Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 15, 2019 Guest: Julian Castro, Adam Serwer, Mehdi Hasan, Norm Ornstein, Cornell Belcher, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Marcy Wheeler, Elie Mystal, Carol Lamb
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Monday is going to be a big night here at MSNBC. Be sure to tune in early. And that`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER, NEW ZEALAND: Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.
REID: Horror in New Zealand. A white nationalist terrorist attacks two mosques murdering 49 people during Friday prayer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don`t understand why someone would hurt us like this and in such a way.
REID: Tonight, reaction to the atrocity and the right-wing extremism behind it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today white nationalism a rising threat around the world?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t really. I think it`s a small group of people that have very, very serious problem.
REID: Then, Donald Trump tries to spin his massive congressional defeat.
TRUMP: Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it.
REID: Plus what the latest requests from Robert Mueller tells us about the status of the investigation. And how a defamation lawsuit could force the President to testify under oath.
TRUMP: Total lies, and you`ve been seeing total lies.
REID: ALL IN starts now.
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REID: Good evening from New York. I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Well it`s been nearly day since a terrorist attack in which a gunman massacred 49 men, women, and children in two New Zealand mosques.
A manifesto that appears to have been posted online by the shooter includes anti-Muslim rhetoric and references the President of the United States in a kind of mock quiz reading, "Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump? As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose, sure. Trump was asked about the spread of white nationalism at a White House event earlier today.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today white nationalism a rising threat around the world?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t really. I think it`s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that`s a case. I don`t know enough about it yet. They`re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it`s certainly a terrible thing. Terrible thing.
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REID: Trump did not publicly comment on the attack for 11 hours until posting on Twitter "my warmest sympathy and best wishes go out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless us all."
Just 20 minutes later, Trump followed with a tweet encouraging Jewish people to leave the Democratic Party. Before launching into a Twitter rant accusing the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the CIA of working to spy on him and "take him out."
Trump`s tirade about the subject he clearly preferred to focus on included a litany of his greatest hits, claiming zero crimes when the special counsel was appointed saying there should be no Mueller report and ending with this should never happen to a president again, exclamation point.
Speaking earlier, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that while -- when Trump asked what he could do to help, she told him sympathy and love for all Muslim communities, and she said the Trump acknowledged and agreed. It was kind of surprising considering everything Donald Trump has said about Muslims in the past.
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TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
Yes, we have to look at mosques we have no choice. We have to see what`s happening. Because something is happening in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- problem in this country, it`s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he`s not even an American.
TRUMP: We need this question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That`s my question. When can we get rid of them?
TRUMP: We`re going to be looking at a lot of different things. And you know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We`re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.
I think Islam hates us. There`s something there`s something there that -- there`s a tremendous hatred there. There`s a tremendous hatred.
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REID: A study by the Anti-Defamation League going back to 1970 found that in the U.S. 73.3 percent of all extremists related fatalities can be linked to domestic right-wing extremists while 23.4 percent can be attributed to Islamic extremists. Donald Trump`s derogatory comments about Muslims and his refusal to condemn white supremacy have undermined America`s moral authority when events like what happened in New Zealand take place.
There more than a dozen Democrats currently vying to replace Donald Trump in the Oval Office and one question for each of them will be how and frankly if a new president can get that authority back.
Joining me now is one of those candidates who Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama. Secretary Castro, thank you for being here.
JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: Great to be with you, Joy. So I want to play for you what the director of CARE, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Executive Director Nihad Awad said the following about Donald Trump. Take a listen.
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NIHAD AWAD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CARE: It is no secret that Mr. Trump has campaigned on white supremacist ideology, on division and fear. And now we see that he was able to normalize Islamophobia and to give legitimacy to those who fear Muslims and fear immigrants. So it comes back to him and we tell him that your words matter and your policies matter.
And if he would like to be the leader of the free world, he has to change his policies and he has to reset the tone by recommitting himself to unity, equality, not only in words but also in policies. So he has a lot to do and we hope that he will take the first step by condemning this as a white supremacist attack.
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REID: Secretary Castro, when the President of the United States is spoken about that way by an American Muslim leader in the wake of an attack like what happened in New Zealand, how does the United States get back its moral authority to be able to respond in a way -- in a profound way when something like what happens in New Zealand takes place?
CASTRO: Well, you know, unfortunately, I think that as many have said, this president has lost his moral authority in different ways. He lost it around Charlottesville when he said that they were very fine people, those neo-Nazis that were marching in the streets shouting racial epithets.
