CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: That`s HARDBALL for the week. Have a nice three-day weekend. Up next, the special edition of ALL-IN with Chris Hayes in front of a live studio audience that starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight in a special edition of ALL IN, the fight to change the system that elected Donald Trump, the Pulitzer Prize-Winning reporter who uncovered the scope of Trump`s corruption, retiring Republican Congressman Will Hurd, and what if the news media just stopped covering this guy.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we can never allow that to happen.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Studio 6A in Rockefeller Plaza, here`s Chris Hayes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: How are you? How are you doing, buddy? Good to see you. All right, we are -- we are back here live in 30 Rock second week in a row, a little summer Fridays situation we`re doing. It`s great to have you all here. Thank you.
So the Republicans this week were attacking Democratic Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and in their defense, they do that every week. I don`t know why she drives them nuts for some reason. This week they were attacking her because she went after an institution that has become kind of sacred I think to Republicans and that`s the Electoral College.
AOC`s argument was basically that the Electoral College unfairly diminishes the voting power of some Americans and therefore is incompatible with our basic democratic commitments. That was the argument. Republicans flipped out, all right. They went after her very hard.
Trump T.V. did a bunch of segments about it. The Trump campaign -- there`s a freshman Republican, a guy by the name of Dan Crenshaw from Texas, he tweeted her that we live in a republic not a democracy. You probably heard that before and that -- and this is a "51 percent doesn`t get to boss around 49 percent.
We`ll talk a bit of (INAUDIBLE). And then the President`s campaign took it to a totally new level. They set this totally insane e-mail, a fundraising e-mail out to their list basically accusing AOC because she was advocating for majority rule of attempting a coup to disenfranchise Republican conservatives.
They explicitly say in this e-mail. This is our country, not theirs. Yes, questionable. Democrats would -- what`s called rather change the rules so they`re elite friends in New York and California can regain their power. And this I think actually has become a major fault line. In fact, one of the most profound fault lines in our -- in the history of American politics.
And it`s basically this, do we actually really believe in democracy, right? The question before us now in the Electoral College question is, are we going to actually live up to the promise of one person one vote.
Now, to be fair, it is not surprising the Republicans are defending the Electoral College, right. There`s a very obvious reason for that. Since 1992 we have had seven presidential elections. Republicans have won the popular vote one time but they`ve gotten three presidents out of it which is a very sweet deal if you`re the Republican Party, right.
You can see why on just basic tactical grounds why the Republican Party would want to continue a system in which they can lose a majority of votes and still get all the powers the presidency appointing the Supreme Court justices and judges and signing legislation, vetoing legislation, commanding the army, everything, right. All of that with less votes than the Democrat got.
No wonder they like. But I think there`s actually a deeper philosophical thing happening which is the question of what exactly American democracy is for. And the weirdest thing about the Electoral College is the fact that it wasn`t specifically in the Constitution for the presidency, it would be unconstitutional.
Here`s what I mean by that. Starting the 1960s, 1961 particularly, the Supreme Court started developing a jurisprudence of one-person one-vote, right. The idea is that each individual vote has to carry roughly the same amount of weight as each other individual vote which is a pretty intuitive concept but it was not a reality.
There are all sorts of crazy representational systems that were created that would not give one-person-one-vote and would disenfranchise certain minorities. You can guess which ones. Here`s an example. Let`s say you got a city, it`s 60 percent black and it`s 40 percent white, OK. Here`s how you ensure white people stay in charge.
Divided the city into four voting districts, right, but you put the entire black population in one district 60 percent of the people. And then each district elects one City Council member and voila, now the city council for a majority black city is run by a majority white government. This kind of thing they did all over the south and all over the country, right.
And finally, the Supreme Court says no, you can`t do that. You cannot just come up with crazy systems of representation to essentially stymie the basic principle of majority rule. And over the course of decades, they strike down representation system after representation system because it doesn`t meet the standard they have articulated.
Even this city, New York City`s long-standing system of government got struck down in 1989 because we had this borough president system where like 200 -- two million people in the Bronx and 5,000 people in Staten Island each had a borough president. The court is like, you can`t do it.
So the basic principle of one person one vote, the candidate with the most votes wins, those are the basic principles that are applied everywhere in the United States every single election from dog catcher, to state senator, to governor, up to two institutions, the two most powerful, United States Senate, right. And this might be for another show but you may have noticed the same number of senators represent the 40 million people of California and the half a million people of Wyoming, not really one-person-one-vote, and then, of course, the other institution, the presidency.
Now take a step back for a second and just ponder how preposterous it is that for the most powerful office that`s the case, right. Like if you run for class president in the fourth grade, you are elected if and only if you get the most votes. Every election. If you run for sheriff or mayor or governor or senator, you win if you get the most votes. That`s it. That`s the principle. There`s one exception, the President of the United States.
Now, there are all kinds of people who will tell you this is good for all sorts of reasons and they are all wrong. A few things to note, one the idea that historically this had anything to do with like the representation of the rural areas against the urban elites is bunk. America was as you might recall, pretty darn rural at the time of the Constitution is drafting, right.
