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Trump in the room during Hush Money discussions. TRANSCRIPT: 12/13/18, All In w/ Chris Hayes

Guests: Julian Castro, Mark Follman, Ben Rhodes, Ryan Costello, Adam Serwer, Andrew Prokop, Jamie Raskin, David Corn

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Trump did nothing wrong.  I did nothing wrong.

HAYES:  The president scrambles to control the narrative.

TRUMP:  Nobody except for me would be looked at like this.  Nobody.

HAYES:  As news that implicates him keeps on breaking. 

TRUMP:  I don`t think they even paid any money to the tabloid.

HAYES:  Tonight, new reporting that Donald Trump was in the room when his lawyer and the National Enquirer discussed illegal hush money payments.

TRUMP:  They put that on to embarrass me.  They put those two judges on to embarrass me. 

HAYES:  Plus, breaking news of a brand-new criminal investigation into the Trump inauguration. 

TRUMP:  We had a massive crowd of people and I`ve seen crowds before.

HAYES:  Plus, new revelations of Russian contacts during the Trump campaign.


HAYES:  All that, plus, Julian Castro on a potential 2020 run and today`s historic vote to rebuke the White House on Yemen.  When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES:  Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes.  The President sounds like a guy who was caught and that`s because he has been.  NBC News is reporting tonight the Donald Trump was in the room during discussions overpaying hush money to silence women in August 2015.  And that puts the president directly in the middle of the scheme to violate campaign finance law that he has tried to pin squarely on Michael Cohen. It`s a scheme that both prosecutors and the judge who sent Cohen to prison say was a serious criminal felony. 

That`s not all.  Also, tonight, a brand-new federal criminal investigation into the Trump inauguration.  The Wall Street Journal reporting that federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Trump`s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations as well as whether some of the committee`s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions, or to influence official administration positions.  Much more on the very sketchy situation around the inauguration shortly.

Meanwhile, as the revelations around the hush money payments have piled up, Trump has been desperately trying out def defenses hoping one will stick.  Today, he took his case to Trump T.V. where he suggested Cohen should have saved Trump from himself. 


TRUMP:  Let me tell you, I never directed him to do anything wrong.  Whatever he did, he did on his own.  He`s a lawyer.  A lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing.  That`s why you pay them a lot of money etcetera, etcetera. 


HAYES:  Etcetera, etcetera.  Hilariously in that very same interview, Trump undermine his own case saying that actually, Cohen wasn`t really a lawyer at all.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why did you hire Michael Cohen?  He was known as a fixer.

TRUMP:  Years ago -- first of all --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That was his title, a fixer.

TRUMP:  He did a very low-level work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why did you name him --

TRUMP:  He did more public relations than he did law but he did -- you have seen him on television.  He was ok on television.


HAYES:  OK.  It`s worth taking a moment to remember just how much the President`s story has changed.  At the beginning, when this was first being reported, it was total denial.  Oh, no, never happened, no it`s not true, and now we have come to this.  Let`s just for a moment take a trip down memory lane and see if you can follow the bouncing ball.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did the President approve of the payment that was made in October of 2015 by his longtime lawyer and advisor Michael Cohen?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE:  What the President has addressed this directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you know about the $130,000 payments to Stormy Daniels?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They why did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to the allegations?

TRUMP:  You have to ask Michael Cohen.  Michael is my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP:  No, I don`t know.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP:  He didn`t know the specifics of it as far as I know.  But he didn`t know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this.  It`s not campaign money.  No campaign finance violation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So they funneled it through a law firm?

GIULIANI:  Funnel it through a law firm and the President repaid it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you know about the payment?

TRUMP:  Later on I knew.  Later on. 

He`s a lawyer.  He represents a client.  I never directed him to do anything incorrect or wrong.


HAYES:  Joining me now NBC News National Political Reporter Carol Lee who reported today that Trump is confiding to friends he`s concerned about impeachment, also with me Adam Serwer Staff Writer at the Atlantic who has a piece out today titled Trump is Running out of Alibis.  And Adam, I`ll start on that score.  In your piece, you lay out that the criminal violations that Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to, have been sentenced to in part, are quite serious and it is unusually prosecuted for them, but there`s a reason that they`re prosecuted in this case.

ADAM SERWER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  Right.  I mean, these laws are written in such a way so as to make extremely hard to be criminally prosecuted for them.  The violation has to be knowing and willful.  And one of the things that prosecutors look at when they`re trying to figure that out is whether there`s a pattern of deception with the payments.  And what we`ve seen with Trump not just his public denials but in the way that Cohen facilitated the hush money payments, there`s an obvious effort to hide both the nature of the payments and why they were being made.

