Interview with Jerry Nadler, Judiciary Committee Chair. TRANSCRIPT: 3/4/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Jerrold Nadler, Jay Inslee

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Yes.

WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES"  The most he`s ever gotten is 40s, right?

HAYES:  Right.

ALI:  He`s a weak candidate.  He only won by 70,000 votes in three states.  So, they should be bold, they should be hopeful, they should communicate that message and be unapologetic about it.  And I hope Biden, whoever else does not just court this mythical unicorn centrist voter.  That would be a mistake.

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF POLITICS:  Yes.

HAYES:  I think perception is the president`s strength will actually end up doing a lot about how people think about what kind of risk they can take, which I think will be an interesting complex dynamic as it plays out over the next two years. 

Aisha Moodie-Mills, Wajahat Ali, thank you for joining us. 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciated.

HAYES:  You bet. 

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy Monday. 

Jay Inslee, the governor of the great state of Washington now a brand-new contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, Governor Jay Inslee will be joining us live here in studio a little bit later on this hour.  This is going to be his first cable interview since announcing that he is running for president.  We are very excited to talk to the governor and that is coming up in just a few minutes. 

But I want to start tonight with the news that landed today like a set of encyclopedias being dropped onto your desk from a great height.  I print this stuff really small, in two pages to a sheet, and this is just the request for information that we`re talking about today.  This is asking for the stuff. 

And, you know, we probably should have known this was coming, if not today than at least sometime soon.  Even before today, we knew investigations were getting going in a way that was going to start leaving a mark, right?  By late last week, we had the reporting from NBC News that the Ways and Means Committee in the Democratic controlled House was readying a request for years of President Trump`s personal tax returns.  A request that`s expected to land at the IRS as early as the next few weeks. 

The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts.  He is now starting the process of obtaining the president`s tax returns as those tax returns pertain to a number of lines of investigation that are now being pursued by a bunch of congressional committees. 

Even just last week the president`s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen testifying that the president inflated his assets or deflated assets to obtain better loan terms from banks or to try to lower his tax bill or lower his insurance premiums.  Democrats say any serious evaluation of allegations of serious financial fraud like that, that would require them to look at Trump`s tax returns, just as one example.  And so they are starting the process of pursuing the president`s tax returns. 

On Friday night, we had Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chair of the Financial Services Committee, breaking the news on air here on MSNBC with Chris Hayes, telling Chris that her committee staff from the Financial Services Committee were headed to the New York City offices of Deutsche Bank, to work in person with employees of that bank on the document requests that she and her committee have submitted to Deutsche Bank.  Now, Chairman waters had previously described Deutsche Bank, which is, of course, the major Donald Trump lending institution in the world, she had previously described Deutsche Bank as being cooperative with new requests from her committee but this new announcement from her that her staffers are at Deutsche Bank working on document production, that means Deutsche Bank is no longer theoretically going along with this idea of Congress obtaining records from them, now they are actually producing material. 

And even if it was just those two things, right -- I mean, the tax returns and Deutsche Bank records, I mean, those alone are the two big book ends of the president`s financial history and the question whether or not his personal and business financial entanglements may be integral to getting to the bottom of some of the scandals surrounding this presidency, right?  If it were just Deutsche Bank and tax returns alone, we would be bracing first off this week, right? 

But, of course, that`s just happening alongside all of this other stuff that is getting going, right?  We`re getting news even just based on the Cohen testimony last week that that testimony may have opened yet more doors for investigators.  Michael Cohen`s attorney Lanny Davis told us here on this show late last week that new information was developed in a closed- door set of testimony that Cohen had with the House Intelligence Committee after he spent the entire day on television in front of a different committee. 

When he was behind closed doors with the intelligence committee, he somehow developed new information that caused the Intelligence Committee to schedule yet another session of testimony with Michael Cohen for this week, for Wednesday.  He will be going back in order to talk to them about that new material.  After we learned that from Cohen`s lawyer, then, Congressman Eric Swalwell who`s on that committee, he told us late Friday night that he and his colleagues on that committee at that closed door testimony had been quote, at the edge of their seats. 

Then over this weekend, we got fairly blunt new reporting about what that new information from Michael Cohen might be.  According to "The Washington Post," that newly developing information from Cohen that caused him to be called back for a second session before the Intelligence Committee, according to "The Washington Post," what that`s about is a potential pardon.  Michael Cohen reportedly being contacted about a potential presidential pardon. 

Now, Cohen said in his open testimony he wouldn`t seek or accept a pardon from President Trump, but if a pardon was dangled to Cohen in conjunction with the FBI raiding his home and his office or in congestion with his congressional testimony about the president, if he was promised or offered a pardon and it was contingent on the way he went along with that congressional testimony, that raises the possibility a pardon may have been dangled to him as part of an effort to obstruct justice, as part of an effort to tamper with witnesses. 

