FBI Russian inquiry TRANSCRIPT: All In with Chris Hayes, 12/10/2019

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Sam Seder, John Hudson, Jamie Raskin, Noah Feldman, Adam Serwer

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight on ALL IN.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  The House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment charging the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.

HAYES:  The Articles of Impeachment are unveiled.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Despite everything we have uncovered, the President`s misconduct continues to this day unapologetically and right now.

HAYES:  Tonight, what`s in the charges?  Why only two?  What happens next?  And as the Russian Foreign Minister visits the White House, why the President and his lawyer continue to push the Ukraine conspiracy.  Plus --

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  The greatest danger to our free system --

HAYES:  How Donald Trump`s Attorney General is trying to gaslight America.

BARR:  Is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the states to spy on political opponents.

HAYES:  And debating the merits of working with the President on a new NAFTA.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  There are some people who said, why make it look like he has victory?

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.

PELOSI:  We are declaring victory for the American worker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  We now know the charges that the House Democrats plan to bring against the President of the United States.  This morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and six House committee chairs presented to articles of impeachment to American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER:  Today, in service to our duty to the constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment charging the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.

The first article is for abuse of power.  It is an impeachable offense for the President to exercise the powers of his public office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest.  When he was caught, when has investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry.  This gives rise to the second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  And the actual articles of impeachment are not long, just nine pages of text.  And they lay out in very clear terms that the President abused the power of his office and then did everything in his power to cover it up.  "Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election.  He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the government Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States presidential election to his advantage."

The articles also explained how Trump exerted pressure on the Ukrainian president by withholding both $391 million military assistance and the White House meeting that would show U.S. support for Ukraine as it remains under literal attack from Russia. 

The articles then move on to the next charge, the cover-up.  "Without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed executive branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas.  In the history of the Republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstructed impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate high crimes and misdemeanors."

They conclude with a recommendation.  "President Trump by such conduct has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain an office and is acted in a manner of grossly incompatible self- governance in the rule of law.  President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold ad enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit on the United States."

Now, those charges articulate the President`s fundamental misdoings in this matter.  He solicited interference from a foreign country and when he got caught, he tried to cover it up.  He stonewalled Congress unconstitutionally.

Notably, there are only two articles of impeachment.  Now, we saw a testimony at the judiciary committee`s hearing last week, invoking the concepts and words of bribery and extortion, which I believe are both fair and accurate characterizations of the President`s conduct.  Those words are not applied to Trump in these articles.  They`re more general, in some ways, less legalistic, which is simply the president abused his power. He solicited a foreign country to interfere in our elections, and then he tried to cover it up.

And what Trump is specifically charged with now sets the standard if these are passes of the committee in the House for the trial.  The charges will frame the narrative and ultimately any votes in the Senate.  The Judiciary Committee will begin discussing the articles tomorrow night, once they are passed out of committee which everyone expects and passed out of the house, which is also expected.  And when the trial gets to the Senate, those will be the two charges he is very likely to be tried on.

They allow, interestingly enough, minimal wiggle room on the facts, establishing say beyond a reasonable doubt, quid pro quo, extortion, bribery.  All of which I think are obviously there and appropriate.  But they are more difficult cases to make on the facts and the question of whether he abused his power to solicit foreign interference, which was clear from the moment that the White House released the notes from the President`s now-infamous phone call on July 25th with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

"I would like you to do us a favor though, because our country`s been through a lot.  Ukraine knows a lot about it.  I would like you to find out what happened with this whole Ukraine situation.  They say CrowdStrike.  I guess you have one of your wealthy people, the server, they say Ukraine has it.

The other thing, there`s a lot of talk about Biden son, that Biden stopped the prosecution.  A lot of people want to find out about that So whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.  Biden went on a bragging that he stopped the prosecution.  So if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me."

The stakes are very high for whether this is acceptable behavior or not.  The idea that Senate does not convict him on the obstruction in charge, for instance, and basically says it is fine to ignore a congressional subpoena full stop to order all agencies of government not to comply may essentially end up vacating their enforceability in the future.

The narrow articles makes the stakes as clear as possible.  The Senate will likely decide what the President any president is going to be permitted to do or not do going forward. 

