Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: November 30, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Michelle Goldberg, Hunter Walker, Ron Wyden, Jim Manley, Betsy Woodruff
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: He will use every weapon ever imagined to save himself. And that`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, on ALL IN.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think President Trump has been compromised by the Russians.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I don`t know.
HAYES: The Cohen plea ends the conjecture.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: He`s acting like someone who`s compromised.
HAYES: An American president who has been compromised by the Russians faces the world.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: That`s because he`d rather have a puppet as president of the United States --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No puppet, no puppet.
CLINTON: And it`s pretty clear --
TRUMP: You`re the puppet.
HAYES: Then --
TRUMP: I have a son who`s a great young man.
HAYES: New reporting on the Mueller probe`s interest in Donald Trump Jr.
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: It was such a nothing -- there was nothing to tell.
HAYES: What`s going on with the Republican insurrection in the Senate.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNEL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This is a solution in search of a problem.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. And here is what we know. The President was compromised by a hostile foreign government full stop. There is no other conclusion that can be drawn from Michael Cohen`s admission that he lied to Congress to cover up the fact that Donald Trump was actively pursuing a business deal with the Kremlin while he was running for president and saying things like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC CO-HOST: Do you like Vladimir Putin`s comments about you?
TRUMP: Sure. When people called you brilliant, it was good especially when the person heads up Russia.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Well, I mean, he also is a person that kills journalists, political ally -- I mean, political opponents, and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invades countries.
SCARBOROUGH: -- and invades countries. Obviously that it would be concern would it not?
TRUMP: He`s running his country and at least he`s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.
SCARBOROUGH: But again, he kills journalists that don`t agree with him.
TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes. When Trump made those comments he was secretly, secretly trying to convince the Kremlin to let him build a Trump Tower Moscow. The Trump Organization even planned to give Putin the penthouse worth an estimated $50 million possibly illegally by the way. And yet Trump pretended he was not pursuing the deal. He pretended his opinions were not influenced by his financial interests. He lied over and over insisting he had no business relationships in Russia and that the line, that line, it gave the Russians another piece of kompromat because they knew Trump was lying which meant that at any time they could expose him.
Today, after describing his secret effort to build Trump Tower Moscow which he lied to cover up as and I quote here, very legal and very cool, Trump participated in the G20 gathering of world leaders in Argentina where Vladimir Putin was all smiles in greeting Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who the CIA says ordered the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump has cast doubt on Bin Salman`s role in that murder. Now we don`t know why. We don`t know what if anything the Saudi Crown Prince might have on President Trump. What we knew now is this, Trump has already made clear that he is willing to lie to cover up his business interests. Last week he insisted he doesn`t make any deals in Saudi Arabia, but back in 2015 he was telling a very different story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a Member of the Judiciary Committee. Is the President compromised your view?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: He is extremely compromised. The Russians have the same leverage over him that they had over Michael Flynn and that`s the reason that the former Attorney General wanted Flynn fired and ultimately it`s the reason that Flynn was prosecuted. The Russians could blackmail Flynn and now Trump with the truth.
HAYES: Yes. Just a reminder to folks that Sally Yates went and warned folks at the White House about Flynn because they knew that Flynn was telling a public lie about private communications he had with the Russians, and that was the possibility -- that provided a possibility for blackmail and compromise. And what you`re saying is that`s precisely the same situation with the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief.
BLUMENTHAL: In this case, Trump lied to the American people that there were no business dealings during early 2016 when in fact Michael Cohen was out there doing the deal or at least trying to do them. And they didn`t succeed but not for lack of trying. And not only Donald Trump but his family also potentially are at risk here of legal prosecution.
HAYES: It`s also striking that the -- that as that the Russians were covering up for Trump, they were -- they were holding his secret and keeping his lie. Here`s Peskov who`s a sort of lieutenant of Putin. He`s the individual whose office Michael Cohen contacted essentially lying about this very matter about whether there any business interest. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY, KREMLIN: f I`m not mistaken, he never had any business here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He certainly says he did no deals here.
PESKOV: I`ve never heard about any businesses of him here in Moscow, here in the Russian Federation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That is the same individual who according to Felix Sater invited Michael Cohen to come to pursue the deal.
BLUMENTHAL: With Donald Trump, it`s all about the money. Think of it for a moment. The nominee of one of the two major parties to the most powerful positions in the United States, the leader of the free world is trying to do a deal with the Kremlin, with America`s enemy a business deal to enrich himself. This kind of self-dealing is exactly what the founders sought to prevent through a clause in the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause. Never invoked before because we never had a president like this one. And that`s the reason that we have a lawsuit called Blumenthal V Trump. That`s the reason that the Congress must have earrings and take action.