And we can always hope that the President is going to realize the error of his ways or be pressured into taking you know a different posture or coming at this differently in trying to unify the country instead of Fanning the flames of division, try and build unity in this country and how people view Muslims and Islam, I don`t think that`s going to happen. I think that we`ve seen who Donald Trump is. That`s one of the reasons that we need new leadership.
In the meantime, I do think that everybody else all of us who recognize that we should try and build unity, who recognized that the act of a few people don`t speak for either all white people or any other group when they commit terrorist acts, and who certainly recognize differently from Donald Trump that Islam does not hate Americans or the United States.
It`s up to us to help rebuild that moral authority in America. To speak out in -- from our positions of leadership and authority in our houses of worship, what we teach in schools, all of us as mothers and fathers and what we teach our children, we have to rebuild that up from the ground because the President`s leadership is lacking here. It`s entirely missing and we can`t count on Donald Trump to do that. It`s just not within.
REID: But you know, secretary Castro, you know, Donald Trump is one person but he was elected by lots and lots of people. He has a lot of very strident support behind him. He has a party that is 100 percent unified behind him as we just saw only 12 managed to walk away from even in the declaration of a national emergency based on this idea of you know, a horde coming at the southern border.
If you are sworn in as President in January of 2021, what do you tell the world? When you go abroad what story do you then tell about us as a country that changes the current view?
CASTRO: Well, I would tell the story of the way that after the synagogue`s shooting in Pittsburgh that there were Muslim Americans who comforted Jewish Americans who had been harmed, whose family members had been killed, a community that that had been completely shaken. And that today there were Jewish Americans that were comforting Muslim Americans and people of all different backgrounds in this country that showed the character of our nation.
That character is not reflected by Donald Trump. So all we have to do is show them the character of this country. And I think once we have new leadership, we are going to have a president with new moral authority and the ability to go to other country and say that it`s a new day in the United States and that we`re here to build alliances and believe in others and not to tear those things down.
REID: Secretary Julian Castro, Candidate for President, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.
CASTRO: Great to be with you, Joy. Thank you.
REID: Thank you. And joining me now Adams Serwer, Staff Writer at the Atlantic. His latest piece is entitled White Nationalisms Deep American Roots, also Mehdi Hasan, Columnist and Senior Contributor at The Intercept and host of The Deconstructed Podcast. He`s also a presenter on al Jazeera English UpFront. Thank you both for being here.
Adam, I`m going to start with you. You have a harrowing brilliant piece I have to say in the Atlantic that is I think jarring for even people who think we got a pretty decent American history education because you go right in and you talk about some of the white nationalist seeds of even -- that inspire even a Nazi ideology in Germany. Is that to say that this ideology is embedded in a way that is inextricable from American history?
ADAM SERWER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think it`s one side of an argument that we`ve been having as Americans since the country was founded. Is this a country that is fundamentally a white and Christian country? And that is just the fundamental part of it -- of its identity without which it`s no longer really America. Or is America a place where anybody can be American, anybody of any race creed or color.
And I think we`ve been having that argument for pretty much since the country was founded and I think we`re going to continue to have it. What I was trying to do with this essay was contextualized the fact that we`ve been having this argument for such a long time that Trump is not necessarily anything new.
In fact 100 years ago we were having a very similar political conversation and in some ways was much more grim.
REID: And you know, Mehdi, you know, whatever one thinks about Donald Trump or you know, his political ideology, it is jarring to hear the President of the United State`s name kind of dropped in an insane manifesto by somebody who commits an act like this. And I wonder just how you contextualize this even for American Muslims. So we`re looking across at New Zealand and feeling you know, afraid even here.
MEHDI HASAN, COLUMNIST, THE INTERCEPT: Definitely feeling afraid, and feeling depressed, and feeling worried. And you`re right to mention the President of the United States. It isn`t normal for him to be mentioned in a manifesto for the president to be mentioned in the manifesto of a mass shooter as a some kind of inspiration or sharing a common purpose.
But of course, this guy in New Zealand wasn`t the first to do that. I wrote a piece a few months ago after the Pittsburgh synagogue -- sorry after the Caesar Sayoc, the guy with the pipe bombs who was arrested, and just before the Pittsburgh shooting. About the number of people who`ve been arrested in the U.S. there were guys in Minnesota.
There have been people like -- there was a guy in Quebec City, Joy. Remember, in January 2017, six Muslims gunned down by Canadian white nationalist shortly after Trump`s inauguration who was inspired by Trump as well, he said, when he was interviewed by police. There are many many cases out there. This is not a one-off and this is not new.
