Trump abandons plan TRANSCRIPT: 10/21/2019, All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Eric Lipton, Vivian Salama, Walter Shaub, Neal Katyal, McKay Coppins, Shelby Holliday, Cornell Belcher, Ryan Grim

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: October 21, 2019

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  -- is the day we kiss it all goodbye.  And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Doral was a very simple situation.  I own a property in Florida.

HAYES:  The President vulnerable as he`s never been before.

TRUMP:  It would have been the greatest G7 ever.

HAYES:  Forced to cancel his G7 plans in the wake of massive Republican backlash.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY:  It shouldn`t be done in the first place and it`s a good move to get out of it.

HAYES:  Tonight, the toll of the impeachment inquiry on the presidency of Donald Trump.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF, WHITE HOUSE:  At the end of the day, you know, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.

HAYES:  Then new reporting reveals just how close Trump was to the now- indicted members of the Ukraine team.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What conversations have you had with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman?

TRUMP:  I don`t know those gentlemen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You`re in pictures with them.

HAYES:  Plus, as the poll shakeup in Iowa, Bernie Sanders recharges his campaign.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am back.

HAYES:  And the junior senator from Utah`s secret Twitter identity reveal.  Meet Pierre Delecto.  When ALL IN the starts right now.

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HAYES:  Good evening from Los Angeles, I`m Chris Hayes.  The President of the United States is exposed and imperiled in a way he`s never quite been before.  And he is dealing with that reality in a very concrete way right in front of us.  While the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is focused on his actions towards Ukraine, the implications of the investigation are beginning to weigh on the entirety of his presidency.  And Trump`s support from within his own party is beginning to crack.

On Thursday, Trump sent his Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney out to announce he was committing his most brazenly corrupt offense to date by hosting the next G7 at his own Doral resort in Miami, awarding himself an enormous government contract.

Just two days later, two days, Trump announced Doral was out blaming Democrats and the media.  But the Washington Post reports Trump was forced to abandon his plan "after it became clear the move had alienated Republicans, swiftly become part of the impeachment inquiry that threatens his presidency.

So yesterday, Mick Mulvaney was dispatched to Trump T.V. to clean things up, but did not exactly make it better.

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MULVANEY:  At the end of the day, you know, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.  And he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world and he wanted to put on the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could.  And he was very confident doing that in Doral.

And I think we`re all surprised at the level of pushback.  I think it`s the right decision to change.  We`ll have to find someplace else.  And my guess is we`ll find someplace else that the media won`t like either for another reason.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL:  I just have to pick up.  You say he considers himself in the hospitality business.  He`s the President of the United States.

MULVANEY:  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Yes.  And in the hospitality business, why not merge the two.  See, it`s fine if the President violates basic principles of self-dealing because he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.  And one thing that`s clear is that Trump`s retreat on Doral is part of a larger decline in his relative political strength.

The reversal is born of the specific political weakness Trump currently has which is tied to the impeachment inquiry.  The New York Times reports Saturday, Trump called Mick Mulvaney who`s hosting a group of so-called moderate Republicans, the people Trump can afford to lose and an impeachment vote, and was "told the consensus was he should reverse himself on Doral."

The fact is what Trump did was so flagrant, and so indefensible, almost no one other than Mick Mulvaney maybe Marco Rubio wanted to defend it.  Trump knows there`s going to be an impeachment vote against him.

At the same time, he`s got Republican senators, the people stood by Trump through his Charlottesville comments, his support for Vladimir Putin, his policy of kidnapping children from parents, those people now making noises a support for the impeachment inquiry, second-guessing his ability to steer the ship of state and decrying the Syria decision.

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SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT):  We certainly can`t have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value.  That is after all against the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you open-minded if more comes out that you could support impeachment?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Sure.  I mean -- I mean show me something that that is a crime.  If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging a quid pro quo outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  That`s an interesting sentence from Lindsey Graham there.  Fox News host Chris Wallace said yesterday that a well-connected Republican told him that the House votes to impeach Trump, there`s a 20 percent chance enough Republicans in the Senate will vote with Democrats to remove Trump from office.

Now, who knows what to make of that probability number, but it is a long way from the total support from Trump that we`ve seen to this point.  Washington Post`s Philip Rucker says, Trump finds himself mired in a season of weakness and points out officials inside Trump`s administration are "openly defying his wishes by participating in the impeachment probe."

Tomorrow, Congress will hear from Bill Taylor.  That`s Trump`s and the US`s head diplomat in Ukraine who made a paper trail of Trump`s corrupt Ukraine policy with that now-famous text message, "I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

The witnesses are going to keep coming and with them an ever-growing snowball of bad news for the President.  The simple truth of where we are right now it`s staring us on the face.  Trump is in a very, very tough spot right now.

