Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: August 8, 2018 Guest: Seth Meyers, Betsy Woodruff, Dave Wasserman, Christina Greer, Isaac Arnsdorf
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Federal Reserve Bank, small business advisory council, member of the board of trustees of Kenmore Mercy Hospital, or is a longtime mentor to small business at the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at U.B., the public knows my dedication to Western New York. Because my focus is to defeat the charges in court, after today, I will not address any issues related to Innate Immunotherapeutics outside of the courtroom. As I fight to clear my name rest assured I will continue to work hard for the people and constituents of the 27th Congressional District of New York and I will remain on the ballot running for re-election this November. Thank you very much and have a great night
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Well, there you see Congressman Chris Collins. He is a Congressman from Upstate New York who today was arrested and charged with securities fraud related to charges of insider trading on a drug company that you heard him talk about their Innate. He`s a man who is a very fierce advocate for the Present United States, his first congressional endorser. Today he laid out a bit of an explanation he says of his long-standing backing of the company and then did something that I don`t think is going to work for that one which was he said he would answer no more questions of the fact that he is currently facing federal felony charges and was caught on tape at a White House congressional picnic on the phone at the time that the government says he was illegally tipping off his son and others that the drug company he`d invested in had it failed to clear a key clinical trial leading them to dump their stocks.
For the latest on this remarkable turn of events and the charges against the President`s first endorser Congressman Chris Collins I`m joined by Jonathan Dienst, he`s the Chief Investigative Reporter for WNBC here in New York. First, that press conference, did you think there was any chance he was going to resign?
JONATHAN DIENST, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, WNBC: No. He had said all day through his spokesman that he was going to stay in this race, that he was going to seek reelection and that these this indictment, these charges against him we`re not going to stop him.
HAYES: Let`s start here and say this. He laid out in that press conference -- he`s been known around town that he has a relationship with this drug company. He was caught boasting once in the speaker`s gallery saying I`ve made so many millionaires in Buffalo because of connecting people with this company. What is his relationship to the company?
DIENST: Well, he sits on the board, he invested, bought millions of shares and was selling at about 50 cents a share. When he got that e-mail at the White House advising him that the critical trial in this company to come up with a cure or assist multiple sclerosis patients that trial had failed and that this drug was the only drug that this company was basically researching. This was the whole ball of wax and as soon as he learned that he apparently panicked. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney`s saying he was called his relatives who had invested stock in this company and told them what the situation was and they began selling. Over a million shares sold and then after the news became public that $0.50 a share of stock dropped 90-92 percent to just pennies on the dollar and you know --
HAYES: So these -- OK, so the charging document did -- this guy got arrested today right?
DIENST: That`s right. He turned himself in. At 11:00 a.m. processed, fingerprinted, mugshot, the works.
HAYES: He`s a sitting member -- Republican member of Congress. He serves on House and Energy Committee until today when he was kicked off, a prominent supporter of the President. Do we have the video of him by the way at the White House or do we just have that that we just showed? I mean, this -- the charging document, he is at the White House congressional picnic.
DIENST: That`s right.
HAYES: With the President of the United States last year. According to the charging document, he gets an e-mail in his role as board member saying the trial failed and then what does he do?
DIENST: And then according to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney he started calling his son frantically six calls in less than five minutes and he couldn`t get through. Finally, on the seventh attempt, the feds say he got through to his son and said this whole thing`s going down. You need to -- we need to do something and within hours his son was selling off his shares, the son allegedly told other relatives, his fiance his soon-to-be father-in-law and mother-in-law who happens to be a certified public accountant and they all began dumping their shares, the word of mouth spread among the close-knit relatives. Three people charged today, the congressman, his son, and the would-be father-in-law.
HAYES: And there`s also unindicted co-conspirators that that exists in the charge and document as well.
DIENST: That is correct.
HAYES: So there was a number of people that were sort of in this circle.
DIENST: Yes and the Securities and Exchange Commission named some of them which is the would-be father-in-law, the would-be mother-in-law, and the fiance, they were not charged criminally the fiancee and her mother but they did have to pay the money back the ill-gotten gains and the CPA will not be working as a CPA for the next five years.
HAYES: Now as individuals just saw there, the Congressman says he did nothing wrong and that he has acted adhering to ethical and legal standards at all times and he won`t be taking any more questions. But I just -- the behavior that is outlined in this indictment if it is true is shockingly brazen. I mean he`s just on his regular phone, he`s calling people. I mean this is a very bedrock principle of insider trading, like you cannot do that.
DIENST: According to the FBI they have the phone records, they have the trading records, they have all that circumstantial evidence that they say is a clear and convincing case. We`ll see if the Congressman denies any wrongdoing. The FBI today at their press conference said this guy sitting on this board knew better, should`ve known better he`s in a position of power and they had an insider tip for him and others like him, they said don`t do it, tell the truth. They also say he lied to them when they questioned him and that`s another charge in the indictment.
HAYES: We should say finally here that it was the Southern District of New York charge this. They are the ones that have kind of their portfolio as financial crime, Securities and Exchange Commission securities fraud. It`s an individual -- a Donald Trump nominee who is occupying the SDNY office right now, correct?