And I think when you look at the president`s act of shifting explanations, it suggests you know, not only that he might be guilty but also that he is extremely worried about it.

HAYES:  Carol, you -- that is your reporting today about confiding, about being worried about impeachment.  I mean, at some level, yes, no kidding.  But there`s something that`s changed specifically in the thinking in the White House about that.

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Yes.  There`s a couple things I think that the President you know wasn`t as worried about this maybe a week ago prior to --

HAYES:  Interesting.

LEE:   -- some of the things that have come out.  And you know, we started reporting this before there are news even came out about the AMI deal agreement and so that`s only added to it.  And now you know, it`s come out that the President was in the room -- and he was in a room by the way where the only two other people in the room are saying that this was campaign related.

HAYES:  Right.

LEE:  Right?  So he`s the only -- he`s the odd man out on this.  And so what we`ve seen in court in our reporting is that over the recent days, he`s just gotten more concerned about this and the people around him have gotten more concerned about this.  And one of the things that they have raised with him is that the need to keep establishment Republicans on board. 

The view is that if you have Democrats and they start to move towards impeachment, if Republicans can hold the line then that wouldn`t really take whole -- it wouldn`t go anywhere.  But if you start to see cracks among some establishment Republicans, then it would be really problematic.  And one of the -- those Republicans was Marco Rubio who said over the weekend that you know, no one was above the law and he said it multiple times in the context of the President and that really got some of the President`s allies to notice.

HAYES:  There`s something remarkable here, Adam, which is in the grand scheme of things or the -- or the grand scheme of things that the President may have done, things that he`s done in his past or his business, this is a relatively minor infraction.  It`s a serious one but he`s pinned on it in a way that I haven`t seen and pinned on other stuff yet.  What do you make of it?

SERWER:  Well, I think that`s right.  I mean, when you look at some of the President`s policies that have caused a significant amount of human suffering, obviously trying to get around campaign finance laws isn`t really high on the list.  On the other hand, the fact that you have the two other people in the room as Carol said saying that this was a campaign payment and not a "personal transaction" as the President -- or a private transaction as the President has tried to make it sound has really just made it impossible for him to provide an explanation that makes him sound innocent.

HAYES:  Yes, that`s it, Carol.  That this is -- this is unambiguous situation in which the judge, the prosecutors, two of the three people in the room all agree what was happening was a criminal conspiracy to commit a felony and the President the only one left denying it and it is a discrete and even easily understandable crime that he appears to have committed.

LEE:  Yes.  He`s really -- he`s really isolated on this.  And you know, you make a really good point, Chris.  And the -- and the other thing I would say about it is you know, one of the things that they`re really worried about and we`ve talked about this a lot over you know however long this Mueller investigation has been going on, is the number of investigations that are now going on and it`s just there`s all of these sort of trains on the track and they don`t know where they`re going and they don`t know how to stop them and they don`t have any control over them.

And on top of that, they don`t know what else is going to come out.  And that`s what`s really got everybody kind of on edge far more so in the last few days than I think we`ve seen even the last few months.

HAYES:  Yes, Adam, the President has a lot of faith in his own ability to talk his way out of circumstances.  But increasing the last few days he sounded to me like someone who has just been brought into the police booking office and he`s in the interrogation room and he`s refusing a lawyer and he`s talked himself out of a lot of jams and he thinks he can talk himself out of this one.

SERWER:  Right.  So the problem with that strategy is that the more he talks and the more his explanation shifts, the more it looks to prosecutors like he is knowingly and willfully violating the law.  I mean, white-collar crime is extremely hard to convict because you have to -- unlike with other laws that mostly apply to people who are low income, white-collar crime, you have to get inside the mind of the perpetrator.  And for some reason, Trump probably against the advice of his lawyers, keeps on telling everyone what he`s thinking.

HAYES:  Welcome to my mind says the President over and over constantly all day.  Carol Lee and Adam Serwer, thank you both for your time tonight.

LEE:  Thank you.

HAYES:  For more on the growing scandal on the Trump inauguration, I`m joined now by Andrew Prokop.  He`s a Political Reporter of Vox.  He wrote about why Trump`s inauguration money is a major part of the Mueller investigation.  Andrew, there`s a big scoop from The Wall Street Journal tonight.  Before we get to that, the background here is before we found out about this investigation, Mueller is already looking at it and the finances were already a little red flag raising.  Explain.