Joining me now two great reporters who have been closely covering Trump`s Doral debacle, Eric Lipton, Investigative Reporter for the New York Times who co-authored the piece I mentioned earlier, "Why Trump dropped his idea to hold the G7 at his own hotel."  And Vivian Salama, she`s a reporter for The Wall Street Journal.  Her latest piece is titled "White House moves testing Republican support for Trump."

Eric, let me begin with you and tell us what your reporting shows about how they came to make and then so quickly and humiliatingly reverse the decision.

ERIC LIPTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES:  I mean, we know that Trump loves the Talk about his resorts and to visit his resorts.  He`s been to them, you know, 300 or so times, a third of his time in office.  He`s been at one of his golf courses or resorts since he was first sworn in.  And he`s constantly talking about them with global leaders and bragging about his golf courses or his hotels.

And so it isn`t surprising that when he was in France for the last G7, you know, he began this riff talking about why the Doral would be a great place for him to host the next event.  And, you know, as soon as he says that before his chief of staff, his chief of staff suggested that it came up and they were in a dining room and Trump said why not the Doral.  And at first, maybe that`s a crazy idea, but then, you know, wait, maybe that was a great idea.

I mean, when the -- when the president, the chief executive officer of your company makes a suggestion, you follow through on it.  So it`s no surprise that then they quickly picked the Doral.  And he -- I guess, he convinced himself that this is something that wasn`t going to create much backlash.  But Mulvaney has said that clearly it did and more than they expected.

HAYES:  Yes, Vivian, I mean, the backlash is interesting because there hasn`t been a lot of times.  I can think of child separation actually is another example where the White House does something and then there`s public outcry, and then they retreat.  They walk back from it and not with the courts here forcing their hand, although they may, Lord knows.  What is the temperature like on the Republican side?  What does your reporting indicate about what people are saying both privately and publicly?

VIVIAN SALAMA, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL:  Well, there`s definitely pressure building.  I actually want to just point out something as to something that Eric just said.  We`re actually something -- I was in Mick Mulvaney`s press conference last Thursday where he actually said that the President knew he was going to get a lot of flak for this decision, but he just decided he didn`t care.

He decided -- he`s come to the point where he feels he`s going to be criticized for pretty much anything he does.  And so he might as well go along and do what he wants to do.  And Mick Mulvaney essentially said that to the reporters that day.

As far as the Republicans and what we`re hearing is yes, I mean, there have been a number of incidents starting with the Syria withdrawal which has really ruffled feathers with a lot of President Trump`s most loyal Republican lawmakers in Congress.  A lot of them felt that we were abandoning an ally, that we were potentially, you know, just complicating the national security efforts to prevent any kind of repeat of 9/11 or anything like that.

And so, obviously, this is a very sensitive topic, especially for Republicans and so they really pushed back hard on him.  But then it was just this series of events that happened one after the other with regard to the announcement of hosting at Doral, where Mick Mulvaney came out and gave that press conference and essentially told everyone, listen, you know, it`s the perfect place.  We scouted every other place, but this is just by far the best place so it`s done deal.

And you know, really He even said that he was himself skeptical of the -- of the idea of having it in Doral, but the President just wanted to go through with it anyway.  And so you had that coupled with what happened after my Mulvaney announced the Doral was the location which was that epic, epic press conference last Thursday where he essentially acknowledged the fact that the DNC server was an issue that was raised from it as a potential quid pro quo for Ukrainian military aid.

And so all of these things sort of domino affected where you had republicans just saying, listen, like you`re really hurting our efforts here to stand behind you with this impeachment probe going on.  But all the while, you know, everyone I talked to they say, yes, Republicans are wary.  Yes, Republicans are picking up the phone and calling the President and saying, listen, you just can`t do this.  You`re just making things harder for us.

But at the end of the day, do voters care?  And that`s the big question, because ultimately, will these Republicans turn their backs on President Trump completely, that remains to be seen.

HAYES:  Yes.  Well, clearly, although there is -- pressure can manifest itself in many ways, Eric.  I mean, I think that to Vivian`s point, there`s two things, right?  There`s political pressure but there`s actually an proceeding, a constitutional proceeding that`s happening.  It is getting depositions right now.  Folks are coming into Capitol Hill in defiance of being told not to.

And it just seems that the presence of that, the impeachment vote as a thing, the idea of another article of impeachment on Doral possibly loomed large in their calculation, and that`s new, right, Eric?

LIPTON:  Yes.  What we heard over the weekend was other Republicans saying to the President, either through Mick Mulvaney or directly when he was calling in the Camp David, that this is essentially was like an unforced error and that we don`t need this and that it just it isn`t worth carrying this additional burden.

And I don`t think that the Doral situation was going to necessarily be that you know, the factor that the sided what`s going to happen, you know, in the Senate, for example, and -- but I think that it just was -- it just was unnecessary.

