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The Breannan Firing was all about Russia. TRANSCRIPT: 8/16/2018, All In w Chris Hayes.

Guests: Eli Stokols, Tammy Baldwin, Harry Litman, Carole King, Barbara Boxer, Nick Confessore, Todd Robberson

Show: ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES Date: August 16, 2018 Guest: Eli Stokols, Tammy Baldwin, Harry Litman, Carole King, Barbara Boxer, Nick Confessore, Todd Robberson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: That was President Ronald Reagan. Today the editors in over 300 newspapers are defending their duty to speak truth to power. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



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

VELSHI: The President does it again connecting the Russia investigations - -

TRUMP: There`s been no collusion. There`s been no talk of Russia.

VELSHI: To his decision to revoke John Brennan`s security clearance.

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Clearly I think Mr. Trump is getting more and more concerned or more desperate, I would say more and more frightened.

VELSHI: Then, new accusations of corruption in Trump world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You saw this is hush money?


VELSHI: As the jury starts deliberating Paul Manafort`s fate.

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: If that`s what he said, that`s what I said, that`s obviously our position is.

VELSHI: And remembering Aretha Franklin with Carole King and Al Sharpton.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: We`ve only had one queen and her name is Aretha Franklin.

CAROLE KING, COMEDIAN: And she`s got soul.

SHARPTON: And she`s a natural woman.

VELSHI: ALL IN starts right now.


VELSHI: Good evening from New York I`m Ali Velshi in for Chris Hayes. The animosity between the President and former CIA Director John Brennan has always been about one thing, the Trump campaigns possible collusion with Russia in its effort to disrupt the 2016 election. As a jury deliberates on the fate of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his lawyers scrambled to shield their client from a showdown with the Special Counsel, the President is lashing outstripping Brennan of his security clearance and putting a list of other former officials on notice.

Brennan hit back today in an op-ed for "The New York Times" President Trump`s claims of no collusion are hogwash pointing to an infamous moment in the 2016 campaign."


TRUMP: Russia if you`re listening I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e- mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


VELSHI: That by itself was collusion according to Brennan. He writes "the only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy and how many members of Trump Incorporated attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets." The President`s beef with Brennan as with other officials like James Comey and Sally Yates is all about the role Brennan played in exposing the Russian operation and possible links to the Trump campaign as he did an explosive House testimony last year.


BRENNAN: I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons and so therefore by the time I left office on January 20th, I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.


VELSHI: The White House tried to present an alternative rationale yesterday for revoking Brennan`s clearance claiming without evidence that his conduct has been "erratic." But the President as he so often does went on to sabotage his staffs version of events connecting the move taking Brennan`s clearance away directly to the Russia probe in an interview with The Wall Street Journal "I called it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham and people -- these people let it." He added, "so I think it`s something that had to be done." There it is as clear as day.

That`s almost an exact repeat of what happened last year when the President fired Comey as FBI Director the White House offered up a pretext pinning Comey`s firing on recommendations from the Attorney General and his deputy only for the President to let slip that it was actually about the Russia probe.


TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire a Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it`s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election.


VELSHI: For more on what`s behind the President`s attack on John Brennan I`m joined by former Watergate Prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks and MSNBC Legal Analyst and Eli Stokols White House Correspondent for the L.A. Times. Both of you thanks for joining us tonight. Jill, let`s just start with you. Give me your context around what you think the President`s up to here.

JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think the President is continuing his obstruction of justice and that he`s doing it in plain sight and that the American people are seeing it. And whoever is not seeing it may be very loyal to him but I have to remind people that probably 65 percent of Americans know what they are seeing and it`s time to stop him.

This is not within our laws and we shouldn`t be using words like collusion. We have to call it what it is. This is conspiracy to defraud the United States. It is a crime, it is illegal and that`s what President Trump is doing right now.

VELSHI: Eli, interestingly there are a lot of people who say that members of the Intelligence Committee shouldn`t be politicized. We heard today from Admiral William McRaven. Now, yesterday we had heard from Ben Rhodes and others about the role that Brennan played in the apprehension of Osama bin Laden, the oppression and killing of Osama bin Laden and that he`s important to national security.

