Grassley threatens Monday vote. TRANSCRIPT: 9/21/2018, All In w Chris Hayes.

Guests: Michael Schmidt, Ted Lieu, Barbara Boxer, Frank Thorp, Natasha Bertrand, Elie Mystal

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: September 21, 2018 Guest: Michael Schmidt, Ted Lieu, Barbara Boxer, Frank Thorp, Natasha Bertrand, Elie Mystal

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from Los Angeles. I`m Ari Melber in for Chris Hayes tonight and it is another busy night of news. We are now two hours away from Senator Chuck Grassley`s new deadline for Dr. Christine Ford, the woman who says Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school to respond to the Republicans` terms for her public testimony next week. Grassley also is threatening to move forward with a vote on Monday if she doesn`t comply. So we`re going to get to all of that in our show tonight but first, we are beginning with these breaking news items that touch on everything that matters in the Mueller probe.

Now, consider that in the last week Mueller has gained what may be two of the most crucial cooperating witnesses yet, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen Trump`s longtime lawyer and fixer. So it is it this very pivotal moment, this is the context for a stunning set of leaks that would appear to give President Trump at least the excuse that he has been hunting for to oust the man overseeing the Mueller probe. If you haven`t heard it by now, this is a bombshell the New York Times reporters Michael Schmidt and Adam Goldman reporting that Rod Rosenstein, Mueller`s boss suggested last year that he, Mr. Rosenstein could secretly record the President inside the White House and that he discussed recruiting Trump`s own cabinet members to see whether he might convince them to remove the President from office under the 25th Amendment.

Now, if that sounds explosive, it is, but there is more to it. The New York Times noting that those pieces of the story themselves are contested. And while the papers cite sources who were briefed either on the conversations or the memos about them it also quotes Rosenstein himself denying the thrust of the story saying "the New York Times story is inaccurate and factually incorrect, based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. He goes on to say, based on my personal dealings with the president there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.

And that`s not all. DOJ sources who spoke to The Times, as well as NBC, are casting some of the controversial remarks in a different light saying the wiretapping comment was "sarcastic and NBC citing sources that say Rosenstein was not the one who even mentioned the 25th amendment. Either way though, the outrage machine is in gear. House Republicans posting a new demand tonight asking to get those memos and linking directly to that Time story. And Fox News Laura Ingraham cut right to the chase tweeting in response, "Rod Rosenstein must be fired today." And adding, real Donald Trump for good measure.

We have several experts on this. We begin with one of the reporters who broke this story, The New York Times Michael Schmidt. Thanks for being on ALL IN, Michael.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Is this story important because Rosenstein was seriously moving to wiretap the president and try to oust him with the 25th Amendment or because there are people leaking that to undercut Rosenstein?

SCHMIDT: No, I don`t think that this is someone that is you know, this has been leaked to undercut Rosenstein. We went back and have been trying to look at the period of time between the Comey firing and the appointment of Mueller. This is in eight days in May of 2017 where Rod Rosenstein was thrust to the front and center of the country and had to decide whether to open an investigation into this president. These are two things that he brought up. He brought up using a wire. He brought up invoking the 25th Amendment. As we tried to explain and understand this, these are the things that we learned and when we felt comfortable with them we move forward with it.

You mentioned the wire, let`s read what you wrote there. Rosenstein "raised the idea of wearing a recording device or a wire to secretly tape the president when he visited the White House or other FBI officials interviewing with Mr. Trump for that FBI job. Now, as you know, the DOJ follows very detailed rules on getting warrants for surveillance. Is your reporting that Rosenstein was considering illegal surveillance or trying to get a warrant to do the wire or that it never got that far?

SCHMIDT: Well, I don`t think he got to the point of legal review on what to do with this. This was not a wire in the sense of tapping the president`s phone or installing a listening device, it would be a recording as if you know I -- when you sat down and we had coffee and I recorded it. Washington D.C. is or one-party consent so you know, anyone can basically record any type of one-on-one conversation with them. Obviously, taking such a move with the president would have been extraordinary. This is something that the Justice Department uses in drug cases or gang cases and if you go back to the --

MELBER: Right. But you mentioned the one party -- you mentioned the one- party consent law, but Michael, as law enforcement they wouldn`t go near wiretapping someone in the executive branch without more.

SCHMIDT: Yes, look, this as we point out of the story never moved to the point where they did a legal review to make a decision with it. This is something that Rosenstein brought up multiple times with FBI officials in this period of time. It wasn`t just once. As the Justice Department has put out this person that was in the room saying it was sarcastic, well, Rosenstein brought it up later in the day. And as we point out in the story, Rosenstein was asked in the meeting whether he was serious about this and he said that he was. So that contradicts what the Justice Department had put out and that`s why we felt comfortable and move forward with the story.

