CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- between the Republican party that`s united and a Democratic side that could well win if it can get through the next year and a half without killing itself. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): We`re headed down a road where impeachment proceedings become inevitable.
HAYES: Don McGahn fails to show up and the impeachment dam begins to break.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): We have come to the time of impeachment.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Don`t tell me there`s not enough to discuss in debate impeachment.
HAYES: Tonight, three House Democrats on why they`re moving closer to an impeachment inquiry as new subpoenas fly.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): We will hold this president accountable one way or the other.
HAYES: Plus, new questions about what Donald Trump`s attorney told Michael Cohen.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: I understand the code.
HAYES: Then as protests take place across America.
AMERICAN CROWD: My, my, my choice.
HAYES: Meet the man remaking America`s courts.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate all of the help in deciding who to pick for the United States Supreme Court and (INAUDIBLE)
HAYES: And Ben Carson meet Katey Porter.
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Do you know what an REO is?
BEN CARSON, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: An Oreo?
PORTER: R -- no not an Oreo, an REO.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
CARSON: Real estate --
PORTER: What`s the O stands for?
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HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. The dam is breaking. Last November, House Democrats took power in a wave election promising to hold the president to account. So far, they have showed tremendous patience, restraint, some might even say fear of a high-stakes impeachment battle.
This in spite of everything that has been publicly known about the president for years and the damning confirmation in the Mueller report. But now we have reached a point in which the president`s policy of complete and total stonewalling of Congress seems increasingly untenable for Democrats.
This is not just a policy of Trump preventing former White House Counsel Don McGahn from testifying about possible presidential obstruction before Congress. Today, the White House didn`t even send someone from the APA to testify on the effects of toxic mercury air pollution.
Even the most basic non-controversial points of general oversight are being stonewalled and stiff-armed. As far as we can tell, the Trump White House has yet to provide a single document to Congress pursuant to their request. It`s May, no documents, they haven`t furnished anything. Again, as far as we can tell on the 3,000 Americans that died under their watch in Puerto Rico.
And then there`s the Trump administration`s decision to ignore the law and deny a subpoena for the president`s tax returns as well as a statutory request. Tonight The Washington Post has obtained a confidential IRS legal memo saying Trump`s tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president invokes executive privilege.
This of course directly contradicting what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Congress just last week. At a certain point, enough is enough. And a lot of House Democrats seem to have reached that point.
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REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): The President of the United States of America needs to be impeached.
CORTEZ: I believe that we have come to the time of impeachment.
MOULTON: Over 30 of the president`s associates were indicted by the Mueller probe. His campaign chairman is in prison right now. Don`t tell me there`s not enough to discuss and debate impeachment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you open an impeachment inquiry?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, again, my view is that we should.
YARMUTH: I think that we`re headed down a road where impeachment proceedings become inevitable.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): If it comes to it, we will launch an impeachment inquiry.
REP JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I believe that an inquiry into impeachment is required at this point in time.
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HAYES: We`re going to talk to those last two Congresspeople who you saw, Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin and California Congressman Jackie Speier, as well as Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in just a minute.
Now, many of the Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry seem to have turned the corner in just the last few days. A clear catalyzing moment happened this morning when Don McGahn`s reserved seat before the House Judiciary Committee remained empty. Chairman Jerry Nadler made it clear it was not the end of the fight.
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NADLER: Let me be clear. This committee will hear Mr. McGahn`s testimony even if we have to go to court to secure it. We will not allow the President to prevent the American people from hearing from this witness. We will not allow the President to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself in his allies above the law.
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HAYES: Late this afternoon, Nadler subpoena two more former members of the Trump White House, Annie Donaldson who is Don McGahn`s former chief of staff and whose extensive notes helped guide Robert Mueller`s investigation and Hope Hicks, the former White House Communications Director who was by Trump`s side throughout the campaign and early presidency and spoke at length to the special counsel.
The Trump White House`s position towards Congress is clear. You get nothing. The question is will Congress take it or not. Now an increase in it looks like they are not going to take it. Joining me now is Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She`s one of the Judiciary Committee members who is taking a step towards impeachment after being stood up by Don McGahn today.
Do you support the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry, Congressman?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Well, I support -- thank you so very much. First of all, Chris, let me just say that the narrative of lawlessness is a non-starter. This is no way to run a country, no way to treat the article one body, the Congress of the United States, the people`s house and particularly the United States House of Representatives.
And so a chairman Nadler, members of the Judiciary Committee as you have indicated have an extremely patient and we have utilized our own lawyers to be as judicious and engaging if you will, interactive with the lawyers of General Barr, the DOJ, with the lawyers for Director Mueller and the lawyers for Mr. McGahn who should have been here today as a private citizen.
