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Trump criticizes allies and praises Kim Jung Un. TRANSCRIPT: 06/12/2018. All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Ben Wittes, Michelle Goldberg, Pramila Jayapal, Lee Zeldin, Ed Markey, Peter Stone

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: June 12, 2018 Guest: Ben Wittes, Michelle Goldberg, Pramila Jayapal, Lee Zeldin, Ed Markey, Peter Stone



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have great beaches. You see that whenever they`re exploding their cannons into the ocean.

HAYES: The President sells America on a deal with Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: Think of it from a real estate perspective.

HAYES: Tonight, new confusion about what the President agreed to.

TRUMP: We will be stopping the war games.

HAYES: And the high stakes of Donald Trump sales job.

TRUMP: I`ve just raised the stakes.

HAYES: Then, new reporting that Michael Cohen is preparing for an arrest. New details on the Russian full-court press on the NRA. And as the Trump policy of family separation continues.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D), WASHINGTON: It is so morally wrong what we are doing to these people.

HAYES: A Congresswoman who toured a facility for women separated from their children joins me live.

JAYAPAL: Literally these women have no idea in the vast majority of the cases where their children are.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. Cautiously optimistic has been the main response from political observers to the President`s nuclear summit with North Korea but just ask Trump University students and contractors, the Trump org how far cautious optimism got them. They know better than anyone how much a handshake deal and a one-page agreement with Donald Trump is really worth. Less than 24 hours since the summit concluded we`re already getting conflicting stories about a major concession announced by the President the U.S. will seize joint military exercises with South Korea.


TRUMP: We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we`ll be saving a tremendous amount of money plus I think it`s very provocative.


HAYES: South Korea was said to be blindsided by the announcement while the Chinese somehow managed to announce the suspension of war games before the President. He said it at his press conference according to BBC. Republican Senator Cory Gardner then said that Vice President Mike Pence contradicted the announcement in a meeting today with Republican Senators tweeting the "V.P. was very clear, regular readiness training and training exchanges will continue but after the Vice President`s office disputed that account, Carter clarified that he was only referring to one specific kind of military exercise."while readiness training and exchanges will occur, war games will not." OK, fine. But look all this confusion is the completely predictable result of two volatile leaders meeting one-on-one behind closed doors without anyone taking notes or verifying the commitments they made to each other. And it shows why any efforts to understand what exactly happened in Singapore are in some sense is beside the point because there is simply no answer to that question, certainly not right now. As long as we`re being asked to take Donald Trump`s word on what was agreed to or what will happen in the future, any commitments are utterly meaningless and the President himself just said as much.


TRUMP: I think he`s -- I think honestly, I think he`s going to do these things. I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, hey I was wrong. I don`t know that I`ll ever admit that but I`ll find us -- I`ll find some kind of an excuse.


HAYES: Right, I`ll find some kind of excuse. And that little remark gives away the whole game. The President admitting that six months from now it may well be that none of this had ever happened before and he`ll be perfectly willing to lie about how it fell apart. We know that`s the President`s M.O., it`s how he left investors with a bill for Atlantic City bankruptcies, how he stiffed contractors on his real estate projects and how he conned thousands of people into paying for seminars at Trump University. It`s essentially the same way you just treated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who gritted his teeth through last weekend`s G7 to secure the President`s signature on a statement by America`s closest allies only to see those efforts blown up in a fit of presidential pique over nothing at all once Air Force One took off. For more on what to make of the North Korea summit, I`m joined by -- from Singapore by MSNBC Political Analyst Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for the Washington Post. Philip, one thing that`s striking to me here is the way the President`s body language was and the way he talked about Kim Jong-un who runs you know, the sort of most isolated and I think arguably odious regime in the planet versus the way that he talked about say Justin Trudeau our closest trading partner and the level of enjoyment he got of the two engagements. It was pretty clear what he was happier doing.

PHILIP RUCKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, remarkable, Chris. He talked about Kim Jong-un as a talented man, as someone whose people have a great fervor for him. This is a dictator. He`s somebody who`s one of the greatest human rights abusers in the world. He`s a totalitarian. He`s a collector of nuclear weapons, a very different kind of leader than Justin Trudeau the Prime Minister of our friendly neighbor to the north Canada. But Trump was really bothered by Trudeau after that G7 meeting a few days ago, called him weak, called him dishonest, but clearly was dazzled by Kim, feels a connection with him, said he trusts Kim Jong-un and is very comfortable going forward to try to come up with some sort of substantive deal in the months ahead to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

HAYES: Is there any sense of what the actual forward motion looks like?

