American President suspected of being Russian agent. TRANSCRIPT: 1/14/2019, All In w. Chris Hayes.

Guests: Greg Miller, Mike Quigley, Marcy Wheeler, Mimi Rocca, Elliot Williams, Clint Watts, Philippe Reines

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 14, 2019 Guest: Greg Miller, Mike Quigley, Marcy Wheeler, Mimi Rocca, Elliot Williams, Clint Watts, Philippe Reines

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Were you now or have you ever work for Russia Mr. President?

TRUMP: I think it`s the most insulting thing I`ve ever been asked.

HAYES: Is the President of the United States working for Russia?

TRUMP: I never worked for Russia.

HAYES: Tonight, the Washington Post reports Donald Trump hid details of talks with Putin and confiscated interpreter`s notes.

TRUMP: I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

HAYES: (INAUDIBLE) Greg Miller joins me live. Plus --

TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening --

HAYES: Former FBI investigator Clint Watts on the mountain of public evidence the President was falling directions from the Kremlin. And Democrats demand assurances from the President`s pick to oversee the Mueller probe. And why Hillary Clinton is saying I told you so about Trump and the Russians.

TRUMP: From everything I see has no respect for this person.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that`s because he`d rather have a puppet as president --

TRUMP: No puppet, no puppet.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. It is a question now front and center in American politics. In fact, it`s become so central that even Donald Trump`s absolute favorite Fox News host was forced to ask him on live television this weekend, is the President of the United States an agent of a foreign power. Is President Trump a Russian agent? Is he a plant? Does he go about presidenting with the interests of Russia in mind? Is he a puppet whose strings are being pulled for abroad?

This is the stuff of political thrillers of Hollywood blockbusters and it`s a question that has floated around our very real-life president for some time because of his bizarre, suspicious behavior with respect to Vladimir Putin and Russia. Because of the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election for his benefit, because the 101 contacts between Trump steam and Russia linked operatives. Because his campaign manager gave the campaign`s private polling to a person assessed to be a Russian agent. Because the president refuses to condemn Putin for anything. Because he`s repeatedly lied about all of this.

It`s a question that was probably most acutely felt in this moment when the world watch to the President was asked whether he believed U.S. intelligence or Vladimir Putin and this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. What -- who -- my first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again.

TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coates came to me and some others they said they think it`s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it`s not Russia. I will say this. I don`t see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that`s an incredible offer, OK. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: An incredible offer. An offer you might even say to collude on the investigation. Now, we have two new pieces of information. Friday night, the New York Times broke the story that the FBI was so freaked out by Trump`s firing of James Comey that they started a counterintelligence investigation into the sitting President of the United States. Not something they would do lightly.

And then over the weekend, the Washington Post Greg Miller reported this. President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials current and former U.S. officials said.

Just to be clear, this is wildly divergent from protocol. As president, you want to create paper trails for all sorts of reasons when you speak to foreign heads of state mostly because the information has to be shared with the rest of the government so you can make policy. So then why the heck would you rip up the notes from an i0nteraction with a world leader unless you were covering something up.

And so, in the wake of these two stories and everything else, there`s Fox News`s Jeanine Pirro attempting to dismiss the question is ridiculous while also clearly needing to ask it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIRRO: Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia Mr. President?

TRUMP: I think it`s the most insulting thing I`ve ever been asked. I think it`s the most insulting article I`ve ever had written. And if you read the article you see that they found absolutely nothing. But the headline of that article -- it`s called the failing New York Times for a reason. They`ve actually gotten me wrong for many years before that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: You will notice the President does not answer the question. He did earlier today when confronted by NBC`s Kristen Welker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, yes or no. Have you or are you now -- have you ever worked for Russia. Yes or no.

TRUMP: I never worked for Russia and you know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it`s a disgrace that you even ask that question because it`s a whole big fat hoax. It`s just a hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Weird he didn`t say that it was a disgrace when Jeannine Pirro were asking him that question. Notice that? As the longest ever government shutdown enters day 24, the most core question of the President`s loyalty to his own nation has never been more in doubt. That raises yet another question what is to be done about.

Greg Miller covers National Security over at the Washington Post. He broke the story that Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin. He`s author of The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy. Greg, first take us through what you`re reporting indicates about how anomalous the President`s behavior around his talks with Putin is compared to other presidents and their talks of world leaders.

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. It`s beyond anomalous. I mean it is abnormal approaching unprecedented as far as I can tell. I mean, all the presidents that we`ve known in our lifetimes have had meetings with the Russian leader but always go into those meetings with abundant staff with prep -- with detailed preparations.