MELBER: Right. Well, and you`re getting into the sourcing. I wanted to ask you about that. You have -- you write several people who were quote briefed either on the events themselves around the memos written by FBI officials. So besides Rosenstein, none of your sources who said Rosenstein was serious about the wire were actually in the room, is that right?

SCHMIDT: I can`t go any further than how we did in describing that about describing whether they were in the room or not in the room. We went as far as we couldn`t describing you know, the knowledge that they had.

MELBER: Well, I mean, I`m -- that`s what I`m reading from. Briefed either on the events or memos so that would apply -- imply that they`re basing it on that secondhand material.

SCHMIDT: We went as far as we could go and the sourcing on it on what we wrote.

MELBER: I guess the other big question that hangs over this and I`m going to bring in some other experts is you are a very experienced reporter. You`ve got a bombshell on your hands. I think we all know that. But ultimately you have the on the record denial from Rosenstein in there. You`re talking about matters of constitutional crisis level stuff like the 25th amendment. You ultimately as a reporter with your colleagues not just you not to personalize it, made a determination that these other sources were more credible, you gave them more then Rosen signed the DOJ`s rebuttal from a person who was present who said some of it was sarcastic etcetera.

Can you help our viewers help us understand why you gave so much more weight to those other folks and not the on the record denial?

SCHMIDT: Yes, because we went back and we did diligence on the information and we looked at what actually went on in the meeting. And what happened in the meeting was that Rosenstein it was questioned about whether he was being sarcastic and he said that he was not. He said that he was serious about it and that this was something that they were considering. We also know that this was not the only time that he brought this up. We also know that in the documents in Andy McCabe`s memo it says something about you know, what the references Rosenstein talking about the 25th Amendment.

So when we looked at that and we had that information in front of us and we went back and checked it we felt good about it and we move forward. We are here to follow the facts and try and get to the bottom of all this as much as possible and you know, whether one side likes that or you know the other one doesn`t, you know, it`s our job to be accurate and we felt good about that.

MELBER: Stay with me, Michael. I want to bring in someone who has been one of the types of sources you would be referring to. Matt Miller handled media relations for Eric Holder at the Justice Department and it is an MSNBC Analyst. Matt, your view.

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Look, I think the story`s a fascinating window unto the turmoil that was going on the Justice Department at that time when Rod Rosenstein really was in a fight with a lot of the career people who trusted him at the person who would protect the department from Donald Trump and had just seen him write the memo that basically led to the firing of Jim Comey.

I also see -- and I`ll say one of the people who I think was especially frustrating that comes through in the story is Andy McCabe. And I think one of the interesting kind of things that`s still going on today is that to some extent the war between Andy McCabe and Rod Rosenstein that was very much happening in that meeting has never really ended. You know, Andy McCabe is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney`s Office in D.C. right now for false statements. He`s been fired by the Justice Department.

And you know, if you look at -- look at you know, the way he`s been handling himself, I do think he has been trying to tell a story and I`m not -- I`m not just speculating who Michael`s sources are because I suspect there were a lot of people who knew him and I think Andy is very much been trying to paint a picture of himself as someone who you know, was fired, who was retaliated against for political reasons, to try to make any kind of indictment as painful a choice as possible for Rod Rosenstein in the Justice Department and make any trial very painful for the Justice Department.

MELBER: Right. You`re hitting on something very significant which is people may remember that McCabe stepped up to replace Comey as acting FBI Director. He had reportedly a fight with Donald Trump over the phone immediately over the treatment of Comey and whether he got to take the FBI plane back and then a Trump privately turned to blast his wife for being a candidate for office to depict her as a Hillary stooge and the rest, and then ultimately got him run out of the FBI and tainted him as a potential witness in any obstruction probe.

You`re saying that obviously, Michael is not going to get into his sources here beyond what he said but you`re saying that at least the McCabe memo as well as whatever and he may be doing fits into this and has a different agenda.

MILLER: Yes. And I`m not -- I`m not just basing on this story. I think there have been you know, there have been a number of reports that have managed to leak out from the department over the last few months that relate to McCabe`s timing there. He has a book coming up. I think he`s pursuing a pretty you know, risky but maybe ultimately wise legal strategy to try to tell the Justice Department.

Look, if you come at me on what I think are ultimately very political charges, to fight to file false statements charge against me in a case that usually the Justice Department wouldn`t bring. Usually, you wouldn`t see a deputy director fired for what he did. If you do, I`m going to make it as painful as possible for you. I`m going to air all the dirty laundry from my time at the department. I`m going to make it clear that in my opinion I was retaliated against and I`m going to make that choice it`s hard for you to make as possible.

