John Bolton's march to war with Iran. TRANSCRIPT: 5/16/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Jeff Merkley, Mehdi Hasan, Elizabeth Holtzman, Sidney Blumenthal,Rula Jebreal Laura Bassett

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  I have to get this.  Response?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Of course, I don`t know the situation, I highly doubt anybody on my staff would hang up on someone.

MATTHEWS:  OK, that`s what we`re here for.  Thank you all to our guest tonight including Lou Barletta and Tom Perez, and the audience.  A special thanks to the (INAUDIBLE).  I loved being here in Pennsylvania!

That`s all for our special live HARDBALL in Luzerne County.  Thanks to everybody here.  What a night.  Chris Hayes coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  General Flynn is a wonderful man.

HAYES:  New revelations suggesting someone in Congress may have tried to keep Michael Flynn from cooperating with Robert Mueller.

TRUMP:  Mike Flynn is a fine person.

HAYES:  Tonight, as leadership stalls, the latest push to start the impeachment of Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He`s defying you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He`s laughing at you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And he`s getting away with it.

HAYES:  Then, new concerns that John Bolton is manipulating the President into war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, are going to war with Iran?

TRUMP:  I hope not.

HAYES:  And what is Saudi Arabia asking the President to do?

TRUMP:  They buy apartments from me.  They spend $40 million, $50 million, am I supposed to dislike him.  I like him very much.

HAYES:  Plus, the growing outrage over Alabama`s attack on abortion rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So the egg in the lab doesn`t apply.  It`s not in a woman.  She`s not pregnant.

HAYES:  And how the President just shocked the world by rejecting an international agreement to fight online extremism.

TRUMP:  You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes.  The President of the United States is apparently a bystander watching his own administration marching toward what could be the greatest foreign policy disaster in a generation.  It`s possibly unconstitutional.  There is no support from our allies and in fact opposition, and it appears to be based on trumped-up intelligence.

But when the President was asked about this drumbeat for war emanating from his administration with Iran today, it was if they were asking the wrong guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, are we going to war with Iran?

TRUMP:  I hope not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Who, me?  I don`t know.  Very reassuring.  We know that National Security Advisor John Bolton is on the record advocating regime change in Iran.  New reporting from New York Times says Bolton has quietly voiced frustration with the president viewing him as unwilling to push for changes in a region he has long seen as a quagmire.

Now, this comes after we had this attack on Saudi oil tankers with one anonymous official, single one calling around saying it was Iranian groups.  The next day Reuters reported U.S. national security agencies believe proxies sympathetic to or working for Iran may have attacked four tankers off the UAE rather than Iranian forces themselves.

Well, that`s doing a lot of work, sympathetic to.  It certainly sounds like Houthi rebels who had been fighting the Saudis in a war that`s been going on for two years.  If that is the predicate for attacking Iran, well why are we talking about it now?

And let`s say even Iran did attack the oil tankers which appears they didn`t, so what?  As The Onion satirizes in a headline, an attack on to Saudi oil tankers is an attack on all Americans.  Why is this America`s problem?  Which is also the dark question at the heart of all this which is whose interests are this entire thing serving?

Here`s an editorial in an English-language Saudi State paper today calling for U.S. airstrikes against Iran.  This is foreign policy goal number one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the guy that breaking tradition the president visited with first, his first trip, the guy that Jared Kushner allegedly supplied American intelligence to aid him with the purges that MBS was running when he imprisoned and possibly tortured family members to death in the Ritz-Carlton.

The guy who dispatched a team to hack to death a columnist for an American newspaper in an embassy in Turkey and has gotten away scot-free.  A Saudi regime who we know is essentially bribing the President in front of everyone by throwing money in his hotels and who knows what`s happening behind the scenes.

We don`t have Trump`s tax returns.  He`s fighting that in court.  We do have vague financial disclosures that we got today with lots of big ballpark figures and opaque entities showing that Trump is at least $350 million worth of outstanding loans.

We know the President likes money, we know the Saudis like to spend it as the president himself said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Saudi Arabia -- and I get along great with all of them.  They buy apartments from me.  They spend $40 million, $50 million.  Am I supposed to dislike them?  I like them very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Here we are on the precipice of what would be the most catastrophic foreign policy decisions certainly since Iraq, possibly worse, and you cannot with a straight face say you know why this is happening and whose interest it`s serving.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is one of the Democrats questioning whether the Trump administration is inflating and bending intelligence to force America into yet another war in the Middle East and he joins me now.

Your perspective on -- first of all, tell me this.  what has it been like among Capitol Hill?  I`ve read some stories about them sort of sending folks to Capitol Hill, your colleagues getting intelligence briefings.  What is it like up there

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR):  Well, so the group of eight got an intelligence briefing today and the rest of us are going to be able to see that intelligence on Tuesday.  But there`s  a tremendous amount of skepticism.  Bolton has never thought that there was any solution in Iran except to bomb their nuclear facilities and he did that op-ed bomb, bomb Iran and he explained exactly why they`ll never negotiate.  Iran won`t do anything in cooperation.  The only solution is a military solution.

