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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 9/15/22

Guests: Jena Griswold, Harry Litman, Katie Benner, Sarah Longwell


FBI seizes Mike Lindell`s cell phone amid election security breach investigation. Former President Donald Trump hinted that his supporters could engage in a protracted campaign of violence if he were to be indicted for any crimes discovered in the myriad criminal investigations into his conduct. Trump judge denies DOJ motion for partial stay and appoints special master. Thanks to a new court filing, we learned the DOJ`s search on Jeffrey Clark was looking for evidence related to three potential crimes, 18 USC 1001 which relates to false statements, 18 USC 371 which relates to conspiracy, and 18 USC 1512, which relates to obstruction of justice.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And that is tonight`s "REIDOUT" under his eye. ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voiceover): Tonight on ALL IN.

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: The FBI came after me and took my phone. They surrounded me at a Hardee`s.

HAYES: A drive-thru rendezvous with Justice.

LINDELL: They start asking these questions about Colorado, about Dominion Machine, Colorado with Tina Peters.

HAYES: Tonight, the criminal case behind Mike below search warrant and how the election threat is only growing. Then --

JEFFREY CLARK, FORMER OFFICIAL, DOJ: Can I put pants on first?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you got to clear the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to clear the house. And as soon as the house, we`ll get to talk to your lawyer and we`ll get some hands on, OK.

HAYES: What we`re learning about what the DOJ was looking for on Jeffrey Clark`s phone. Plus, a decision from Trump`s judge on the special master as the ex-President threatens against potential indictment.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it happened, I think you`d have problems in this country, the likes of which perhaps we`ve never seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of problems, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I think you`d have big problems.

HAYES: And 54 days to election day, new research on just how much abortion is animating Democrats and Independents, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. You know, these days, it can be tough to keep track of all of the people in Donald Trump`s circle who had their personal devices searched or seized in connection with one of the multiple ongoing investigations into the ex- president`s wrongdoing. It feels like I follow this for a living and I`m reminded or learn of a new one almost every day.

Recently, we`ve added an exceedingly colorful character to that group -- you might know who I`m talking about -- Mike Lindell. He is of course, the right-wing pillow guy who`s as run so often on Fox News he is basically the co-host of the 8:00 p.m. hour. And while Mike Lyndale is a ridiculous figure, he is also one of the most prominent election deniers in the country. And what he`s up to is definitely not funny.

After the 2020 election, Lindell toured the country spreading Donald Trump`s lies and helping to foment the coup. He also presented conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory to Donald Trump. The week after January 6, after the blood on the Capitol and the broken windows and the deaths of people, he was spotted at the White House holding a paper with the phrases insurrection act and martial law if necessary, printed on it.

Back in January of this year, the January 6 Committee subpoenaed Lindell`s phone records. And this week, Lindell revealed that FBI agents seized his cell phone while he was in the drive-thru of a Hardee`s in Minnesota.


LINDELL: The FBI came after me and took my phone and surrounded me at a Hardee`s and took my phone. I run all my business everything with. They could have just -- what we`ve done is weaponize the FBI. It`s disgusting. I don`t have a computer. Everything I do, I do at that phone. Everything was on there. And they told me not to tell anybody. Here`s an order not to -- don`t tell anybody. OK, I won`t. I am. So --


HAYES: In fact, Mike Lindell has done the opposite of what he says the FBI asked speaking publicly about whatever happened on every TV program that we`ll have. And then of course, they will all have him because they`re all hooked on those sweet ad dollars from


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not sure what they`re going to find on your phone, but for God`s --

LINDELL: They`re going to find out that -- they`re going to find -- they`re going to find a lot of promo codes for a lot of products for My Pillow. And Newsmax has been great by the way. Promo code, Newsmax.


HAYES: Promo code Newsmax. Always be closing, Mike. Now, to be fair, he has been generous with the promo codes and apparently did some of those promo codes to his defenders in Trump world like Rudy Giuliani who tweeted, "Breaking news, the FBI seized Mike Lindell`s phone. Fight back by shopping Rudy at My Pillow to support.

I have to say, this -- we talked about this in the editorial meeting. There was some debate about whether this was real. Like, could that possibly be real? But you know what? It`s 2022. Of course, it`s real. Of course, Rudy Giuliani is tweeting out on My Pillow Rudy promo code to defend Mike Lindell`s honor.