MELBER: Michael, a final thought as we widen out big picture to the implications of your piece. Obviously, plane crashes get more coverage than plane landings. The thrust of your piece putting aside some of what we`ve already sort of discussed is that Rod Rosenstein was saying things that concern people and that looked like potentially poor judgment. We went back and forth on the wiretapping thing.

Ultimately what do you see as the implication here and do you see this as a period of time when people were concerned, where your sources apparently feel that he was making some rough remarks and decisions or does this cast his larger service and leadership in doubt?

SCHMIDT: Well, they`ve described sort of emotionally sort of struggling in this period of time to grapple with the pressure that he was under. You have to remember, he had played a role in the Comey firing.

MELBER: Sure.

SCHMIDT: He helped provide the rationale for it and then it been sharply criticized. And this was really the first time he`s been on a national stage. He`s been a U.S. Attorney for many years before this but it`s far different to basically be blamed for such a momentous moment in Donald Trump`s presidency and he was trying all that he could. He said he would be vindicated someday for his role in this. And in that period of time you know he got very emotional in his discussions with folks and he considered a wide range of things. Some things that unnerved people and some things that didn`t.

Ultimately, Rosenstein, you know, the ultimate decision he makes is the appointment of Mueller. That`s when the days end when he appoints Mueller and obviously that is a huge turn in the story and something that you know, I think that Rosenstein would say was the right thing to do.

MELBER: Right. Well, you have on your hands a hotly contested story that a lot of people are taking in a lot of different directions. We wanted to dig into it with you. I got to say I really appreciate you spending the time with us and explaining your reporting, your process, your thinking. Michael Schmitt with the big story from the New York Times. Matt Miller, stay with me. I want to bring in Gabe Sherman an MSNBC Contributor who writes for Vanity Fair and is reporting breaking tonight that the White House Communications Director has a media strategy to build public support for guess what, Donald Trump to fire Rod Rosenstein. What are you hearing Gabe?

GABE SHERMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Ari, you know, this has obviously been something the president has wanted to do for months now and there`s been internal pushback. And this story, the New York Times story kind of lays a predicate for the President if he indeed wanted to fire Rod Rosenstein. So source close to the White House about the media plans told me that Bill Shine is making sure that Trump allies in the pro-Trump media are pumping the message out that this is the time to move against Rod Rosenstein. And we saw earlier tonight Laura Ingraham already tweeting that this should be the action the President takes. It will be interesting to watch Sean Hannity`s program tonight, another vocal --

MELBER: Will it? Will it be interesting?

SHERMAN: Well, you know --

MELBER: Is that the -- is that the right word?

SHERMAN: Well, you know, it`s --

MELBER: I mean, you work with words for livings so --

SHERMAN: Well, you know, we`ll see like basically the idea being that this would be the message that the pro-Trump media is pushing out there. I will say that talking to allies in the pro-Trump media today say that it would be premature for the President to move against Rosenstein now and it actually would be something of a trap that just going off the basis of a New York Times story firing him and perhaps going after Mueller would be overplaying his hand. So I think the White House would -- basically what I`m understanding is that they`re going to see how this plays out over the next 24 to 48 hours.

MELBER: Matt Miller, I mean the whole issue and what I was getting at with Michael near the end of the interview there is the story has a lot in it, anytime anyone is allegedly talking 25th Amendment. That`s a big deal. I mean, literally, no one can remember that coming up in any other presidency right, which speaks to the era we`re living in. And yet the larger question here when you peel it all back is, is anything in here really bad because something was done or nefarious because something bad was in the works and was stopped and does it question Rod Rosenstein`s leadership or not? At the end of the day, are these leaks that are bubbling around that don`t go to the heart of the matter?

MILLER: Look, there`s certainly nothing that`s unethical in a traditional sense that was reported in this story. Nothing would violate any kind of DOJ rules. You could -- you could you know, say that it shows disloyalty to the president but of course the Deputy Attorney General is not supposed to be loyal to the president, he`s supposed to be loyal to the country.

MELBER: I think he`s not supposed to -- let me push you on that. He`s not supposed to do a whip count for the 25th Amendment either.

MILLER: Well, no, not necessarily. But --

MELBER: I mean, he`s not -- to be clear he`s not even in the cabinet, right?

MILLER: Right, he`s not in the cabinet. Yes, that`s right. But I think if you`re Rosenstein at that point you`re in this really you know, turbulent time when -- you know, turbulent for him personally having signed that memo and then you know, being attacked by a lot of people I think he respected for having given Trump the weapon with which to fire Comey and then seeing those reports that came out.