And so what I have crafted is a resolution of investigation. We want to draw our members together to be able to make a singular vote on the floor of the House that would direct the agency which is the Judiciary Committee that has done impeachment before for Nixon, the previous impeachment of Mr. Clinton -- and when I say impeachment, the hearings of Mr. Clinton are directed by the House of Representatives.
And that will show an imprimatur of serious purpose which says to Mr. Mueller for example, the House has directed these investigations to proceed. Then in the language of the resolution, it says that we will investigate, we will hold hearings and then make the determination to exercise the powers under Article One section Two Clause Five and that is, of course, the determination of misconduct by the President of the United States.
I believe that is a place that does not move us backwards, it moves us forward. It is what you call educating the American public before you activate.
HAYES: So this would be a resolution of investigation or inquiry that would be brought to the House floor. The entire House would vote on it that would then direct the judiciary committee to take up the inquiry. That`s how you sort of envision what would essentially be the formal beginning of an inquiry right? Is that my understanding?
LEE: Yes. Well, let me say that it would direct us to investigate. That means hearings, that means having Hope Hicks and others come before us. You still are issuing subpoenas, but it gives the imprimatur of seriousness, a seriousness of purpose. It is directing us to do this.
Now, it does not preclude all the other committees from doing their investigation, but there`s something about the House voting for the investigation to proceed. And remember now, the impeachment process is a political process. During the Nixon process if you will, that long time it was 19 percent -- and Nixon`s polling numbers were at 57 percent who thought he should be impeached. It`s a political process.
When they got through with the investigations, however, and of course a smoking gun appeared, it was at 57 percent. We have to educate the American public in everyone`s district and we have to then activate. What do you activate, under as I said, Article One Section Two Clause Five. And so it is -- if you do a resolution of inquiry, that`s only about documents. This is an investigation and lets you do everything.
HAYES: Final question, and it`s a political question, a concern I could imagine some raising in House leadership speaker Pelosi I think it has this front of mind. For the 40 or 45 frontline members of your House caucus that have just won election, this would require them taking a vote that could very easily be message as essentially an impeachment vote.
I know it`s the beginning of investigation, but do you have political fears about that or do you think hey, look, this is what we have to do.
LEE: Well, here`s what I would say to the whole caucus. We want to find unity. We understand that the rule of law is principled and we are principled. We also know that the Mueller report gave us in volume one and volume two a roadmap, and Director Mueller specifically entrusted Congress to do its job.
I believe front liners can go home to their districts and talk about all the work that they have done to serve their district and the fact that they voted on an investigation. It suits a two-step process. You investigate then you decide to exercise your authority under the Constitution.
I think they can live with that because they will be voting on as I said the action of educating the public, finding out the facts. No one doesn`t understand that police officers have to go out and investigate something because before they can prosecute something.
So what we`re doing is investigating in an intense manner. I think it gives the witnesses that we call the understanding that it is a judiciary committee directed by the House. The House now is looking to you to show up. We may have to use the same tools, Chris, the subpoena, contempt.
We may have to use those same tools but we have a serious purpose of an investigation entrusted by the House of Representative which by the way did that in the Nixon proceeding, the House voted to suggest to the -- or to entrust the Judiciary Committee to proceed. In this case, you vote to investigate. I think it works and it does not preclude further actions as determined.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you so much for making time tonight. I want to bring in now a member of two congressional committees trying to conduct investigations to the president, Congressman Jackie Speier of California, sits on both the Intelligence and Oversight Committees.
Let me get begin with whether you also favor some sort of formal initiation an investigation into impeachment?
SPEIER: So Chris, I would want us to move forward in a manner that allows the committee to start to draft articles of impeachment to lay it out to the American people much like Sheila Jackson Lee has suggested. I don`t know if we have to have a vote on the House floor.
What I would really like to see is us utilizing inherent contempt. I mean, it`s a power we have, it was used as recently as 1935 in which you arrest someone, you bring them in, and you can fine them. You know, it`s nothing like fining someone to get them to do what they should have done in the first place.
HAYES: Wait, I just want to be clear here now. I`m not saying this is not to editorialize on what the rightness or wrongness. But is a suggestion that you`d send someone out to DOJ to put handcuffs on Bill Barr and bring them back to like the clink in the House Capitol or Don McGahn?
SPEIER: No, I don`t I`m not saying clink, I`m saying bring them to the House floor, make a decision as to whether or not they`re going to cooperate. If they`re not going to cooperate you fine them on a daily basis X number of dollars, and you will get their attention.
What is happening in this country is not a political fiasco, it`s a constitutional crisis. And it is incumbent on us now to make sure that the parties that should come forward and testify before the Judiciary Committee, the Oversight Committee, the Intelligence Committee do so. And if they don`t do so, then we subpoena them, and then we hold them in contempt.