They want witnesses for these meetings for multiple reasons, one to make sure nothing -- there is no misunderstanding of what has transpired to generate a record of what`s happened and then so that they partly so that that record can then be shared with others in their own administrations so that they can implement whatever agreements or policies are reached in those discussions. And Trump doesn`t do anything like that.

He intentionally keeps his own aides on the outside of these closed-door meetings. He doesn`t really listen to them going into the room. He doesn`t really tell them what happened when he comes out.

And it`s more than -- you know, there`s the remarkable story of him confiscating the notes of the interpreter which is an amazing piece of reporting that you got that information. But it`s also the case according your reporting that in the other meetings he`s had there has been no paper record, no post briefing, nothing that a member of the government could access to look at what are the notes of what happened here.

MILLER: That`s right. I mean, he has had meetings or encounters or conversations with Putin in five separate places around the world since taking office and there isn`t a single comprehensive account of any of those. And you know, it`s -- you don`t have to take my word for it. You can look up prior presidents transcripts of their conversations with world leaders like this. You can -- the Clinton meetings with Yeltsin in the 1990s have been declassified and you can read detailed transcripts of everything they talked about.

I`m not sure we`re ever going to have records like that come out of this administration and this president.

HAYES: The strangest meeting I think it`s fair to say was a dinner at the G20 after the President already met with Putin earlier in the day. That night he walks over to the empty chair, talks to him for somewhere shy of an hour. Ian Bremmer who broke the story on that from other G20 participants said the most unusual thing about Trump`s nearly hour-long private dinner conversation the Putin of the G20 Homburg is that he didn`t tell any of his advisers about it afterwards. Does that scan with what you`ve reported?

MILLER: Yes. I mean, that`s consistent with how -- with how he has carried himself. And of course, the White House didn`t reveal that that conversation had taken place I think for more than ten days afterward. And this is -- that`s what we say in the story that we published this weekend that this is -- this is not just a one-off thing. This is a pattern with this president of going to significant lengths to conceal details about his conversations, his meeting with the Russian leader.

HAYES: Has the White House denied this reporting? No, they`ve denounced it but not denied -- but not denied the fundamental details here that this -- that this happened, that this interpreter was told to stay quiet about what had happened, that this interpreters notes was taken from him. No, and they`ve not disputed any of those facts.

HAYES: Do you know who that interpreter is?

MILLER: I have an idea who this person is. He hasn`t been publicly identified. It is a different interpreter than the one that we saw in Helsinki a year later. These are State Department officials who are experts in the Russian language who do this for many high-level meetings. I mean, we should note that they`re not there to serve as record keepers, they are there to translate.

And so you know, the discussion at the moment about whether to subpoena these notes or try to compel this individual to testify, I mean is really a sign of the desperation here because there`s really nobody else you could turn to get a reliable account of what happened.

HAYES: All right, Greg Miller, thanks. Great reporting. I appreciate it. Joining me now Malcolm Nance, MSNBC Terrorism Analysts with 35 years working in counterterrorism and intelligence, the Author of The Plot to Hack America: How Putin`s Cyber Spies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election. Also with me Matthew Miller MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst and former Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department.

Malcolm, I`ll begin with you. As someone who I think is for a long time had this as the working theory of how the facts arranged themselves, what do you think?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think the reporting that we got this weekend really spells out what the FBI had to have thought. It would have been malpractice for the FBI not to have considered with the intelligence that they had going forward but certainly by the time that Donald Trump came out of the meeting with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kisliak and had said that he fired the FBI director because of the Russia thing and stopping the Russian investigation. They had to assume that there was a nefarious intent in his activities and that it`s quite possible he could have been turned or was working in his own interest which equaled Russia`s interests.

HAYES: What -- let me follow up on that though. There`s all these terms I keep hearing from you that he`s being run as an agent. He`s witting or unwitting. He has been turned. What does that mean? Let`s take this away from the President. Like, if a foreign power, intelligence power manages to acquire an American individuals an asset person in business of the State Department, there`s different ways that can play out. What are they? What does that mean?

NANCE: Well, there are varying degrees. And the most common ones start off with a useful idiot. That`s a person who does something for their own interest which just happens to align with a foreign power`s interests. Then there is a fellow traveler that is a person who has ideologically the same as another power and they do things because they believe the same beliefs.

