Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: October 17, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Andrea Bernstein, Leah Wright Rigueur, Nse Ufot, Michael Lewis, John Brennan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MNSBC HOST: Why is this country`s chief of state helping so obsequiously bending so low to serve the cover-up? And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This could have been rogue killers.
HAYES: First rogue killers now a new alibi.
TRUMP: It depends whether or not the King or the Crown Prince knew about it.
HAYES: Tonight, as Trump provides cover.
TRUMP: I`m not giving cover at all.
HAYES: Growing concern the President is helping the Saudis with their Khashoggi story to protect his own business interests with former CIA director John Brennan and Senator Richard Blumenthal.
TRUMP: They spend 40 million, 50 million, am I supposed to dislike them?
HAYES: Then --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bad news is, are they going to make it off the bus (INAUDIBLE)
HAYES: Why a bus filled with African-American voters was turned back from a polling place in Georgia?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was an intimidation factor, right? But it isn`t going to stop us.
HAYES: Why the White House just fired the person investigating a Trump cabinet secretary.
TRUMP: That`s music to my ears.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes tonight we have multiple breaking stories on the Russia investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who appointed Mueller has given a very rare interview to The Wall Street Journal defending the Russia probe as appropriate and independent in the face of the nonstop attacks in the President. Rosenstein giving the interview in his office at the DOJ and telling the journal "at the end of the day the public will have confidence the cases were brought warranted by the evidence and that it was an appropriate use of resources."
Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be quite busy. CNN is reporting tonight that Paul Manafort the convicted felon who ran the Trump campaign visited Mueller`s office in Washington at least nine times in the last four weeks. And ABC News cites multiple sources in its report that Mueller is pushing Manafort for information on Rogers Stone who of course be his longtime associate and friend.
Now, stone who is also political advisor to President Trump is under scrutiny for alleged contact with WikiLeaks regarding the release of damaging e-mails hacked from Hillary Clinton`s campaign by Russian operatives. And all the Russia collusion investigation news comes as there is reason to believe or at the very least question the President United States has been colluding with Saudi Arabia to cover-up and explain away the brutal murder of a Washington Post Columnist in order to protect his own financial interests.
Take a moment to digest that because it is a real possibility. Donald Trump has pushed back against this very idea insisting "I have no financial interest in Saudi Arabia but no one is asking about Trump interest in Saudi Arabia, the issue, of course, is Saudi Arabian interests in Trump and for that, you don`t have to take my word for it.
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Trump: Saudi Arabia -- and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million, am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.
I love the Saudis, many are in this building.
Saudi Arabia has -- I like the Saudis, they`re very nice. I make a lot of money with them. They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.
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HAYES: That`s him saying it they pay me millions and hundreds of millions. Here`s some of what we know about Trump`s past and present financial ties to the Saudis, and remember there`s a lot we don`t know because Trump won`t release his tax returns. We do know Donald Trump sold a yacht and hotel to a Saudi billionaire, sold a floor of Trump World Tower to the Saudi government, explored building a hotel in Saudi Arabia during the campaign and that his Washington hotel was paid $270,000 by lobbyists working for the Saudi embassy.
At a meeting at Trump Tower three months before the election, the New York Times has reported, an emissary told Donald Trump Jr. the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to help his father win election as president, And once Trump won, he displayed a real affinity for the Saudis even breaking protocol to make his first official foreign trip as president to Saudi Arabia, a huge P.R. coup for the man accused of ordering the apparent murder of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. That would be Saudi Prince -- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Let`s remember what the man known as MBS is alleged to have ordered. When Khashoggi a critic of the Saudi government entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago, seeking a marriage document, he was allegedly seized by a team of 15 Saudi agents, some with direct ties to MBS. The New York Times citing a senior Turkish official who had reviewed audio recordings the event reported today. The agents seized Mr. Khashoggi almost immediately and began to beat and torture him eventually severing his fingers and later beheading and dismembering him. The agents reportedly listened to music on headphones while they conducted the horrible business.
The Saudis have not admitted killing Khashoggi though NBC News reports that they are discussing a plan to admit that Khashoggi was killed and offer an explanation that would evolve MBS responsibility. And the President`s response to these gruesome set of facts has been to assert the MBS "totally denied responsibility and suggests that rogue killers may have killed Khashoggi instead of the Saudis.
Yesterday he told the A.P. you know, here we go again with you know, you`re guilty until proven innocent. I don`t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, There`s been concern you might have been giving cover to the Saudis.
TRUMP: No, not at all. I just want to find out what`s happening. I`m not giving cover at all. With that being said, Saudi Arabia`s been a very important ally of ours in the Middle East.