And Trump is an enabler of white nationalism. He is the world`s most prominent Islamaphobe right now. If we talk about Islamophobia, the world`s most prominent Islamophobe sits in the White House. So when we see an Islamophobic mass murder in New Zealand, of course, we`re going to talk about the president`s record.
And I`m glad you played that video at start of all the things he said. I mean, some of the news he said many more than that. So it is deeply depressing. I say this is the father of two Muslim American kids you know, how do you talk to them about the fact that their president basically doesn`t give a damn about their safety or security, has been inciting hatred.
And when he`s asked in the White House today, does he think it`s on the rise, he said, no it`s just a small group of people. Of course, because they`re his people.
REID: Yes. And you know, Adam, you know, and as I said to the Secretary, you know, Donald Trump is one man. There`s a whole infrastructure supporting the presidency and at the moment, that infrastructure obviously includes you know, in our government the courts. This ban on travelers that was originally even sold by Donald Trump as a Muslim ban ultimately got upheld.
There are policies in place that have got to be jarring for American Muslims as even as they receive the sympathy of so many people around the country, do we have to have a deeper conversation just about Americans ability to empathize with our Muslim brothers and sisters period?
SERWER: Well, I mean, I think politically the country pretty strongly rejected Donald Trump`s politics, anti-immigrant anti-Muslim politics in the midterms. So I don`t know that a conversation is going to do it. I think this is really a question -- again, it`s a struggle about who America is going to be. And when you look at stuff like the Muslim ban, I mean that in particular is extraordinary because the Supreme Court essentially gave Donald Trump a roadmap for implementing discriminatory policy.
They said look, as long as you leave the really obvious language out of it, we`ll be okay with it. As long as you don`t say Muslim in the ban, it`s fine. And so I think, you know, were it -- we`re headed for you know a lot more bumps in the road beyond just this.
REID: And you know, Mehdi, there`s a global thing that`s happening around the movement of human beings, around people it`s partly driven by war, by climate change, by violence, and a lot of it does Center on the Muslim world. You look at a safe country like New Zealand, they don`t have our gun issues, they don`t have the kind of gun violence that we have here, does this kind of thing that make you think more globally about whether or not that movement that is spurring a lot of white nationalism not just here but around the world, is there something that can be done to counteract it?
HASAN: Yes. It`s a great question. And just by the way on the gun laws situation, the prime minister of New Zealand said they`re going to tighten up their gun laws after one mass shooting. The first response is not thoughts and prayers, change our gun laws. Our message perhaps to American politicians. But just on the white nationalism problem, it is on the rise. They are on the rise.
Trump is talking nonsense when he says today they`re not on the rise. Look across Western Europe, Eastern Europe. Look down under Australia and (INAUDIBLE). Look at the United States of America where you have a enable of white nationalists in the White House. It`s a real problem. And to pretend -- and here`s what you have to do about it, Joy. We have to be able to talk about the people who are mainstreaming it.
It`s very easy to say you know, the alt-right, the David Dukes, the Richard Spencers. Fine, it`s very easy to attack them, even Trump can attack them. Let`s talk about what people in our industry, Joy, doing. Mainstream journalists and commentators, pundits, the kind of hate speech and Islamophobia that they are trafficking in regularly on cable news, in national newspapers.
You know, you read that manifesto from this horrific individual in New Zealand and a lot of that language is language you hear and see in newspapers, magazines, and on cable news. Who`s going to call that out? It`s very easy to call out Islamophobia on the day of a mass killing. Are we going to call out Islamophobia on the other 364 days of the year as well?
REID: Yes. It is a very important conversation to have. Thank you both for being here Adam Serwer and Mehdi Hasan. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And coming up, after Congress issued the president a major rebuke on his border wall spending, the President today issued a veto in a stunning scene. How the move puts him and his fellow Republicans in a weakened position. That`s next.
REID: Fresh off a humiliating rebuke from members of his own party with 12 Senate Republicans voting with Democrats to cancel his fake national emergency, Donald Trump today held a ceremony to formally veto the measure. The veto siding doubled as a P.R. stunt with the president trotting out old faithful, he tried -- his tired rhetoric about the alleged invasion at the southern border.
Trump`s alarmism backed by his favorite T.V. channel has utterly failed to convince the majority of Americans that they should pay for a wall, a vanity wall that incidentally Trump promised that Mexico would pay for.
