Trump calls Manafort "very good person." TRANSCRIPTS: 8/17/2018, All In w Chris Hayes.

Guests: Michael Isikoff, Kim Wehle, Harry Sandick, Nada Bakos, Daniel Goldman, Jamie Raskin, John Soltz, Sam Seder

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: August 17, 2018 Guest: Michael Isikoff, Kim Wehle, Harry Sandick, Nada Bakos, Daniel Goldman, Jamie Raskin, John Soltz, Sam Seder

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say it, I say it again, that whole situation is a rigged witch hunt.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Trump makes it clear his retaliation on security clearances is all about Russia.

TRUMP: Mr. Mueller is conflicted but let him write his report, we did nothing, there`s no collusion.

VELSHI: Tonight, what damage this could do to the Mueller investigation. Then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Manafort really appreciates the support of President Trump.

VELSHI: Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to his former campaign manager.

TRUMP: I think the whole matter for trial is very sad.

VELSHI: Did the President just try to taint the Manafort jury?

TRUMP: And I think it`s very sad what they`ve done to Paul Manafort. Thank you very much.

VELSHI: And bad news for Donald Trump`s desire to have a big show of military might in Washington D.C.

TRUMP: We`re actually thinking about Pennsylvania Avenue having a really great parade to show our military strength.

VELSHI: That much-vaunted parade canceled. "ALL IN" starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Good evening from New York. I`m Ali Velshi in for Chris Hayes. Faced with extraordinary backlash to his decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance, the President today defended the move as payback for the Russia investigation and vowed to go further. Tonight, 60 former CIA officers are condemning what they describe as an attempt to punish Brennan for expressing his views on national security issues.

They joined 13 former national and security intelligence chiefs appointed by Republicans and Democrats who publicly rebuked the President overnight in a rare joint statement writing, "we all agree that the President`s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. Decisions on security clearance should be based on national security concerns and not political views."

Leaving the White House this morning, the President stopped to defend himself to reporters saying in public on camera what he previously told The Wall Street Journal that his action against Brennan was directly linked to Brennan`s involvement in the Russia probe.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say to those who say you`re trying to silence your critics?

TRUMP: There`s no silence. If anything, I`m giving up a bigger voice. Many people don`t even know who he is and now he has a bigger voice and that`s OK with me because I like taking on voices like that. I`ve never respected him. I`ve never had a lot of respect. He had a chance to report, he never did. This has just came up lately and it`s a disgusting thing, frankly. Look, I say it, I say it again, that whole situation is a rigged witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The President also singled out the only official still in office whose security clearance is under review. A Justice Department lawyer named Bruce Ohr whose ties to Christopher Steele and the research firm that hired him have made Ohr one of the right`s favorite targets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. I suspect I`ll be taking it away very quickly. I think that Bruce Ohr is a disgrace with his wife Nellie. For him to be in the Justice Department and to be doing what he did, that is a disgrace. That is disqualifying for Mueller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Bruce Ohr, a career employee of the Justice Department is no longer involved in the Russia probe. According to the Washington Post, the President is currently gearing up to strip security clearances from a number of other officials linked to the investigation. The names on the list include James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, and Peter Strzok. all of whom played key roles in the investigations early stages. And as Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, cutting off their access to classified information could have a very direct impact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: What if the practical effect of taking away a security clearance from a former official who was involved in the formative stages of the Russia investigation is that you interfere with that former official accessing his or her own notes and files? What does that do to their ability to prepare for testimony and to testify if need be? I mean, we have good reason, after all, to think that a bunch of these people might have important things to say. He`s not after his critics, he`s after the witnesses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: He`s after the witnesses says Rachel. She`ll be sitting down for a live interview with John Brennan later tonight. Now, the President is not just targeting potential witnesses in the Russia probe, unable to bend the Justice Department to his will and get the whole investigation shut down. He`s taking aim at Robert Mueller himself.

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TRUMP: Mr. Mueller has a lot of conflicts also directly yourself, so you know that. Mr. Mueller is highly conflicted. In fact Comey is like his best friend. I could go into conflict after conflict. But sadly Mr. Mueller is conflicted. But let him write his report, we did nothing. There`s no collusion.

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VELSHI: OK, for more on who the President is targeting in the backlash he`s provoked I`m joined by MSNBC Contributor Natasha Bertrand, Staff Writer for The Atlantic and Michael Isikoff Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo! News and co-author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.

Natasha, it`s always good when the President says something to get out there right in front and call him on it. This conflict after conflict and how conflicted Robert Mueller is, there`s just no evidence of that whatsoever.

NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, of course not. And of course, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has already said that there is no conflict of interest that would prevent Mueller from carrying out this investigation credibly. I think what we`re seeing is the President is clearly panicking. He`s repeating Fox News talking points. He doesn`t know Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official, but that has been something that the right-wing media has been hammering and hammering on for the better part of a year now. And of course, the same thing goes for this idea that Mueller has a conflict of interest.