Now, Mike Lindell also revealed what the FBI agents asked him about at that Hardee`s drive-thru in Minnesota. He told former Trump White House strategist, turned podcaster -- they`re all podcasters -- Sebastian Gorka that one of the topics of questioning was Colorado county clerk Tina Peters.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, PODCASTER: Mike, did the agent ever tell you why the hell they were stopping you?


LINDELL: Well, then -- well, then he said -- then they asked me -- they asked me -- I said, so what is this about? Then they asked me when I met Tina Peters. I said you`re the FBI. You know I met her at the cyber symposium a year ago. Of course, you know that. Everybody knows that.


HAYES: OK, so Tina Peter, who is she? She was one of the speakers at that election conspiracy cyber symposium as he euphemistically called it. Mike Lindell put that together last August. And that was where he claimed that he would reveal this like, definitive demonstrative proof that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. And of course, you know, like all this, it`s all nonsense, there`s no evidence. It`s made up lies, just lies, lies, lies, right?

Tina Peters, though, is a really important figure because she`s not just another one of these like obsessive coup-plotting, pro-insurrection cranks. She is one of the few people in that world who had actual power overseeing actual elections. And according to court filings, she abused that power. "Devising and executing a deceptive scheme which was designed to influence public servants, breached security protocols, exceed permissible access to voting equipment, and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people."

Prosecutors allege that in May of 2021, Peters gave an unauthorized man access to the county`s secure elections area where voting equipment was stored. That man made copies of voting equipment servers, passwords from that equipment were later posted online by a leading figure in the QAnon conspiracy theater. Tina Peters has since said she was concerned, the company that makes these voting machines is going to delete records from the 2020 election. She apparently believed a debunked conspiracy theory the company was involved in stealing the election for Donald Trump.

In March, Peters was indicted by a Mesa County grand jury. She faces 10 counts, including seven felony charges of attempting to influence a public servant, conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation and identity theft. She pleaded not guilty to those charges. This video comes from February during grand jury investigation when Peters was arrested after refusing to allow police to carry out a search warrant for her iPad.

Now, Tina Peters has since been stripped of her duties overseeing elections as county clerk. And that ruling came as a result of a lawsuit brought by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold who I`m going to speak to you in just a few moments. And Peters actually tried to challenge Griswold for that position, Secretary of State, running for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State. She lost that primary in June, and accused state election officials, of course, of cheating.

So, Tina Peters is an important figure here, right? She`s the sort of overlap between like, ludicrous My Pillow election QAnon cult conspiracy world and actual election officials in America. Like, she`s one who had power and did get corrupted by Donald Trump`s election lies. She was willing to do his bidding and use her power to allegedly corruptly infiltrate the actual voting machines to turn over that information. That`s incredibly dangerous.

I think it`s pretty important that if these charges are true, that Tina Peters is held to account as a deterrent, if nothing else, a warning to any other election officials. And remember, there are thousands across this country who may be tempted to follow suit. That`s especially true because there may soon be more of them.

According to a new report, election deniers are on the ballot this November in 27 states seeking positions that will oversee, defend, or certify elections. They include to name just one example, Mark Finchem. That`s a Republican nominee for Arizona Secretary of State who says Joe Biden did not win in 2020, and just recently accused former Vice President Mike Pence of trying to steal the presidency in 2024.

In Michigan, the Republican candidate for attorney general, Matthew Deperno, not only denies the election results, he`s also under criminal investigation for potentially tampering with voting machines -- sound familiar -- used in 2020. So, it`s not just My Pillow guy and his goofy acolytes. These are people who like Tina Peters, could pose a serious threat to democratic legitimacy to the administration of our elections. And they`re gunning for real power.

Jena Griswold is Secretary of State in Colorado. She also chairs the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, and she joins me now. Secretary Griswold, it`s good to have you. First, you know, one thing that strikes me as I think about what happened in 2020 and I think about, you know, the number of people that signed up for this almost cult-like obsession with the election, is that Tina Peters sticks out as a relatively rare example of an actual official, who went along with it.

I mean, in most cases across the ideological spectrum say in your state of Colorado, it does seem like officialdom held, the people who are tasked with this very important duty across the ideological spectrum, didn`t truck with this nonsense and did their job. Is that -- is that basically your sense as well?