Then you have an unwitting asset is a person who is doing things for their own self-interest but are also understanding that other forces may be impacting them and they don`t care. And finally a witting asset which is a person who is well aware of who`s pulling the strings and is accepting that. But that is different from an agent. Usually that`s a person who has a contract, who is working with a foreign power knowingly as their spy.

HAYES: What do you think of this? I mean, you worked at DOJ. The remarkable decision by the FBI to open a counterintelligence inquiry into a sitting president, what`s your read on that?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: You know, in a perfect world, it`s not the kind of decision you would want the FBI to be making on its own about democratically elected president. But often in the government, your choices aren`t between good and bad, they`re between bad and cataclysmic. And I think if you put yourselves in the shoes of the FBI in that critical eight, nine, day period, between when Jim Comey was fired and when Bob Mueller was appointed, so they`ve already been looking at this question implicitly. It`s always been implicit.

The president recognized that there`s a reason why he asked Jim Comey so many times whether he was under investigation. And the reason Comey wouldn`t say it publicly was because it might change and you might become a person on investigation at some point. So I think if you`re the FBI, you now have seen the president move against her investigation. He`s fired the FBI Director. And more tellingly, you`ve seen the Deputy Attorney General help the president do it.

HAYES: Rod Rosenstein.

MILLER: And so -- yes, Rod Rosenstein. The person that you would usually go to consult with about this decision you think, maybe it`s working with the President to try to end the investigation. So I think what they were doing. One, yes they`ve decided we need to make this explicit because we now have this evidence that the Times reported, the Lester Holt interview, the letter which included mention of Russia.

But I also think they`re trying to protect their investigation. And bureaucratically the one thing you can do to make this investigation unkillable is make the investigation into the president. Make it hard for anyone to move against it and maybe force the Deputy Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor which of course is happening.

HAYES: So that movement you think from a bureaucratic perspective is a way of essentially protecting it as you`re watching the president in real time apparently attempt to obstruct justice?

MILLER: Yes. Because making him an explicit subject of the counterintelligence investigation doesn`t give them any new authorities if they think they weren`t already doing. It`s just a bureaucratic thing. So the only reason I think it makes sense to do it is if you`re really saying we`re worried about this investigation. And remember, if you go back and get in a time machine and go back to May of 2017, people the Department of Justice were entirely freaked out that the wall that had always separated the department from the White House was crumbling down they needed to do something to build it back up.

HAYES: Malcolm, what is -- what`s your understanding the worst-case scenario here?

NANCE: Well, the worst case scenario is that Donald Trump is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Kremlin, that he actually is not only in debt to the Kremlin. He is aware. It has been made clear to him that that debt is going to be used against him and he will be leveraged and that he will do the bidding of Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin is a KGB human intelligence officer. His job was to turn people into traitors and to run agents into West Germany to steal technology. He knows what he`s doing. His top for senior staff were all ex KGB, FSB, and a person like Donald Trump would be a godsend. And now Putin wouldn`t do it directly, Chris. What he would do is he would do it through inference and he would use his oligarchy to act like a carrot and a stick for Donald Trump to do the things that he wants. And he has already indoctrinated him.

And as you know, as we`re seeing now, these things are playing out and the FBI had to have known it because the U.S. intelligence community knew this well before the election and had to start an investigation to determine if he was Moscow`s asset witting or unwitting.

HAYES: All right, Malcolm Nance and Matt Miller, thank you both. Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley serves on the House Intelligence Committee. And you now have power. You are in the majority. You control that committee`s agenda though you`re not the chair. What are you going to do about the revelations that we`ve heard.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Look, I think there`s a lot of questions that have been raised recently but none of them are a great big surprise to us. I`ll say this. After watching it for over two years, I would tell the American public there are no coincidences. The fact that Deutsche Bank was the only bank that would do business with the president before he was elected was also the bank that laundered money for the Russians.

The fact that the President slow rolled out sanctions against the Russians, the fact that he would rather trust a foreign adversary of President Putin over his entire intelligence community, he fired Sessions and Comey, there are no coincidences. I believe the President of the United States has been compromised whether he made all these extraordinary policy decisions based on bad policy choices or they were -- he was compromised, must be the subject of the investigation.

HAYES: What do you mean --

QUIGLEY: We must be able to get those records.

HAYES: I want to ask about that but I want to follow up. What do you -- what does it mean to you? Explain in sort of plain terms. What does compromise mean to you?