You know, the President likes diversion.  This was the diversion that was hurting and, and there was making it harder for Republicans to stand up and defend him.  Even on the Democratic side, though, in the House, there still an open question as to whether or not they want to move into this area of the President enriching himself through the activities of his hotels and resorts.

And even after the Doral was announced, there was some reluctance to take that up and to try to keep the impeachment focused on Ukraine, you know, issue.  And so far it, you know, that`s they`re sticking and that they have not deviated to go into these questions of emoluments and the use of the Trump hotels for it to get business from the United States government or foreign governments.

HAYES:  Yes.  We`ll see if that holds.  We`re going to talk about that in a moment.  I think awarding yourself government contract is a violation of a fairly sacrosanct principle.  Eric Lipton and Vivian Salama, thank you both.

LIPTON:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Joining me now for more congressional Republicans eroding support for Donald Trump is Walter Shaub.  He`s a former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics who resigned from his position in protest of Trump`s behavior, particularly on ethics.  And the McKay Coppins Staff Writer for the Atlantic, his latest piece, the liberation Mitt Romney is about the Utah Senator`s recent spoken criticism of President Trump.

Walter, let me -- let me start with you.  You had -- you had sort of been raising alarm bells from day one of his presidency about the fact that it was violating every possible sort of ethical norm in terms of the president getting rid of his business interests and divesting from them.  But this to you, the Doral announcement struck you as an opening of a dangerous new chapter.  What is your reaction to them having to back away from it?

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. GOVERNMENT ETHICS:  You know, I think this one was just clearer to a lot of people.  And I personally think it was different in nature, not just different in degree.  This would be the first time that the administration awarded a major contract to the Trump Organization.  And we`ve learned that President Trump intervened in it.

In fact, Mick Mulvaney said his resort hadn`t even made the list of finalists till President Trump suggested it.  So I think that this was something the public could really grasp on.  It didn`t have to involve words like emoluments and other more arcane legal theories.  And I think that created the kind of pressure that Trump`s allies in Congress, particularly those invulnerable states could not ignore.

HAYES:  McKay, you`re a great profiler of Romney.  And Romney as a particular significance at this moment because of the fact that impeachment looms all over this.  And I think there`s widespread belief the Democrats will ultimately pass articles of impeachment and it will go to the Senate for trial.  What is Mitt Romney up to?  McKay?

I think we lost the sound on McKay.  Walt, we`ll see if we can fix McKay`s sound.  Walt, the other issue here is the degree to which them admitting this, right, saying that this was a bad idea.  Whether it calls into question or whether it changes the calculations Eric Lipton was saying earlier about Democrats, about whether emoluments, about the fact that foreign governments have been stuffing money in the Trump hotels that Trump himself has caused the U.S. government to spend over $100 million at his properties, whether that thing is something that you should look at in the impeachment inquiry itself.

SHAUB:  Yes.  I mean, I certainly hope that that makes its way into the impeachment inquiry, the violations of the Emoluments Clause, the helping himself to our money really is something.  Again, this one was different in nature, because it was literally just reaching in and saying, I`m going to give myself a contract.  Let`s help myself to the money.

And the fact that he tried to do that is serious enough that I don`t think he gets any credit for having back down under pressure.  And I don`t think we`re done looking into it crew, which I work for is suing to get the documents.  And we`re really trying to get the Inspector General at the Department of State to resolve this because there`s a robust procurement system in the United States.

I don`t understand how they got to the point where any procurement official is willing to jeopardize their career in maybe more serious consequences signing off on this.  Perhaps the White House just simply lied to us and there was no procurement activity at all or maybe somebody did something really bad.

HAYES:  Yes, I think the first option is certainly possible.  I think we have McKay back.  McKay, you profiled Romney.  He`s going to be a key figure if it does go to the Senate.  What is your read on how he is thinking of this?

MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  You know, he told me that he is unlike a lot of Republicans who are dismissing this as kind of partisan theatricals.  He`s taking the prospect of impeachment seriously in a kind of Romneysian earnest fashion and said that he`s reading the Federalist papers and brushing up on parliamentary procedure.

And he said he`s open to voting to convict after he sees all the evidence in the Senate -- in the Senate trial.  I don`t know what he`ll do.  The one thing I will say is that he seems to be liberated from the pressures of Donald Trump and his allies in a way that I have not seen him or any other Republican senator, frankly.

And so I think that he probably is the biggest threat among Republican senators to vote to convict as of now.

HAYES:  Explain that because I think so much of what we`re seeing right now comes down to this question of what is it that Trump holds over Republicans?  One answer is they just like him and think he`s a good president and agree with him.  I think that`s true of a lot of Republicans.

One is that they`re intimidated by him in a sort of interpersonal level because he`s a bully.  Another is that they think they can get things out of him if they flatter him, which I think is the case with a lot of them.  That`s what Ted Cruz told me in a podcast interview.  And then one of them is the primary challenge.  Like what is the mix that keeps Republican Senators in line?