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HAYES: We`ve seen this sort of response from Trump before. It`s the same playbook he used to deny Russia`s involvement in the 2016 election taking denials at face value, playing down his own financial size, and suggesting that rogue actors are really to blame. And Trump criticizes just about every government in the world, I mean he went after the Canadians over milk, but there are two exceptions Saudi Arabia and Russia. Two nations with an excess of wealth of the top, a history of bribery and parking money abroad and longtime financial ties to Donald Trump.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut who`s leading a lawsuit alleging the President is violating the Constitution`s Emolument`s Clause by doing business with foreign governments. And today he and ten other Democratic senators sent a letter asking Trump in the Trump Org. to disclose all financial ties to Saudi Arabia. Good to have you, Senator. Tell me about that letter?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, this letter very simply seeks facts relating to the possible motive of the president for in effect aiding and abetting Saudi Arabia`s disinformation and distraction campaign. And as you outlined so well at the opening, he has deep lucrative, long- standing financial ties to the Saudis. He has sold them apartments and condos, he rents them to them, and hotel bookings have literally saved Trump properties and they continue to make these payments to him in violation of the chief anti-corruption provision of the United States Constitution known as Emolument`s Clause.
We`ve just surmounted a major legal hurdle in the last couple of weeks when the court ruled in the District of Columbia that we have standing 200 members of Congress. And in this lawsuit Trump versus -- Blumenthal versus Trump, we seek basically facts and that letter also asked for facts relating to these financial ties.
HAYES: Are you struck -- do you find it bizarre and uncanny the similarity of the way that he talks about the Saudi regime and Mohammed bin Salman and Vladimir Putin.
BLUMENTHAL: It is really striking and what`s equally so is the reports that the Saudis actually provided or sought to provide aid during the campaign. They met in Trump Towers very reminiscent of the meeting with Russian agents in the Trump Towers. Donald Trump Jr. met with a representative of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and he was offered aid by the Saudis and later the vendor that the Saudis said they would provide was paid $2 million by the Saudis. So there are really striking parallels here.
HAYES: I want to pivot to Rod Rosenstein because it`s something that you`ve put a lot of effort into and thought about in terms of protecting him. He gave a strong interview The Wall Street Journal in his office, a very rare public interview. What was your interpretation of what the message he was sending was?
BLUMENTHAL: In my view, the message was very clearly he`s going to stand behind the Special Counsel. The President is bullying is going nowhere so far as he`s concerned. If the President wants to get rid of special counsel, he`s going to have to fire Rod Rosenstein. And these reports very recently, there was a Bloomberg report about Mueller completing his work right after the election, I think are to be treated with a large grain of salt. Both Rosenstein and Mueller are by-the-book professional prosecutors. They`re going to do this investigation and his message in that interview was we`re going to do this investigation in the right way.
HAYES: There is more reporting about Manafort having met nine times with the Special Counsel`s Office more focus on Roger Stone. What are your expectations for where this goes next?
BLUMENTHAL: The evidence is pretty clear that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and --
HAYES: You think there`s evidence pretty clear?
BLUMENTHAL: The evidence is there whether they have enough of it --
BLUMENTHAL: To bring criminal charges is another issue in town. And likewise with obstruction of justice charges, what we saw in firing Comey and the threats to the investigators in various other actions linked to the White House is a potential obstruction of justice case.
HAYES: Is it not absolutely essential that in both of these cases, vis-a- vis Russia and Saudi Arabia, that we actually have a transparent and public record of what the actual financial entanglements are?
BLUMENTHAL: It is essential. That`s the reason why we brought this lawsuit and the reason why we wrote this letter today because it not only violates the law for the President to be taking these payments and benefits. The reason that the Founders of this nation wanted that clause was to prevent exactly this kind of potential compromise of the public interest.
What Donald Trump may be doing unfortunately and tragically for the country is putting personal interests ahead of public interest. And so uncovering all these financial ties are essential and the lawsuit that we brought Blumenthal versus Trump is one way of doing it, but a Democratic House of Representatives also would have subpoena power to seek the same kind of fact.
HAYES: All right Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks for being with me.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HAYES: For more, I want to bring an MSNBC Legal Analyst Maya Wiley, former U.S. Attorney and Andrea Bernstein who`s WNYC Senior Editor, Co-Host of the podcast Trump Inc. who`s got a great report out that exposes how the Trump`s helped mislead investors and buyers in their real estate business. And I`ll start with you on the Trump work. It`s striking to watch him talk about how much Saudi money he`s been getting. It reminds me of them having talked about the Russian money and some other point like, these are big sources of revenue when you`re peddling very expensive Real Estates.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR, WNYC: Right. It is really striking and we are now at the moment of crisis that was predicted back in January 2017 when he did not say he was going to divest but that he was going to continue to profit. Because when you have that structure and you have a President who is non-transparent, doesn`t release his tax returns, doesn`t tell us anything about his finances, there is absolutely no way to be in the situation that we are in now and know what his motivation is.