DIENST: It was temporary. He`s actually put in place by the chief judge of the district because the President did not get these nominees through Senate quickly enough so wound up the individual judges -- chief judge in the Southern District actually pointed Mr. Berman permanently. And Mr. Berman has been appointed to the role and today was quite clear that we don`t -- we follow the facts for you know, regardless of politics.
DIENST: No one is above the law and that if you are -- if there`s evidence you violated the law you will be prosecuted and that`s what they said today.
HAYES: It`s a really remarkable story if people want to go and download that indictments --
DIENST: It`s amazing. In that video, like you said out in the White House lawn apparently reading the e-mails and then on the White House lawn making frantic phone calls to his son the allegation is pretty amazing.
HAYES: Caught on tape allegedly committing insider trading at the White House. WNBC`s Jonathan Dienst, thanks for joining me.
DIENST: Thank you.
HAYES: I`m joined by former Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman who voted to impeach President Nixon as a Member of the House Judiciary Committee. We got Collins so we`ve got this member of Congress with you know, this seems like a fairly clear case, maybe the government is wrong in key facts and they won`t be able to prove it but on its face looks pretty damning.
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN (D), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: It does pretty open-and- shut, black and white.
HAYES: Now, this is one thing, we`ve got a lot more so I just want to take a step back because it`s been a busy news day. We just came off the Chris Collins news conference. This is the first endorser of the President. Today also you have the deputy campaign manager for the President of the United States conducting and finishing his testimony in a court of law in which he testified under oath about the campaign manager for the President of the United States in a bank fraud and tax evasion case and talked about all of the crimes they did together, all of the intentional actions they took to hide information from the government, to defraud banks to increase the amount of money they had access to. He also confessed on the stand to stealing from the man that he worked for to the tune of a lot of money.
You also have the President`s longtime lawyer and associate Michael Cohen who has been raided by the FBI who`s gone a little silent. He`s awaiting his fate one way or the other. Another associate of the President Roger Stone, we know an associate of his is going to testify before a grand jury on Friday and the President himself has his lawyers back-and-forth attempting to avoid a sit-down interview with the prosecutor, is looking into the President`s campaign and the possibility the President`s obstruction of justice. When is the last time such a vortex of alleged and confirmed criminal activity spun around the United States President?
HOLTZMAN: Well, Watergate and I remember it and the tentacles like an octopus, the tentacles were spreading and here it`s the same thing and it`s very, very sad. I never wanted to see that happen again and here we see it. And very disturbing particularly the fact that the President you know, on the one hand, it`s kind of a flim-flam all I want to talk to the special prosecutor, I want to talk to Robert Mueller but in the end has been obstructing and obfuscating and refusing. It`s kind of being a wimp.
HAYES: Yes, what do you - is that your take on this?
HAYES: We keep getting these blow-by-blow you know --
HOLTZMAN: He`s never going to go board before the Robert Mueller to talk because it`s too dangerous. The President is an inveterate prevaricator, liar, systematic, I don`t even know if he knows the difference between the truth and falsity. So the fact of the matter is it`s very dangerous for him to go forward. He`s told so many different stories about so many different things even two different stories about this Trump Tower meeting and what it does is reminds me of Watergate and we`re getting to a very, very, very close intense time for him. Because they think, I think Giuliani that if the President doesn`t come forward and testify that Mueller is just going to give up.
Mueller could serve a subpoena and that`s -- the subpoena in Watergate for the tapes is what ultimately triggered the downfall of Richard Nixon and I don`t know how the President of the United States can claim that he is innocent if there`s a subpoena and refused to testify, refused to come forward. What`s he hiding if he`s so innocent? Why is he hiding? This is really something that the American people have to confront. We have a president the United States was accused of obstructing justice not actually formerly accused but many people think he`s been involved with obstructing justice, many people think he`s been involved in some kind of nefarious way with the Russians. Why doesn`t he clear this up and come and talk to the special prosecutor?
His refusal to do that should be some indication that he`s got a lot to hide and that`s what ultimately happened in Watergate. Nixon kept saying oh I`m innocent but ultimately what happened was the American people saw that when he didn`t want to turn over the tapes it was because it was an incriminating material on the tape. So if the President doesn`t want to come forward if he`s not going to be candid with the criminal justice authority to the United States it`s because he`s got something very serious if not criminal to hide.
HAYES: Do you think ultimately that -- do you think they`re trying to play out the string of that they hope Mueller would give up? I mean, there`s this reporting the President wants to testify or talk to Mueller but his lawyers don`t want him to because they`re afraid he`ll perjure himself.
HOLTZMAN: Right. Big boy, he can`t make his own decision. He`s only with President the United States and he can`t make his own decision.
HAYES: That`s a good point, right? The lawyers work for him.
HOLTZMAN: It`s just not believable. I mean, the fact of the matter is they are worried that he`s going to perjure himself because he doesn`t know how to tell the truth, that`s a pretty damning commentary in and of itself. We have a President who can`t be trusted to tell the truth under oath, pretty serious.