Admiral William McRaven oversaw that raid and today he sent a letter to Donald Trump in which he writes few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity whose honesty and character have never been in question except by those who don`t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency. And I just want to make note here, Eli, CIA Acting Director Michael -- former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell subsequently wrote of this. Bill McRaven is among the least partisan, the least political, the most patriotic people I know. He`s taking a stand on this issue is very significant.

Eli, let`s make sense of this. There are people who are not politicized who are now saying that the President has overstepped.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE L.A. TIMES: That`s right. And the McRaven letter today really was just shocking to a lot of people in Washington who know him, people in national security circles because just how strongly worded it was. And as you pointed out this is not a partisan person making these statements.

This is a guy who led the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and who has served in that -- in the military for a long time, had a very distinguished career and has not made a habit of getting out and being political in his statements. And I think the President with John Brennan and others has felt unfairly attacked because any time he`s attacked he feels like it`s unfair.

But the reason that Brennan and others are speaking out, McRaven now you can add them to the list is because they are shocked and appalled by the President`s actions whether it`s related to the Russia investigation or whether it`s just the language, the course language that the president uses every day in his Twitter feed. That is what is compelling people to speak out.

But the President, he has this very thin skin is seeking some sort of control. He doesn`t have control over the Mueller probe, he can`t stop it, and so he`s looking for things, actions that he can take and revoking Brennan`s clearance is certainly one of those things that he can do in the short term to make himself feel better. It`s certainly not going to put a muzzle on John Brennan, if anything it`s drawn more attention to what John Brennan`s been saying.

VELSHI: So Jill, you know, some people say this is Donald Trump being petty. Today he said it`s about Russia, it could be part of a larger measure. It could be about the fact that he`s having a bad week with Manafort`s trial coming to an end and Omarosa out at every opportunity. But some people think back to 1973 and the memo from a White House Counsel John Dean about the enemies list in which it says the aim is how can we use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

BANKS: It is exactly the same thing and it is something that he didn`t get away with during the Watergate era and that the President shouldn`t be allowed to get away with. We need more people who will stand up and tell the truth to Donald Trump not fewer. So instead of taking away security clearances, he should be listening to them. When Nixon used the enemies list he used the IRS to go after his purported enemies which included mainly a lot of journalists and that seems to be one of the big targets of Donald Trump.

But now he`s actually going against civil servants and the intelligence community which puts at risk our national security not just the freedom of the press but the freedom of our whole country is at risk with this. So it`s probably even more serious than Watergate.

VELSHI: Jill Wine-Banks, Eli Stokols, thanks for joining me this evening. Great to see both of you. For more reaction to the President using his office to retaliate against the Russia probe I`m joined by Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Senator, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us tonight.

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: It`s great to join you, Ali.

VELSHI: What is your take on this the president politicizing the intelligence community and now seemingly saying that yet again it is because of the Russia investigation and the idea that John Brennan had some role in setting the President up in this way?

BALDWIN: You know, it`s small, its petty, the President likes to get his way he wants to silence his critics and he doesn`t seem to be a big fan of the rule of law. But this is a democracy and people are going to keep on speaking out. And it`s why it`s so important that the Mueller investigation be able to continue unobstructed, not interfered with because our very democracy depends upon it and it`s also why it`s so important to protect a free press.

VELSHI: Let me ask you about this. There have been a number of Republican Senators who had surprisingly strong things to say about this might be finding themselves on the wrong side of history on this one but let`s just play back some of it for you.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Brennan has gone way over the line in my view and I think restricting his clearance, pulling his clearance makes sense to me.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: It was about time that he did take away because Brennan has been very outspoken for a guy that was dealing in national security interest as thoroughly as he was.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think I called him a but head and I mean it. I think he`s given the national community a bad name.