Remember time -- the same this happened that Comey memos were coming out and Rosenstein was finding out you know, all of the troubling interactions that Comey had had with the president. So I think if you`re Rosenstein, you know, no it`s not technically as part of his job but you`re sitting there you know, kind of grasping for ways to react. I will say there is something ironic about people in the administration and people on Fox News taking a New York Times story after months of attacking it as the failing New York Times and fake news and using that as a basis with which to attack the Deputy Attorney General and ultimately the Mueller investigation. It is I think at best quite convenient.

MELBER: Well, certainly it`s hypocritical but it`s no different from the original stated reason for removing Director Comey which is that he was unfair to Hillary Clinton. Convenience seems to Trump consistency over there I think it`s fair to observe. My thanks to Matt and Gabe. I now turn as promised to Congressman Ted Lieu. The House Committees are already responding to this report. What do you think is significant here?

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I don`t think a lot is significant because in terms of the 25th Amendment, people have been talking about that and the White House for a long time. Omarosa she said was so routine they had a hashtag for it TFA. So what`s alarming would be people who didn`t think about the 25th Amendment. Anyone watching this would have thought about that. And none of this appeared have been executed. He didn`t seem to have taped anything. He didn`t seem to have gone much further with 25th Amendment talks so this would not be enough to fire Rod Rosenstein and if he did, it would be obstruction of justice.

MELBER: Yes, and with your blessing, Congressman, I would like to get really nerdy here and talk about a concept in government that is "pre- decisional." You`re familiar with that concept in the FOIA context when you have a Freedom of Information request that there is a space in government to talk about things pre-decision before a decision is made. And it seems that we are in the heart of that at DOJ during what is an incredible time brought upon by Donald Trump`s actions where there was a range of discussions going on. I thought it was notable that Mike Schmidt who`s done this reporting didn`t think the wiretap got anywhere. And so whatever it was, it wasn`t a thing.

LIEU: That`s a great point. So the reason that the public can`t get documents or pre-decisional under FOIA, these laws of transparency, it`s because we want people to be able to put out ideas that may not be good ideas or they want to take back or they`re just floating it out there, and that`s why I don`t think this is enough to fire Rod Rosenstein and the president did it. It really would be a pretext to try to get a Mueller investigation. It`s also really suspicious the timing of all of this. You just have Paul Manafort flip, you have Michael Cohen his longtime lawyer flip, and then we see these sources talking about what Rod Rosenstein did.

MELBER: Well, and that goes to what Michael Schmitt I think was defending and I think viewers can take this on for themselves and think about it both ways. And the other -- on the one hand they may have spent a long time reporting this out and some of this may have just come together. On the other hand, right, so the Times may feel they`ve been working the story. Some of it may have just come together because there may be people right now for a range of reasons who are going hard at Rod Rosenstein. I mean, it`s quite noticeable and quite blatant when this is happening.

LIEU: That`s absolutely correct. And even some of the sources as you had pointed out we`re not in the room so it`s hard to know if someone is being sarcastic or not if you`re not listening to that statement firsthand and I think you have other reporting now, one from Washington Post that does suggest that maybe Rob Rosenstein was being sarcastic. But in another day, none of these things that he used about or thought about where actually ever implemented and it could simply turn out that he thought about it, then he had these interactions with the president, and he cited no I think the best thing is not to do a 25th amendment and as he says in his own statement, he doesn`t believe there`s any basis for it.

MELBER: Right. Well, it`s certainly an unusual story when and why is what we`re exploring. Congressman Ted Lieu, thanks for spending some time with us tonight.

LIEU: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: I appreciate it. Still ahead, the other big story. Judiciary Democrats responding to a new deadline for Brett Kavanaugh, his accuser as she prepares to testify as early as next week. And why one pivotal Republican Senator today says she is appalled by Donald Trump`s treatment of the accuser. Also next, more on the growing concerns that the Rosenstein reporting could be a prelude to a Saturday night massacre.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just look at what is now being exposed in our Department of Justice and the FBI. Look at what`s going on. Look at what`s going on. And I want to tell you, we have great people in the Department of Justice. We have great people. These are people I really believe you take a poll I got to be at 95 percent. But you had some real bad ones you`ve seen what`s happened at the FBI. They`re all gone. They`re all gone. They`re all gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: There`s the President United States in a rambling apparent reference to not only his own Justice Department but what everyone`s been talking about the New York Times report about Rod Rosenstein. He was speaking at a speech in Missouri. The bigger question is whether Donald Trump is ultimately laying the groundwork for another Saturday night Massacre to take control of the Mueller probe.

And here to tackle those questions, two attorneys have worked in the Southern District of New York which recently handled Michael Cohen`s case, MSNBC Analyst Maya Wiley and Daniel Goldman. Maya, what do you make of it all?

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I make of it all that we have a president who has a Justice Department that`s trying to figure out how to do its job despite him. We don`t actually know what Rod Rosenstein says. We know that it`s credibly important for him to finish his job there, you know. And at the end of this, I really think it`s -- there`s loose lips sink ships and it`s the USS Trump that`s leaking.