COPPINS:  Of the things you just listed, I think the biggest are there definitely are some who just like him and agree with him and are on his team, and then a lot of them are afraid of him.  They`re afraid of him on a personal level.  They`re afraid of the -- of him turning his base against them.

Mitt Romney is just in a different position there.  He clearly is not personally intimidated by Donald Trump.  He`s another kind of rich guy, doesn`t seem to take Trump tech seriously in a lot of ways.  But then also, you know, he`s he in a Senate seat that`s not up for reelection for five years, might not even run for reelection.  He`s 72 years old.  He`s in Utah where he`s more popular than Donald Trump is.

HAYES:  Right.

COPPINS:  And he -- and he just -- he sees himself as being kind of at the tail end of his career, and he`s thinking about his career and his legacy more than he`s thinking about the next election.

HAYES:  Yes.  It`s interesting that you say the tail end of his career.  Francis Rooney, who`s a Republican, who came out and said he`s open to the impeachment inquiry open and making up his mind announced he was retiring a day later.  I think everyone was not mistaken to a connection between those two.  Walter Shaub and McKay Coppins, thank you, gentlemen, both.

COPPINS:  Thank you.

HAYES:  The impeachment inquiry is about to hear from one of the key witnesses of the President`s policy in Ukraine, the diplomat who kept objecting to the blatant quid pro quo.  The latest on that coming up in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  For all the attempts by the White House at stonewalling and whining about the impeachment inquiry, it just continues apace.  Tomorrow, the House investigating committees will hear from one of the most important witnesses, that would be the current chief of mission in Ukraine, the man who runs the embassy there right now.  His name is Bill Taylor.

He`s a career Foreign Service guy.  He served in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama State Departments.  He is the man who infamously put into writing in a back and forth with a Trump-appointed ambassador and donor, "As I said on the phone, I think it`s crazy to withhold security systems for help with a political campaign."  He will be showing up tomorrow.

And his appearance comes as Democrats are increasingly closing in on the scope of what the impeachment case against Donald Trump will be.  NBC News reports the House Democrats are zeroing in on a simple abuse of power narrative.  "Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been adamant the case against Trump must be targeted and easy to communicate in order to build public support according to those familiar with the discussions.

Here with me now, someone who understands how to build complex cases former acting Solicitor General of the Obama Administration and an MSNBC Legal Analyst Neal Katyal.  Neal, let`s start on this idea about abuse of power.  Obviously, that`s a broad concept.  You need to show specifics under that rubric.  But how do you think that fits with what the constitution calls bribery, treason, high crimes, and other misdemeanors?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Yes, Chris.  I think that what the House is doing is exactly right.  And I`m developing a long piece of writing about this.  But basically, this is a very simple case at the end which the President by releasing that memo of his phone conversation with the Ukrainian president essentially admitted to.

He admitted to seeking help from a foreign government in his own personal campaign.  That`s just the quintessential impeachable offense.  And I think the House is right to just have abuse of power be the right narrative.  Because when you look at the Federalist Papers, Hamilton says what is impeachment about?  It`s about abuse of the public trust.  It`s about basically putting your interests above those are the people whom you serve.

And so, yes, it`s really would be interesting to talk about all of the obstruction of justice that Mueller found, or even all the stuff with Doral and the emoluments and things like that.  And those are certainly offenses that could be looked at.  But here, this is a very simple open and shut case.  And I think the house is right to focus on that open and shut case.

HAYES:  Although it does strike me, the two other things you`ve indicated, right, the idea that the President is receiving payments, whether they`re domestic or foreign, in constitutionally dubious manner, and the obstruction of justice, both of those do also pertain to abuse of power, I mean, particularly obstruction of justice.

It`s what he did to obstruct justice according Mueller is the kind of thing you can only really do if you are the president.

KATYAL:  Totally agree, Chris.  I mean -- and I think the technical legal term here for obstruction of justice and the Emoluments is, that`s gravy.  That`s all additional stuff.  You`ve got the president already admitting to the core crime here, which is soliciting help from foreign government.  All the other stuff is relevant and it can come in, but it shouldn`t distract from the essential main event here, which is the President did something which you could ask any Founder, what they would think about and they`d say impeach.

HAYES:  So I want to ask about the sort of battle of the branches here which is a subsidiary story but very interesting to me and really important in the context as this goes forward.  I mean, we`ve watched the executive stonewall Congress, I mean, really to a degree I think people don`t appreciate, like not giving over any documents, right, not doing anything.

And then we`ve watched this torrent of witnesses come forward in defiance of their own employer.  The State Department is saying don`t do it, and going and giving these depositions.  What`s the significance of that to you?