And I think that we see now the lengths that he`s willing to go to distract from news cycles that are not favorable to him. And we`ve seen that with the you know, revoking John Brennan`s security clearance. That was a deliberate attempt to distract from the Omarosa news that was coming out.

VELSHI: Yes, the memo was dated July 26th and it came out yesterday.

BERTRAND. Exactly. And so it was about three weeks after right when the Omarosa news was hitting that this finally was released. And of course a new report in The Washington Post tonight actually says that communications staffers at the White House are drafting new security clearance cancellations and determining when they would be most beneficial to be released. So they`re essentially planning this around negative news cycles and they`re not only politicizing the security clearance process but they`re actually using it in order to make themselves look better during a damaging -- during damaging media reports.

VELSHI: But Michael, in the beginning, this looked like something petty and vindictive. It now has taken on a much more sinister feel to it. Now the president -- we don`t even have to guess right -- the President has basically said it was about the Russia investigation. This was the new Lester Holt moment. Now that he said this, tell me how this all unfolds? The president having failed to outwit his opponents has now decided to just use brute force.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Sure. Well, look, I mean, the John Brennan revocation, I think some of this is a little overwrought, the idea that it`s stifling free speech is kind of absurd. John Brennan is going on this network within an hour and it`s going to speak freely about what he has to say about the President. He certainly hasn`t held back.

And one should look at some of his tweets which I think you know our problem -- the views are probably shared by most of your listeners but the fact is he is a former CIA Director and when he says the President is a demagogue who will end up on the dustbin of history, when he says that the president engaged in collusion when he had testified before Congress that he was not aware if there was actual collusion, I mean there are a lot of questions that people have within the intelligence community about a lot of what John Brennan has been saying.

VELSHI: But Michael, he didn`t use any of his classified information. He didn`t abuse any. But there are 13 reasons why you can remove somebody`s clearance. He hasn`t committed any of them but and there`s no process, Michael. I mean that`s just -- that`s a weird argument. If you don`t -- if you don`t like what he says that`s cool --

ISIKOFF: It`s not a weird argument.

VELSHI: No, it actually is, Michael.

ISIKOFF: What is much more serious -- what I much more serious --

VELSHI: Michael, Michael, Michael --

ISIKOFF: Yes.

VELSHI: There are the 13 reasons that you can take someone a clearance away.

ISIKOFF: Sure.

VELSHI: There are no breaches of those by --

ISIKOFF: My point is I don`t disagree with that at all, my only point is John Brennan is not going to suffer because his security clearance has been revoked.

VELSHI: Oh, and I don`t think any -- it`s the nation is going to suffer because of it.

BERTRAND: Can I just make a quick point on that?

ISIKOFF: Can I -- can I -- can I make my point, please. What is much more serious is the questions about Bruce Ohr because he`s still a standing Justice Department official. And when you talk about basically eliminating anybody`s due process and revoking by presidential edict, somebody who is still in office, still serving the government, that to me is a much more serious matter than whether John Brennan (INAUDIBLE) security clearance or not.

VELSHI: I think you`re going down the slippery slope, you`ve gotten down the slippery slope. The President has done something that is that has breached the process that you`re supposed to use if you want to take somebody`s security clearance away. I don`t know that there are shades of this sort of thing. I mean, Natasha, what do you think the further implications of this are? We`ve seen these 13 senior intelligence officials write this letter, now we`ve seen another 61 of whom I`ll speak to later on, they`re all very concerned about greater implications not John Brennan`s free speech rights.

BERTRAND: Right, exactly. And that`s exactly the point that I was going to make was this slippery slope danger where you set the precedent by revoking John Brennan`s security clearance where you know, I agree with -- I agree with Mike. I agree that you know John Brennan`s freedom of speech has not been stifled here, but the -- but the President that it sets in terms of desensitizing people to the idea of the President revoking security clearances not because of a national security violation but because that person has been critical of the President in the -- within the context of the Russia investigation or any other context. I think that is a precedent that`s very dangerous.

And of course, as Mike said, this is also a very important point. It`s completely different now when you`re talking about a currently serving Justice Department official. That, of course, will completely hamstring his ability to do his job. So that would actually amount to him losing his job and his ability to carry out his role as a public servant in response to him having a proper channel between Chris Steele and the Justice Department during 2016 and 2017 when this kind of -- when negotiations between Steele and the FBI were still ongoing.

So, of course, this is a terrible precedent. I think that the McRaven op- ed was not necessarily meant for example as a notice to the general public but it was more meant to convey to people who may be in the same position either current or former intelligence officials that this is a moment when they need to really decide what they`re going to do.

VELSHI: Natasha Bertrand and Michael Isikoff, thanks to both of you for joining us tonight. Admiral McRaven obviously the Admiral who oversaw the attack and killing of Osama bin Laden writing to the President saying it would be his honor to have his security clearance revoked.