MELBER: Hey, hey. Dan, dig into the wiretapping part because Michael Schmidt, the reporter earlier in the hour here was talking about the party consent laws in D.C. I don`t really think that`s the issue. If law enforcement from Rosenstein on down is going to wiretap someone including the president, there`s a whole process for that, no?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Ari it`s -- the problem with this story is it`s such a preposterous notion that the Acting Attorney General on the Russia investigation would actually order someone to go in for an interview to be the director of the FBI wearing a wire. It`s so far- fetched and it`s so far from the reality of how an investigation would work and what would actually be required in order for that to be authorized to do that it really seems to me that -- and I don`t question Michael Schmidt`s reporting. What I question and having been on the other side and seeing reports where information is in very esteemed news outlets like The Times and even the Washington Post, the problem is that the sources are not accurate. And it`s not that Michael is not this is so farfetched.

MELBER: Dan, I know you, you`re a very nice guy. It sounds to me like in a very nice way you`re saying it`s embarrassing that fanciful notion even made it into print in the New York Times.

GOLDMAN: I think that`s -- yes, I mean, frankly, I don`t say it`s embarrassing but I think what people don`t realize is --

MELBER: Ridiculous.

GOLDMAN: --- it`s not the Times` reporters but it`s the sources. And there`s -- there may be access to grind here if they were not actually in the room there. As Congressman Lieu said, there`s absolutely no way they can know whether it`s sarcastic. And if someone has an ax to grind, they can take this a little bit further. It`s a slight exaggeration, it`s not made up from whole cloth but it`s a slight exaggeration, it`s a misinterpretation, and the only reason I really question it so much is it`s such a preposterous notion that it is hard to imagine Rod Rosenstein who has been a career Department of Justice official is a very measured and careful person. He is not an outlandish extremist that he would actually seriously encourage or consider doing something like this.

MELBER: Right and that brings us, Maya, to the wider context. This doesn`t just come at any old day in the Mueller probe. It comes when the people that are most incriminating to Donald Trump are his own former top people, Manafort and Michael Cohen. And Maya, I am reminded of something Lil Wayne cautioned about the danger of cooperating witnesses on your own side when he said, "your own people could be them people even glasses can`t help you see them people." And this comes at a time when the president is very upset about his own people flipping on it.

WILEY: Yes, you know, it`s bad when you have to quote Lil Wayne. So the bottom line is you know, I actually absolutely agree with Dan in the sense that even when I was in the mayor`s office we`d often read sources who were credible sources, meaning they had jobs in the mayor`s office but weren`t in the room and then would share something that was factually really not quite accurate, not because they were lying but they weren`t in the room. I think it`s really important to know whether the people were in the room.

I do think it matters the timing, it matters incredibly. This investigation has got to be fairly close to -- I want to say over. I would suggest there may be next level of indictments coming whether or not the wait until after the midterms, we don`t know. But this is really a critical and pivotal moment in the investigation. This is not the time when you change the home team unless you`re trying to disrupt the investigation.

MELBER: Right. And that goes to why there is just so many serious questions about what was leaking out and what`s being reported tonight. And then as we just saw, the president appearing to seize on it. My special thanks to Daniel and Maya for giving us the federal prosecutorial expertise. Meanwhile, the negotiations for the Senate testimony of Brett Kavanaugh`s accuser continue. Tonight those negotiations have a new development. We`ll fill you on that when we get right back.

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MELBER: Donald Trump was supposed to help his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by staying quiet. His aides were working in overdrive to stop Trump from any attack on the accuser, which could backfire, according to reporting in Axios? Well, tonight the backfiring has begun. Trump claiming in a tweet that someone who experienced real abuse would have reported it at the time.

Now, she was 15 and most legal and sexual assault experts say that view is totally incorrect. Also, today, many victims of sexual assault spoke out in response about their own delays this reporting and the many valid reasons for that. It was grouped under a hashtag online why I didn`t report.

As for the political backfire on Kavanaugh, Trump drew a rebuke from a vote that he really needs for this nomination: Senator Susan Collins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: I was appalled by the president`s tweet. First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault -- I`m not saying that`s what happened in this case -- but we know that allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist. So I thought that the president`s tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, Kavanaugh denies that Christine Ford`s claim that he did assault her when they were in high school. Senate Republicans now negotiating over when to hold this potential hearing with both of them. Dr. Ford saying she`s willing to testify. Her lawyer says, though, she can`t get to Washington before next Thursday.

Committee Republicans now offering to hold this hearing on Wednesday, that`s before Dr. Ford says she can get there. And they also only want to allow for calling two witnesses, which would mean they wouldn`t hear from the man Dr. Ford says was in the room during the alleged assault.