HAYES: Well it raises a specter right now of what deals are happening in the background. I mean, the President made this big show that he was panic off to the kids and -- but we know that he can`t do whatever he wants about it while he`s president. It`s entirely possible that`s something very similar is happening as I speak to you at this table.
BLUMENTHAL: And in fact, some of it is happening right now because the Saudis have bought rooms in his hotels, they have bought condos in his buildings, they are renting places. He`s doing deals in Indonesia, all of it through the Trump Organization. Keep in mind, Chris, every other president has divested his assets or hers, hopefully in the future. But with Donald Trump, none of these assets has been divested, no private interests have been surrendered.
HAYES: Let me just also play this just to again, to hammer home this idea that here`s this individual who is going through the process of the nomination, about to become the Republican nominee during those six months in January to June of 2016, while his people are pursuing a deal, and not just pursuing a deal with Russians, with the Kremlin. And not just pursuing a deal with the Kremlin, asking for their permission, right? They`re in the supplicant position.
Here he is giving a big foreign policy speech April 27, 2016, again, in the heart of this period. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Again, on its own terms, a perfectly reasonable thing to say about American-Russian diplomatic relations but what do you say looking at that knowing what you know now?
BLUMENTHAL: I say this story here is really the sellout of the American people, our national security for private ends, and the key point that you have just phrased is what is going on right now that we don`t know. That`s the reason we need oversight and courage and backbones from Congress which hopefully we`ll have in the next Congress and why we need also the special counsel to be protected.
Because of the closer he comes to Donald Trump, the more the walls close in on him, the more he will lash out directly by firing Robert Mueller or indirectly through Matt Whitaker, the Acting Attorney General, through a kind of slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre suffering, suffocating the Special Counsel by depriving it of funds, or authority, or subpoena power, and that`s why we need protection.
HAYES: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks for being with me tonight.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HAYES: I want to bring it now Natasha Bertrand, Staffer at the Atlantic covering national security in the Mueller investigation. I thought, Natasha, you talk a little bit about -- I mean, so we already know there`s compromising material the Russians had on Donald Trump. The compromising material materials that he was lying to the American people, a lie they could reveal that they chose not to. What are the implications of that?
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: A lie that they continued to conceal until they had to admit it when the New York Times reported on it last year, when the New York Times reported on these e-mails between Michael Cohen and Felix Sater. So they -- we did not know about this until over a year after Trump was inaugurated. So clearly, he was not being as transparent with the American people as he is saying now.
Now he`s saying oh everyone knew about it. It really wasn`t that big of a deal. Well, the lie itself as you and the Senator were laying out earlier is extremely damaging. It -- just going back to the Sally Yates example. Sally Yates went to the White House and said that Michael Flynn`s lie to the American people about his contacts with the Russian ambassador were blackmailable. The Russians look for any point of entry and this is what intelligence experts that I`ve been speaking to you for days have been saying.
They say they look for any point where they can leverage especially a very powerful person who was a nominee to become the president and then exploit that. And that is exactly what the president gave them. And the fact that Michael Cohen continued to lie about it, lied about it to Congress in order to support the President`s story and continue this conspiracy just shows how important it was to them to conceal it. And the question is why.
HAYES: What do you think about that -- when you say exploit, I mean, I`ve read a bunch of stuff on this. This is not my personal area expertise, but a bunch of people talked about it not as an explicit like we will expose you unless you do X, but rather you know at all times they have something over you when you were in mesh in this relationship.
BERTRAND: Right. And could that explain the President`s desire to not step on Vladimir Putin`s toes constantly? I mean, just remember the fiasco and Helsinki, how it just seemed so bizarre that the President would stand next to this authoritarian leader and side with his intelligence agencies over the intelligence agencies of the United States. I mean, this admiration for Putin dates back a long time. And remember that infamous tweet in 2013 when he asked, I wonder if Putin will be my best friend and of course his desire to pursue some kind of huge deal in Moscow also goes back a very long time.
And the Russians investment in him goes back decades. They`ve been using his properties to funnel money into American real estate since the 80s so that also creates a point of conflict because the oligarchs of course in Russia are basically controlled by the Kremlin so there`s a there`s a connection there.
But I think that in terms of whether or not the President was fundamentally compromised by this deal alone, I don`t think that that`s the case. I think that what happened was it may have started out as a financial relationship and then it developed into this kind of political relationship. For example, Michael Cohen was all set to go to Russia in June of 2016. All of a sudden, the DNC started leaked -- the DNC was hacked, and WikiLeaks started releasing these e-mails. It became clear and the Washington Post attributed it to Russia. And two days later Michael Cohen got cold feet and he decided not to do it.