Is his motivation foreign policy? Is it business? Is it alliances with Israel? We don`t know and it`s unknowable. And that is the structural imbalance where we have this horrible situation with an international murder. And we can`t answer the question whose interest is the president acting in because he has not cleanly separated his personal finances from the Presidency.
HAYES: It also strikes me that that to Richards point and to Michael Cohen`s cooperation and Paul Manafort`s cooperation like I am just not convinced that the only interference that happened in the election was the Russian hacking. I mean, honestly like -- or that there hasn`t been other untoward stuff done by the Saudis sense.
MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it`s interesting when you go back and look at the discussion from Donald Trump from his lawyer like Jay Sekulow way back in 2017 saying we`re going to try to cab in the Mueller investigation despite the fact that his memorandum gave him pretty broad scope to follow any trail that he found that would suggest crime arising from the investigation around the possibility of Russian collusion. And you have to ask yourself why is it so important to have in the independent investigation if there hasn`t been any wrongdoing beyond this kind of scope specifically about Russians in the 2016.
So he said, my family`s off-limits, he saying --
MELBER: The finances --
WILEY: Finances are off-limits. And as everyone knows if you`re going to appropriately investigate even the issue of whether there was a conspiracy with Russia, you have to follow the money and the money is going to take you into circuitous routes particularly if there might be bank and wire fraud for example which is one of the things that we`ve seen from people close to him say Paul Manafort and his former attorney.
HAYES: Well, and which is why the crowbar prying that open is so deadly to them as the reporting indicates. I mean, the New York Times showing almost black and white evidence of tax fraud in that incredible piece they did. Your reporting showing something that looks like at the very least indictable levels of fraudulent claims as they`re trying to sell things.
BERNSTEIN: Right, well what we found and you know, we`ve done these stories and other journalists have done these stories about how the Trumps when they are selling a piece of real estate they say we`re putting our own money or at least imply that into the project where they say it`s selling like hotcakes, literally selling like hotcakes when it`s not selling like hotcakes. But what we found is these are not individual misrepresentations. This is a pattern across the globe where Donald T rump and his children Don Jr., Ivanka and in some cases Eric made these claims. And then when the project`s failed which they often did, people lost money, the project`s went bankrupt, individual investors lost out. The Trumps were like no, no, we were licensers. We didn`t really -- this wasn`t really our project. We weren`t the developers. So it`s --
HAYES: And these are material misrepresentations. I mean, you have lawyers in the piece say I have seen people face charges for similar activities.
BERNSTEIN: That is correct. That you are not -- you are allowed to say if you`re a real estate developer, oh I have the best building. It`s the tallest, it`s the most beautiful. I have the best hot dog stand on Broadway. That`s fine. You can say that, but you can`t say something specific that would lead someone to make a financial decision that is fraudulent and that is the big question.
WILEY: Like I sold most of my unit --
HAYES: Like I sold most of my units. The news of the Mueller investigation, I mean, it`s fascinating to the watch sort of iceberg beneath the surface right, as we sort of entered this quiet period the Midterms. But the knowledge that Manafort has met nine times with the Mueller team, that seems like there`s significant stuff happening over there.
WILEY: Yes, we have to remember who Paul Manafort is. He is someone who was integrally involved in the campaign and the transition. So four key periods of time that we`re looking at particularly around the conspiracy issues around Russia or what else may emerge, this is obviously information he presumably has some direct information about. Who knew what, when, and how, who did what, what conversations happened, and why, and whether or not that links directly to Donald Trump.
BERNSTEIN: We know even more than that. I mean, we know that he was directly paid by Ukrainian oligarchs.
BERNSTEIN: We know that he offered a job to somebody, a banker that gave him a loan and the Trump administration are trying to get it. So there`s all of these crimes that have been committed and that his business model was he was working for literally a foreign government of Ukraine --
HAYES: Quite literally.
BERNSTEIN: -- right before he went to Trump. So this is a lot on the table.
HAYES: There is a guy who`s getting transported from jail where he is to go talk to Mueller`s people and then back to jail as the Muller investigation grinds on. Maya Wiley and Andrea Bernstein, thank you both for being with me.
WILEY: Thank you.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, more stories of voter suppression in less than three weeks until the election including this remarkable video of a group a group of black senior citizens in Georgia on their way to vote who were ordered off the bus that was taking them there. That story in two minutes.