QUIGLEY: I believe that the Russians were the sole source of funds through the Deutsche Bank. I can`t believe that that was that coincidence. I believe they were able to use that so that he relied upon them. And the evidence around the corners bothers me a great deal. The fact that the Trump Tower in Moscow was something that the President lied about through the campaign and that they were offering President Putin the penthouse suite. These are extraordinary revelations. The only way we`re going to find out is we have all the information, all the communications, the actual documents.

You know, I read the other day it`s something like 101 content. It`s hard to believe that there aren`t a lot more. Until we get those financial documents, until we get all those sources of information, we won`t know for sure. But it is certain that the president has acted like he`s compromised from the beginning of his campaign. He attacked -- he attacked those multinational agencies that fight back against Russian aggression, the U.N., the E.U., NATO. I mean, putting this all together, it`s just to me too much of a -- too much of a coincidence.

HAYES: There`s been discussion today about the possibility subpoenaing the translator or translators who have been in the room for these meetings. Is that something you would favor?

QUIGLEY: Absolutely. I favor subpoenaing those transcripts, I favor subpoenaing all his financial documents.

HAYES: No, but the translator. I just want to be clear. The actual -- the linguist of the State Department. It would be fairly unprecedented, I think unprecedented --

QUIGLEY: Oh, absolutely.

HAYES: You want to see them before your committee?

QUIGLEY: It is totally unprecedented. It is an extraordinary act to do that. Understand, the story coming out about the FBI is suspecting the President of the United States having been compromised. I think it`s important for the American public to recognize that and reflect for a moment just the state of where our democracy is if that is indeed true. The mere fact that people at this high level of the FBI would question the loyalty of the President of the United States, that`s unprecedented. We have to act the same.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you very much. The President drafted a cover story about Russian adoptions, remember that, to explain that infamous Trump Tower meeting promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was just one day after secretly meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: A single most explosive detail from the Washington Post report on the President concealing his talks with Vladimir Putin from the U.S. government is that the President went so far as to confiscate his own interpreters notes after his first face-to-face meeting with Putin a year and a half ago, instructing the interpreter not to tell any other U.S. officials what had happened. That reporting adds to what was already a highly incriminating chain of events unfolding over the course of just two days at the G20 Summit in July 2017.

We learn later that hours after that first meeting with Putin where the interpreter was present, the President held a second totally undisclosed meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a G20 dinner. And in a truly unprecedented breach of normal practice, there were reportedly no other Americans present. The only other participant was Putin`s interpreter. The President was said to have concealed that second meeting from his own staff.

Both of those meetings with Putin took place on July 7th, 2017 and they were not the only significant events of that day. Early that very same morning, according to the New York Times, the paper, The Times reached out to the White House with its first questions about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and senior campaign officials. But it wasn`t until a day later after the President took off from the G20 on board Air Force One that Donald Trump Jr. responded with a statement at Times. A misleading account of the Trump Tower meeting that according to the President`s own lawyers seems to have been dictated by the President himself.

Statement reading in part, "We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was sins ended by the Russian government. Marcy Wheeler is a journalist who blogs about national security, the Mueller investigation at emptywheel.net. She has posed the question, did Putin dictate Don Jr. statement.

All right, Marcy, you wrote that piece a while ago before these revelations, what was your theory of the case then?

MARCY WHEELER, INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER: Well, very simply. We now know that the Trump people had been working on figuring out what happened at that meeting for over a month by the New York Times called. But that day they called and said can we get a statement about what happened and that I think was before that first meeting with Putin so two and a half hours with Putin with Tillerson, Rex Tillerson present, they promised the Trump people promised that the next day they`re going to have a conference call with it.

Then late that night Trump who`s at a banquet at the G20 gets up wanders over to where Melania is sitting right next to Putin and starts a comment hour-long conversation with him that nobody was there except for the translator and maybe Melania. And then the next day instead of speaking to the New York Times, they issued a statement that early last year Trump`s lawyers claimed he dictated. but the statement is about adoptions. It`s the Russian line that they used to kind of explain away Magnitsky sanctions.

And Trump later that month so later last summer admitted to the New York Times oh yes, we talked about adoptions. We talked about what this statement actually was. So he`s admitted that he`s the one who told everyone what to say and he later admitted that he and Putin spoke about the subject that formed the basis for this statement which was by the way pretty inaccurate as far as what we`ve subsequently learned happened with the meeting.

HAYES: That point you make about adoptions being essentially the Russian - - the Kremlin`s code for sanctions, right? I mean the adoptions were sort of -- the adoption program was shut down in response to sanctions being imposed on Russia. When they say adoptions, what they really mean is we want you to drop the sanctions.