Now, we can go through the process through the courts but that takes time. And at some point, we lose the ability to inform the public.
HAYES: So let me just make sure -- I want to make sure I have clarity on this because I see people talking about a formal beginning of an impeachment inquiry investigation. It`s a little unclear what that means. Sheila Jackson-Lee has a very clearly defined version of that. She`s crafting a resolution that would go to the House floor. The House floor would vote. It would direct the Judiciary Committee to initiate.
Is it your view that there should be some formal beginning of an inquiry into impeachment or an impeachment proceeding right, but you don`t think it needs to come before the House floor, that can just be sort of declared by the Committee, the Judiciary Committee?
SPEIER: I think that can be declared by the Judiciary Committee. And by doing so, the issue about subpoenaing information and individuals becomes very clear for the courts because we have the right to access that information for purposes of an impeachment.
HAYES: Let me ask -- so you think it strengthens your court position which has been suggested even by I think the president`s own lawyers when they -- when they talk about this. Final question here which strikes me as a sort of important subtext here.
I understand why a member of Congress feels strongly about these issues, about the co-equal status of these two branches of government, about the deep constitutional equities at stake if the executive can just blow you guys off. But to an American voter, to an American citizen, do you fear they don`t feel like they have skin in that game that this is essentially two sources of power battling each other over jurisdiction?
SPEIER: Chris, I think you`re right. I think that`s how they view it right now. But once it gets to the court, and if they rule in favor of giving Congress the power which they will because we do have that as George Mason said that inquisitorial authority to do oversight, and then the president reneged on that. Then I think it becomes crystal clear what`s happening here. And we are moving into an autocracy the likes of which we have never seen in this country.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California, thank you for making time tonight.
SPEIER: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: All right, joining me now, another member of the Democratic House. He`s in leadership. He also sits on two congressional committees investigating President Trump, Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a member of the Judiciary and Oversight Committee, also a law professor in his previous life before Congress, has thought a lot about sort of theorizing all of this.
Let me -- let me start with this because you`re in leadership. There was reporting --
RASKIN: Can I answer also the last question you just posed to Jackie?
RASKIN: Thank you. Well, she did a great job with it and so did Sheila Jackson-Lee, but I think there is a false premise and a lot of these questions. We`re not co-equal branches. Article One gives the sovereign power of the people to Congress. We are the legislative branch, we`re the lawmaking branch, and the core job of the president is to take care that our laws are faithfully executed.
And so not thwarted, not circumvented, not denied, and not violated. And so Congress you`re -- what you`re seeing this week is the Congress standing up and reasserting its preeminence in our constitutional design. It`s a magnificent thing to watch.
HAYES: You sound like Thaddeus Stevens although you don`t have his supermajorities.
RASKIN: Well, you know, some of my colleagues from Pennsylvania like Madeleine Dean and Mary Gay Scanlon are sounding more and more like Thaddeus Stevens every day. So you know, there are some very special people emerging in this process as we were speaking up for America against the lawlessness of a president. The framers wanted to prevent our president from becoming a king.
And by the way, the first -- the foremost thing in their mind was they didn`t want a president able to go out and plunge us into foreign wars without a declaration by Congress which is why we have the exclusive and sole power to declare war. That`s something we`ve got to be talking about this week as the warmongers surrounding the president tried to drive us towards a combat without consulting Congress at all. We`re not going to accept that.
HAYES: It`s just one area in which the executive has sort of expressed their -- the lack of need for your assent or authority. But let me ask you about the sort of current status right now. There`s a reporting about a meeting among the caucus and leadership that got sort of fraud or you know, just contentious in the sense of people have different points of views about formally beginning an impeachment inquiry. Do you support formally beginning an impeachment inquiry?
RASKIN: I have spoken up for that and I think there`s a very compelling logic for it because we have overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors that has been delineated in special counsel Mueller`s report and all of the obstructionism that he wrote about came galloping off the pages and right into our offices in the hallways of Congress when President Trump essentially ordered every member of the executive branch to stop cooperating with congressional subpoenas demands for testimony requests for documents and so on.
I mean, that`s absolutely unprecedented defiance and obstruction of Congress and their whole branch is in contempt of Congress at this point. So you know, I think that -- look, the members of the Judiciary Committee, not everyone but I think overwhelmingly the members of the Judiciary Committee are there because we`ve been living and breathing this 24/7. But we`re a collective body, Chris. You know, we operate as a team sport. And so we have a real job to do to educate our colleagues about why we are where we are.
HAYES: This is slightly technical but I think important actually for understanding of the next step. So what is your understanding -- people say, a formal inquiry of impeachment or formal impeachment proceedings. What is your understanding of how that catches out of what it means, is it what Sheila Jackson-Lee means which is a resolution the majority votes on, is it what Jackie Speier just suggested which is the Judiciary Committee could just initiate itself or something else?