And now we see him setting the stage in every possible way.  And that includes putting the Abraham Lincoln carrier group strike force into the Persian Gulf, that includes putting a bomber squadron close by, that includes doing a diplomatic mission of what Pompeo going to Iraq and saying don`t worry, if something happens we`re still your friend in Iraq despite what`s going to happen in Iran or might happened in Iran.

I mean all of the evacuating our so-called unnecessary or inessential personnel, I mean all of this sets the stage.  Plus on the diplomatic front, he`s putting out this information well there are people in Iran who wish us well, evil or attacks, or maybe collaborator, maybe it`s al-Qaeda inside of Iran.  And --

HAYES:  It all sounds very familiar to me.

MERKLEY:  Very, very familiar.  And of course, the British are like, there`s no new threat.  There`s no threat.

HAYES:  This story from The Wall Street Journal to me sort of gets it exactly the thing that I think is so dangerous about this situation right now.  It just was published.  Intelligence suggests U.S.-Iran misread each other, stoking tensions.  I`ll read a portion here.

Intelligence collected by the U.S. government shows Iran`s leaders believe the U.S. plan to attack them prompting preparation but Tehran for possible counter strikes according to one interpretation on the information people familiar with the matter said.  MERKLEY:  Well, absolutely.  When you think about all these actions that have been taken where we`ve cut off their ability to export oil by blocking the oil waivers, we`ve called their Revolutionary Guard a terrorist force, we`ve labeled them inside, and then all these other --

HAYES:  At first, that happened.

MERKLEY:  If you were Iran, you would be very worried.  It looks like this guy Pompeo and Bolton are preparing to do you at.  And remember, I mean, this is the same John Bolton that made the worst foreign policy national security mistake in a century which was to do an all-out assault on Iraq, destabilize the entire Middle East resulting in hundreds of thousands of people being affected in a terrible way and still leaving us with great security problems.

This is the man who did this.  This is the man who created the hole that allows Iran to have an arc of influence to Syria.  And so why is he national security adviser?

HAYES:  Well, here`s my question.  Who works for whom?  I mean, the President today coming outside the White House, are we going to Iran?  Well, I don`t know, and then these behind the scenes you know.  Here, I`m reading another bit of reporting from your times.  Mr. Trump is less frustrated with Mr. Bolton over his handling of Iran.  He favors a tougher measures than over the evolving narrative that his national security advisor is leading the administration`s policy in the Middle East a corner three officials.

Well, if that`s the case then lead the policy and make some declarations that are more definitive than all of the stuff that`s coming out of your White House.

MERKLEY:  No, absolutely right.  And when you have this situation that Iran is very worried so they take some preparations, they put some missiles onto some boats, and we say, they`re planning to attack us.  So therefore, this is -- this is a very tense undertaking in which misunderstanding could result easily in an attack or a justification for an attack.

HAYES:  My read on Republican members of the Senate is that they`re more split on this than they might be on other things.  I think there`s probably a lot of members of the Senate -- Tom Cotton is you know, going around saying you know, it would be very easy.  One -- two strikes, one strike and the last strike.  What did you read on your colleagues in terms of where they would be on this?

MERKLEY:  Well, I think a lot of them understand that Saudi Arabia really wants to accentuate pressure on Iran.  You have the Sunni leader in the region and you have the Shiite leader and they`re are traditional enemies, and here we are doing it for them.

And there`s been a lot of Republican resistance to this -- through the relationship with Saudi Arabia because Saudi Arabia does a lot of things like they farm terrorism around the world.  They proceed to fund the madrasahs that cultivate the training for often forces that that causes trouble.  They are the ones driving this war in Yemen and doing enormous horrific humanitarian damage, the worst cholera epidemic in history, hundred -- children on the age of five dying every day.

I mean, there`s a lot of resistance for Republican inside.  So when`s do you think about Saudi Arabia tied into this, there`s a lot of concerns.

HAYES:  All right, Senator Jeff Merkley nice to have you here in New York.  Come back anytime.

MERKLEY:  Great to be with you.  Thank you.

HAYES:  Joining me now for more on Jon Bolton`s push for war, Ben Rhodes former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications for President Obama, now an MSNBC Political Contributor and Mehdi Hasan, Columnist, Senior Contributor at The Intercept, host of the Deconstructed Podcast, also presenter on Al Jazeera English`s Upfront.

Ben, let me -- since the Senator has talked about this.  This to me is the most striking part of this entire thing.  We know John Bolton has wanted this for a long time.  He`s on the record.  But it is also the number-one priority of a Saudi regime that appears to lead Donald Trump and the American State around by the nose and does whatever they want, and the Americans appear to be just willing to help.