JENA GRISWOLD, SECRETARY OF STATE, COLORADO: Well, first off, Chris, thank you for having me on, especially for a spot that involves burgers and seizing phones and drive-thrus. And I think you`re right. In 2020, civil servants and elected officials rejected the lies coming out of the White House to make sure that Americans could vote safely and securely during a pandemic and with a sitting president trying to seize the presidency.

We saw civil servants stand up and reject Trump`s orders. We also saw Republicans and Democrats expand access. But there has been a major shift since then. We see the big lies spreading and being repeated over and over and over. So you start to see elected officials like Tina Peters embrace it. And Colorado experience the first insider threat, but unfortunately, we have seen more of them across the United States and an additional one in the state of Colorado.

HAYES: Yes, we should note that we`ve covered here Coffee County in Georgia is another state where apparently we have video showing election officials allowing outside groups to come in, infiltrate those machines and take data. There`s another one in another county in Colorado, so it`s not moved in the right direction. A particularly important part of this, of course, are Secretaries of State.

This is interesting. This is back from February. And I imagine the numbers of 2020 that more and more money is going into these races, Secretary of State`s races. This is all back in February 2020. But they`re three times higher than they were at this point in the 2018 cycle, eight times higher than 2014. That`s from two years ago. I got to imagine more current data would show that this cycle, we`re seeing something similar. How important are these races and how much money is going into them?

GRISWOLD: These races are incredibly important. And what we are seeing, as you noted, in Arizona, and Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, election deniers are running to be chief election officers. And what we can expect from them is to destabilize elections and be more beholden to Mar-a- Lago than the American people.

And make no mistake, this is part of a larger effort. The Big Lie has been used to suppress the vote, threatened election workers, incentivize insider threats, like in Mesa County. And this is all to destabilize the country so that the next time a presidential candidate or frankly, any candidate doesn`t want to accept the results, it will be easier for them to hold on to power.

HAYES: The big challenge that strikes me here is that I think a lot of voters don`t really know what secretaries of state do, or that it`s that important or that, you know, I think in a normal Secretary of State election, it`s like, well, it`s kind of an administrative job. You know, they`re not setting like -- a secretary state is not going to set like, abortion policy in my state, right?

So, you may think the stakes are not that high, you may not know what they do, and you may not have no -- have no idea that you`re choosing between someone who like fundamentally believes in liberal democracy and self- governance and someone who`s like, fundamentally on the record as being pro-coup.

How worried are you about how informed voters are as they go into choosing, you know, in the states that are 50-50 toss-up states like Arizona?

GRISWOLD: Well, one thing before answering your direct question, I did join the governor of Colorado, Governor Polis in saying the state of Colorado will not extradite for the criminalization of abortion in other states. I`m very pro-choice and very proud of that and will always stand with families, women, and children.

But when it comes to the general knowledge about these positions, secretaries of state were thrust in the forefront of American media and thought in 2020. We did this heroic effort to make sure that every eligible Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated could vote. And as a nation, we succeeded in safeguarding democracy.

And right now, the top issue on Americans minds is democracy. The very foundation, the ideal that everyday people get to choose their elected officials and then hold them accountable at the ballot box is that risk in many states in this country. So, I have total faith in the American people. And many of them will have candidates on their ballots this election cycle in November who are Big Lie candidates.

So, voters really need to pay attention to who they`re voting for whether it`s local county clerk to Secretary of State, to Attorney General and Governor. And I have confidence that Americans are going to reject this extremism and save American democracy in November.

HAYES: Final question for you. You mentioned that another Colorado county or something like this has happened. What -- which county? What has happened there?

GRISWOLD: We saw a second insider threat where a county clerk breached security protocols in Elbert County. And I`ll tell you, when I address the situation in Mesa County -- this was the first insider election breach in the entire country. I acted decisively. My job as Secretary of State is to make sure that every eligible voter Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated has access to safe and secure elections.

So, we petitioned a judge to remove that county clerk from oversight. I decertified all the voting equipment in Mesa County, and then asked my 2018 Republican opponent to step in. Chris, I also led the nation`s first law on insider threats. It`s now a felony to compromise voting equipment in the state of Colorado, or to publish private passwords to the voting equipment.

And like you mentioned, these insider threats, they`re passing -- they`re spreading across the nation and we really urge other states to take action as quickly as possible and make sure that their laws are ready to handle this evolving threat.