RUCKER: Well, it`s going to be more meetings. Trump indicated that Kim Jong-un would be invited to the White House at the appropriate time for a visit to Washington. I think they intend to meet there in the future. They may meet other places as well. Clearly, there`s a beginning here a normalization of relations between the U.S. and North Korea and that the centerpiece of that is Trump`s relationship with Kim Jong-un. And Trump and Kim both indicated they wanted to continue that and that they would continue the discussions. But what you said at the top of the show is exactly right. There`s not a lot of substance written down in the word in this agreement that indicates how exactly North Korea would denuclearize, would abandon these nuclear weapons and how they would be verified, how the U.S. could trust that they`re actually doing what they say they`re going to do.

HAYES: Do you think given the way the President talked about Kim and the way he`s actually talked about him on the campaign trail, you know you got to hand it to the guy, a young guy. He kills the uncle, he kills this guy. He`s killing everybody. He`s a tough guy. There`s a certain admiration that the President has for Kim where at least his ability to manage the country in the way he does.

RUCKER: I think that`s right and we -- it`s the same kind of admiration that Trump has shown for other strongmen leaders. People like Vladimir Putin of Russia, he`s admired his strength the sort of the rule in which he commands, his authority in his country. He`s had similar things to say about Erdogan in Turkey, about Duterte in the Philippines. He clearly admires men who have leadership strength, who command their militaries, and who are able to rule, to govern with real authority in their countries because of the police state that they have and because of the sort of unchecked political opposition they have but that`s a very different kind of environment than the democracy in the United States or frankly in most of our traditional allies around the world. Where any of you able to get Josh Bolton in front of a few drinks or some truth serum and asked him what the heck he made of all this? John Bolton?

RUCKER: I would love to hear -- I would love to hear that. John Bolton was here. He actually attended a number of the bilateral meetings yesterday. He was at the lunch with Kim Jong-un and at that long press conference that President Trump had were I was there too. John Bolton was off to the side sort of observing but this was clearly the Mike Pompeo show. The Secretary of State was very much front and center. He had a front-row seat during that press conference. He was the one who briefed reporters in advance of the summit, not John Bolton, so this was very much a moment where Pompeo was out front leading the policy, really the face of this Korea of approach unlike John Bolton the National Security Advisor.

HAYES: All right, the Washington Post`s Philip Rucker, thanks for joining me.

RUCKER: Thank you.

HAYES: I`m joined now by a staunch supporter of President Trump and his diplomatic effort with North Korea, Congressman Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York, a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And my sense Congressman is you`re encouraged by what you saw in Singapore?

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Well, sure. You see a document being signed after the meeting. There`s obviously a more work that needs to get done. It`s good to see pen to paper where Kim Jong-un is signing on to complete denuclearization. We still need to get more information with regards to verification to ensure that that gets done. We don`t want to see -- I don`t want to see a sunset provision where you know, eight or ten years down the road, all of a sudden we`re facing the same dynamic, the dilemma that we face with regards the Iran Nuclear Deal. North Korea may make additional requests for concessions on our part. Obviously, we have a sanctions regime that`s in place. Part of the debate with regards the Iran Nuclear Deal was whether or not sanctions relief was going to be immediate no suspension or it was going to be phased in over time based on compliance. So there`s obviously a lot of conversations still to be had. It`s going to take a while to denuclearize North Korea but I am encouraged by the fact that pen went to paper with a commitment for complete denuclearization.

HAYES: Do you think that the fact they signed something is going to make Kim Jong-un think twice? Like if he encounter something he wants to go back on, he`s going to be like well, I did sign that piece of paper.

ZELDIN: Well, I think what brought Kim Jong-un to the table is not a you know, desire to be able to sign the document. I think that Kim Jong-un has a -- and the North Koreans have a desire to get the sanctions relief, to be able to normalize relations within their region around the world, to be able to improve the fiscal situation of their country and to become prosperous. I think that`s what brought that into the table and that`s why Kim Jong-un signed.

HAYES: So what do you -- there`s a certain kind of critique that goes look, if you want to help the oppressed people of Korea and I think we agreed that North Koreans are oppressed, like, you don`t to go kiss the reign of Kim Jong-un. What do you say to people who kind of blanched at watching this?

ZELDIN: Well, as a -- as a challenge when you`re trying to get a nation to agree to denuclearizing and you want to pursue a long-elusive peace on the Korean Peninsula and potentially bring North and South together, this is something that obviously has been going on a lot longer than Kim Jong-un has even been alive and President Trump has experienced nearly his entire life. This has been going on for a long time, this forgotten war and we have a lot of Korean vets here. Go ahead.