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes.  I mean, Chris, you and I have talked about this.  But from the beginning of the Trump administration, we`ve seen Trump essentially outsource American foreign policy in the Middle East to Mohammad bin Salman and Bibi Netanyahu.

And that manifests itself in the war in Yemen, that manifests itself in the crackdown against Muhammad bin Salman`s family in the Ritz-Carlton as you said, it manifested itself in a bizarre situation where the prime minister of Lebanon was essentially taken hostage in Riyadh, very aggressive out-of- control foreign policy measures emanating from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is in a proxy war with Iran in many parts of the Middle East, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Syria.  And Mohammed bin Salman is pushing for confrontation with Iran and so is Bibi Netanyahu.  Donald Trump has gone along with this.  He pulled out of the Iran deal.  That was at the top of the list of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

And he essentially poured gasoline all over a fire and then handed the matches to John Bolton.  John Bolton set the conditions for this war.  He framed it the same way did Iraq.  This will be defensive.  There`s this intelligence that is so damaging I can`t even tell you what it is all about.  He`s trying to go to Iran into giving him a pretext for this war.

And then now Trump comes out and says well, I`m not so sure about that.  But the reality is he wasn`t so sure about that, he shouldn`t pull out of the Iran deal, let John Bolton escalate this for a year, let his closest friend in Saudi Arabia escalate this and then get to the brink of that war and say well, I don`t know what`s going on here.

HAYES:  Medhi, that`s -- that point there I think is an important one which is the president has chosen his advisors and he`s also chosen his allies he`s going to listen to and all these folks are all in agreement on this which is they want military confrontation of Iran.

MEHDI HASAN, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, THE INTERCEPT:  He`s been very consistent on the people he`s picked to come work for him.  They`ve all been Iran hawks, even General Flynn.  Do you remember good old General Flynn?  He only had what, 20 days in the White House.  He gave one briefing and it was on Iran and warning Iran that they were on notice.  That was in the first or second week of the administration.  Tom Cotton is his main advisor in the Senate who advises him on Iran.

And look, let`s be clear.  If the only thing standing between MBS, Netanyahu, and John Bolton, and a war in Iran that they`ve dreamed about, those three men for years, decades even, is Donald J. Trump then we`re in serious trouble because he`s not -- he`s not an innocent bystander, Chris.  As Ben points out, he tore up the Iran deal.  He said when he was running for president he was going to tear up the Iran deal and he did it.  It`s one of the few promises he stuck to.

He designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group.  He`s escalated economic sanctions knowing what direction that leads in.  He knows very well what he`s doing.  I`m not one of these people who`s willing to give Trump a pass and just say I mean, look he`s a know-nothing idiot.  But on this issue, we can`t just say it`s all MBS or it`s all Bolton.  It is very much Donald Trump the Iran hawk driving this as well.

HAYES:  Yes.  And they -- and John Bolton works for the presidency, the President of the United States` advisor.  And Ben, there is -- you know, there is this really interesting thing happening which I wanted to get your perspective on.  You know, this intelligence, I just -- every one of my spidey-sense and my skepticism goes up the way it`s being couched, this sort of drumbeat of stories that then a day later don`t actually seem to pan out.

And then other stories that also seem to me to be the intelligence community kind of sending up their own skepticism flags.  How do you read all this?

RHODES:  Well, I`d say two things.  First of all, John Bolton has a history of cooking the books on intelligence.  We all know what happened before the war in Iraq.  When John Bolton -- let`s remember very clearly, there was a concern about whether or not Iraq had chemical weapons.  There was a man who led the international organization responsible for investing that -- investigating that who had an agreement to go to Iraq to see if there were chemical weapons there.

John Bolton orchestrated his firing.  He did not want those inspections to go forward because those chemical weapons weren`t there.  He couldn`t be confirmed as U.N. Ambassador because he had tried to insist that the State Department`s supply him with intelligence and said Cuba had a biological weapons program.  He cooks the books.

The second thing I`d say, Chris, is I got this intelligence every day for eight years.  I was in the presidential daily briefing, OK.  There are always threats in the Middle East.  There`s many proxy groups as you alluded to.  There are Houthis who are literally fighting a war.  And what Pompeo and Bolton have said is that if any Iranian proxy groups carry out any attacks, they will hold Iran responsible.

So that means that if the Houthis who are fighting a war against the Saudis and the Emiratis in Yemen do anything, that could give them a pretext to say we will attack Iran.  It`s very clear what`s happening here.  And the last thing, Chris, is drawing down the personnel in Baghdad, closing our consulate in Basra, Iraq.