HAYES: Elizabeth Holtzman who has been -- who have seen a version of this show before or at least the early parts of it. Thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.
HOLTZMAN: Thank you.
HAYES: Here with you now, MSNBC Contributor Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. Attorney, a former Senior Official at the FBI who knows Robert Mueller well, has worked with him. What do you make of the back-and-forth negotiation that`s happening between the President`s team and the Mueller team over this interview?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Elizabeth stated it well. Frankly, I don`t make much of it, Chris. The President keeps saying that he wants to sit down and talk to Mueller and he says he has nothing to hide. And I think we tend to overanalyze this. If you want to sit down and talk to Mueller, talk to Mueller.
ROSENBERG: If you have nothing to hide, hide nothing. It really isn`t all that complicated. Now, in the end, I don`t know if it`s a back and forth because Mueller very professionally and very properly has not been commenting on it. We`re only seeing one side of this back and forth but in the end, if Bob Mueller has permission from the Deputy Attorney General to issue a subpoena and he wants the evidence I imagine that`s precisely what he will do.
HAYES: Chris Collins today, that announcement that happened and obviously that`s a politically sensitive issue right, I mean, these are kind of the most -- the other places where the rule of law really gets tested right? Can the federal government independently you know, follow the facts where they lead them, indict a sitting member of Congress, the first endorsement for the President of the United States and so in that respect it seems like a kind of passing grade for the rule of law this was able to happen. There`s this sort of idea that they don`t want to do anything within 90 days of an election and that sort of guided maybe the timing today and I`m curious on your perspective on that.
ROSENBERG: Yes, so there`s a general rule, it`s unwritten. I imagine one day soon it will be reduced to writing but there`s a general rule, Chris, that you don`t take any action that will interfere with an election and within the Department of Justice and I was a part of it for many years. Some people think of it as thirty days, some people think of it as sixty days, I generally think of it as not after Labor Day. Regardless, I think Mueller`s -- I`m sorry, not Mueller`s, I think the Southern District of New York`s action today is well before that deadline however we characterize it.
And with respect to your comment about the rule of law, look, without talking about Mr. Collins or this indictment there`s a public corruption section at the FBI, there`s a Public Integrity section at the Department of Justice, there are prosecutors all over the country who handle public corruption cases, we`ve been doing this for years. Democrats, Republicans local, state, federal years, and so I don`t see anything particularly unusual about this. The rule of law didn`t just pass today, it passes all the time.
HAYES: What do you make of the timing of Manafort trial which I think is going to be a harder -- obviously that is out of the hands of the special prosecutor, of the special counsel because he`s chosen two different trials. They`re going to try to wrap up the prosecution`s case by this week but that is going to go spill over into an area much closer to the election.
HAYES: Yes, you`re exactly right, Chris. But prosecutors don`t set trial dates, judges do. And Mr. Manafort`s second trial if he doesn`t plead guilty or it doesn`t go away in some other fashion will be you know, just a few weeks for the November midterm elections. But again, the judges set those dates. He was indicted well in advance of the election, well within the parameters the guidelines at the Department of Justice employees so here the timing is not of the government`s choosing, at least not of the prosecutors choosing.
HAYES: All right, Chuck Rosenberg, thanks for sharing your insights tonight.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
HAYES: For more on what happened in that Manafort trial today, another interesting day there, NBC News National Security and Justice Reporter Julia Ainsley is here with the latest. Julia, what was -- what was the like of the courtroom today?
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It was interesting. You know, my colleague Ken Dilanian was there yesterday. I think he was saying that the government was kind of knocking it out of the park. Today the scales might have evened out a little bit. The prosecution or the defense rather did a great or at least entertaining cross-examination of Rick Gates which was finished today and they left this bombshell that kind of lingered, Chris. They said to Rick Gates, did you tell the special council that you had as many as four extramarital affairs?
Yesterday he had admitted to one but before he could even answer, they had an objection from the prosecution. They went to the bench and that question actually never got answered. But of course, that did a lot to damage Rick Gates` credibility which is the big goal of the defense in this case. And in fact, I shared an elevator with Manafort`s lawyer Kevin Downing at the end of the day today and he said -- and we were kind of asking him how I thought the day went. He seemed very confident and we just sort of made a joke about how the end of the day ended on a lot of taxes, after lunch a lot of people can get sleepy, and he said well you know, I`m happy that you say that. That means that my part of the day where I was cross-examining that was entertaining. That to him was a compliment. I might have unintended have given him a compliment.
But it was definitely the more entertaining part of the day because then we got into taxes, we got into charts, we got into back-and-forth and really the prosecution showed Mueller`s style of being an incredibly tedious investigator and very thorough which obviously is what we would want the prosecution to be doing but did seem to kind of start putting a wall over the courtroom as we went back over a lot of the transactions we had already heard in the previous day.
HAYES: So yes, because they were going back to -- they`re been sort of testimony to all those transactions, this is sort of going back through them I believe with the forensic accountant right, for the person who work the case. The -- what does the prosecution said about their timeline?