ANDREW PROKOP, POLITICAL REPORTER, VOX:  There were many, many red flags.  So the inaugural committee raised over $106 million dollars and that`s more than twice as much as any other inaugural committee in history.  And you know, of course, he`s Trump, he does it really big.  But then a lot of questions arose about you know the people who were giving that money, first of all.  A kind of shady scandal-plagued people in several cases.  And then there was the question of what actually happened to that money.

And that is a very big unanswered question still at this point and it`s the focus or at least one focus of the new investigation from the U.S. Attorney`s Office in New York.  But Mueller seemed to be more interested in the question of foreign money and particularly Russia money but also Middle-Eastern money that they may have thought made its way into the inaugural committee somehow.

HAYES:  Yes, we should be clear that an ovule committees are very loosely regulated, but one thing you can`t do is take foreign money.  So the Mueller team looks like they may be looking into that and as does SDNY.  Again, two different sets of prosecutors.  The Wall Street Journal story tonight suggests that it was Michael Cohen, the raiding of Michael Cohen`s office and the records therein that led them to start investigating the inaugural committee including a conversation of Michael Cohen and the woman who sort of tasked was running it an argument about why it was costing so much.

PROKOP:  Yes, and that`s really interesting because that person is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.  She`s a -- used to be a close friend of Melania Trump.  And if you look at the filings for the inaugural committee, her company got $26 million from it.  That`s almost a quarter of the total spending.  It`s the single largest vendor.  And you know, according to this report, there`s a tape where even she is saying she`s concerned about how this inaugural committee is spending their money and what`s actually going on here. 

And there`s a whole lot more we don`t know about where the money went.  They only have to disclose very limited categories, the top vendors they spent on certain categories where they gave a lot of spending but it`s very vague.  So there`s about $30 million that we know nothing about.  And there`s another $20 million or so that we know only the Vegas details about it.

HAYES:  Yes, so there`s -- yes, there`s $30 million that`s just we don`t know anything about it and then there`s another sort of $20 million you say that`s a little vague.  The other thing that strikes me here, there`s -- there are a lot of people involved in this and one of the things that apparently they`re looking at, the Southern District in New York again, is whether they`re essentially quid pro quo, right?  That whether donations were being made in exchange for policy concessions from the new administration.

PROKOP:  Yes.  And that`s been lurking at the back of this all along.  You know, also in the case of Mueller in the Russian and Middle Eastern money that they`ve been questioning people about oligarchs, but now in the case of the Southern District of New York office, it seems to have perhaps more of an American focus on companies.  And we should note that several of the major donors to the inaugural have already seem to be under investigation. 

Elliott Broidy is a big defense contractor.  He appears to be in a lot of legal hot water.  He was also separately involved in the Michael Cohen you know, one of the hush money payments --

HAYES:  Yes, Michael Cohen -- Michael Cohen who had developed apparently an expertise and hush money payments for rich men who had had affairs decided to do a solid for Elliot Broidy who had also done this and used the identical contract language he had set up for Donald Trump to hook up Elliot Broidy --

PROKOP:  David Dennison.

HAYES:  With whom he also served on the Republican Finance Committee.  So it`s an interesting small world over there as they begin to untangle the threads.  Andrew Prokop, thanks for being with me tonight.

PROKOP:  Thank you. 

HAYES:  I want to turn now to a professor of constitutional law who also happens to be a member of the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Jamie Raskin Democrat of Maryland and a Member of the Judiciary Committee.  You`re someone who has taught, studied, and legislated on campaign finance.  And I want you to respond to an argument coming from Capitol Hill from the President and I think others are basically being like, campaign finance, are you kidding me?  Really?  Is that such a big deal?  Who cares about campaign finance law?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND:  Well, thanks for having me, Chris.  It`s a very big deal.  If you think about Watergate for example, that scandal was all about campaign finance and crimes that were committed in pursuit of the presidency.  And here what we`re talking about is crimes committed in pursuit of the presidency and a lot of them have to do with campaign finance.

But the President`s point is debunked and contradicted by his own conduct and behavior.  If it wasn`t a big deal, why did they go to such great lengths to conceal the whole scheme.  So you know what he did essentially was to direct according to the US Attorney.  A sequence of events where they took $150,000 in corporate money and paid it in hush money right before the campaign t0 one former mistress and then they $130,000 to pay in hush money to pay off another former mistress to purchase her silence.

They went over the $2,700 or $5,400 limit if you count primary in general - -

HAYES:  Yes, they shot pretty far over that.

RASKIN:  They went over that easily then they violated the rule against direct corporate contributions even under the egregious Citizens United case.  Doing this is not legal.  It was a clearly coordinated campaign contribution.  They sat in the room together and decided to direct the money there and then they didn`t report any of it.  They went to great lengths and great pains to conceal the whole conspiracy.

