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McConnel refuses to bring gun bills. TRANSCRIPT: 9/12/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Jamie Raskin, Richard Blumenthal, Josh Kaul, Juliet Eilperin, LeeGelernt

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Stay with MSNBC tonight for our special analysis and coverage of the third Democratic debate here in Houston, Texas tonight.  coverage starts at 11:00 p.m. Eastern here.  I`ll be back then or earlier from the spin room.  Check with us about 20 to 11.  I`m going to be earlier.

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, on ALL IN.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  This investigation will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump.

VELSHI:  The Judiciary Committee moves forward on an impeachment investigation.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:  Legislate, investigate, litigate, that`s the path we have been on.

VELSHI:  As Republicans challenged Democrats to bring a vote to the House floor.

REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R-CA):  I dare you to do it.  In fact, I double-dog dare you.

VELSHI:  Tonight, what happens next in the House and exactly what Democrats are planning to investigate starting next week.

NADLER:  Allegations of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power against the president.

VELSHI:  Then, the chance of a record-breaking opioid settlement with the makers of Oxycontin and why 20 states say it`s not enough.  Plus --

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Senate Republicans have made it clear they`re not going to do anything without President Trump`s blessing on guns and so we`ve got to work through the White House.

VELSHI:  The wait for the President to do something about guns.  And the guy who once sung the praises of asbestos.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A lot of people in my industry think asbestos is the greatest fireproofing material.

VELSHI:  Is now gutting clean water protections.

TRUMP:  There`s a whole debate about asbestos.

VELSHI:  When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Good evening from New York I`m Ali Velshi in for Chris Hayes.  It may not seem like it but today was a historic day on Capitol Hill.  Today, House Democrats officially began an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.  The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to approve the rules for "investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Donald J. Trump."

It is the first impeachment inquiry opened into a president since Bill Clinton and only the third in the last 150 years.  House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said the new rules will take effect next week when Trump`s first campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is expected to testify.  Here`s how he explained the scope of the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER:  This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump.  That is what we are doing.  Some call this process and impeachment inquiry, some call it an impeachment investigation.

There`s no legal difference between these terms and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.  But that -- but let me clear up any remaining doubt.  The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy.  We have an obligation to respond to this threat and we are doing so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Now, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee fought back against today`s vote complaining about Hillary Clinton`s campaign calling Robert Mueller`s testimony a flop and falsely arguing that Democrats were violating House procedure with this vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLINTOCK:  In the 206 years that this committee has said, it has never conducted an impeachment proceeding without first being authorized to do so by a vote of the full House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  That is in fact not true.  When Democrats began impeachment proceedings against President Nixon in October of 1973, they did it in exactly the same way with a House Judiciary vote laying out the ground rules.

The New York Times described it this way 46 years ago.  "The resolution itself finally passed on 3rd roll called division along party lines.  Thus began the second formal inquiry in the nation`s history."  Republicans also questioned whether Democrats were serious about impeachment or just trying to satisfy their base.  Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline left little room for misunderstanding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GUY RESCHENTHALER (R-PA):  So can I ask, are you conducting an impeachment inquiry or not?  If you are, just be honest with the American people.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI):  Will the gentleman yield so we can answer his question?  So the answer is, yes.  We are engaged in impeachment investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  We are engaged in an impeachment investigation. The Washington Post reports that a group of House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee has begun privately mapping a list of possible charges against President Trump sketching out the contours of potential articles of impeachment even as House leaders publicly resist taking such action.

I should tell you, a Judiciary Committee spokesman told NBC News in a carefully worded statement, "Any suggestion that such articles have already been drafted or that the committee`s work is already concluded is categorically false.  But the Train has now left the station and there`s no longer a question about if congressional Democrats will hold an impeachment inquiry, the question now is what happens next."

Joining me to help answer that question is one of the Congresspeople leading this impeachment inquiry, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland.  He`s a member of both the Judiciary and Oversight Committees.  Congressman, thank you for being with us tonight.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD):  And thanks for having me.

VELSHI:  Tell me and tell our viewers what today means.  What has happened?  What makes this different than yesterday?

RASKIN:  Well we just set the rules forward for the hearings.  The Chairman of the Committee Mr. Nadler will be able to designate certain hearings as part of the impeachment investigation both at the committee level in the subcommittee level.

And then there will be 30 minutes of questioning by staff after the traditional five minutes each for each of the members, and President Trump will have a chance to essentially reply to anything that he wants so that they`ll he`ll have a chance for his fair ups. We`re trying to make it as even as we go forward.