AINSLEY: So they said that they want eight more witnesses to come but they do think that they could wrap by the end of this week. Then we would hear from the defense and then, of course, have closing arguments which is what the judge has said he had said he expected about three weeks. Sometimes though, Chris, the judge, Judge Ellis is pushing this case just go so quickly. We almost waste time talking about how much time the prosecution can use -- I mean today we really took 30 minutes talking about how much time they would spend on one witness. So he`s definitely pushing this forward and -- but I think that there`s a fair criticism there to say that sometimes he might be putting his hand on the scale a little bit more than we would normally hope that a judge would in a case like that.
HAYES: She was quite active in how much he is managing this.
AINSLEY: He is. And it`s funny. I mean, for people who have covered Judge Ellis before he`s known as a rocket docket judge who really pushes things quickly but he`s generally someone who`s critical of the defense. He seems at least today from what I saw is more critical of the prosecution. He questioned everyone who they brought up whether or not that was a waste of time, why we`re going back over old things. He would often interrupt their questioning and say no you should ask the question this way or ask or he would himself would ask the question directly to the witness until it got an answer that might not have been exactly what the prosecution was going for. Yesterday he even accused one of Robert Mueller`s lawyers of having tears in his eyes and if he did he wasn`t very sympathetic about it. I mean, he`s really been very hard on the prosecution. Sometimes it`s a little hard to watch actually,
HAYES: All right, NBC`S Julia Ainsley watches that we don`t have to. Great to have you. Sill ahead, amazing, amazing mind-blowing new reporting about the three Mar-a-Lago members, a doctor, a lawyer, and the CEO of Marvel who have essentially been running the Department of Veterans Affairs. Plus, Seth Meyers is here. He joins me at the desk to talk about these seemingly endless streams of scandals in the era of Trump. Seth Meyers right here at this desk in just two minutes. Don`t go anywhere.
HAYES: The endless cascade of scandals in the Trump era makes it hard for all of us covering it to stay focused on any one particular scandal at any moment or to manage it on a day-to-day basis. One place that is doing an amazing job and has become must-watch television is Late Night with Seth Meyers and a closer look is one of the best bits political commentary anywhere on T.V. and they too are following the Manafort trial.
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SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT: That is the President`s deputy campaign manager saying yes I committed crimes. Republicans, what more do you need before you start taking this seriously. Trump have show up to a rally and a black mask holding a giant bag of cash and Republicans would say maybe he just went skiing on free money mountain.
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HAYES: Joining me now is that individual Seth Meyers, host of Late Night with Seth Meyers. Great to see you.
MEYERS: So good to be here, building buddies.
HAYES: Yes, we`re building buddies. So closer look is this great sort of it`s sometimes quite long --
HAYES: I mean, for television right? Like, it`s this great bit of these sort of fake news and headlines and jokes and you put them together like how does -- how does that come together? How do you make that because as a fellow television person it seems like a hard time skill to make something that good?
MEYERS: Well our head writer Sal Gentile who you know and he not only --
HAYES: Taught him everything he know.
MEYERS: Taught him everything he know. We have a guy who`s both as an improv comedy background and a news background and so he is this rare hybrid of somebody who can sit down every day and start piecing together what we t1hink is going to be the story that we`re going to want to talk about when taping rolls around. And he`s just done an exceptional job of giving us a first draft that then we can try to add jokes and more importantly just leaves the infrastructure that add stories as they happen because today is another perfect example of the Chris Collins thing wasn`t something we thought we talked about last night and then it happens this afternoon.
HAYES: And I have to say like this sounds slightly sticky but I`ll say anyway. It is the case that many of the headlines feel like setups for jokes even as a person who`s not a comedy writer. Like Chris Collins is making -- committing securities fraud on the White House lawn and caught on camera.
MEYERS: Also, Chris Collins wasn`t -- if you ask me this morning who`s this story going to be about today, if you do listen to a hundred people, surely the indictment will be one of the corrupt people we`ve met so far and then there`s this -- they keep adding characters to a drama that does not need --
HAYES: No, yes, yes.
MEYERS: And it`s subtracting (INAUDIBLE) at this point --
HAYES: That`s a funny thing to note.
MEYERS: But it was amazing because you know I`m not a financial expert and when you hear there`s a you know, an indictment and you know, the security exchange people are involved, today was so crazy because when they took out the flowchart of how it happened, it was the easiest to follow the flowchart. It was only two rows. It was just -- there`s a Congressman and then there were like seven other people and that was the end of the flow chart. It was the flow chart they show kids to teach them how flowcharts work. This is the intern of flow chart.
HAYES: Also the like don`t do -- that`s the other part of this is. When we watch people in this orbit of the President commit crimes or allegedly commit crimes. It has not been like incredibly sneaky stuff.
HAYES: It`s been pretty like in broad daylight kind of activity.
MEYERS: It`s never that scene from a movie where the detective has the yarn going a hundred different ways it`s just one piece a yarn that says here`s the bank and here`s the illegal activity and it`s just one piece of yarn.