HAYES: It`s 2018 and voter suppression is alive and well as the bus loaded with African-American senior citizens in Georgia who tried to head to the polls in a Black Voters Matter tour bus. Here`s what happened.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were going out to the scene to see the bus and many of them wanted to ride the bus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were fired up, high energy, excited to go spread the words to their folks, excited to go vote, out here literally, out here dancing and having a party in front of Senior Center getting on the bus to go vote at the polling place. Everybody is excited to go vote.
AMERICAN CROWD: Black voters matter. Black voters matter. Black voters matter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone had passed by and saw the seniors getting on the bus and call the County Commissioners Office to tell them that we can`t do that. Now we don`t -- there`s no law that says that black folk can`t ride on buses and vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the bad news is that they`re going to make us get off the bus right now, that`s OK because you`re all still going to make it do what it do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So they`re so mad and low down that cant -- and jealous but they can`t stop the rain. You can`t stop whatever (INAUDIBLE) and you can`t stop us, can you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going down there to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody called the Commission, the County Commission to complain because they thought all these black folks get on this big black bus, it`s the blackest bus in America, somebody drove past saw that got nervous, got mad, called the County Commissions Office, which then called the center, and the bottom line was all the folks that just got on the bus -- the bus was full. This is a 50 passenger bus full of folks had to come off the bus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: None of that -- what happened was a real issue. What it was, it was an intimidation factor, right? But it isn`t going to stop us. Can`t stop, won`t stop.
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HAYES: With just 20 days until the Midterm Elections, voter suppression is a real issue. Joining me now to discuss Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard`s Kennedy School of Government, Nse Ufot who is the Executive Director of the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan group that works to help people vote.
Nse, let me start with you. What do -- what is going on down there? Has the bus story gotten around a lot or is that part of a broader trend?
NSE UFOT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW GEORGIA PROJECT: Yes --no it absolutely has. Hi, Chris. Republicans are trying to fight the future and they`re failing. You know, LaTosha and Cliff from Black Voters Matter, our friends, there is real energy here in the state of Georgia, energy around registering to vote, energy around actually going out to vote and these are worn, tired, intimidation tactics that are frankly not working.
HAYES: What do you mean by not working?
UFOT: They`re not working because you would think that it would have a depressing impact but actually it`s having an animating impact that people are more committed now than ever to make sure that they get out and vote and that their friends and their families get out and vote because they see through these attempts, they see through these attempts to try to depress the vote. They see what these voter purges or these voter purges, the closing of polling locations, making up laws that can that -- making of laws that don`t exist, that they are all sort of feeble attempts to try to make it more difficult for black people to vote, to make it more difficult for young people to participate in our elections. And again it`s happening -- it`s having the opposite of the intended effect.
HAYES: Leah, this is part of a broader context has been an extremely pitch battle particularly you know, intensifying I would say in the post Obama era. Why has this become such a flashpoint politically?
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD`S KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Absolutely. So actually this is you know, this is part of a wider trend. It`s one that has increased with kind of exponential speed since you know, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act a few years ago, and again since the end of the Obama era. And part of it is because of changing demographics, right?
So we see an increase in black and brown voters as politicians particularly Democratic politicians look to increase turnout amongst these groups and increase turnouts amongst non-likely voters, unlikely voters, voters who haven`t voted in the past and are registering, you know, hundreds of thousands of new people. We see these intimidation tactics, we see suppression tactics and we see depression tactics increase. We see laws increased.
And so we`re seeing it in North Carolina, we`re seeing in Texas, we`re seeing in you know, North Dakota. We`re also seeing it in states that traditionally have had really bad histories of racial discrimination tactics. So those are the states that tend to be the worst. And a lot of this is just about making sure that these people don`t get to the polls either through suppression or through depression.
HAYES: Nse, one of the things that struck me today. I was looking at the early voting in Cobb County. These are early voting location in Cobb County. Cobb County is not a predominantly black area. There`s black folks, there`s white folks. What`s striking to me that the bar is high enough, voting is so difficult in this country. Even if there`s a disproportionate effect on African-Americans particular south, like there`s a lot of white folks and a lot of Republicans standing on that line for three hours. I just thought like maybe they should make it easier for everyone.
UFOT: You would think. You would absolutely think. I think part of it is that as Leah has mentioned that the demographics are changing really, really rapidly so -- and particularly in Georgia. The demographic changes that are happening in Georgia are happening very, very quickly and they are massive and they are unique. So unlike other places in the country, Georgia will be the first state in the Deep South with a white minority. So African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans are going to make up the majority of Georgians and that`s really being driven by Black Americans moving from the Midwest and from the coast to the south particularly to Atlanta.