KATYAL:  It`s huge.  And I think you`re exactly right.  So it`s -- the White House has said not just will we not turn over any documents and stuff like that, we won`t even let government officials testify.  They`re invoking privilege for that.  And we haven`t seen anything like that since Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon tried to do the same thing, refused to turn over his tapes, that went to the Supreme Court in lightning speed case, and the president, President Nixon lost soundly, unanimously, including even by three of his own appointees voting against him.

I think the very same thing is going to happen if this does go to courts.  And I think one of the most interesting things we`ve seen over the last week, as you`ve pointed out is that witness after witness, these State Department employees are saying, Mr. President, you`re not going to stop me from telling the truth to the American people.

And it`s a very significant moment for our government because obviously, the only way our government works is if the people can find out what it`s doing and what happened.  And this stonewalling is looking more and more like a cover-up because they have things to hide.

HAYES:  So I don`t want to take too seriously some of the process complaints that Republicans have cooked up because they seem to be transparently often in bad faith they`re sort of self-contradictory.  But as to the process, right, I mean, there hasn`t been a formal House vote.  There`s a vote today to censure Adam Schiff which of course failed along party lines.

Does this strike you as essentially copacetic the way that these oversight committees are going about this, taking these depositions and sort of beginning the inquiry in the manner they have?  Does this -- do you think this is acceptable under the Constitution?

KATYAL:  Absolutely.  The House is doing exactly what you`re supposed to do, which is investigate quietly first.  Figure out what the evidence shows and then bring formal public charges.  And the House Republicans are complaining saying, oh, no, we should have all these rights and stuff like that.

That`s, of course, what happens in the trial, the trials in the Senate, under our Constitution.  The House functions like a -- you could think about it like a grand jury.  So in our country, in order to bring criminal charges against someone, it can`t just be the prosecutors say so.  You`ve got to get a grand jury of one`s peers to agree.  And that`s effectively what the House of Representatives is here.

And in the grand jury, you don`t get -- if you`re the defendant -- to go and call witnesses or cross-examine witnesses or any of that.  That only happens at the trial.  Same thing here.  And so the President is going to have to cross-examine all of the witnesses against him like Ambassador Taylor, you know, if he testifies that way tomorrow.  I guess he could cross-examine his own Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who said there was a quid pro quo, you know.

So you know, he`s going to have his opportunity and his shot at all of that.  But he wants a shot now before the investigation is even complete.  That`s not what we do in this country.

HAYES:  All right, Neal Katyal, thank you, as always, for sharing your expertise.

KATYAL:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Ahead, new details about Giuliani`s indicted associates and just how close they were to the President.  The reporter who got into one of their private Instagram accounts shares what she found, and it`s fascinating.  That`s next.

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HAYES: Every day, we are learning more and more about the two Rudy Giuliani associates who were recently indicted in federal court, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and their various questionable activities and high jinks.  One thing that is becoming clearer is just how close they were to the president and his most trusted associates.

The Wall Street Journal got access to Parnas`s private Instagram account.  Here`s what they found.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Following the mid-terms, Parnas`s Instagram account featured more and more photos with Giuliani.  His posts placed him at Giuliani`s birthday celebration at Yankee Stadium, at the White House with his son, Giuliani and Fruman, and at a dinner with Trump`s legal team a day after Attorney General William Barr released a summary of the Mueller report.

The caption reads: congratulations, Team Trump, job well done.  Even during our celebration dinner, everybody hard at work #trump2020.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  On the day after Attorney General Bill Barr released the highly misleading summary of the Mueller report, Lev Parnas was out on a celebratory dinner with the president`s legal team?  It kind of raises the question, was he on the president`s legal team?

You`ll remember that his lawyer, John Dowd, who I should note was the president`s former lawyer, did write a letter to congress earlier this month explaining that Lev Parnas, quote, assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump.

So just how close were both these Giuliani associates to Trump?  For more on that, I`m joined by Shelby Holliday, reporter with The Wall Street Journal who got access to Lev Parnas`s private Instagram account. 

It was a great piece of reporting.  I`m not quite sure how you did it. 

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:  Thank you.  Thank you.

HAYES:  I was struck -- let`s start with that one photo of the day after the Barr summary of the Mueller report.  I mean, at the time did we know these gentlemen were involved with the legal team?

HOLLIDAY  No.  At the time very few people knew who Lev Parnas was.

I would point out that when you look at those photos of the legal team`s celebratory dinner, the caption does say our celebratory dinner, indicating that Lev Parnas is indeed there and having dinner, but we don`t ever see him in any of the photos, so it`s a little unclear what his involvement was.  Did he have a seat at the table?  There`s an open plate, you`ll see, but it`s not clear that he`s actually sitting down eating with them. 

However, if he did take the picture it shows he had tremendous access to this legal team, and that raises a lot of questions because yes, as you pointed out, Dowd had said that Fruman and Parnas assisted Giuliani in his representation of Trump.  Parnas`s new lawyer says the same thing.  He told us the same exact thing.