So and now we can put behind us this whole debate about internal congressional process that the public doesn`t really care about and focus on the question of presidential misconduct and what`s been taking place in the White House.  And I think that the critical substantive change that`s going to happen here is we are broadening out considerably from what was detailed in the Mueller report to look at a whole series of other charges.

And my own personal focus at least for the next several weeks is going to be the question of the President`s use of the office as an instrument of self-enrichment and the self-dealing which violates the domestic emoluments clause in the foreign government emoluments clause as this president has pocketed millions of dollars from foreign government agents and actors like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Indonesia, and so on.

VELSHI:  What do you think that this investigation can achieve that hasn`t been achieved by the Southern District of New York, the Mueller investigation other than the obvious impeachment, what do you hope you uncover that hasn`t been uncovered?

RASKIN:  Well, the Mueller report was sharply limited on its own terms to an investigation into the 2016 massive and systematic interference in our election by the Russians and then the President`s repeated attempts to obstruct the investigation into the role that his campaign played in welcoming the Russian interference.

But that`s a very small part of the overall picture and I think it also leaves the public somewhat befuddled as to what motivated that.  And I think the critical clue was offered by the President himself when he said that if the Mueller investigation looked at his finances, he would blow the whole thing up.  And that tells us precisely where we need to start.

This has been a money-making operation from day one.  The president has steered millions of dollars into the hotels, the office tower, and other business ventures around the world with engagements with foreign governments, and he`s also steered millions of dollars in taxpayer money into the hotels, and resorts, and golf courses where he`s spent one-third of his days since entering office.

Imagine if Barack Obama had spent one-third of his days in Martha`s Vineyard in the Secret Service and the Department of Defense and the FBI and everybody had to pay on the government`s tab to stay at the Barack Obama hotel.  The Republicans would have been calling for impeachment you know, months and months ago, and it`s all they would be talking about.

VELSHI:  Let me ask you about this.

RASKIN:  They`re still talking about Hillary Clinton`s e-mails, so --

VELSHI:  Let me ask you about this.  I know you say we can put behind us the machinations of Congress that a lot of people are not interested in.  There are some people including Nancy Pelosi who think this is a dangerous road to go down.  She has articulated that.  Tell me where we are today.  Has Nadler just sort of ignored that and is moving ahead?

RASKIN:  No, because it`s never dangerous in a democracy to find the truth.  And I think Speaker Pelosi is totally with the program.  Our caucus is completely unified in trying to expose and counter all of the lawlessness and corruption emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  We`re all together on that.

Now, everybody has a different inclination as to what`s going to happen as an endgame, but I think there are very few people who feel certain about what should be done.  And remember there`s a whole range of responses here.

I know that the media has tried to cast it as just do you impeach or do not impeach, but there are a lot of other things that can happen.  And the major thing is for the truth to come out because democracy needs to have a foundation, and that foundation is the truth.

VELSHI:  Congressman, good to talk to you.  Thank you for joining me tonight, Congressman Jamie Raskin.  Joining me for more on what the Judiciary Committee will be looking at Joyce Vance former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and Jill Wine-Banks former Assistant Watergate Special Prosecutor, both are MSNBC Legal Analysts.

Jill, let me start with you because you were a prosecutor during Watergate.  The Republicans have gone out of their way to say this is not authorized, it`s not the way it`s done.  But in fact, on the merits, it looks very similar to the way it was done during Watergate.

JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It not only looks similar it is similar.  And I would add to what Representative Raskin said that one of the big differences in where we are now is that the Office of Legal Counsel has prohibited any indictment.

So the Southern District of New York and the federal government`s Department of Justice cannot proceed.  That leaves only one alternative and that is impeachment.  So it is really as far as I`m concerned, a constitutional responsibility of Congress to do the investigation and to find the facts.

I agree with him completely.  During Watergate, the approval rating for Nixon before the hearings was about 60 some percent.  He was overwhelmingly favored.  He had won 49 out of 50 states and the popular vote.

By the time the hearing started, his approval ratings sank down into the teens and settled around 21 percent.  And that was because facts matter and the truth makes a difference.  And I think that even the Republicans in the House may start to see the facts and could support impeachment.

Also, the difference is that impeachment is not the same as a criminal case.  You don`t need to have all the elements of a crime established.  You need to show that democracy is at risk, that our national security is at risk, that the Constitution is at risk.  And that`s where I think we are, and that`s why they need to do this for the emoluments as well as the criminal cases.