And so when you control sort of the election apparatus, there are -- I mean it`s an act of desperation that what sort of mechanisms they have control over, that they are trying to use to depress black turnout. But you see the enthusiasm. The New Georgia Project alone has helped over 300,000 Georgians register to vote particularly Georgians of color in all 159 of George`s counties. And so these piecemeal attacks are not going to work.
HAYES: Leah, how important do you think our affirmative actions on the other side to make voting easier in places. We see these attacks on bullying rights it doesn`t seem to me there`s symmetrical priority in making voting easy even a state like New York state in which it`s hard and there`s not things like automatic voter registration.
RIGUEUR: Right. So we`re actually saying that some states are trying to actually make it easier because voting is democratic, right? It`s part of the democratic process. And so this is huge, that`s actually huge in terms -- in terms of making it easier, making it -- making democracy accessible for everyone. So we`re seeing that in certain areas but we`re also seeing this huge push to -- against this because the idea is if we make voting easier for everyone, those people who come to the polls are tending to vote for the Democratic Party.
RIGUEUR: And so this is why we`re seeing this breakdown along partisan lines where now it`s become -- the Democrats are really invested in opening up the polls, making it easier and more accessible and Republicans, particularly in the last couple of years, have been invested in ensuring that less people come over, fewer people come out to the polls because that oftentimes works against them.
HAYES: That in fact in all the predictions for the Midterms, it`s the low turnout models the ones the Republicans are most in best shape. Leah Wright Rigueur and Nse Ufot, thank you both for your time.
RIGUEUR: Thank you.
HAYES: So breaking news on both Saudi Arabia and Russia investigation. We have a pretty relevant guest coming up. The former Director of the CIA is going to join me right here next.
HAYES: Donald Trump is still actively fostering doubts about what might have happened to missing Washington Post Columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
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TRUMP: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you asked for this audio/video intelligence that the Turks...
TRUMP: We have asked for it, if it exists. We have asked for it, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have asked? But you haven`t gotten it?
TRUMP: We`ve asked for it, if it exists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you surprised that they haven`t sent it over?
TRUMP: No. I`m not sure yet that it exists. Probably does, possibly does. I`ll have a full report on that from Mike when he comes back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Mike, that would be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who just landed back in the U.S. after a seemingly chummy visit with Saudi officials in Riyadh.
So, what did he learn in Saudi Arabia so he can present a full report to President Trump?
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UNIDENTIFIED FEALE: Did they say that Mr. Khashoggi is alive or dead?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don`t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn`t want to either, and that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Here to talk about the president response to what`s happening in Saudi Arabia is John Brennan, former director of the CIA, and an NBC News senior national security intelligence analyst. Good to have you here.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Hi, Chris.
HAYES: So here`s one question to start with. The Turkish intelligence services do seem to have a lot of evidence on what happened inside their consulate. Do you think they`re bluffing, or do you think they actually have it?
BRENNAN: Well, it sounds like some of the details that are being provided to the press that someone has this intelligence that`s finding its way out. The fact that this consulate is in Turkey, I think, indicates that the Turks might have been able to acquire some information, some intelligence about what transpired at the consulate when Khashoggi was there.
HAYES: Because they`re surveilling it?
BRENNAN: Well, that`s a good question. And I think...
HAYES: I mean, isn`t that the logical conclusion?
BRENNAN: That they would be able to acquire this information somehow, whether or not the Turks themselves are going it, other people are doing it, I don`t know. And I don`t want to speculate, but clearly something is coming out of that consulate.
HAYES: Here`s my question would you be confident that as this question emanates about who did this, that U.S. intelligence has a pretty good read on the situation?
BRENNAN: I think that the U.S. intelligence has a pretty good read on the situation now from a variety of sources, and not just the media and the press and what`s coming out, but interacting with the Turkish counterparts as well as with other liaison services that might have insight here, talking to some their Saudi counterparts and the various means of collection, whether it be technical or otherwise.
HAYES: I mean, I guess my point is that if the president wants to know what happened he could go call King Salman -- Mohammad bin Salman or go to the U.S. intelligence services whose job it is to find out information and hear what they have to say.
BRENNAN: Well, it`s about two weeks since Khashoggi went into that consulate. And over the past two weeks, I would suspect that CIA and its sister agencies in the intelligence community, have been collecting information, processing it, analyzing it, and providing that information to the national security adviser and to Mr. Trump and others. So they`re not going to wait until this investigation that the Saudis say is under way is completed, they`re going to be providing them regular updates.
And when I was at CIA as well as with the White House there was constant interactions on issues such as this that have true implications for U.S. national security.