HAYES: And that`s where you get Rick Gates on the stand. I mean, that was a really amazing moment. I mean, the president and the president`s deputy campaign manager he says, yes that guy sitting over there, the campaign manager, we did crimes together.
MEYERS: Yes. There`s something really sweet about saying it that way. I feel like we big crimes together is that`s like what I thought it Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie and Clyde, that could have been the process.
HAYES: That was the way I thought of that.
MEYERS: They did crimes together.
HAYES: Do you think -- how do you think about this sort of attentional thing, right? There`s this this question like we saw it with Scott Pruitt which was a scandal that we stayed on, sometimes like almost in spite of ourselves I could be like oh there`s another Scott Pruitt we have to do that like, it is so hard that it is the case that the newest thing will wash out the old thing.
MEYERS: Right. Yes, and we`ve -- that`s why we started as sort of a companion piece to a closer look. We have a new thing called the check-in which is once a week to just sort of say hey while this is all been happening here`s what Betsy DeVos has been doing. Here`s what Scott Pruitt`s Replacements been doing because they think there`s a sense of Oh Scott Pruitt`s gone so now that`s back to a normal agency which of course it`s not because it`s somebody who`s just more effective at doing what Scott Pruitt was doing without 15 scandals every day.
MEYERS: So it`s hard to you know, as you know you got a limited amount of real estate every week and you want to talk about what`s happening, you want to talk what matters but it`s crazy how much oxygen this gets taken up with breaking news every day.
HAYES: Do you -- did you find -- like how did you find your way to the audience -- this cultural moment -- this political moment is a cultural. I mean, people want to talk about politics.
HAYES: I mean it`s remarkable they`re agreed, like did you know that going into this? Did you find this how do you discover that fact?
MEYERS: I mean, I think we all discovered it the same way which is when this campaign started and well how much time at SNL, anytime there`s especially a presidential election when there`s no incumbent and so you sort of have big fields on both sides and a lot of personalities it`s a really fun thing to write about whether your late night talk show, whether your Saturday Night Live so that started for all of us. And you know that was the carnival that I think we all thought would eventually leave town like carnivals do and then it was just over a permanent carnival. So we -- I think we just learned during the campaign to like get ready for this.
HAYES: Right. But then they also got -- there`s also like a seriousness to it too right? I mean, that I think is the challenge that you guys have like writing jokes about like family separation.
MEYERS: Yes, I mean you try to you know, button it and I think that again speaks to sound strength which is you know you want to have an arc and you want to have a thesis and you want to have as many jokes as possible we do it in front of a test audience earlier in the day, and when --
HAYES: You did.
MEYERS: Yes, we do. And so when there`s things that we don`t -- we can`t find any purchase, comedically we try to let go of it but we do you know, we do have a beginning middle and end and if we set up a thesis and try to hammer home at the end hopefully we make a point of like hey this matters what`s happening right now is serious.
HAYES: You have a test audience.
HAYES: Is sounded like an obvious thing, is that true in late-night that - -
MEYERS: No, I don`t know -- I don`t know how many people do it. I know they do it at Jimmy`s as well at the Tonight Show but we and we just gather up people from the building. We fully go down to the NBC experience store and say do you want to see a rehearsal of a commercial.
MEYERS: We get -- we get about 40 people. It`s crazy though because a lot of them are tourists and so you have to -- there are times where we say well, I got to be honest, the Scott Pruett stuff went over like a lead balloon but most of those people were from Norway so I think --
HAYES: It was -- it was not scanning. Do you think -- do you -- here`s the question I have. It always feels like it`s getting more intense, like there -- I have this thing all the staff was like try to ban adverbs, like the President finds himself increasingly axed, like it`s been increasingly that for since he came on the scene. Do you have that feeling that we`re hurtling towards something?
MEYERS: No because like you say, I feel like that has also been this feeling from the beginning of hurtling. There`s been -- well, we`ve been talking about just every night saying hey this is what we were freaking out about a year ago just to look back at how quaint it was you know. We did a whole closer look about him fudging the facts on the carrier air conditioning plant.
MEYERS: Think about that. You know, that was a thing that seemed like a real thing.
HAYES: Right. Because each -- at that point it was like you don`t just like lie like that in public.
HAYES: And now you think God, him lying about heating and cooling companies that was the dream. The show has been fantastic.
HAYES: You`re doing great work. Shout out to Sal, Gentile, and also Henry Melcher (ph) who I also taught everything he knows.
MEYERS: You -- we like the Chris Hayes tree.
HAYES: ...that work for me that are there. Thanks for coming by.
MEYERS: Always a pleasure to see you, buddy. Come back soon.
MEYERS: OK, great.
HAYES: Make sure to catch late night with Seth Meyers, weeknihts, 12:35 Eastern of course on NBC.
Coming up, a story that does like the set up for a joke, three members of Mar-a-Lago working behind the scenes to basically run the VA. The reporter who broke that incredible story joins me live next.
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TRUMP: We`re having a meeting tonight at what we call affectionately the southern White House, seems to be the most convenient location. Everybody always wants to go to the southern White House. So, are you going to be at that meeting? You heard about it, right? It`s going to be great. All about the VA.