VELSHI:  You know, Joyce, what Congressman Raskin said to me at the end is people get obsessed with do you impeach or do you not impeach but that the process is more important.  That`s similar to what Jill was just saying.  What are the options for a lot of Americans in impeachment inquiry leads to something that looks like an impeachment or a vote about impeachment but in fact there`s more to it than that?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It`s a complex question because it`s a political sort of a process not a legal one.  It`s not an investigation where at the end you decide to indict or not to impeach or not.  Instead, here, there are nuances in large part because we know that over on the Senate it`s very unlikely that an impeachment bill would be brought to the floor.

And so I think it`s correct to view this much more as a truth-finding process and something that the American people have been starved for since this administration began is the truth.  Now they`ll have an opportunity to hear it.

These rules today bring about an important new procedure which will permit questioning by professional counsel on both sides in the House Judiciary Committee.  So for each of the witnesses, that`s called from here on out, they`ll be approximately an hour that will be devoted to this questioning by staff.

We`re used to seeing the Congresspeople, the members ask questions in five- minute bursts and that can be very illuminating but it also doesn`t tend to give us a consistent timeline like this process will.  So next week we`ve got a few witnesses coming in including Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn.  He ran the transition team and then went to the White House and the American people will have a chance to hear a linear progression of their testimony.

VELSHI:  Jill, let`s talk about the idea that this President has put forward that his people, people under executive authority will not cooperate with Congress in any meaningful way.  How does that change with these hearings?  Can the president prevent people from testifying?

WINE-BANKS:  I think that the extent that the courts will go increases by the declination -- by the decision to call it impeachment.  Once it`s an impeachment, it is definitely a judicial proceeding and that allows the courts to enforce these subpoenas without a question.

I think there are a lot of options that can follow that even if we can`t get a vote in the Senate.  Number one, the impeachment could happen at the House side and then there`s at least an asterisk, there`s at least some accountability.

And when people go to vote, they will know that the president has been held accountable, that he has done certain things that deserved to be countered as an impeachment, as an impeachable offense.  And so I think it`s important to go with that.

He could be censured.  He doesn`t have to have a vote of impeachment.  It could just be a censure.  So I think there`s a lot of reasons for going ahead just to have an informed electorate in 2020.  Let people vote knowing what the facts are.

VELSHI:  That`s an important point, Joyce.  Does this process -- we`re a year and a bit away, a year and two months away from an election.  Can this process be completed in that fashion?

VANCE:  Well, certainly, they can make a good start and the endpoint may matter less than the process itself, but the real perplexing issue that Democrats have to confront is how do they focus.  Part of the difficulty here all along has been that there are so many potential issues to look at with this president and this administration.

So did they go back to the Mueller report and focus on Russian -- really everything that happened with Russia and then the effort to obstruct justice to try to keep it from coming to light?  Do they focus on emoluments clause and focus on what`s currently going on in the White House and this legacy of corruption?  Do they go back and look the transition?

It`s sort of an abundance of riches.  It`s almost too much.  And given this short timeline, I think the most important decision Democrats will make in the coming weeks is where do they want to focus.  Do they want to have this broad let`s look at everything sort of approach or do they want to find what they believe to be the most troubling examples of this president`s behavior and limit their inquiries into those sorts of issues?

VELSHI:  Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks, I couldn`t ask for a to better people to lead us into this as this impeachment inquiry begins.  Thanks to both of you for joining me tonight.

WINE-BANKS:  Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI:  All right, next as the White House vows to take immediate steps to address the dangers of vaping, many are left wondering what about guns?  Well, there might be some news on that.  The latest after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI:  There have been at least six deaths and hundreds of illnesses tied to vaping in the United States.  And it seems like that number got to the president so much so that yesterday the President and the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar convened in the Oval Office to announce that they plan on banning the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes.

Six deaths, six more than there should have been, and may be the tip of the spear, but there are more than 33,000 gun deaths in America every year, more than 250 gun deaths in the United States last week alone.  But we`ve seen no similar action when it comes to guns.

Trump is vowing to finally do something to address the epidemic though he`s made a promise like that before with little result.  Last month he reportedly assured the NRA he will not sign universal background checks into law despite overwhelming support among the public.