HAYES: So, the U.S. has worked closely with the Saudis for years, right?
HAYES: And there`s collaboration between their intelligence services.
BRENNAN: With them, yes, especially on the counterterrorism front.
HAYES: Yes. Is this the kind of thing they`re doing all the time?
BRENNAN: No, no.
HAYES: Really? I mean, there`s some sense in which it feels like this was a splashier, grislier, uglier more in your face version of a thing maybe they`ve been doing a lot.
BRENNAN: Well, if you look back in Saudi`s history I think there have been chapters when the Saudi intelligence security services did engage in these types of violent, extrajudicial types of activities against Saudis and non- Saudis. My interactions with the Saudis during the last 10 or 15 years is that we were working very closely with the Saudis and tried to professionalize them, making sure they understood that their obligations are to ensuring that they maintain security and stability of the kingdom, but do it in a manner that`s not going to be inconsistent with the norms that intelligence and security services need to follow.
I`m not saying that the Saudis did not engage in some things that we would find awful during the past 15, 20 years. But I know that under the previous heads of the services, such as the former crown prince, we worked closely with him, I would never, ever expect something like this, especially something as horrific as this, to take place under his watch.
HAYES: Is this -- do you think this is a screw-up or this is intentional?
BRENNAN: I think it`s both. I think it was an intentional operation that was directed by Mohammad bin Salman, because he has such an overarching control over all intelligence and security matters in Saudi Arabia and all of the services there. And something like this, as audacious as it was to carry out this action against a U.S. resident, journalist for the Washington Post, in a Saudi diplomatic mission abroad would have required the highest level of approval in the Saudi government.
And today, basically that is Mohammed bin Salman.
The way it was carried out, though, in such a horrific manner and awful, it was very ham-handed. It was -- how did they ever expect to get away with this? I just scratch my head. I don`t know how.
HAYES: Yeah, it reminds me of the Skripal chemical weapons deployment by the Russians in which it seemed to me the point of that was to send a message. I mean, they did it in a way where it`s obviously them and they`re telling to everyone else we can find you to. Like, I wonder if that`s the point here.
BRENNAN: Well, I think that certainly was the Russian intention when they poisoned, or they tried to poison the former Russian defector Skripal in the United Kingdom. And I think there was some plausible deniability there the Russians had.
HAYES: Right, exactly. But it was a wink, wink, nod, nod, like we know the Russians did it.
BRENNAN: Right, but you didn`t have all of the evidence...
HAYES: Yeah, that`s good point.
BRENNAN: ...that has piled up. And if Khashoggi disappeared in a hotel or private residence or something off the street. Then I think there would be questions about what happened, who are these people. But in the consulate, with these two airplanes that came from Saudi Arabia, royal airplanes, that landed and individuals who entered Turkey on diplomatic passports, and that were, in fact, associated with Mohammad bin Salman, doesn`t seem like they tried to cover their tracks, and that`s what`s so confounding about this whole thing, that they thought that they could get away with this, that Mohammed bin Salman thought that they could do this.
And I think he was -- he is very brazen, obviously, and I think increasingly reckless because he has this control, but it shows just how angry he was at Khashoggi. And he probably was trying -- he was trying to silence him, and maybe he thought he was going to be able to send a signal to others.
But the way this has now evolved it`s a major crisis for U.S./Saudi relations and for the Saudi government.
HAYES: It also seems now we were in this surreal and to me kind of morally horrific situation in which the White House and the Saudis seem to be trying to sort of figure out what story they can come up with that they can both have plausible deniability for Mohammad bin Salman.
BRENNAN: Yes, and their challenge is that they don`t know the full extent of what the U.S. intelligence agencies and the Turks know. So I`m sure that they have been working to try to concoct a story that`s going to stand up to the scrutiny that will be immediately put on it.
And so how can they claim then that Mohammad bin Salman had no responsibility whatsoever? And is he looking for the scapegoats inside of Saudi Arabia? Has he already taken action against them to silence them? Even if he does that, though, if U.S. intelligence has damning information about his role or his authorization, then his story is just going to fall apart, and that`s why it`s so important for the intelligence agencies, and CIA, to fully brief the intelligence committees on the Hill so that they have full insight into what happened there and they can then hold the administration`s feet to the fire.
And I really believe that this is where congress is going to be so important because if Mr. Trump and others try, in fact, to gloss over this somehow, I don`t believe that the congress, even people like Lindsey Graham who have been so supportive of the administration, has come out with fire and fury against this.
HAYES: I should say that Senator -- Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the foreign relations committee, just said he has been denied briefings, that the White House is trying to close down information and he`s angry about that, so I think that -- we`re going to see more fight on Capitol Hill about that.
