the policy -- no one wants to own the policy. This is what`s very interesting to me.

GELERNT: Exactly. And you know I think the administration wasn`t prepared for this kind of backlash. When we filed the suit and let everyone know about the Congolese mom coming with her 6-year-old daughter fleeing, presenting herself at a border, still being separated, people went berserk. And I don`t think the administration was prepared.

And the interesting thing is when they stepped in court, they weren`t -- they backed off and said, oh, no, it`s not for deterrence. But yet they have been talking tough about that. We know they`re trying to deter by taking babies away. But now all of a sudden, I don`t think they were prepared as, you know, it`s not just the left/right thing. This is one that goes beyond the normal divide on immigration as you`ve pointed out.

HAYES: Yeah, and Ai-jJn, if people are interested in -- I`ve gotten a lot of feedback, like you have gotten feedback, on a few words of this show, people that have been reaching out to me who are just -- I`ve gotten emails from parents who are just in distress over conceiving of this, and people are interested in going out and sort of exercising their civic duty, where can they go?

POO: The website has a list of all of the events that are happening tomorrow that you can attend.

HAYES: All right, Ai-Jen Poo and Lee Gelernt, thank you both for your work on this.

And you have got a case before a federal judge.


HAYES: And you`re asking the government to stop that, and that may happen at any --

GELERNT: -- any day potentially. I mean, hopefully, the judge will rule in our favor, but the decision will come down any day we expect.

HAYES: All right, we`re going to keep look at that. Well, you and I just also had a conversation for our podcast, "Why is This Happening," which is going to be out on Tuesday for a further in-depth look at this issue, the trajectory of enforcement in immigration in this country, particularly in the Trump administration.

All right, up next, a ringing endorsement in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two. And later, Michael Cohen in his own words. Hear the tape of Trump`s attorney threatening a reporter in the campaign. I`ll talk to the reporter on the other end of this phone call ahead.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL LAWYER: Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we`re in the courthouse, and a couple of (inaudible) penny you still don`t have. And I will come after you, Daily Beast, and everybody else that can possibly know.



HAYES: Thing One tonight, New York`s 11th Congressional District is in the midst of a tough primary fight on the Republican side. Former Congressman Michael Grimm, who you may remember is the Congressman who threatened to break a reporter in half and throw him off a balcony like a little boy, is trying to win back his old seat from Dan Donovan.

Donovan succeeded Grimm after he was convicted of felony tax fraud and resigned in 2015. But now, Grimm has served out his prison sentence and wants back in the game.

And both men have positioned themselves as Trump allies in a district, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, that went for Trump by 10 points.

Yesterday, the president backed a candidate. "There is no one better to represent the people of NY and Staten Island, a place I know very well, than Dan Donovan who is strong on borders and crime, loves our capital, and military, and our capital E Vets. Voted for tax cuts and is helping to make America great again. Dan has my full endorsement."

There`s just one little problem with that part about Donovan`s vote for tax cuts. And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: President Trump gave New York Congressman Dan Donovan a ringing endorsement yesterday, pointing to Donovan`s vote for tax cuts as one of the reasons New Yorkers should choose Donovan in that primary.

Well, it turns out the Congressman actually voted against the president`s signature tax cut bill, not once, not twice, but three times. And it`s the sort of thing you`d probably remember if you were paying attention, like we were here, because he didn`t just vote against Trump`s tax bill, he went on TV all the time, all day long, to rail against Trump`s tax bill. Perhaps, the president missed his shows that week.


REP. DAN DONOVAN, (R) NEW YORK: This is a tax cut for the rest of America on the backs of four states -- New York, California, New Jersey and Maryland.

This is unfair to New Yorkers. The one thing we have to do is make sure that all Americans receive a tax cut. I represent 725,000, 740,000 New Yorkers who deserve the same break that the rest of America is going to get, and not pay for the tax cut that the rest of the nation is going to see.

The people that I represent and the people of our city will be paying more money in their taxes at the end of the day.



HAYES: Michael Cohen is President Trump`s personal attorney and his fixer. And now we have a firsthand look at one of his tactics. Soon after Trump began running for president, a reporter for The Daily Beast called the Trump Campaign for comment about an allegation by Trump`s first wife, Ivana. During divorce proceedings, she had claimed that Trump had raped her. She had later clarified she didn`t mean rape in the criminal sense. And Trump had said the claim was false.

And the reporter didn`t get a call back from the campaign. Instead, he got a call from Trump`s fixer, Michael Cohen.


COHEN: You`re talking about Donald Trump. You`re talking about the front- runner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition you can`t rape your spouse. Now.

TIM MAK, NPR: That`s not true. Sorry.

COHEN: Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don`t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know. Do not think about going to where I know you`re planning on going. That`s my warning for the day. You will write whatever you want, but rest assured, like I told Univision, and like I told everybody else in (inaudible) you can certainly look it up online. I swear by god and my children, I will find you. I will sue you personally. And I will be nothing but happy when I turn around and I get judgment for defamation against you and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) people you work for.

So I`m warning you, tread very (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lightly, because what I`m going to do to you is going to be (EXPLETIVE DELETED) disgusting. Do you understand me? Don`t think you`re going to hide behind your pen, because it`s not going to happen.

MAK: Look --

COHEN: I`m more than happy to discuss it with your attorney and with your legal counsel because (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you`re going to need it. If you write a story that has Mr. Trump`s name in it with the word rape and I`m going to mess your life up for the rest of -- the more (inaudible) on this frigging planet, I`m going to turn around, and you`re going to have judgments against you for so much money you`ll never know how to get out from underneath it.