But amid continuing negotiations between the White House and some Senate lawmakers, there are some small reasons for optimism.  Today, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina signaled that he would be open to supporting an expanded background check bill citing the nation`s most recent mass shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  I don`t know how you get around the idea that a man who was adjudicated mentally ill was denied a gun purchased when he went to a gun store wound up buying a gun from a man who sells guns on the side and there`s no background check.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI:  Now, after Graham said that, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut pointed to Graham`s words and tweeted, "A lot of pieces are in motion right now.  Keep paying attention."  I`m joined now by the other Democratic Senator from Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.  Senator, good to see you.  Thank you for being here.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  Thank you.

VELSHI:  You just told me in the commercial break that you actually think - - you`re feeling better about this.  You think we`re closer to something being done than we have been in a long time.

BLUMENTHAL:  I am more hopeful than ever before.  I think we`re closer than we have ever been.  I`ve been working on this issue for --

VELSHI:  I know.

BLUMENTHAL:  -- 2-1/2 decades, and working with Lindsey Graham on an emergency risk protection order statute.  He has been extremely diligent and serious, a wonderful partner in this effort.  And we virtually have a bill that we have been negotiating with the White House on.  And it`s part of a comprehensive plan including universal background check.

The goal is to do both and they are really two sides of the same coin, both aim to save lives as many lives as quickly as possible.  Both aim to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.  And so far as that risk protection order --

VELSHI:  Yes.

BLUMENTHAL:  We know it works.  We know --

VELSHI:  Is that like a red flag?  Is that -- is that similar --

BLUMENTHAL:  It is exactly the red flag statue emergency risk protection order.  Connecticut was the first to have them.  We know it works in Connecticut.  Not only it prevents the mass shootings but also suicide.

VELSHI:  Well, most shootings are not -- most gun deaths are not mass shootings, most or suicides.

BLUMENTHAL:  60 percent are suicides and a lot of them are also domestic violence cases.  Women are five times as likely to die from domestic violence if it`s a gun matter.

VELSHI:  The trick is that in many of these cases both domestic violence and suicides, someone might have had a clue.  And this system these red flag laws I think are in place in 16 or 17 states now and they don`t compromise anybody`s Second Amendment rights to own a gun.

BLUMENTHAL:  That is really an important point.  There is due process.  Police can seek a warrant much as they do now with an arrest warrant or a search warrant from a judicial officer, and then there is the opportunity for anybody who`s gun is taken away to seek a hearing and regain the gun if the facts warranted, but there is due process.

And one of the points is really important.  Keeping guns away from dangerous people involves police officers learning as they did in Parkland that someone is going to kill people whether it`s herself or himself or someone else in domestic violence or suicide.

VELSHI:  Let me ask you about background checks.  The president alternately says we need better background checks and we`ve got great background checks.  He`s actually sort of right in both cases.  We have systems in which background checks can be done thoroughly but people can get around them.

If the FBI is backlogged or the background system is backlogged and they don`t get back to in a certain amount of time, you can get the gun.  And as Lindsey Graham pointed out, you can get the gun offline, somewhere else from a private seller, or a gun show.  One doesn`t have to be a lawyer to understand that`s a stupid loophole.

BLUMENTHAL:  The current background check system is riddled with significant loopholes.  The internet sales, the gun show sales, other kinds of loopholes like the Charleston loophole so-called because the shooter there and the church was able to get a gun simply because the time expired when he made the purchase.

But here`s the point there.  It`s simply a means to enforce prohibitions against already defined categories of people who are dangerous from buying those guns.  And they already supported the law that defines those categories of people.  So Lindsey Graham is absolutely right.  It makes common sense.

And here`s the other important point.  You know, the American people are really saying enough is enough.  There is a seismic movement that now is determining the 90 percent of people who want background checks and red flag or emergency or is protection orders and that political dynamic I think is driving business.  And Mitch McConnell ought to put these bills on the floor.  There`s no law --

VELSHI:  But he says he can`t until he knows what the president is going to sign.  That strikes me as odd considering you`re a co-equal branch of government.  Why should the Senate be waiting for the President to decide what he`ll sign before introducing legislation?

BLUMENTHAL:  There is nothing in the Constitution that says the United States Congress should pass laws only that the president says he`s going to sign.  In fact, on the contrary, the Congress has an independent obligation.

And we have a historic opportunity, so does the president.  It really is a presidential moment here where we should seize this opportunity and save lives which is really what the purpose is here of both background checks and the extremist`s protection order statutes as well as ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  The groups have made such a difference here.

VELSHI:  Yes, they really are.

BLUMENTHAL:  The Moms Demand Action, Every Town for Gun Safety, Students Demand Action --

VELSHI:  The March -- yes.

BLUMENTHAL:  March for Our Lives, Giffords, Brady, they have created a political movement here.