HAYES: No, just -- the point is I mean, there is a form of critique and we`ve seen it right, a little bit I think around this, but we`ve seen in the past that basically, you are legitimating this guy. You were legitimating someone who does all these terrible things. You`re standing there shoulder to shoulder with him and that`s bad. What do you say to that idea?

ZELDIN: Yes. The -- well this is part of the challenge. I mean, are you going to be able to get the deal if you are not getting along with them, if you are insisting on not having any North Korean flags, if you -- when you have a press op, when they go into the room and you know, you want to stand instead of seated because one leader of one country is so much taller than the other. I would imagine that the staging and the conversations of, you know, who`s arriving first and all of that probably had its own negotiation in and of itself. Now, I wasn`t in the room, you weren`t in the room but there was some indication given by President Trump that they did reach the topic of human rights. However, the purpose of being there at this meeting wasn`t to confront that head-on but obviously what loon large was Otto Warmbier and the fact that there is a long human rights list of violations on the part of the North Koreans. So you know, that that`s true. I just don`t know if it`s the best-negotiating tactic to confront that head-on before getting through some of this other stuff.

HAYES: I mean, I am inclined to agree. Actually, I just want to -- this is something that you had said about when you`re critiquing President Obama meeting with Raul Castro which is a somewhat similar situation, no nuclear weapon there. I want to just play what you had to say as the critique which represented a lot of Republican Party critique of that diplomatic effort. Take a listen.


ZELDIN: The Castro regime is made up of bad, intolerant, dangerous people. If President Obama wants to help oppressed Cuban people, he doesn`t have to kiss the ring of Raul Castro in the process. When the President was sitting there with Raul Castro, I`m thinking to myself, you are not equals with this man.


HAYES: Do you understand what people feel like there`s maybe some bad faith or double standard here?

ZELDIN: The -- this negotiation with Cuba, you have Cuban people who have long been oppressed, there are other issues --

HAYES: So are the North Koreans.

ZELDIN: Yes, except here -- I mean, with regards to Cuba, we were making dozens of concessions and not getting the reciprocation. So that was a big issue and --

HAYES: If you were criticizing them sitting there as equals, though, Congressman, like that`s the whole point.

ZELDIN: Because we were sitting down with the Cubans and we were making dozens of concessions --

HAYES: You just said that again.

ZELDIN: Yes, but President Trump wasn`t sitting down with Kim Jong-un and making dozens of concessions and not asking for anything in return. Additionally, let`s just say President Trump did sit down to make dozens of concessions with Kim Jong-un, my problem with that situation is that Kim Jong-un similarly to the Castro family, they won`t deliver that sanctions relief to their oppressed people. The way the system is in place in North Korea similar is the way the situation is in Cuba. It stays at the top and it doesn`t help the people so my problem --

HAYES: Eventually that`s got to be -- eventually that`s got to be the roadmap, right? I mean, the point of and all this is there going to be some quid pro quos if this is going to work out.

ZELDIN: Yes, I just -- you know, the Cuba example and there are other nations where you know, we have had negotiations in years past. I have a problem with sitting down at the table with a foreign dictator and just unilaterally making all sorts of concessions it was not getting the results that we`re looking for.

HAYES: Well, it was -- that was the context of a negotiation. Let me ask you this though. I mean, I tend to think that talking`s better than war and I think it`s good that they talk, that that`s my own personal editorial position on this. But you would agree, it`s a crazy thing to say that Kim Jong-un loves his people which is what the President said today.

ZELDIN: Yes, there`s a -- there`s a relationship that goes on during Kim Jong-un and his people that is certainly unique. I would say this, what`s interesting --

HAYES: Wait a second. Congressman, that is a --

ZELDIN: No, no, let me get the point out. Let me get the point out.


ZELDIN: So Kim Jong-un oppresses his people. They`re living in poverty, the imprisonment --


ZELDIN: But my point that I was trying to make, what`s very interesting in a North Korean example -- so we operate in this country under the dime principle with our foreign policy diplomacy information, military economics. In Iran, you have millions of Iranians who right now want a free stable democratic Iran, they would love to overthrow the party that`s in power. In North Korea what`s interesting is that the North Korean people believe that the troubles that they face are not in spite of Kim Jong-un`s best efforts to pursue a better path.

HAYES: Because it`s a totalitarian state that doesn`t have civil society whereas Iran does.

