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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 5/7/21

Guests: Barbara Comstock, Betsey Stevenson, Ellen Weintraub


Sen. Lindsey Graham in a statement said the Republican Party can`t move forward without former President Trump. Sen. Mitch McConnell admits in an interview that he would be 100 percent opposed to everything Joe Biden brings to the table. Employers added only 266,000 jobs last month, that`s far short of the one million or so jobs forecasters expected.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: That`s right. History is not a bedtime story. I`m going to use that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, let`s debate -- let`s debate it.

REID: Let`s debate it. And by the way, your pot your podcast is called Faith of Fact. It`s going to explore the question of how fear conquered truth and trace the roots of Americans prevailing culture of polarization with an emphasis on why the right has chosen to break with the governing consensus, however imperfect, once embodied by the figurative conversation between Roosevelt and Reagan.

I love this idea. I will be listening to your podcast. Thank you so much. You are anything but boring, my friend. Thank you for being here. That is Jon Meacham and that is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight, on ALL IN.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): How do you grow the party with Donald Trump saying most illegal immigrants are rapists and drug dealers?

HAYES: Lindsey Graham finally answers his own question.

GRAHAM: Can we move forward without President Trump? I`ve determined we can`t grow without him.

HAYES: Tonight, the abject republican surrender imperiling democracy. Then, why Mitch McConnell is actually feeling heat after his brush with honesty.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) 100 percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.

HAYES: Plus, how did the Federal Elections Commission let Donald Trump off the hook for the criminal conspiracy that sent his lawyer to prison? I will ask federal elections Commissioner Ellen Weintraub.

And why there is genuine alarm for the economic recovery from the pandemic after today`s jobs report when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. You know, the Republican Party tried to sell both its base and the country CEO of capitalism, the freedom of the market with Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. They tried to sell perpetual global war with John McCain and George W. Bush. And no one now wants any of it.

The party landed on Donald Trump. That is who the base chose. They do not have an alternative other than him. And while there`s a lot of debate about the future of what the post-Donald Trump Republican Party should look like, which is the heart of the fight between Liz Cheney and the party now, the takeover of the Republican Party by Donald Trump and the MAGA cult is all but complete.

Now, last night, in an almost refreshingly honest moment, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina explained his party`s predicament more clearly than just about anyone else basically acknowledging that they just don`t have an alternative to Donald Trump. He is their only way forward as a party.

And as someone who has been on both sides of the Trump debate, Lindsey Graham certainly has had all the perspectives. Remember when Donald Trump was running for the presidency in 2016, Graham was arguably his most vocal opponent within the Republican Party.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): So, here`s what I think. I think Donald Trump is a political car wreck and people slow down and look at the wreck, but they eventually move on.

I`m not going where Donald Trump is taking the party. I don`t believe that Trumpism is conservatism.

He`s becoming a jackass at a time when we need to have a serious debate about the future of the party in the country.

How do you grow the party with Donald Trump saying most illegal immigrants are rapists and drug dealers? How do you grow the party when he has a level of intolerance that I haven`t seen really in my lifetime?


HAYES: So, it was only a few years ago that Lindsey Graham was wondering how the Republican Party could possibly grow under Donald Trump. Remember that, that question, how do you grow the party? Now, Graham then famously changed his tune once Trump is elected, becoming Trump`s devoted golf buddy and most ardent sycophant in the Senate in their stiff competition.

And following the violent insurrection on January 6th, when Graham and his colleagues were physically put in harm`s way by Trump`s words, and his writers that he sent to Capitol Hill, Graham publicly moved on from Trump and his speech on the Senate floor later that night, explaining why he thought Congress should vote to confirm Joe Biden as President.


GRAHAM: You`re able to object. You`re not do anything wrong. Other people have objected. I just think it`s a uniquely bad idea to delay this election. Trump and I, we`ve had a hell of a journey. I hate it then this way. Oh, my God, I hate it. From my point of view, he`s been a consequential president. But today, first thing you`ll see. All I can say is count me out, enough is enough.


HAYES: But now, enough is clearly not enough. Can you hear the adrenaline his voice, right? He`s still kind of shaking from the fear of the hundreds of people that violently stormed the Capitol, that tried to gouge out cops eyes, that concussed them, that shocked them that chanted hang Mike Pence. That crowd, you can see it and Lindsey Graham`s face there, he`s still flush, because there was a mob of people sent by Donald Trump that probably wanted to kill him. So, he says Enough is enough. But that was then.