The real genesis of the Electoral College was the belief shared by a lot of the founders that ordinary people were dumb and couldn`t be trusted to elect a president. So instead, people would elect electors who would, in turn, convene and pick like a wise man.
Alexander Hamilton among others did not want normal people choosing the president. He was very clear about this. They wanted a "small number of persons to do it." But the whole idea of the Electoral College is some kind of delivered body where they would meet, they`d come up with his wise person, it collapsed very quickly. We`ve never even really had that system. It has been outdated since basically the third election the country had.
And the other thing you hear all the time -- and this is what Dan Crenshaw says is that what they do is they look at this map, Trump says this too. They look at how this map is and they say to you, how else can we get presidents to listen to these vast swaths of the country, right. You see this map? You`ve seen this map before? This is a map that Donald Trump loves.
It is, in fact, a map that is up in the White House. No seriously. It`s like the first thing they put up, OK. But here`s the thing. This is a map of land not of human beings. And it is true, here`s the worst part, it is true that in the United States Constitution, thanks to the Senate and the Electoral College, land gets to vote like, the actual soil Wyoming, the acreage of South Dakota, the square plots of the vast expanse of Utah, they get votes because they are land.
It`s weird when you think about it but that`s the way it works. And that`s why you get these maps, and that`s why the president likes these maps. He thinks it shows how much American loves him. In reality, this is a map of a minority of the country. There are way, way, way more people in the blue areas than in the red areas right.
In this map, this exact map, right, Hillary Clinton got three more -- million more votes than Donald Trump. That is what protecting the Electoral College has become all about. It`s about the fact that one of the major political collisions in American life doesn`t want Americans a majority of them to run the country because they fear, they know, they suspect deep down that they are in the minority.
And that brings us back to Dan Crenshaw who says that the nature of American constitutional government is because we are republic not a democracy, the 51 percent can`t boss around the 49 percent. But what he and his party are advocating is a world in which the 49 percent boss around the 51 percent. And that that is both anti-democratic and perverse.
America is a democracy and if one person one vote means anything at all, it`s time to do something totally radical, and that is this. Run the presidential election the way we run every other election. The person with the most votes wins.
I should say that democracy relies on more than just one person one vote, it relies also on free and fair elections. Joining me now is someone whose job it is to make that happen, the Head of the Federal Election Commission Ellen Weintraub. Hi Ellen! Come on in. Have a seat.
I think if you opine too openly about the Electoral College you probably get fired or removed. But let me ask you this. I imagine that the FEC, you have as a regulatory body of interactions with other country`s regulatory bodies. You talk about power system and other systems. What do people say from other countries when you`re talking about the Electoral College?
ELLEN WEINTRAUB, HEAD, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Well, Chris, we do get a lot of folks from other countries particularly developing democracies who come here to learn and come here to find out how our democracy works. And when I have to explain the Electoral College, I always get this kind of perplexed look.
HAYES: It`s like a tennis match, and if you win a set, then you get all the points.
WEINTRAUB: And then they say, but why do people accept that? And what I have historically said is well, in the end, it usually doesn`t matter. Historically, most elections, the person who wins the Electoral College is also the person who wins the popular vote so everybody is happy.
But of course, more recently, that hasn`t been happening all the time. And I worry that just like these other countries were -- the people from other countries were confused about it, that people in our own country will come to feel that the result is not legitimate.
HAYES: Or just. You run a body that has to essentially play the role of watchdog of American Federal Elections, right? So what do you see is the kind of big challenges or threats for this baseline we talked about in other parts of the world where we`re doing election monitoring free and fair elections in the United States?
WEINTRAUB: Well, people have to feel like they are represented, like they have a voice in their government. And that is I think the most important part of our election. Of course, I worry about a lot of things in connection with our election.
Right now, we have a lot of serious threats to our election like what`s going on abroad. We saw this in 2016, the entire Intelligence Community has been very clear on this that there were folks in Russia in particular, malign foreign actors who are trying to influence our election, and our elections really are for American citizens. So that is I would say my biggest concern right now.
HAYES: You know, there`s -- that relates to the first thing you said to me which is that the kind of fundamental thing that a democratic system rests upon is psychological almost, right? That it`s a sense of the people that the results are legitimate. It`s legitimate -- you know, there`s transparency there`s rules, but there`s some deep sense legitimacy.
What do you think -- you sort of quite famously came out and not by name but kind of refuted the president multiple times. You wrote him a letter. You went on T.V. when he has talked about widespread voter fraud, people voting twice, stolen votes. What does that do to that kind of core sense of legitimacy?
WEINTRAUB: Well, I think it really challenges it. And I think that this is a canard that`s been out there for a long time. It`s not unique to the president. It`s not -- and it shouldn`t be a partisan issue. We need to know, American citizens need to know that their elections are fair and that the government represents them. That`s the most important piece of this.
And when these stories are promulgated that there are people who are voting who shouldn`t be voting, then people really question whether the results are right, whether it -- not only are they fair but are they accurate?
And people have looked into this. There have been study after study about this. And after the 2014 election, one scholar looked at the data. He looked at the data from 2000 to 2014, over a billion votes. And out of that billion votes, he was able to find 31 instances of potential voter fraud. This is infinitesimal.