So it`s very serious business and it is precisely the kind of conduct that was alleged in the impeachment articles by the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate.  And we know that there was the break-in but there was lots of illegal money flowing in.

And look, what I`m taking from the disclosures this week and from a little conversation that I had with James Comey when he came before our committee was that the President has basically been conducting his affairs like a crime family.  Comey wrote in his book that when Trump was interviewing him for the job of staying on, he said will you have loyalty to me.  Will you have personal loyalty to me?  And Comey wrote and then he reaffirmed in his test last week that this was something that he likened to a mob boss.

And he said, he`d not experienced this board before except in the context of Mafia family investigations.  And the president basically has been running his affairs like an organized crime family.  And so there are now all of these corrupt deals that are coming to light, attempts to pay off mistresses, but of course, everybody is still waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Moscow project which was the big business ambition of the President.  And that was you know, could they actually build for hundreds of millions of dollars you know, a Trump Tower in Moscow in the middle of the presidential campaign. 

What if the deal had gone through and we had a president who was compromised in that way by Vladimir Putin and by Russian government?  It was bad enough just trying to do it, but what if it had gone through?

HAYES:  Let me go back to what you just said about sort of comparing to Watergate.  And it`s true I mean the follow the money was about where creep -- where the committee reelect the president was getting the money to do all the dirty tricks they were doing, right?  That was a key part of the entire crack in the case open.  If it`s the case that Individual One has done what he appears to be implicated in doing which is directing the commission of a felony, multiple felonies.  Isn`t that on its face a high crime or misdemeanor for the purpose of the U.S. Constitution?

RASKIN:  Well, first of all, on the campaign finance side, you have to prove that it was willful and knowing.  But I think there`s a tremendous circumstantial evidence that they knew what they were doing was an attempt to circumvent the campaign finance laws. 

Now, the question about impeachment is somewhat different because I think all the authorities agree that direct violation of a criminal statute is not necessary for impeachment.  It is sufficient for impeachment in most cases but not always.  There`s always this other judgement that`s built-in impeachment that`s not just like the way a prosecutor would look at it.  You know, are the elements of the statutory offense met but also is there a general offense against the character of our government and democracy?

In other words, is there really a high crime and misdemeanor in terms of corruption of the government.  But it looks like we`re getting very close to that.  It`s hard to run away from that conclusion.  But remember impeachment is not the beginning of a process, it`s the end of our process.  And we`re in no hurry to get there.  We just want to get the truth of what happened and tried to deal with the various crimes and obstructions of justice the best that we can.

HAYES:  Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you for time tonight.

RASKIN:  My pleasure.

HAYES:  Was Michael Flynn working on a deal with Russia during Trump`s campaign while Russia was hacking Hillary Clinton`s campaign and the DNC?  That`s what Flynn associates are telling Mother Jones Reporter David Corn who`s got a scoop out on that today and he will join me with all of the new details right after this.


HAYES:  Here`s something we still don`t know about Michael Flynn, why did he lie to about speaking with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition.  We knew the circumstances of the lie, we know the lie he told when the FBI came in and talked to him.  We`ve got all these details about the lie form the court filings but even his own attorneys in their own filing never explain why.  They "why he lied."  Why not just say I talked to Kislyak about the sanctions because I was about to be the National Security Adviser. 

Well, some new information that may shed light on that.  Flynn was in touch with Kislyak during the campaign on the things that we know the Russians were seeking.  Mother Jones reporting that according to one source " Flynn said he discussed with Kislyak a grand bargain in which Moscow would cooperate with the Trump Administration to resolve the Syrian conflict and Washington would end or ease up on the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine."

The working conclusion that many have sketched out has always been that the quid was business deals in Moscow, helping the campaign, and the quo that Russia wanted, what they were really pursuing was sanctions relief.  Now we know Michael Flynn was talking about sanctions relief during the campaign, so is that the reason he was lying?  Is there something more there?

Joining me now, one of the authors of this report, David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones, also author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.  David, what have you learned about the conversations Flynn was having during the campaign?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES:  Let me take one step back.  Back in February, 2017, when the whole Flynn story collapsed that he had lied and that he was under investigation, there was a line in a Washington Post story saying that the reporters had talked to Ambassador Kislyak, the Russian man in D.C., and that those conversations began before the election, not just during the transition period.  And so that was always interesting to me because it was never flushed out.  What were they talking about, when were they talking?