With House Republicans attempting to purge Congresswoman Liz Cheney from leadership, the only one in leadership for refusing to go along with the big lie, Lindsey Graham is once again on the Trump train.


GRAHAM: I would just say to my Republican colleagues, can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no. I`ve always liked Liz Cheney, but she`s made a determination that the Republican Party can`t grow with President Trump. I`ve determined we can`t grow without him.


HAYES: His voice is calmer there. You can tell, right? There`s not a mob outside that`s erected a gallows. Now, that was Lindsey Graham last night saying that Donald Trump is now the only way for the Republican Party to grow. What Lindsey Graham is saying, I have to say, is refreshingly clear and notably amoral in a diagnosis of what this is all about.

There`s just a bunch that stand out about that one statement from Lindsey Graham. One, Graham is not pretending that his backing Trump is anything other than sheer strategic determination about what is best for the Republican Party, not what is best for the country, not what is best for American democracy. There is no pretending that is the thing that he is thinking about. None.

He`s also saying straight up, he thinks Liz Cheney is doing the same thing. And, gosh, maybe she is, that she`s not thinking about any of those principles either, that Liz Cheney has simply made a different conclusion on the strategic question. She`s concluded that Trump is bad for the Republican Party. She`s making a different strategic determination about the future of the party.

No one is pretending there is any principle play, that there is any morality or any concern about violence whipped up by the President or anti- democratic sentiment or the endurance of the peaceful transfer of power. None of that. They don`t care.

You also get the idea that Senator Graham does not actually care, one way or the other, what the Republican Party actually is or what it stands for or what role it plays in American life just so long as it grows and continues to exist in a position of power. He just -- he wants it to grow. Well, he doesn`t care what it is. It could be ways of Trump`s, McCain, whatever, grow. A pretty remarkable thing to just come out and admit.

I mean, even as much as they think about power and winning elections, most politicians pretend to care about other priorities. Lindsey Graham has basically done pretending. And if you follow it all along, he was sort of been that way forever. When he thought Trump would hurt the party, he was against Trump.

Since then, he has basically said Trump can help the party, so whatever he does is fine, I`m going to defend it. It`s that simple. And after defending Mike Pence following the insurrection, now gram is basically saying, if the Republican Party becomes the party of Hang Mike Pence, well, too bad, Mike. Good luck.

The last thing from a practical standpoint about this continued embrace of Donald Trump is that it seems weird to look at someone who lost the popular vote and his first election by some three million votes, squeaked into office, then proceeded to cost Republicans control first the House and then the Senate and lost reelection for himself by seven million votes and think that guy`s a winner, that guy is the ticket to public popularity. That guy, we got to have him.

But here`s the thing. It is not totally off base. It is true that Trump has an appeal to certain segments of the electorate, the traditional Republican emphasis on deregulation and capital gains tax cuts and privatizing Medicare and wars overseas does not. It`s not like the alternative to Trump. The Liz Cheney wing within the party has any real popularity. What are they got? They got nothing.

So, Graham is right in the way about that. Graham is also right that the coalition that Donald Trump is putting together has another thing going for it. It is an extremely efficient coalition at exploiting American anti- democratic institutions like the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate. So, as to make the Republican Party viable and competitive even if it is not a majority party, they think Trump is the skeleton key to unlock a kind of politics that can cover with a minority of the country and they might be right.

I want to bring in Benjy Sarlin, NBC News Policy Editor. His latest piece is titled, "Trump`s holding the GOP is more than primary threats." And Barbara Comstock, a former Republican Congresswoman from Virginia, who lost her seat in 2018 in the Midterms under President Trump.

Congresswoman, let me start with you and just your reaction to hearing Graham say that. And how much you think everyone is making these essentially just strategic calculations about the politics here?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSWOMAN FROM VIRGINIA: Well, first, I think January 6th changed everything. There were certainly lots of reasons to oppose Donald Trump before that. I opposed him in 16 when I was on the ticket with him, and certainly opposed him in 2020. But I think after January 6th, it was -- you know, you really had to leave this behind. So, it`s been tragic and as you pointed out, politically, it makes no sense.

But first and foremost, morally, particularly after January 6th, there`s no case for keeping this person who incited that violence, you know, in any way in any type of leader of the party. You know, I think that the Capitol Police officer who recently wrote the letter about, you know, remember what happened to us.