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HAYES: OK. So that what you just saw was this really weird moment from back in 2017 that we all noticed, we played it in the show. You`ve got Donald Trump, and he`s talking to his then Veteran`s Affairs Secretary David Shulkin right there to his left, asking him if he, David Shulkin who runs the VA, plans to be about at a meeting at Mar-a-Lago that`s all about the VA. And Shulkin says, no, I`m not going to be at the meeting about the VA, even though I run the VA.
So the VA secretary wasn`t even going to a meeting at Mar-a-Lago about the VA, which seemed odd to us at the time, except it wasn`t really, because thanks to an amazing new piece of reporting from my next guest, we now know about the true rulers of the VA, the shadow rulers, three men known to VA insiders as the, quote, "Mar-a-Lago Crowd." There is reclusive Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach Doctor to the rich Bruce Moskowitz, and wealthy attorney Marc Sherman, none of these men served in the United States armed forces, none of them are veterans, none of them elected, none of them were appointed, or confirmed, yet because they are friends with Trump, and they pay dues to be members of his private club, they have been allowed to effectively run the department charged with providing helath care to more than 9 million of the nation`s veterans.
To take us through the details of this absolutely insane example of Trump era government malpractice, I am joined now by Isaac Arnsdorf of ProPublica, the reporter who broke this incredible story, which I have to say, it is a high bar. But this is one of the nuttiest stories of the Trump era I have read.
Lets start with this, how involved really are these three gentlemen in overseeing the VA?
ISAAC ARNSDORF, PROPUBLICA: They are involved in everything. They speak with VA officials every day on the phone, or they have them fly down to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to meet with them to go over things. And they have a hand in basically all manner of policy and personnel decisions that have been coming out of the VA or the past year and a half.
HAYES: Every day?
ARNSDORF: As often as every day, absolutely, maybe multiple times a day.
HAYES: And this is on -- this isn`t like, oh, we have got some charity thing we want to set up on the side, this is, like, how everything about the policy for the largest health care system in the United States.
ARNSDORF: Yeah, this is like how much health care for veterans should be provided by the government run VA system versus how much should be done by private doctors. This is like what should the VA do to modernize its electronic helath records technology, a $10 billion contract that they`re negotiating and these guys were all over it. If this is -- who should be the leadership of the VA be? Who do we want in key roles? And the people who didn`t get along with the Mar-a-Lago crowd got passed over or pushed out.
HAYES: Yeah, this is remarkable. They`re basically running personnel, its like a board of a company compared in the article. Is a board of a company, and these are their employees, they have to answer to them and if they don`t like them, they are kaput.
ARNSDORF: Well, yeah, some people were comparing it to like board of directors pounding a CEO to turn around a troubled company, but you know board of directors, they -- these members of corporate board usually have some kind of expertise or knowledge or insight that they are providing. They`re experienced business people. But these guys, they don`t have any relevant experience for veteran`s health care. And so all of these officials at the VA are scratching their heads wondering who are these guys and what bsiness do they have telling us what to do? And the answer is that they have the president`s ear.
HAYES: I mean, I just want to be clear, like this doesn`t happen. This isn`t a thing that happens where president`s come into power and they just say hey, I`ve got buddies or I`ve got some members of my club who pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They are going to go with you and they`re going to whip you into shape. Listen to everything they say. Like, that is not a thing that normally happens.
ARNSDORF: There is this statute from the 1970s. There is a legal mechanism for federal agencies to impanel outside advisers of experts who they want to consult on stuff. But if you do that then you have to have cost controls, and you have to have oversight and you have to have transparency, and obviosuly they weren`t interested in any of that. They were doing this completely in secret, and basically the only reason that anyone outside a few officials at the VA who dealt with them, the only reason anyone knows about this is because of this reporting.
HAYES: We should say that there`s also -- they put together this -- there`s this like event where they like, they put together some charity event, but also Marvel was tied in and they rang the bell at the -- is it the NASDAQ?
ARNSDORF: It was at the New York Stock Exchange, so they had Shulkin who was the secretary at the time ring the closing bell and like a few people over is Captain America. And basically this was supposed to be a public service event for Veteran`s Day, but then Marvel ended up getting roped into it. And it was definitely a weird thing, and the VA knew that it was an ethical gray area because they asked their ethics attorney if it was OK. I don`t know what answer he gave, because the agency redacted his answer from the document that they released to me, but they certainly are aware there was something up with this.
HAYES: Did you -- you got FOIA -- you did reporting and you got a ton of FOIA documents. Is that how you broke this story?
HAYES: And is this been an open secret -- I mean, this is an incredibly important agency of the government doing a very complicated thing, providing care to 9 million people in this system. There`s all sort of people that work for it. It`s one of the most difficult bureaucratic problems that exist in the federal government. Was this an open secret in the VA that these three dudes down in Palm Beach were running the thing?
ARNSDORF: No. I mean, only very few officials at the VA who had direct interactions knew about them. Some other people had heard rumors, but people on -- lawmakers on the veterans committees on the house and senate had no idea.