HAYES: Yes. That doesn`t make me feel great that there`s been more than one of those. Secretary of State Jena Griswold, thank you very much.

GRISWOLD: Thank you.

HAYES: As the ex-president makes threats about what could happen if he`s indicted, the January 6 Committee releases new video that shows how far right extremists were hanging on Donald Trump`s every word as they invaded the Capitol.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump just tweeted, please support our Capitol police. They are on our side. Do not harm them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s saying a lot but what he didn`t say -- he didn`t say not to do anything to the Congressmen.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is such a prosecutor and they indict you, would that deter you from running for president again?

TRUMP: I don`t think the people of the United States would stand for it. And as you know, if a thing like that happened, I would have no prohibition against running. You know that. You`ve already do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. And that`s what I want people to understand. That would not take you out of the arena.

TRUMP: It would not. But I think if it happened, I think you`d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we`ve never seen before. I don`t think the people of the United States would stand for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of problems, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I think you`d have big problems, big problems. I just don`t think they`d stand for it.


HAYES: Boy, I wonder what he means there about big problems, the same way like a mobster with the bat into his hand talks about big problems. The Department of Justice is in a legal fight with Donald Trump over the classified documents that he stole from the White House, to put it gently, and put in his retirement home. I`m going to talk about the latest ruling from Trump`s judge down in Florida in just a few minutes. That just came out.

But before we even get to the ruling, the ex-president has been out there with a not-so-subtle threat that there will be violence if he gets indicted. And the thing is, we know that violent mobs hang on this guy`s every word. Just listen to this newly released audio from the January 6 Committee, a walkie-talkie broadcasts between Oath Keepers during the insurrection.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN just said that they evacuated all members of Congress into a safety room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no safe place in the United States for any of these (BLEEP) right now, let me tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope they understand that we are not joking around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the military principle 105, military principle 105, cave means grave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump just tweeted, please support our Capitol Police. They are on our side. Do not harm them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s saying a lot, but what he didn`t say, he didn`t say not to do anything to the congressmen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he did not ask them to stand down. He`s just said stand by the Capitol Police. They are on our side and they are good people. So, it`s getting real down there. I got it on TV and it`s looking pretty freaking radical to me. CNN said that Trump has egged this on, that he is egging it on, and that he is watching the country burn two weeks before he leaves office. He is not leaving office. I don`t give a (BLEEP) what they say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in the midst -- we are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They`re throwing grenades. They`re freaking shooting people with paintballs, but we`re in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be safe, be safe. God bless and Godspeed and keep going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it, Jess. Do your (BLEEP). This is what we`ve (BLEEP) lived up for. Everything we`ve (BLEEP) trained for.


HAYES: Betsy Woodruff Swan has been reporting on all these investigations as the national correspondent for Politico focusing on the Department of Justice. Her latest piece reports on how Trump`s political action committee paid millions to a lawyer representing him in the Mar-a-Lago case. Harry Litman served as a U.S. attorney, as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General. And they both join me now.

Harry, I want to start with you on Judge Cannon. The Department of Justice said hey, look, we`re fine with the special master but rescind this completely unprecedented stay you have on us an investigation and just let us go through the 100 classified documents. There`s no dispute about whether those are privileged or belonged to the president or we`re going to appeal.

Judge Cannon says no, there is a dispute, even though it`s not clear what it is. She says the government`s position thus presupposes the content designation and associated interests in materials under its control. Yet, as the party`s competing filings reveal, there are disputes as to the proper designation of the seized materials. Indeed, if the court were willing to accept the government`s representations that select portions of the seized materials are without exception government property, not subject any privileges, the court would have denied plaintiffs` special master request.

OK, what happens now? What do you make of the ruling?


HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, let me start with the second. So, that is the core of it, and it`s an atrocity. So, exactly as you say, we`re talking about 100 documents and the department came in as to these. They`re classified, he cannot possibly have a possessory interest. Its very weak pushback was, well, the government says they`re classified. Maybe that doesn`t mean that they are. That`s a that`s a spectacularly incoherent position. The government classifies things. They`re marked classified. That`s what it means. And it also clearly means he has no possessory interest.

And she adopted his very strange kind of, well, it could be even though remember, he has asked for extraordinary relief had to make a heightened showing, but she basically says, you know, it wouldn`t be appropriate because maybe they`re not classified. I want to talk to a, you know, a third party, that who the special masters.