They also want female staff attorneys to question these witnesses, which would keep some of the Republicans on the committee, all of whom are men, from having to directly question Dr. Ford or challenge her veracity.

And I can tell you something else tonight, the negotiations are ongoing. The man in charge of this committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, set a 10:00 p.m. Friday deadline for Dr. Ford`s lawyers to respond to the current GOP offer. He dialed up the pressure with this statement saying that Dr. Ford`s attorneys if they don`t respond, they will go forward with a vote on Monday.

That, in turn, has earned a new response that we got just within the last hour from Dianne Feinstein. She`s the top Dem on the committee. And she sounded outraged saying, "bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee at a time when she`s receiving death threats is an extreme abuse of power."

Given all of the late night action and flurry, we have NBC News Capitol Hill reporter and producer Frank Thorp who`s followed many of these. What can you tell us?

FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS: Well, so what we`re doing now is waiting to hear back from Dr. Ford`s attorneys here. They`re going through this counteroffer from the chairman of the judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley, trying to figure out whether or not this is a tenable solution for them, whether or not Dr. Ford can appear at this Wednesday hearing. This was a hearing that she only wanted -- she wanted to do at Thursday, at the earliest. And they want to push it back 24 hours.

As you were mentioning, the ranking member of the committee Dianne Feinstein calls this bullying, says that what`s another 24 hours for a justice that could be on the court for another 40 years?

But you have a situation where Dr. Ford made a number of conditions that she wanted to be met and Chuck Grassley returned with -- and he met a couple of those conditions, but also came back, as you said, and said that he couldn`t -- that some of those conditions were actually unreasonable. And one of those conditions is actually one that wasn`t mentioned was the idea that Dr. Ford wanted to go second. She wanted to testify second and have Judge Kavanaugh testify first, give her the chance to respond to Judge Kavanaugh. The committee, the Republicans on the committee said that that was not a reasonable condition and they told her that Judge Kavanaugh would actually testify first.

So you have this situation where they`re going to have to make a decision about this. And the reality here is that if they decide not to testify, if Dr. Ford is not going to testify here next week, or they miss this 10:00 deadline, it`s going to be a situation where the committee is going to vote on Kavanaugh`s nomination on Monday.

MELBER: Right. And so what we`re looking at here in the next hour-and-a- half or so is a key inflection point to this vote on the Supreme Court hanging in the balance as well.

Frank Thorp, thank you for your reporting. I trust we`ll be hearing more from you in the hours and days ahead.

Up next, as we look at the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell vowing Kavanaugh will be on this court no matter what the accuser even says, that`s right after this break.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: You`ve watched the fight. You`ve watched the tactics. But here`s what I want to tell you, in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Mitch McConnell there showing his mind is made up and it doesn`t matter what Dr. Ford would testify if she does testify in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings that could basically reconvene next week.

She has publicly alleged that when she was 15, he assaulted her.

Republicans, some of them here, saying they want to go forward no matter what.

I want to be joined now by a former senator, Barbara Boxer, who is hosting the podcast Fight Back, and has been involved in her share of confirmation debates as well as Megan Twohey, investigative reporter for The New York Times and MSNBC analyst.

Senator Boxer, what is your view of the negotiations as we wait on this Grassley installed 10:00 p.m. deadline, and what`s important as Americans think about what they might learn if there`s a hearing next week?

BARBARA BOXER, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATOR FROM CALIFORNIA: I want Americans to know that what Grassley is doing, what the Republicans are doing, what Mitch McConnell is doing, it`s unprecedented. I was in Washington for many years. I was chairman and ranking member of full committees, of subcommittees, we always worked across the aisle. We also worked to accommodate the witnesses. We never had a situation where we said by the way, we senators don`t want to question you. We`re going to get a special counsel, so we can hide behind her skirts.

I`ll tell you something, I don`t know how this is all going to come out. One way or another, this woman is going to be heard. But I have never seen anything like this.

The last point I want to make right here is today the daughter of a president, Patty Davis, who is the daughter of Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy, said that she held to herself a rape that occurred 40 years ago.

These Republicans do not understand this at all. They don`t get it. They`re unfair. And they don`t deserve to govern.

MELBER: Well, you`ve just unpacked several important things. I believe you used the term hide behind the skirt, quote/unquote, of a potential female litigator. You mentioned what we know in the public record about how these alleged crimes are reported and when, which goes to a lot of the investigative work Megan Twohey has done.

I wondered if you can you speak to that piece, Megan, and how misplaced it is for the president to claim -- and it`s not just the president, I think there are other people erroneously or are falsely claimed this as well, that somehow a delay speaks to a lack of truth.