BRENNAN: Well, I think the Senate Intelligence Committee under Richard Burr of North Carolina and Mark Warner of Virginia, they have I think good credibility and work in a bipartisan fashion and they should be demanding that CIA officers come down there and explain exactly everything that we know and what our assessment is.
HAYES: All right, John Brennan, thanks so much.
BRENNAN: Thanks so much, Chris. Thank you.
HAYES: Still to come, Ryan Zinke is the new Scott Pruitt, except that Scott Pruitt never managed to get the person investigating his scandals fired. That story ahead.
Plus, the president`s got one of the world`s foremost uncles. Thing One, Thing Two just coming up next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, Donald Trump is a notoriously climate change denier, even going so far as to call it a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese. But he doesn`t parrot his party`s go-to line, you know the one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SCOTT, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I`m not a scientist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not a scientist.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: I`m not a scientist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know the science behind climate change.
RICK PERRY, ENERGY SECRETARY: I`m not a scientist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not a scientist.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m not a scientist, and I`ve got the grades to prove it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: No, Trump is a scientist. Well, he`s got an uncle who`s a scientist. The president was asked about climate change yesterday by the Associated Press and said, and I quote here, "my uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years, Dr. John Trump. And I didn`t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture."
So, he didn`t talk to his uncle about climate change, but he knows what scientists think because he has a natural instinct for science, because of Uncle John who worked at MIT.
If that makes no sense to you, Trump will explain further at length. And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Say what you want about Donald J. Trump, but there is one thing that is not open for debate, and that is whether or not he`s a very smart person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My uncle, you know, because I do believe in the racehorse theory, right, you know, slow horses don`t produce fast horses, right. I even had an uncle, you know, if you believe in genes -- some do, some don`t.
My uncle was a great professor...
But my uncle was a professor for years.
I even talk about my uncle was a professor at MIT.
My uncle was one of the top people at MIT.
But I`m smarter than him. I`m smarter than anybody.
I come from a smart family.
It`s a smart family.
And, you know, like we`re smart.
I had an uncle who was a great professor for, I believe, 40 years at MIT. And I used to discuss nuclear with him all the time.
I understand nuclear, look up Dr. John Trump at MIT. He was my uncle many, many years a professor. I used to talk nuclear with him.
In fact, every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many different ways academically, he was an academic genius. And then they say is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I`m like a smart person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Do you remember when there was a constant stream of investigations into Scott Pruitt, the now former head of the EPA, until eventually he resigned. Well, now it`s the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke who`s racking up the federal investigations, at least 14 according to cruise count this summer, included a bunch of ongoing investigations being conducted by the Interior Department`s own inspector general.
So, it was a shocking development when the person overseeing those investigations, Mary Kendall, was fired last week, a fact she discovered, according to The Washington Post, when a colleague showed her an email written by HUD secretary Ben Carson.
Why Ben Carson? Ah, because you see the Trump administration had suddenly installed as the new acting inspector general at the Interior Department a Trump political appointee from HUD. And Carson had sent an email to HUD staffers announcing the move.
Surprise, surprise, the new acting inspector general, who will be overseeing all those investigations into Zinke, has no government oversight experience and yet Suzanne Israel Tufts will now oversee the four ongoing investigations into the secretary`s conduct. All In has asked the Interior Department if Tufts plans to pursue those investigation, but we have not yet received a reply.
Now, the decision of this administration to put a political appointee in a traditionally non-partisan government position serves as a reminder that amidst the daily insanity of the Trump administration, there`s still a government to run, yet the reality of how it`s being run right now is terrifying.
Michael Lewis has details on that in his new book and will join me, next.
HAYES: All right. Here`s how you demolish the federal government, in case you were wondering -- understaff it, hire people who are incompetent, or indifferent, or both, or have compromised motivations, and what you get, courtesy of the Trump administration, is a government with nearly half of 700 key government positions unfilled. And just as one example from Michael Lewis` great new book "The Fifth Risk," a jaw-dropping amount of data suppression, under which, quote, usually lay a narrow commercial motive, a gun lobbyist, a coal company, a poultry company.
The author of that book, "The Fifth Risk," joins me now. Michael Lewis, great to have you here.
MICHAEL LEWIS, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: So let me start with this -- the book is unnerving. And it makes you think we are playing Russian roulette and just haven`t gotten to the bullet yet.
LEWIS: Trump is unnerving, right? I mean, my god, he went in -- what they did in taking over the government was so radically irresponsible. The idea that he fired everybody in his transition operation, and didn`t actually go and bother to get the briefings across the government, that three months ago I`m getting briefings in some of these federal departments that no one has given before, because no one bothered to hear about it. And these are just like technical matters -- what`s going on inside of the government.