In his testimony last week, Michael Cohen appeared to hint that prosecutors in the Southern District of New York might be looking into something like that.  If this "Washington Post" reporting is accurate as to what new line of inquiry the Intelligence Committee is pursuing with him, that line of inquiry would appear to lead toward the Southern District of New York.  Remember, it is prosecutors in the Southern District of New York who have already named the president as individual number one.  Essentially as an unindicted co-conspirator in two of Michael Cohen`s felonies that he has pled guilty to and going to prison. 

One thread that`s still dangling related to that story are the reports that the president may have pressured then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to intervene in SDNY,  to pressure prosecutors in that U.S. attorney`s office as it pertained to the Michael Cohen case.  There are reports that the president may have contacted Matthew Whitaker by phone and asked him essentially if a different prosecutor could be put in charge of the Cohen case, if Whitaker could use his role at the Justice Department to make that change in that U.S. attorney`s office.  Now, those reports have led to a number of sort of shoes waiting to drop because that`s a very serious allegation for the president given what appears to be his own potential legal scrutiny and legal jeopardy related to the U.S. attorney`s office. 

While we`re sort of waiting to find out what`s going to happen there next, today, we got the surprising news that Matthew Whitaker himself has left the Justice Department.  He left this weekend.  Now, we knew he was no longer acting attorney general because now we have a full-time attorney general, William Barr, who is in place at the Justice Department, but Matt Whitaker was supposedly going to stay on, until he wasn`t.  He left suddenly without an announcement this weekend and it`s not like he`s leaving because he suddenly got offered some awesome new gig. 

"The L.A. Times" reports that Matthew Whitaker, quote, has not settled on what to do next in his legal career.  So he left the Justice Department for nothing and it was just a couple of weeks ago when the Justice Department announced that Matt Whitaker would be staying on at the department.  They had found some job for him to land on after leaving his post as acting attorney general. 

The fact that he is suddenly gone is all the more intriguing given his reported promise that he would come back and clarify his congressional testimony to the Judiciary Committee.  Clarify his testimony specifically on the matter of whether or not he was in fact pressured by the White House to lean on the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York about the Michael Cohen prosecution. 

So, that clarification to Congress over that testimony that he previously had given on that issue, that is a live issue, and that is an increasingly intriguing live issue with this now surprise news that Whitaker as of this weekend is a former Justice Department official and not a current one. 

And, and, and, I mean, that`s not even all.  I mean, today was the deadline for the White House to respond to a new urgent demand from the Oversight Committee in the House for information about security clearance and the security clearances and the security clearance process in the White House, including now this new report that the president intervened to make sure that his son-in-law Jared Kushner would get a security clearance.  Accompanying that reporting was news in "The New York Times" that there are memos from the former White House counsel Don McGahn and from the former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in which Kelly and McGahn expressed their objections to the president ordering that Jared Kushner be given a security clearance.  At least the McGahn memo is said to express what the concerns were about Jared that led to senior staff, excuse me, led to career staff recommending against Jared getting a clearance. 

Wouldn`t you like to see those memos?  The Oversight Committee would like to see them.  They are making efforts to get those documents.  They are sort of implicitly threatening that they will send out subpoenas in order to get information that they have requested about security clearances and this White House.  Information they have requested thus far and thus far had no response from the White House about. 

And today, the chairs of a whole bunch of committees, foreign affairs, intelligence, and oversight, they all wrote jointly to the White House also to demand information about President Trump`s communications with Vladimir Putin.  And I mean, that`s a remarkable thing that Congress might be able to obtain, right?  A president`s communications with a foreign leader. 

It would be a weird thing for Congress to feel like they could get access to that even except for the fact that with this president, he reportedly took the -- as far as we know historically unprecedented step of personally seizing his translator`s notes from one of his meetings with Putin and then swearing that translator to secrecy.  The chairman today even raising the possibility that the president may have actively lied about the content of his communications with Vladimir Putin and so, this is not just run-of-the- mill communications between the president and a foreign leader and in this case, there is stuff to ask about and so these chairman are going after that, too. 

So, all of these things are happening simultaneously.  All of that stuff I just described in the news today, that`s all stuff that we`ve known has been in the works or coming to a point of confrontation for days, if not weeks, if not months.  So, some of this stuff we could see coming.  But I don`t think anybody saw coming what we got today from Congressman Jerry Nadler`s Judiciary Committee, right?  And this is again, these are the requests for information from Nadler`s Judiciary Committee today.  These are just the questions. 

And this is big, right?  I mean, literally, this is big.  The document request sent today by the House Judiciary Committee going out to 81 different people and entities, and the 81 people and entities we see in these document request run gamut from government agencies and the White House itself, to current and former White House officials to executives at the Trump Organization to Donald Trump`s adult sons, to marquee names of the various Trump/Russia related investigations. 