VELSHI:  Yes, they really have.  Senator, good to see you.  Thank you for being with us.

BLUMENTHAL:  Thank you.

VELSHI:  Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.  All right, coming up, a landmark moment in the opioid crisis as the makers of Oxycontin reach a tentative deal to settle thousands of lawsuits but many states say it doesn`t go far enough.  I`m going to talk to one of the attorneys general who rejected that deal next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI:  The pharmaceutical company behind one of the most notorious drugs fueling the opioid epidemic across the country, Oxycontin, has reached a tentative deal with more than 20 attorneys general and 2,000 local governments over its role in the crisis.

The company is Purdue Pharma.  It`s reportedly offering to settle for $10 to $12 billion, which would essentially settle thousands of those lawsuits instead of going to trial in federal court.

As part of the settlement, the owner of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, would reportedly pay $3 billion in cash over seven years. 

If the deal goes through, that would make it among the largest pay outs by a drug company in the ongoing opioid crisis, but it`s far from clear that the tentative settlement will actually go through.  The reason is nearly as many attorneys general are against the deal with some saying it just scratches the surface of the problem the company allegedly had a big hand in creating.

Purdue Pharma, one of the four biggest sellers of opioids in the country, played a significant role in the two-decade narrative of the nation`s opioid epidemic, because of his signature drug, OxyContin, which was introduced to the market in the `90s.  The company aggressively marketed the drug and down-played the addiction risks according to lawsuits.

So now a number of attorneys general are saying this deal is not nearly enough, particularly since the tentative deal reportedly does not include an admission of wrongdoing.

Joining me now, one of the attorneys general who has rejected the settlement as offered.  Josh Kaul, attorney general of Wisconsin.  Attorney General, thank you for joining me tonight.

What, in your opinion, is wrong with this deal?

JOSH KAUL, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF WISCONSIN:  Well, Ali, this epidemic has been  devastating across the country, and we have alleged, and a number of other states have alleged, that Purdue Pharma contributed to the opioid epidemic by engaging in false and deceptive marketing practices.  And while there has been an offer now that has been made, we don`t think it goes far enough, that there`s enough money that`s been offered so far to get accountability.

VELSHI:  All right, let`s talk about the amount of money.  Some of the the attorneys generals with whom I`ve spoken have said they`re not even sure that this $10 to $12 billion is real, it`s not a $10 billion to $12 billion payout that will go to all the plaintiffs.

KAUL:  That`s right.  I can`t comment on the specifics of the offer, but my view, and I know the view of others, is that the amount that has been reported is not a reflection of the amount that`s really at stake here.  We believe that members of the Sackler family need to make a larger contribution if we`re going to resolve this case, because this is about getting funds that can then go to cities and counties and help to provide access to treatment, help provide prevention efforts and help with enforcement efforts so we can work to beat this epidemic.

VELSHI:  So this deal does not call for anybody to acknowledge wrongdoing, least of all the Sackler family.  I`ve spoken to attorneys general of Pennsylvania and North Carolina today both of whom who said they`re going right for the Sackler family.  They believe that the family took money out of that business and made it a shell of a business and that the money resides with the family and that there`s a legal basis for going after them.  Do you share that view?

KAUL:  The Sackler family made billions and billions of dollars as a result of Purdue Pharma`s efforts.  And what we have alleged, and others have alleged, is that there was a concerted effort to mislead the public and providers of health care about the benefits of opioids and about the dangers of opioids.  And we think that not only Purdue Pharma, but also members of the Sackler family, need to make a significant contribution to redressing the harms that have resulted from the epidemic.

VELSHI:  There seems to have been some motivation to get this deal done, because of, I don`t know if you want to call them threats or suggestions, that Purdue Pharma could simply declare bankruptcy and then everybody would have to sue a bankrupt company.  What do you know or think of that or think of that?

KAUL:  Well, I think if Josh Stein, the attorney general from North Carolina put it best that if Purdue goes bankrupt, good riddance.  But what`s important is that members of the Sackler family not be able to escape liability and get out of this having made billions and billions of dollars in profits by using the bankruptcy mechanism.  We think that members of the Sackler family either need to face trial and -- or they need to make a better offer so that more money will go to redressing the problem.

VELSHI:  So you believe there is some merit in this offer?  In other words, it can be improved to the point that attorneys general like you might say, OK, now we`re getting somewhere?