So it may have been the situation where they decided look, what Russia is giving us in terms of political help here and undermining Hillary Clinton`s candidacy may be way bigger than any deal we could ever get in Russia.
HAYES: Interesting. Natasha Bertrand, thank you for your time tonight.
BERTRAND: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: With me now for more on the President, MSNBC Legal Analyst Nick Akerman who was Assistant Special Prosecutor in Watergate and Michelle Goldberg, Columnist of the New York Times whose latest is headlined Trump is Compromised by Russia which --
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Which he is, which he is.
HAYES: I mean, there`s such an irony here. I mean, when you talk about America first, the whole shtick is like finally someone`s going to come and put American interests first. And what we are learning and what has been clear, what we now know is that like he literally was putting Russia`s interests and his own first.
GOLDBERG: Right. I mean, you know, I`ve been thinking about this like is Trump capable of treason because that requires a sort of pre-existing loyalty, right? I mean, Trump you know, he obviously has no loyalty to America, whether he`s kind of working on Russia`s behalf, he`s working on his own behalf at all times. And you know, I think that one of the things that the Michael Cohen indictment shows is that he had a financial interest in buttering up Putin throughout the presidential campaign.
He might have done it anyway. We know that he has an affection for strongman and murders -- and murderers, but he had every single reason to believe -- he was basically trying to convince Putin to invest in him.
GOLDBERG: That was -- you know, that was the agenda of the campaign, right?
HAYES: That was the conditionality.
GOLDBERG: And then -- and then after the campaign, once he sort of becomes the nominee and that`s as Natasha said, that`s when things shifted a little bit. That`s when Michael Cohen calls off his trip to -- his planned trip to Russia. Then the nature of the investment I think becomes a little bit different and murkier. But the one thing that we know definitively is that at any point in Donald Trump`s Presidential campaign and in his presidency, Putin had the power to create a massive scandal for him.
HAYES: Yes. That`s right.
GOLDBERG: And Donald Trump has always known that.
HAYES: He`s always -- that`s exactly right. And this is -- this is something that is I think pretty unprecedented, this part of it, right? The scandal perspective when you go back to Watergate, when you think about there`s a little bit of this in our own contracts.
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, foreign --
HAYES: Sort of foreign interest manipulating it, but if the foreign interest in the driver`s seat here that`s so striking.
AKERMAN: Completely in the driver`s seat. But you know, what`s interesting if you look at it from the Russian perspective, you get it from the Christopher Steele reports because you see that the Russians when he`s interviewing the Russian government people, they`re looking at it as though Trump is trying to play them by putting away these real-estate deals so that he could get them to help out on the campaign and basically help with these e-mails, with the with the whole deal that the Russians were setting up.
So, you kind of had a symbiotic relationship here because at the end of the day what the Russians wanted was the lifting of the sanctions and that was the quid pro quo which I think is going to come out fairly soon.
HAYES: You know, it`s also striking to me that you know -- we were talking about this yesterday in the in the office about the drip, drip, drip of it is that if you just -- if it all came out at once, people would their minds would be on the floor.
GOLDBERG: Right. But instead, we kind of become habituated, right?
HAYES: Yes, like the President was named as Individual One in a criminal filing in a federal court yesterday.
HAYES: The Present of the United States. And that`s not the first time that`s happened. That`s silly. This has -- this has not happened all time. I remember when I was in Chicago and Rob Bogoyevitch was running for reelection. There are people who show up at his events with like -- I think it was individual scene or something because he was named an indictment. Of course --
GOLDBERG: Right. Or yes, or the President was kind of consistently lying to the American people about his business dealings during the political -- during the campaign. I mean, that alone. I keep thinking of that Passover song Dayenu, you know, like that alone should open it up. And there`s so many things like that. But instead, it seems like what we`re waiting for is one of these moments that can break through this miasma that we`ve all been you know, trapped in since this all started.
AKERMAN: Which I think the Cohan indictment really foretells because this was a very strategic indictment in the sense that they had -- he was already exposed to six years in prison. So you have to ask yourself why did they have --
HAYES: Why come back for this?
AKERMAN: Why come back to this?
HAYES: That`s a good question. Yes.
AKERMAN: And there`s two good reasons why.
HAYES: Tell me.
AKERMAN: I`ll tell you. First of all, as a prosecutor, when you`ve put a witness on the stand, you want somebody who has pled guilty to the very types of allegations and his in the middle of the conspiracy that you are going to be charging other people with.