Before he signed the veto to override the will of Congress, Trump engaged in his favorite form of self-affirmation, surrounding himself with supporters who one-by-one ritually praised him and applauded his bold move to circumvent Congress and the U.S. Constitution. Because in the end, doesn`t every president who lacks the support of a majority of the country need to be told just how wonderful they are.
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KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: Mr. President, thank you always for your leadership and great support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your declaration of an emergency on the southern border was clearly authorized under the law.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I don`t know that I`ve ever been more proud to be standing next to your desk than I am today and thank you for keeping your word Mr. President. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hats are off to you again sir. It`s an honor to be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We commend you, we applaud you, and I salute you sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re behind you and thank you and God bless you for what you`re doing.
TRUMP: Thank you, sheriff.
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REID: Joining me now if Norm Ornstein, president -- resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Contributing Editor at the Atlantic and MSNBC Political Analyst Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee. And gentlemen, I don`t think I`ve ever been more honored to be on television. I think that the two of you just -- I cannot believe how amazing you both are, truly.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Joy, no, the honor is mine. The honor is mine. You`re just fantastic. It`s been fantabulous.
REID: The way you tied your tie is just amazing. So let me start with you Chairman Steele. So Donald Trump --
You`re vice presidential material, Joy.
REID: Absolutely. You know what, yes, I have to start looking a bit longingly when I talk to you all and we`ll get it together. You know, Michael Steele, it strikes me that Donald Trump felt that today was strengthening him, that he was showing those 12 Republicans what for by showing how much support he has.
But I wonder if you agree with me that he`s actually not only weakened himself, he`s weakened them because when all of those southwestern United States senators, people like Ted Cruz and John Cornyn go back to their constituents, how do they protect them now from things like eminent domain? They`ve already said it`s OK to take their land. How do they protect their constituents now?
STEELE: Well, they`ve got out of the constituent protection business quite a while ago so I don`t think -- I don`t think that that`s first and foremost on their mind. What`s first and foremost on their mind is being primaried or being weakened sufficiently because of how Trump does not support them during the camp -- during their re-election. And their -- makes them vulnerable to Democrats next year.
I have a different slant on what today was about. You know, for me the vote of the 12 was rather meaningless because as the President himself touted, it`s not a big deal. You can`t override my veto so this is all good. I still win.
So this was a win for the president regardless of how people want to go back and say how Republicans you know, created their fissures and the Republicans showed the president you know, they stood strong, give him -- you know, put up 67 votes. Put up -- put up a veto number in the house and then you will have drawn that line in the sand with the president.
But today the president was gloating as he typically does at these things. He`s not weakened at all. He`s strengthened by this and that`s pretty much what he was you know, doing short of dancing around the desk. That was his moment.
REID: But you know, Norm Ornstein, you know, Michael Steele`s point, only one of the Republicans were actually up for reelection in 2020 but the president. Now, be Susan Collins who`s so endangered for a lot of reasons she went ahead and voted with the 12. But you know, of the rest of those 20 Republicans that are up next, 19 voted with him.
Is -- I mean, the question I would ask you is how do you have a constitutional republic with checks and balances if one half of the first branch of government is too afraid to use its checks and balances?
NORM ORNSTEIN, RESIDENT SCHOLAR, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: So let me first start by pointing out a stunning poll result. The Gallup poll today showed that four percent of Democrats approve of Trump 90 percent of Republicans do. That 86-point difference is the largest in history since we`ve been recording these things in terms of a partisan gap. But as long as 90 percent of Republicans approve of Trump, most of them are going to run scared and not take him on no matter what.
And if you look at even the rationale of most of the 12 who voted against him in this case, it was not we`re going to fight against executive power and this overreach by Donald Trump, it was oh my God if we allow this to happen the next Democratic president is going to run roughshod over us with the new -- Green New Deal and with a health care plan, Medicare for all, or whatever.
So they were trying to avoid taking on Trump. And when you look at the responses of people like you know, absolutely cringe word responses by Thom Tillis, by Ben Sasse who are up next time, the ones who fear of primary challenge an reversing themselves basically and abandoning all of their principles, it doesn`t tell us a lot of very good things about checks and balances from a party now that has basically gone all-in with whatever outrages Trump promotes or proposes.
REID: You know, myself though, I`m old enough to remember when the kilo decision, Kelo versus the city of New London like outraged the entire right. This was a Supreme Court decision about the government being able to take people`s land. And that was a thing Republicans cared about.
I wonder, what are the chances that somebody like a Ben Sasse draws a tea party style challenge from -- in a primary of someone who says you`re not a constitutional conservative, we`re running against you.