KAUL:  If we can reach an agreement that is going to get money to communities around the country sooner rather than later, I  think that`s something in everybody`s interest, but we are not at a point yet where I`m willing to reach that deal nor are a number of other AGs.

VELSHI:  But there is probably no amount of money that you could get from the companies or the Sackler family that will make up for the damage this epidemic has caused in this country.

KAUL:  The damage from this epidemic has been enormous.  We have lost thousands and thousands of lives in Wisconsin and far more families have been impacted by it.

What we`re focused on is getting justice to the extent we can and getting funds that can go towards communities so we can help to address this epidemic.

VELSHI:  Josh Kaul is the attorney general of Wisconsin.  Sir, thank you for joining me tonight.

KAUL:  Thanks for having me.

VELSHI:  All right, up next the Supreme Court just made it a lot harder for asylum seekers trying to enter the United States.  ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt is here to break down what happened after this.

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VELSHI:  The Trump administration has made it very clear they don`t want migrants coming into this country by any means, even by asylum.  And this week the Supreme Court helped them by allowing to make migrants apply for asylum in the first new country they cross into, even if that country is unsafe or doesn`t have a fully developed asylum process.  For many Central American migrants, that means they`d have to apply for asylum in Mexico before they can apply for asylum in the United States, even while the new rule continues to be challenged in court.

Here with me now, the lead attorney arguing against the Trump asylum rule, Lee Gelernt, is the deputy director of the ACLU immigrant`s Rights Project.  Lee, good to see you.  Thank you for being with us.

LEE GELERNT, ACLU:  Thanks for having me.

VELSHI:  Lee, lets just explain -- because Donald Trump has done a remarkable job of confusing immigration and asylum in the minds of people.  They are actually different things.  And asylum is a treasured and important thing that allows people who are facing some sort of persecution to seek refuge.  That`s why we call them refugees in some cases.

GELERNT:  Absolutely.

So, this country has had a proud tradition of welcoming people.  And right now, you know, it`s Central Americans who need our help.  And everyone says, oh, we need to help.  But people need to think about the history of this country and their own families and maybe ask their grandparents did you ever need asylum?

We`re down a dangerous path where we`re going to turn our back on people who genuinely need  protection.  And I think one thing that people need to be clear about is we`re not saying everyone is entitled to asylum, but there has to be a process.  This rule shuts down the process automatically.  And everyone says what`s so bad about applying in a another country?  And nothing in principle is so bad.  We have that with Canada, but you can`t tell people to wait in dangerous countries and then try to apply for asylum in Mexico or Guatemala when they don`t have fully functioning asylum systems.

The administration knows very well that these people can`t wait around in those countries and be safe and then apply for asylum.  This is effectively just a way to end asylum at the southern border.

VELSHI:  So, just to be clear for people who come in seeking asylum from Central America who have been able to go through a process, in other words they say at the border crossing, or to a border guard, that they`re seeking asylum.  They are then adjudicated.  Most times historically, they`ve been led in to be adjudicated at a second point, but the overwhelming majority of people don`t get asylum, just to be clear, the overwhelming number of applicants, if you`re worried about it being overrun by asylum seekers in America, that`s not actually what the record indicates.

GELERNT:  That`s true.  But by the same token, which I think you`ve pointed out, is there are are many people with meritorious claims.  So, if you shut the whole process down...

VELSHI:  You miss those people.

GELERNT:  Exactly.  And so all we`re saying is that there has to be a process.

Now, the administration wants to make the process more efficient, great, make it more efficient.  They can put more asylum officers there.  What they`re doing is channeling money to different things like the border wall instead of making the process more official, but you can`t just shut the process  down.

VELSHI:  So, we have muddied -- again, we have muddied a couple of issues in this whole discussion about asylum, because there are meritorious claims and this administration says lots of the claims are not meritorious.  So their answer to that -- the logical answer to that would be, OK, what is broken about -- what do you think is broken the system?  What`s letting people who don`t have meritorious claims to remain here as asylum seekers and fix that?

But instead they`re making it harder for 100 percent of asylum seekers.

GELERNT:  Exactly.  And the other thing people need to understand is the administration is very fond of saying, well, once you let an asylum seeker in the country they won`t show up for their hearing.  The statistics show absolutely that`s not true, that 97 percent of asylum seeker families show up for hearings.  So, it`s simply not true.

We really need to understand that these are people fleeing horrible danger.  And a lot of them are fleeing the gangs that this administration says they detest, which we all should detest, but then when you get a parent and a child who stand up to the gang and say we`re not going to join and they try to come to the United States and say give us shelter from these gangs, because if stay there and don`t join we are going to be killed, we send them right back.