Joining me now is one of the members of the House Judiciary Committee which drafted these articles of impeachment against the president and will vote on them this week, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

Congressman, there`s a reporting today that indicates that there was the consideration of the third article of impeachment for obstruction of justice pertaining to the President`s actions, particularly as included in the report.  Is that true and did you favor such articles?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD):  Well, I think there was consideration of a whole bunch of different articles as we tried to, you know, meet the analytical challenge of focusing all of the President`s multiple crimes against the democracy into digestible bits.

But essentially, what came out in the Mueller report has been absorbed into these articles.  It becomes pattern evidence of welcoming and inviting in foreign powers to get involved in our democracy, which is certainly what happened in 2016.  And also pattern evidence of the president obstructing investigations into his misconduct in lowering foreign powers into American elections.

But the core of misconduct here is an ongoing crime.  This is a crime in progress.  It`s a high crime and misdemeanor.  In fact, in a certain sense, it`s the highest crime and misdemeanor as the academic witnesses testified.  Why, because what the President did was to attempt to corrupt our elections by luring in foreign powers to come and get involved in a way that elevated the President`s personal political interests above the rule of law and national security.

HAYES:  The mark up on this, I understand, begins tomorrow night 7:00 p.m.  It will reconvene the next day at 9:00 a.m.  What do you expect from the markup?  Will that be public and how does that process unfold?

RASKIN:  It will be public.  We will essentially set forth these articles.  We will have statements made by all of the different members analyzing the articles and the fundamental importance of the country confronting head-on the fact that there`s this crime in progress.

The President of the United States has said that his conduct in this affair was perfect.  In other words, he`s telling us right up front, he didn`t do anything wrong by trying to get the Ukrainian president come here and to make announcements about criminal investigations he would launch into the Biden`s at the behest of President Trump.  Well, then he turned around and he said that China, you should do your own investigations to the Biden`s.

If we let them off the hook for this, not only will it set the precedent for every future president that they can go gallivanting around the world to get foreign governments to interfere in our elections, it will happen in 2020, or it will continue to happen in 2020.  We will give license to what the President is doing.

HAYES:  Rudy Giuliani was just in Ukraine meeting with a sort of who`s who cast of suspect, some might even say discredited Ukrainian figures to gather dirt on the President`s political rival.  And today, Giuliani says that the President has asked him to brief the Justice Department and GOP senators on his findings.

RASKIN:  Well, I mean, that`s the critical thing.  I mean, the Inspector General released this report saying that there was no political bias whatsoever in the launching in the conduct of the investigation into Russia 2016.  There was no illegal spying conducted on President Trump, and so on and yet, by Attorney General Barr, as the President`s personal lawyer now goes out and tries to attack and undermine the investigation in the meticulous findings of his own Inspector General.

So that`s why we say this is a crime in progress. They`re still trying to perpetrate it.  They are spreading all of the Russian propaganda about their, you know, paranoid conspiracy theory that in 2016, it was Ukraine that engaged in a systematic campaign against our elections, not Russia.  They continue to tell lies about the genesis of the 2016 -- the conspiracy -- you know, their conspiracy theory about what took place there.  They`re also telling lies about the Department of Justice investigation.

In other words, they`re doubling down on everything that got them here in the first place.  So if we were just to walk away from this and say, well, you know what, it`s just Donald Trump doing his thing.  We really are licensing forever here after the President of the United States mobilizing foreign governments, tyrants and despots from all over the world to get involved in our elections.

HAYES:  Yes, it`s well put and I think the point was well put today as well on the articles.  Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you.

RASKIN:  Thank you so much for having me, Chris.

HAYES:  Joining me now for more on these articles of impeachment, Noah Feldman.  He`s a law professor specializing in constitutional studies at Harvard Law School.  He also testified in that open hearing about the case for impeaching President Trump in front of the judiciary committee last week.

First, on the -- on the two articles.  Are you surprised in any way that there aren`t more, and or does this broadly align with how you had conceptualized the President`s infractions?

NOAH FELDMAN, LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL:  To me, the fact is that the President may have committed lots of other acts like the ones in the Mueller report that are also in principle impeachable, that is they are high crimes and misdemeanors, but it`s part of Congress`s job to choose to impeach on the things that matter the most.  And that includes the things that are clearest before the American people.

And I -- what I think about these articles of impeachment is that all you need to know to realize that the President actually committed these crimes is the memorandum of the phone call he had with Volodymyr Zelensky.  That makes it super clear that he abused the office of the presidency to gain a personal advantage in the 2020 election, and the letter where the President directed his White House counsel to say I`m stonewalling the whole impeachment inquiry, which shows that the President is impeding Congress or is obstructing Congress.