RASKIN: Well, you know, there have been tons of impeachment resolutions over the course of American history not just against presidents but also against judges and other officials, and they can be fashioned in different ways. I would say the best way for it to be fashioned is for it to be an actual formal resolution on the House floor that gets referred to the Judiciary Committee.
And nobody on the Judiciary Committee is saying we should just go ahead and like a runaway train do our own thing and then send it to the floor. That`s not how we operate. You know, we -- look, people want to operate like that they go run for president, OK.
We believe in this as a team sport and we`re working collectively. And all this press about how there`s divisions and polarization and fighting, it`s nonsense. We`re having discussions. Somehow members of your profession have done a great job of getting information about what`s going on behind closed doors, and then they blow it up into some big drama.
You know, we talk and that`s how we make progress. But I`m telling you the Article One branch has made some sub-natural progress this week. We`re taking every tool in the constitutional toolkit and we`re putting it on the table and one of them is the possibility of launching an impeachment inquiry.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you very much.
RASKIN: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: Trump`s tax returns must be turned over pursuant to a request from Congress so says the IRS or at least someone within the IRS in direct contravention of the position taken by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. That breaking news in two minutes.
HAYES: Breaking news tonight from the Washington Post which has acquired a previously undisclosed confidential IRS memo that directly contradicts Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on the issue of the President`s taxes.
Last fall as the Democrats were making noise about seeking copies of the President`s tax returns, IRS attorneys in preparation for that request prepared a ten page memo which states, the disclosure of tax returns to the committee is mandatory, the law does not allow the secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met.
The Secretary`s obligation to disclose return and return information would not be affected by the failure of a tax-writing committee to state a reason for the request which was exactly the pre-tax Mnuchin uses when he defied a congressional subpoena.
"The only basis for the agency`s refusal to comply with the committee subpoena would be the invocation of the doctrine an executive privilege. I want to bring an Adam Jentleson, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid`s former Deputy Chief of Staff and Maya Wiley former Assistant U.S. Attorney and MSNBC Legal Analyst.
This seems -- I mean, at one level it seems like a plain reading of the law so it`s not surprising that a line -- attorney of the IRS of would find it way, but it is definitely direct contravention of the official policy of the government right now.
MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. What a web we weave. It is not surprising at all that we see this draft memo for the very reasons that you state, which is the statute is fairly clear and Congress under the Constitution has very broad power to get information to do its job.
And one of its jobs yes, is legislating. Again, it`s not for the executive to say we don`t believe you Congress have demonstrated to us that`s you`re --
HAYES: Yes, exactly.
WILEY: I mean, that`s not how it works.
HAYES: It`s not the way it works, right, yes.
WILEY: But the second thing that it ignores is that you know, frankly here there are a lot of significant issues about whether or not Donald Trump who does not have a blind trust, who knows what his business transactions are, like what`s happening there, that`s just straight up right smack dab in the center of what Congress is supposed to do.
So the only -- the only thing that I think --
HAYES: Like, is the president taking bribes for instance, seems like squarely the kind of thing that you want to know if you`re in Congress.
WILEY: Absolutely. And you`d certainly want to know whether the IRS was paying any attention to it or whether say --
HAYES: Or is he paying his taxes.
WILEY: I mean, but the thing that I think is strange about the memo is the executive privilege point because what executive privilege. I mean, executive privilege, it essentially functions to protect deliberations of government. These are his private tax returns. They don`t demonstrate any deliberation of government. So frankly that`s not a reason either.
HAYES: Yes. I had the exact same reaction to the idea that that could be invoked. I mean Adam, the political -- the sort of deeper power struggle question here which is something you`ve been very outspoken on in a way I found really interesting and compelling and fairly persuasive is just you tweeted something about to the Democrats whether you want the fight or not, the fight will find you. Which -- and this seems like an example right?
The IRS attorneys say look you got to hand them over. Obviously, from the top down, they say no we don`t. No, we don`t, no, we don`t. Make us, make us, make us. There`s no way to avoid that. There`s no out for Democrats here other than essentially retreat.
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID: That`s right. I mean, look, you could come at this issue a million different ways and the larger issues of impeachment and all that stuff. You know, there`s how is it polling today, how is it going to poll tomorrow through all those questions.
But then there`s this fundamental question of what do you do when you have a lawless president who looks like he is on the verge of escaping accountability from the branch of government that his most immediately poised to hold him accountable? And this transcends polling, this transcends day-to-day politics. This is about power and this is about leadership and is up to Congress to hold him accountable and that`s what the Founders would have wanted.