For more on the President`s latest moves in their potential impact on the Mueller probe, I`m joined by Kim Wehle and Harry Sandick, both our former Federal Prosecutors. Let`s examine this in terms of the dangers that this holds for the Mueller investigation. Kim the President has basically declared himself the Emperor. He has decided there are rules that simply do not apply to him. There`s an executive order and there are rules to be followed if you want to take somebody`s security clearances away, the President feels he`s not subject to that. That`s just in keeping with what the President has been saying about his rights and privileges for the last two years.

KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, and I also teach constitutional law full time now and I`m writing a book on the Constitution for regular people. And I think what`s happening here is it`s almost like an adolescent smashing all the crystal in the house because he or she isn`t getting what they want and the parents are standing by doing nothing or giving more of what this child wants. That is the parents are Congress.

Congress is not doing its job to make sure that the President stays within the boundaries of the Constitution not just due process but also the First Amendment. And I disagree with the idea that it matters at all in this instance whether John Brennan himself is his speech field stifled. The question is do we want a government that can go around bullying people based on their political views. And the founders of the Constitution were very, very clear, that`s a no.

And the implications for this are very serious. I mean, we`ve got 60 intelligence officials who are the grown-ups in the room. They don`t have power anymore but they`re saying this is not OK. These are career public servants who make decisions based on facts and law. They`re careful, they`re judicious, and I think the American public needs to start really listening. I think the Trump constituency needs to understand this can`t be sustained anymore and have a democracy for their children as well as children of the people that are on other parts of the political spectrum in this country.

VELSHI: Yes, I mean, Harry, I as much as everybody`s expressing their concern for John Brennan, John Brennan is a big boy. He can take care of himself. I don`t really care. He has not been stifled one bit in his free speech we still do have laws about that. I`m very concerned about Donald Trump. I`m very concerned about every time Donald Trump oversteps what we as a society have agreed the bounds are around the President. He seems to be able to do it again.

HARRY SANDICK, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTORS: Yes. And Kim is right. The Constitution lays out certain parameters for each branch but we also in addition to our written constitution have a set of norms that we expect our elected officials to follow. And whether that`s not engaging in business while you`re also president or as the case is here punishing people who are potential witnesses against you or public critics against you by taking away their security clearance and threatening implicitly to do that to other folks if they cross the president in the future, it certainly violates the norms that we have even if as a technical matter it may not be possible for these people to file lawsuits.

VELSHI: Right, and you know, Attorney General Sessions just said in the last couple of days that it is not the courts business to police what the president does. You have said Kim that it`s Congress`s business. I`ll be talking to a member of Congress very shortly but these days we haven`t seen that work.

WEHLE: Oh, Congress know. Congress is pretty much you know out to pasture at this point. They`re worried about Trump supporters and the framers were aware of this too, that`s why the framers created a republic that is a representative government on the theory that people will form factions and they`ll do crazy things and we need grown-ups in the room to make good decisions. Unfortunately, our members of Congress right now are not fulfilling that function.

The notion that the courts though are not in a position to judge the constitutionality of what the other branches are doing and flies in the face of a you know key case called Marbury versus Madison, it`s foundational to our democracy. No branch gets their papers ungraded there are two other branches that grade everybody`s papers. And that keeps us out of tyranny and that`s what distinguishes our Constitution from the monarchy that our Founding Fathers fought so hard and died for to get away from.

VELSHI: Harry, there may be some hope on the horizon. Senator Mark Warner has proposed a measure that he said he`s going to introduce on Monday. He said I will be introducing an amendment next week to block the president from punishing and intimidating his critics by arbitrarily revoking security clearances. Stay tuned.

He sort of addresses the two issues here. One is the arbitrarily revoking security clearances for which process exists that the president has ignored but also the punishing and intimidating his critics. There are two distinct issues going on here and they both need to be addressed. One is norms and one is law.

SANDICK: That`s right. And I think the idea of a new law would be a good idea particularly one that would give people a private right of action to say if you have been wrongly deprived of your security clearance, that you can go into court and as Kim was saying invoke the Constitution, challenge the executive action. But a statute from Congress seems like a step forward in allowing that to be done.

VELSHI: Right. It`s an interesting discussion which will have more of. Kim Wehle and Harry Sandick, thank you both for being here tonight. Ahead, the President`s move to revoke security clearances from his critics draws condemnation from members of the intelligence community. Tonight 60 former CIA officials signing on to a letter doing just that. Nada Bakos is one of those former officials. I`ll ask why she chose to sign on next.

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VELSHI: Another day and another stunning reaction from the intelligence community after President Trump`s truly unprecedented, brazenly political reeve occasion of former CIA Director John Brennan`s security clearance. After former national security and intelligence chiefs United in a joint letter of protest of Trump`s action against Brennan, they`ve now been joined by nearly 60 former CIA officials who are also voicing their deep concern over the president`s action.

One of the CIA officials who signs that letter joins me now, former CIA analyst Nada Bakos. Nada, great to have you here. Thank you for being with us. Tell us what was at the forefront of your thinking when you decided to join other members of the intelligence community in this letter.

NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Ultimately, I wanted to ensure that it was -- my signature was included in the letter that says unequivocally I don`t think it`s OK for a political litmus test to be applied to remarks that any former official makes in the media or in a public forum.