What they`re doing is they`re removing the targets that we know Iran would hit if we attacked Iran.  To me that`s blinking red signal that what they`re doing is setting the stage for this confrontation.

HAYES:  Mehdi?

HASAN:  Yes, I mean, look, General Anthony Zinni used to run Central Command was once asked about a war in Iran, what would it look like.  He said, I`ll tell my friends.  If you like Iraq, if you like Afghanistan, you will love Iran.  This is a country four times the size of Iraq.  A war there would be an absolute catastrophe.

I wonder why more Democrats are not making more noise about this.  This should be a litmus test for the 2020 candidates.  We`ve heard from Bernie Sanders, from Elizabeth Warren, from a few others.  We need to hear from all of them from across the board.

I`m glad to hear Senator Merkley standing strong there because this would be an absolute catastrophe.  It would make Iraq look like a walk in the park in terms of the casualty levels, the regional fallout, the global consequences for America and its allies.

And just remember this, you have a president in the White House who in 2011-2012 was tweeting that I believe Barack Obama will attack Iran to get reelected.  Remember, this is all Trumpian projection.

HAYES:  Right.

HASAN:  If he thinks Obama was going to do that, it`s something that he would definitely consider doing himself.

HAYES:  And I think you`re right, Mehdi, that the political resistance to this and sort of mobilization around this can and will have an effect when the president likes to waver and throw his advisers under the bus after he signs on to something particularly if it doesn`t look so good.  So I think there`s a space for that right now.  Ben Rhodes and Mehdi Hasan, thank you both.

Tonight, did someone connected to Congress tried to prevent Michael Flynn from cooperating with the Mueller probe?  What newly released documents show about the behind-the-scenes efforts to interfere with the investigation in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  We`re getting a better picture tonight of just how helpful Michael Flynn was in the Mueller investigation thanks to a newly redacted court filing or unredacted court filing in the sentencing a former National Security Adviser Flynn.

We already knew from the Mueller report that "the president sent private and public messages to Flynn encouraging him to stay strong.  And in fact, a sequence of events could have had the potential to affect Flynn`s decision to cooperate as well as the extent of that cooperation.

The new filing sheds further light on this.  Flynn "informed the government of multiple instances both before and after his guilty plea where either he or his attorneys receive communications from persons connected to the administration or Congress, that`s new, that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.

The defendant even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication.  The judge is now ordered prosecutors file a transcript of the voicemail recording.  So far this is the only way we`re able to glean any new information about the underlying evidence from the Mueller report.

Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill are still locked in a debate over if and when to start impeachment proceedings.

For more on the trickling evidence in the impeachment debate, I want to bring in Sidney Blumenthal, former Assistant and Senior Adviser to President Bill Clinton.  He`s the author of an open memo pointedly comparing Clinton impeachment, Nixon impeachment, to the Trump impeachment, and former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman who was on the Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach Richard Nixon, author of The Case for Impeaching Trump.

Elizabeth, I want to start with this voicemail.  So here`s what`s wild about this.  The transcript of the voicemail is in the model report.  Like many things, I remember reading it and thinking to myself like, oh.  And then it was in the midst of like reading 400 pages.  And this is the voicemail that was referred to today.

The President`s personal counsel left a voicemail from Flynn`s counsel that said this.  I understand your situation but let me see if I can state it in starker terms.  It wouldn`t surprise me if you got on and make a deal with the government.  If there`s information that implicates the president, then we`ve got a national security issue.  So you know, we need some kinds of heads-up just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can.  Remember what we`ve always said about the president and his feelings towards Flynn and that still remains.  What do you make of that?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN:  Well, I mean, this person who`s transmitting this message is getting very close to not crossing the line of witness tampering, of obstruction of justice, and also, of course, the raising of a national security issue that goes right back to Watergate where Nixon was always raising national security is a reason to keep things quiet.  That was part of the --

HAYES:  He was calling the FBI and telling him to quash the investigation because -- or instructing people too because it was natural security.

HOLTZMAN:  Right, when definitely it wasn`t.  So we know that.  And the same about the tapes, it was supposedly national security but it wasn`t.  So, no -- of course, what we see here and what this focuses us on is again the issue of obstruction by the President or his agents and emissaries.

HAYES:  This is the President`s personal counsel calling I`m cooperating witness and saying we might have national security implications, and remember how the president feels about you.

HOLTZMAN:  Congress needs to call these people in and put them under oath, the lawyers who was involved here to take testimony.  Congress is not bound by the attorney-client privilege.

HAYES:  That`s right.

HOLTZMAN:  And there is no attorney-client privilege if the president told this lawyer to communicate this message to Flynn.

HAYES:  You know, Sydney, this is -- this is just one example of what appears obviously obstruction that appears in the report itself.  And you know, in your memo you say, this is a -- basically, you say the -- you said the Democrats confront the weakest president in modern history with a stronger case for impeachment than the one against Nixon.  What do you mean by that?

SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL, FORMER ASSISTANT AND SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:  Well, Donald Trump is vastly overrated politically.  He`s -- he appears to be a strong character because of his bluster, but in fact, he is the lowest rated president of any since polls were ever taken of presidents.  He`s never hit 50.  No other president has ever been that low.  He is consistently low.  He is a very weak president.

Furthermore, in part two of the Mueller report, there are obvious cases of obstruction of justice that have been documented, stronger than those initially brought against Richard Nixon.  You have to remember the smoking gun tape did not appear until very late in the impeachment.  We`re at the - - we haven`t even had an impeachment and we already know about numerous cases of obstruction.

So the Nixon similarities are very strong toward that bear on the Trump case in terms of the need for congressional inquiry, public hearings, the release of more information through interrogation of witnesses.  And in the face of stonewalling that will I believe have the same effect that it did for Nixon.  It will lead to a crumbling of his support in public opinion and Trump support is already very weak.

HAYES:  You know, this voicemail which we all were scrambling like wait, was this in the Mueller report or not?  To me, it`s a reminder of the fact that the communication -- that the record in the Mueller report is quite damning, what we know is quite damning.  And Walter Dellinger had a piece today basically saying Democrats should -- this idea of like getting the unredacted report and the materials, that`s fine, but focus on what`s in public evidence because what is in public evidence is dimming.

HOLTZMAN:  Correct.  And that`s what the Democrats in Congress and actually the Republicans who join with them in doing which is to take the Mueller report and the additional evidence that needs to be obtained such as the statements -- you know, the testimony of these lawyers who transmitted these damning communications of you know, witness tampering.

What the Democrats need to do is educate the public about these terrible facts of obstruction of justice, of witness tampering, of cover-up.  I mean, whether it`s worse or better than Watergate, it doesn`t matter.  But in Watergate, in the Nixon impeachment, the Senate Watergate committee did an amazing job of educating the American people about what Nixon did.

And that hasn`t happened here because ever all these hearings have been behind closed doors, we have a 440-page report that most Americans haven`t read.  They needed to be presented to the American people through live testimony, through witnesses in a comprehensible simple fashion.

HAYES:  Sid, you were there during -- when Clinton was impeached.  It`s one of the things you write you write about.  You were advising the president, talking to him.  You write about it in this memo.  The lesson I think Democrats learned is like it`s dangerous, it can backfire, it was not politically expedient for the -- for the Republicans that pursued that, and you know they`re fighting the last war in that sense.  What`s your message to them having lived through that period?

BLUMENTHAL:  Well, I had more than a ringside seat in the Clinton case.  And what I learned was -- and we now have 20 years of perspective on it so we can see it objectively.  Clinton began -- their impeachment, the Republican impeachment of him at 66 percent approval.  They -- the Republicans brought a contrived and insubstantial case.

At no point along the way was the public moved to support impeachment.  All along the way, two-thirds of the public rejected the Republican case.  And at the end of the entire process, Clinton ended at the exact same number that he began at two-thirds approval.  So the idea that the Democrats have that somehow if they bring a case that Trump will remain strong actually has no analogy to the Clinton case.

The Clinton case was rejected by the public.  It was insubstantial.  There`s already evidence in the Trump case.  Clinton was an extremely popular, strong president, and Trump is a very weak president.

So the dissimilarities are overwhelming in the Clinton cases in the Trump cases, whereas the similarities between the Trump case and the Nixon case are the ones that provide a kind of roadmap for the Democrats.

HAYES:  All right, Sidney Blumenthal and Elizabeth Holtzman, thank you both.

HOLTZMAN:  Thank you.

BLUMENTHAL:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Ahead, the Trump administration stuns the world once again, this time by refusing to sign on to a pledge to combat online extremism.  That story and the International Shock next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Donald Trump has long had an inability or unwillingness to condemn the most extreme and vile of his own supporters.  Remember this weird episode during the presidential campaign?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR:  Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don`t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP:  Well, just so you understand, I don`t know anything about David Duke, OK.  I don`t know anything about what you`re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists, so I don`t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  I don`t know David Duke.  I mean, he knows who David -- he`s lying there.

And Donald Trump`s reticence to curb extremism and hatefulness among his followers has continued into his time in the White House.  For example, infamously, the dismissal of Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017 and his claims that counter protesters were somehow equivalent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.

I think there`s blame on both sides.  And I have no doubt about it.  And you don`t have any doubt about it either.

You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Both sides.

Now, that reluctance, that wink wink, nudge nudge way of dealing with Nazis and white supremacists, it now appears to be official U.S. government policy as the Trump administration yesterday declined to sign on to a multinational effort led by New Zealand to fight online extremism.

Foreign policy analyst and journalist Rula Jebreal was there when all that happened.  She joins me now live from Paris.