VELSHI: Interesting language there. Hatch saying that he`s been fairly outspoken for a guy who deals in national security. That`s conflating two issues. He`s been very outspoken. He hasn`t said anything to anybody that`s classified. He hasn`t leaked information out there. He hasn`t treated his classified -- his access irresponsibly. It`s starting to bring two messages into play.

BALDWIN: Certainly it`s confusing things I and as you were just saying that he`s doing all of this, the president that is, in plain sight and you would think that my colleagues would understand that. Look, the reason why so many keep their security clearances when they have been leaders in the roles that Admiral McRaven, as well as Brennan, have held is for our national security so that their successors can consult and ask for advice. It protects America. And you have pointed out that Brennan and his capacity has been one of the people who has done the most to keep America safe.

VELSHI: We are you know, less than three months away from an election and when you see this sort of behavior people running toward the President as opposed to away from in on things like this. What does that say to you?

BALDWIN: Well it`s very disturbing. I think that they want to make it more difficult for people to discern the truth. And again I have to return to why it is so important that the Mueller investigation be allowed to continue. Recall that this is an investigation about an adversary Russia interfering in our democracy and there`s a lot of threads that this investigation is following. But we have done very little between 2016 and today to bring that to a stop, to be serious of the consequences. It`s why I`m a co-sponsor of the Deter Act. But we have got to stand together as a country against these attacks on our democracy.

VELSHI: Senator Baldwin, good to talk to you again. Thank you for being with us, Senator Tammy Baldwin.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

VELSHI: After the break, the first Paul Manafort trial is now in the hands of the jury heading to day two of deliberations. Meanwhile, the gears of the second trial are already turning. What Robert Mueller handed to Manafort`s attorneys for that next case, next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So to be clear, Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs?

MANAFORT: If that`s what he said, that`s what I said -- that was our position is.


VELSHI: The jury in the trial of Paul Manafort has gone home after its first day of deliberations. It will resume tomorrow morning. And today, Special Counsel Robert Mueller provided Manafort`s legal over 1,000 proposed exhibits for Manafort`s second trial which is expected to begin in September.

As much as President Trump has tried to downplay Manafort`s role in his campaign, Manafort was at the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton and Manafort was campaign chairman when the RNC platform was changed to weaken support for Ukraine which should have pleased Russia. So the outcome of this trial is just one of Mueller`s of puzzle pieces.

Joining me now is Harry Litman who served as both Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Harry, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.


VELSHI: The jury end of the day with four questions to the judge. I want to get your reaction to the idea that they posed four fairly specific questions. What does that make -- what does that make you think?

LITMAN: Well, welcome to the nail-biting world of having a jury out and waiting for them. What it makes me think first and foremost is the jury is working meticulously through the charts as they`re probably up to numbers 11 through 14. I think it`s equally consistent probably more so with a jury that`s just being very thorough and methodical.

Notice as you said, it was four questions at the very end of the day strikes me as likely that they collected them as they went forward, continued to work hard and gave them to the judge at the end of the day so they`ll have the four answers for tomorrow. But it doesn`t indicate a jury that`s getting stuck with stuff and indicates a jury that is being technically precise.

The reasonable doubt request which might have buoyed the defense is probably the most likely and most common request for an instruction from the jury. And of course, all that the judge can usually do in these circumstances because the charges have been approved kind of the word-for- word and you don`t want to risk reversible errors just read it back. But to me, it`s most likely the portrait of a jury really working methodically, cohesively and start -- top to bottom in the indictment.

VELSHI: So I`m going to put up the questions three to four. Question three you just addressed which was the jury said can you defy and reasonable doubt? The answer is the government is not required to prove beyond all possible doubt just doubt forgive me reasoned. And I have to tell you, Harry, as a non-lawyer, but we have trouble with that because regular folk don`t talk about reasonable doubt on a daily basis so I guess that makes sense that they`re asking about it.

The question number four, can the exhibit list be amended to include the indictment? And the answer to that is no. What does that mean?

LITMAN: Well, I think what they asked, the full question was can we get the exhibit list kind of annotated to say exhibit 46 goes with charge fourteen, exhibits -- and that would be in effect to provide testimony from the judge. They just have to rely on what the Advocate said about that. If they whiffed on a particular exhibit or that they wanted to have more than one count that it applies to it`s just got to stay with what the lawyer said and the judge can`t help it there.