VELSHI: Why. Tell me why that`s the issue. Why -- what would happen if we applied political litmus tests to people who did the kind of work that you do who work in the intelligence establishment?

BAKOS: Then it would strictly be about ideology political party and I have nothing to do with national security. I would say this if it was a letter that I had to sign saying the same thing about former President Barack Obama, George W Bush, any president in our history I can`t imagine any of those actually asking for something like loyalty in order to be able to speak out publicly and discuss national security matters.

Even if he was -- President Trump was opposed to John Brennan`s actions, this is not the type of actions he should be taking. This is like retaliation against a former government official. And that in and of itself is extremely dangerous. Saying that you could only agree with me on national security matters and that`s the only time that you can speak out. That is so dangerous. That`s just like a dictator or an autocrat.

VELSHI: Are you heartened by the response by these intelligence chiefs and the other intelligence officers like you who have -- who have had this response that there`s been a full-throated response to the President which by the way has been a long time coming because this president has been attacking the intelligence community pretty much from the outset.

BAKOS: Yes, I mean I am very proud to stand alongside my colleagues because if nothing else, the CIA prides itself on trying to be fair and objective in how they look at national security matters and they try not to look at it through a lens of a political party. That doesn`t mean an individual cannot hold their own specific beliefs --

VELSHI: Nor should they -- nor should they not hold us right? We should all have we have. We have a mind. We should think.

BAKOS: Absolutely, absolutely. But at the same time, when you`re doing your actual job and you`re delivering information, it shouldn`t be done through that political lens.

VELSHI: So let me ask you this. We talked to John McLaughlin about this, I was just arguing with Michael Isikoff about it. There is actually a process by which your security clearance can be revoked and there are some valid reasons why that should need to be the case. There`s a process there is an ability for the person who`s having their security clearance revoked to appeal it or to at least explain themselves. The President didn`t even pay lip service to this.

BAKOS: No, not at all. And from my impression, it just seems to be that he`s left us with and is OK with saying if you disagree with me that I can then retaliate. This isn`t about Brennan`s you know, his actual job performance or anything else. This is literally about what he said in the public sphere.

VELSHI: And to be clear, one of those reasons that would justify someone taking your security clearance the way as if you mishandled classified information or things that you weren`t. If you came on the show and said things that you`re not entitled to say. there`s no accusation that John Brennan did anything that would justify doing that.

BAKOS: Right, I`m not aware of any accusations that would speak to his performance would be able to hold a classified or a hold of security clearance. I mean, I myself have gone through so many hoops to try to get my book cleared at this point of making sure that I go through a review process. It`s still in process with the government. I am doing everything I can to hold my security agreement with the government. The president needs to abide by and respect the same types of rules that the rest of us have to.

VELSHI: All right, Nada, thanks very much for joining us. Nada Bakos is one of the signatories to this new letter of former CIA analyst. Thanks for your time. Still ahead, while the jury decides Paul Manafort`s fate, the President makes public comments about the trial on Manafort himself. The impact of his comments on an unsecured jury right after this. Don`t go away.

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TRUMP: I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad when you look at what`s going on there I think it`s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what, he happens to be a very good person. And I think it`s very sad what they`ve done to Paul Manafort. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Today, President Trump stood on the South Lawn of the White House and lauded his former campaign chair Paul Manafort as a jury was actively deliberating Manafort`s fate in his first trial on 18 counts including financial fraud and money laundering. The man Trump called a quote very good person has a history of being lavishly paid to work on behalf of authoritarian leaders around the globe. He also faces a second trial next month the charges in that one include conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The President was also asked today about a possible pardon for Manafort and he actually didn`t say no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will you pardon Paul Manafort? Will you pardon Paul Manafort if he`s convicted?

TRUMP: I don`t talk about that. I don`t talk about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHIl I don`t talk about that. Paul Manafort`s attorney welcomed Trump`s comments on Manafort, again, which the President made while the jury which is not sequestered was still deliberating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN DOWNING, LAWYER OF MANAFORT: Mr. Manafort really appreciates the support of President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Mr. Manafort really appreciates the support of President Trump. The jury will return at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. Joining me now is MSNBC Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Daniel Goldman who was at the courthouse today. Daniel let`s clear something up. It is not common in a federal case for a jury to be sequestered so they hear what -- I mean they`re told not to listen to this stuff but the fact is they can be exposed to it.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: In theory, they can but they would be violating their oath as jurors. So, I think the implications of what the president said today is unlikely to reach the jury and should not reach the jury, the judge every morning asked them if they have upheld their duty and not to read anything or watch anything, not withstanding as difficult as that sounds to us.

But certainly Paul Manafort heard it, and there`s no question that there are -- there is a message being sent from the president to Paul Manafort.

VELSHI: And the interesting message when asked about a pardon when he says I don`t discuss that.

GOLDMAN: Now he says.