So if you`ve got those things, that`s all the proving you need.  And that makes these very simple, clear, and I think explicit articles of impeachment.

HAYES:  I want to start on a latter and then we`ll work our way back to the former.  But on the latter, on the obstruction of Congress, I think there`s always some sense that there`s a -- there`s a kind of -- there`s conflict in between the executive in Congress about what Congress has access to what`s privileged and what`s not, and this is litigated in all kinds of ways.  I mean, Nadler said this is unprecedented, the comprehensiveness with which this White House is treated the impeachment inquiry.  Is that true?  Does the historical record back up that claim?

FELDMAN:  Yes, it does.  You know, it`s extremely different for the White House to say, well, we think if this evidence were to go to you, it might potentially violate executive privilege or this witness shouldn`t be able to testify.  And then on the other hand, to do what this President has, in fact, done, which is to just issue a blanket statement that says, we view the whole impeachment process is illegitimate, and we direct everybody in the executive branch not to participate, no documents, no testimony, no nothing.

That basically tells Congress, you have no right to impeach me, and you have no right to supervise me.  And the bottom line is, the executive branch can supervise the present because they work for the President.  So if it`s not Congress, it`s nobody.  So what Congress is basically saying here is if you refuse to cooperate, you`re above the law unless we impeach you.  And that`s about as clear and logical a case for impeachment as I can imagine.

HAYES:  On the first article, abuse of power, what`s the -- you know, there`s some argument always about whether you define some statutory infraction and people say you don`t, that the Criminal Code obviously flows from the Constitution, not the other way around.  That this category, in some ways, pertains to someone who has unique powers anyway.  What is the precedent to your mind and the fit between the Constitution and the use of abuse of power as the actual name of the infraction?

FELDMAN:  I think it`s an extremely close fit because we know what the framers thought about this.  It`s not some mystery that a debate on -- we know what day it was July 20th, 1787, we have basically a transcript of what they said.  And they focused specifically on the idea of a president who somehow use the power of his office to corrupt elections and make it much easier for him to get reelected, to get an unfair advantage and break the democratic process.  And that`s exactly what Donald Trump is alleged to have done.

And so they didn`t talk about violating a statute.  They hadn`t passed any statutes yet.  They didn`t talk about a technical violation.  There was nothing technical yet existence.  What they talked about was the idea that the President used his office to help himself get reelected illegitimately.  So you know, it`s about as clear cases you`re ever going to have for the meeting of the Constitution based on the intention of the framers.

HAYES:  It has never been -- in the case in U.S. history there have been four impeachment proceedings, the fourth against the president.  One of those results in the president resigning when it looks like he would not have the votes.  The two others have resulted in an acquittal in the Senate.  There`s never been a vote to remove.  What do you view is the constitutional democratic states of the trial with these articles should it go forward?

FELDMAN:  Well, the stakes are pretty high because of the question of whether we`re going to accept as a society that it`s OK for a president to get away with the things that Donald Trump has done.  And so, what the Senate needs to do is seriously consider the charges.  And if somehow they reach the conclusion, or majority of them are, you know, less than two thirds, which is all it takes, reaches the conclusion that the president didn`t really do these things, which is pretty hard to believe on the fact, then I suppose that would be grounds for acquittal.

What I really think is serious business is for the Senate not to take the view that this is all just fine, that what the President did is somehow business as usual, or that it`s permissible under the Constitution.  Because if that were the case, then the Senate would be sending the message not just to Donald Trump, but to every future president, go ahead and use the power of your office to break the electoral system.  And that is a terrible message for the long-term future of democracy.  And that`s the one thing I really hope we don`t see in the Senate.  So the stakes are very high.

HAYES:  All right, Noah Feldman, thank you very much for that.  I really -- I learned a lot.  Up next, the Attorney General does that Trump thing where he invents a reality in which his wild conspiracy theories actually came true.  Bill Barr`s chilling interview on the origins of the Mueller probe in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Attorney General William Barr has shown himself time and time again to be a zealous partisan, utterly willing to compromise the perception of independence and integrity of the Department Justice on behalf of President Donald Trump.  And today he gave a really, in many respects, shocking interview to NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams.  We`re going to play that.  But before playing part of that interview, it`s really important, I think, to reestablish the facts of what happened in 2016.