STEELE: Well, that`s an interesting -- that`s an interesting thought. But it is more than likely that that challenge will come from someone who is you know double, triple, quadruple down with Donald Trump and will hold up whatever little you know daylight that may exist between someone like Ben Sasse and the president as a reason why he should be taken down.
So I don`t think you know -- if it`s coming from his right, it`s going to be someone who`s more aligned with Trump then than the incumbent. And that`s what has a lot of these individuals in the Senate and the House nervous about 2020.
Look, they`ve got -- they`ve got double problems. They`ve got their right flank where Trump loyalists are looking to take them on and certainly at least create some pain for them. And then on their on their left leg they`ve got center-right Democrats particularly in those purplish states and states that Hillary Clinton one who are poised to take their seats anyway.
So you know, my thing is died on the principle and the flag that you you`re doing it right for the country and not for Donald Trump but we`re not there yet.
REID: Send them a memo because I don`t think anybody is doing that. Norm Ornstein, I know that you were quite exorcised about -- and I think a lot of people were this statement that Donald Trump made his tough-guy statement about having the police and all the tough guys and the bad guys and the military guys and the bikers in his pocket. What is that is that? Is that -- what is he doing when he`s doing that in your view?
ORNSTEIN: That that to me was the most significant and chilling news story before the horrible tragedy in New Zealand. This is inciting or at least threatening violence. When you say I`ve got the military, I`ve got the police, and I`ve got bikers for Trump and things could get very bad, we know first of all that there are crazy people out there or people who are easily persuaded who will take that as a signal that they better keep their assault weapons locked and loaded.
And we also know that there is a chance and it`s something we just have to consider, a worst-case scenario whereas Mueller, the Southern District of New York and others get closer to Trump, he might call on his people to take to the streets and that could bring us violence.
And that`s where this declaration of emergency which could be used again to declare martial law is not something that we should view as just alarmist talk. It`s something we should be talking about and preparing for and we should be condemning those kinds of reckless statements by a President of the United States that are unprecedented.
REID: Yes. We are living in dark times, my friends. Norm Ornstein, Michael Steele, thank you both. I really appreciate your time.
ORNSTEIN: Thank you, Joy.
REID: And up next, former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates is still cooperating with several ongoing investigations. We`ll review where those investigations stand after this.
REID: Another day, another clue about what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is up to. And today for the first -- I mean, for the fifth time, the fifth time, the sentencing of Trump`s former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates was delayed because, quote, "defendant Gates continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations" according to a joint status report to the court.
Gates hasn`t been in the spotlight since he testified against his former boss, Paul Manafort, but he`s been cooperating with the Mueller probe for more than a year.
To help us sort it all out, I`m joined by Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties on Empty Wheel; and Carol Lamb, a former United States attorney for the Southern District of California and a former superior court judge. Ladies, thank you very much.
And Marcy, you tweeted today that, again, several ongoing -- I`ll just read your tweet -- "ongoing investigations could be SDNY, Greg Craig (ph), Tony Podesta (ph), the Webber (ph), SDNY, inauguration gift, side group Eliot Broidy (ph) or possible separate CL." Can you explain that really quickly?
MARCY WHEELER, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: Right, so the thing is that the president`s former deputy campaign manager knows so much about potential crimes that we don`t know which of those several investigations are still ongoing or even if he`s still working on the Mueller probe. So, the key ones are the inauguration graft, which SDNY, Manhattan prosecutors, Manhattan federal prosecutors are looking into. He was very closely involved in that, so he would be a good witness there.
Paul Manaforts` contractors, so Greg Craig (ph), Tony Podesta (ph), Vin Webber (ph), they`re all under investigation in New York, so he would be a good witness there too. Side Group (ph) was one of these kind of quasi- social media spying groups that pitched him and then pitched others in the campaign. And they were investigated under Mueller, but maybe on their own.
Eliot Broidy (ph) is a big Republican fundraiser who is also under investigation.
And then we know that Mueller investigated some of the Russian active measures, but there are people like Konstantin Kilimnik, or Oleg Daripaska, who might be under their own investigation in D.C.
And so all of those would be things that the president`s deputy campaign manager would have a lot of information on, which may explain why it`s been a year that he`s bee cooperating.
REID: And, you know, Carol Lamb, I wonder if -- you know, for the average person, we look at this and you`re like, this gentleman, you know, is still not being sentenced. Is it typical for a cooperating witness to get this many opportunities to delay? And does the delay indicate that his cooperation might mean that he`s going to get a really light sentence?