Well, Mother Jones, we have found two Flynn associates who say that they`ve heard -- that he has said that during the election before the election day, before the transition that he was having conversations with Kislyak, can`t tell you when, can`t tell you how many, that involved these grand policy matters, what to do in Syria, what to do in Iran, and even the possibility of if we get together the United States and Russia under a Trump presidency on Syria then maybe we can do something in sanctions.

I put this to Flynn`s lawyer, he wouldn`t respond.  I mean this has been a question that just been sitting out there and it raises all host of other questions.  This was all happening, if it was happening while Moscow was attacking the American election.  And so, imagine this is going on and one of the representatives on one of the campaign comes to you and says, hey, we want to do business with you after the election.  Would that dissuade you from carrying on this attack or encourage you to go further?

HAYES:  Well, and it`s also the case here that remember the lie was about a conversation having do the sanctions on the day that the Obama administration imposed punitive sanctions in response to the election hacking itself that he gets on the phone with his slack and then he lies about it.  But one thing we`ve seen, David, is when they have the Trump Tower meaning with Veselnitskaya, they want to talk sanctions.  When they`re putting together the possible Moscow project, they`re using a bank sanctioned.  When their -- Michael Cohen goes and delivers a peace plan for Ukraine, it`s about lifting the sanctions.  It`s very clear from the Russian side what they were after.

CORN:  Yes, they were -- and in fact, you know, we have news today about Maria Butina, the Russian agent and she got tests Trump a question in 2015 after he had announced that he was a candidate for president at a conference of evangelicals in Las Vegas and the question was what would you do about sanctions.  We still don`t know how she got there and who gave her the right to ask question at Trump, and Trump had a prepared answer. 

It was coherent, it was a paragraph, it was some word salad, and it was all about doing something that ease sanctions, that we don`t need the sanctions.  So sanctions were always there.  So I think it`s a very legitimate question.  Didn`t Michael Flynn talk to the Russians, talk to Kislyak during the election, does sanctions come up. 

We know that Jeff Sessions as a senator, but as the top adviser to Trump in September 2016 had a meeting in his own office with Kislyak again while the Russians were attacking the American election.  So did Flynn do the same?  These are the type of things that a congressional investigation run by mature, responsible investigators would have gotten to and would have told the public about. 

HAYES:  In the case of Michael Flynn, we know that he`s cooperating with three separate investigations.  The bulk of his cooperation redacted of course in that Special Counsel office filing.  It`s interesting from the President this morning who basically is you know trying to throw Cohen under the bus and say he`s a rat.

This is him on Flynn.  They gave -- on Flynn.  They gave general Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated.  The FBI said he didn`t lie and they overrode the FBI -- that`s not true.  They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching the smallest of misstatement said.  He seems to be holding out hope that like Michael Flynn will in his sort of crime boss terminology stay strong,

CORN:  Well, that`s possible.  We do -- you know, there`s a speculation on all the reasons why Flynn has cooperated and took a deal.  Of course, he is not the type of fellow according to his own defenders who had plead guilty to something if he were innocent, but he also has concerns about family members and other business dealings he`s had that have come under investigation.  So he may have a very good reason to cooperate and it has nothing to do with anything that Trump said.

HAYES:  A Russian -- David Corn, thank you very much. 

CORN:  Thank you, Chris.

HAYES:  A Russian agent as David Corn was just talking about pleads guilty to conspiracy and is now cooperating with prosecutors.  The Russian plot to influence the NRA and Republicans next.


HAYES:  For the first time that we know of, there is now a Russian national cooperating with investigators about Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

Maria Butina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy today for illegally acting as a foreign agent and agreed to cooperate with the office of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.  Even as Butina hobnobbed in prominent conservative and gun rights circles, prosecutors say she was actually working with former Russian Senator and central banker Alexander Torshin to establish back channels to powerful Americans.

There`s still, however, a lot we don`t know about Butina`s case from the roles of certain Americans who helped her, and particularly her relationship with the National Rifle Association.  Here to answer some of those unresolved questions, Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, and Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser and miscellaneous MSNBC political contributor.

Mark, this was someone who was quite successful from just out of nowhere essentially in weaving herself into the center of a lot of conservative politics.

MARK FOLLMAN, MOTHER JONES:  Yeah.  Well, I think first today`s plea deal is just stunning confirmation of what we at Mother Jones and many other news outlets have been reporting for  a long time about the way that they so successfully were able to ingratiate themselves with conservatives in American politics, but especially leaders in the National Rifle Association.

And, you know, it`s been understood for a while now they have had long ties to this group, but we`re seeing more evidence now that this is increasingly a story about, what else, following the money. 