George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Felix Sater, WikiLeaks, Concord Management, just the company that funds the Internet Research Agency in Russia.  But 81 different entities and what is striking to me about these document requests, as you go through them and I`m sure you will, what is striking to me about them is how comprehensive they are, at least how comprehensive a portrait they paint of the Trump administration and the kinds of levels of scandal we have been through thus far with this president. 

I mean, if you have been following the ins and outs of the scandals over the last couple years, you may be familiar with that feeling that there is sort of just too much to keep track of, right?  That on any given day, you read an update about one scandal or one part of the investigation and yes, you vaguely remember how that connects to the other parts but actually, honestly, if you have to come up with a list at the top of your head, you would have forgotten that existed.  But here it is still developing, here it is with new updates.  I mean, that`s sort of what it feels like going to this government request today from the Judiciary Committee. 

I mean, today, we tried, just me and my staff, we tried to come up with a basic back of the envelope list of all the things the judiciary committee is looking into as of today with these document requests.  And I don`t suggest this as a complete list, but just if you look at the stuff they are asking for information about from all of these other entities, it`s -- I mean, you need a big envelope in order to write this on the back of an envelope.  Starting back in the first weeks of the administration, the Judiciary Committee is seeking documents related to the resignation of the first Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn.

Also, the committee wants information on Flynn`s contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition.  That`s what Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI, and they want information on all the people in the transition who are reported to have known about those contacts as they were happening.  That`s been a very interesting dangling thread.  It doesn`t seem like Flynn was acting alone when he was talking to the ambassador, why did everybody lie about it besides just Flynn lying about it after he had those communications given that so many other people were read in on what he was doing?

There is also the Trump Tower meeting June 2016.  There is the misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting, the one that Donald Trump Jr. released when it was a statement -- it was later revealed that statement was reportedly dictated by his father. 

The Judiciary Committee also wants to know about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and various officials perceived as allies of James Comey`s who were fired or pressured to resign or demoted.  Also, the attempted firing of special counsel Robert Mueller and others. 

There is also the question of the president`s alleged communications with Matthew Whitaker.  That reported attempt to put pressure on prosecutors in the Southern District of New York over the Michael Cohen case.  There is also the question of whether a pardon was floated for Michael Cohen or for Mike Flynn or for Paul Manafort to try to influence their conduct during these investigations, their comments to Congress, or their statements otherwise to law enforcement.  The committee is seeking documents on the Cohen hush money payments he testified to Congress about last week, and about his earlier false statements, his earlier false testimony to Congress. 

Also whether anybody from the White House edited or approved his false testimony.  Oh, and the recordings Michael Cohen says he has of various conversations, the committee would like any of those that are relevant.  The committee is also probing whether any improper foreign payments and improper constitutionally prohibited emoluments were given to Trump or his business or his family, whether there was any Russian financing for any Trump business projects or those of his son-in-law and Kushner projects, as well. 

There is also a couple of very broad categories where they are looking for information like what sort of election data if any did the Trump campaign receive from any foreigners or WikiLeaks or Cambridge Analytica.  Are there documents and contacts with Donald Trump, his campaign, his business, various members of his campaign, outside figures like Roger Stone or Erik Prince. 

What about contacts with these other countries like UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia?  No foreign countries are allowed to contribute meaningfully to an American presidential election.  What about these other countries beyond Russia, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia?  What about communications between Paul Manafort and Rick Gates with Konstantin Kilimnik or other Russian contacts?  The committee is reaching back to the Republican National Convention where Trump was nominated, to ask about this still mysterious change made to the Republican Party platform.  Remember that change -- policy change about Ukraine that appealed very much to the Kremlin but apparently to no one in Republican politics and nobody would admit to shepherding that change through?

They also want to know about hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Michael Cohen in the first months of the Trump administration by a company linked to a Russian billionaire.  The committee would also like any documents related to Trump`s meetings with Putin during his presidency, and any attempts by the White House to pressure government officials to downplay the Russia investigation in public.  They are seeking documents from the NRA and Paul Erickson whose girlfriend, Maria Butina, is currently in prison for allegedly running a Russian influence operation through the NRA.

And speaking of parts of the story you may have forgotten about, the committee is even requesting documents from the estate of the late Peter Smith.  Remember that story.  A longtime Republican donor and activist who said he attempted to make contact with Russian government hackers during the 2016 campaign to try to get ahold of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. 

Oh, is that it?  Is that all you guys are looking into?  Is there anything else on the list? 

Honestly, that`s not even a comprehensive list.  That`s just the 22 points we came up with off the top of our heads when reading through these requests for information that went out from the Judiciary Committee today. 