VELSHI: Let`s go to big picture for a second. Let`s say there is a conviction and Paul Manafort has not done what a lot of people might have thought he would have done up till now when you`ve got the weight of the federal government against you, he hasn`t cooperated, he hasn`t testified. He hasn`t done anything to help the Mueller investigation. Once there`s a conviction, keeping in mind that he`s got a second trial starting soon, does that increase or decrease that he -- that he cooperates and what can be done to entice him to cooperate if he is convicted?

LITMAN: Boy, I spend the $64,000 question all along because we`ve seen this week he had you know, an overwhelming case against him and it didn`t stop him. Some defendants by the way actually approach the government at justice juncture but that`s not happening with Manafort. His hand is certainly weakened once he had a conviction and the government`s ability to help him out also gets reduced. It`s hard to see why he would suddenly want to cooperate because of these other charges if the first are already sort of you know, in the books.

And in general, you just pushed again and again to the hypothesis that there`s something else going on besides a calculation of winning or losing a trial, something to do with the pardon, some crazy but may possible fear of ration retribution. But it`s hard to see why the fact of conviction here would make it more likely for him. Although what`s coming up as you noted at the top, Ali, the next trial is going to be much more down the middle about Trump and the campaign and being a foreign agent so that`s going you know, vivid as to the Trump`s charges. But I can`t -- he`s been a cipher all along and not cooperating and I think that just remains the case.

VELSHI: What of you -- what you heard today -- all we heard is about the four questions.

LITMAN: Right.

VELSHI: Do any of them make you think that the -- that the Manafort team should feel emboldened? What is their best -- what`s their best shot given these four questions?

LITMAN: Yes, that`s what I meant by the nail-biting world. They could retreat to a bar somewhere and try to make the most of both and try to spin it in either direction. What`s the best that they`re really, really taking reasonable doubt seriously and that`s the thing that the defense wants but that`s you would expect and probably the best for the prosecution is that they`re really zeroing in on the facts of the you know, counts 11 through 14, the evidence of which supports Mueller`s case.

Basically, I think all these questions are going to be -- you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out which way they cut. To me, it`s all at least consistent and more consistent with a jury working through and doing what they are supposed to do toward what I think will be an eventual conviction on almost all if not all counts.

VELSHI: Harry, good to see you as always. Thanks for helping us through this, Harry Litman.

LITMAN: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Still ahead, Omarosa releases another secret recording and President is reportedly furious. We`re going to play the tape and talk about the problems it`s causing for the White House next.


VELSHI: Just like pretty much everyone else in Donald Trump`s orbit, it`s fair to say that former White House and current Donald Trump antagonist Omarosa Manigault Newman has some issues with credibility. So today in order to corroborate claims that she makes in her new book, Omarosa released to NBC another of her secret recordings. This one of a conversation she had with Trump campaign official Lara Trump who`s married to Eric Trump. A recording Omarosa says she made in December days after leaving the White House.

Now the tape appears to support Omarosa claim that she was offered a $15,000 a month job on the Trump campaign which she says amounted to an attempt to buy her silence. Omarosa chose to share four excerpts from a recording of a longer conversation. NBC News has listened to the full tape and can confirm that the clips are not taken out of any context that would change their meaning.

The first clip begins with an apparent reference to this New York Times story from the day before Omarosa says she made the recording


LARA TRUMP, TRUMP CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL: Listen, obviously with like the New York Times article and stuff, you know, it`s --

NEWMAN: What`s the New York Time article?

L. TRUMP: The one that -- the one that -- it was in the New York Times today, I guess you didn`t -- with Maggie Haberman, or they wrote about you. It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are things you`ve got in the black pocket to pull out. Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like we can`t have it, we can go to --

NEWMAN: Oh God, no.

L. TRUMP: -- everybody is positive, right?


VELSHI: Lara Trump goes on to say the campaign would be willing to pay Omarosa $15,000 a month and she`s noticeably vague about what Omarosa`s duties would be.