We just reported yesterday at Mother Jones, my colleague Dan Friedman and I, on some new evidence we found, photographic evidence of Torshin at an NRA annual conference in 2013 where not only is he hobnobbing with top officials in the NRA, he`s spending time with them in both private and public settings, he`s at an NRA fundraiser for elite donors, what they called their golden ring of freedom.  And it just raises more questions about, you know, what is this guy doing here with them in this setting of money and what other money might be involved in this relationship?

HAYES:  Ben, I want to play for you this moment, this Maria Butina moment, in Las Vegas, where she manages to get the microphone -- David Corn just referenced it -- and ask Donald Trump about sanctions, and just what that means to you now given all that we know.  Take a listen.


MARIA BUTINA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN AGENT:  If you would be elected as the president, what will be your foreign politics especially in relationship with my country?  And do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that damage both economy or you have any other ideas?

TRUMP:  I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK?  And I mean where we have the strength.  I don`t think you`d need the sanctions.  I think that we would get along very, very well.  I really believe that.


HAYES:  What do you think?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Well, Chris, a couple things.  First of all, let`s remember the context, right?  This was at a time when Russia had recently invaded and annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine.  Russia was an outright hostile actor towards the United States and our interests, that`s why those sanctions were put in place.

The second thing I would say is, this is how the Russians operate.  If you know how the Russians deal with spying and influence, they find people who are one or two degrees removed from the Kremlin, who are reporting back to some Russian agent who has a relationship with the Kremlin.  And the purpose of that person`s work is to establish relationships, to try to get influence.

So clearly she was operating and swimming in these circles around the NRA, around various right-wing interest groups, trying to get close to Trump, trying to develop these relationships, and then getting in front of the person who was going to be the Republican nominee. 

And clearly, she got exactly the answer from Trump that she wanted.  And if Putin is sitting there and he`s thinking whether or not to intervene in our election, right, because this is about the time he`s making that determination, Donald Trump is now just giving essentially the signal it`s not unlike when he said, oh, let`s hack Hillary`s emails, he`s saying in that answer, oh, I`ll get along with you guys.  I`m the person you should bet on.

HAYES:  Mark, who else is exposed here?  Because she had contact with a lot of people.  She had a boyfriend who`s a big Republican donor.  Where do you think this can go next?

FOLLMAN:  Well, I think the NRA has a lot of questions to answer.  And it`s very interesting, you know, for a while now the million dollar question, so to speak, has been has there been more money provided by the Russians through the NRA possibly to support the Trump campaign?  The NRA spent a whopping $30 million to back his presidential bid.

You know, the NRA has essentially stonewalled questions from investigators on the Hill.  In our reporting this week, we heard from several sources on the Hill that there`s growing interest in this potential money trail and the question of whether or not there was more Russian money flowing into the NRA and possibly even to the Trump campaign, which of course would be illegal.

So, you know, I think we`re hearing very sharp skepticism from sources on the Hill about the NRA`s claim so far that they have seen no Russian money essentially.  They disclosed a few hundred dollars here and there over the last few years.  But then why was Alexander Torshin getting such VIP treatment for so many years at their conferences? 

Also one other point I want to make, for so long the question has been about what are Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin doing with the NRA and spending all this time in the United States.  But really I think we need to reverse that question now ask what is the NRA doing with these Russian operatives, including the two trips that they took, some of their top executives and leaders, to Moscow, first in 2013 and then in 2015 to spend time with Maria Butina`s gun group there.

A lot of question.

HAYES:  It`s called the Golden Ring of Freedom.

Mark Follman and Ben Rhodes, thank you both.

Up next the historic smackdown of the White House by the United States Senate after the cowardly behavior of Paul Ryan on the war in Yemen.  One of the Republicans who sided with the speaker joins me next.


HAYES:  In a historic repudiation of the Trump administration, the Senate voted today to end U.S. support for the Saudi War in Yemen.  The vote 56-41 marked bipartisan condemnation of the U.S. role in war in Yemen, which has killed tens of thousands and now threatens to starve a whopping 14 million people.

In a second voice vote, the Senate condemned the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the direction of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Today`s vote was also a strong statement against the unfetterred power of American presidents, Democrat and Republican, to engage the U.S. military wherever they want whenever they want.  In fact today was the first time since the War Powers Act was enacted in 1973 that either chamber of congress has invoked it to end American involvement in the war. 

The War Powers Act was intended to reassert the constitutional primacy of congress to declare war.  But this debate over the war in Yemen cannot move to the House, because of a cowardly procedural move by Speaker Paul Ryan.  He attached a rule to the farm bill of all things that would block a Yemen debate on the resolution. 

Congressman Ryan Costello, Republican of Pennsylvania, voted yes in the narrow vote to prevent House debate of the war in Yemen and he joins me now.