HAYES: I see.
AKERMAN: So what you`ve got --
HAYES: You want pleading to the thing that he`s saying other people were - -
AKERMAN: Right. They were pardoned. So, with this whole real estate deal and the clause that the Russians had into him, and what he was doing with that in terms of dealing with the Russians was all part and parcel of this conspiracy that resulted in their assistance in the campaign. So the other thing is you also take this thing off, the lie that he made before the Senate committee.
So in other words, you`re using -- on one hand, you`re using his lie to give him some credibility when he comes in and says yes, I admit to my crimes I was involved in this entire Russian conspiracy. I mean, you don`t want him walking in there and saying, yes, I pled guilty because I was paying off two women that were you know, having an affair with Donald Trump.
AKERMAN: That would not give him the right --
HAYES: I see. So you see that this is a setup for further use in the Mueller stuff.
AKERMAN: Oh, I think it`s right in the sweet spot of everything that happens beginning with the June 4th call from -- with the e-mail from Goldstone to Don Jr.
HAYES: Which we`re going to talk about in a second. I hesitate to play this game, Michele, but sometimes I do. I mean, can you imagine, just take per second to imagine the reaction, if it just happened to have turned out that while Barack Obama was running for president on a platform of a negotiating director of the Iranians, he was trying to build Obama Plaza in Tehran secretly.
GOLDBERG: I mean --
HAYES: They would have dragged him away in handcuffs. They would have called for him to --
GOLDBERG: You know, I personally believe that if Barack Obama had been implicated in the way that Donald Trump is, even what we knew about before he was inaugurated, he would have never even been sworn in. They would have never even let him to become president.
HAYES: Of course. Yes, yes. And he would utterly anyone would be -- anyone else would utterly be facing impeachment right now based on the facts. In fact, as Liz Holtzman been pointed out last night, one of the things they peach Nixon for was allowing someone else to lie to Congress when he knew they were lying. That`s what the article of impeachment.
AKERMAN: He`s done that -- he`s done that multiple times.
HAYES: Yes, that`s like a -- that`s like a (INAUDIBLE). Nick Akerman and Michelle Goldberg, thank you both for being with me. Still to come, what do the Trump family know about the Trump Tower Moscow? A new reporting that Robert Mueller is asking questions about Don Junior and Ivanka`s involvement in Trump Tower Moscow. That in two minutes.
HAYES: As reporting indicates that Mueller`s attention is turning to President Trump`s family, there`s something that stands out from that infamous e-mail exchange between Donald Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone prior to the Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016. And I`ve always thought about this. I`ve been thinking about it a lot recently.
Now, Goldstone, you`ll remember was the publicist for the Russian oligarch son/singer Emin Agalarov, right? And he writes to Don Jr., "Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning, and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information, but it is part of Russia and it`s government support from Mr. Trump helped along by Aras and Emin.
OK, notice what he does there as just an aside. Part of Russia and its governance support for Mr. Trump. That`s a very casual reference to a very big piece of news that a foreign government supports your dad, wants to get him elected. And it seems like the only way to read that clause then and particularly now is that that is already an established fact between Rob Goldstone and Don Jr. That is a thing that the Russian government wants Donald Trump to win that the two people in that conversation already know. He`s not breaking news to him. Russia and its government supporting Trump. And as for damaging information on Clinton, Don Jr. infamously replied if it`s what you say, I love it.
Joining me now, White House Correspondent for Yahoo News Hunter Walker whose latest peace reports on how the Mueller investigation is asking about Ivanka and Don Junior`s work on Trump Tower Moscow. Hunter, good to have. You what have you learned?
HUNTER WALKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, you know, yesterday I found out basically that Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump were on their own pursuing deals for a Trump Tower in Moscow and this is separate from Michael Cohen and Felix Sater`s effort to have a Moscow skyscraper with the President`s name on it. But they were also linked to at the very least Cohen`s efforts.
In Ivanka`s case, she recommended an architect and in Don Junior`s case he was at least as a source close to the Trump Organization admitted to me peripherally aware.
HAYES: And there`s some evidence right that they were copied on e-mails from Michael Cohen and there`s a question now of just how involved were these two, how read into the deals were they right?
WALKER: Yes, I think that`s a very good question. But there`s no question that they were very, very involved in the deals that they pursued on their own, separately from Michael Cohen. You know, both of them were working on this at least as early as 2006. Sources close to the Trump Organization have told me they stopped after 2013. And in 2013, that`s actually when you know, you -- because you were bringing up the Agalarovs before, they were actually intimately involved in Ivanka and Don Junior`s pursuit of the Tower which included trips to Russia.