The nonpartisan Brennan Center here in New York has estimated that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to engage in in-person voter fraud. It just doesn`t happen. And indeed why would it, because it makes no sense. You would have to convince millions of people -- millions of people would have to risk going to jail every single one of them to change one vote.
HAYES: This is exactly right. You -- if you`ve ever worked -- if you`ve been around organizers, people trying to get people to vote for real. Like it`s hard enough to get people to actually vote. It`s very hard for people to vote. The idea that you can run some scheme where you got people to fake vote or pretend to vote is just preposterous.
Your body, the FEC is in the news today. And I`m glad that we have you here on what`s the last day for the FEC?
HAYES: This is -- OK, so I`m going to show you the headlines where people caught up on this. It`s going to be a crisis turning out the lights at the undermanned FEC --
WEINTRAUB: Underperson --
HAYES: Underperson, I`m sorry, that was -- I was reading for the record. But what is going on the FEC that you are now essentially short a quorum and can`t do anything, explain.
WEINTRAUB: OK. So the FEC by law is supposed to have six members by law and no more than three of them can be of any one political party, and it takes four to make a quorum, to make most decisions at the agency. For the last couple of years, we`ve been down bodies. We lost one a couple of years ago, we lost another one a year and a half ago, and they haven`t been replaced.
And this week on Monday, actually I was just about to leave town for an FEC conference and I got the news that one of my colleagues was resigning as of this weekend, and that will leave us with only three.
HAYES: So four goes down to three. You don`t have a quorum.
WEINTRAUB: We don`t have a quorum.
HAYES: So does that just mean like we don`t have election monitor in America?
WEINTRAUB: Not -- well, not entirely. So first of all, I want to say that we have a terrific staff of dedicated public servants who will continue to come to work every day. The core mission of the FEC is to make sure that we have disclosure of who`s behind the money.
We are the original follow the money agency that was created after Watergate, and we track all the money, put it up on the web, and make sure that every American citizen can find out who is supporting which candidate and what they`re spending their money on. And that will go on. However, there are rules and laws about all of this.
HAYES: That gets interpreted by you and your colleagues if you have a quorum and you don`t have that.
WEINTRAUB: Right. And people can file complaints, any citizen can file a complaint and our staff will analyze, it and then it will be teed up for a decision by the Commission, and the Commission won`t be able to make that decision.
HAYES: Probably a good idea if we get that up and running in the event in 2020.
WEINTRAUB: That would be good.
HAYES: Ellen Weintraub, everybody. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
WEINTRAUB: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, a Republican member of Congress who is calling it quits. Will Hurd of Texas is here next. Don`t go anywhere.
HAYES: We`re watching closely on a big story this week about the border wall and the President being so obsessed with the wall that Mexico was going to pay for and Congress wouldn`t pay for, that he`s been telling subordinates to just break the law in order to get it done. That even includes just basically just stealing land from ranchers.
He`s quoted in the articles saying take the land, also suggesting he would pardon anyone who followed his directions to break the law which the White House was quick to say was a joke. Trump is joking when he makes such statements about pardons.
But if you want to know how popular this obsessive lawless wall building agenda is along the actual southern border where it`s supposed to be built, here`s one data point. The only Republican to represent a district along the southwest border who squeaked out a narrow victory in 2018 has decided to retire. Joining me now is that Republican, Congressman Will Hurd Republican from Texas.
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Just for the record, those two things don`t have to be connected, right?
HAYES: Well, I`m going to say that`s why you leave. You can tell me later whether that`s the case. But when I read that up that that quote "take the land," I thought that doesn`t seem like it would play really well in the Texas border area you represent. Am I wrong about that?
HURD: Look, there`s a little thing that we care about in the great state of Texas and that`s called Private Property Rights. And there`s going to be a couple of people -- there`s going to be a few ranchers that have an opinion on this topic.
And look, I represent 828 miles of the border. I represent 29 counties, two-time stones. It takes ten and a half hours for me to drive from one district -- one part of my district to the other at 80 miles an hour which is actually the speed limit and most of the district. I found out recently it`s not the speed limit in all of the districts.
And I spent almost a decade, nine and a half years as an undercover officer in the CIA. I was the dude in the back alleys at 4:00 in the morning collecting intelligence on threats in our homeland, stopping terrorists, preventing Russians from stealing our secrets, putting nuclear weapon proliferators out of business.
So I know a few things about stopping bad guys, all right. And building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security.
HAYES: I mean, it`s very clear the wall -- and there`s even reporting on this, right? The wall was created almost as a mnemonic device the president would remember to talk about the border and immigration, and then he turned it into this real obsession. Like have you tried to communicate the basic factual case about the not -- the lack of need for an 800-mile wall to the White House?
HURD: I have when John Kelly was the head of DHS and then ultimately Chief of Staff, we`ve had a number of conversations. And there are some parts of the border where a physical barrier actually makes sense. But there`s also a lot of parts of the border where Border Patrol`s response time to a threat is measured in hours to days.