ZELDIN: And state -- and state media and you know, that they have not been westernized in the way millions of Iranians.

HAYES: Congressman, honestly, you don`t think that it is fair to say that Kim Jong-un loves his people. It`s the largest prison camp in the world.

ZELDIN: I never said that.

HAYES: But you think -- wouldn`t you agree that`s a crazy thing to say that Kim Jong-un loves his people?

ZELDIN: Yes, I believe that it would be better for him to do what he can in his power and there`s a lot more that he can do to improve the lives of his people for sure. Now --

HAYES: That I think we agree.

ZELDIN: Yes, and I would one other thing that we don`t know all the details on this. That while we`ve known of all the fiscal issues that are -- that are happening within their nation, right it seems like that those fiscal challenges have worked its way further up the government and something that may actually be driving Kim Jong-un to the table is that last August there`s a U.N. Security Council Resolution effectively cut off over one-third North Korean exports. It`s possible that Kim Jong-un knows now that he needs to pursue a different path for his country because when you look five, ten, 20 years down the road, the math just doesn`t add up. Their nation won`t survive.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Lee Zeldin, thank you very much for being with me tonight.

ZELDIN: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: And now a critic of the President`s approach to nuclear diplomacy, Senator -- Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Member the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. What do you make of all this?

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, we welcome engagement with North Korea but this is one of the weakest agreements that we have ever seen. What happened here was another Kim family playbook where they pocket the rewards, pocket the benefits to North Korea while simultaneously delaying on the concessions which are made to the United States and to the rest of the world. Here they have received from President Trump an agreement that there will be a curtailment of military exercises between the South Koreans and the United States. China is already saying that this is now the signal to reduce economic sanctions on the North Koreans and we know that actually trade has been increasing with North Korea and China in the last couple of months. So from the Kim perspective going back through his father and his grandfather, this just fits in perfectly with what has been happening in their negotiations over the past. There is nothing tangible in this agreement that we can point to which will lead towards denuclearization, leads towards a verifiable inspection of nuclear and ballistic missile sites inside of that country. I want to get your reaction to what the President had to about Kim. Let me play a little bit about him talking about Kim Jong-un, his character, his leadership style. Take a listen.


TRUMP: This is going to lead to more and more and more and it`s an honor to be with you, very great honor.

He`s a very talented man. I also learn that he loves his country very much.

Really he`s got a great personality. He`s a, you know, funny guy. He`s a very smart guy. He`s a great negotiator. He loves his people not that I`m surprised by that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he`s starved them, he`s been brutal to them, he still loves his people?

TRUMP: Look, he`s doing what he`s seeing done. And then if you look at it -- but I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago because that`s really when this whole thing started.

He`s very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough, I don`t say it was nice or I don`t say anything about it, he ran it. Very few people at that age, you can take one out of 10,000 probably couldn`t do it.


HAYES: What do you make of that?

MARKEY: Well, you know, except for the fact that he`s assassinated his relatives, that he`s in prison tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people in his own country, that he`s been shooting ballistic missiles over Japan, detonating thermonuclear weapons, you know, he seems like a nice guy. And so what we`re dealing with here is a President who at the G7 is insulting our closest allies while herein Korea he`s treating Kim as though he`s his buddy. But the truth is, Kim using the whole playbook that his father and grandfather used right now is smiling like a Cheshire Cat back in Pyongyang because so far there have been no concessions that had been given to Donald Trump or to the United States in this negotiation.

HAYES: There`s an argument to be made that the G7 -- of the two things that happened, the G7 and this were the G7 in some ways was more significant just for what it means for the sort of enduring long-term American alliances than the sort of photo-op in Singapore. What do you think of that argument?

MARKEY: Well, at the G7, Donald Trump decided to insult Trudeau. Now the United States runs a trade surplus with Canada. Canada buys more of our goods and services than we buy from Canada. So instead of thanking the Canadians, working in a cooperative fashion with the Canadians, he insults Trudeau instead of using the G7 as a way to isolate China which is engaging in predatory international trading policy. And so the contrast between this insulting of our friends who are with us on every issue around the world and the cozying up to Kim while receiving no real concessions is a very troubling picture of a president who clearly is unprepared for the negotiations with our friends or with our foes and it does not pretend well for the future of his negotiations on any of these issues globally.

HAYES: Senator Ed Markey, thank you for your time tonight.

MARKEY: You`re welcome.

HAYES: Next, the President`s largest financial backer in the 2016 election the NRA reportedly met with a web of elite Russians during the campaign. The reporter who broke that story joins me in two minutes.