VELSHI:  The way these gangs work is that it`s economic pressure, right, you`re not working if you don`t align yourself with a gang or do what they`re going to do.  You may be subject to sexual assault or the kind of labor -- it doesn`t meet everybody`s standard of what oppression or danger looks like.  There`s a lot of people who say, hey, that you don`t earn enough money or that you are sort of economically controlled by gangs.  It doesn`t qualify you for asylum.

GELERNT:  Right, well the difference between these gangs, it`s just not regular criminal  activity.  These guys sort of operate as a quasi government, control the whole city.  So, this is not where you can just avoid a single person in your neighborhood who might be a bully, this is gangs who control the town, they set curfews, they tax you.  And so this is very much in a classic sense persecution.

VELSHI:  I want to go to bigger conversation you and I were having in the break.  Justice Sotomayor had a dissenting opinion on this in which she said it is especially concerning, moreover, that the rule the government promulgated topples decades of settled asylum practices and effect some of the most vulnerable people in the western hemisphere without affording the public a chance to weigh in.

That`s an interesting point, because granting of asylum I think is in the American fabric.

GELERNT:  It actually is kind of at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty, too, right, it is what we believe to be good. 

VELSHI:  I think your argument that it`s a process issue, 100 percent of Americans would agree with, right?  There must be a process by which you evaluate someone`s claim.

But Justice Sotomayor is saying we`re not being consulted.  We are changing something very, very fundamental about this nation of immigrants.

GELERNT:  Right.  So, I think there`s two critical points, and congress controlled the asylum laws for 40 years has made it clear that just because you go through another country doesn`t mean you can automatically denied asylum unless there is a determination those countries are fair.  This administration didn`t try to determine that those country have safe and fair processes, because they couldn`t.

But not only did they have a sea change of 40 years of asylum law, they did it without what`s called notice and comment, a standard practice where you give the public and experts the right to weigh...

VELSHI:  ...might be hearings and testimony...

GELERNT:  And that`s what  Justice Sotormayor is saying that, look, there is sea changes here and no one is weight in, so that they`re based on the administration`s facts and no expert facts.

VELSHI:  Lee, good to see you as always.  Thank you for joining me.

GELERNT:  Thanks for having me.

VELSHI:  Lee Gelernt from the ACLU.

All right, coming up, the Trump administration`s latest regulatory roll back that could affect a third of all drinking water in America.  We`re going to tell you what Trump`s EPA is up to after this.

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VELSHI:  Take a look at this, this is the Houston Ship Channel that connects the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Houston and is one of the busiest waterways in the country, and it`s America`s  largest fossil fuel thoroughfare.

Now, last year 700,000 barrels of oil traveled through this channel every day.  And if you want to get your Texas Tea through the Houston shipping channel, there are pretty good odds that your oil  tanker will have to pass right underneath the Fred Hartman Bridge to get out into the Gulf of Mexico.  And that`s why Green Peace activists chose the Fred Hartman bridge for the scene of a pretty dramatic protest.  Take a look.  You`ve got to look closely. 

Eleven protesters repelled off the side of the bridge this morning and suspended themselves more than 100 feet above the water.  Green Peace said they intended to remain in place for 24 hours with the goal of blockading the channel preventing oil and gas from being transported through  the waterway.  They`ve had some success there.  A portion of water traffic has been stopped.

Green Peace chose this day and this location for the demonstration because, of course, the Democratic presidential candidates are in town tonight`s debate.  As one of the activists told the Houston Chronicle, quote, "we are in a climate crisis.  The next president has the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a world without fossil fuels.  We need to act today."

I should tell you earlier today local sheriff`s deputies said they would not force the activists to move unless they  became a health or safety hazard, but a couple of hours ago, as you can see, sheriff`s office began an operation to remove the protesters.  As far as we know, most of them are now in police custody.

Just a reminder, by the way, climate change is going to be the subject of our 2020 forum starting one week from today, where Chris Hayes and I will be asking presidential candidates about their climate change plans and they`ll be fielding questions from young voters on climate issues.  The forum will air live on NBC News now and parts of it will be featured right here on ALL IN.  Again, that`s September 19 and 20.  And we hope you`ll join us.