HAYES: Right. And there`s now this question also about Don Jr. just specifically on the narrow grounds of his testimony because of course Michael Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress, that`s not something that`s very often charged, we should note. But this is -- it should be noted that in the transcript of the Judiciary Senate testimony he says, we`ve discussed the Agalarov family, Emin and his brother Aras, do you know if they were also exploring building a Trump Tower in Moscow? We have looked at her earlier than that but it sort of faded away. I believe at the end of `14 but not in 2015 or 2016, certainly not 16. There`s never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue.
Trump Junior`s testimony according to his lawyer was clearly referred two different proposals and they`re saying that that was a different deal than the Michael Cohen deal, does that scan?
WALKER: That actually might be true. I mean, the one thing we know for sure is that Donald Trump really, really wanted to see his name on the Moscow skyline. He was pursuing various different plans to build a skyscraper there as early as 1987. So it is possible that you know, the Agalarov deal was totally separate from the Cohen deal. And I think there are little bits of indications of that in the that you know, Cohen and Sater were running main point on the 2015-2016 deal whereas Don Junior and Ivanka were basically running the show on the Agalarov situation.
HAYES: But when you step back and if you`re looking at this from the Russian side, you`ve got a guy who he and his family are desperate to break into your market and you`re the one who holds the keys or the green light to let him do it.
WALKER: Yes. I mean, I don`t like to get over my skis. I like to work with the facts that I have and the information I`m receiving. And the one thing we know for sure is that for the better part of three decades Donald Trump, members of his family, they had multiple lines in the water to pursue this building. It was very, very important to them.
And another thing that I think is quite key, these communications between Cohen and Sater revealed that you know, there were contacts from Russian officials encouraging both Cohen and also Donald Trump to come to Russia and that`s actually not the only line of communication where we see Russia inviting and calling Donald Trump over there for a meeting. We also saw this in the Papadopoulos situation.
WALKER: So we know two things. We know Donald Trump really, really wanted to build in Russia and someone on the official level in Russia really wanted to meet with Donald Trump.
HAYES: Yes, it`s a great point. Hunter Walker, thank you very much.
WALKER: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: Next, the unfolding insurrection in the Senate over the protect Mueller bill. Who is standing in the way of Mitch McConnell? After this.
HAYES: Pity, poor Mitch McConnell. Right now, he`s being forced to choose between his two favorite things, protecting a possible criminal presidency and jamming through as many right-wing judges as possible. Senator Jeff Flake has announced that until McConnell brings a bill to protect Robert Mueller to the floor, he won`t be voting for any Trump judicial nominees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (D), ARIZONA: A bipartisan piece of legislation that has passed the Judiciary Committee ought to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Until we do, the 21 nominations that are in the judiciary committee waiting for a vote there will not receive a vote, nor will I give my vote to the 32 nominations that are sitting here on the Senate floor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: With a narrow 51-49 majority, that means McConnell can`t afford to lose any other votes on nominees. So when Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina announced yesterday that he was a no vote on Thomas Farr, the controversial ex-protege of Jesse Helms, opposed by civil rights groups, Farr`s bid for the federal bench effectively died, kaput.
As you might imagine, Flake`s colleagues are less than enthused about his sudden and rather late discovery of a backbone. Senator Orrin Hatch told Politico said it`s starting to irritate people. He`s a good buy guy, but I think he`s carrying it a little bit far.
To talk more about whether Jeff Flake has his Republican colleagues over a barrel, I`m joined by Jim Manley, former chief spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for The Daily Beast.
Jim, why are you shaking your head?
JIM MANLEY, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESPERSON FOR SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID: You said it best, poor Mitch McConnell. I feel really sorry for the guy right now that he can`t jam through his right wing judges because Senator Flake out of nowhere has decided to take a stand and stop this until he gets what he wants.
HAYES: Well, let me follow up on that. My understanding is, if they brought it to the floor, it wouldn`t do anything, because it`s not going to -- the House isn`t going to pass it, and it`s not going --and it would be cleared out of the cache right before the next congress. It`s only symbolic, correct?
MANLEY: Correct. But for right now McConnell has made a cold, hard political calculation that if this president is opposed to it he`s going to be opposed to it as well. He thinks, for better or for worse, that his political interests and the interests of his party are best aligned with the president. Until that changes, he`s going to continue to bottle stuff like this up.
HAYES: Well, Betsy, he also -- it shows you how much McConnell doesn`t want to vote on this, that he`s willing to sacrifice judicial nominees over it, because what he cares about the most, even though the bill itself would do nothing, it`s symbolic, but that`s how much he hates the politics of the vote on this bill.
BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s right. McConnell knows who he needs to keep happy in order to move his agenda forward, and that is that his relationship with the White House is the definitive relationship for him in terms of his agenda. And remember, McConnell has said explicitly that his work confirming Republican judges is the definitive part of his legacy.
WOODRUFF: As Senate Majority leader. That`s not a secret, it`s something that he`s been open about, the fact that these judges are defining his decades in Washington. So for him to jeopardize moving these judges forward in order to preserve his relationship with the White House, and in order to shield the White House from the kind of censure that this type of vote would bring shows you just how sensitive the Mueller issue is in the highest levels of Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.
HAYES: You know, there`s another thing where he`s not doing the White House bidding, which I think is interesting, which is on this Sentencing Reform Act, called the First Step Act. It was a product of bipartisan judiciary committee. It`s probably got I think probably 65, 70 votes in the senate he brought it up. Jared Kushner has worked on it, he`s been pushing for it. McConnell won`t bring that up to a vote even though the president says he wants it.
MANLEY: Yeah, but the last time I checked Jared Kushner doesn`t have a vote in the senate. I mean, it`s pretty simple. Until the members of his caucus push him hard to pass the thing it`s not going.
I mean, there`s obviously some hard core opposition from the right to this thing, you know the old soft on crime, which is usually hurled against Democrats, but this time it`s being hurled against supporters of this -- what I believe is a common sense piece of legislation.
HAYES: Betsy, what do you think about the politics of this one?
WOODRUFF: The politics are complicated. One thing that`s important for people to keep an eye on is the extent to which Tom Cotton, who is an Arkansas Republican, has become the new Jeff Sessions in the senate. He`s very much carrying the torch on the two issues where Sessions pushed the Senate Republican conference furthest to the right. Those issues, of course, are criminal justice reform, both Sessions and Cotton have been adamant, committed, consistent opponents of efforts to take steps to reduce the over incarceration of this country...
HAYES: Tom Cotton has said, if I`m not mistaken, that we should have more people in prison, I think, he`s on the record as believing.
WOODRUFF: That`s my understanding, yes. And then second Cotton also is extremely hawkish about immigration in the same way that Sessions was.
So, even as Sessions has left the senate, that voice and that vote is still there. And, of course, he`s incredibly politically effective. He`s built relationships throughout Washington, particularly at the Pentagon and the military community. He`s a veteran. And he`s someone who`s seen in many corners of Washington as someone who will carry the torch for Trump who very much represents that side of the party.
Another concern, I think, on Capitol Hill, among Republicans when it comes to this sentencing reform effort is even though Trump supports it in word, he doesn`t actually seem to really be throwing his shoulder behind it. And he said publicly in the past, multiple times, that he admires, for instance, what Rodrigo Duterte is doing when it comes to fighting drugs, and that the way that Singapore, which actually executes drug dealers, is handling drug problems.
So, Trump`s public attitude on the criminal justice question seems very different from, you know, tweets that appear to be scripted by staffers.
HAYES: You know, Jim, what do you think -- what do you think about what Flake is doing here? Because, you know, he could have done this much earlier, right. He`s doing it now in the lame duck session. He`s only going to be in the Senate for a few more weeks. But it does show one senator can have a real impact if they want to.
MANLEY: That`s, in fact, correct and that`s been the case as you suggested for the last year or so in the Senate. It`s going to be a little bit different next year when they beef up their vote total a little bit.
So, you`re going to have -- it`s going to be trickier there. But yeah, it -- under the rules of the senate, any one senator can do enormous damage, can pretty much bottle the thing up if they want.
And Betsy`s absolutely right, by the way, Tom Cotton could be a real problem in the Senate next year if he continues down the path he`s tracking.
HAYES: Well, Betsy, I think that Tom Cotton has his eyes on the prize, and by that, I mean the White House and -- at the post Donald Trump Republican Party.
WOODRUFF: There`s no subtlety when it comes to Cotton`s political ambition. He ran for the House at a young age. He ran for the Senate almost immediately after taking that House seat. He has been relentless in his efforts to expand his political influence in this country and he`s worked assiduously to cultivate relationships with the White House and with Trump`s orbit. I think there`s no question that he and that others, other powerful Republican political figures, view him as someone who could be a contender for the White House, frankly, in the decades to come, because he`s a comparatively young guy, especially by Senate standards.
HAYES: We should note that Chuck Grassley had to cancel a committee this week that would have included votes on more than 20 judicial nominees because he does not have the Flake vote. That is the statue quo. We will see if this holds for the rest of the year. It is going to bum Mitch McConnell out if it does.