Rula, first, can tell us what the nature of this gathering was?  And what the nature of the agreement that came out of the gathering was?

RULA JEBREAL, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST:  Chris, the Christchurch call, it`s an agreement to eradicate online terror, extremism, any anti-Semitic content, any anti-Muslim content, anti-minority content, anything that can lead to extremists and basically terror attacks as we have seen in New Zealand, in Quebec, even in the United States, I mean, in Synagogues.

Most of these terrorists promote online their propaganda online and feed off this to basically radicalize others and create copycats and mainstream their ideas.

So, world leaders were united yesterday in Paris, every G7 state, every world leader was here and they agreed that we need to force the platforms to comply with certain regulation to shut down certain extremist voices in order to prevent other terrorist attacks.

The only country that basically in the name of free speech, or protecting free speech, or what I call in this case protecting hate speech, they declined to, they rejected to endorse, this agreement.  And it was shocking.  I was in the room.  I was invited by French minster Cedric Oh (ph) who asked me, actually, to speak about the impact of radicalization online and the murder that is taking place because of this propaganda.  And American counterpart who looked at me and suddenly he said well, our position, we endorse the spirit, but we`re unwilling to endorse the rest in the name of protecting free speech.

Everybody was shocked, everybody`s jaw dropped basically because it was clear the president of the United States, who refused to disavow his supporters, and some of them are very violent, who shut down programs, counter-extremists program in America and counter domestic terrorists in America, now he is making it official to the rest of the world, he is unwilling to fight hate and terror online.

HAYES:  The argument from the White House, and I want you to address it, because obviously the U.S. does have a different speech regime than many of the European countries.  In many European countries, in Germany, for example, a use of swastika is actually illegal.  That`s not the case in the United States.  The First Amendment is much more expansive than speech regimes there.

Is there a good faith argument that this is a preservation of the First Amendment?

JEBREAL:  Well, Chris, first of all, we are talking about the president who called journalists enemy of the people, who insight against journalists day in and day out.  So, to be the guy that`s saying, I want -- well, I want -- I mean, it`s clear this policy is about Donald Trump, it`s about never disavowing his base, his racist, bigoted base, and has no thing to do, really, with protecting.  Since he`s complaining day in and day out on Twitter about how unfair we are to him, how the New York Times is unfair, how MSNBC is so bad, and then he goes in these international arenas and then basically say, well, no, we believe that you should allow to say everything.

Well, he`s tweeting journalists shouldn`t be allowed to question or even challenge his policies, so it`s preposterous actually, it`s ridiculous.  This a cynical transactional policy whereby he decides that his voters matter more than national security, matter more than people`s lives.

People are being killed, are being butchered, because of online content.  And we have to regulate.  The Canadians were very clear where they want to go. They will over-regulate, probably.  The French, the news -- also the prime minister for New Zealand. 

But there`s one thing that is very clear, why the terrorists started shooting in New Zealand, he was live streaming what he was doing, the butchery.  I don`t know if that`s free or freedom.  It`s not about freedom, this is radicalizing an entire generation.  And social media platforms are the most powerful instrument of radicalization today as we speak.

Another thing, Chris, if I may, and it`s really horrifying to see this, the impact of this on minorities all over the world.  And to see the United -- to see Republicans who are willing to send soldiers to die in Iraq, in Iran, elsewhere, in the name of fighting jihadists and unwilling to save American lives in the United States makes you understand that it`s all about politics, about power, and about cynicism.

HAYES:  All right, Rula Jebreal, who was there in Paris, was attending that conference.  Thank you so much for your time.

Ahead, the men behind the Alabama abortion ban and the growing outrage over the war on women`s bodies, and Ted Cruz is back in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two, starting next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  A sitting United States senator has told me, your humble host, that he hopes that space  pirates eat my liver.  If you wondering which U.S. Senator would have such a terrible, mean-spirited thing, well, it was the who believes in space pirates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS:  Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect water borne travel and commerce from bad actors.  Pirates threaten the open seas.  And the same is possible in  space.

In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a space force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  We had a little bit of fun with that moment last night here last night, as did, like, I don`t know, all of the Internet.

But that wasn`t the reason Senator Ted Cruz wished me death by imaginary space pirate, it was for something else completely.  And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  So, Senator Ted Cruz had a rough day on Twitter in cable news yesterday after his space pirate speech went viral.  In the afternoon, after he was roasted by Chuck Todd, Ted fired back, "sure, a frigate with skull and crossbones in space is unlikely any time soon, but what MSNBC conveniently omits is the threat of piracy, espionage, and violence from rogue and rival nations is very real.

OK, but your speech was about space pirates.  Cruz then went full space snowflake, complaining to the CEO of Twitter about all the dunking on him.