That year was a weird election in many ways, you might recall.  One of the weirdest aspects of that election was that there were active FBI investigations involving both of the major party candidates, right?  There was one into Hillary Clinton, you remember that, about her use of private e-mail and whether that use of e-mails contain classified information and if that broke the law.

At the same time, there was a counterintelligence investigation into the campaign of Donald Trump and its contact with Russians connected to officials in the government, A government that we knew back during 2016 was actively attacking the election on Trump`s behalf.

Now, that is a sticky situation for the FBI, I think it`s fair to say.  And there`s a very real danger under those circumstances that you have the FBI essentially going rogue and using its investigative powers to essentially put a thumb on the scale of the election for one candidate.  And that did happen to one of the two candidates, Hillary Clinton.

It happened when then FBI Director James Comey defying all Justice Department guidelines, just freelanced and went out and criticized Hillary Clinton`s handling of classified information while at the same time saying that "no reasonable prosecutor would indict Clinton over e-mails."

But then most consequentially, it happened again a second time when Comey announced the FBI was reopening an investigation to Hillary Clinton`s e- mails 11 days before the election.  An action that multiple people whose job it is to look at the data, say was decisive in tipping the election from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.

Now, the same time during that campaign, there was also the counterintelligence investigation into the campaign of Donald Trump, people associated with that campaign, the existence of which did not leak.  In fact, the one time that it kind of surfaced in the press that there was reporting on it was this infamous New York Times headline, "Investigating Donald Trump, comma, FBI sees no clear link to Russia."

So whoever spoke to the reporters of that article, we don`t know where they are, gave Trump a clean bill of health in the midst of the election, even though we were later to find out for, for instance, his son Don Jr. actively welcomed help from the Russians tied to the Putin government in defeating Hillary Clinton.

OK, so that`s what happened in 2016.  Today, Attorney General William Barr is selling a story that literally the reverse happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  I think probably from a civil liberty standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state, principally the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents, but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election.

As far as I`m aware, this is the first time in history that this has been done to a presidential campaign, the use of these counterintelligence techniques against a presidential campaign.  There has to be some basis before we use these very potent powers in our core first amendment activity.  And here, I felt this was very flimsy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  There is a kernel of a point here.  In the abstract, Barr is correct.  If President Obama had ordered the FBI to open an investigation, and then use the existence of that investigation to tip the scales to Hillary Clinton, that would be wildly wrong and dangerous and a threat to democracy.  But we know that is not what happened thanks to the newly released Inspector General`s report.

A, the White House had no idea the investigation was going on.  B, the I.G. found no political bias against Donald Trump and the Russia probe.  C, we know the whole thing didn`t leak because it didn`t leak because we were there watching it.

Now, the Attorney General is doing the Donald Trump thing which is no puppet, no puppet, you`re the puppet to try to get his way out of the situation.  And this is the man right now who holds his hands the investigative power over American citizens, every one of you watching.  It is chilling.

Joining me now on the profound implications of all this, Adam Serwer Staff Writer for The Atlantic who wrote about this in his piece today, "The Russia hoax is a hoax," and Michelle Goldberg New York Times Columnist and MSNBC Political Analyst.

There is a kind of crazy making quality to watching someone in Barr`s position take up the kind of Trump T.V. Donald Trump, no puppet, you`re the puppet line of like up is down, the reverse of what is true is true.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  And he as much -- he`s every bit as much of a liar and a propagandist as Donald Trump.  He just does it in this kind of soporific bureaucratic voice instead of Donald Trump`s ranting showman voice, you know, but it doesn`t kind of change the utter insanity of much of what he`s saying.

The other thing that is quite like Donald Trump is that in that clip that you just played, he was actually describing something very much akin to what Donald Trump has tried to do in Ukraine.

HAYES:  That`s what he`s been impeached for.

GOLDBERG:  Right.  And so what they -- you know, so what he`s -- and he`s done this before.  It`s always kind of accuse your enemies of whatever you`re doing so that -- so that people out there say, Oh, well, that`s -- both sides are saying the same thing, who can tell?

And after the crazy making point, I mean, so much of our dystopian fiction is not really about gulags, it`s not really about torture, it`s about the deranging denial of truth, right?  There`s a -- it`s not just, you know, it`s not just Orwell, right, it`s also Fahrenheit 451 and, you know, all the sort of, you know, Russian literature, communism, right?