Senator Hirono who is on the Senate Veterans Committee was on CNN earlier today and they asked her if she knew about this. She said, no, she found out about it from the article.
HAYES: This is really one of the best pieces of reporting, just good old fashion shoe leather FOIA. It`s an incredible story. I can`t believe it exists and you did amazing work here. Really, one of the best stories of the Trump administration so far. Isaac Arnsdorf, thank you.
ARNSDORF: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Still ahead, why last night`s elections should have Republicans worried. Now, Democrats are gaining ground in solidly red districts coming up, plus tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, when net neutrality, which is the idea that internet service provider should treat all data equally, was under threat in 2014, HBO`s John Oliver famously made a stand to summoning the masses of internet commenters to preserve it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN OLIVER, COMIDIAN: We need you to get out there and for once in your lives focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction. Seize your moment, my lovely trolls, turn on caps lock and fly, my pretties, fly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The internet reacted and crashed the FCC`s website. Eventually, net neutrality was preserved, and then in 2017 enter Donald Trump with a brand new FCC Chairman who drinks from novelty oversized mugs and a new push to end net neutrality, and so John Oliver once again summoned internet commenter to take action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLIVER: You cannot say that you are too busy when 540,000 of you commented on Beyonce`s pregnancy announcement, and 673 of you took the time to review the Grand Canyon on Yelp, seven of whom gave it a one star review. What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wrong with you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Once again, the Oliver call to arms was effective. The FCC site crashed and stopped accepting any comments. But this time the FCC claimed it was down because of a cyber attack. That seems like a strange coincidence. But would they really lie about something like that? Oh, yeah, they totally would and they did. And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: So a big fight about the future of net neutrality last May, the FCC claimed the system on their website that allows comments from the public was brought down by a cyber attack. Now we know that was a flat out lie. The FCC`s own inspector general releasing a report this week finding that the comment issues were not caused by a cyber attack, but more likely by a combination of system design issues and a massive surge in legitimate traffic after John Oliver urged his viewers to post pro-net neutrality comments on the site.
Investigators also uncovered that the FCC provided false information to members of congress regarding advice provided or not provided by the FBI to the FCC after the incident.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai is placing full blame on his former chief information officer and other subordinates, which is maybe not that surprising a move from a guy who behaves like this.
HAYES: Tonight, 25 hours after polls closed a special election in Ohio 12 is still too close to call. And while Republican Troy Balderson has a slight lead over Democrat Danny O`Connor, this was a district Donald Trump won by 11 points just two years ago, and it`s been in Republican hands since 1982.
And what happened in Ohio is not the only bad harbinger for Republicans as the mid-terms appraoch. In Washington State, the number four House Republican, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, nearly lost a free for all primary over Democrat Lisa Brown separated by just a few hundreds votes as the top vote getters in that primary, Rodgers and Brown, will now move on to the general election.
In Missouri, a right to work law got shellacked by two to one margin in a major victory for labor unions, and in Michigan, there was record turnout with Democratic numbers surging. In the primaries this year, accoding to the Detroit Free Press, quote, Democratic candidates for governor have received over 1.1 million votes. In 2010 primary, the most recent comparable election, the paper reports there were only 529,000 votes cast for Democratic candidates.
The winner in last night`s Democratic gubernatorial primary, Gretchen Whitmer, one of a record number of women nominated for a governor`s office this year.
Here for last night`s results and perspective, 90 days, 90 days away from the mid-terms election, Christina Greer, proffessor of political science at Fordham University; Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter at the Daily Beast and MSNBC contributor; and Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the Cook Political Report and an NBC News contributor.
And Dave, as someone who is like extremely in the weeds of the data here, what is your 30,000 foot take on what last night meant and how it aligns with what we know so far about where things are?
DAVE WASSERMAN, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, it aligns pretty well with what we know, and that`s that Democrats are the favorites for control in the House. They`re seeing record enthusiasm among their voters for a midterm relative to where Republicans are. There`s an urban/rural divide that`s on display not only in Ohio 12 where a Democrat came within a point of winning essentially a district that is more Republican than 68 other districts held by Republicans in the House and in Spokane, Washington, where Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the number 4 ranking leader on the Republican side was only a hair ahead of her Democratic opponent in the top two primary.
So, this bodes well for the Democrat`s changes in the House with the caveat that the Senate is a very different landscape.
HAYES: So, one theme that we`ve seen, and we talked about this, Christina, so you`ve got -- Dave has actually been tallying this -- us so far in 2018 Demo House primaries featuring one man and one woman, no incumbent on the ballot, a woman has won 69 percent of the times and on the GOP side, just 35 percent. Women are powering Democratic enthusiasm as candidates, as volunteers in every way.
CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Quality women are powering this new revolution, if you will.
Just because -- I mean, we also have to remember, one, we still have Russia to be concerned with. So, we are making these stride, and it`s been great, but we still have to think about it. That`s real.