And I do. I worked on those committees, and I find it tragic. So, we do need to turn the page. And then, even if you don`t agree on it morally, politically, it is stupid. And you forgot to mention he was impeached twice. So, this is somebody who, you know, 56 percent of Americans thought he should be impeached. He never got the popular vote, went in the wrong direction from three million lost to seven million.

And there`s not a Electoral College path with the shrinking minority that he has. They brag about they might have 70 or even 80 percent of Republicans. But if you have 46.9 percent, and you shrink that by just 10 percent, you`re not going to win any type of majorities. So, what is this loud kind of scary mob that he`s created that has been intimidating, but it is morally wrong and politically stupid to stick with it.

HAYES: Benjy, you pointed out on the -- I agree on a morally wrong, I`m more ambivalent on the politically stupid. And Benjy, you sort of made this point in a tweet yesterday where it`s a kind of damned if you do damned if you don`t. The fear, of course, is that because of who he is, and because he`s essentially a sociopath and a narcissist, and he has no institutional affiliation, could care less about the Republican Party, that if you alienate him, he will just make it his mission in life to destroy the Republican Party and make sure they never win anything, and he could do that. And basically, that is what looms all over his.

BENJY SARLIN, MSNBC POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. Chris, Trump has an advantage that the other people in the party, including many of his critics don`t, which is that he has a hostage that he`s actually willing to shoot, which is the Republican Party. Lindsey Graham is someone I`ve covered -- I have covered a decade. And as you have mentioned, he is very invested in the overall electoral health of the Republican Party.

That was a big driving force behind this push for immigration reform, for example. At the time, you really thought that was the key to unlocking the Hispanic vote, and that`s how they would win. When it turned out he was wrong, he switched, right.

Trump does not think this way. He does not have any long-term attachment to the party. And in fact, he has repeatedly whenever he`s in danger of potentially being expelled by party leaders, actively threatened to go rogue, go independent, go third party, tell those voters to stay home.

So, one key example of this. At the very beginning of his presidential candidacy in 2015 after he had said, you know, they`re bringing crime, they`re bringing rapists and advertisers were fleeing him over this. And there was all this pressure on the party, which just put out this autopsy saying, whatever you do, that`s not how you win elections. There was all this pressure on groups like the RNC to disavow it, to say, look, that is not our candidate. No matter what happens, he`s not going to be the nominee, and we won`t support him.

What did Trump do in response? He started making a lot of noise about running as an independent. In fact, it was the first question he was asked in the debates. He famously would not commit to staying in the Republican Party. And he said specifically to get -- it was to give him leverage, which did give him.

Flash forward to January 6. What happens? What news stories do we start seeing right after Republicans and McConnell reportedly considering convicting him? Oh, Trump is considering starting the new Patriot Party, a third party movement that would challenge the Republican Party, and those that are disloyal. And then, as soon as he`s acquitted, he gives a speech saying that`s not an option.

He knows exactly what his leverage is in this case. He can tell those voters that Graham accurately identified millions of voters who really are loyal to Trump, he can tell them either to stay home, or that the election has been fatally compromised due to whichever conspiracy theory of the week he`s into, you know, or he can just constantly bash Republicans he races in ways that diminish turnout or pump up third party candidates and those races. It`s a real credible threat.

HAYES: Yes. And that -- and we saw, Barbara, we saw -- we saw in Georgia a little bit of a proof of concept of that. I mean, you know, he sort of was -- went down there kicking and screaming to, you know, do the rally, but he was furious that they weren`t doing more and he kind of made everyone think that their votes wouldn`t count and Ronna Romney McDaniel is down there trying to assure people that like, well, yes, the president says it`s all a black box and it`s being stolen, but these votes will count, so you should go vote on these.

COMSTOCK: That`s why we should put country first not Trump first. And that`s what`s so sad about what`s going on. But I`d also like to point out, I think -- I think the liberal media is also -- you know, they raised him up in `16. You know, they wanted to -- you know, they gave him all the attention. They wanted him to be the nominee thinking they could beat him.

And now again, they embolden it, you know, kind of, oh, everyone should be scared of him. Let`s look at what happened with CPAC which was a, you know, family gathering of right-wing or whatever wing Trump people are, or just Trump wing people, and he only got 50 something percent of that vote when he took a family gathering vote.