VELSHI: There are all sorts of reasons why Paul Manafort, if he knows something that will be useful to the government, has not made a deal as of now. And there are some people who speculate that could be one of those reasons.

GOLDMAN: I am one of them. I think that the -- even though his lawyers seem to have a reason why he would have two cases, it doesn`t make any sense to choose to have two separate cases and two trials. The defendant does not get any benefit from having two bites at the apple because one conviction could sends him to the jail. Instead the government gets two bites at the apple.

But given that we have a president who has said repeatedly in the past, when people are treated unfairly that that is a predicate for him pardoning them, and now he`s using that language today that it`s a sad day for our country. He tweeted about it several weeks ago in comparing Manafort`s situation to Al Capone and is being treated unfairly.

There`s no question that given his own track record that this president is dangling the idea of a pardon for Paul Manafort.

VELSHI: And he`s laid the groundwork for that with other pardons that he has brought in.

Let`s just talk about the time that the jury has taken. They`ve been negotiating. They`ve been deliberating for 12 hours. Some people speculated this is such a tight case on the part of the prosecution that it would be fast. Does this mean nianything to you?

GOLDMAN: Well, it all depends on what kind of jury you have. There are some jurors who are not inclined to get into the weeds and analyze every document and go through every element of every -- all 18 charges. And then there are other jurors, and this one appears to be like this type of jury, that is going to really do their job very seriously.

And what`s not only surprising about, I wouldn`t say it`s necessarily surprising that it is taking this long, but what is surprising to me that there have been so few jury notes and in particular, that they have not asked for the testimony of any witnesses, which is very common in trials when juries like, you know, when they are debating with each other about what someone said, and they`ll say, can we have the testimony of this witness about X subject? And that has not happened at all.

So, what we can tell from questions yesterday is that they are going through carefully the evidence and the law, but we will have to see.

I don`t think there is anything really to draw from it yet other than that they are taking their job very seriously.

VELSHI: Thanks for your analysis, Daniel. We appreciate it. Daniel Goldman.

GOLDMAN: My pleasure.

VELSHI: All right, I want to turn now to Congresswoman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, who is a member of both the House judiciary and oversight committee. Congressman Raskin, thanks for being with us.

Talk about this Donald Trump refusing to rule out a pardon when asked about it this morning. What do you make of that?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D) MARYLAND: Well, back when he pardoned Sheriff Arpaio and Scooter Libby and Dinesh D`Souza, he was clearly sending a message to the people he stands by his friends, and now again he`s making positive noises about pardons in order to make certain that Paul Manafort stays on his side.

I mean, essentially what I read the strategy to be is, well, go through the trial and see if you can get off, and if you can`t, I will take care of you later. This is a president who from the firing of James Comey all the way through the constant denunciation of Attorney General Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Mueller, has been doing everything in his power to destroy and disrupt and derail this investigation.

VELSHI: You heard Daniel Goldman saying that this jury seems to be diligent. They wouldn`t probably break their rules by listening to something the president said today. I think it was awfully strange though that the president decided to opine on what a great guy Paul Manafort was and what a terrible case this is and how sad and unfair it is during jury deliberations.

RASKIN: Well, it`s important to remember how extreme and abberrent his behavior is as president. I mean, it`s very hard to think of another president who has worked so doggedly to contaminate the jury pool of the eastern district of Virginia or the District of Columbia, or indeed the jury pool that is the United States of America. He wakes up thinking about it. He goes to sleep thinking about it. It`s all he does.

He doesn`t work on infrastructure. He doesn`t work on health care. He`s not working on any public policy issue of importance to the American people, he is just focused on this investigation.

And as one of my Republican colleagues, Trey Gowdy, said several months ago, he is certainly not acting like an innocent man.

VELSHI: Let me ask you about what happens if there is a pardon involved. You are on the judiciary committee. Is there anything you can do about it?

RASKIN: Well, let`s start with the legal analysis. Some people have said that the president`s pardon power is completely unlimited in the constitution. And that is not true. There are very few things in the constitution that are not limited by other powers that are built into the constitution. If you take an extreme example, if a president decided to put pardons up for sale, it may be that the actual pardeons themselves are unreviewable in court, but they certainly would be reviewable by congress, that is those could be impeachable events, that is if he takes bribes for passing out pardons, or if he passes out pardons in order to thwart justice and intefere with the rule of law, that in itself could constitute an impeachable event, or it could constitute certainly an event that congress could look into through the oversight power.

Now, unfortunately because of the GOP`s decision, basically, to disregard its constitutional duties, we are not using the oversight power of congress to look into each of these sequential events of obstruction of justice that the president has engaged in, but it`s very important at least for us to use our first amendment rights and for the media to surface exactly what`s going on.

VELSHI: If the House flips in 81 days, what is your first priority because there are a lot of things you are talking about here. What would you do?

RASKIN: Well, we have got a backlog of literally hundreds of requests into everything from the abuse of the president`s pardon power to the abuse of the power to give people access to national security secrets, to obstruction of justice, to the emolument clause. I mean, it`s -- we are going to have a hell of a time trying to figure out how to prioritize everything that`s going on.