L. TRUMP: Sometimes you know, come to New York for occasional meetings but I would love if you could occasionally go do speaking engagements and that sort of thing for us. I think you`d be awesome doing that.


VELSHI: In a statement in response to the tape, Laura Trump said in part "I am absolutely shocked and saddened by her betrayal and violation on a deeply personal level. I hope it`s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can`t put a price on." When we come back, the latest on the Omarosa offensive including a new report that Donald Trump is so frustrated that he wants her arrested that`s next.



OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: What Mr. Nixon -- I mean what Mr. Trump does, will be brought to light. Every action that he takes against me jeopardizes me and him and his presidency. He is threatening to get me arrested, he`s trying to intimidate my publisher, trying to intimidate me. Donald Trump has met his match.


VELSHI: Wow. It is hard to think of anyone who has gotten under Donald Trump`s skin as much as former White House aid, Omarosa Manigault Newman. Trump is reportedly ignored his advisors appeals to ignore Omarosa`s book tweeting about her once again today, and Vanity Fair reported today that Trump told advisors he wants Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to have Manigault Newman arrested according to one Republican briefed on the conversations.

For more on Trump versus Omarosa and the use of hush money payments in Trump world, I am joined by MSNBC contributor Nick Confessore, political and investigative reporter at The New York Times, and former Senator Barbara Boxer from the great state of California.

Welcome to both of you this evening.

Senator Boxer, let`s start with you, what do you make of all of this? The president has lots of choices in the way that he can deal with Omarosa and others who take exception to the way he does business. He seems to have chosen one of the worst ways there is.

BARBARA BOXER, FRM. DEMOCRATIC SENATOR FROM CALIFORNIA: I can only tell you that if the president is watching, Mr. President, this is not a dictatorship. We don`t run around arresting people who criticize the government or the president or United States Senator as I was.

Now I was in office for 40 years. I had so many employees. I wouldn`t even contemplate asking them to sign a nondisclosure agreement or even asking them to talk about what went on in the office because we were in it together.

When you are running a government or part of the government, it is not like running, you know, The Apprentice, or your private company. People don`t work for you, they get paid by the taxpayers.

So, stop it with the arresting. Stop it with the hush money. Stop it with the nondisclosure agreements, because none of it is going to hold up. None of it.

VELSHI: Nick, this is strange. We have NDAs in business. They`re relative normal. As Barbara said, you don`t usually have usually have them in government. And this is a fine line to it, because Lara Trump was working for the campaign, and it was the campaign who was promising to pay her, and they were going to match her governmental salary.

But it`s just a strange way of doing business.

NICK CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, it is a way of doing business in his world. He`s used it in his business life, in his personal life with his affairs -- pay offs, strong arming, gag orders, hush money, contracts for non-work. It doesn`t actually work in the public sphere, and in some cases it might be against the law in the public sphere. His campaign perhaps can impose some of these on former employees. He cannot impose that on government officials.

VELSHI: There`s word that -- from a New York Times story that Mr. Trump`s aides have been concerned, Barbara, that they will make appearances on other tapes of which Ms. Manigault Newman is believed to have had as many as 200.

Again, it speaks to the issue of public service. If you are involved in public service, as you said, for four decades, at some point you have to be comfortable with the fact that whether somebody is recording you or someone is going to talk about you to the press. You have to be able to say you conducted yourself in a fashion that that is OK.

BOXER: Well, we`re supposed to be dedicated to our work. But if you look at the hostile environment in the Oval Office where everyone seems to be eyeing each other with some kind of suspicion, and as we all know, the fish stinks from the head, I hate to say that, but that it is an Italian expression, which applies here.

We see how this president works. Everything is about money. He thinks he can buy off everybody. Now clearly, Omarosa has made a decision. She can probably make more money on the outside than sticking with him on the inside, whatever her decision is. But it is horrible, the things he has said about her. And it just adds to this kind of rhetoric that demeans our country and it demeans our humanity and it demeans the presidency.