So if you`re trying to respond to a threat and it takes you hours or days, that`s -- that wall is not going to be a physical barrier. Now, there`s a problem. You have you know, $35 billion with the B, worth of drugs coming into our country illegally. We know that the humanitarian crisis that`s going along the border.
We should be able to defend our borders and we should know what`s going back and forth across our border. And the way we do that is technology. The way we do that is additional manpower.
HAYES: So -- but let me just sort of on those two points, right? So drugs and people coming. We know that most drugs comes from ports of entry, right?
HURD: That`s correct.
HAYES: So it`s not -- people are not driving to some part of the desert and bringing -- the cartels are sophisticated enough. They have enough people they can bribe and get over on to actually drive them through the ports of entry.
HURD: So here`s what I would say. A lot of the drugs are coming, indeed coming through our ports of entry and we should be plussing up the technology that we use in there because we can`t facilitate the movement of goods and services at the same time and stop bad guys and prevent contraband from coming in.
But we also don`t know what the denominator is in the amount of drugs that are coming in because we have no clue what`s happening in other parts of these areas. You can see -- and you made a point about the Narco Traficante`s, the drug cartels, they have -- they`re making $35 billion in the United States. That means they`re larger than McDonald`s and Starbucks.
And so they have the technology -- you`re seeing them fly things in with drones. You`re seeing them bringing in with -- through our sea. Here`s another problem, Coast Guard. Coast Guard is only able to action 25 percent of the known intelligence on drugs coming into our coast. So that means 75 percent where they know something is not happening. So let`s pay the money on those kinds of things that are going to stop this --
HAYES: So let me -- but even the logic of more enforcement, right, more manpower, we have seen that over time. I mean, it`s gone up every year. And I`ve talked to people a lot of times. You know, we used to have migration in this country that was seasonal, that people move back and forth. And one of the things that happened is when you up border enforcement, you don`t just keep people out, you keep people in, right?
We have seen -- actually, there`s a direct correlation. The more you enforce that border, the harder you make it to get across that border, the more that people who used to come for six months and then go back, come for a year and go back, they stopped doing that. And my question to you is the president clearly sees the border in this almost neurotic way of like a place where like germs get in.
And so he`s like, well when I breathe I might get germs so I`m going to stop breathing. But it`s like the border is a good thing. The things that come into the border aren`t just bad things.
HURD: They`re not. You`re -- look, we should be you know, defending our border, but also we should be facilitating legal immigration, right.
HAYES: Expanding it, do think it`s --
HURD: Absolutely. The United States of America has benefited from the brain drain of every other country for the last couple of decades. Let`s continue that. It`s a great crowd by the way.
HAYES: You got them -- you got them applauding private property and the CIA in the first minute. You`re a pretty good politician. Why are you retiring?
HURD: I`m retiring because I`m looking to help my country in a different way.
HAYES: I know that`s what you say, but why are you really retiring?
HURD: I want to help -- I want to make sure there`s 15, 20 folks like me that are in Washington D.C. and the only way to do that --
HAYES: What do you mean by that?
HURD: -- is to go help Republicans and Republican primaries, right. And so we know how to do that. That`s what I`ve been doing for the last three election cycles. Also, my background and passion is national security, it`s technology, to be able to continue working at that nexus in a number of different ways, I`m looking forward to do that.
And I -- look, I left the CIA in order to help my country in a different way. In addition to collecting intelligence, I had two brief members of Congress and I was pretty shocked by the caliber of our elected officials. And my mama said you`re part of the problem, part of the solution so I decided to run then.
And so now I think I can help my country in a different way, politically working on these -- on these issues because we have some generational challenges that we have to deal.
HAYES: I want to end with this quote that you talked to Log Cabin Republicans, it`s a conservative GOP group. You said, this is a party that is shrinking. The party is not growing is for the largest parts for a country. Why is that? I`ll tell you, it`s really simple. Don`t be an A- hole, don`t be racist, don`t be a misogynist, don`t be a homophobe. These are real basic things, the things we should all learn when we were in kindergarten. Is that directed at anyone?
HURD: I was -- I was just speaking my mind, right. And we look at in Texas. I always tell my colleagues in Texas, if the Republican Party in Texas doesn`t start looking like Texas, there`s not going to be a Republican Party in Texas.
HAYES: That`s right.
HURD: And that can -- that can apply for the -- to the rest of the country. And so my goal is to go in -- and look, I go to communities. I consistently win -- I`m a black Republican representing a 71 percent Latino district, right.
And so you know, what I`ve learned crisscrossing a district that`s actually 50-50, 50 percent Republican, 50 percent Democrat is that the way more unites us than divides us. And if we focus on those things that we agree on we can solve real problems.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Next, there`s been a president -- there never been more corrupt president in our lifetime. The reason we know that is because there`s one reporter just never stops digging. He is here with us. Don`t go away.
HAYES: You remember that weird moment back in January 2016, it was during the primaries, when Donald Trump was in a fight with Fox News, and he decided to skip their debate, and instead held a fund-raiser for veterans, and he bragged that he raised $6 million for the vets, including a million from his own pocket, and then started handing out these huge novelty checks on the campaign trail.