There`s this line in the in the piece in which Treasury Department official says the decision has been made. The official said speaking on condition of anonymity. Now it`s us -- it`s up to us to try to justify it. I should say, this happens in administrations. I mean civil servants get the orders from the top and they have to change their analysis, but it is still revealing for anyone that thought they`re being gas-lit by the president -- by the president`s arguments which I think basically apply across the board.
I mean, right now they are making a crazy set of arguments about what they -- what kind of powers they have.
WILEY: Right. And a cabinet member trying to protect the president is not so newsy in this administration, unfortunately.
WILEY: But if it`s a legitimate claim, that`s one thing right? If it`s -- if there`s nothing surprising about saying you know, there are a couple of different arguments you could use, we just don`t think they`re very strong. And you could say yes, but I`m we`re going to go with this one anyway because we think it`s for whatever reason.
In this case, this is really fundamentally just about -- and I think Adam is absolutely right. It`s just about power. It`s just about a crass political decision that says we`re just going to try to run the clock out on everything and we will use any argument we can find to do that.
HAYES: There`s also I think substantive. I mean there`s two things, right. One, is to sort of show a dominance. But Adam, I also think like they really don`t want these things coming out is another big part of it. They don`t want the accounting records coming from the accounting firm. They do not want the tax returns coming out. They do not want Don McGahn speaking before --like they`re trying to block that stuff because they do not like the specter of it coming out.
JENTLESON: Right. I mean, the you know, Trump`s finances were the red line that he drew on the Mueller report. I mean they`re -- they are telling you where to look. They`re telling you where the really bad stuff is. So that just makes it all the more important that Democrats have to get it.
HAYES: What do you think, Adam -- just to follow up. Someone who worked on the Hill, the sort of psychology of Democrats in Congress right now particularly congressional leadership as they`re trying to think through how to deal with this barrage of obstruction. How do you understand how they`re thinking about it?
JENTLESON: Well, look, I think you know, they are very thrilled to be in the majority. They look back at how they got there in 2018, and they rightfully see that they grant mostly on health care and other pocketbook issues in 2018.
The problem is that was a midterm election without the president on the ballot and there`s a big danger in fighting the last war. And I think you cannot argue around Trump. There is no way for Democrats to just talk about something else or past message bills in the House and avoid Trump. There`s no over it, there`s no under, there`s only through him.
HAYES: Adam Jentleson and Maya Wiley, thank you very much. In the ongoing saga about whether President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Tower project, we`re going to talk to the BuzzFeed reporter who broke that original story in two minutes.
HAYES: Do you remember what a huge deal it was when this BuzzFeed story broke? President Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to congress about the Moscow Tower project. BuzzFeed sourced that story to two unnamed senior federal law enforcement sources. And people proclaimed that if that claim were true, it amounted to an obviously impeachable offense, telling someone to go lie before congress.
Then a day later, we got this very, very rare public statement from the spokesperson for Special Counsel Robert Mueller who disputed the BuzzFeed report in a carefully worded statement. And then a triumphant Trump and his allies were gloating about it, quote, "very sad day for journalist, but a great day for our country."
Now, in the end, the Mueller report said investigators did not find evidence proving that Trump had, quote, directed or aided Cohen`s false testimony, but when crucially Cohen himself testified before congress back in February, what he said was that Trump gets his point across without needing to state it explicitly.
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REP. JUSTIN AMASH, (R) MICHIGAN: You suggested that the president sometimes communicates his wishes indirectly. For example, you said, quote, "Mr. Trump did not directly me to lie to congress, that`s not how he operates," end quote. Can you explain how he does this?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: He doesn`t give you questions, he doesn`t give you orders. He speaks in a code. And I understand the code because I have been around him for a decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So, that`s where things stood after Cohen`s testimony. Then yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee released transcripts of Cohen`s closed door testimony from earlier this year. And in those transcripts, Cohen claims that he was, in fact, directly instructed to lie to congress, not by the president, but by a man serving as the president`s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who Cohen claims encouraged him to lie about how long Trump pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project.
In response, Sekulow released a statement attacking Cohen`s credibility without directly denying his claims.
The new transcripts also provide support for the initial BuzzFeed story. Cohen describing a conversation with Trump like this, quote, "he goes, Michael. Why don`t you just cooperate? There is no Russia. There is no collusion. There`s no business. There`s no deals. And this is all going to be over. I know what he is saying to me."
Joining me now, one of the authors of that original BuzzFeed story, investigative reporter Anthony Cormier, whose latest piece lays out the supporting evidence in the new Cohen transcript.
So, first, start on that. What do you make of that original report and the degree to which he was instructed or not, based on what we`ve now learned and the accusation against Sekulow.
ANTHONY CORMIER, BUZZFEED: I mean, it`s pretty clear. If Michael Cohen is telling the truth. I think there is that really important caveat.