And all I can say is you know, what I have been working on which is whether it is on my podcast or I volunteer for a political action committee, we need to get out and vote -- Republicans, Democrats, Independents, it doesn`t matter. We need to check and balance this man who is out of control.

VELSHI: Barbara, it is kind of interesting, though, because a lot of Republican -- a number of Republican senators have come out as it relates to the removing of John Brennan`s clearances in support of the president and something that seems overtly partisan and in the eyes of a lot of people who served in the national intelligence agencies well out of line.

So this concept about people coming out and doing the right thing, it is kind of strange watching Republicans run closer and closer to Donald Trump on these issues as he gets boxed into a corner.

BOXER: Well these Trump Republicans have left their party. I served all those years. Republicans, they were the party that championed standing up to Russia, standing up to tyrants and with our intelligence community. This whole thing has gone backwards. They should be ashamed of themselves. And I am so proud of some of the intel community speaking up and saying take away my clearance. I don`t want to be any part of your administration in any way. I don`t want you to call me. I don`t want you to praise me.

This is a bridge too far. And the Republican Party is not the party that I worked with all those years. It is sad for the country. It truly is.

VELSHI: Take a full measure of this Nick, what is the effect of Omarosa this week on the president? I mean the president is under a lot of pressure. They have got the Manafort trial, where we are waiting for a verdict and then he`s got this. The White House has kept telling reporters to change the subject that nobody cares, but the president kept tweeting about it.

CONFESSORE: The president can`t let it go and we have seen he is very sensitive to criticism. He can`t let go of feuds.

I think the fact that he hired Omarosa in the first place. I mean, her skill sets are backstabbing and drama. Why hire her if you don`t expect this to happen in the end.

It does illustrate if his fixer Michael Cohen and a person whose career he made, have so little trust in that and respect for him that they tape him, just imagine everybody else in his circle who has fewer ties to him and are more recent entries to Trump world. That place is a snake pit right now and people are furious with each other. It`s as bad as it`s been since the first days of the presidency.

VELSHI: Nick and Barbara, I should tell you, we are taping this conversation.

Charles Harder, who is representing the Trump campaign, sent a letter to Omarosa`s publisher today in which he says the book violates several provisions of Ms. Manigault Newman`s written agreement with the company. The company will have claims against you and all persons working in concert with you should you proceed with publishing the book.

Simon and Schuster has responded by saying, "my clients will not be intimidated by hollow legal threats and proceeded with the publication of the book as scheduled." This is from Elizabeth McNamara whose firm represents Simon and Schuster.

Barbara, what do you make of this attempt by -- this isn`t just the president tweeting, this is the campaign for Donald Trump threatening a lawsuit for the publication for the book

BOXER: Well, the president is clearly behind it whether it is the campaign, whether it is the Oval, whether it`s his private business, he is the one who thinks he can scare people by saying, we are going after you. wwe are going to collect money from you. We may even arrest you.

And this is not America. This is some other place that lives in Donald Trump`s mind. He is not Putin. He is not in Russia. He is not a dictator. Cut it out.

VELSHI: Barbara Boxer, good to talk to you. Nick Confessore, thanks for joining us tonight for your analysis.

Coming up, the mass protest waged by hundreds of newspapers around the nation pushing back on the Trump campaign against free press.

Plus, she is the legendary singer and songwriter who wrote -- co-wrote Natural Woman for Aretha Franklin. And she`s here to tell me the story of how that happened and what it felt like to have the queen of soul serenade her with that song.

Carole King joins me along with Aretha Franklin`s great friend, the Reverend Al Sharpton ahead.


VELSHI: At last count, 411 newspapers in 49 states have now published coordinated editorials defending the freedom of the press against repeated attacks President Donald Trump who calls journalists the enemy of the people and decries any news he doesn`t like as fake. Here to help me understand what`s at stake at this critical juncture, Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Todd Robberson, the editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which is among those 400 plus newspaper running a hashtag #freepress editorial. He joins me on the phone.