Now, think about that. If you asked your family, hey, do you like me, and only 50-something percent of them said they like you. That`s not promising. His numbers aren`t diminishing. It`s just those like the Matt Gaetz in the Marjorie Greens are much louder than everyone else. And those loud people do intimidate people.

So, that`s why I think it`s very dangerous for Republicans to be, you know, putting blood in the water by going after Liz Cheney because they are going to turn around and start going after others. And they`re going to do things like what Trump did in `18 when he went after Mark Sanford in South Carolina because he didn`t like that Mark Sanford spoke out after him. He beat Mark Sanford in the primary, but then that candidate lost in the general.

Now, we did get that feedback now, but not because of Trump, because we have a good woman who`s in that -- in that seat, BUT she may be threatened by Trump again. But these people need to stand up on their own two feet and not keep crawling to Mar-a-Lago and doing the Mar-a-Lago limbo to ask Trump because he`s going to keep threatening them. And that`s why you just have to stop it because he is weaker than people realize.

And it is -- it is really tragic that after January 6, as his power has really, I think, become less and less, people, the press, and the party, and Trump himself, of course, keep talking about Trump when he`s not the future.

HAYES: Wait, it`s not press though. I want to respond to that because it`s a perfect example of --

COMSTOCK: Well, we`re here talking about him. I hate to be talking about him too.

HAYES: Thank you for coming on my show.

COMSTOCK: You know, I`d rather be talking about --

HAYES: So, here`s the thing about this. Yes, well, what, capital -- stopping capital gains taxes and continuing the war in Afghanistan, which was essentially the Republican Party agenda for the last 20 years that has gotten us in the situation.

Look, there`s a -- there`s a theory of the case here that you outline that I just want to take a second with, because I think it`s actually an important one. And it`s one that`s shared by you, and a lot of Conservative Republicans who don`t like Trump and a lot of liberals, which is that Trump is fundamentally a creation of the media, that it was media attention that made him.

But what we have seen to me is a kind of test of that thesis over the last 30 days. He made himself a story, because he put a hit out on Liz Cheney and Kevin McCarthy, the most powerful Republican is now going to do that. Everyone is going down to -- people we`re not -- we don`t cover his tweets, we don`t cover his interviews.

COMSTOCK: No, I agree. I agree.

HAYES: He`s making noise now because he is exercising power. And that power is independent of the attention which is precisely why it`s so perverse. Because the hold extends even as he`s sitting there like a convict behind a glass window whispering his orders through a phone with Kevin McCarthy scurrying out to execute them.

COMSTOCK: No. And right now, there`s a lot of important issues to deal with post-pandemic and post-Trump about how we are going to -- you know, how we`re going to get people back to work, how women who`ve been out of the workforce because of the pandemic will get back in there, get their kids back to school to make up those -- you know, the loss that these kids have had an education for a year.

There are so many important issues that we need to be talking about. And that is why this is such a bad distraction. And I think it is going to come back to bite everybody, you know, Democrat and Republican to keep, you know, allowing him to be on the stage at a time when we should just let this, you know, sort of derail -- you know, a really delusional person who keeps thinking he won when he didn`t. He`s -- and he`s losing more every day but unfortunately, some keep giving him power that he doesn`t have.

HAYES: Well, a great way to do that would be this leader -- a great way to do that would be this leadership vote. I think it would actually be like a definitive review if you lost this leadership vote.

COMSTOCK: Exactly, exactly.

HAYES: Benjy Sarlin and Barbara Comstock, thank you both.

Mitch McConnell has never really been the best communicator. And right now he`s simultaneously trying to steer clear of the Liz Cheney ouster while fielding personal tax by the former president who his base still worships. So, when faced with tough questions about all those things, he gave an honest answer.


MCCONNELL: 100 percent of my focus is on standing up to this administration. 100 percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration and that`s 100 percent of my focus.


HAYES: It seems pretty clear that is the truth of the Republican Party. But now, McConnell is trying to moonwalk his way back away from what he said and is looking for a redo. That`s next.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I first came in office, the head of the Senate Republicans say my number one priority is making sure President Obama is a one-term president. Now, after the election, either people have succeeded in that goal or he will have failed that goal.

HAYES: Just about two years into President Barack Obama`s first turn and 10 days before the midterm elections, Senator Mitch McConnell, minority leader at the time, said his goal was to make Obama a one-term president. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

That obstructionist agenda had huge ramifications for the Obama administration both politically and substantively. Earlier this week, Senator McConnell who now holds the same position as Minority Leader basically said the same thing about President Joe Biden, only this time he said it in front of a bunch of cameras.