I think you should do the story. And I think you should go ahead and you should write the story that you plan on writing. I think you should do it, because I think you`re an idiot. All right. And I think your paper is a joke. And it`s going to be my absolute pleasure to serve you with a $500 million lawsuit like I told -- I did to Univision.


HAYES: Good news and a little bit of a spoiler alert, the reporter on the other end of that phone call is alive and well and joins me next.



COHEN: Do not even think about going to where I know you`re planning on going, and that`s my warning for the day.

MAK: Michael, besides the warning, do you have a substantive comment that I can include in my piece that reflects your views on this?

COHEN: I have no views because there`s no story.


I mean -- I mean, you have expressed your views over the last 10 minutes or so.

COHEN: You write whatever you want.

MAK: I don`t think this is a particularly productive way to discuss this matter, OK? I`m just saying, I would like -- if there`s some way in which you would like to discuss this involving -- if you think that I`m misinterpreting what`s happening, if you think that I`m misinterpreting some of the facts here.

COHEN: You know who you are. Listen, my friend, don`t be a smart-ass with me. Do you understand?

MAK: I`m not being a smart-ass. I`m giving you an opportunity --

COHEN: I know you -- I don`t need your opportunity, you little (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I know exactly who you are, and I know exactly what you do, and I know exactly the story you plan on writing.


HAYES: That was Trump`s attorney Michael Cohen repeatedly threatening reporter Tim Mak back in 2015 trying to persuade him, I guess if that`s the word you use, not to run his story in The Daily Beast, titled "Ex-Wife Donald Trump Made Me Feel Violated During Sex."

Reporter Tim Mak, currently with NPR, formerly of The Daily Beast, joins me now.

Well, you kept your cool admirably, let me just say that. That story that you wrote about that encounter is the first I ever heard of Michael Cohen actually back in 2015. And partly because he said there`s no such thing as spousal rape, which is of course untrue.

What was going through your head during that phone call?

MAK: Well, I was just surprised that a lawyer would conduct himself in this manner. You know, if you go to and you listen to the entire exchange -- we`ve got seven minutes online -- you can kind of get a sense that I`m trying to, as a Daily Beast reporter, trying to get a substantive comment out of him. Putting aside whether or not he wants to bring a lawsuit forward, what I was trying to do was reach out to the Trump campaign and the Trump organization for comment for a story I was working on.

HAYES: I`ve got to say, he keeps saying he`s going to sue you, like putatively in the words he`s saying the threat is legal, but the tone is not the tone of someone threatening legal action -- like what I`m going to do to you is going to be F-ing disgusting. Like the F-ing disgusting doesn`t really read as file a lawsuit.

MAK: Well, I think what it illustrates is kind of the way that Michael Cohen has conductedhimself, not just in this instance, but also in many other instances revolving around perceived problems for Mr. Trump during the campaign and up to the end of the campaign, up to what we now see is an allegation by Stormy Daniels`s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, telling NPR that, hey, Michael Cohen, when he approached Stormy Daniels to sign this NDA they now acknowledge, he actually threatened Stormy Daniels to try to get it done in October of 2016.

HAYES: He`s saying that Cohen threatened Stormy Daniels as part of persuading her to sign the NDA?

MAK: Yeah. That`s what Michael Cohen -- or sorry, that`s what Michael Avenatti told NPR as part of our reporting on the broader pattern of threats that were issued by Michael Cohen over the last few years.

HAYES: What does that pattern look like?

MAK: That pattern looks like what you heard just on that audio tape just a few minutes ago. It looks like threatening everyone from Megyn Kelly, who if you`ll recall during the campaign after a very tough Republican debate Michael Cohen retweeted a tweet that said "we can gut her," referring to Megyn Kelly. He would go after people like that.

But also smaller targets, people like Tom Wattic (ph), a person that we spoke to. He was a student at Harvard who pulled a prank on Mr. Trump during the campaign, and he got a phone call from Mr. Cohen saying essentially that, hey, I`m going to try to get you expelled. I`m going to sue you as well.

So there was no target too big or too small for Mr. Cohen. And what we really get a sense of, right, is it was Michael Cohen`s job more as a lawyer for Donald Trump or more as a fixer, someone who was willing to do almost anything in terms of legal threats to solve problems for Mr. Trump.

HAYES: There`s also a little bit of new news. My understanding of the timing of when he sort of threatened Stormy Daniels, or when he sort of reached out to her, or when that NDA got signed.

MAK: Well, in the story what we report is that Michael Avenatti is making this allegation that Michael Cohen used threats, not physical threats, but coerced in some way, Stormy Daniels to sign this NDA. But we weren`t able to get more details out of Michael Avenatti,who declined to kind of comment any further.

HAYES: One wonders if there`s any tapes or phone calls he`s had with other people, similarly. Obviously, as a journalist you record it. But any other tapes out there would be kind of interesting.

MAK: Well, Michael Avenatti has suggested that there are tapes, and has called for any tapes that might exist to be released.

HAYES: All right, Tim Mak, thanks for joining us.

I mentioned I recorded a truly illuminating conversation with my earlier guest for the next episode of our podcast "Why is This Happening?" Lee is the one to talk to about what is happening with immigration in our country, so you do not want to miss that. That episode comes out on Tuesday. Make sure you`re subscribed now. Check out the other episodes that are up right now while you are there.

That is ALL IN for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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