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TRUMP:  In New York City, we have a lot of asbestos buildings.  And there`s a whole debate about asbestos.  I mean, a lot of people could say that if the World Trade Center had asbestos it wouldn`t have burned down, it wouldn`t have melted, OK?  A lot of people think asbestos -- a lot of of people in my industry -- think asbestos is the greatest fireproofing material ever -- ever made.  And I can tell you that I`ve seen tests of asbestos versus the new material that`s being used and it`s not even a -- it`s like a heavyweight champion against a lightweight from high school.

But in your great wisdom you folks have said asbestos is a horrible material so it has to be removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  You might ask yourself, what would happen if the man who spoke very highly of asbestos at a Senate hearing back in 2005 became the president of the United States?

Since taking office, Donald Trump has rolled back 85 environmental rules and regulations, according to The New York Times, the latest of which came today, and it`s a big one.  When the Trump`s EPA announced it is getting rid of regulations on clean water put in place under the Obama administration in 2015, which was, quote, "designed to limit pollution in about 60 percent of the nation`s bodies of water, protecting sources of drinking water for about one-third of the United States," end quote.

Joining me to talk about the impact this could have on the nation`s water supply is Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post senior national affairs correspondent.

Juliet, thank you for joining me.  The question I have been asking all day, when it comes to  climate regulations in general, but specifically things to do with water, who wins from these things?  I can tell who loses.  We have two municipalities in this country that do not have safe drinking water.  What does somebody get out of this?

JULIET EILPERIN, WASHINGTON POST SENIOR NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  In the case of what we`re talking about in terms of this water rule, what you have is kind of a coalition of farmers, home builders, and developers.  And in fact, one of the reasons why Donald Trump had been focused on this rule is because it was something that he disagreed with as a developer, that these are the constituencies who generally have to apply for permits before they undertake acts that, say, drain a wetland or might affect a stream, things like that. 

And so the argument that these groups had been making is that the 2015 rule adopted under President Obama was too stringent.  It overlapped with state regulations in some cases, and essentially it wasn`t clear enough about when they needed federal permits, and that added to the cost of doing business.

VELSHI:  So that, as you articulated, seems a reasonable complaint that might be addressed by  better legislation or better regulation.  But when you put it in the context of the -- it being the 85th regulation that this administration has pulled out of including the Paris Climate deal, which isn`t one of the 85, because it`s an international agreement, it smacks of something else, right?  It smacks of not having a commitment or an understanding of climate matters and environmental matters.

EILPERIN:  Well, certainly the argument of top Trump officials, including, for example, the  Environmental Protection Agency`s chief Andrew Wheeler, who my colleague Brady Dennis and I interviewed for this piece, their argument would be that there is too much regulation, and that yes, they  have an outlook that they are trying to finish as many of these rollbacks as they can ideally by the end of this year, but if not by the end of next year so that regardless of what happens in the election they  have made their mark.

And so that certainly is part of their orientation by the EPA`s own estimate, it`s already rolled back roughly 46 rules at this point.  And so saving, they say, over $13 billion in regulatory burdens on the private sector and individuals.  And so this is certainly a focus of theirs.  And yes, it transcends some of these individual issues.

VELSHI:  The EPA, the head of the EPA Andrew Wheeler, has expressed that the concern about climate change is overblown and that this is not a problem we`re going to deal with for 50 or 75 years.

EILPERIN:  Right.

We have -- again, it`s something that`s come up many times.  He does say that human activity  is helping drive some of climate change but, yes, rejects the idea when he was asked, you know, whether it is a crisis, that is something he disagrees with.  And broadly speaking, and something that, again, we`d raised just recently with him, his argument is that plenty of these companies including oil  and gas companies have an incentive to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions. 

And so while there`s a certain level of action that the federal government should take it is certainly not an overarching driving mission of the federal government to require a number of these companies and industries to curb greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

VELSHI:  And in fairness to a lot of our viewers who are wondering about Scott Pruitt and why he was able to hang on to his job in the face of such criticism of things he was doing at the EPA, it`s because in the mind of some people he was doing god`s work, he was helping to deregulate an agency that Republicans were very fond of in decades gone by, that`s the president`s work.

EILPERIN:  Yes.  And it really does reflect the views of President Trump, and in fact, you know, his top aides in these agencies, including Andrew Wheeler, one could argue, is really pursuing the same policy priorities as Scott Pruitt, but he`s a more experienced Washington hand and is working hard to try to make sure that some of these regulations are getting across the finish line and to the extent they can be defended in court.

VELSHI:  Juliet, good to talk to you.

Thank you for joining me.  Juliet Eilperin is with us tonight.  All right, that`s ALL IN for this evening.  "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" begins right now.  Good evening, Rachel.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END