WHEELER: Right. And Putin has used that sense in before to talk about his relations with the United States. So he continues to insist on that line for basically getting his oligarchs all their money back and their ability to play in the United States again.

HAYES: I want to play that clip because it`s so I think telling. This is Trump talking New York Times where he says yes -- no, we actually talked about adoptions. Weirdest thing. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mere pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation but it was you know, it could be 15 minutes just talking about things. Actually, it was very interesting we talked about adoption. We did, Russian adoption. It sounds interesting because you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him which is interesting because that was part of the conversation Don had with his meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: So interesting that they talked about the same thing. It strikes me that it makes also sense of this piece from last year that Mueller has zeroed in on the story put together about Trump Tower meeting. That was an item a particular concern. And given what we now know about confiscating the interpreter`s notes and the plausibility this line was fed to him by the Kremlin, do you think that is part of why Mueller zeroed in on it.

WHEELER: Oh absolutely. I mean -- and the fact that it was misleading. Just as an example, part of the statement that came out was that there was no follow-up. We know that Natalia Veselnitskaya who by the way recently got indicted by the U.S. government for basically being part of the Russian government. We know that she made significant efforts to follow up right after the election. And right when the Agalarov had decided well, we can`t get a proper back channel to Don Jr. that`s the day literally that Jared Kushner asked Kislyak for a back -- for a backchannel.

And so -- and then that leads to these you know, to these Jared`s meetings with other sanctioned banks. It leads to the December 29th conversation where Mike Flynn told the Russians not to worry about sanctions. So it all leads up to that meeting, that conversation between Flynn and Kislyak on sanctions and that`s what Flynn lied about and that`s what Trump fired him about and that gets you to Jim Comey.

HAYES: Marcy Wheeler, thanks for joining me. We don`t know if President Trump is a Russian agent but we know that to some people in the FBI he sure was acting like one. Former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts on the mountain of evidence the FBI could -- just could not ignore next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Nearly two years ago, former FBI agent Clint Watts went before congress to describe the Trump administration suspicious practice of parroting Russian propaganda during the 2016 campaign. And this weekend after The New York Times revealed the FBI had, in fact, opened an inquiry whether Trump was secretly working with Russia, Watts made the clear the agency really hadn`t had much of a choice. "Imagine for a moment that you are an FBI agent. You work on Russian counterintelligence. And again and again, you watch as the GOP`s nominee for president, and eventual president, repeats Russia propaganda, pushes pro-Russia U.S. policy and stakes out position that seemingly could only have come from the Kremlin."

In a tweet storm over the weekend, Watts laid out the flood of evidence that forced the FBI to take the remarkable step of opening an inquiry into a sitting president. And he pointed to the evidence to ask a simple question: how would a president compromised, coerced, or co-opted by the Kremlin act any different?

Joining me now is Clint Watts, MSNBC national security analyst, former FBI special agent with the joint terrorism task force.

So talk through how you would be viewing the run up of the campaign and the president`s actual time in office from the perspective of someone who specializes in counterintelligence, specifically with respect to Russia.

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, so the whole point of the Russian effort was to create a policy change. It is active measures when through the force of politics by inserting people that support your position.

Donald Trump, on both parties, was the only one to speak so effusively about how great Putin was and when you look at the summer, just that summer period of 2016, you know that Russia is hacked into a wide swath of American targets. He goes on stage and says, Russia, if you got those emails. At the same point, you are investigating, you`ve already started to investigate, several people tied to his campaign that have popped up that are very odd characters who have all of these connections to Russia.

HAYES: And not only they shouldn`t be around an American presidential campaign and yet they are and yet their connected to Russia.

WATTS: They are either players who have never played the game, or players who play the game and in the Nixon era and have suddenly reappeared on the stage and not only participating, are campaign managers, who also at the same time cite Russian propaganda on CNN.

It is just remarkable when you look back at just that three-month period, the number of contacts and the number of times it comes up.

HAYES: What is -- there is part of this, too, about the president`s positions, right. So, part of what is hard about this is is there are positions that one could take independent of being co-opted that just happen to align with Russian interests. There are certain things like there is this report -- Rachel did this amazing piece about concerns about Belorussian aggression into Poland, or Poland was going to invade Belarus I guess it was? Concerns about Montenegro joining NATO, that the president spouts that seem to come from absolutely nowhere.

WATTS: These are issues that are not even on U.S. foreign policy radar. They are very obscure. And I can specifically remember the change in RNC platform to be less Ukraine, more pro-Russian. I remember watching that and being, whoa, this is like a major change out of nowhere.