HAYES: Totally, always, with Michael Cohen.
CORMIER: So, if he`s telling the truth, and this is the way it went down, it`s fairly clear that he was directed, at least by Jay Sekulow, and that Michael believed that the president was directing him to lie. They had not only a meeting in the Oval Office in May 2017, but they phone calls. Afterward, in fact, Michael Cohen says he didn`t need to call me. I understood what the arrangement was. I understood what we had agreed that I would say, and I was going to go ahead and do that.
HAYES: Yeah, Cohen says this in his testimony, that he and the president are talking a fair amount about what he`s going to say. What the story is.
CORMIER: Yes. And we reported he was personally instructed and that certainly looks like personal instruction.
HAYES: What is -- there was a -- the transcript itself was released. There is a lot of interesting stuff in there that you have been sort of really neck deep in this story for a while. Did you learn new things from...
CORMIER: Quite a bit. It`s really at odds with what the Mueller team has produced, right. There is so much new information in this testimony. And, again, caveat, if you believe Michael Cohen. But in this case we learned that the Trump organization, according to Michael, withheld a pretty critical document from congress. We learned that again Jay Sekulow was the one who amended his testimony. We didn`t know.
HAYES: That was a big question, right, because at a certain point he says in that in the public testimony that he is interacting with with the Trump lawyers about what his testimony was. And that`s one of the things he ends up getting charged with is the false testimony, so it`s pretty crucial.
In this closed door -- in the transcript, he says it was Sekulow who he was consulting with.
CORMIER: Yes, indeed. He says that Jay Sekulow -- he submitted a draft and went to the group of lawyers and the Trump family. And in the draft, Jay said to him, let`s change this from Junish to January.
HAYES: I mean, that`s a huge deal. That`s the president`s lawyer -- again, if Michael Cohen is correct, if he`s telling the truth, Jay Sekulow, Trump family in the draft. Jay Sekulow, the president`s lawyer, telling him to change the dates, to lie to congress in exactly the way that he ended up being charged for.
CORMIER: It`s hinting at a really bigger issue, right. It`s clear that the Mueller team could not crack this privilege, the attorney-client privilege. Michael it doesn`t seem to me cared much about this and was willing to really speak openly with congressional investigators. And you`re talking about a degree now, Jay Sekulow to the president, that is very small gaps between the president and Mr. Cohen.
HAYES: There`s another story today on this case, which is that a federal judge said that there was a sort of -- media orgs trying to get the search warrant released and unredacted. And the federal judge declared that it`s part of an ongoing investigation, an investigation tied to Michael Cohen cases ongoing, the feds say. Which is interesting because he`s in prison and it seems like it`s not ongoing. What do you make of that?
CORMIER: I mean, it`s certainly appears to be part of an ongoing campaign finance investigation. We don`t know the target. I wouldn`t -- I`d be way over my skis to report it.
But it`s our understanding that they are -- the Southern District continues to look at some campaign finance issues surrounding Cohen and his compatriots.
HAYES: We should note that the campaign finance crime that he pleaded to, he said was at the direction of the president of the United States.
CORMIER: He said the president directed him to do that as well.
HAYES: Anthony Cormier investigative reporter for BuzzFeed. Thanks for being with me tonight.
The man who has systematically worked to remake the nation`s courts to be ultra conservative just ahead. But first, Ben Carson`s big day is tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, Ben Carson was at one point in his life a world renowned brain surgeon and unquestionably brilliant, an accomplished man worthy of great respect. Somewhere along the way, well, he decided to enter politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Ben Carson!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Donald Trump apparently watched that and saw the next secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Now Ben Carson has zero relevant experience for that job, of course, and he spent most of his two years at HUD mired in weird scandals like the dining room set he bought for 36,000 tax dollars, more recently a dishwasher for 8,000 more.
But how is he doing at the actual job, which is really rather quite important?
Well, if his day on Capital Hill is any indication, not good. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Ben Carson manages to fly under the radar a bit in his role as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Maybe it`s because he spends so much time at his house in Florida and doesn`t really like to work on Fridays.
He doesn`t seem to be all that invested in the job, to be honest. Every now and then, though, the secretary does have to show up and answer questions from congress, as he did today. And well, I`ll just let you be the judge of his performance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOYCE BEATTY, (D) OHIO: Are you familiar with OMWI and what it is?
BEN CARSON, HUD SECRETARY: With who?
REP. KATIE PORTER, (D) CALIFORNIA: Do you know what an REO is?
CARSON: An OREO?
PORTER: No, not an OREO, an REO, R-E-O.
CARSON: Real estate...
PORTER: What`s the O stand for?
PORTER: Real Estate Owned, that`s what happens when a property goes to foreclosure.