That is wild, and you know, completely divorced from what courts do and are supposed to do. What happens now? They said they were going to appeal. Oh, and one other quick thing. She does nothing about executive privilege. So Raymond Dearie has now been appointed, will look to do an attorney-client. Fine. But also, to do executive privilege with no standards whatsoever, it`s a completely bedlam.

They will appeal. They said they would. They`ll go forward and then it`ll be -- this 100 classified documents will be part and parcel. And yes, it`s a very conservative court, but that`s where they have to go. And her opinion seems so flawed, and so unjudicial that I think their odds are pretty good. But in any event, that`s where they have to go now the 11th Circuit. I look for them to file that tomorrow.

HAYES: I`m going to come to you in a second, Betsy, because I want to talk about your reporting, but just one follow up with you, Harry, here. I don`t even understand. I mean, when you think about like, what judges do as resolving disputes, right? There`s two parties that have a dispute. You`re a district court judge, you got to resolve them, right?

So, the resolution here, right, is there`s going to be the special master. But I don`t even understand what matrix of evaluation this special master supposed to use with the classified documents. What`s he looking for? Like, what`s the thing that makes it like a Trump doc? What could possibly be on it that would make it a not classified document that belongs to the U.S. government? Like what`s he sifting for?

LITMAN: No kidding. So, there -- it`s not possible. We know this from the Supreme Court, by the way. Even if all he said is he could have reclassified when he was president. But he didn`t and there`s no proof of it. And it`s really an important blunder on her part, because there is no law about executive privilege in a former president. And here we know already from the Trump V. Thompson case and the Nixon case that even if there were, it would certainly yield to the interests of the United States.

HAYES: Right.

LITMAN: There is no law out there. But he`s going to -- so, poor Judge Dearie. He`ll say something, and then Trump will dispute it. And now, it will go to Cannon. And then -- so, it`s a recipe for really great delay. And it`s also a recipe for sort of undermining the whole idea of the criminal investigation because if he maybe had some right to classify documents, well, then it`s hard to say it was a crime to have taken them, conceal them, and lied about them.

HAYES: Betsy, of course, the lawyer for this is being paid out of the small-dollar donations that flow into Trump world. You broke this story today. What did you learn about how the legal bills are being paid?

BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right. The Save America Legal PAC was set up by Trump and his allies just two days after Election Day 2020. And one of the things that this PAC did right out of the bat was cash in on the claims that Trump and his allies were pushing that the entire election had been stolen and that it was a big hoax.

The sort of shamelessness with which this PAC pushed the claims that Trump and his allies were boosting at that time was incredibly lucrative. They brought in more than $100 million since that process happens, since they were stood up in November of 2020. And now, much of that money is going to be used to pay to cover Trump`s legal bills, which are the direct result of him spreading lies about the elections outcome.

So, what we know is that Save America, which is this leadership PAC, has made a $3 million payment to cover Chris Kise`s a legal work on behalf of Trump. $3 million is obviously a lot of money, but that may not cover all the work Kise is going to have to do for Trump because he`s working for the former president both on the Mar-a-Lago matter and on the January 6 matter.

And he`s had to set up his own law firm to take Trump as a client, because presumably the major white shoe firm that he was at previously didn`t want to take on a guy who was famous for not paying his lawyers. And that`s why what we`re seeing now is what was, you know, supposedly supposed to be a political fundraising arm is now helping Trump just deal with the legal fallout of January 6 and the resulting chaos.


HAYES: Well, and one final perfect detail, right? It`s the Save America PAC that is -- appears to be one of the things being investigated by that grand jury in Washington D.C. and the subject of some of the subpoenas, right, because that was this --

SWAN: That`s right.

HAYES: -- vehicle to raise money after January 6. So, there`s some legal exposure in the fund itself, which is now paying legal bills like a self- licking ice cream cone.

Betsy Woodruff Swan and Harry Litman, thank you both.

LITMAN: Thank you.

SWAN: Thank you.

HAYES: Still ahead, Jeffrey Clark was a key player in Donald Trump`s attempt to seize power. Then, law enforcement searched his home, took his phone, and made him wait outside without his pants. What we`re learning about the charges he could be facing next.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you step outside with me? We`ve got a search warrant and we need to speak to you guys. Can I get you to step outside for me?

CLARK: Can I call my lawyer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Come on outside and do it.