But here is the thing, he stiffed veterans. He didn`t -- it was the craziest thing. So one reporter at The Washington Post just started running around trying to find out exactly where the money went. And what he found out was that Donald Trump hadn`t donated all that at all. The reporter basically shamed him into giving the money, and then we -- pretty good. And then we went on to elect that guy president, and the one who reported it got a Pulitzer. And he has now become the foremost reporter on the scope of the president`s corruption and his conflicts of interest, David Farenthold joins me now.
HAYES: So you start on this journey where the president says I gave a million dollars. And you think where is that? You start calling up organizations.
DAVID FARENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTONPOST: Yeah.
HAYEDS: At a certain point, the president calls you. He is candidate at that point. Is that right?
FARENTHOLD: Yeah, he called me. And so at this point, his campaign had said he had given a million dollars to veterans, but I couldn`t find any evidence that he had. I spent all this time looking, calling every veterans organization I could think of, every person who knew a veteran I could think of, I couldn`t find any evidence he had given the money out.
And so Trump called me. And Trump said then, OK, you know, 10 minutes ago I gave a million dollars away to this...
HAYES: Happy now?
FARENTHOLD: Yeah, right.
And it was one of the strangest conversations I`ve ever had, because it didn`t end there. There was a bunch of other people`s money that other people had given him that he was still sitting on that he said he would give to veterans. And so while I had him on the phone, I would say, well, OK, you know, where is that money? And he would -- it`s this weird interaction where he would say, instead of answering the question, he would say "you`re a nasty person." Your the worst person ever. Like, what`s the point in arguing about that?
First of all, I can`t be the worst person ever. But also, what`s the point in arguing a bout that. So, I would say OK, thank you, Mr. Candidate. Let`s go back to the subject of these donations. And he would sort of briefly reset and answer the question sort of semi-factually or address it factually, but then devolve into insults again.
We did that five or six times before the interview was over.
HAYES: And so then -- so, after this big kind of -- you discovered this. He said he gave a million dollars, he didn`t, and then he has to give it. And then your editor Marty Baron has a conversation with you about how to make this a beat.
FARENTHOLD: Right. This had been sort of a one-off kind of a hobby for me. It was not like somebody said go write about Donald Trump`s charitable giving. But Marty said that. And said, OK, well, under the microscope of a presidential campaign, this is the brightest spotlight we have in American journalism. This guy tried to stiff veterans, the most honored group in our society. And if he is willing to try that under the microscope we have on him now, what was he doing before when it was just Entertainment Tonight keeping him honest, you know?
HAYES: Right. Right.
HAYES: You -- so, you do this great reporting on the foundation throughout the campaign. There is this great -- there is all these amazing colorful details, one of them is he keeps buying big portraits of himself with -- we have the portrait of foundation money. He uses foundation money to buy big portraits of himself and then puts him in his property, and there is no money that ever goes to -- there is not real charity there.
FARENTHOLD: Well, so this is what happened. People, often at Mar-a-Lago, this sort of as a side entertainment, they`ll have like an auction of paintings or whatever. And I think the artists had learned that if you paint a picture of Donald Trump, he has to buy it, because no one else will buy it, and then it`s just sitting there unsold. And so he would buy these paintings of himself.
And this is a charity auction, right, so if he wants to spend $20,000, which is what it was in one case, to buy a giant picture of himself, the money goes to charity. The problem is that he didn`t use his own money, he used his charity`s money to buy, to save him money, OK. And now you do that, if your charity buys the painting, that painting is now a charitable asset and must be used for charitable purposes.
So that became an important question. Where is this painting? Is it hanging on the wall of a children`s hospital some place? Not that you would endorse that, but that would at least be...
HAYES: That`s not very charitable. I mean...
FARENTHOLD: In a legal sense it would be.
HAYES: Children`s oncology ward, like.
FARENTHOLD: Right, right.
So we needed to know where it was, what purpose is it serving. And so after a long search using Twitter, one of my Twitter followers found it hanging on the wall of his golf resort at Doral, future site of the Group of Seven summit.
HAYES: We`re going to talk it.
Well, so you do this, and basically now the foundation has been shut down by the state authorities.
FARENTHOLD: The New York attorney general has basically shuddered it.
FARENTHOLD: They`re going to shut it down as soon as they can figure out how to distribute it`s -- the court will supervise the distribution of its assets.
HAYES: What is -- you then move into a different sort of part of this beat, which is the foundation`s relatively small. And it`s a small world. And you can kind of track down -- they both have to have public filings, and you can track down some other folks that are involved in it.
Now we have a president who has a vast business empire that he is not really that disconnected from. What have you been able to find out about that part of his finances?
FARENTHOLD: You`re right that that`s been a much more difficult task, because it`s unlike the charity, a lot of its assets and details are much better hidden.
But we spend a lot of time on it now. And what we know is a lot of it is not doing very well. And we spend a lot of time trying to identify on the logic that if his business does worse, he could become more desperate for favors or other people seeking to help him through his business, right?
You`d rather have a president -- as bad as it sounds, you maybe would rather have a president getting rich off his business than a president losing money and needing help with his business.