Congressman, you are one of the 206 members of congress to vote for the rule, which came up for the farm bill itself, that specifically had an item that said we won`t consider the war powers resolution on Yemen.  Why did you vote yes?

REP. RYAN COSTELLO, (D) PENNSYLVANIA:  Didn`t like the vote in the respect that I don`t think we should be combining whether to proceed with a war powers resolution in a farm bill.

So the answer to your question is, number one, the farm bill needs to get passed.  We`ve been working on it way too long.  We have issues of crop insurance, SNAP, there`s a lot in there that needs to get done. 

But let`s focus specifically on the Yemen issue, which I, and I think many others, even who voted for the rule, would like to make an affirmative position that we do need more clarity on what our involvement is in Yemen at this point in time.  My understanding is we`re talking about intelligence  gathering, refueling of Saudi planes.  And the real constitutional question here is, is that kind of assistance, does it give rise to military forces using the term hostilities under the war powers act.  So I`m happy to talk to you more about that.

HAYES:  Wait -- but here`s the problem, right, and I understand the sort of pragmatic calculation.  We need the farm bill, there`s a lot of stuff in there, I`m going to vote for the farm bill so I vote for the rule, leadership says vote for the rule.

But in voting for the rule, and there were a lot of Republicans who defected, a surprising number, who defected on the rule, you cut off the debate on it.  I mean, it just seems to me so bizarre  and disingenuous and sort of the opposite of what you want in a vibrant democracy, which is just pass a rule that doesn`t have this blockage and pass the farm bill.

COSTELLO:  Agreed, totally bizarre.  I didn`t like it.  Moving forward, Chris, I want to try and be helpful to the discussion here, and the issue is going to be as follows.  What we really actually need to do in Yemen in terms of getting more clarity and determine what our role is going to be, if any, is something that will probably fall outside the war powers resolution. 

So -- and by the way, the president would have vetoed this anyway, and I`m not sure we get two-thirds in the House and the Senate to do it, but the real function here is a stand-alone bill, because the constitutional argument is, and I think it`s the correct one, is that what we actually need to decide whether we`re going to be involved or not falls outside the war powers resolution...

HAYES:  That may be true, and I get that.

COSTELLO:  And that was part of -- that was part of my calculus.  Again, I was asked to eat a  sandwich and it wasn`t a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, if you know what I`m saying.

HAYES:  Look, leadership does this all the time.  It jams the members on rules.  It was the reason they put it in.  But it was striking to me to go out -- they went out of their way on this, right?

COSTELLO:  I didn`t understand that.  I agree with you.

HAYES:  That`s my question.  Like what`s so scary?  If the president is going to veto it anyway, and to me here`s -- I`ll tell you what my theory is, and you can tell me if you think I`m right, you`re closer than I am on this.  They don`t want their members to take a vote on a war powers resolution in Yemen, because it looks pretty bad that there`s a bunch of kids starving and they`re starving because of things that we`re doing and facilitating and Paul Ryan doesn`t want a bunch of members to go in the House and say, well, this is why those kids have to starve and he saved everybody the trouble.

COSTELLO:  I don`t know that that`s it.  Listen, it`s a fair question.  If we remove ourselves from the situation entirely, in other words, not a penny of aid, not a penny of assistance, is the situation better in Yemen?  I`m not sure that it is.

HAYES:  I think the odds are decent.

COSTELLO:  All right.

Question number two, I think it`s less about putting us on the record, because I think that vote was not a vote that makes anybody happy.

HAYES:  You`re saying the rule vote, the people were pissed about the rule vote.

COSTELLO:  Correct.  I think this is administration driven, and I think that the administration probably does not want to deal -- does not want to conflate what happened in Saudi Arabia with the murder of the journalist with what`s happening in Yemen.

HAYES:  Interesting.

COSTELLO:  And to be honest with you, I think for as horrific as that was and is, and for as much as we should question and seek justice, whether or not we provide assistance in Yemen, because of the relationship with Iran to the Houthi rebels needs to be treated independently.  And I`m not saying that as long as Saudi Arabia is doing...

HAYES:  I understand that argument, although I do think it`s revealed something about the regime and how that regime may treat, say, civilian life given the way they treated the life of Jamal Khashoggi.

COSTELLO:  Well, I agree with that.

HAYES:  Congressman Ryan Costello.  Thank you for making time tonight.

The race to be the next Democratic candidate for president is already under way.  I`ll ask one of the early contenders what he brings to the table, ahead.