So here`s my question.  Is this too much for one committee?  Are they biting off more than they can chew?  Imagine you are a congressional staffer whose job is working on the investigative staff of Judiciary Committee.  Imagine it`s your job to receive all of the information that`s going to be submitted in response to these document requests.  It`s your job to receive all that information, to digest it all, to fact check it all and then to make sure it`s all chased down in terms of what leads it gives you. 

Is this much -- is this too much to ask about all at once?  Well, the man who is asking about this all at once is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  His name is Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York and he`s here live with us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is the busiest man in Congress.  Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  His committee today sent out to 81 different people and entities, requests for documents and information related to a number of different investigations that all touched on the executive branch.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here. 

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  So, this is a big list.

NADLER:  Uh-huh.

MADDOW:  Eighty-one people is a lot.  Have you had any response already?  I realize this is the first day. 

NADLER:  Yes, we have.  We`ve been having some very positive responses from a number of the 81 people today. 

MADDOW:  In what sense? 

NADLER:  They have been saying they will give us documents, some started giving us documents. 

MADDOW:  Do you anticipate that these letters and these requests that you sent out today will be the first step towards subpoenas to some of these people and entities if they don`t cooperate? 

NADLER:  Well, if they don`t cooperate, yes.  But we don`t know that they won`t cooperate.  In the initial batch of requests we sent to these 81 people, we limited the requests to material that they already submitted to other agencies, to the special prosecutor, Southern District, so that they can be -- so that they could respond quickly and there could be no question of privilege. 

We will follow up with some of them, maybe many of them with other document requests for documents they haven`t submitted, but to get speedy compliance to start the work quickly, the initial document request was for documents they already turned over to other people. 

MADDOW:  So, and when I think about that in terms of your overall remit, obviously, procedurally, that makes sense in terms of getting things fast, because of those entities and people have already given these documents over, that means that they can`t say that they have to be held secret because of privilege with the president.

NADLER:  That`s right. 

MADDOW:  But it also means that you won`t necessarily be getting anything new, that other law enforcement or investigative entities haven`t seen. 

NADLER:  Well, not initially.  But, remember, our job is very different from other law enforcement agencies.  The special prosecutor has a specific mandate to investigate only the possible -- only the Russian interference with the election and possible collusion by the Trump administration or anybody else with that interference with the election, and only to look at crimes. 

The southern district of New York also only looks at crimes.  We have to look at a much broader question.  We have to look -- our job is to protect the rule of law in this country.  That means we have to look at the three major threats to the rule of law that we have seen and that is corruption, personal enrichment and violation of the emoluments clause.  It means abuse of power in terms of various things that have been done. 

It means interference with elections.  It means abuse of power, attacks on the press, attacks on the judiciary, attacks on law enforcement agencies and obstruction of justice, interference with the various investigations that are going on. 

MADDOW:  And have you had -- in preparation for sending out all of these document requests today, did you have to go toward deconfliction process with the Justice Department or even with other committees. 

NADLER:  We`ve talked to the Justice Department, Southern District and special prosecutors to make sure that nothing we are doing would interfere with them.  Yes.

MADDOW:  OK.

NADLER:  And there are ongoing meetings between the staffs of the different committees and every so often the chairmen to make sure we`re not wasting time, that we`re not duplicating what we`re doing.

MADDOW:  Are there lines of inquiry that you would be pursuing through document requests like these or some other means that you`d like to be pursuing but you aren`t specifically because of special counsel`s waved you off or southern district waved you off? 

NADLER:  No, no.  Not because of the Southern District or the special counsel.  We`re not pursuing the whole question of collusion with the Russians, for example, because the Intelligence Committee is pursuing that.

MADDOW:  OK.  Let me ask about -- talking about obstruction of justice.  There`s been a drama that you can see a lot more of and we can only see a little bit of as a public, related to whether or not the president pressured or contacted Matt Whitaker, and Matt Whitaker was acting attorney general, essentially asking Whitaker to intervene in the Southern District of New York, asking him.  There have been reports that Whitaker was asked if a different prosecutor could be put in charge of the Cohen matter, for example. 

You have suggested in letters that have been made public that your committee has evidence that the president did in fact ask Whitaker to lean on SDNY. 

Can you talk to us about that at all? 

NADLER:  I can`t get into the specifics, but we have some reason to believe that that is the case and that`s why we`ve -- it`s one of the reasons we`ve asked Whitaker to come back to our committee, which we`ll be doing shortly. 

MADDOW:  Shortly? 

NADLER:  I forget the date, but in the next couple weeks. 

MADDOW:  You have a specific date with him? 

NADLER:  I think so. 

MADDOW:  Is it important he unexpectedly left the Justice Department?  The DOJ --

(CROSSTALK)

NADLER:  I don`t know.  I just heard that for the first time on your show.  I don`t know what the impact of that is, or whether it has an impact. 