HAYES: You know, I have never heard you articulate that as the -- so your theory of the case is a desperate in debt spiraling downward president would be dangerous from a corruption perspective or a foreign influence perspective because they might be desperate to do whatever they can to get loans or gifts or money to stay afloat.
FARENTHOLD: Right. You at least -- as an American, you would want to know that, right?
HAYES: Yes. Yes. I think that`s fair to say. Sure, yeah.
FARENTHOLD: Is the president trying to, you know, pay off a loan on Friday? You know, w hat will he do if he`s in that kind of desperation?
So, we`ve looked a at lot of his businesses. And I still can`t tell you if the whole business is making money or losing money, but a lot of his businesses are doing poorly. Some of them have shut down. He has lost hotels. So we`ve spent a lot of time trying to understand that piece of it as well as who is putting money in.
HAYES: Well, that part has been really interesting. So you`ve had a few stories that -- and we`ve covered on the show. And I think, you know, almost ipso facto merit, if not impeachment, real, real scrutiny, right, pose real constitutional threats.
I mean, I think you have two stories, at least one and maybe two stories about Saudis just dumping a ton of money into his hotels.
FARENTHOLD: That`s right, there are at least two instances of that. One Saudi lobbyists, right after he gets elected, they`re running this sort of bogus lobbying campaign where they would fly American veterans into Washington and have them lobby congress for a bill that the Saudis secretly opposed -- against a bill -- they were doing the Saudis` bidding without knowing it.
HAYES: Right, it`s this weird thing where you have got veterans who get flown out to lobby against a bill the Saudis want to kill. They don`t know they`re doing it at the behest of the Saudis. The Saudis are putting the money and putting them up in the Trump Hotel.
FARENTHOLD: 500 hotel rooms.
HAYES: 500 hotel rooms.
FARENTHOLD: 500 hotel rooms over the course of three months at the Trump Hotel, plus banquet halls, meals, all kinds of things. It was at least $270,000.
HAYES: I mean, just to put it in context, if we found out that MBS had written a check to Donald Trump for $270,000, which is not obviously there is some expenses here, but if we found out that the Saudi prince had written the president a check for $270,000, that would obviously be...
HAYES: The biggest story in the world, right?
And I think we are just trying to -- like we`re just starting to understand how it works with Trump, right. I mean, maybe somebody is writing him checks, I don`t know. I`ve never seen that. But there are ways that people get money to him through his businesses. His businesses are 100 percent owned by him, so you pay his business $270,000, that`s a personal asset of his.
And you`re right, there is expenses, it`s not $270,000 of pure profit, but that`s money that goes to a pot that he controls.
HAYES: It`s not just that, too, it`s the fact that when you do 500 rooms of business, or in the case of the Trump Hotel here in New York, when the Saudi family came through and I think you reported that they put them in the black for the quarter, right?
FARENTHOLD: Yeah, so the Trump Hotel in New York on Central Park West has not been doing very well. It`s been losing a lot of business. But they wrote this letter to their investors at the beginning of last year saying great news, for once we made a profit for the quarter. And the reason was one group of Saudi travelers traveling with the crown prince. They stayed for five days. They spent so much, the whole hotel made money for the quarter.
HAYES: So, there are two things about that that are problematic. One, the constitution`s emoluments clause, the idea of -- but, two, in both the cases you can imagine the information getting back to the president, right. I mean, it would be one thing if this was happening and he was blind to it all. He doesn`t know where the money is coming from, but when they write an investment letter to investors saying we had a great quarter because the Saudis came through or 500 rooms get booked, there is a plausible case that it gets back to him.
FARENTHOLD: Right. That`s one thing we`ve really been interested in. And I can`t tell you that much about is what information gets to him and how it gets to him, right. So, if the Saudis spend that much money and they tell their investors about it, does that go to him? Who tells him. That communication between the business and Trump is something I still don`t understand very well.
HAYES: In both those cases, you got scoops. You got tips. There is -- correct me if I`m wrong, there is no real way to look into the president`s finances right now?
FARENTHOLD: No. I mean, not in any sort of holistic way. I can tell you how this business is doing or that business is doing, but the whole shebang, no.
HAYES: You mentioned this earlier, the president started the week by getting up in front of a microphone and promoting Doral, which is his property in Florida, as the site of the next G7. How is Doral doing?
FARENTHOLD: Not well. Really poorly, actually. Doral, it`s important to know at the start, Doral is a huge part of his finances. It`s a big hotel. But unlike other hotels, he owns it directly, so all the revenue goes to him.
HAYES: It`s not a franchise.
FARENTHOLD: Exactly. And so it`s the biggest source of revenue of all of his hotels. It has one of the biggest loans. And since 2015, it has been, in the words of Trump`s own representatives, severely under-performing. Profits have gone down 69 percent since 2015. And the reason, it was actually great, we got this video of Trump`s representative talking to Miami-Dade County in search of a lower tax valuation, but she was explaining why the hotel was doing so poorly. And she basically, the reason is Trump. The reason is the brand. There is a negative connotation on the brand.
So this is a hotel that needs help.