It`s all about kind of what happens to a person`s psyche under the bombardment of lies and it and it`s this kind of psychic tax that`s being acted on the American people who have to wade through the mistruth and propaganda of their, you know, purported leaders to figure out what`s going on.

HAYES:  And that`s -- Adam, that`s exactly what the title of your column was about today.

ADAM SERWER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  Yes, I mean, look, it`s really extraordinary to hear Bill Barr explain why Congress is impeaching Donald Trump, even if he`s imputing those actions to Barack Obama.  But look, I mean, the point of this -- the point of the Russia hoax narrative which is completely disproven by the I.G. report which shows there was no political motive for the beginning of the investigation into Donald Trump is to exhaust people who are trying to figure out what the truth is.  It`s to make them throw up their hands and say, well, I can`t figure it out.  Everybody`s yelling.  I don`t know what`s happening.  So it`s probably not that important.

HAYES:  Yes.  And I want to be clear, like I don`t trust necessarily unfaith like the FBI to be -- with the power they have.  They have tremendous power.  I think the I.G. report is an important review.  Like there should be some accountability for that.  But now you`ve got this situation in which he must have known the I.G. report wouldn`t produce the outcome he wants.  And so now he has his hand-picked guy running his own investigation, despite the fact that statutorily it`s to I.G.

This is what he says about the timing, about this, about the -- or at least about the John Durham investigation and how he can sort of go further than the I.G.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  Durham is not limited to the FBI.  He can talk to other agencies.  He can compel people to testify.  So, someone like -- someone like Durham can compel testimony, he can talk to a whole range of people, private parties, foreign governments and so forth.  And I think that is the point at which a decision has to be made about motivations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  So he`s (INAUDIBLE) the I.G. report with his own handpick report, which he said is going to come out in the summer of 2020.

GOLDBERG:  Right.  So yes, the idea -- and he`s already kind of telegraphed what he expects the findings of this report to be.  We know from the way Barr described the Mueller report before we actually got to see the Mueller report that he is completely unbound by any, you know, reliance on the -- on the factual record.

So he`s basically telling us kind of rubbing our faces in the fact that he is going to put out this political hit job exonerating -- not just exonerating Donald Trump but kind of this political hit job on the basis of the investigation into Donald Trump suggesting that -- you know, this political hit job suggesting that the Russia hoax is somehow a real thing just in time for the 2020 election.

HAYES:  And Adam, you`ve written a lot about how Trump and Barr and others share this similar attitude towards due process, civil liberties, and protections depending on who is being protected and who is being prosecuted.

SERWER:  Yes.  Well, it`s really rather extraordinary after Barr said, you know, last week that communities who criticize law enforcement can`t count on their protection is those sworn officers of the law are mob enforcers who if they don`t get their protection money, they can`t do their jobs.  But obviously, Barr and the President himself criticize law enforcement all the time and don`t expect to be denied its protection.

And at the core of that is really a belief that Barr and Trump have that some American citizens have the full rights of being American citizens and other Americans simply do not.  And that is both the core of Trumpism and it is the core of Barr`s legal theory of running the Justice Department, which is a tragic irony, given the origin of the Justice Department in the aftermath of the Civil War, which was to protect those new Americans who had recently been emancipated.  It`s a disgrace.

HAYES:  It was created to stop the Klan from exercising terrorism over those newly enfranchised Americans who wanted to express their democratic and first amendment rights, the first amendment that Mr. Barr was talking about in the interview.  Adam Serwer and Michelle Goldberg, thank you both.

SERWER:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Also happening today, President Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office.  Did the President managed to avoid revealing highly classified intelligence this time around?  What we know about their discussion behind closed doors next.

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HAYES:  The last time Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in the Oval Office back in 2017 it was a pretty notable meeting for bunch of reasons.  First, we only found out exactly who was in that meeting when Russia`s official news agency released photos of it.  American journalists weren`t allowed in.  Second, the meeting happened just one day after Trump fired then FBI director James Comey, a move Trump reportedly told the Russian officials had relieved, ,quote, "great pressure on him."

We later found out also that he told the officials during that meeting that he was unconcerned about Russia`s interference in the election, because the U.S. did the same in other countries.  It`s interesting in a variety of directions.  Not only that, Trump casually disclosed classified information to Russian official that was so sensitive that news organizations were asked to withhold the specifics from the public, and then just this week NBC News confirmed reporting that after that Oval Office meeting, in part because of concerns about Trump`s handling of classified information, the U.S. extracted from Russia one of its highest level covert sources inside the Russian government.