CLARK: Can I put pants on first?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you got to clear the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to clear the house. And as soon as we clear the house, we`ll get to talk to your lawyer and we`ll get some pants on, OK.


HAYES: According to Jeffrey Clark, law enforcement took all the electronics from his home on the morning of June 22. That was the day you saw there where federal investigators apparently woke Clark up with a knock on his door and asked him to stand outside in his underpants while they searched his home for potential evidence.

Clark, you may recall, was the environmental lawyer at the Department of Justice who Trump wanted to install as Attorney General to help him further his goal of ending democracy as we know it by using the Department of Justice as an implement for the coup. And thanks to a new court filing, we learned the DOJ was looking for evidence related to three potential crimes, 18 USC 1001 which relates to false statements, 18 USC 371 which relates to conspiracy, and 18 USC 1512, which relates to obstruction of justice.

Katie Benner is a New York Times Justice Correspondent who has been following all the twists and turns of the January 6 investigation. Katie, what is this new filing tell us about where this investigation is and what it may or may not be related to as regards Jeffrey Clark?

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We know from some previous reporting that the investigation into January 6 is still in a very developmental phase. As we know, last week, they issued more than 40 subpoenas to various Trump associates to find information, and it will take quite a bit of time to comb through that information and find things that the Justice Department believes are responsive to its investigation.

So, we are still in pretty early stages on January 6. But we know that Jeffrey Clark has been under investigation basically since January of 2021, right after reporting came out about his role in the attempt to overturn the election. So, that is much more developed. And what we see in this filing is that he`s being investigated, as you said, for potential, you know, accusations in making false statements, obstructing an investigative -- obstructing justice, excuse me -- obstruction of justice, and conspiracy, but the conspiracy detail is unclear.

We also know that Clark had been investigated, that people were interested in whether or not he was involved in the effort to obstruct Congress`s ability to certify Joe Biden as president. So, it`s actually not quite clear to me from this, whether or not he`s also under investigation for trying to obstruct the Justice Department`s investigation into him, but that is one possibility.

And this also does say to me that the Justice Department is again, very, very developed in its look at Jeffrey Clark.

HAYES: Yes. So, that`s what I`ve sort of taken away here and I keep having to remind myself, all of that flurry of activity you mentioned off the top for the January 6 stuff and all the subpoenas and Mike Lindell who we mentioned earlier, the testimony we know is happened in front of that grand jury, it`s not clear that`s -- I mean, it`s related at some level because the activities are all related, but the Clark investigation specifically of him seems to have started way before that, and is probably further down the road is what you`re saying?

BENNER: Absolutely. And what`s so interesting about this filing is it does not come from the Justice Department, it comes from the Washington D.C. BAR. They`re thinking about disciplining him for what he did around the election. And that discipline could include disbarring him. So they made a motion about this in the in the summer, and they gave Clark a chance to respond. And in his response, he said, you should not go forward with this investigation and potential disciplining of me because there are all these other parallel investigations into my behavior. And once they are resolved, it could actually resolve the questions you have about what I did.

I mean, it`s just the fact that he would say that this criminal investigation of him could go his way and show the D.C. BAR that he did nothing wrong. It does say to me that he believes he did nothing wrong. But also, the BAR read that -- they read his argument, and in their reply, which is where we get this information, they disagree with him. They say listen, just because you might be under criminal investigation, does not mean that that is going to resolve anything for us. We are still able to examine your behavior on its own.


HAYES: There`s one other lawyer who seems to be the subject of criminal inquiry and who also fairly advanced which is John Eastman. He played a slightly different role because he was not working for the government. He was essentially called himself a counsel to the President. We know he was intimately involved in the highest echelons of coup plotting, of pressure on Pence. He too, right, has been subjected to searches, we believe subpoenas. And I wonder if you -- if your reporting indicates that investigation is as developed as the Clark one is.

BENNER: I mean, some of the reporting indicates that part of the reason they got -- obtaining information from John Eastman was related to this investigation of Jeffrey Clark. So, I do think that there are a lot of pieces that overlap, but Clark is certainly somebody who they`ve been scrutinizing for longer, they`ve obtained more information about. And it`s going to be interesting to see what happens to him. It`s also interesting to see what happens to him because we take a big step back and look at the January 6 investigation in its totality.