MEGAN TWOHEY, NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, I mean, today when -- I thought it was remarkable that Trump for days was seemingly following the advice of his aides who said, listen, don`t go on the attack against this woman, even though that`s basically been his playbook.

You know, during the presidential race I was one of the reporters who, you know, reported on allegations of sexual misconduct by Trump. And when I confronted him with those allegations, one of his first lines of defense was where are the police reports?

Well, you know, I`ve been reporting on victims of sex crimes for over a decade. And, you know, people who claim that they were attacked by high profile people and everyday Joes, and, you know, my reporting and the research suggests that very few women go to the police, very few people report their alleged attacks, and sometimes it takes years before they even tell members of their own family what happened to them.

Now, in the case of Dr. Ford, she actually did speak out about this before last week. She spoke to a therapist about it in 2012.

MELBER: Senator Boxer, what do you think of your colleague and your former fellow California senator you guys were serving in the delegation together, Feinstein -- Senator Feinstein saying tonight that, while, yes, the negotiations can escalate, that happens on committees all the time, there is a civilian involved, it`s not just senator on senator, and she views what Chairman Grassley is doing at this hour as bullying an alleged survivor of attempted rape?

BOXER: She`s absolutely right. You know, Senator Feinstein does not go around saying bad things about her ranking member, her chairman in this case. She feels it in her bones. What they are doing is victimizing this woman all over again.

Look, these senators, these Republican senators, care about one thing and one thing only: they want a Republican operative on that court. There is no rush. As has been said over and over, it took them 14 months before Scalia`s seat was filled. They held up Merritt Garland in that period for about 11 months. And now they want to jam this. They want to try and bully a woman into not testifying. And it is really sad.

A woman who didn`t want to, you know, become known, who did this out of a civic responsibility. And if you read everything, and you look at the fact that Kavanaugh does not want an independent investigation, or background check by the FBI, he has not taken a lie detector test. They don`t want to have that third person who was in the room testify because that man has written things that are so over the top and sexist and violent toward women they don`t want any part of it.

And we need to slow this train down. And whatever these Republicans do, there`s a wave of women coming to Washington. I can tell you that.

MELBER: Well, Senator Boxer, you`re giving us several things to think about in the hearing. And you make a point that I think many of the viewers who follow politics will know, which is that Senator Dianne Feinstein is certainly known to be measured. There are even Democrats, as you know, in the California primary who complained she is not quote/unquote aggressive enough with Republicans in her rhetoric.

On a night like tonight, that speaks to the credibility and the reason I think that she is speaking out so forcefully about what she alleges the Republicans in the committee are doing.

Before we go, Megan, if there is a positive note here I wonder if you have any positive view of what could be constructive if there is a hearing next week and both sides are allowed to testify and what Americans might take from that as a better rerun than Anita Hill.

TWOHEY: Well, you know, to go back to the pressure that`s been applied to Dr. Ford today, this evening, saying that she has until 10:00 to basically make a commitment to come in next week. She said she`s willing to come in next week and testify. She`s said -- and today, today she was with the FBI reporting out the death threats that she has received this week. We know she`s in hiding. So, that`s just an indication of what she`s been doing today, while she`s been receiving this political pressure.

But I will say that I think that the reference to the opinion piece that was done by Reagan`s daughter talking about her experience is just one of countless women who have stepped forward in the last week to share their stories.

And this comes, you know this is almost a year after the #metoo movement started, and I think that if anything that is one of the reasons that next week if she shows up is guaranteed to be different than when Anita Hill was testifying.

HAYES: Megan Twohey and Barbara Boxer, thank you both on this important story.

And we have another item in the newsroom when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Did you hear about this? Donald Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen showing up at a federal courthouse in New York today, that`s one month to the day since he plead guilty and implicated the president in campaign crimes. Cohen`s appearance unscheduled. The purpose unknown, and he told reporters he was there, quote, for a visit.

Of course it also comes on the heels of reports that Bob Mueller is looking into over $3 million in suspicious transactions that took place around the Trump Tower meeting, money moving between a billionaire Russian real estate developer and one of his employees who organized the meeting.

All that is the man who first contacted Trump Jr. about setting up the meeting, a publicist named Rob Goldstone, speaking out to say that the help was dirty and possibly criminal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB GOLDSTONE, PUBLICIST: I`ve always looked at it as a bait and switch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And possibly a crime?

GOLDSTONE: And possibly a crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it was a dirty offer.

GOLDSTONE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a dirty offer that they accepted.

GOLDSTONE: Yes, that is true. It didn`t materialize, but yes. It`s the willingness to accept it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That is true. And that is the backdrop against which Donald Trump and some of his allies are now threatening to oust Rod Rosenstein, Mueller`s boss. We have a lot more on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: 8:55 on the east coast, and we have some breaking news in my hands. Number one, you see Donald Trump on stage there in Missouri as he has been rallying and attacking his own DOJ.