MCCONNELL: 100 percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration. We`re confronted with severe challenges from a new administration and a narrow majority of Democrats in the House and a 50-50 Center to turn America into a socialist country. And that`s 100 percent of my focus.


HAYES: Mitch McConnell said the thing out loud. He told the world how he intends to use his power. He is by his own words, literally zero percent focused on any kind of public service or policy or anything like that. That`s what he said. Someone in his position, again, like Lindsey Graham, they`re generally supposed to at least pretend otherwise, which may be why he tried to sort of backtrack on that 100 percent part.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, you`ve recently said that your focus is on stopping the Biden agenda. Are there any other shoes you think should take priority?

MCCONNELL: Well, I`m anxious to stop the Biden agenda depending on what it is.


HAYES: Oh, 100 percent focus on stopping the Biden agenda depending on what it is. McConnell went on to say something about having a serious conversation on infrastructure. The truth of matter is, McConnell has figured out that his best strategy is to try and make popular democratic items less popular and the best way to do that is by blanket obstruction.

MSNBC Opinion Columnist Hayes Brown writes that McConnell has essentially given Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer a gift. "Why bother wasting time negotiating with Republicans when there`s tape of McConnell saying all of his focus on blocking everything Biden brings to the table." An MSNBC Opinion Columnist Hayes Brown joins me now.

I think I agree with you on your basic thesis here which is that McConnell being honest helps Senate Democrats. How?

HAYES BROWN, MSNBC OPINION COLUMNIST: I mean, basically, it helps the Democrats in two ways. In the short term, it gives Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer all the more reason to say, look, we know that no matter what we bring to the table, no matter how much we pared down whatever it is we want to be doing, whether it`s on infrastructure, whether it`s on gun control, any issue we bring to the table, Mitch McConnell will say no.

So, if we can`t go through Stonewall McConnell here, we have to find ways around him. So, in the short term, that`s a big boost for them. Looking at the midterms, there`s just no way that that clip will not be in almost every single ad that you see from a Senate Democrat who`s in the competitive race, pushing the idea that look, we have got to keep the majority in the Senate because this is what we`re up against.

This is what we`ve been dealing with for these two years. Here`s what we`ve got done despite that. So, I really don`t see how it will be otherwise. I think that there`s a lot of really happy Democratic political firms out there already cutting together examples of these commercials that they`re going to be running against, whoever the Republican is trying to take down incumbent Democrats.

HAYES: Yes, Bernie Sanders jumped on this saying Mitch McConnell said 100 percent of his focus is to oppose President Biden, not 50, not 80, but 100. If we`re going to achieve anything meaningful for working families, we must use reconciliation, abolish the filibuster, pass legislation with 51 votes. We can`t afford to wait.

That`s the subtext here, right? I mean, the subject is the majority of the Senate Democratic caucus sort of wants to go to 51 votes, 50 plus Vice President Harris. There`s holdouts. But to the extent that you can say like there is no bipartisanship to be had, it strengthens their hand.

BROWN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, one of the things that McConnell said when trying to walk back his comments is oh, no, we just want to make sure that it`s a more moderate administration. Well, that depends on what your definition of moderate is. And McConnell is pushing exactly what Republicans have been pushing for a long time where the only thing that is moderate is someone that is 50-50 between the Democrats or the Republicans, or someone who is taking a Democratic idea and making it much, much more appealable to Republicans, and never vice versa.

So, I think that it`s giving more room for Schumer to go to people like Joe Manchin and some others who are more wary about abolishing the filibuster and saying, look, you can try all you want with the leader of the Republicans here is saying we are completely in favor of blocking everything.

Now, if you think that peel off 10 votes, bring me those names, bring me those 10 votes, we`ll put this bill on the floor. But until that time, we`re going to try to move forward. And I think that`s the right move moving forward.

HAYES: Yes. And we should say, they already do have a basically a second reconciliation bill teed up. So, I mean, it seems clear they got the message early on here. And one thing that`s been striking to me in talking to democratic staffers and politicians off the record is they really did learn a lot from 2009, 2010.