HAYES:  I want to give my thanks to Ali Velshi for filling in for me a few nights this week.  I really appreciate it.  While I was taking a little time off with my family, #withpod never sleeps.  There`s a new episode up this week with Joanne Freeman about the rampant shocking violence in congress on the House floor leading up to the civil war.  We`re talking duels, brawls and public beatings.  It`s really riveting stuff.  Check it out wherever you get your podcasts.


HAYES:  This may sound crazy or abrupt or impossible, but it is the truth.  We`re a little more than a year away from the Iowa caucuses, which means campaign season is upon us.  Potential Democratic candidates are already scrambling to hire top flight talent before it`s picked clean, hoping to make an impression before an expected explosion of campaign announcements in January. 

There could be as many as two dozen Democrats vying for the White House, maybe more.  While many are playing it coy right now saying they`re thinking about it or considering a candidacy, others, like Texas Democrat and former Obama housing chief Julian Castro had actually taken concrete steps towards a run.  He just announced a presidential exploratory committee and he joins me here tonight.

So, you filed the paperwork.

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HUD SECRETARY:  I did.  In fact, today, we officially -- I had to file it by mail, snail mail, because I was trying to put the accent over the a in my name, and apparently, if the FEC is watching, you cannot have any accented characters in there, and even prepared for my name going in the form.  That`s how bad it is, yes  So I had to file snail mail.

HAYES:  All right, what -- why should Julian Castro be president of the United States?

CASTRO:  Because I have a strong vision for the future of the country, because I`ve shown that I can get things done and create opportunity for folks.  I have done that at the local level and the national level, and because I`ve lived a life where I`ve seen the experiences of people in this country who both are struggling, who are pursuing their American dream in earnest, and also, I`ve served at the highest levels of government and had the opportunity to do well in my own life.

And I feel like I have both policy experience, a vision for the country, and also in life experience something that resonates with people across the board.

HAYES:  How important is experience?  How much experience should a person have to run for president or to be president?

CASTRO:  Well, I think somebody should have relevant experience of getting things done, right?  Oftentimes historically that`s been either in government or the military.   The argument that Donald Trump made in 2016 was that his experience in business would somehow translate into success  at the Oval Office.  And you know what?  Maybe for some people it would, but it clearly has not for him.

HAYES:  You just mentioned the military.  I think about this all the time when I think about someone who is going to run for president.  If you win, if you`re going to be president of the United States, it would mean ordering people into battle.  You would make decisions that result in people dying, whether American service members who die under your command as commander-in-chief, or people that are being fought by the U.S. military, oftentimes civilians through accidents.

Do you think about that?  Do you think about violence and death as things that you will be intimately part of would you win this job?

CASTRO:  Well, of course you think about that.  You know, you read about presidential decision making or watch incidents, they talk a lot about the hardest part of the job being those kinds of decisions, of sending young men and women into battle.  And so of course you think about that.

I think that, you know, the ability to make those decisions depends on different things. But at base, it`s a healthy respect for those types of decisions for the people that you`re sending into harm`s way.  And I think that in the last 15 years, we have seen rather spectacular examples of individuals that I think didn`t have enough of a respect for that.

HAYES:  What is the worst thing that Donald Trump has done?

CASTRO:  There are a lot of them.  I think the worst thing that he has done is he has completely  debased our sense of the office,  And he`s created -- he is marching towards the creation of this alternative reality, talk about alternative facts.  And in doing that, he has polarized this country, divided the country.

HAYES:  Wasn`t the polarization there beforehand?

CASTRO:  Oh, it was.  But I think it`s been amped up significantly since he became president.  And that has a human impact.  There are people who have brown skin or black skin or who wear a turban or a yarmulke who don`t feel safe walking down their own neighborhood because he has unleashed this bigotry and  hatred in our country in a way that we haven`t seen in a long time and I think that`s because of how he has conducted himself.

HAYES:  Final quick question.  You become president.  You`re sworn in. You have a Democratic House and Senate.  The first bill, the first big domestic policy legislation you move is?

CASTRO:  Health care.

HAYES:  Health care.  Specifically?

CASTRO:  I believe that we need Medicare for all.  I believe that we need to recoup the millions of people that have already lost.

HAYES:  So, Medicare for all first thing out of the box is in the Castro administration?

CASTRO:  I believe we need to recoup the millions of people who have already lost health insurance, and we need to do more than that and ensure that everybody has health insurance.

HAYES:  That`s a good, clear, direct answer.  I want to get everyone running on this very question, because I think that`s going to be very important should that come about.

Julian Castro, thanks for making time come back.

CASTRO:  Thanks for having me.

HAYES:  That is All In for this evening.  The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.