And I think he basically -- he basically doesn`t care. And he attracted -- anybody who did care and knew about the government was kind of lined up against him when he was running, and so he had no -- and he demanded loyalty from everybody he put in the government, so he nobody who knew anything to stick in positions. That was the start of the problem.
HAYES: Yeah, the start -- I mean, there`s this amazing scene that opens the book, which is basically he shuts down -- he reads in the newspaper that Chris Christie is raising money for transition to pay the staff.
LEWIS: Because there`s a federal law that requires the nominees of two major parties to do this.
HAYES: Right. So Christie is doing this, in Trump Tower -- Trump was apoplectic, actually yelling, you`re stealing my money, what the F is this. F the law. I don`t give an F about the law. I want my F-ing money and he shuts down the transition.
LEWIS: He says he`s going shut it down. And Bannon says, you know how that`s going to look on Morning Joe. And he goes, oh, that`s not a bad point. I don`t want -- he is going to look bad. What he does is he waits until he wins, and then he shuts it down, like he was willing to do it as a cosmetic exercise, but the moment...
HAYES: The moment he actually needs it...
LEWIS: ...he gets rid of it. And the thing that Christie built, and this isn`t me talking, this is like independent referees and situations, is actually quite good, that there were actually lots of people who knew about the Department of Agriculture and the Treasury Department, ready to go into these places. And the moment it becomes necessary, he gets rid of it and creates the chaos that we`re living with now.
HAYES: What sort of scared you most in report this?
LEWIS: You know, when you turn to the nuclear arsenal and the fact that the guy who is supposed to be tending it is allowed to walk out of the door without a replacement. And you just wonder what is going on -- but that -- you know, what scared me most is a like general thing. What the government does is a lot of very long-term stuff, it`s investing now for 20 years away, it`s managing projects that will take 30 years to resolve. And everything he does is so short term, and it`s always -- everywhere you turn, sacrificing the long-term for short term.
And it`s letting people -- because they have no particular mission in the government, the kind of people who come in are people who got narrow financial interests, so you have got the CEO of Accuweather appointed head of the National Weather Service. And his whole life has been about trying to shut down the relationship between the National Weather Service and the American people so Accuweather can charge for weather forecasts.
HAYES: Yeah, he doesn`t want public free accessible data, it`s literally the thing he`s built his money off of.
LEWIS: So that -- so maybe that might be the thing that`s the most disturbing. What we -- the data the government collects is the key to so much future knowledge, progress, and the fact that they are trying to sort of monetize it in these ways or shut it down because it`s damning about -- so...
HAYES: Even basic stuff like crime data, which is like just a basic core function of what DOJ does has gotten much harder to come by.
LEWIS: It`s -- anywhere you -- anywhere you can -- there is a narrow interest that does not want the data out -- right, climate data, the fossil fuels industry doesn`t want it out. Ranchers don`t like animal abuse case data. You know, it`s like one thing after another.
And so it`s the bigger problem is that we have this enterprise, it`s incredibly important. It`s like the federal government is not just a tool, it is the only tool we have to solve a lot of big problems, and all of a sudden it`s being managed in the spirit of if you can`t make money out of it, or there isn`t -- that we`re not interested.
HAYES: You know, your book is a great study that reminds me of the great Jame -- the Wilson book "Bureaucracy" about what -- like we hear so much about government failure, right? This expectation that like you forget there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people working for the government just doing extremely good, important work, earnestly, honestly and well every day.
LEWIS: They`re the opposite of Trump, because they aren`t allowed to promote themselves. So all you hear about is when there`s problems, except for NASA and the military. And so they`re allowed to market. And so as a result people think highly of them.
But the truth is -- I mean, this is why I wrote the book is when you -- when you walk in to these place, it is amazing how, given the circumstances, a highly dysfunctional situation often, these people are devoted to a mission. And a lot of times they`re devoted to a mission for reasons that go back to their childhood. Like you go in the National Weather Service, it`s filled with people who were traumatized by a tree crashing on their house in a storm when they were 9 years old, and they wanted to say I want to keep people safe from the weather.
And it`s that kind of spirit that`s there, and it`s criminal not to respect it, and nourish it.
HAYES: Michael Lewis, whose new book "The Fifth Risk" is out now. And it`s a great and fast read. And you will learn a lot -- the rare person who has something new to say about Trump, which is not easy.
LEWIS: Yeah, well, a lot of people are talking about him.
HAYES: Great to have you. We have a new episode of our podcast, Why is This Happening with Carol Anderson, all about the history of voter suppression, the forms it takes today. Download it anywhere you get your Podcast.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "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