I mean, one of the things they did was, you know, Republicans on that family finance committee with Max Baucus did this kind of rope-a-dope which they kept playing out, they were trying to negotiate a bipartisan deal on the ACA, and it burned up a lot of the clock. We haven`t seen that -- I mean, on the big priority items from Joe Biden, the guy who likes bipartisan deals in his 40 years of the Senate, we actually haven`t seen that approach. I mean, they have been moving quickly and not waiting.

BROWN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we saw during that same fight, the ACA fight, Chuck Grassley, they went to Chuck Grassley and said, look, is there anything we can put in this bill that makes you vote in favor? And he had to say, no, there is not anything at all that will make this work out for me.

So, I think that back in 2010 when McConnell said one-term President about Obama, he was less well known. He`d only become the Minority Leader four years earlier. It`s been 11 years since then. People know who McConnell is. They know they don`t like him. In a recent poll, he got 23 percent overall approval rating compared to 46 percent for Congressional Democrats. That`s a higher rating for either party in Congress that I`ve seen in a very long time.

So, McConnell knows that he`s not popular. The only way to -- and Republicans aren`t popular. The only way to bring down the Biden agenda is making sure that nothing gets done that they can take credit for. And so, he only has this one playbook. So, if they take that away from him, he doesn`t really have much to go on anymore.

He has no policy ideas, the caucus doesn`t have anything to really go with. All they have is the Trumpian wing of the party to help them win elections but then, once there, they don`t have anything to govern on.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes, although midterms, there`s a real wind at your back because you`re the out party no matter what`s going on.

Hayes Brown, thanks so much for making time tonight. Have a great weekend.

BROWN: You too.

HAYES: All right, so I woke up -- woke up this morning and I spent several hours reading about the jobs report. So, we`re going to put today`s pretty shocking jobs numbers to context and why today`s big miss could be an ominous sign for the post-pandemic recovery or why it could be something else with former Obama economic adviser Betsey Stevenson, next.



HAYES: The American Rescue Plan was signed today. It`s -- there was a ton in that bill. Some people are saying this is too much, that the economy is going to overheat. There`s going to be a crazy, you know, it`s going to be money falling from the sky. What is your response to people with those words?

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Chris, we have 10 million people who a year into this still don`t have jobs. We have in this country food lines that are miles long. It`s long past time for this country to step up and do what we need to do to help those people who are hurting.


HAYES: Short time after Joe Biden signs his recovery action to law, pumping nearly $2 trillion into an economy hit hard by the pandemic, I asked White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain if the administration was worried about the economy overheating, causing inflation?

And he told me he was worried about leaving millions of Americans in deep financial ruin, that was the focus.

I thought about that moment after today`s shockingly bad jobs report. Employers added only 266,000 jobs last month, that`s far short of the one million or so jobs forecasters expected. Far short of the 916,000 jobs added in March. Although, that March numbers now have been revised down.

As disappointing as April`s jobs numbers are, we should be cautious about over-interpreting everything for this one report. There`s a lot of reasons to think the data is just crazily messy, we can get into that in a second.

But here`s the thing, people`s lives are going to depend on the answer to this one question, does the American economy take off? Are we going to get a kind of post-COVID boom? Or are we going to find ourselves like after the financial crisis, after the virus has suppressed in a place where a lot of businesses have shut down for good, a lot of people have left the workforce and can`t get back in because they`ve lost their professional networks and growth is slow?

In other words, should we be worrying about compounding effects here? So, should we loo -- shouldn`t look at this as a question of is this good or bad for Joe Biden? That`s sort of beside the point right now. The higher stakes question here is, what does this mean for the direction the economy is headed?

Betsey Stevenson is a former member of President Obama`s Council of Economic Advisers and served as a chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor from 2010-2011.

She tweeted earlier today, the first rule with any jobs report is that there`s always enough measurement error, you shouldn`t over-interpret one month, and she joins me now.

Betsy, let`s start on that because I went down a deep dive of seasonal adjustment and all this stuff today. It wasn`t striking to me that basically Wall Street and a lot of financial advisors like, eh, some -- there`s got to be something screwy here. Let`s not overreact. That was kind of the reaction.

So, first, let`s just deal with the measurement question like, are we seeing something real here in this data?

BETSEY STEVENSON, IS A FORMER MEMBER OF PRESIDENT OBAMA`S COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: So, I was actually -- I thought that we added more jobs in March than I would have expected. And I start to thought, that`s a lucky number. It`s probably not where we`re actually at.