CAROL LAMB, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: So, Joy, it`s very typical for defendants to have their sentences continued many, many times, because you can understand from the defendant`s perspective and from his lawyer`s perspective, the longer they can put off the sentence obviously the better for them, but also they want to have as much as they can to convince the judge that they`ve done everything possible to cooperate, that includes testifying in front of grand juries, meeting with prosecutors, maybe in some instances -- although, probably not this one any more -- in some instances doing undercover calls, and then ultimately testifying at trial - - if they can lay out everything they`ve done, it`s much more likely that the judge will accept a prosecutor`s recommendation of a lighter sentence.
I think another thing that`s going on here is, you know, there are 94 U.S. attorneys offices out there, and they all like to do important and interesting cases. And when you have individuals, like Rick Gates and Paul Manafort, who have demonstrated that there aren`t many limitations to what kind of fraudulent white collar crime they`re willing to get involved in, they can leave a lot of bread crumbs in different -- in different offices or in different districts where the U.S. attorneys in those districts will say, hey, you know, maybe there`s something here that I should investigate.
We know that New York State has brought charges against Paul Manafort. Maybe they`re looking for cooperation from Rick Gates as well. So, there are lots of paths that this could take.
REID: And so, Marcy, then, if Rick Gates is a veritable movable feast of information, is there any sense of who he is the biggest threat to? Is it Donald Trump? Is it one of the Trump children? Or is it just more to pile on to Paul Manafort?
WHEELER: Well, no, it`s absolutely Donald Trump. I mean, he -- I remember when he flipped, somebody said, well, he used to carry the president`s phone, you know, so he knows exactly what the president was doing during this whole time period.
There are still roles in court documents that we`ve seen rolled out that we don`t know who played that role. For example, who was the one that was directed to get Roger Stone to go reach out to WikiLeaks to find out what they were publishing. Stone himself said that was probably Rick Gates.
So that ties Stone right next to Trump. And that witness, that person, would know who ordered him to tell Stone to go reach out to WikiLeaks.
That`s just one example, but there are going to be tons for Gates.
REID: And very lastly, Carol Lamb, I wonder if there`s a sense that you have that, you know, even if some of these guys are helping out and cooperating, they still did a lot of bad stuff. Is it just a layman`s misunderstanding to say that it seems that most of the people who have been sentenced so far have gotten pretty light sentences?
LAMB: Well, that`s not a misunderstanding, but these kinds of cooperators, the one that -- the ones that have very, very helpful inside knowledge they`re going to get a lot of credit for full forthcoming cooperation as opposed to sort of limited cooperation that we`ve sometimes seen with some other people. If they really bare their souls and tell all, they`re going to get very light sentences, generally speaking.
Rick Gates pled to a 51 -- I`m sorry, 57-71 month sentence. He`s going to get a lot of time cut from that sentence, because without that kind of consideration being given, you`re not going to have important cooperating witnesses in the future.
REID: Yeah. And I just still think people out there in the regular world are saying how can I bare my soul to make sure that we get it and get a similar shake.
Anyway, Marcy Wheeler, Carol Lamb, thank you both very much.
And still ahead, a court rules that the president can be sued for defamation, setting up a potential -- oh, for a deposition related to allegations of sexual misconduct. Elie Mystal joins me to talk about that next.
REID: Imagine, if you will, the president of the United States sitting down under oath to talk about sexual harassment allegations. That is what happened when the 1994 Paula Jones lawsuit against President Bill Clinton set the stage for his impeachment.
Yesterday, a Manhattan court ruled that the current president, Donald Trump, cannot avoid a defamation suit filed by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos. Zervos is one of about a dozen women who came forward to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct shortly before the 2016 election, which means that Trump, like President Clinton, could be forced to testify under oath.
Trump`s lawyers tried to block the suit, arguing that the president is immune from such lawsuits in state court. But a panel of New York apellette judges disagreed, citing the U.S. Supreme Court`s ruling in, wait for it, Clinton V. Jones, which established that presidents can be sued while in office for acts unrelated to the presidency.
To talk about how all this might shake out, I am joined by Elie Mystal, editor of Above the Law.com, whose latest essay is titled "Lawsuit with the best chance of putting Trump continues."
ELIE MYSTAL, EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW: This is the ultimate Bill Clinton leave behind, right.
REID: It is such a leave behind, because Republicans felt like they were spiking the football when they made Bill Clinton have to testify in the Paula Jones case, but now that has bitten them in the petard.