HAYES:  These are also -- I mean, we should also be clear, one thing I learned from your reporting here is Giuliani -- you know, people can have associates, or people they work with.  These two gentlemen are spending a lot of time with Rudy Giuliani in a personal and professional capacity, I think it`s fair to say, based on what you found, right?

HOLLIDAY  Yeah, if you look at our video that sort of lays out from the beginning of his Instagram feed to the end, you see a lot of Rudy Giuliani come in there.  and one thing that`s notable is that on November 3 right ahead of the mid-terms he posts photos of him flying on private jets with Rudy Giuliani.

If you watch the video and you push pause on each of the pictures, you`ll see that he`s captioning different states: Nevada, Michigan, Indiana, Florida.  These men traveled all across the country with Giuliani going to these various mid-term events.

Another things that`s quite interesting is that after the mid-terms they are in Paris.  There`s one post where he -- you can pause it, you can see the caption it says thank you President Macron for this private tour of the burned Notre Dame cathedral.  They`re at a Yankees game in London.  They are smoking cigars in Warsaw.

So, you know, it shows a lot of -- a lot of closeness with Rudy Giuliani, if not a friendship.

HAYES:  We should also just remind people here, these two men are indicted of -- accused of  serious federal crimes, including funneling foreign money into the elections, including being part of a scheme to get the Ukrainian ambassador removed, presumably because she was an obstacle to the corrupt scream that was being pursued by Giuliani.  I mean, these are not accidental.

There`s this crazy thing, which is that one of the two associates, Lev Parnas, served as a translator for lawyers representing the indicted and corrupt -- accused of being corrupt -- Dmitry Firtash. He`s a Ukrainian oligarch, close to the Kremlin, basically ran the energy sector in Ukraine, and is fighting extradition.  He`s been indicted by U.S. authorities.

So we now have representation that Parnas was working on that guy`s legal team as well?

HOLLIDAY:  Yeah, well, The Wall Street Journal has reported that.  And I think that what`s also so interesting about this time line, when you look at these photos he posted, you know, he`s celebrating with Trump`s lawyers months after he had allegedly begun to funnel Russian money into U.S. elections.  And he`s there saying no collusion, no obstruction, Trump 2020.

The timing is absolutely fascinating.  He had also -- he had been in Nevada.  We matched up some of his posts with the events that are mentioned in the indictment.  So, he`s showing this VIP badge of a  Trump rally in Nevada.  Prosecutors say that he attended that event and then shortly after made two illegal $10,000 donations.

So, as he is blitzing across the country with Mr. Giuliani, he is allegedly involved in quite a few crimes.

HAYES:  There`s also another politician who is now sort of having to talk about and defend his relationship with these two men, which is Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor.  When it first surfaced, he said I don`t really know these guys, but there`s now a fair amount of evidence that they were spending a fair amount of time around him and supporting him quite a bit.

HOLLIDAY:  Right.  We highlight some of those posts in our piece as well.  One of the first posts in -- so, there are a few posts in 2015.  Parnas goes to a Trump event at Doral and posts a picture with the candidate -- candidate Trump and his son -- and then the feed goes dark.  It`s unclear if he deleted posts, or if he didn`t post anything, but he pops back up in 2018.  And one of his first posts in 2018 is this photo he`s taking with Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump Jr.

And then fast forward to the mid-terms, on election night he is at the election night party with a badge.  And he`s sitting next to Igor Fruman, and they`re celebrating Ron DeSantis`s election night victory.

As I said before, go back to our video, it`s on the top of my Twitter feed.  If you pause  these -- if you pause the video on these posts, you can read the captions.  He`s calling him his good friend and saying congratulations.

So, a spokeswoman for Ron DeSantis`s office didn`t respond to a request for a comment, but there are a lot of questions about their relationship with the governor.

HAYES:  There`s also been donations that the pair have made to Ron DeSantis as well.  Shelby Holliday, great work.  And thank you for taking some time to explain it.

HOLLIDAY:  Thank you.  Thanks for having me.

HAYES:  Coming up, the polls shift in Iowa as Bernie Sanders makes a triumphant return to the campaign trail.  The latest on that ahead.

But, first tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Thing One tonight, the president who never stops tweeting was going strong over the weekend and our favorite had to be the one from around 9 a.m. Sunday morning when Trump attempted to quote his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, but instead ended up with this: "Mark Esperanto, secretary of defense," quote, "the cease-fire is holding up very nicely.  There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly, new areas being resettled, but the Kurds/USA soldiers are not settled in combat or cease-fire zones.  We have secured the Oil.  Bringing soldiers home."

Now, we have no idea who Mark Esperanto is, but maybe he is a guy who actually said all that stuff, because there is no record of Mark Esper saying any of it, so it was a made up quote from a made up guy and didn`t reflect the reality on the ground.  A simple mistake, of course.  Trump deleted the tweet a short two hours later and so Mark Esperanto was gone forever.