And now, we got an unlucky down number, I would take the three-month average and say that sort of gives us a sense of our trajectory.

Now, that said, look, this number was off by a lot in terms of what people were expecting. And so, you do want to stop and ask, well, why and what was going on?

You know, and we`ve still -- we`re down eight million jobs from pre- pandemic, and we`re down 10 million jobs if we`re thinking about the trajectory we were -- we were on pre-pandemic, and where we should be today. That`s a lot of jobs to come back. And you`re certainly not doing that, you know, adding two, three, 400,000 jobs a month, we got to get to a point where we`re adding millions of jobs a month.

HAYES: So, I want to go through some of the -- some of the reasons that -- some of the things standing in the way of recovery. One is that the pandemic is still happening, we saw some case rise, actually, in April, places like Michigan were very hard hit.

One of the arguments being made on the political right and from some of the business press is that the bonus U.I., unemployment insurance bonus checks over and above people`s unemployment insurance check is acting as a disincentive for people to get back and start looking for work. And there`s two states governed by Republicans Montana and South Carolina that have already said, we`re not participating that federal program, we`re not going to let you get those $300 a month. What do you think about that argument?

Do you -- what do you think this jobs report will do to momentum for that?

STEVENSON: Well, let`s start with the very first point you made, which is that the pandemic is not over. And actually, the week the jobs report reflects the week of April 12th, I went back and looked at COVID cases for that week. That was the -- that was the peak of our last sort of surge.

And I remember sitting around that week and thinking, is the U.S. about to have another wave take off, or are the vaccines going to cap this wave?

If I had been an employer, I would have thought let`s wait another week or two to see what`s going to happen before I hire. So, I do think there`s something really going on there that`s slow and important.

But the idea that eight million people have decided that they`ve lost the will to work because they`re pulling in a couple $100 from U.I. benefits, just sounds completely absurd to me.

If we had seen two or three million jobs added this month, then I`d start to be really worried that maybe unemployment benefits will start to hold us back.

But, you know, there`s labor demand and labor supply in this report. This is not a report where employers are out there trying to hire millions of people in there and showing up for work. This is a report that shows the recovery is happening slower than people expected it.

So, it`s the exact opposite of overheating. It`s exactly what I think a lot of people were worried about, which is that it`s going to be a little bit slow to get going.

HAYES: One aspect, of course, is that we know that there`s been a huge gender inequities in how this has hit the labor force. Women`s labor force participation hit a 33 year low in January, according to new analysis, that`s a CNBC headline. Women for both sort of personal and I think social patriarchal reasons are often expected to be caregivers in environments in which more care needs to be given. That`s been the case throughout COVID. We`ve seen that in women`s labor force participation.

How much of that do you think is a kind of anchor on the recovery and particularly when you think about the fact that not all schools are back in person full time, etcetera?

STEVENSON: I think that that is a huge anchor on the recovery. And I`ve been saying that for a long time before this jobs report came out.

Look, the thing is that kids aren`t all back in school, and even the schools that are starting to reopen, you know, the kids have a lot of catching up to do, there`s a lot of work that the parents are going to have to do to get their kids back to school, back to what they were doing before.

You know, if you`re a mom who left the labor force, because of caregiving, you`re not ready to go back, because those problems that you needed to address, that you need to leave the labor force for taking care of your kids, helping them manage through the pandemic, that hasn`t -- that hasn`t really pulled back at all.

And in fact, in some ways, it`s accelerated as you`re starting to realize kids are going to need that kind of help reintegrating.

And then the Biden administration is putting more money in to schools. And I`m hoping that the schools are going to understand they need more resources, and they`re going to help out.

But if we want to see moms going back to work, I`m afraid to say that I think what we`ve got to be working for is September.

HAYES: Yes, and we should also know, after school programs, daycare, babysitters of all -- I mean, there`s a whole sort of infrastructure around that, that that is not just going to like flip a switch and come back on.

Betsey Stevenson, we`ll have you back next month. And we can -- we can figure out what`s going on with a little more data. Thanks for coming on tonight.

STEVENSON: It was great talking with you.

HAYES: All right, let`s bring it back to 2016, we got an update on the Donald Trump-Stormy Daniels hush money payment. The FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub as "defies reality." She`s here to tell us what happened just ahead.