But we`ve got to do everything in our power to restore the rule of law and respect to the constitution, the first amendment, the free press and the rights of the people. I mean, that is what we`ve got to do, that`s what congress needs to be doing.

The president`s role under our Constitution is not to be a king. The role of the president is to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. This president has been taking care that the laws are successfully thwarted and derailed at every turn, and so we have to do everything for making sure that they`re not twarting the Affordable Care Act, that people are getting the health care that they need, that they are not giving the Department of Education away to private for profit schools in ways that override the due process rights of students and that override the rules of law. In every department...

VELSHI: It is an impressive to-do list. You know, it`s kind of interesting when your to-do list starts off with restore the rule of law and protect the constitution you know it`s going to be a busy day if that`s what it starts with.

Congressman, good to see you. Thank you for being with me. Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

RASKIN: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

VELSHI: All right, still to come, while the president fumes that his Veteran`s Day military parade is too expensive to put on, questions still loom over exactly who is running the VA? We`re going to go through both of those stories next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: We have breaking news from Reuters tonight, the U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller recommends that the judge sentence George Padopoulos to up to six months in prison for lying to investigators in the Russia probe.

Let`s bring in NBC News and intelligence and national security reporter Ken Dilanian. And Ken, what do we know about this story?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS: Ali, we are still scrambling trying to get ahold of this court document that Reuters is reporting on, but what I can tell you is that it has been very clear in recent months that the notion that George Papadopoulos was cooperating with the Mueller investigation was breaking down. And it was starkly clear most recently when his wife went on Ari Melber`s show and other places and said she that believed he should withdraw his plea deal, because he wasn`t getting a fair shake.

And that is consistent with a number of interviews she has been given over the past few months where it`s been pretty clear that all was not well in that relationship and if they are recommending prison time and suggest that they don`t believe he is fully cooperating.

Remember that he pleaded guilty to one single count of lying to investigators about his contacts with a suspected Russian agent who told him while he was an aid to the Trump campaign that the Russians had emails, incriminating emails about Hillary Clinton. And what we don`t know, Ali, is who in the Trump campaign he shared that information with.

He has said, and others have said, that he had high level contacts within the campaign, with Cory Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, Sam Clovis who was leading the foreign policy team. And that is a key factor in the Mueller investigation.

What I wonder, though, is whether they really need his cooperation if they have all the emails, which we know they do, among him and these people about the subject of the Russian hacked emails or anything else they`re interested in Papadopoulos about.

VELSHI: So let me ask you this, and maybe you know the answer to this, maybe we don`t know yet, if Mueller says that Padopoulos lied to investigators and should be sentenced to jail, is this the initial lie or is this subsequent lies when as you just described people thought Padopoulos must be cooperating with the investigation.

DILANIAN: My take on this is this is the sentencing recommendation in the charge he pleaded guilty to, which is lying to investigators. But the issue was he was hoping for probation for his cooperation with Mueller and it doesn`t appear that they are going in that direction.

VELSHI: So, I guess what we have to glean is for the crime he`s alleged to have committed, does six-month seem like a long time or does six months seem, while it`s not as short as Papadopoulos and his wife would have liked, does that seem unusually punitive or is that exactly where it would be. Do we know enough about that?

In other words, is Mueller mad at him or is this what he gets?

DELANDY: Well, Mueller is mad at him because cooperators generally hope not to get any prison time at all, that`s why they cut the deal. Six months for a first offender non-violent, one count of lying is a pretty standard sentence within the guidelines.

Often those cases, the judge sentences the person to no jail time at all or less than six months. Remember the lawyer Vander Swan (ph) did not get six months, and so, yes, I think it is pretty clear that that cooperation has broken down -- you know, there`s also -- his wife has been giving interviews about this person who Stefen Halper, who has been reported to be an FBI informant. That is something that the government did not want in the public domain. It`s not clear how that emerged into the public domain, but subsequent to that happening, she has been talking about this person, Halper`s contact with Papadopoulos, and the government can`t have been happy with that.

VELSHI: So -- and I am putting you on the spot, because I know you are not a lawyer but you know a lot of about these things, do we -- once the sentencing recommendation has been made, does that mean the juice has been squeezed out of Padopoulos, that the investigation feels that they got out of him what they`re going to get out of him and likely no more?

DILANIAN: Yes. And in fact they`re disappointed that they didn`t get perhaps what thought they were going to get. Absolutely.

And of course the judge doesn`t have to adhere to this recommendation, but it`s a very important factor in the sentencing whether he gets this downward departure, as it`s called, for cooperating.

But we are going to have to see the sentencing recommendation in full to realize exactly what is happening here.

VELSHI: And I know you have got to go and try to figure out how to get your hands on that so he can make sense of it ourselves. We appreciate that you are doing that.

I want to just go back to Representative Jamie Raskin who I think may still be with us. Congressman -- oh, wow, that`s fortuitous that you`re still in the seat there.

What do you make of this, you having just heard this. I know you are a legal expert. What do you read into this?