Todd, in fairness, when I say coordinated, the only thing coordinated was the idea that these editorials were going to take place. They weren`t written in coordination.

But I guess the argument is that journalists are supposed to hold power to account. They are supposed to ask difficult questions of those in authority, and they are supposed to bear witness. And yet, for some reason, the president doesn`t see any value in those things, because he sees a press that challenges him as a press that is against him.

TODD ROBBERSON, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH: Yeah, and first of all I do want to emphasize that we did not coordinate our message in any way shape or form. There was no dictated language or anything like that. We all formulated our own ideas and came to our own conclusions editorially.

And it`s also important to emphasize, I don`t think any of us expected that the president was going to read the editorial from Bozeman, Montana, or Big Springs, Texas newspaper, or the St. Louis Post Dispatch for that matter. We are not writing it for the president, we are writing it to the people who elected him to office to make them think about sending him a message about what we all believe is right and wrong and a danger to our democracy..

VELSHI: Have you had any pushback on it?

ROBBERSON: You know, there is always push back any time you write anything that addresses what Trump does. Yes, you get pushback.

VELSHI: That is what media is supposed to do.

Todd, thanks for joining me. Thanks for taking part in this. Todd Robberson at the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Don`t go away. Coming up next, rembering Aretha Franklin with Carole King and Reverend Al Sharpton.


VELSHI: Aretha Franklin, one of the greatest singers this country has ever produced and one of the best-selling musicians of all time died this morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76. Over the course of her career, Franklin gave us more than music, she gave us gifts.

So what better way to celebrate those gifts than to bring together two people who knew Aretha Franklin well. The Reverend Al Sharpton, who was one of her dearest friends, and Carole King who co-wrote the Aretha hit that made Obama cry: "Natural Woman."


CAROLE KING, SONGWRITER: She made her name long before she recorded the song "Natural Woman."

VELSHI: Which you co-wrote.

KING: Which I co-wrote with Jerry Garthan (ph) who wrote the lyrics and Jerry Wexler, who was the producer at Atlantic. He came one the title, so that`s why you see three names on that song.

VELSHI: In fact, you write about this in your book titled "A Natural Woman." You have got a whole chapter there about, you know, Jerry was talking about coming up with a really big hit for Aretha Franklin. What did you think?

KING: Well, we listened to WNJR for inspiration. And we went home. And I just started playing kind of that slow gospel feel and Jerry just started coming out with the lyrics and it was amazing, you know, and we made a demo which I later recorded that song in tapestry a different way. But I made the demo how I thought she might sing it not really being able to sing anywhere near like that.

And we brought the demo to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic and (inaudible). And we heard nothing. And we heard nothing. And we heard nothing.

And then we get a call and we come into the office and they play us the record that y`all have been listening to, that we have all...

VELSHI: That`s amazing.

KING: It blew me away. It was like, oh my god.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: One of her greatest performances, too, in terms of singing was singing "Natural Woman." (SINGING)

SHARPTON: My most dramatic memory, if you want to call it that, or endearing memory, is she sang at the White House in the last year of President Obama for jazz night.


SHARPTON: And I remember, we got to the White House and was saying to somebody, we`re going through and they were having it out on the White House lawn under a tent. And I saw Will who traveled with Miss Franklin. And I said where`s the queen? He said -- and he did like this and he brought me in the back and she was in the room getting her hair done. And she looked at me and said Rev. Al, don`t get no better than that, Aretha getting her hair done in the White House with a black president. If daddy could see me now.

I didn`t know whether to laugh or cry because of the moment. But -- and the president really loved Aretha Franklin.

VELSHI: 50 years of American history. Her performing life was 50 years of American history.

Talk to me about her influence on contemporary music.

KING: Well, I would say first of all, I am a white Jewish girl, was a white Jewish girl and totally influenced by her piano playing style, which by the way...

VELSHI: She`s remarkable, yeah.

KING: At the Kennedy Center Honors thing one of the first things...

VELSHI: This is December 2015 when she sang Natural Woman for you.