HAYES: Among the many threads to the story of Russian interference in the 2016 election is the Russian connection to the National Rifle Association. The FBI is already reportedly investigating ties between the President`s son and the Kremlin-linked Russian banker and NRA Member Alexander Torshin. The two of them met at an NRA meeting. Now a news story out from McClatchy suggests that Russians were kind of cultivated a much deeper relationship with the NRA than previously reported. According to McClatchy several prominent Russians some in President Vladimir Putin`s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church now have been identified as having contact with the NRA officials during the 2016 US election campaign. With me now co-author that McClatchy piece Peter Stone. Peter, we sort of knew about Torshin. There`s been a lot of coverage of Torshin. You guys found a whole bunch of new stuff. What`s new in your reporting that you found?

PETER STONE, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well we`ve identified a couple of new people, one of whom Dmitry Rogozin, used to run for several years ran their deputy defense minister with a lot of ties to the countries and oversight of the country`s arms companies. Rogozin had been a former minister to -- ambassador to NATO and has a reputation as kind of a far- right ultranationalist in Russia on the extreme side. The other person we identified who had not been at all written about is Sergei Rudov who runs a very conservative charity called St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation which is tied into one of the country`s leading billionaires a man named Konstantin Malofeev who founded it back in around 2008. Malofeev has a little Empire of again far-right institutions that he`s built in Russia. One is a think tank called Katehon and another is a media company called Tsargrad. And Malofeev has released or the man behind the foundation. Rudov is you know, has been running it for him and it`s been seen as a vehicle for again the far right in Russia.

HAYES: So you`ve got-- you`ve got sort of far-right Russian figures and you got this picture of a meeting back in 2016 with NRA execs and Sheriff David Clarke who is the Milwaukee County Sheriff. And there you have Rudov and Dmitry Rogozin and then Peter Brownell out was out-going NRA President. What is the extensible reason -- I mean the NRA is a domestic political entity that protects the Second Amendment. What possible interest did the Russians have in that?

STONE: It seemed to me -- you know we`ve talked to you know, people who were dealing with Torshin over the years, one is a far -- is a conservative activist named Paul Erickson. He was not on this trip but he was on an earlier one in 2013. And Erickson told me over a year ago that it was a moral support mission, he called it both ways. They bill it as an effort to promote a like-minded group in Russia. I think the Russians, the group that Torshins set up there which was the host of the 2015 meeting, the group called the Right to Bear Arms which he founded a few years before. Right to Bear Arms was seen as a vehicle to spur some private gun ownership in Russia but it also was obviously used as a wedge to build ties to the NRA. And it appears to been an effort to cozy up to the NRA for various reasons that some of which are under investigation now obviously.

HAYES: That we do reporting that says there`s investigation. You note this that the NRA was Trump`s biggest financial backer, spent more than $30 million dollars to boost his upstart candidacy, more than double what it laid out for Mitt Romney. And the NRA money started flowing much earlier in the cycle for Trump. We don`t have a definitive accounting of where all their donations come from, correct?

STONE: No we don`t. I mean they have -- a lot of the money is so-called dark money. It doesn`t have to be identified. It goes to a C4 organization, a non-profit and you know, a large part of that $30 million does not have to be disclosed publicly. So we don`t really know. We`re relying on the NRA`s word as they`re scrutinizing their books to verify or try to verify that there were no Russian donations that came in which would be illegal. If Russian donations came in and were used in the campaign, foreign monies are not allowed to be used to campaign. That would be illegal. Russians can contribute to the NRA and they`ve acknowledged that some Russians did contribute very, very small amount, only a couple thousand in the last cycle. Torshin apparently -- Torshin gave about a thousand of that but they`re claiming that none of these monies went to campaign purposes.

HAYES: All right Peter Stone, thanks for your reporting and thanks for joining us.

STONE: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: After the break, new reporting the President`s personal lawyer is worried about being arrested in the coming days. That story and the latest in the Mueller probe next.


HAYES: If President Trump`s legal peril were to reach a tipping point soon, it might happen this way: from Vanity Fair`s Gabe Sherman, quote, "according to a source close to Michael Cohen, Cohen has told friends he expected to be arrested any day now."

Reached for a comment, Cohen wrote in a text message your alleged source is wrong.

Trump should be super worried about Michael Cohen, a former White House official said. If anyone can blow up Trump it`s him.

But regardless of that precise timing, a broad spectrum war over the Mueller probe is evident and intensifying as everyone anticipates what comes next.

From Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein telling House Republicans according to a Fox News report he would vigorously defend himself against their threat to hold him in contempt to Kellyanne Conway`s husband, George Conway, calling out the specious legal claims of his wife`s boss, the president.

To help decipher all the latest, let`s bring in MSNBC legal analyst Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief at Law Affair; and Michelle Goldberg, a columnist for The New York Times.

Ben, let me start with you. So, everyone note George Conway is married to Kellyanne Conway. He`s an elite lawyer. He was talked about as possible solicitor general. And everyone has noticed that he started tweeting lots of really critical things of the person that his wife works for. Then he writes this piece for you guys.

First, what`s the argument in the piece itself?

BEN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF LAW AFFAIR: So the piece responds to an article by Steven Calabrese (ph) from Northwestern Law School who had argued that the Mueller investigation was unconstitutional because of a series of technical matters related to the way he was appointed. And George wrote a lengthy and very detailed and very authoritative rebut to this point arguing that there is nothing constitutionally unusual or peculiar about the appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel and that we really shouldn`t be arguing over the propriety of the investigation.

HAYES: The presidential tweet that was referred to the appointment of special counsel is totally unconstitutional, Conway writing "it isn`t very surprising to see the president tweet a meritless legal position, because as a non-lawyer he wouldn`t know the difference." Well, that`s kind and charitable. "There`s absolutely nothing with lawyers making inventive and novel arguments if the arguments are well grounded in law and fact. But the constitutional arguments made against the special counsel do not meet that standard and had little more rigor than the tweet that promoted them."

All right, Michelle -- I`m going to ask you this, too Ben. I`m going to come back to you -- what is the deal with George Conway?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I have no idea. I mean, I have no idea. And I don`t understand these politically mixed marriages in general, but you know, it could be -- I think that there are some people, there are some people who are like Lee Zeldin (ph) and can pretend to believe things completely contrary to everything they claim to believe you know one year ago or one month ago. And then there are some people that the kind of relentless mendacity and derangement of this administration just starts to get to you and eventually you want to push back on it, right?

HAYES: That`s well described.

GOLDBERG: That that`s the sort of underlying psychological difference.

HAYES: Ben, do you have any back story here how George Conway comes to write for you on this topic?

WITTES: Well, I happen to know exactly how he came to write for me on this subject. So, you know, George has not made a secret of the fact that he is appalled about what`s going on. He`s been tweeting his sentiment on the subject for a while now.

And you know, the dirty little secret is he`s not alone. There are a lot of people in the elite conservative bar who are also very upset by what`s going on. And unlike George Conway they`ve been in large measure very quiet about it, which I think that paragraph that you read is partly a criticism of others who have not spoken out. And I think George has felt the need to speak out.

He was very upset by this particular legal argument that Professor Calabrese (ph) made and that the president immediately seized on and started tweeting about. And I asked him to write up his thoughts on the subject which he did.

So there`s no -- I mean the answer is Michelle is right, some people do not have the instinct to keep their mouth shut about what is going on right now. And I say kudos to George Conway. And by the way, the real question we should be asking is not why George Conway is speaking out, it`s why other people who have a lot less to protect are not speaking out.

HAYES: Yeah, if you`re not putting your marriage on the line, why are you not saying anything?

The other thing that`s happening, and again this is sort of one of these things that`s simmering in the background, like it feels like there`s a little calm before the storm feeling in terms of what happens it if Michael Cohen is right, like this story out today from Fox News, which is basically about the behind the scenes, I think clearly is coming from Nunes` people, but it`s clearly about the war that`s about to happen, escalating war between Nunes and Rosenstein. Deputy attorney general is making a point after being threatened with contempt that an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt to congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false.

The (inaudible) official said when Rosenstein returns to the United States from a work trip, he will request the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of the congressional staffers conduct.

It really does seem like they are -- it`s only getting more intense over there.

GOLDBERG: Right, well I think that, you know, the central kind of battle that we have in government right now is between the forces of the law and the forces of Trump and authoritarianism, right, and those two are symbolic of those two poles.

HAYES: Yeah, exactly. And Ben, I wonder like how much worse it can get over there.

WITTES: Well, so let me say that you know, Rod Rosenstein here is being put in an absurd and impossible position by an oversight committee that is supposed to, among other things, you know, protect intelligence sources and methods and the equities of the intelligence community that it oversees. And you know, for him to say that that should be done without, you know, repeated leaks of material without, you know, without the sort of shenanigans that have taken place is just right and it`s just reasonable.