"Hey @jack, how come Twitter`s moment quotes all look snarky leftist making fun of my comments, but doesn`t didn`t include my tweets in response.  Explain the real point that nations like China have already developed and tested weapons to destroy satellites."

Now, I saw that, and I thought it was the saddest tweet I had ever seen, so I commented this is the saddest tweet I have ever seen.  And that is when Senator Ted Cruz told me, "may space pirates devour your liver" -- pirate flag emoji, pirate flag emoji.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY:  Working Americans deserve better, and I know we can do it because I`ve done it here in the largest, toughest city in this country.  We are putting money back in the hands of working people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  As of this morning, the Democratic presidential field somehow got yet another contestant, and the citizens of New York City, like myself, officially got a part-time mayor.

Now, you are going to see lots of insults and ridicule directioned at Mayor Bill de Blasio who New Yorkers who sort of traffic in that anyway, and who feel abandoned or angry at him for one  reason or another.  But I do think his entrance raises an interesting question, one that`s been lurking around the field already, which is how much does executive experience matter?

Right now, many polls have Pete Buttigeig in third or fourth place as the two-term mayor of a mid-sized city.  He won reelection in South Bend last time around with 8,500 votes, which is like a pretty big apartment complex in New York.

Say what you will about Bil de Blasio, he has actually run the largest city in the country in what is one of the most difficult jobs in politics, I`d hazard.  And there`s a real question, it is going to be interesting to watch it play out over the course of the primaries, about experience, good and bad.

Back when Barack Obama ran for president, lots of people thought he was too green, lacked executive experience, which he did.  And prior to him, it had been a kind of received wisdom that governors were the best position to both run for president and then crucially become presidents, thanks to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Bush 43.

Now, there are a bunch of governors in the race, they`re all polling at like 2 percent or less, even though, again, like de Blasio, they had to actually run a place and deal with the inevitable difficulties and compromises and conflict of doing so.

The rise of Donald Trump from failed business man to creepy TV host to conspiracy theorists to Twitter beef starter to man who controls the nuclear arsenal, has had the perverse effect I think of making it seem like, well, maybe anyone can be president.

But it is a question worth considering for voters, whether extended executive experience does matter in preparing someone for the hardest job in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  In the wee hours of this morning, after an overnight session, the Missouri State Senate, passed an eight week abortion ban, containing no exceptions for victims of rape, incest, or human trafficking, and mandating up to 15 years in prison for doctors who violate the ban, that came just hours after the governor of Alabama signed the most radical anti-choice law in the country, effectively a total ban on abortion with up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform the procedure.

Now that law has set off an impassioned mobilized national backlash, drawing fire from the democratic presidential candidates, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for both pro-choice advocacy groups and abortion clinics in the state, and prompting thousands of women to share their personal abortion stories on social media.

The closer you look at the Alabama law, by the way, it was passed out of the state senate by these 25 Republican lawmakers, all of them white men, the more ludicrous it reveals itself to be.  The actual text of the bill compares abortion to the Holocaust, the Stavos Purges (ph), and the Rwandan genocide, among other historical atrocities, but for a law claiming to stem from an ideology that life begins at conception, whose official title is the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, it contains a puzzling carve out for embryos used in in-vitro fertilization.

Here`s how one of those Republican men tried to explain it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE SEN. CLYDE CHAMBLISS, (R) ALABAMA:  So the egg in the lab doesn`t apply.  It`s not in a woman.  She`s not pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The egg is not life?

CHAMBLISS:  No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What is the egg declared then?

CHAMBLISS:  Well, I`m at the limits of my medical knowledge, but until those chromosomes that you were talking about combine, from male and female, that`s my understanding of when the life...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, what are the eggs considered then?  What are they considered?

CHAMBLISS:  I don`t know the answer to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Call it what he said, if a fertilized egg is not actually inside a woman`s body it doesn`t count.  To many observers that gave away the whole game on  what the anti-abortion agenda is really all about. 

I`m joined by MSNBC political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, co-host of Signal Boost on Sirius/XM, and journalist Laura Bassett, who has been covering abortion politics for quite some time.

That moment has gotten a lot of attention and obviously got attention -- it obviously got attention because that was a Democratic lawmaker pressing him on it, that this is what the whole issue was.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right, it revealed the whole game like you said.  And that`s always what this has been about, this has always been about controlling the woman and they don`t necessarily care about the fertilized egg.  I mean, they may  talk about it as a -- it`s a person, but...

HAYES:  They say they do.  I just -- I want to be clear, they say it`s about life.

MAXWELL:  Sure, but I`m going based on their actions, too,   Chris.  And I think that -- you know, the thing that I keep thinking about in this moment where people are saying they care about children.  They care about life.  They are not saying anything about the babies on the border in the cages.  And so I think that we have to be honest when we`re having this conversation and hold those folks accountable to even live up to the values that they`re saying that they hold.