The next one, you hear them talk about Poland and Belarus, you go I`m not sure the president even knows who these two countries are, that is a very specific and I never heard it from anywhere but Russia.

You jump to the Montenegrin prime minister, pushing him. You know that Russia had just tried to actually do overt election interference, they put a plot in an an election day just a few months before, that`s the one person he picks, and he goes on Fox News and says Montenegro is an aggressive country. It`s the Rhode Island of Europe. It is a tiny country that is not going to challenge Russia in any way.

HAYES: And so you think if you are sitting there in the FBI, what are you thinking? What is the suspicion forming in your mind?

WATTS: Well, at first you`re going to say there is no way this is possible. You don`t believe it. But then you take that whole influence campaign -- the president, the candidate, the president-elect and the president is consistently citing what is only coming out of the Kremlin, and you know that from foreign intelligence aspect, and at the same point, he can`t stop asking you about Russia. And every time your investigators go talk to someone in his team, like Flynn, hey, are you doing quid pro quo for sanctions? He lies to your agency about it.

So now you are saying, OK, on this side I have constant worry from the administration. Am I a target of the Russia investigation? Oh, you told me I wasn`t a target. Don`t put that in a memo.

Lester Holt, by the way, Russia was on my mind. And, hey, Russian guys are in the Oval Office, I got rid of Comey, you don`t have to worry about this any more.

I mean, as an FBI counterintelligence agent, I can`t think of anything else that would come up that would not cause more alarm at this point. This is a year-and-a-half of behavior.

HAYES: And this then pushes that faithful decision. Matt Miller was here before saying that he thinks that sort of formal move to open a counterintelligence inquiry was the kind of bureaucratic forcing mechanism to push to get the special counsel protection of the investigation. Does that make sense to you?

WATTS: I agree. When I hear the stories of Rosenstein/McCabe showdown, that is probably what it was about.

HAYES: Right, because we had those stories about.

WATTS: Right. I imagine that Rosenstein comes in. He gets set up -- this is my interpretation. he gets set up as the fall guy for firing Comey, probably didn`t understand what was going on. He`d been there about a week. This happens. They fire Comey. He goes over to the FBI. He finds out probably at this point about memos, the FBI director that just got fired was doing, maybe other memos going on. He may have learned other investigative leads. He says how do I get control of an FBI that we can`t have investigating the president, a president who keeps bringing up Russia for odd reasons, foreign policy statements that are being made, and how do I bring that in. Robert Mueller, that is my answer, I`m going to do a special counsel and try and move this into some independence. And my boss, by the way, has recused himself from this investigation, and I`ve been here a month.

HAYES: It`s a hell of a decision to make.

Clint Watts, thank you for your time tonight.

WATTS: Thank you.

HAYES: The man who will be in charge of the Justice Department at a critical time for the Mueller probe, as Clint was just discussing, goes before the Senate for his confirmation hearings. That is next.

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HAYES: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has long anticipated report is expected to be released as soon as next month. And the person who will decide what we, the public, actually get to see from the report is the attorney general.

Tomorrow, after more than two months with an acting A.G. of dubious constitutional legitimacy, the senate will finally hold confirmation hearings for an official attorney general, William Barr, who is trying to get ahead of anticipated questions about Mueller by saying in his prepared opening statement released today, quote, "I believe it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation and I believe it is very important the public and congress be informed of the results of the special counsel`s work."

I`m joined now by Mimi Rocca, MSNBC legal analyst, former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York; and Elliot Williams, former deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at DOJ under President Obama.

Mimi, how important do you think this line of questioning is going to be in the hearing?

MIMI ROCCA, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Hugely important. And, you know, it is like when someone is a Supreme Court nominee and they say -- and they are asked about Roe v. Wade and they say it is binding precedent. He is going to give a sort of standard answer of think I the public should see -- I mean, he`s already said it -- should see the results of Mueller`s work.

It is not enough to just take that answer on face value. They need to get underneath that. What does that mean? That is not a clear statement: see the results. That doesn`t mean I`m going to release the report in its entirety in its unclassified form, and that is what he should commit to.

HAYES: That is the pledge you would like to see?

ROCCA: Absolutely.

HAYES: What do you think Elliot?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Absolutely. He needs to make clear not just, you know, are you just going to let it go out to its completion, but what will you do with the respect to the investigation. So, for instance, Matthew Whitaker was on the record saying he was committing to starving the investigation of its funding, and so on, and Barr needs to be read those statements and he needs to make a -- you know, either disavow of them or comment on them.