There are a lot of people who are talking about the fact that they think that Donald Trump could be indicted any day now, which is -- which is contrary to any reporting that I have. But keep in mind, there are not yet really firm links between a lot of the activity and Donald Trump. And especially for something like the plan to endorse fake slates of electors, you would -- you would kind of need as a prosecutor in general, just in cases like this in general, as a prosecutor, you want somebody who`s involved to say that somebody else directed them.

And so, it`s not clear yet that they have even gotten close enough to prosecute anybody who they could try to put pressure to flip and implicate Donald Trump. So, I think that we would need to see actual indictments of other people before we ever saw one against Donald Trump.

HAYES: Yes, that`s a really good point. And you wrote a piece yesterday, the day before, which we put it on air here about the timeline here, which is almost certainly things kind of going to go quiet in the round up to the election. And it will -- it will be a little while as this all works through, particularly given the scope from what we`ve seen revealed in just the sheer amount of subpoenas and search warrants that have been served.

Katie Benner, always a pleasure. Thank you.

BENNER: Thank you.

HAYES: Still to come, despite pessimism in some circles, it turns out people like when you cancel a bunch of their debt. Who knew? How President Biden`s student loan gamble could pay off for Democrats in the Midterms? Next.



HAYES: During the summer, as the Biden administration wrestled with what to do about student loan debt, there was a really big debate among Democrats and progressives and everyone in the center-left about loan cancellation. And a whole bunch of people argued that whatever you thought on the substance, that it was -- it was bad politics for Democrats in general and President Joe Biden in particular.

We saw this in a lot of places. A Forbes column from back from the spring warn "The political fallout from student loan forgiveness may not turn out the way Democrats hope." The USA Today Op-Ed laid out reasons why "The loan forgiveness plan mostly hurts the Democrats in the near term." The Atlantic said, "The issue offers little political benefit to Biden."

And honestly, you know, politics is strange. I wasn`t positive about how the politics would play out. I could imagine whipping up a backlash that was actually, you know, hurt the Democrats. None of that stopped President Joe Biden last month when he walked into the Roosevelt Room of the White House, and made this announcement.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Using the authority Congress grant at the Department of Education, we will forgive $10,000 in outstanding federal student loans. In addition, students who come from low income families, which allowed them to qualify to receive a Pell Grant, will have their debt reduced to $20,000. Both of these targeted actions are for families who needed the most, working and middle class people hit especially hard during the pandemic making under $125,000 a year.


HAYES: So, that was the announcement. That`s where they ended up after a lot of back and forth about how much money it would be and for whom. And now that it`s been announced, we can kind of check in and see who was right, how is it actually playing with voters? Well, according to a new Fox News poll, 54 percent of people approve of the policy. So, it`s plus 11 there. Biden has also seen a surge in his approvals in the aftermath of the announcement.

Immediately after the announcement, his approval among adults under 30 shot up 10 points from 49 to 59 percent. But it`s not just young people. The American public at large appears to have taken a shine. An Associated Press poll had them at 36 percent back in July. The number jumped to 45 percent this month. Quinnipiac poll showed a similar pattern. 31 percent in July, at 40 percent approval after the announcement.

Now, there are a lot of factors that go into presidential approval ratings. Gas prices have come down. But what you can say I think definitively if this wasn`t some big disaster, not some huge blowback here, it seems pretty clear this is actually a popular policy, does real good, and yields a tangible political benefit.



HAYES: Right now, there`s an interesting polling anomaly that might be helping Democratic candidates in the Midterms. You see, usually when a party holds a White House like Democrats do, presidential approval rating is the key indicator and predictor of how that election is going to go. And as we mentioned, President Biden`s approval rating has improved recently, but it`s still averaging just 42 percent. But Democrats are over-performing Midterm expectations in both head-to-head Senate matchups. See all those blue dots for the Democrats? And generically where you people are asked like, would you rather vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate? That`s the generic ballot.

We also see this in special elections where they`ve been overperforming. It means right now, Democrats are either leaning slightly or fighting to a near draw even though the Democratic president is polling in the low 40s. So, if the Midterms turn on Biden`s approval rating, Democrats could be in real trouble in November. But there are a bunch of reasons to think this year might be different.

Sarah Longwell is the executive director of the Republican Accountability Project, publisher of The Bulwark, host of the Focus Group podcast. And she actually just did a focus group in the battleground state of Nevada on this gap between Biden and other Democratic candidates. And she joins me now.