So after all that, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was back in the Oval Office today.  The meeting coming one day after a high stakes peace summit in Paris between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian  President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Zelensky, keep in mind, still has not gotten his White House meeting.  It`s one of the things that Trump withheld while trying to extort the Ukrainian president to do his political dirty work.  Yet there was Sergey Lavrov striding up to the White House today and falsely insisting there was no evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

I`m joined now by John Hudson of The Washington Post who asked Lavrov this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HUDSON, THE WASHINGTON POST:  As you mentioned you would like to see the U.S. come forward with information about election meddling.  Why not just read the Mueller report?  It`s very detailed when it comes to U.S. allegations related to meddling in the 2016 election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  And joining me now is Hudson.  You`ve got a fair amount of sort of yadda yadda yadda from Lavrov in a long answer there.

HUDSON:  Yeah.  He -- the first thing he said is that -- I read the Mueller report and the Mueller report doesn`t say anything about collusion.

Now, it`s of course true that Mueller didn`t end up establishing a conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign, but at the same time the special counsel indicted several Russians for election interference.  And there`s an incredible level of detail about the cyber intrusion that FBI investigators and Justice Department officials looked into.

I thought this was a legitimate thing to raise to him, actually that FBI investigators and Justice Department officials looked into. And so when he says there`s absolutely no evidence that the I thought this was a legitimate thing to raise to him, actually there`s a very detailed packet of information that`s, you know, a PDF, you can download it any time, but he wasn`t very interested in it.

HAYES:  So then something strange happened today.  So, Lavrov meets the president, and the White House puts out a read out debrief afterwards.  They say -- the White House says that President Trump warned against any Russian attempts to interfere in United states elections in the meeting with Lavrov.  And then Lavrov says, no, we haven`t even discussed elections.  And then later there`s a press conference where he seemed to say that they did talk about it?  Like, where did we end up on that?

HUDSON:  Yeah, it was a little bit confusing.  He gave a press conference at the Russian embassy later this evening.  I attended it.  And what he said is actually this was discussed, election interference did come up in his White House meeting with Trump, but the person who raised the election interference was him, Sergey Lavrov.  He was noting that Mike Pompeo, Trump`s top diplomat, complained to him about Russian election interference and that`s when Sergey brought it up to Trump. 

Actually, you know, if you want to put this -- resolve this whole issue, we can disclose communications that happened ever since 2016 between the U.S. and the Russian government.  Those are communications that happened with the Obama administration and Russia.  And, you know, the Trump administration has shown no interest in disclosing those.

It`s not clear with anyone I`ve talked to if that would clarify the matter.  It might actually muddy it even more.  But of course the key thing is Lavrov was not confirming that Trump warned him in this White House meeting.  We still just have the White House read out to trust when it comes to that.

HAYES:  Final question here, the context here is very high stakes peace negotiations between the new Ukrainian president and Putin happening today in Paris.  How much does that matter?  How does the symbolism of this matter to that effort?

HUDSON:  Well, it`s a pretty fascinating split screen, because of course the United States is the key backer of Ukraine when it comes to Ukraine fighting -- fending off this Russian-backed insurrection. 

And so Zelensky, as you had mentioned, has always wanted this White House meeting.  He hasn`t gotten it yet.  So it was very interesting to see Russia`s top diplomat in the White House meeting with Trump.

Of course, Trump has never admitted that anything went wrong either in the Mueller report or in this current impeachment fiasco.  And so for him, there`s nothing wrong with meeting Russia`s top diplomat.  And that`s why he did this with no sense of irony or anything like that.

HAYES:  All right, John Hudson, thank you very much. 

Still to come, the political calculation of House Democrats handing what many could argue was a major win to the Trump administration on the same day they announce articles of impeachment.  Their strategies ahead.  Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next. 

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HAYES:  Thing One tonight it is election week in the UK.  On Thursday, Brits will go to the polls, decide who will deal with the Brexit mess -- Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to renegotiate the deal, then put it back to the people for another vote, or Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party who say they will get Brexit done quickly if they win, although no one has quite delivered on that promise.

Now, Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are leading right now in most of the polls, but that`s not stopping Johnson from pulling out all the stops.  He released this tortured video ad yesterday in which he woes a woman to vote conservative in the style of Love, Actually.  And if that wasn`t too subtle for you, Boris pulled this stunt today driving a construction digger through a Styrofoam brick wall because gridlock.