But we have to remember, immigration, gentrification, suburbanization, the landscape of these districts is changing. The candidate selection is changing, and also women are using their political power, but also their economic power. So, I`ve been toying with this concept of political tithing. I think a lot more women are investing in women, right.
Men are used to investing in men. Also, lots of men wake up one morning and say I should run.
GREER: No qualifications, just, you know, I`m a man. I should just run. Whereas a lot of women -- I mean, they are very rational actors, and they think about all of the things, right, that you have to consider when you run, and finance is one of them.
HAYES: You know, and I`ve been thinking about this in terms of what the complexion of what they Democartic caucus will be, whether or not it takes the House, right. And Betsy, I think about -- a lot about how the kind of Tea Party wave and the House Freedom Caucus changed what that caucus was, the Republican Party, starting in 2010. You have already got Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Last night, Rashida Talib won the primary in John Conyer`s old district. She would be the first Muslim woman in congress. She`s also a Democratic Socialist. You`ve got this incredible candidate named Sharice Davids who won the Democratic Primary in Kansas. She`s an out native woman who is a former MMA fighter. I mean, these would -- if these are people that are making up the Democratic caucus, it`s going to change what that caucus is like.
BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. Comparatively speaking it`ll also be striking. The reality is that the Democartic -- the House Democratic Caucus is way, way, way more diverse than the Republican conference, it`s really a night and day difference, and it`s something that I think especially for reporters covering Capitol Hill, having conversations in the hallways of the Capitol building, it is something that very much is pronounced.
You can see the extent to which Democratic voters are much more likely to support people of color than Republican voters are in terms of the way that their representation in congress looks.
Of course, the other piece of this whole conversation that`s really important that we haven`t gotten to is the question of money, and this is where you can really track the enthusiasm that voters have for the candidates that are running.
One number that`s really important is the number 56, that`s the number of Democratic challengers that so far have outraised the Republican incumbents who they`re running against. That`s a number that really scares Republicans in congress, makes people nervous at the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is a major outside group that`s sort of been fueling a lot of the sort of last ditch Republican survival stories, a group that`s backed by Paul Ryan. You know, their spokesman actually put out a statement today saying Republicans need to get their acts together and need to start actually raising more money than Democrats, because it`s a problem dogging these people on the right.
HAYES: You know, you saw a lot of stories about -- after the primary upset of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, there`s a bunch of stories, Dave, about you know, oh, Democrats are going so far to the left, or they`re going to nominate candidates that can`t win. And I don`t think that`s really been the case. I mean, in fact what I`ve seen -- and, you know, if you look at Rasheeda Talib, like she is going to be the next member of congress, because that district is so Democratic.
In other places, you`re getting a very diverse group of candidates who seem solidly in line with the district more or less.
WASSERMAN: Chris, the mistake a lot of pundits make is to view politics on a left-right spectrum. And I would argue that candidates biographies and how they resonate in the districts they`re running in, that matters a whole lot more than whether a candidate is a Berniecrat or was a Clintoncrat in 2016.
Now, Democrats have to avoid, though, getting too wrapped up in identity politics. There are going to be a lot of firsts this year. It`s certainly the year of the angry female college graduate in 2018, but voters still want to know what are you going to do for me. And they want to see candidates who are focused on pocketbook issues and how they`re going to improve the economy and their health care situation.
So, Democrats have to stick to that message not just pronounce that they`re going to be the first.
GREER: OK, so I`m going to push back just for a quick second, because identity politics in many is explained when we have women, people of color, and candidates that aren`t white men. The problem is Democrats have been practicing identity politics, it`s identity politics of catering to white men that have left the party and that they`re trying to desperately get back.
What many local elections are trying to do is say, let`s actually focus on the people who are here, the talent that we have, and it`s not Democrat versus Republican, it`s voter versus nonvoter, right. It`s the people who are registered.
And look, actually, let`s do -- let`s knock on their doors and actually get them inspired to come and vote for someon who is talking about their interests and their issues.
HAYES: And to Betsy`s point, I mean, what there is, there is a gap between the representational class of the Democratic Party and who Democratic voters are. To your point, Betsy, you noticed the difference in diversity, but it is still true that the Democratic caucus is more male and more white than the Democxratic Party is, right?
WOODRUFF: Right. That`s true. It isn`t perfectly representational of the voters who support the Democratic caucus. But I mean, look, something that`s striking when you are covering Capitol Hill and you`re pulling aside lawmakers to speak to them about whatever the issue of the day is, if you`re speaking to a lawmaker of color, that lawmaker is probably, not always, but probably a Democrat.
It`s something that makes Republicans quite uncomfortable to talk about. This is part of the reason that Republicans do try to focus and spend a lot of money on candidates who are candidates of color who are Republicans, particularly the Republican nominee in Michigan for the Senate race to run against Debbie Stabenow, an African-American man.
But speaking broadly, the Democratic Party is just overwhelmingly more diverse than the GOP is. And I think this new class of Democarts who get elected in, you know, this fall are going to only increase that.
HAYES: Yeah, that`s very interesting to see how this shakes out in the general. Christina Greer, Betsy Woodruff and Dave Wasserman, thank you for your time.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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