Sarah, set up for us what you were looking to get into in this -- in this focus group?


SARAH LONGWELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: Yes, well, look, I wanted to understand this spread, this idea that Biden -- you know, Nevada is a state where Biden is even polling lower than in most of these states. This is a state where that Republicans are really keen to pick up that Senate seat from Cortez Masto.

The problem, though, is that when it comes to the candidates that these Republicans are running, even though the environment is so good for them -- you know, when you talk to these voters, and we were talking to sort of Democratic-leaning independents and disaffected Democrats -- so Democrats who specifically said they didn`t like the job that Joe Biden was doing. So, even though they`re really down on him, though, when you -- when you ask them head to head, so you know -- and they say they`re open to voting for Republicans, but they say -- they say, well, what about Adam Laxalt, the Republican Senate candidate. They loathe him. They dislike him intensely. And a lot of it is wrapped up in his position on abortion.

And so, even though when you ask an open-ended question like, well, what are you concerned about in the election right now, they`ll say, inflation, they`ll say crime, they`ll say the economy, all things that should sort of generally be benefiting Republicans. It`s the candidates, and it`s the candidates with the combination of the extremism on abortion that`s really creating this environment where even though they`re open to it, and they`re frustrated with Democrats, they just can`t get there.

And just before -- just before this, I was watching one in Arizona, with the swing voters, and it was the exact same dynamic, super frustrated with Joe Biden, with the Democrats, but when it came to Mark Kelly, they were for him. They just absolutely weren`t going to vote for the Republican Blake Masters. In fact, they were aware that he had sort of spoken positively about the Unabomber. And once you have been -- you know, once voters sort of are aware of that about you, you know, then you`re in for a tough road.

And so, it`s this extremism is what keeps coming up from the voters. And it`s to some degree abortion, but it`s also, you know, people who participated in January 6, two people who are election deniers. And it kind of all levels up and accumulates into candidates that people just aren`t that enthusiastic about and a lot of swing voters can`t get there on.

HAYES: You know, it`s funny, you`re -- as you`re saying this, I`m remembering someone once telling me this was years ago, I was talking to someone who was a pretty like -- sort of left -- labor liberal lefty kind of person who worked in Democratic politics. He said something to me like, it`s not -- like being moderate isn`t necessarily that your spreadsheet of issue positions. A lot of what, you know, somewhat -- you`re being moderate is like, how you sound how approachable you seem. You can have positions that, you know, you think taxes should be raised a lot on wealthy people. And if you come off as moderate, you`ve got a shot with voters to get a hearing.

And what I`m hearing from you, interestingly, is, it seems to me like a lot of these Republicans have come through primaries where what they have to perform is the opposite of moderation and the opposite of relatability, right? They`re performing extremism, it becomes hard to turn that right around. Like, the new Senate candidate, Bolduc, you know, the day after he gets the nomination comes out to be like, actually, after doing some thinking, Joe Biden was fairly elected president. It`s like, it`s going to take more than that for those New Hampshire voters for them to see you as some sort of, you know, centrist.

LONGWELL: Yes. It`s a really tough pivot. Another place where that`s in effect is someplace like Michigan, you know, where you had a Republican candidate in Tudor Dixon who had these -- was taking these really extreme positions on abortion, saying that if you know a 12-year-old was raped, that they should have to carry -- that young girl should have to carry the baby to term.

Well, even though Democratic voters and swing voters in Michigan are still sort of frustrated with Gretchen Whitmer over things related to COVID, and these come up a lot in the focus groups. They have very specific grievances about COVID. They look at Tudor Dixon and they say, no, thanks. That`s too extreme. That sounds crazy. That doesn`t sound like somebody I could vote for.

And so, you`re right. It is very difficult. Trump and the forces that he`s unleashed has forced these candidates to go so far, so intensely right in the primaries that they can`t pivot back to the middle in the general.

HAYES: Although I will say on abortion, it`s not Trump that`s unleashed that. I mean, that is a long-standing dog that caught the car for a movement that has been working to overturn Roe for multiple decades and now has to go to the public and say, this is what we actually want on abortion and is finding that a lot of the public doesn`t like that, a la Kansas and other places.

Sarah Longwell, thank you very much.

LONGWELL: Thank you.

HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Thursday night. "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT" starts right now. Good evening, Alex.