MYSTAL: It`s important. Look, your last segment with Marcy Wheeler, she`s so good. And I understand that it`s very difficult to keep all of the different strings -- look, Donald Trump is more legal jeopardy than any president of the United States in the history of the United States. I`m including Jefferson Davis in that, like.
But this suit, this is the way -- this is the way that you put Donald Trump under oath talking about his sexual misconduct. If he lies, he ends up exactly where Bill Clinton ended up. And people forget Bill Clinton was smart, Donald Trump forgets the subject before he gets to the predicate.
This is -- I know Republicans don`t like me to remind them of Bill Clinton, but this is what Bill Clinton got impeached for, getting cute under oath about sexual misconduct, and now all of that can happen to Donald Trump.
REID: So, perjury and obstruction of justice, like the same thing.
And so the question is, OK, so Donald Trump will have two choices in these -- in this deposition, he can lie, which is perjury, or he can tell the truth, and then what happens?
MYSTAL: Yes. So, let`s assume that he lies, because that`s -- that`s his thing, right. That opens him up to all of these perjury issues and all of these obstruction issues, and it`s very bad for him if we go by the precedent set under the Clinton years.
If he tells the truth, if he tells the truth, then he is opening himself up to -- remember, we are now up to 23 women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. We have a tape where Donald Trump explains how he sexually misconducted himself in his own words.
If he tells the truth about what he -- about his modus operendi with summer Zervos, that opens him up to lawsuits from pretty much everybody, because remember Donald Trump`s entire defense through all of this has been Shaggy, right, has been just it wasn`t me. I didn`t do it. All these people are lying.
So, having called all these people liars, if the then goes and tells the truth and says, yes, I did do this to Summer Zervos, then all of these other women have their -- have justice -- have an opportunity to access justice.
He`s in a real -- it`s not a good place. He should keep his hands to himself.
Well, he says that he just kisses, so -- that`s what he said in the tape, right.
So, here is the question. Now, during the Bill Clinton saga, the smart people said why didn`t he just settle? If Donald Trump were to settle, and if there are 22 other women out there, does that, then, open a cascade of money going out the door?
MYSTAL: Yeah, see, I think that the reason why he won`t settle is because he can`t settle because Summer doesn`t want his money, anymore, right. She doesn`t want the fake money that he has, she wants to be treated with dignity and respect. And that is the one thing Trump is unable to treat women with, so I don`t think she would settle for anything less than a full apology that I don`t see Trump giving.
REID: One quick question before we go, if Donald Trump, let`s say, were to lie in a deposition, it was perjury, who would be the court that would go after him? Would this be a New York State situation, or would it be federal?
MYSTAL: I mean, it`s -- the problem is that, you know -- and I think we`re seeing this a lot with Manafort. I mean, you were kind of talking about it earlier, like the penalties that we have for perjury are actually not that great, especially if you happen to be a rich white man.
So, we don`t -- so it`s not like perjury puts him in jail. What perjury is supposed to do, when it happens from the chief executive of the United States, is that it`s supposed to trigger this political process that we call impeachment. We`re supposed to hold our presidents to a higher standard, at least that`s what Republicans told me.
So, that`s really where it should all come down on his head.
REID: Apparently, none of that is true when the president is a Republican, you have to remember that.
Elie Mystal, thank you very much for joining us.
Just ahead, what we`re learning about the Democratic hopefuls as they take their campaign to the early primary states.
REID: Democratic presidential hopefuls are already fanning out across the country, and especially in those early voting states. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York spoke at a roundtable in New Hampshire, where Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey also campaigned today.
And that`s not the only thing they have in common. You can see both of them here on MSNBC on Monday.
Senator Cory Booker will be on Hardball at 7:00 p.m. eastern on Monday, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will be in the battleground state of Michigan with our very own Chris Hayes for the very first MSNBC candidate town hall.
And you can come and see it in person, just head to AllIn.MSNBC.com for information on how to attend the taping.
And coming up, with more than a year-and-a-half before the actual election, what`s the signal and what`s just noise? That`s next.
REID: It is 599 days until the presidential election, mark your calendars, and we`ve already got 11 officially declared major Democratic candidates with potentially more to come, including A-listers like Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams.
Here to talk about what the field looks like now and what it could look like on election day, Democratic pollster and strategist Cornell Belcher and Aisha Moodie-Mills, a Democratic strategist and a fellow at the Harvard University Institute of Politics. You have to say it like that, Harvard. You`re supposed to.
All right, let`s go to Cornell first. Cornell, this field is so big and probably will get bigger, a, is there anything like a front runner now? And what happens to it if Biden and/or Harris get in?