KING: She sang it for me and later I read an article in which actually she said I was singing it for her, but it sure felt like that. And I was just, oh, my god. Because the first thing she did, which she doesn`t usually do in her later years, she came out on that stage and she sat down at the piano and started to play. And I turned to my daughter who was sitting behind me and I said, she`s playing!


KING: And from there, it was just, she took me higher. But, you know, She was kind of a revolution of her own. I mean, Her talent, to be sure, a black woman doing her own thing and leading others around her. So inspired.

SHARPTON: And conducting her own business.

KING: Indeed.

And as I said, you know, I was a young white Jewish woman, but I interacted in my business, you know, we didn`t think very much about how, you would say color, whatever. We just all, whatever it took get the music to happen. And so you know, my interaction with her was just inspiration. I took so much inspiration.

VELSHI: And so the inspiration can from her and all the things she did, but she has a number of songs, Respect and Think, which are really anthems, particularly for women. They`re feminist anthems.


VELSHI: This woman was a trailblazer in lot of ways, Reverend Al. I mean, in the different kinds of music she did -- but they say, she succeed at opera as well. But she really, she both wrote inspirationally and behaved inspirationally.

SHARPTON: She behaved as she wrote. She certainly affirmed women, feminism, way before it was popular. And she brought the sound of the black church mainstream. People -- she never lost that kind of church kind of feel to her music.

And if you would ever go see her perform, she would do gospel songs and do a joy shout if it was in the White House or if it was at the Apollo Theater.

VELSHI: It`s easy to think about, but that was a real struggle at the time, particularly for African-American performers, right, because they were pigeon holed. If you were an R&B singer, it was next to impossible even if you were topping the charts, to move over to mainstream.

SHARPTON: But Aretha. And Aretha did it seamlessly and I think that she never got the credit for that.

But she never lost her authenticity. I think that`s why everybody loved her, no matter what race, because she was who she was. And she would sing from her heart. You could watch other performers. You could feel Aretha. There was something about Aretha that got into the bottom of your soul.

VELSHI: I`m just reading from Chapter 27 of your book, Carole, where Jerry, you were talking to him about writing "Natural Woman." And said oh, my god, he want to us write for Aretha. I think we can do it. Of course we can.

Yeah, I think I`ve already got an idea.

You -- did you know at the time when you were doing this with Aretha Franklin that this was going to be one of many, but a song that everybody no matter how old you are today, knows. There is no young child who has listened to music who doesn`t -- won`t recognize Natural Woman.

KING: I did not. I don`t think Jerry did either. We just had a job to do. We just sat down to do our job. It was a little intimidating. I mean, like I said, I made the demo and I don`t have the range that she has. I don`t have that gospel singing background, and yet somehow -- sometimes we songwriters or performers, and you can see this in Aretha, we are the instruments. And so I was unconscious of any of that. All did I was sit down with Jerry, the collaboration worked as it often does with songwriters, and what came out she lifted to the next level.

But we were all instruments in bringing this song to people around the world. And so the fact it is popular, I think that`s that -- and Aretha, I know would say, she felt like an instrument. She knew she was an instrument.

VELSHI: It is -- I don`t know if it is clear to everybody, Reverend Al, what influence Aretha Franklin has had on their lives, because for 50 years of performing, so much of what we think of as music is because of Aretha Franklin.

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

And I think that we`ve had a lot of legends. We`ve had a lot of megastars and super stars, but we`ve only had one queen and her name is Aretha Franklin.

KING: And she`s got soul.

SHARPTON: And she`s a natural woman.

VELSHI: That is a great way to remember Aretha Franklin. Carole King, Reverend Al, thank you both.

SHARPTON: Thank you.


VELSHI: Earlier I had an opportunity to speak to Aretha Franklin`s ex- husband who said not only could she sing but she could burn, referring to her cooking, which is a compliment, by the way. Saying that she could burn means that she was a fantastic cook.

But one thing that he said to me that he`d like people to remember is that she had a great sense of humor and she was always curious. He recalled a time when she got him to buy a whole set of books related to the Harvard Business School curriculum so he could read them.

That`s it for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.