But fear not, because Pierre Delecto lives.  And he`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

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HAYES:  Tonight, Senator Willard "Mitt" Romney -- oh my god, he admitted it.  The senator from Utah has been lurking around in disguise,  masquerading as a Romney-loving, Trump-bashing sock puppet twitter troll named Pierre Delecto.

We first learned about the existence of such an account with Romney did with McKay Coppins where called himself a, quote, lurker and revealed his secret Twitter account was following exactly 668 people.

It didn`t take too much detective work before the inevitable Ashley Feinberg from Slate unmasked Romney`s identity and exposed just what Pierre Delecto has been up to online.  Mr. regular guy out here criticizing Trump and making (inaudible) of the Senate.  He`s liked a lot of George Conway tweets, and one invoking the 25th Amendment, and one posted by an account called Devin Nunes` Cow bashing Newt Gingrich.

But the most revealing thing is how the normally very reserved Mitt Romney really lets it fly online where no one knows it`s Mitt Romney talking, like when Jennifer Rubin mocked Romney as spineless, Pierre Delecto attacked, quote, "Jennifer, you need to take a breath.  Maybe you could then acknowledge the people who agree with you in large measure, even if not in every measure."  Fire emoji.

Mitt Romney has now sadly locked down the secret account after confirming to McKay Coppins last night that it was his with just this text, "c`est moi."  And went on to explain to reporters today that Pierre Delecto means pure delight.

And I think I`ve had just about enough Mitt Romney for today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH:  To now shut the barn door.  The troops have been pulled out.  Turkey is devastating our allies, the Kurds.

For the country to not have John Bolton as part of a senior team.

It is simply a mess with warring groups and sub-groups, friends and allies shifting from one side to the other.

Read the transcript...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT:  If you are willing to love, if you are willing to fight for a government of compassion and justice and decency, if you are willing to stand up to Trump`s desire to divide us up, if you are prepared to stand up to the greed and corruption of the corporate elite, if you and millions of others are prepared to do that, there is no doubt in my mind that not only will we win this election, but together we will transform this country.  Thank you all very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  This weekend, Bernie Sanders held his first rally since his heart attack nearly three weeks ago, one that appeared designed to project the image of a vibrant campaign.  And by most accounts, it did just that in what The New York Times described as a show of force, Sanders drew what his campaign said was nearly 26,000 people, more than any other candidate so far this cycle.  The rally was held next to the nation`s largest public housing projects in Queens, New York.  And Sanders was joined by, among others, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

AOC has endorsed Sanders, and she told an enthusiastic crowd that he both inspired her political awakening and transformed the Democratic Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK:  We right now have one of the best Democratic presidential primary fields in a generation, and much of that is thanks to the work that Bernie Sanders has done in his entire life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Of all the ups and downs and fluctuations and reports about the field narrowing, it is still a really wide open race.  And we have a very long way to go.

For some perspective, consider how things looked around this point in, say, the 2008 GOP cycle when Gallup showed one Rudy Giuliani holding a big lead on his closest rival, Fred Thompson.

The uncertainty in this race is particularly notable in the first in the nation caucus state of Iowa where new polling suggests that four different candidates are currently positioned for a possible win.

We`ll talk about that poll and the state of play right after this.

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HAYES:  Don`t let anyone tell you the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is anywhere near settled.  That`s especially sure in Iowa, where a new polls shows four candidates within single digits of each other with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren in the lead, trailed by Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, and undecided is leading in that poll.

The polls particularly good for Buttigieg who has trailed nationally, but who is campaigning aggressively in Iowa, in the state that could give his campaign a big boost.

An average of four Iowa polls this month, shows a similar picture with all four candidates drawing double-digit support and no clear front-runner.

Joining me now to talk about where things stand is Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, who also served on the polling team for Barack Obama`s presidential runs.

Also with me, Ryan Grim, Washington, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept who interviewed Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at that big rally on Saturday.  He`s the author of "We`ve Got People: From Jessie Jackson to AOC, the End of  Big Money and the Rise of a Big Movement."

Ryan, let me start with you, you know, I remember, one of the weirdest and I thought sort of most unfair moments of the 2016 campaign was when Hillary Clinton fainted at that event and it  affected her polling, which never made any sense.  I mean, she just got sick.  She had pneumonia.  Like it wouldn`t make her a worse politician or not.

But I did feel a palpable sense from Sanders` camp and just the commentary and even in the polling a little bit that a 78-year-old man has a heart attack, it gives people a little pause.  How important was this event to their campaign coming back from that?

RYAN GRIM, THE INTERCEPT:  You have to understand the context of when Hillary Clinton fainted.  The GOP had spent millions of dollars up to that point investing in a conspiracy theory that she was hiding a bunch of illnesses and that she was on death`s door.  And so when that happened, it kind of fed into this narrative that had already been pumped full of money by right-wing attack dogs.