BEATTY: OMWI, Office of Minority Women and Inclusion. Do you have an OMWI director? Do you work with an OMWI director?
CARSON: Well, of course we have an office of...
BEATTY: OMWI, not Amway, OMWI.
CARSON: We have...
BEATTY: Do you know who that person is?
CARSON: We have...
BEATTY: Do you know who person is?
CARSON: I cannot give you the name.
CARSON: Well, the ideal comes from the bible, Proverbs 29...
REP. DAVID SCOTT, (D) GEORGIA: Hold on, it comes from the bible?
CARSON: From the bible, 29:18 says "without a vision, the people perish." So, we said we will call these vision centers. But then we thought everybody would think they were getting glasses so we can them EnVision Centers.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Yes or no. If left unaddressed, do you believe the substandard public housing conditions pose a risk to tenant`s physical, mental and emotional health if left unaddressed?
CARSON: Yes or no, can you ask me some questions yourself.
PRESSLEY: You don`t get to dictate what my line of questioning is. Reclaiming my time.
CARSON: You already know the answer to that.
PRESSLEY: Yes or no.
CARSON: You know the answer.
PRESSLEY: Yes or no. I know the answer. Do you know the answer. Yes or no.
CARSON: Reclaiming my time.
PRESSLEY: You don`t get to do that.
REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) CALIFORNIA: The time belongs to the gentle lady.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) COLORADO: Today is the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in this country, but we will never be totally equal until we have the right to full control of our bodies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Exactly 100 years since the house passed the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, crowds of people rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court today to protest the radical abortion bans that have been passed in states around the country.
Demonstration was part of a stop the bans day of action organized by a coalition of groups, including Planned Parenthood and the Women`s March, responding to the most aggressive assault on reproductive freedom since Roe v. Wade was decided 4.5 decades ago. There were protests in the big cities here in New York, in Atlanta, in L.A., in small cities and towns, red states and blue states from Massachusetts to Texas. All in all, more than 400 of them all around the country, according to the organizers.
Here just a small taste of what it was like to be there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: My body, my choice.
CROWD: Her body, her choice.
CROWD: My body, my choice.
CWOD: Her body, her choice.
DR. LEANA WEN, PLANNET PARENTHOOD PRESIDENT: If you want to send a message to the justices, write up those steps that Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land and they must uphold it. Say stop the bans!
CROWD: Stop the bans!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible).
CROWD: My body, my choice!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your job (ph).
CROWD: My body, my choice!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible).
CROWD: My body, my choice!
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) CALIFORNIA: Today I`m here to say, you know me. I am one of the one in four women in this country who have had an abortion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are attacks, but know this, it`s only a war if we fight back. And we`re going to fight back.
CROWD: Throw them out. Throw them out. Throw them out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: For all of this grassroots mobilization, there`s a strong sense that ultimately this issue before us will be decided in the court. And for the past two years, federal courts have been stacked with Trump nominees who seemed to have been selected for a specific purpose, at least among others, to overturn Roe v. Wade.
And there is one man who has been the most influential force behind that effort, a guy whose name you probably don`t know, whose face you could not pick out of a lineup.
We`ll talk about him next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?
TRUMP: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justice on that is really what is going to be -- that will happen, and that`ll automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: One of the ways that long time abortion rights supporter and personal libertine Donald Trump attempted to court the right-wing during the election, particularly evangelicals, was a promise to appoint judges who had already been vetted and pre-approved by anti-abortion conservatives.
In fact, he took the unprecedented step of releasing a list of Supreme Court Justice possibilities, also said explicitly that he would appoint, as you saw there, anti-abortion judges, a clear litmus test. And while Mitch McConnell blocked Merrick Garland from filling the Supreme Court seat vacated the death of Antonin Scalia. Where did that list come from? A conservative operative named Leonard Leo who is probably the single most influential person driving this entire effort.
Leo has built a kind of paragovernmental system designed to vet, funnel, cultivate, ultimately place conservatives in the federal judiciary.
As a new Washington Post investigation puts it, Leo is, quote, a maestro of a network of interlocking nonprofits working on media campaigns and other initiatives to swing lawmakers by generating public support for conservative judges.
Here with me now is Shawn Boburg, now one of the authors of that Washington Post report on Leonard Leo, and Melissa Murray a professor at New York University School of Law, co-author, along with my wife, Kate Shaw, of the new book "Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories."
Shawn, let me start with you on your reporting. People have known a bout Leonard Leo. He`s not a hidden figure. He`s not in the shadows. He was profiled in The New Yorker. A lot of your investigation is just about the sheer scope of the various enterprises that he`s running as part of this effort.
SHAWN BOBURG, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. And the reason we decided to take a look at Leonard Leo is clearly the conservative legal movement this is having a moment, the stars are aligned. In Trump, they have a president who has adopted an ideological viewpoint that they have supported for decades.