MADDOW:  Does it have an effect on whether or not you can get him to come back? 

NADLER:  No, it does not.  He`s subject -- first of all, he`s agreed to come back.  And second of all, he`s subject to subpoena like anybody else. 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

If the president did ask him why can`t the recused U.S. attorney that I picked for that job be in charge, why are these Cohen prosecutions going ahead -- if the president was asking questions about that out of frustration, is that necessarily improper, especially given --

NADLER:  It would depend if it was pure -- pure curiosity, it was intended as such and it was understood as such, why can`t -- why does this have to happen?  Well, Mr. President, it`s improper.  Oh, OK.  Then that wouldn`t be a terrible thing. 

If it was an open invitation or a coded communication, really issue change the prosecutor, you should lean on them.  That would be improper.  That would be abuse of power, maybe obstruction of justice, too. 

MADDOW:  Is that what you have you have -- you have evidence of that kind of communication? 

NADLER:  That`s what we`re looking into. 

MADDOW:  When we read through all of these document requests today, we were sort of looking for themes in terms of what various lines of inquiry you`re pursuing, my general feeling about this is that you know what you`re looking for.  That there are maybe as many as 20 different things that you`re looking into in terms of different ex -- different occurrences you want explained, different relationships that you want exposed.  But my sense is that you know what you`re driving at. 

NADLER:  We know about a lot of what we`re driving at.  It`s not to say that as more evidence comes to light, that we find out more of the other subjects won`t reveal themselves. 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.  Can you tell us a little bit about the manpower or the firepower that you have on your staff?  I mean, this is a lot of material. 

NADLER:  We have -- yes, this is a lot of material.  We have our normal staff, plus as has been reported, we`ve hired two very good attorneys on a contract basis on the committee for this investigation, Berry Berke and Norm Eisen.  Beyond that, it`s our regular staff. 

MADDOW:  Are you worried --  

NADLER:  We`re also working on everything else like immigration and gun control and you name it. 

MADDOW:  Have you bitten off more than you can chew here?  I imagine this is going to be a voluminous amount of stuff you`re about to get back. 

NADLER:  I don`t think so.  I think we`ll be able to prioritize and know what we`re looking for. 

And, remember, we are talking about a situation where for two years, the Republican Congress did no oversight than administration, none.  They, in fact, acted as shields for administration for whatever they wanted to do.  They tried to sabotage the Mueller investigation, for example. 

But we must have -- the Constitution contemplates a situation which Congress has a check on the executive and -- on the president and vice versa.  You must have that check and we have to protect the rule of law and that means we have to investigate and hold hearings and layout for the American people if the administration is involved in abuses of power or obstruction of justice and certainly violation of the Emoluments Clause and personal enrichment. 

We have to know about that.  We have to lay that out.  People have to know about it and we have then to see what we can do about it.  There has to be a check in the executive.  We have to protect the rule of law, and that`s what we`re doing here. 

MADDOW:  Mr. Chairman, Jerry Nadler, head of the Judiciary Committee in the House -- please keep us apprised.  I know it takes a lot out of your schedule to be here tonight.  Thank you, sir.

NADLER:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Thanks.

Much more to come tonight.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  He was a Democrat.  He won a seat in the state legislature that had not been held by Democrats in 16 years.  Then a seat in Congress came up in his part of the state.  He won that race.  He went to Washington as a brand-new congressman.  In his first term ever, he cast a vote for the assault weapons ban.  That vote cost him his seat in Congress.  He was out at the end of just one term. 

He told "Rolling Stone" recently about that.  Quote: It was the right vote then.  It`s the right vote now.  I knew it was going to be lights out, but I vote on conviction, so I did. 

That assault weapons ban vote cost him his seat.  He went home.  He and his wife and their three boys moved to a different state.

A few years later, he decided it was time to run again, this time against a Republican incumbent congressman.  That district was currently held by a Republican.  It had only been represent by a Democrat once in a previous 46 years.  But he beat that Republican, and went back to D.C.  This time he stayed for a dozen years. 

And when he made national news in Congress over that dozen years, it was usually because he was sticking his jaw out and planting his feet and confronting someone from either party or special interests or someone just not following through. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Nationwide, police departments complain that the higher level of vigilance is draining their budgets, with big bills for overtime and training and equipping specialized counterterror units.  They want $3.5 billion bottled up in Congress. 

REP. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON:  We appreciate the administration raising the threat level to orange but we need to see green. 

REPORTER:  On Capitol Hill today, oil company executives were under fire for failing to invest more in alternative fuels while earning a record $123 billion in profits last year.  Democrats are threatening to cut off $18 billion in tax breaks passed by a Republican Congress. 

INSLEE:  If you were going to give awards for taxpayer abuses, this would win the Heisman and the Oscar and the Nobel Prize. 