But you`re right, you know, it came at a really difficult time for the Sanders` campaign.  It allows everybody to talk about how he`s 78 years old.  The media had been utterly ignoring his campaign for the months before that.  And so for probably a lot of the public saying, wait a minute, I didn`t remember that Sanders is still running for president.  You haven`t told me anything about him until he had a heart attack. 

So at least now he has a chance of turning the narrative around, because as it was going, he was kind of plateauing in the polls.

HAYES:  Yeah, one thing I think -- the reason we talked about the Iowa polling there, Cornell is, I just -- I remember the dynamics in 2004 where the last race had felt this way to me, in that because it`s an open field, because I think there`s a fair amount of competitiveness, that first context is going to count for a lot and it`s pretty wide open in Iowa.  Like, all four of those people, or even someone who isn`t polling in that top four, I can imagine an Iowa victory.

And I remember in 2004, Kerry`s win there really had a kind of domino effect.  Do you see that dynamic here, even though the calendar has changed a lot?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  I do, because you also remember, Chris, that Gephardt -- and remember leader Gephardt?  Gephardt and my guy Howard Dean had a sort of murder/kill/suicide pact that they got into in Iowa, that sort of opened up the door for John Kerry to come up the middle.

And you also remember in 2007-2008, that this guy by the name of Senator John Edwards wasn`t doing half bad in those Iowa polls either.  And in fact, we thought at a certain point, that John Edwards could possibly win Iowa.

But it`s so volatile.  When I look at the polling out today, what I`m looking at is that 20 percent that`s not fluent, that says they`re fairly certain, which mean you`ve got 60 percent that are fluent and wide open.  I think that`s why you see all the volatility.  And you`ll remember Senator Harris had a good showing in the debate and her numbers rose.

So you`ve got a lot of volatility and a lot of voters still shopping around.  And at this point, the money begins to matter, because they`re going to spend money on the ground there.

HAYES:  So I thought that the Sanders event, Ryan, was in this context you said of the sort of plateau, and I think the one kind of consistent polling story we`ve seen over the last three months is that Elizabeth Warren has gained across polling.  That the challenge for the Sanders` campaign, and I thought it was interesting, them doing the event, where they did it with the numbers they did is that his challenge is just building out from the core they have.  They obviously have a core of supporters extremely devoted.  But I thought the last part of his speech was about fighting for people that don`t look like you and like seemed to me a rhetorical leaning into the idea of addition to the coalition, in a way I hadn`t quite heard him make the case before.

GRIM:  That`s been their kind of underlying case the entire time.  And the good news for Sanders is that you can`t survey his strategy.  You know, in other words, pollsters look for likely voters.  And the way they look for likely voters is what`s the electorate look like in the past and what are our projections about what it`s like this time, whereas Sanders is trying to change the complexion and the  face of the electorate, so he`s trying to organize enough people and inspire enough people, you know, in Iowa, particularly, to come out and caucus for Bernie Sanders.

He`s running up against this huge problem, though, that I mentioned earlier of this media blackout.  You know, in the Democratic primary, this network and The New York Times have an enormous amount of influence.  This show, in particular, is an exception.  It covers sanders pretty regularly.  But outside of that, he often either gets ignored or kind of just laughed at as not a serious candidate, even when polls come out showing him, you know, in reasonable contention.

And one quick point on Buttigieg, he`s spent an extraordinary amount of money in Iowa.  And we can`t forget that.  Because you can move the needle a few several points by dumping a ton of money into a state.  And he`s been very smart about burning a ton of money in those states to make himself look viable until he becomes viable.

HAYES:  Well, and Buttigieg -- I mean, Cornell, of course, the continued problem for him is that he is polling extremely low among non-white voters, whereas we`ve seen that with Elizabeth Warren has made some significant gains there, Bernie Sanders has as well, those have remained stubborn.  But for him, Iowa is a place where you can turn that around, right.  Like you might as well bet on Iowa if you`re him from a tactical perspective, because a victory there really would change the  dynamic.

BELCHER:  I think it sort of makes people take another look at him.  But I still say this, Chris, I`ve been saying this for awhile, you tell me the candidate who`s going to beat Biden with African-American voters, particularly African-American women, and I`m going to tell you the candidate who`s probably going to end up winning the Democratic nominee.

And -- but I will also say this, Barack Obama wasn`t beating Hillary Clinton with African-American women at this point in 2007, either.  So it`s wide open.

HAYES:  Yes, that`s exactly the point.  And that`s why we do the Rudy Giuliani/Fred Thompson gut check to remind people of that.

Cornell Belcher and Ryan Grim, thank you both for being with me. 

By the way, if you are here in L.A. where I am, I`m heading over to the theater at the Ace Hotel to do a live WITH pod recording.  Come on by, there are still a few tickets left.

That is ALL IN for this evening.  "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

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