RASKIN: Well, good for Robert Mueller. You know, there has got to be some respect for the idea of telling the truth in the judicial process. And I know everybody is swimming in the sea of lies now. I think Donald Trump has told more than 5,000 lies since he got into the office by some journalistic accounts.

But, look, this is serious business when people are going into court and they`re lying to law enforcement agents, they`re lying on the stand and so on. And, you know, the only real problem with the Manafort case, of course, is that he is a liar and a cheater and somebody engaged in bank fraud and tax fraud and so on.

But the guy working for him also cheated from him, so it`s just a den of thieves, and President Trump has a staff infection and it has spread throughout his entire campaign, throughout the entire administration, and ultimately there is not going to be an effective antidote in court. It`s got to come at the polls in November where we clean house and start over again in Washington.

VELSHI: But this is an interesting point you make, 81 days out to the election. There are a lot of people who are seeking their satisfaction through the investigation or through the courts. And this administration and this president have proved uniquely wily at, you know, bobbing and weaving around that. And ultimately justice may come to them and we`ll see what Robert Mueller has. We may just see the tip of the iceberg.

But the bottom line is before that investigation shows its -- bears its fruit, there will be an election.

RASKIN: There will be an election and I think the people are determined to say that democracy has to have a bedrock foundation, and that foundation has to be the truth. And it has to be freedom of speech and expression so we can get at the truth, otherwise we are the victims of government lies and propaganda.

VELSHI: Congressman, I appreciate you still being there for us. Let`s go back to Ken Dilanian.

Ken, have you been able to glean some more information on this?

DILANIAN: I`m looking -- Reuters has updated their report with slightly more details. And what they are saying is that this court document says that the government is recommending a sentence of between -- of incarceration between one and six months. So not -- so up to six months incarceration, but it is significant that they are saying we are recommending incarceration as opposed to probation.

And Mueller`s office is saying we are not taking a position on how long he should spend in jail up to six months, but we think he should go to jail. That I think is consistent with what we said before, which is that Mueller is not happy with Papadopoulos` cooperation and their agreement has broken down.

VELSHI: Right. So there are a couple of things here. He`s goingto be sentenced on September 7. And the statement says, but respectfully submit that a sentence of incarceration within the applicable guidelines range of zero to six months imprisonment is appropriate.

So, they seem to be having -- they seem to be saying two things, they`re talking about up to six months. Are they -- there`s a sentencing range for federal crimes, right, so are -- what they`re not saying is don`t impose the normal sentencing range.

DILANIAN: That`s right.

Well, for example in the case of Rick Gates, who is cooperating in the Manafort trial, there is -- his plea agreement calls for the government to not oppose a motion by his lawyer for probation.

VELSHI: Understood.

OK, so that would be the difference.

DILANIAN: Yeah.

Here, they are saying, we think Padopoulos should go to jail. And that is interesting to me, because I always thought that there was more they could get out of Papadopoulos in terms of testimony. We certainly haven`t heard in public everything that he knows about that Russian offer of emails and where that went in the campaign, but perhaps Mueller feels he has got all he can get and knows the facts and has the documents and emails and he is done with Padopoulos.

VELSHI: So, again, if Mueller were feeling generous, he could say, if these guys say they don`t want to go to jail, whatever. Whatever you decide. He is not saying that. He is saying apply the guidelines.

DILANIAN: He is saying we recommend incarceration.

VELSHI: But that`s because -- I mean, I guess the Mueller investigation does need to signal that you can`t lie to the FBI, because it seems to be something that`s in the air these days. People like to lie to the FBI.

DILANIAN: Well, but again Rick Gates lied to the FBI and they`re not opposing probation in his case.

I think the difference is they`re happy with Rick Gates` cooperation. He got on the stand and testified about Paul Manafort`s alleged crimes and did everything the government asked of him. And I think in the case of Padopoulos, that`s not true.

VELSHI: So, your take away is that if you`re going to lie to the FBI, you better have something to offer up to the government later on.

DILANIAN: I think that is a truism, Ali.

VELSHI: Ken Dilanian, we appreciate you, you giving us this reporting. Ken Dilanian is our national security and investigative reporter here at MSNBC. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Guests at Bastille Day, and it was one of the greatest parades I`ve ever seen. And to a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Well, he didn`t get the military parade on the Fourth of July this year, so the White House started looking at a special Veterans Day parade, but now that`s not happening either.

The president canceled the parade today citing the expense, which reports noted could cost more than $90 million.

Here with me now is John Soltz, Iraq War veteran and the chairman of Vote Vets, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of veterans, and Sam Seder MSNBC contributor and host of the Majority Report.

Gents, good to have you here.

John, let me start with you. What are your thoughts on -- I don`t even know if I want to give you space to talk about your thoughts on the parade. It was a stupid idea, but what are your thoughts on the cancellation of the parade?