FARENTHOLD: This is a hotel that could use a big influx of revenue. I mean, even if it didn`t push into profitability, just a bunch of revenue to keep the lights on would be hugely welcome there.
HAYES: Final question, the investigative reporting genie pops out of the lamp and he comes to you, David Farenthold. And he says David, I grant you one wish. You get to look at any set of documents you want.
FARENTHOLD: We`re limiting to Trump Org, I guess.
HAYES: Yeah, yeah.
FARENTHOLD: Are there UFOs or not.
I mean, I guess what I`d want to know is how is the business doing overall and if it needs financial help, where does that financial help come from. Have they ever gone to anybody outside their company, outside of the sources of money that we know about which are Deutsche Bank and other public lenders. Have they ever reached out beyond that for financial help, either during the presidency and the years preceding the presidency?
HAYES: Great question. Maybe we`ll get an answer some day. David Farenthold, thanks for being with us.
HAYES: Next up, what if we all just ignore the president? That`s our discussion when we return.
HAYES: We recently had a kind of unicorn day in the Trump era. These are the front pages of today`s three major newspapers, OK. Look at them. You notice anything? None of these paper have Donald Trump on them. He is in none of the headlines. That is exceedingly rare in the era of the ubiquitous president.
And guess what, he wasn`t on the front of yesterday`s papers either. Look, same three papers.
Here is a question I think for both Democratic candidates, Democratic strategists who are thinking about how to beat Donald Trump and the media thinking about how to cover him, particularly during the campaign and when it wraps up, is all the attention good for Donald Trump or bad for Donald Trump? Is it good for him not to be on the front page or bad for him not to be on the front page? I think it`s incredibly intense debate in terms of how it all sorts out. The actors in the media and political system and how they relate to the president.
Here to talk about it, Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of Talking Points memo; Danielle Moodie-Mills, host of SiriusXM`s weekly political show Woke AF; and Jelani Cobb, staff writer at The New Yorker. Give them a hand.
HAYES: So, let me just first stipulate that when he`s not -- it`s bad for him psychologically when he`s not the source of attention, like that we know. Politically, less attention paid on Donald Trump, is that good or bad for Donald Trump, Danielle? it`s good for country but
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, HOST, WOKE AF: It`s -- I mean, it`s good for the country, but it`s bad for Donald Trump. I mean, Donald Trump has a very fragile ego. And so when he is not in the press, he does his best to make news, which is when he goes on his Twitter rants.
HAYES: Right, but I mean, politically, like if you are looking at -- if you were advising him as a political strategist and he was a person who was containable...
MOODIE-MILLS: And I was not a reality TV show producer.
HAYES: Yes. Exactly, if it wasn`t reality TV, if you are trying to get his approval rating up as high as possible, is your advice to him, stay off the headlines or always be in the headlines?
MOODIE-MILLS: Stay off of the headlines unless you are executing policy that is going to benefit the American people, because when he is in the headlines, it`s generally bad.
HAYES: Yeah, what do you think?
JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO: Yeah, I think there`s actually pretty consistent polling data that Trump, not that often, but he goes through periods of being relatively normal, right? And over time, his poll number go up. And if you just over the last few weeks with all these different things happen, notwithstanding the last couple days, he is trending down.
So, all of the antics and stuff, it makes him less popular. It`s in a pretty tight bound, but basically, up until now -- look the economy during his presidency, even if it`s not his doing, has been pretty good. So, as long as he is just -- you are not hearing from him, the incumbent is popular because the economy is doing well.
I think it`s good for him when he shuts up.
HAYES: The argument on the other side, right, is that the attention is the most important commodity of our time, it`s the reason that Facebook is worth billions of dollars, right, because they get eyeballs and people look at it, and that even if the polling doesn`t reflect this, there`s a kind of superpower, and there`s a kind of power conferred on him by all the attention.
JELANI COBB, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Sure. But he has had a malignant charisma to him from the get go and, you know, people have trafficked on it. But it`s also -- I think there`s a particular democratic for whom him saying things that are outrageous, him insulting people, him getting into feuds with people who have comparatively less power than him, which is everyone in the country, these people really feel that he is championing them.
But on the other side of it, those of us who are in the actual reality are more concerned about what this says about policy, like about stability of the person who has his hand on the control of the economy and military and so on.
HAYES: But there`s also a kind of -- I feel like there`s a dark, also compulsive emotional attachment to the villainy.
HAYES: Right, like the way that he is -- the way he he kind of excavates for his supporters a sense that they`re embattled and he`s fighting for them -- there`s also a sense, Danielle, for the folks that listen to your radio or call into it, right, it`s hard for everyone to break the habit of paying attention.
MOODIE-MILLS: It is really hard, because you want to be in the know, because the fear is that when you are not paying attention, that that one minute that you decide to, I don`t know, walk your dog or take a nap, that the world is going to end and you will have found out about it on Twitter. So, like -- so that`s a real fear and anxiety that people say on a regular basis to me when they call int. And so they want to be tapped in, but they`re so tapped out. It is exhausting following Donald Trump on a regular basis.