SEN. BERNIE SANDER (I), VERMONT:  You know what benefits from the estate tax?  The top three-tenths of one percent, 99.7 percent of families do not benefit one nickel. 

REPORTER:  Today, the president held his ground, telling Democrats if they don`t go along, the unemployed and middle class families suffer. 

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Americans would see it in smaller paychecks.  That would have the effect of fewer jobs. 

REPORTER:  But House Democrats demand new negotiations. 

INSLEE:  We would like to find a bipartisan way forward but our caucus will not submit to hostage-taking and we will not submit to this deal. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That last fight there was over a provision to cut the estate tax on the wealthiest people in the country.  And incidentally, as you saw, that was a fight with the president of his own party. 

And now, I think because he`s a two-term governor and governors by definition have to prioritize governing, so they are always seen as more practical than any similarly situated politician who`s not a governor, now his run for the presidency is being characterized by some as the start of the arrival of the moderates into the Democratic presidential field. 

And, you know, honestly, at this point, call any candidates anything you want to, just make sure you spell their name right, but Jay Inslee -- Jay Inslee, I-N-S-L-E-E, Jay Inslee, has always been a progressive in the Democratic Party.  He voted against the Iraq war.  He voted against the bank bailout.  He voted against the repeal of Glass-Steagall which set the regulatory dominos falling that caused the Wall Street crash in the first place.

As governor, his state was the first to sue Trump over the Muslim ban.  He instituted a moratorium in the death penalty.  The top court in his state followed that up by abolishing the death penalty in his state.  He signed a statewide guaranteed paid family leave plan. 

You get 12 weeks paid time off from work by state law for having a kid or for a serious medical issue.  He signed a statewide equal pay law for men and women to get equal pay for equal work.  He signed the first state net neutrality law. 

He`s proposed a statewide version of the public option for health insurance.  The public option, you remember, got traded away at the national level when Obamacare passed.  But now, they`re going to do it in his state.  Public option for health insurance everybody can buy into. 

He`s proposed statewide pardons for marijuana-related misdemeanor convictions.  His state`s minimum wage is 12 bucks an hour.  It will be $13.50 an hour by this time next year.  And the state`s biggest city and the state`s biggest airport, the minimum wage is at $16 an hour, actually a little bit above that at airport and the state has one of the highest rates of job growth in the country.

And with that kind of a record, you might build a progressive presidential campaign around any of those things or all of them.  But he has decided instead to run on one issue, one issue that he has been working on all along. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INSLEE:  We have got to stop rewarding. 

Everyone in this country knows. 

Climate is changing. 

Reduce carbon pollution.

New energy future. 

Climate change. 

Climate change. 

(INAUDIBLE) climate change.

Climate change. 

Climate change.

We need to defeat climate change. 

That`s what I believe. 

We`re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change.  And we`re the last that can do something about it.  We went to the moon and created technologies that have changed the world.  Our country`s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time, defeating climate change. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  People usually throw the phrase "one issue candidate" around like it`s an insult.  Like it`s some sort of epithet.  Oh, you`re just a one- issue candidate. 

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running with that himself and he`s running with it now, it`s also how he`s been governing.  He blocked construction of a huge terminal on the Columbia River to export coal to Asia.  He threw up roadblocks to stop a huge oil train facility that was going to be built that was going to be built at the port of Vancouver.  He signed a tax on pipelines, putting pipeline operators on the hook for funding oil spill response.  He was a key co-sponsor on the last big climate legislation that passed anything in Washington.  It was the cap and trade bill that passed the House in `09, but then died in the Senate. 

Years before that, he was co-sponsoring, he was sponsoring, excuse me, comprehensive legislation to cap emissions, switch us from fossil fuels to renewables, and priorities making a gazillion new jobs on those new energy sectors along the way. 

It was in some ways the precursor to the Green New Deal that so many Democrats are endorsing now.  He was just doing it 15 years ago, waiting for the rest of the country to catch up. 

Joining us now for the interview is Jay Inslee, governor of Washington and candidate for president in the Democratic primary. 

Governor, nice to see you. 

(CROSSTALK)

INSLEE:  Yes, thanks for having me on.  I kind of enjoyed that saga.  I like those --

MADDOW:  This is your life. 

INSLEE:  Thank you very much. 

MADDOW:  Well, let me -- let me -- I know that you are running your campaign about climate change and I want to talk to you about that.  But let me ask you sort of the counterpoint right off the bat.  One of the things that you said in interviews when talking about that cap and trade bill, the last thing that ever passed Washington on climate change in 2009 was that that was essentially an opportunity cost problem.  The Democrats under President Obama decided they wanted to do health care.

INSLEE:  Yes, right.

MADDOW:  That didn`t leave enough in the tank as it were to get cap and trade done. 