But as lame as this may seem, at least it made sense.  I mean, the wall is the gridlock and he`s smashing through it to get Brexit done.  I can follow that.  But compare that to what our president is putting out there.  It`s much more confusing.  That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

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HAYES:  Everything Donald Trump has been going through lately, it`s easy to understand why he prefers an alternate reality, but this is ridiculous.  Now Trump has twice tweeted this photo lately.  And I should tell you I am pretty sure that`s a PhotoShop job and not actually his real body.

See, someone has taken Trump`s head and put it on Rockey Balboa`s body, much like how I`m pretty sure someone in the replies took Trump`s head and put it on Butter Bean`s (ph) body.  And then I guess they put Michael Avenatti`s head on my body?  It`s all PhotoShop.

And that`s got nothing on this video his campaign tweeted today.  This one has Trump`s head on the body of Thanos, the murderous, genocidal villain to the Avenger`s movies, because Trump voters are supposed to root for the bad guy.

In this clip, Trump/Thanos proclaims he`s inevitable, snaps his fingers and wipes out the Democrats who are impeaching him and he gets re-elected.  But if only it were that easy.  And if only they`d chosen a better scene, because as the 100 million people who saw Avengers: End Game know, that scene is actually where the bad guy met his end.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am inevitable.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR., ACTOR:  And I am Iron Man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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HAYES:  A really strange scene on Capitol Hill this morning.  And there were essentially back-to-back press conferences from House Democratic leadership.  And the first one was, we are impeaching the president who is just deftlessly corrupt and boundlessly lawless and represents a threat to the very foundations of self-government.  That was the first part.

The second one was also we`re going to vote on pass the number one thing the president wants the House Democratic congress to do, which is revised version of NAFTA.  The two press conferences were whiplash inducing in many respects.  We`ll get into that. 

But on the substance, there are I think two things to think about.  One is that this new agreement is not that different from the original North American Free Trade Agreement among U.S., Mexico, and Canada.  In fact, the text of the new agreement started off with NAFTA and made some changes at the margins, which is why many call it NAFTA 2.0.

And second of all, all the version that Donald Trump, his administration, negotiated, and the version that`s going to be voted on by the House, has some significant concessions to the concerns of Democrats, including enforceability in the provisions, particularly on labor provisions, requirements around how much of a car needs to be made in North America to avoid tariffs, increased access to Canadian dairy market for American farmers, and a big win for progressive forces who are lobbying on this, taking out exclusivity for big pharma on a certain class of drugs, which would have raised consumer prices for everyone.

So there are legitimately things Democrats can say they won concessions on that made the deal better.   But the broader question to my mind is can you imagine Republicans in a Hillary Clinton administration impeaching Hillary Clinton and also on the same day saying they`re going to vote for a big trade deal that Hillary Clinton negotiated?  Does this make sense to do at this moment substantively, politically?  We`re going to debate that question next.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You said, quote, the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.  So how do you respond to those Democratic lines of attack?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY:  Well, that is true.  That`s my single most important political goal, along with every active Republican in the country.

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HAYES:  Mitch McConnell theory of opposition during the Barack Obama presidency was that Republicans could not and should not coordinate or give Barack Obama any wins, no matter what the substance was, because their political fate was tied to him failing.  And this approach drove  Democrats crazy. 

Now the shoe`s on the other foot, Democrats have the opportunity to pursue potentially the same strategy or to try a different tact.  And today`s USMCA announcement is a definitive sign, I think, that they`re going to try something different.

Here to talk with me about whether that`s the right strategy, former Democratic U.S. Senator from California, co-host of the Boxer podcast, Barbara Boxer, and Sam Seder, host of the Majority Report and MSNBC contributor.

Sam, let me start with you.  Do you think this is good idea?

BARBARA BOXER, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  I do.  I think it`s a good win for the Democrats.  I think Nancy Pelosi gets it.  When you have President Trumka of the AFL-CIO praise this deal, and there are reasons for that, you know it`s good.  When you have environmentalists saying we`ve come a long way.  When you have consumer protection people saying hooray, the generics are going to compete with big pharma, you`ve got something here.

And we all know without Nancy Pelosi and the way she handled this, this wouldn`t have gotten done.  So I think it`s a terrific strategy. She protects, you know, her moderates.  She`ll keep control. And we already see the right wing attacking it over in the Senate.  It`s going to cause Mitch McConnell, you know, a lot of acid producing luncheons.