And, you know, the idea that Rod Rosenstein is, among all the other things he has on his plate, having to fend off a contempt finding for not turning over a whole lot of super sensitive material of the sort that you never give to congress, to Devin Nunes, is just one of the weird -- I mean, it would be comic if it were not so tragic, like oddities of the moment that we`re in.

HAYES: Benjamin Wittes and Michelle Goldberg, thank you both.

Still to come, asylum seekers having their children stolen from them and held in prisons. I`ll talk to a congresswoman who spoke to women who had their children taken by our government for no reason ahead.

Plus, lies, betrayal, forgiveness, the Staten Island debate straight out of a soap opera in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, if you want a good picture of what today`s Republican Party looks like, then you must watch yesterday`s primary debate for New York`s 11th District featuring Republican Congressman Dan Donovan, the incumbent, and his ex-con primary challenger Michael Grimm.

And let`s just say the men fighting to represent Staten Island were definitely representing Staten Island.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you thought about asking for a pardon from President Trump? Has anyone sought it for you?

MICHAEL GRIMM, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: It`s funny you asked that question, because right before I announced that I was going to primary Dan Donovan, I went to his house and I met with him because he called Guy Molinari and said he met with the president and was speaking to the president about getting me a pardon.

You were the one that said you told the president that a marine was wrongfully convicted and needed his help.

REP. DAN DONOVAN, (R) NEW YORK: That is not true. Here`s what I told the president was Guy Molinari...

GRIMM: You didn`t say that right to my face?

DONOVAN: Guy Molinari used to be a friend.

GRIMM: You didn`t say that right to my face at your house?

DONOVAN: No. I didn`t say that.

GRIMM: You`re lying.

DONOVAN: Guy Molinari, who used to be a friend of mine, told me he wanted to get Michael a pardon. The president has invited me to accompany him to fight MS-13 and these vicious gangs. I was on Air Force One with him and I told him a fellow marine, Guy Molinari, was looking to seek a pardon for Michael.


HAYES: So, what did the president say? Will Michael Grimm will be pardoned? Who is Guy Molinari? And why isn`t he friends with Dan Donovan anymore? The answer to all these questions and more is Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: When last we left the debate between the two the Republican candidates in New York`s 11th congressional district, Dan Donovan was talking about how he asked President Trump, on behalf of a former friend, to pardon felon Michael Grimm, the ex-con now running against him.

His answer is not only really entertaining, it implicates the president in a totally corrupt decision making process for who gets a pardon and who doesn`t.


DONOVAN: The president has invited me to accompany him to fight MS-13 and these vicious gangs. I was on Air Force One with him and I told him that a fellow marine, Guy Molinari, was looking to seek a pardon for Michael. And the president asked did Guy Molinari support me? And I said, no, he was a Never Trumper. The president did not care to hear this at all. His staff said tell him to call the pardon office and i gave Michael the number of the pardon office.


HAYES: Did everyone just hear that? That it was said out loud? There you have it, the president decides who will pardon based on who supported him, because of course he does.

And now the rest of that exchange just because.


GRIMM: And you didn`t tell me, you didn`t invite me to your house.

DONOVAN: No, you came to my house.

GRIMM: And you didn`t invite me? I just showed up uninvited? Do you anyone to believe that, Dan?

DONOVAN: You pressed me all day to come so you could tell me that you`re going to run...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you bring it to the president about Guy Molinari? Why would you bring that up at all?

DONOVAN: Because at that point Guy Molinari was a friend of mine before he betrayed me.

GRIMM: So, when I showed up at your house the first 10 minutes -- well, I mean, you hugged me, you kissed me, and you even had a piece of paper and you said look, I spoke to the president, but he gave me to his staff and they said you have to do this...

DONOVAN: I said here is the pardon office.

GRIMM: OK, so you were trying to help me.

DONOVAN: No, I gave you the pardon office number.

GRIMM: I`ll let everyone else decide, Danny, you look like a fool right now.




JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems, even all serious problems, that people face every day all over the world. So today I`m exercising the responsibility given to me under the INA and I`ll be issuing a decision that restores sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law.


HAYES: Oh, and what exactly were those sound principles of asylum that Attorney General Jeff Sessions mentions there? Well, it turns out he meant denying asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. In a ruling yesterday, Sessions wrote that such immigrants generally don`t qualify for asylum. And this is only the latest of many ways the administration wants to make life harder for immigrants who are attempting to come here legally, let`s be clear, like the multiple reports of border agents physically blocking people from legally seeking asylum.