So what is your position with respect to the funding of the investigation? What is your position with respect to following the advice of career ethics attorneys as to whether you should recuse yourself from the investigation? And none of this sort of generic, like Mimi had said in the context of judicial nominations, well I`ll follow the law and of course I will listen to career attorneys.

He needs to give clear answers given all of the problems and all of the questions that have arisen thus far.

Like, we should all sort of be alarmed based on his writings and his conduct thus far.

HAYES: Yeah, the 20-page memo he sent to DOJ.

I want to play this clip, because it`s amazing. We`ve been through here before. Elliot Richardson gets brought before the Senate to be confirmed when he is nominated, and basically has to pledge he is going to keep the special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Take a listen.

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ELLIOT RICHARDSON, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Cox will full independence, as far as I`m concerned. He has been given, or will be given, upon his appointment full authority to investigate all aspects of the Watergate case itself and other related matters.

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HAYES: Is that a template?

ROCCA: Absolutely. But here I think it is a two-part template, because of the way the special counsel statute is now structured. One is, will he be allowed to finish his investigation into all areas, including the area of obstruction which Barr has expressed skepticism on.

HAYES: In his memo, right.

ROCCA: And then the second part is does the memo in full come out, because that is now going to in the hands of Bill Barr.

HAYES: I really can`t imagine a universe in which the memo just sits there in a box.

ROCCA: No, but he could decide to release only certainly parts of it. He could decide to release only a summary of it. I mean, there are ways he could cut the corners off.

HAYES: There is also, Elliot, the question of the Southern District of New York, right. I mean, there`s not just one inquiry into the president. The Southern District of New York has already brought charges and accepted a plea from the president`s lawyer who said the president directed him to commit a crime.

WILLIAMS: Right. Absolutely. And, you know, there are decisions that are going to be made at main Justice, sort of the headquarters of the Justice Department, that are going to be touching all of these investigations in the Southern District and elsewhere. And the question is once again for Barr, what is your role -- or how do you envision your role with respect to these, and just not generally, well, I will be behave in the manner that other attorneys general have.

You know, he`s sort of -- if you read his comments, he sort of tries to blunt that criticism, saying, well, you know, I`m just a simple 68-year-old country lawyer and I`m just here to do a job when in reality we need pretty clear answers as to how he is going to handle all of these investigations.

And I think -- you know, playing that Elliot Richardson quote is striking, because we`re in a different era now where we seem to let nominees get away with not really answering questions.

HAYES: That is a great point.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, and it is not an effective way to vet people in the manner that the American people deserve.

HAYES: Yeah, that point about -- that is definitely going to be the way they are going to try to coach him through this. Mimi Rocca, Elliot Williams, thank you both for joining me.

The Trump shutdown and the Trump wall have nothing to do with law and order. The ethnonationalist motives of Steve King and Pat Buchanan and the president next.

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HAYES: After days of voicing concern and regret about Steve King being shockingly forthright about his affection for white supremacy, tonight House Republicans have taken the pretty remarkable step to kick him off all his committees.

This comes following Congressman Bobby Rush, Democrat of Illinois, and Tim Ryan of Ohio, both filing resolutions to censure King; and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn introducing a resolution of disapproval.

But as I noted here last week, the problem with King is more than his comments and his own striking honesty about his own racist views, the problem is that King`s policy agenda has taken over the Republican Party, and the Party is currently shutting down the government over it.

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REP. STEVE KING, (R) IOWA: I`m going to do the two-minute drill on the King wall. I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them be to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top or put a ladder there.

We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn`t kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.

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HAYES; When I played that clip last week as part of a commentary, I argued that the core of the shutdown was catering to a part of the Republican base that has an explicitly ethnonationalist project: maintaining white dominance in America at all costs.

That observation prompted some whining in certain quarters, which was little more than the hollering of hit dogs. But I`m grateful to President Trump for explicitly making my point for me. Last night, the president himself provenly quoted as justification for his wall shutdown a Pat Buchanan column that explicitly makes this argument. Buchanan says that "mass migration from the global South is the real existential crisis of the West." And says "Democrats have a devious plan to make America less white and more diverse because of their supposed antipathy to white men." The only way to foil their plot, Buchanan argues, is to make sure the nation doesn`t get more diverse, keeps it white, by building the wall.

So, thank you to the president for making my thesis clear. Pat Buchanan, Steve King, and Donald Trump want the wall built explicitly part as an ethnonationalist project to maintain white dominance in America.