HAYES: How much -- how do you think that -- I think that exhaustion is -- I think it`s felt across the political spectrum. I wonder how you think that ends up playing politically, right, because the media has to figure out what`s newsworthy and how do we deal with this person lying all the time.
Democratic campaign strategists have to figure out, how do you extricate yourself from the vortex? And what do you do, or what do you deliver as a message to people that are exhausted?
MARSHALL: Right. It`s tough. And we have seen this even with -- in the ways that we interact with our readers and stuff. There are a lot of people out there who are very political, very concerned, and a lot of them saying, I got to turn off a bit. I feel like I`m drinking poison, basically.
But as people who cover the news, fundamentally we are about the reality of the situation. And the reality of the situation is this man is president of the United States. He controls the biggest military that has ever existed in the history of the world. So I think there is a -- there is a certain strain of thinking of -- you know, the sort of higher thinking journalism, which is, if we just...
HAYES: He is a sideshow.
MARSHALL: ...ignore this stuff, we`re going to take away the oxygen. And it kind of won`t exist. And I have always thought, kind of before there was Trump, when there was sort of the subterranean Trumpness that was everywhere in our politics. Ignoring that stuff does not make it go away, it just makes you surprised when it kind of comes up.
So, fundamentally, I don`t think we can ignore it, because it is the reality of the situation. And I think that applies to Democrat candidates, too. The situation in the country right now is that Donald Trump is the president of the United States, and that is a crisis. And if you try to run a campaign ignoring that fact...
MARSHALL: ...you are going to seem stupid and irrelevant.
COBB: So, I mean, the fundamental conflict here is about what you are doing for ratings or what you are doing as a responsibility. And our responsibility is to cover what`s going on at this extraordinary moment in our history. And there`s a temptation -- and lots of American institutions have displayed it since November of 2016 -- there`s this temptation to just stick your head in the sand and pretend that this is all just a regular, normal event. It is not. And it is terrifying. And people don`t want to tune in to something where they will be terrified.
But the fact is, we have a responsibility of saying that this is what`s happening on any given day.
HAYES: Right, but the problem with that, right, is that normalcy is almost -- it`s a phenomenon created by repetition. The phrase I always use is, you know, the dial only goes to ten, right. And once you put it up to 10 for long enough, it starts to sound like five. Like you can only modulate so much. And this is the kind of -- if everything is a crisis, nothing is a crisis. Which is a challenge, right.
People say, don`t normalize. But then you don`t want to be histrionic and constantly being like this is nuts. This is nuts.
COBB: Except that given the level of insanity that we have seen just in his demeanor, in his rhetoric, we have not seen a corresponding catastrophe in foreign affairs or in the economy or any other things that we know are super sensitive, delicate things that require a really fundamentally sane person at the wheel.
What happens when something like that does happen? What happens when his policy toward Iran is driven more by his whim that particular morning or what someone has said on Fox News that day?
MOODIE-MILLS: This is actually what -- this is Donald Trump`s fundamental strategy, and it`s the strategy of the Republican Party -- when he came into office, the day after inauguration day, Psychology Today magazine put out an article called the 11 warning signs of gaslighting. One of the 11 signs are to lie about everything, because then you believe nothing, right. You lie about everything. You believe nothing. You discredit agencies. You discredit people. You say, don`t believe your lying eyes, believe the words coming out of my mouth. That is fundamentally Donald Trump`s strategy.
So, it`s not just the normalization, it is actually the breakdown of everything that we have come to understand as what makes us a fundamental democracy.
HAYES: And then that becomes the issue for -- you know, right now you talked about this, Josh, in terms of the campaign. So, you know, they had this strategy in the midterms. If you look at the ads, and say the 40 districts they flipped, they are about health -- they`re not about Donald Trump. They are certainly not about impeachment, they`re certainly not about the Russia investigation, they are about health care, kitchen table issues. Can you do that when you are running for president and he is the one who is on the ballot?
MARSHALL: You know, I think you can actually do both. And I would actually say, yes, the messaging down in those districts is going to be about health care, because that was -- that has been the big thing that was on the table in the first two years. We can talk about all these more general issues, but whether you are going to lose your health care, whether we are going to go back to pre-existing conditions, all that, that was on the table.
I think at a basic level, though, everybody knows Trump is president. And so it is so overpowering. And he is overpowering that at a certain level, you don`t always have to say it, but I do think that you -- ignoring something doesn`t make it go away.
HAYES: Yeah, you can`t ignore it -- you can`t ignore it, but what you have to do is stand your ground and talk -- amidst the vortex, and while the winds whip, you have to sort of stand in there. That`s going to be a very hard thing to do. It was in 2016.
Jelani Cobb, Danielle Moodie-Mills, and Josh Marshall, thank you so much for being here.
That does it for our second ever All In Live here in Studio Six today. Our last studio show is next Friday, September 6. So come, please come be part of the audience for that. Tickets are free, you can find them at our website, msnbc.com/allin. They are available now. I hope to see you right here live in New York next Friday.
That`s All In for this evening. Thank you so much to everyone here. Thank you everyone watching at home. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now with Joy Reid in for Rachel. Good evening, Joy.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END