HAYES:  It is true, I will say that Mitch McConnell had very like tepid -- did he see his quote  today, it was not as good as I thought it would be and we`re going to take a recess?  What do you think, Sam, on the strategy of this about whether this makes sense or not?

SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT:  Well, I think the deal is a decent deal.  It`s a marginal improvement over NAFTA.  But when Richard Trumka is used in an ad to support Donald Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, I think that`s going to make a big difference and not in favor of Democrats.

I mean, this -- the 2018 election that was so huge for the Democrats to win was one on negative partisanship.  People were coming out to vote against Donald Trump.  And so you had an election where you had plus 8 Democrat performance, and frankly you`re going to lose maybe some of those front line seats in this election. 

But the bottom line is are you going to beat Donald Trump?  And this does not help beat Donald Trump, it muddies the water in terms of what the message is from the Democrats.

HAYES:  What do you think about that, senator?

BOXER:  I just don`t agree.  I mean, if they dare use Richard Trumka in an ad for Trump and make him front and center, that will outrage labor.  And the fact is in this deal, which Pat Toomey from the right has said is just awful, for the first time it says Mexico you have to allow workers to unionize, and America, we will enforce that.

So, you know, I think because I was there so many years, 34 years, you take an oath to do your job when you hold up your hand.  And you`ve got to get something done.  And Nancy -- Speaker Pelosi did a genius job.  She got everybody in the room from to left to right of her caucus. 

I just think it`s brilliant, I really do.

HAYES:  So, I want to distinguish between two things, right.  So one is the second thing Senator Boxer said, which I heard from a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill, which I think is a totally defensible argument, which is basically like look you look at the legislation, if you think it`s a good deal, you vote for it.  You don`t say basically -- you don`t do what McConnell did.  You don`t say we`re not giving you a win, because that`ll be bad politics even if you substantively support the thing.

SEDER:  Yeah, I mean, that`s nice.  Mitch McConnell...

HAYES:  You think that`s a wrong reading of the politics.

SEDER:  I think it`s the wrong reading of the politics.  It`s also a wrong reading of where this country is going to be.

I mean, Donald Trump has been able, because of Mitch McConnell, to seat more circuit court judges almost than Barack Obama did in eight years.  He`s done this in three years.  And when we talk about -- you can talk about any series -- I mean, this is very narrow piece of legislation that is going to  maybe create 50,000 jobs, maybe.

HAYES:  Yeah.

SEDER:  I mean...

HAYES:  The difference between passing and not is not enormous in any way for the American...

SEDER:  Right, no one would make that argument.  And so I mean frankly the bottom line is that it`s all hands on deck time.  That`s what we`ve been hearing from the Democrats for three years.  This undercuts that message dramatically.

HAYES:  Let me ask you this, senator, because I think this is an interesting dynamic.  So, we know that the House republican caucus is dominated by essentially a fulcrum and a veto by its most conservative members, that was the case under John Boehner, under Paul Ryan.  I talked to House Democrats who say that the people who pushed for this the most were those front line members, right, the folks that in those 40 seats, particularly about 15 of whom really wanted this vote.

So, when you have a situation which when the Republicans have control of the House it`s dominated by the right most of the caucus.  And when Democrats have control of the House it`s also dominated by the right most of the caucus.

BOXER:  I`ll tell you why I don`t agree with you, I voted against NAFTA.  I`ve looked at this.  I would vote for this deal.  Now, people like Rosa DeLauro, they were on the committee that worked so hard for this agreement.  Nancy didn`t just go to the middle of her caucus, she went from to the left to the center and to the right of her caucus. 

And I just think, you know, everyone always questions her initially.  And I think you`re going to see something really good.  She said the American people want us to work.  We have to work.  I mean that`s what you`re there for.  And Mitch McConnell, he didn`t do very well, you know, in the mid- terms.  And he`s not going to do very well in the next time.  People are sick of the Grim Reaper.  He`s got a 30 percent approval rating at home.

HAYES:  Mitch McConnell did pretty well in the mid-terms.  They didn`t do that well in the House, but Mitch McConnell picked up a few seats...

BOXER:  Not really.  He has to deal with Nancy Pelosi, and he is not a happy camper.

HAYES:  Barbara Boxer and Sam Seder, thank you so much.

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