And none of this should be a surprise for an administration that constantly dehumanizes and degrades immigrants. Its disastrous inhumane policy of taking children away from parents has now precipitated, predictably, a new crisis, which is shelters overflowing with children.

The administration`s solution? What they are calling tent cities on military posts, or camps, in other words. Camps. For children fleeing violence and persecution. Camps for children on American soil.

There are people in our government trying to do something about these odious developments? Congresswoman Pramilla Jayapal went to a federal prison to meet the immigrant women who came here seeking asylum only to have their children taken away from them.

And Congresswoman Jayapal says most of these women now have absolutely no idea where their children are. The congresswoman joins me next.


HAYES: The Trump administration has ripped hundreds of children from their parents at the border, in some cases, it appears not even telling the families what`s happening.

As Boston Globe reporter Liz Goodwin reported, quote, "Eman Bendiks (ph), who is a public defender, said several of her clients have told her their children were taken from them by border control agents who said they were going to give them a bath. As hours passed it dawned on the mothers, the kids were not coming back."

Democratic Congressman Pramila Jayapal of Washington just met with some of the immigrant mothers who were recently sent to a federal prison in her state. Congresswoman, what was it like inside that facility? What did you hear?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL, (D) WASHINGTON: Chris, it was heartbreaking. I met with 174 women in three different groups, what they called three pods, in a federal prison. Shockingly, it`s a prison after all. They told me it was the best treatment that they`ve received in all their time being detained, which tells you something about how they were treated in ICE and border patrol custody.

These are women the vast majority of whom are seeking asylum, trying to escape rape and violence and murder. One woman from El Salvador had had her eldest son shot. Her second son had been -- her eldest son was shot and killed, her second son was shot and paralyzed, and she took her final child to try to bring him to the United States for safety. Story after story like this, Chris.

And these women were forcibly separated from their children at the border. You mentioned being told that they were being taken for a bath, similar kinds of stories where a woman was taken out to get her photograph taken, taken to these mass prosecutions in these criminal courts that they`ve set up where they`re prosecuting 75 to 100 women at a time, and then came back and found that there was no child there anymore. Not a one of them had been able to say good-bye to their children. And none of them knew where their children were, none of them had spoken to their children. They had literally been in detention probably 40 percent to 50 percent of them for more than a month in our or five facilities.

These were all individuals who were transferred mostly from the Texas border. They hailed from 16 different countries. They were sitting in a room next to the room where their child was being held in some cases, and they could hear the children screaming for their parents. It was absolutely heartbreaking. And their treatment in the ICE and border patrol facilities was just outrageous. I have worked on immigration issues for 20 years, and this is about as bad as I`ve seen it.

In many cases they were not given water to drink for five days. They had a sink in their cell, and that water was dirty, chlorinated water and that`s the only thing they had to drink. One woman said that she was hit twice by border patrol right here just below her eye on her cheekbone. Many of them talked about these facilities that they have nicknames for -- one nickname is the Icebox, because the temperatures are so cold that they liken it to a freezer.

Some of these women had crossed the Rio Grande, come out of the river wet to turn themselves in, and were immediately put into these freezing facilities, no blankets, no mats.

Another facility they call the Dog Pound because it is filled with cages like kennels, which is where they were held.

And Chris, I just have to tell you, it was heartbreaking. Every time they talked about their children they wept. They are strong, courageous womenescaping rape, gang violence, murder, political persecution, coming to the United States. They want to do this legally. They have not yet had what is called a credible fear hearing, which is what determines whether or not you get asylum.

HAYES: I just want to be clear on that, because this is a technical point, but no one -- have they had anyone do a first pass with them on credible fear?

JAYAPAL: No. They had not had any credible fear hearings. And most of them had not seen an attorney. And in fact, you know, I have to say I was very surprised that I was allowed in. The warden was great to me. The prison staff were really good to me, much better actually than sometimes my dealings with ICE.

But, you know, I was able to ask them if they wanted an attorney. And we took down over 100 names of women who wanted to see an attorney in order to then give it to our partners, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, so that they could connect with them and at least get some legal resources.

Some of the women had been given these little slips of paper, white slips of paper, that had their name and then their kids` names. And one woman said to me, these are not my children, the names that were listed on the paper were not even her children.

HAYES: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you so much for reporting that out for us. I appreciate it.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: As I`ve mentioned before, we have a great episode about this topic on "Why is This Happening?" Plus, we have a brand new episode up today with Amy Chu (ph) on political tribalism, also very good in my opinion. Check it out on TuneIn, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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


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