If you run on climate change, what are you most worry that you are leaving out?  You`re trying to run as a single issue candidate.  What are you most regret thinking isn`t going to be on your agenda because you`re going to one as this one-issue guy? 

INSLEE:  Well, fortunately, we don`t have to do that because what I`ve demonstrated in my state that we can advance a climate action agenda while doing all these other things. 

First, net neutrality.  Best paid family leave.  We got rid of the death penalty and pardoned people and we`ve legalized marijuana.  We got great transportation.  We took on Trump on the Muslim ban. 

So, we were able to do those things but the experience that we had in Congress and my experience as a governor -- look, to govern is to choose and when you`re a governor, you learn to set priorities.  And what I`ve learned is, is that this is such an enormous lift, we have to make it a commitment that we`re going to use our political capital first and foremost in defeating climate change and building a new clean energy economy. 

And I`m committed to that and I`m the only candidate who is committed to that and has said so, because it will not get done unless we do have presidential leadership to make it that type of priority.  So, it needs to be first. 

We have to put our capital, political capital into it, in our intellectual power and everything we have, because listen, this is not just a single issue.  It`s not just about the economy.  It is the economy. 

Our economy is getting ravaged by climate change right, like forest products industry is burning down.  We`re losing tourists dollars because of floods.  Houston flooded.  Miami Beach, we have to invest money and raising the roads instead of our schools. 

So, this is an economic issue.  It`s a health issue.  The asthma our kids are having is just traumatic for families.  If you ever heard a kid wheezing -- you know, climate change is a health issue, it`s a national security issue. 

You talk about national security and do a great job and we all appreciate it, but it`s going to get a lot worse if we have mass migration due to desertification, creating political stability around the world.  And you know what agrees with me on that, our generals and admirals in the Pentagon. 

So, it really is an all-encompassing issue and we cannot solve our other problems unless we do to fight climate change.  So, I do believe it`s all encompassing and this is the right priority. 

MADDOW:  I know that you have made this a priority before it was cool, before people are talking about it for a long time, and you`ve worked on it both in the legislature in Congress and in -- and as governor.  And I think now we`re at a point where anybody is going to vote in the Democratic primary for president will tell you that climate change matters to them. 

INSLEE:  Right. 

MADDOW:  They will tell you that it`s a priority for them and they want a candidate and a nominee who`s going to be good on that issue.  The other thing they want more than that if they are voting in the Democratic primary this year is to beat President Trump and make him a one-term president and a big part of the narrative that Americans have told each other and told ourselves about how Trump won in 2016 is that he won the coal states, that he won states the Democrat used to win and he won them basically by going in and saying, I`m going to revive the coal industry. 

And so, what happens in Pennsylvania and Ohio and other states like that, West Virginia even, where the president made that his point of a -- made that his point of attack. 

INSLEE:  Well, what I have shown is we can win Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas because we won it this year.  I was chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and I worked with our candidates to fashion an economic development message that will create jobs for people in all kinds of industries, including manufacturing industries, in part around clean energy jobs, and we flipped five seats right down the heartland of the Midwest. 

Don`t say we can`t win in them (ph).  We won in the Midwest big time with my governors who I was associated with, because we came up with smart messages, not just the Midwest.  We picked up two governor`s seats not Southwest where Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned on top of a wind turbine and Steve Sisolak is going to be building solar farms. 

So, this is a message that can connect to the economic anxieties of people with whom we did not connect in 2016.  Look, somebody who was challenging me, you know, Senator McCain`s daughter was challenging me today on another show. 

MADDOW:  I`ve heard of that show. 

INSLEE:  And I point -- she said, how can you have economic growth?  I said because we`re going to build a General Motors Volts, I`ve got a General Motors Volt sitting in my driveway, built I think in Orion, Michigan. 

Iowa has wind turbines like crazy.  Nevada is building solar farms.  In my state, you can`t turnover a rock without seeing clean energy jobs. 

This is not just a hallucination.  The clean energy jobs today are growing twice as fast as the average in U.S. economy.  Number one fastest growing job: solar installer.  Number two: wind turbine technician. 

So, this is a perfect way to connect with those economic anxieties and win those states, which is critical to beating Donald Trump. 

I think there is a deeper contrast with him.  I really believe in contrast.  Look, he is a pessimist.  He`s a fearful person with moronic ideas that wind turbines will say you can never have a television set to work, what a bunch of baloney that is.  We are the optimist. We are can-do people. 

We don`t fear the future, we build it.  We don`t fear challenge, we embrace it.  We don`t fear the world, we create new worlds.  That`s who we are as American people. 

So, I think that we hewing to the deeper character that was alive when John F. Kennedy said we`re going to the moon.  And I believe that America can respond and they are responding, and we`ve had contributors from the last day and a half from all 50 states.  Proud to say we raised our first million dollars.  So, apparently, people out there share my passion for the subject and confidence.