It`s a welcome step that after 16 years House Republicans are finally taking some action to wrap the knuckles of their most notorious racist, but the fact remains that on day 24 of the longest ever government shutdown, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy and congressional Republicans are still all active collaborators in pursuing Steve King`s project.

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TRUMP: Look, from everything I see has no respect for this person.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that`s because he would rather have a puppet as president...

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it`s pretty clear.

TRUMP: You`re the puppet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The Clinton campaign pointed out repeatedly all the ways in which their opponent appeared to be manipulated by, or compromised by Russia. Today, Hillary Clinton, referencing that moment, tweeted, "like I said, a puppet."

Joining me now is Philippe Reines. He`s the former adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

What is your reaction from your perch of having gone through that election and watched (inaudible) explicitly this case to the news we`ve gotten over the weekend?

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, watching that clip and watching a piece that the campaign put out later, it`s just freakish. I mean, it`s almost like you have to wonder whether or not it was fake today.

But I think there`s an important point here, which is when you look at the timeline backwards, there was, you know, the saying that where there`s smoke there`s fire. If you look at 2016 it`s where there was fire there was fire. You had things going on left and right. You had carter page -- and these are things I`m saying that the government was aware of, specifically Jim Comey -- you had Carter Page under surveillance, you had Mike Flynn being tied to Putin, you had Manafort tied to Russia, you had Trump himself saying if you have her emails. Amazingly, right after the campaign, Comey decides to brief Trump on the so-called dossier, and then by March of 2017, he`s testifying before congress that there`s an active investigation. So my point is, this isn`t like it started the day after the election or the day after the inauguration.

We have to wonder, again, you know, I can`t resist taking a shot at Jim Comey.

HAYES: I was just about to say, but continue.

REINES: But what`s the -- he felt the need 10 days before to say hold on, we found another couple of emails, never mind. But he chose not to tell the American people that Donald Trump was up to his eyeballs in Russia.

HAYES: Well, here`s the question, if you go back -- I was going back, I was looking at that video which is video that Brian Fallon and the campaign put out about all the Russia connections, it was something that your campaign talked about a lot. Was that partly due to private information you were getting through, say, the Steele Dossier or anything like that? I mean, we know the Democratic Party paid for it. This was all public record stuff?

REINES: Yeah. And I`ll do you one better -- I mean, if you don`t want to trust Hillary Clinton or Brian Fallon or the Clinton campaign, don`t forget that it was before the GOP convention that Kevin McCarthy, the speaker in waiting of the House told Paul Ryan on tape and others in the room that there were two people he thought that Russia paid, Donald Trump and Dana Rohrbacker. I mean, this is something that people saw everywhere.

And it`s not like it was Sweden, I mean, it was Russia, our leading adversary. And, you know, antenna should have gone up, and Comey said his antenna went up, he just thought that she would win and it would be tainted.

Now, conversely he won and it`s tainted.

HAYES: There`s also someone else who figures, I think prominently here when you go back to that period, which is Mitch McConnell. And I want to read you this from The Washington Post, "Obama administration officials privately asked senior congressional leaders," this is back in 2016, right before they were about to make this announcement, "in both parties to go public with the united front against Russian interference. McConnell refused, claiming in The Post`s words that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics."

What do you think of that?

REINES: Well, I mean, Mitch McConnell was the majority leader, and the so called gang of eight includes the majority leader. And I remember vividly when Harry Reid, his counterpart from the Democrats one day sent this scathing letter that it`s worth reading in hindsight basically said, "hey, Mitch, you know what I know, and Comey, you know what I know." And you know, Mitch McConnell has been absolutely complicit. And it goes back before Trump. I mean, it goes to obviously the Merrick Garland.

But I think Mitch McConnell did a huge disservice to his party and some ways, I would say that he has probably contributed a great deal to the death of his party.

HAYES: This is an emotional question but I`ll ask it. Like where is your mind about all this two years later?

REINES: It`s how the hell did this happen in the sense of why did some let this happen? And when I say some, I mean obviously the former FBI director, but it was hiding in plain sight. And I would like to think that a lot of people, including Jim Comey, though he won`t acknowledge it, but I think a lot of these other players, whether it`s Peter Strzok, Lisa Paige, I`d like to think that if they could do it over again, that they would do it very differently.

HAYES: Yeah.

REINES: And I wish that had happened differently. We`d be in a different world where we`re not keeping secrets with the Russians instead of from the Russians.

HAYES: Philippe Reines, thanks for joining us.

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