Jim Manley and Betsy Woodruff, thanks for joining us.
Ahead, Senator Ron Wyden says Michael Cohen might not be the only person that lied to his committee to his face. I`ll ask him about that ahead.
Plus, the president pulls his signature move in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starting next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, there is one thing President Trump does way better than President Obama, it`s signing stuff with pens -- not coloring stuff with pens, mind you, that he does poorly. I`m pretty sure Obama never colored a blue stripe on the American flag or a round one -- what was that.
But for years, every time that President Obama signed a big piece of legislation, we`d watch this torture routine where he used like a dozen pens and he`d do a little tiny part of his signature with each pen all so that the people who worked on the bill could have them as souvenirs.
It was slow, it was painful, a touch absurd.
Well, President Trump has done away with that nonsense -- one pen, sign the thing, we`re done here. And if you people want a souvenir you can have a picture.
Although strangely, it still seems to take him almost the same amount of time to sign his name with that one pen as it did for Obama with like 17. And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Why is everything with this president so weird and so awkward? Today, he`s signing the new, way better than NAFTA but really just basically NAFTA bill with Mexican president and the Canadian prime minister. Both of them pick up the provided pens, the ones that are there, and sign the bills. Not Trump. No, he brought his own magic marker in his suit jacket. And he uses that instead. And then takes, like, three times as long as the other guys to write his name inexplicably?
But they get through it. And there, in all its glory, Trump`s big fat signature, twice the size of everybody else`s, just the way he likes it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So, I was signing documents with a very expensive pen. And it didn`t write well. It was terrible, actually. It was a horrible pen. And it was extremely expensive, to put it mildly. The government ordered pen. So, I`m signing, and then I started using just a Sharpie. And I might have one sort of like this, let`s say. So, that`s a Sharpie.
Now, I said to myself, well, wait a minute this writes much better. And this costs almost nothing and the pen is extremely expensive. So, I called up the folks at Sharpie and I said do me a favor, can you make the pen in black? Make it look rich? And they said not only we can do that, we can put your signature on, see that`s your signature right there.
This costs practically nothing, and the other one was immensely expensive. And you give them out. And more important than anything, it writes well, so it works out good. I don`t want to make this as a commercial for Sharpie, but what it is is a commercial on saving money, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It has been 23 days since Matthew Whitaker was appointed acting attorney general of the United States. There are tons of reasons why he should not be the attorney general of the United States, but one of the most I won`t tell you the number of times, but one of the most pressing is that he was on the board of a company called World Patent Marketing, and in May a federal court ordered the company to pay more than $25 million for cheating customers and then shut it down.
Now, the FTC does not just shut down businesses. If you get to the point where the FTC is shutting you down, you are a scam. And we`re learning more about that. Internal documents from the FTC show Whitaker had waves of angry customers who had been ripped off complaining and he didn`t do anything, in fact we know of at least one occasion that Whitaker, again chief law enforcement officer in America, wrote a threatening email to someone who complained in response. We also now know the reaction of the people inside the FTC, who are investigating this scam, when they found out about Whitaker`s big new D.C. job last fall.
"You`re not going to believe this, Matt Whitaker is now chief of staff to the attorney general. Of the United States."
The person who sent that email had the appropriate reaction to the news. We should all have that reaction. And while the acting attorney general may not have the best intentions for Robert Mueller`s Russia probe, the special counsel still got an assist on yesterday`s guilty plea.
One of the senators on the committee that helped bring about the latest blockbuster joins me next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RICHARD BURR, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: I won`t tell you the number of times, but we have made referrals to the special prosecutor. It`s a loud message to everybody that is interviewed by our committee, regardless of where that prosecution comes from, if you lie to us, we`re going to go after you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Senator Richard Burr, issuing a clear warning about the risks of crossing his Russia investigation. This comes just a day after former Trump attorney Michael Cohen plead guilty to lying to congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is a member of that committee and joins me now. Senator, your reaction to Michael Cohen pleading guilty to lying to you.
SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: That was a very significant development yesterday, Chris. And let me see if I can be very specific about it, so you have these discussions going on about the Moscow hotel deal with the Russian government. At that very time, at that particular moment, what you had was a situation where Donald Trump was speaking out all across the United States. He was saying Putin is a strong leader. We need to have good relations. It`s important for our country. He said that was putting America first.
Now we saw evidence yesterday what this was all about was Donald Trump putting his bank account first.
HAYES: So you were on that committee. Michael Cohen is one of many people to come before you. I thought the Richard Burr comments were interesting, and I know you can`t elaborate, but I guess I`ll ask you this, do you think everyone before your committee has been entirely truthful, or are there other people who might be in Cohen`s situation?