And I think that, you know, when we were told we were being hysterical during the Bret Kavanaugh hearings, I was on so many segments where male commentators would say you`re overstating it.  Kavanaugh is very moderate.  Susan Collins has said -- he said, you know, he`s going to uphold precedent.  Calm down basically was what people are saying.  And I was saying, no, they`re trying to overturn Roe V Wade.  They have been doing this since 2010, and now they have the opening.  In 2010, they did it, you know, the circuitous route.  They wanted to do trap laws and basically make abortion inaccessible.  Now they have their two justices who will vote to overturn it, and so they`re going straight at it, and that`s what this is about.

HAYES:  By the way, I`ve shared your sentiment during Kavanaugh where there was all this saying about, like, what are you talking.  It`s like obviously this entire fight is about Roe.  Why are we pretending that it`s not?  Obviously it is.

And this is a question now on the right that`s sort of interesting, everyone`s been playing this -- and we played it last night, the Pat Robertson clip of like it`s too extreme, but he`s not saying he doesn`t like it or that it`s too extreme for his state, he`s saying tactically it might be a mistake.

Take a listen to the full quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, CHAIRMAN CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK:  I think Alabama has gone too far.  They`ve passed a law that would give a 99-year prison sentence to people who commit abortion.  There`s no exception for rape or incest.  It`s an extreme law, and they want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court, because I think this one will lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  This is not the case.  This one was.  There`s an active debate on the right in anti-abortion circles right now about precisely this.

LAURA BASSETT, JOURNALIST:  Right.  He`s not saying it`s too extreme, we`re concerned about women, we`re concerned about the 12-year-old rape victim that will be forced to carry a child to term, he`s talking about the optics of this and the politics of this, which is all Republicans seem to care about.

There are actually, though, the woman who sponsored this law in the Alabama House said I don`t like this law for Alabama women, but this is what we need to get to the Supreme Court, which is obviously the opposite logic of what we`re seeing from Pat Robertson there.

But, yeah, I actually think he`s right.  I think it is too extreme to make it...

HAYES:  Huh, you think it is a bad vehicle for them for this challenge?

BASSETT:  Oh, yeah, I don`t think they`re going to pick this one up.  There are other laws that are already at the foot of the Supreme Court that I think are more likely to challenge Roe v. Wade.  I don`t think they`re going to touch this one.

HAYES:  There was this great piece in the New Republic today that I`ve thinking about all day by a writer named Emily Atkin (ph).  It was a great piece of writing, Emily Atkin (ph).  It`s called arrest me you Alabama cowards.  And it just makes a very obvious point, which is that had been obvious to me, but hadn`t -- which is that doctors who perform abortions under this law can face 99 years in prison.  There is no penalty for the women, but as she writes in that piece she`s like I was the agent -- she writes about her own abortion -- I was the agent of my own abortion.

BASSETT:  Right.

HAYES:  If you actually think it`s murder, then the logic entails the punishment should be for women.

MAXWELL:  And that is exactly what Donald Trump was saying during the campaign.

HAYES:  Exactly when he got trapped in the logic...

MAXWELL:  Right, because he`s not really in this -- he`s not in the anti- choice world, so he doesn`t know the cues and how to talk about it without saying this quiet part out loud.  So, when he was asked by Chris Matthews as a follow up, well what punishment for this crime that you`re now saying abortion is, what would the punishment be for women, he sort of stuttered, because when you get to it, I mean, are we going to jail women? 

And I think the fear that I have before Kavanaugh was confirmed I had Nancy Northup (ph) from the Center for Reproductive Rights, and I asked her point-blank are we going to start jailing women?  And she said that`s not an immediate concern, that`s not something that will happen right away.  But there are women in jail in El Salvador for miscarriages, so how are you going to be able to tell the difference between an abortion and a miscarriage?   And are you going to believe that I`m really miscarrying and are you going to put me in prison like they are in Latin America in some countries?

BASSETT:  Women have also been arrested also in the United States for taking cocaine during their pregnancies, for refusing a c-section when it was medically advisable and losing one of the babies -- Purvi Patel (ph) went to jail for many years.  I mean, this has also happened in the States.

And I think it really just exposes a flaw in their logic here in Alabama.  If you believe that a fetus is a child, a person, I mean if I have a child and then I hire someone to kill my child, I`m going to jail.

HAYES:  As you should, right, exactly.

BASSETT:  As I should.

HAYES:  Because you were an agent in that.

BASSETT:  Exactly.  That`s accessory to murder, whatever, conspiracy.

HAYES:  And yet there`s an understanding that the political optics, putting women in prison for this are so terrible that they won`t go there even though it`s what the sort of what the moral logic of the entire edifice demands.

Zerlina Maxwell and Laura Bassett, great to have you both.

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