MADDOW:  We`ll be right back with Governor Jay Inslee of Washington right after this.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Back with us again is Washington Governor Jay Inslee who`s running for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

Governor, thanks for sticking with us.

INSLEE:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about your state vis-a-vis the Trump administration.  I mentioned in the introduction that you were the first state to sue over the Muslim ban.  We got a question from a constituent of yours today because we advertised the fact that we`re going to have you.  Her name is Mary Lockett Johnson (ph). 

And she asked us about the lawsuit from 16 states challenging the president over his national emergency for a border wall.  Your state has not joined that.  She said curious why Washington did not join the lawsuit against Trump`s national emergency declaration. 

Is that related to the governor`s presidential bid? 

INSLEE:  No, we are going to sue the president as we have on at least 16 occasions or 20 by now and we`ve been very successful.  I`m glad that we were the first to shut down the Muslim ban.  Bob Ferguson is a great attorney general for us, and I`m proud to have been the first governor to fight against it. 

But in this case, we will sue him at the moment that he purports to take a dollar out of our state.  But that yet --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  You want standing. 

INSLEE:  We want to have standing.  We want to make sure we win.  There`s a concept in the law you have to have standing to be able to bring the lawsuit.  We want to make sure we win that. 

When we have standing, the moment he says he`s going to take a dollar out of this for his vanity bumper sticker project on the southern border, we will sue.  The complaint has been drafted. 

So, Mary, be confident.  We will continue to be very aggressive protecting our rights. 

MADDOW:  One of the ways that Republicans tried to rally other Republicans to oppose the emergency on the national emergency declaration was by saying, you let him declare a national emergency something like this, you`re going to get some crazy Democrat in there somebody who`s going to declare a climate emergency and that was supposed to be such a terrifying idea that it would rattle Republicans -- 

INSLEE:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- into abandoning the president on that.  What`s your reaction to that for -- 

(CROSSTALK)

INSLEE:  Well, first off, listen, there is no national emergency on the boarder.  There is a political emergency, which is Donald Trump is in trouble because of his multiple depredations, OK?  It is a vanity project, and we have better things to spend those billions on. 

I`ve got kids that need college education who are trying to expand early childhood education.  We`ve got things to do with the money number one.  Number two, I do believe it`s unlawful and unconstitutional, and it is very clear for this reason -- look, the president went to Congress and asked Congress for the money to build the wall. 

The Congress on a bipartisan basis, both parties, his party and Democrats, agreed we will not do that.  That is a terrible idea.  They rejected his request. 

MADDOW:  A resident Inslee who went to Congress and said, we need a moon shoot for renewable energy, Congress said no, a President Inslee would not declare a national emergency. 

INSLEE:  Not under the current -- not under the current system that we have in place today, not under our understanding of the law because we believe that would be a violation of the separation of powers and it would be a consistent refusal to honor the decision by Congress. 

This is not like we all of a sudden had an emergency in Congress and hadn`t had a chance to think about it.  He went to Congress, Congress said no.  Now, if the rules changed, look, if the surprise court changes the rules, all of the presidents have to follow whatever those rules are then. 

And we know that climate is an emergency.  If you go to Paradise, California, as I did, a town of 25,000, and you walk through or drive through like I did at dark, it looks like a neutron bomb went off.  It looks like an apocalypse, and 80-plus people died.

We have a true national emergency.  It is climate change.  It demands an immediate response.  But the best way to do it is to have Congress and the president pass legislation and get this job done.  I will be proposing very specific propels on how to do that. 

MADDOW:  Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state, congratulations --

INSLEE:  Thank you.  Appreciate you having us.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  -- success thus far.  Keep us apprised as this goes on.

INSLEE:  All right.  We`ll be around. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, sir. 

All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  One last piece of news you should know about tonight since we have been on the air tonight, just within the last few minutes, "The Wall Street Journal" has just posted this story. 

As you can see from the headline: Lawyer for Michael Cohen approached Trump attorneys about pardon.  Possibility of presidential pardon was broached and dismissed after April FBI raid on Cohen`s premises. 

As we just discussed with Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, one of the issues that is being pursued by that committee and potentially by others is the prospect that pardons were dangled to Michael Cohen or potentially other witnesses and other the subjects of the various Russia investigations that may have been improperly offered as essentially a means of trying to persuade those witnesses or subjects of the investigation to cast things in the president`s favor in exchange for a pardon.

But this is the "Wall Street Journal" tonight reporting that one of Michael Cohen`s attorneys, his attorney at the time, Stephen Ryan, himself affirmatively approached Trump`s attorneys after Cohen was raided asking about the possibility of a pardon.  It`s just posted tonight by "The Wall Street Journal."

See you again tomorrow.  That does it for us tonight. 

Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". 

Good evening, Lawrence.

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