And what Leonard Leo has done over that same time period is build an infrastructure of nonprofit groups that he`s harnessed in these last few years to build a huge support network for Trump`s nominees.
Leonard Leo, I should point out, is playing two roles. He`s Trump`s judicial adviser, so he`s helping Trump come up with a list of nominees for the federal bench. Behind the scenes, a less visible role he`s playing is courting donors, raising money, and generating support through a multi- faceted media campaign, a political style campaign, to support those very, very judicial nominees.
HAYES: Yeah, in fact, you come up with a number of $250 million in dark money for these groups to push this agenda, which is a lot of money. There`s this quote I thought, Melissa, because, you know, obviously what`s happened here is the president got two justices in the Supreme Court, including the seat of Anthony Kennedy, who was sort of the dividing vote upholding Roe, or that was the understanding of how things would be. And then all these states started passing these bans because they wanted to go before the court.
This is a quote from Ed Whelan (ph), who is prominent conservative legal analyst back in 2017. He says no one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade than the Federal Society`s Leonard Leo."
MELISSA MURRAY, CO-AUTHOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS AND JUSTICE STORIES: This is certainly the case. And somewhere Leonard Leo is sitting back stroking a hairless cat and laughing maniacally, because this is exactly what he set out to do.
This is a project that was 20 years in the making -- seating these conservative judges, cultivating them, bringing them up through the ranks. And now in the case of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, seating them on the Supreme Court.
It`s a deep network, it`s one with lots of tentacles. Don McGahn, who we`ve been talking about over the last couple of weeks, is deeply embedded in this Federalist Society network. Part of his role as legal counsel in the White House was to help shepherd conservative judges through to confirmation. And he stayed around long enough to get both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court and then his mission fulfilled. He`s out.
HAYES: You know, there`s also this strange relationship, Shawn here, which is, you know, always -- there`s always consultation with outside groups. And obviously McGahn was a key figure, as Melissa just said. But there`s a degree of outsourcing to the kind of enterprise that Leo has built, and because it`s so sort of big and sophisticated and because it has such sort of thick network capital that really that seems like the enterprise that`s kind of doing the heavy lifting on the judicial front.
BOBURG: Right. And as I mentioned earlier, Leo really is in a singular position because he has this formal role as an advisor, although he`s not a government employee, and he`s also raising money from undisclosed donors. So we don`t know the identities of most of the people who are behind the $250 million that -- that he helped raise between 2014 and 2017 and played a factor in the judicial battles of two Supreme Court nominees that Trump has been successful in placing on the bench.
And so you have a concentration of power. You also have untraceable money, and it raises some questions about his roles and his, frankly -- who his loyalties are to.
HAYES: You know, one thing that drives me crazy about the way that we talk about reproductive rights in the courts is this weird -- everyone pretends, particularly on the right, like they`re not doing what they`re doing. Leonard Leo is on the record. He opposes abortion I think in all circumstances. He believe it`s murder, it`s the taking of life. He`s a devout Catholic. It`s a view that`s honestly sincerely held. It is an ideological cause to which he has committed himself. They want to get rid of Roe, like that is the project here very clearly.
MURRAY: It`s a multifaceted project. Like Roe v. Wade is part of it, and this is the time. Like the legislation that you see popping up in these states are a response to a more hospitable climate in the courts for anti- abortion...
HAYES: You think that there`s a connection between those two obviously.
MURRAY: There`s certainly a connection, but the bigger issue for the Federalist Society is that they are an organization of ideas. They are trying to seed the ideas of conservative legal movement, this idea that the constitution should be interpreted in its original meaning, you know, at a time when there was an enormous Democratic deficit, where women didn`t count, where I would have been three-fifths of a person if I was a person at all.
This is what they want. They`re an organization of ideas. And they`re trying to seed an idea of a limited government, a limited administrative state, and very limited powers for congress, so rolling back the entire system of regulations. So abortion is part of it. Expanding regulation in that area, but it`s also about constricting government power everywhere else.
HAYES: Yeah, and there`s a marriage here I think between the sort of group of sort of theorists, ideologues, and then the grassroots action.
The grassroots mobilization is not because of the administrative state. The grassroots mobilization that happens is because of abortion. That is what gives everything its fuel in this entire thing. And the thing Leo has so usefully married.
MURRAY: And it`s the thing that makes Donald Trump so integral to this. Leonard Leo and Donald Trump do not see eye-to-eye.
HAYES: No. It`s partners of convenience, very much so.
MURRAY: This is a marriage of convenience, exactly that. Donald Trump is simply the vessel in which the Federalist Society can make these dreams a reality.
HAYES: All right, Shawn Boburg and Melissa Murray, thanks for being here.
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