WYDEN: Let`s put it this way, it has been since June of 2017 where we`ve had any public hearings to deal with Russia. This is a transparency issue, Chris. What our job is is to tell the story to the American people, and I`ve said on your show the key is to follow the money. The way you compromise people, it`s counterintelligence 101, is following the money. And I have been pushing for Michael Cohen and others to come back before our committee and be transparent so we can ask questions and get to the truth.
HAYES: You think you can -- I mean, obviously, you`re in the minority in the Senate, and that will remain the case next year. Richard Burr will retain the gavel, because the Republicans are the majority. But do you imagine a world in which Cohen is called back?
WYDEN: I can tell you there is something called deconfliction where we work with Bob Mueller to make sure that witnesses don`t trip over each other. You bet he ought to be called back.
And by the way, the leadership of the committee had said that Michael Cohen was going to come back. After that first appearance, he really played the committee. He testified behind closed doors, made a public statement. I said we got to get him back. The leadership said they were going to. They didn`t do it. You bet he ought to come back.
I tell you the other people that need to be brought in a public hearing, we need to hear from the Trump Treasury officials because they have also key information about follow the money issues.
HAYES: Wait. Elaborate, please.
WYDEN: Well, the Treasury Department keeps special reports about suspicious activity. They`re called SARS reports. And I think there are a variety of issues, and we can protect America`s national security, but we have to get these officials back in front of us because if you look at this, the very first hearing, we had a fellow named Watts, a former FBI man. I asked him about follow the money issues, the relationships in Russia between the oligarch and the mob and the government.
I said do you think I`m right, Mr. Watts, to follow the money? And he said you bet you ought to follow the money, and by the way, you can also follow the trail of the dead bodies. We`ve got other issues to look at.
HAYES: Well, when you talk about the suspicious activity reports, those of course I think were part of what tipped off investigators about Michael Cohen`s payments to the various women, the two women that he has said he paid off on behalf of the president. Have you had Treasury officials, and does your committee have access to the kind of documentation that Treasury or IRS would have about the relevant financial materials here?
WYDEN: I have been trying to get these documents for over a year, Chris. And in addition to serving on the intelligence committee, I`m the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee. We have authority over the Treasury Department. They have stonewalled and stonewalled some more. We have not been able to get access to these kinds of documents, and I think this relates to both committees.
Our job is to tell the story on the Intelligence Committee of what happened with respect to Russia to the American people. Bob Mueller works on the criminal side. We tell the story. We cannot do our job on the Intelligence Committee unless we have access to these financial materials.
HAYES: Let me follow up about a quote you just invoked from Clint Watts I believe is who you are talking about, who talked following the money and following the trail of dead bodies. The dead bodies referencing in Russia? Vladimir Putin`s enemies? People that were associated with the intelligence committee there that have died in the last year or so, of which there have been many? What does that mean?
WYDEN: I can`t get into the classified issues, Chris, but what I can tell you, there have been public reports on this. And I asked Mr. Watts that question for a reason. That was supposed to be a very dry academic hearing, and I worked really hard to make sure that we could explore the relationship between the oligarchs and the mob and the government.
And for Mr. Watts to kind of light up this debate in January of 2017, there should have been much more oversight already with respect to the follow the money issues, but yesterday, as I said, was a very important day because this showed that all of Donald Trump`s denials about having no interest in business whatsoever in Russia, you remember that tweet he put out, no interest in deals, none whatsoever, now we have hard evidence that that simply wasn`t truthful.
HAYES: Final question, and it`s a question I asked your colleague, Senator Blumenthal, at the top of show and I want to ask you, because of the two committees you sit on. Are you concerned that something similar is happening right now? The president has active interests in foreign entities around the world that are compromising American foreign policy?
WYDEN: Well, as you know, there is a whole body of law called the emoluments clause and trademark issues with the family and the like. You bet there are a variety of questions, and I`m glad you asked senator Blumenthal. I`m part of the lawsuit that he`s initiated.
HAYES: All right, Senator Ron Wyden, many, many thanks. Thanks a lot.
WYDEN: Thanks for having me, Chris.
HAYES: One last note before we go, this Sunday night Joy Reid and Al Sharpton will be on the ground in Johannesburg hosting special coverage of a global citizen festival celebration of Nelson Mandela on the 100th anniversary of his birth. There will be appearances by Trevor Noah and Oprah, performances by Beyonce, Jay-Z, Eddie Vedder and more. You can tune in for all that this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on MSNBC.
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