But number two, I`m holding a new statement from Rod Rosenstein responding to reports that he suggested he secretly recorded the president. Let`s read it, quote, I never pursued or authorized recording of the president. Any suggestion I have ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false. That is Rod Rosenstein again denying the story in The New York Times in a late Friday night statement.

I`m joined by Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at The Atlantic; and Elie Mystal, executive editor for the legal website Above the Law.

Natasha, it is pretty late on Friday for Rod Rosenstein to be redenying.

NATASHA BERTRAND, THE ATLANTIC: Right. And of course he said that he would not be issuing any more comments with regards to this New York Times piece, but I guess he really just could not help himself.

Look, I think that the comments that have been made by certain New York Times reporters, Washington Post reporters, on twitter and even in the stories have been really irresponsible if we`re going to be completely blunt about it. We have words being thrown around like Rod Rosenstein was unhinged and erratic in the days following Comey`s firing.

Look, President Trump had just fired the FBI director who had launched an investigation into his own campaign. He had asked the president for a loyalty pledge. He had met with the Russians in the Oval Office and released classified information and boasted about firing Comey, saying that he had fired him and it lifted a great weight off his shoulders.

Rosenstein was concerned about that, he should have been. And if he was joking, and being sarcastic, perhaps, and saying maybe we should be recording the president to catch him in anything else obscene or outrageous that he might be saying, then that is something that would not be shocking.

But to suggest that he would actually go through with that, that someone who is so by the book as Rod Rosenstein, who has really -- for all intents and purposes just is a complete stickler when it comes to the rules and a career DOJ prosecutor that he would actually do this, go into the Oval Office with his cell phone and record the president`s surreptitiously, it`s completely ridiculous, and I think that it`s just a huge overstatement for anyone to be suggesting that he was completely detached from reality and just going absolutely crazy.

Now, that`s not to say that he is completely blameless in all this, because of course he did write the memo that Trump used to justify Comey`s firing. But I think that to say he is suggesting this seriously is just disingenuous.

MELBER: Elie?

ELIE MYSTAL, EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW: You know, I kind of agree with Natasha that he probably wasn`t serious. But my question for Rosenstein is why wasn`t he serious? Why wasn`t he recording the president? We have a president of legendary incompetence. Everybody in his White House seems to think he is completely unfit to do the job. And the only person with the guts to put the president on the record and expose him to the American people is Omarosa? Is that the world we`re living in?

No, somebody should be recording the president. Somebody should be telling us everything that he is doing. And somebody should be exposing this man for the charlatan that he is.

MELBER: Well -- I feel your feelings, Elie, but as you know at Above the Law, as you know, that`s not the role of the deputy attorney general.

Natasha, I think what is important here is if you belief The New York Times story that the deputy attorney general was trying to use the 25th Amendment to oust Donald Trump, that is a problematic deep state thing. But if it`s not true, The Times has just put that in a headline in a way that has profound implications for the Mueller probe.

BERTRAND: Right. And of course there are conflicting characterizations of that. He apparently had two meetings that day. And in one of those meetings, Lisa Page, the former FBI attorney was in that meeting and she did not record any such conversation in her notes, but Andy McCabe did.

Of course, Andy McCabe has his own kind of credibility issues. He is currently under investigation for misleading FBI officials, and he perhaps has reasons for wanting to get back at the Justice Department, who knows.

But it`s really -- if Trump was boasting to the Russians in the Oval Office about firing Comey and releasing classified information and asking for loyalty pledges, then it does make sense perhaps that Rosenstein would be questioning his fitness for office. Whether or not he was taking a straw poll, trying to go around and ask cabinet officials whether they actually thought he should be removed from office, that is an entirely different question. I don`t think The New York Times has any proof of that.

MELBER: Right.

And Elie, very briefly because we are never late for Rachel around here, is The New York Times story in your view overwritten or under written?

MYSTAL: Over, over. I don`t think that -- I think that some sarcasm was probably missed.

MELBER: And that could be dangerous in life and in law and in politics, if we don`t hear the italics sometimes. That`s why texting is confusing.

MYSTAL: That`s why I screen (ph).

MELBER: My special thanks to Elie Mystal and Natasha Bertrand for sticking around with us until the end of the hour.

And that is ALL IN for this evening. I want you guys to know Chris Hayes will be back on Monday night. Don`t miss that. If you`re ever looking for me, you can find me at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "THE BEAT."

Next week I will be joined by the Art of the Deal co-author Tony Schwartz and the novelist Gary Shteyngart. We`re looking forward to all of that at "THE BEAT," 6:00 p.m. Eastern weeknights. But more importantly, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

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

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