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: No, I don`t think you -- I don`t think you have a frontrunner even with Biden getting in. Joy, if you look at that Iowa Registry poll, and the headline was Biden leads, but Biden was only ahead of the pack by two points. That`s not really a lead.
I think you have a race tight now that looks a lot more like 2004 than it did like 2008, or in 2016. And why I say that is you have a crowded field of a lot of what I think a lot of A-listers. And like 2004 when you had Lieberman and Gephardt and Terry and even Wesley Clark in there, you had a lot of candidates all bunched around 15, 16, 17 percentage points in the national polls.
And I think you are going to have the same sort of thing here right now. I think the candidate who is probably that outsider candidate, who can show some electability, I like their chances, although the dynamics of this race haven`t unfolded and I don`t think we`ve seen anything quite like this in modern times.
REID: You know, in -- meanwhile, Aisha, you know you have Beto O`Rourke coming with all this buzz and like a glossy Vanity Fair cover. The Democratic Party has tended to like the idea of a southern white male candidate who is sort of kind of on the younger hip side. Does he have a natural advantage, even though he doesn`t necessarily have a natural platform other than anti-the wall?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don`t know if I`d call it an advantage so much is the fact that, like, Joy we have to acknowledge that the man is electrifying, right. He speaks in a way where he`s got a lot of energy, people listen, so what he has to say -- they don`t necessarily go deep yet to figure out what his experience is. And I think that matters. I think people want to be excited by the candidate. They want to feel like somebody is speaking to them and it`s magnetic, and Beto does that for them.
It remains to be seen, though, when all these candidates are stage I think there are several of them that are really great orators that have a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, and so I think that we`re going to start to see that energy is what matters to people.
People want someone who can stand up next to Trump, look better then him, kind of fight more aggressively then him, and I think Beto gives us that energy.
REID: And, you know, at the same time, Cornell, you now have sort of the battle of the white guys, right, which is the Beto, Biden, and Bernie, and you can see some of the others like Inslee, but then you potentially might have three African-American candidates. If Stacey Abrams were to get in, you would then have herself, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. What does that do to a race like South Carolina?
BELCHER: I think it means it`s a wide open race. And I think it`s a wide open race either way.
Because, look, I don`t think -- I think if you look back at past histories here, I think -- and I have to beat up a lot of reporters about this, because they think, you know, just the African-American voters are going to naturally vote for the African-American candidate, which is just not true in the history of our primaries, or we would have had a Democratic nominee before Barack Obama. And you`ll remember, Joy, Barack Obama started off 20 points behind in South Carolina to Hillary Clinton.
I think all of these candidates are going to have to work hard for it.
I will say this, I think it gives the white candidates an ever greater opportunity to compete there, especially if the African-American candidates are splitting the vote.
So, you could have a white candidate who can carry 25, 30 percent of the black vote in South Carolina and cobble together a plurality of the white vote and win South Carolina solidly, that`s what I think this crowded field means.
REID: And let`s get -- and that`s a very fair point. But, you know, at the same time the south it just happens to be -- I mean, it was the place where Bernie Sanders sort of ceded the election, because he couldn`t do well with black voters. We know black voters are extremely important.
And so, Aisha, when you talk about Super Tuesday, about half those primaries on Super Tuesday -- take out Texas and California -- are in the south. So is there any candidate who you can look at right now and say that`s the kind of candidate who can sweep a Super Tuesday, or at least get, you know, three or four primaries on that night?
MOODIE-MILLS: You know, so my opinion about Stacey Abrams getting into this race is I think she does best with Super Tuesday with South Carolina with the African-American vote, largely because she was the one who was down there stimulating and exciting people in the region most recently. So I think that she kind of gets that vote right now to me.
In terms of who can sweep, I agree with Cornell, I think that, you know, I don`t rule our Biden just because there are enough people who are trying to cobble together and now competing for those African-American voters in that region that it might leave a plurality where, you know, put those white folks together and they might go for him, they might go for Beto.
But I don`t -- I`m not a pollster, so I leave it to my dear friend to give us that expert advice. My gut, though, tells me is that it is so early we are going to be surprised come next February.
REID: All right, yes or no question for Cornell Belcher, does Julian and Beto cancel each other out in Texas?
BELCHER: No, they don`t cancel each other out.
I will say this real quickly, Joy, that whoever we`ve known as a frontrunner historically has not done well in that primary, so look out for a dark horse.
REID: All right, there we go, that was not one word.
Cornell Belcher and Aisha Moodie-Mills, thank you guys very much.
That`s ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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