JOHN SOLTZ, VOTE VETS: Thank god. There`s no reason that all of our troops who are serving overseas have to march down Constitution Avenue to appease Donald Trump`s ego. It costs a lot of money. It affects training and it affects readiness. And it is reminiscent of this, you know, dictator type environment that Donald Trump has established where it`s similar to the stuff we`d see in North Korea.

VELSHI: Yeah, it`s obvious why he likes a parade.

SOLTZ: Yes, but of no benefit for our military.

We`re proud to see it canceled. In fact, and we even applied next year on Veterans Day to have a 5k run to benefit Veteran`s homelessness in D.C. on the the exact same time.

VELSHI: This is outstanding. So, you have applied for a permit to be on the Mall in a year from now on Veterans Day so they can`t have a parade.

SOLTZ: So we can show Donald Trump what Veterans Day snould be al about, which is helping veterans and not his own ego.

VELSHI: There are about -- maybe correct me if I`m wrong, probably about 40,000 homeless veterans around the country. Veterans are experiencing very high suicide rates, 22 percent higher for the veteran community than for the community at large, opioid addiction is higher amongst veterans. I mean, if you have got money to spend on anything military, there are better places to spend it than on a parade.

SOLTZ: Yeah, I think the money number crossed him in the end, but there`s been a lot of people inside the armd forces that didn`t support the parade. There`s a lot of tension with the Pentagon and White House. There`s a lot of tension with veteran groups and the White House. And I think in the end this thing just got too far down the line where it costs so much money that Trump didn`t want to really own it any longer and I don`t think the Pentagon really wanted to do it.

We`ve been, you know, pounding at vote that`s opposing the parade from day one just because it is a ridiculous, preposterous idea. The public didn`t want it. And in the end, you know, he found a way to do what he always does, which is lose but try to turn it into a win.

VELSHI: Let me just ask you this, Sam, we were just talking to the Congressman Raskin about what the to-do list for Democrats would be if they won the House. You know, he didn`t want to jinx it by saying it was going to happen, but the FiveThirtyEight forecast model says "Republicans have a one in four chance of retaining the House." Better odds than Donald Trump had to win the election.

SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT: That`s true. It`s true. But it`s also better odds for the Democrats than you might have imagined maybe 16 months ago.

I mean, I think, you know who is to say. But we`re going to get a better sense, particularly as we get it further into September when we get a sense of who the electorate is. And everything that we`ve seen up to this point is that Democrats are far more energized.

And so...

VELSHI: Which is not typically the case. Typically, historically, Republicans have shown out in mid-terms more than Democrats have, in greater proportion.

SEDER: Political scientists will tell you that the party that is out of power will tend to show up more. Democrats less so underperform that a little bit.

But there`s just a tremendous amount of energy on the left. And there`s really -- I don`t know that there`s really much that can change between now and election day that will change that dynamic.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about this parade business again.

The VA has a massive department, it`s bigger than most people think. In the division of the VA that deals with health care, they have 33,000 vacancies, right? I mean, what does President Trump get out of this parade nonsense?

SEDER: Self gratification. I think it makes him feel important. You know, I guess theoretically everybody would be saluting him when they walk by.

VELSHI: I mean, even the conversation about he said, well, now we`re not going to have a parade so we can buy more jets.

That`s actually not the problem right now with the U.S. military. We`re not short of jets. We`re short of doctors. We`re short of treatment.

SEDER: We just added 10 percent to the military budget out of thin air, $70 billion. We have a massive, massive military budget. It doesn`t need to be half this size.

We are so much larger than the rest of the world combined that it`s ridiculous. I mean, so, the idea that we would buy more jets, this is just him making excuses.

I don`t even think the $92 million.

VELSHI: You can`t buy a jet for...

SEDER: No. No, of course not.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this, John, ProPublic has a story how the VA is not being run by anybody, it`s being run by a bunch of Trump cronies without any particular accountability and Vote Vets is actually suing the Veterans Administration over this.

SOLTZ: Someone has to do something. And there is a lot of people that have been look at the VA, including Vote Vets, pulling a lot of infomation out of there trying to figure out who is in charge.

Why was Shulkin fired? Why is privatization being pushed so hard by this administration? ProPublica got the story. That is great. They exposed the fact that some multi-millionaires like Perlmutter from Marvel Comic Books is running the VA from Mar-a-Lago. That`s great.

What our suit does with Democracy Forward is it basically says stop. This is in violation of the law. You can`t just have your kitchen cabinet running the Department of Veteran Affairs from people that are in your club, because these are all these laws and rules that dictate who is allowed to be on a committee that advises an agency like the Department of Veteran Affairs.

So, basically what we`re asking for is we`re going to take this out of the dark. We`re going to bring it into the light, and we`re going to put veterans into the conversation. And it basically is a stop this right now and tell us everything that`s happened. And we pushed it over to the courts and we`ll wait for a decision from a judge.

VELSHI: Veterans should be at the front of any conversation that has the word military in it in this country far earlier than jets.

SOLTZ: Absolutely.

VELSHI: Guy, thanks very much. John Soltz and Sam Seder, thanks for being here.

That`s ALL IN for this evening.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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