HAYES: It is always worth remembering that Donald Trump is a beneficiary of two different conspiracies who attempt to cheat in the 2016 election. There was of course the Russian attack on our election but the other conspiracy has somehow been relegated to a footnote in history. The violation of federal law that occurred when Stormy Daniels was paid off to keep quiet on the eve of the election.

Four days before election day, we learned that the former adult film star was reportedly in discussions to appear in a T.V. interview to disclose a past affair with then-candidate Donald Trump.

Daniels whose real name is Stephanie Clifford says that she met Trump in 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Trump had been married to his wife Melania for a year and they had an infant son. Daniels said Trump invited her to dinner and they met back at his hotel suite.


STEPHANIE CLIFFORD, FORMER ADULT FILM STAR: He`s like, wow, you are special. You remind me of my daughter. You know, he`s like you`re smart, beautiful and a woman to be reckoned with and I like you. I like you.

I realize exactly what I`ve gotten myself into. And I was like, oh, here we go.


HAYES: You remind me of my daughter, that is how he was kicking game. According to Daniels, they remained in touch for a few years. That was the end of the affair.

In 2011, Daniels agreed to sell the story to a gossip magazine but the story never ran because Trump`s then-lawyer slash fixer Michael Cohen threatened a lawsuit, according to former employees in the magazine.

Five years later, when Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, the story of their fair became a hot commodity again. Daniels says she fielded a number of offers to tell what happened until her lawyer heard from Michael Cohen.

Cohen offered Daniels $130,000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement and not tell the story. She agreed and signed 11 days before the election.

You will remember, we learned about that payment early 2018 and Michael Cohen was subsequently investigated by the Southern District, New York. He ended up pleading guilty to the campaign finance violations among other things and sentenced to three years in prison.

Before reporting to prison, Cohen testified before Congress telling the House Oversight Committee under oath that he paid Stormy Daniels at the direction of Donald Trump.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER TO DONALD TRUMP: Mr. Trump is a con man. He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair and to lie about it to his wife, which I did.


HAYES: Cohen also turned evidence that over to the committee. Copies of two checks Donald Trump gave him that Cohen said were part of the reimbursement for the hush money payment to Daniels. Remember those famously was his signature.

Now, OK, that`s the whole story, right? Now, the Federal Election Commission, right? That is the independent body that enforces federal election laws. And this seems like a pretty clear violation. They`ve been investigating whether Donald Trump violated those laws in this payment to Stormy Daniels.

Well, today, they finally finally issued a ruling. We`ll tell you what it is, ahead.


HAYES: The Federal Election Commission has been investigating Trump`s involvement in the hush payment made to Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election, they just announced they are dropping that case against Trump. What?

The bipartisan commission is made up of three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans and this vote was also evenly split. Two Republicans voted to dismiss the case. Two Democrats voting to move forward. One Republican recusal, one Democratically aligned absence.

Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub tweeted about the ruling last night "Republican commissioners kill FEC case against former President Trump for knowingly and willfully accepting $130,000 contribution despite the Stormy Daniels story just before election day 2016. The same $130,000 payment that sent his lawyer to prison."

And FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub joins me now.

Ellen, I feel like this is such an incredible revelatory moment about the FCC how it works and doesn`t work.

So, first of all, the first question I guess is the timeline. Like, this happened in 2016, it became known in 2018. Why did it take so long to even get to this point?

ELLEN WEINTRAUB, COMMISSIONER, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Well, I don`t - - I don`t have the timeline in front of me, sometimes these things take longer than they absolutely should. And often, we will wait for other agencies to complete what they are doing, because that is one way that we learn information.

And in this case, what our lawyers had available to them was a wealth of information from congressional hearings, and from the testimony that -- and the plea deal that Michael Cohen entered into.

So, we had -- they didn`t actually do a formal investigation which would have required a vote of permission to start and that was the vote that the Republican commissioner`s blocked. They said we couldn`t do an investigation. We couldn`t pursue this case in any way. It was just time to go home, because Michael Cohen had already been prosecuted. So, there was nothing else to do reporting today.

HAYES: Your -- I mean, the bigger issue here, right, is that the FEC is a - - is a bipartisan commission with a sort of three and three, right, that -- and for anything to happen, there has to be a kind of bipartisan agreement.

And my understanding is that there`s been a sort of historically high level of partisan deadlock at the commission for years now, is that a fair way to characterize it?

WEINTRAUB: Well, it`s very fair. It`s been going on since 2008 actually, and we`ve had -- and -- but really, before that, the agency had a long history of actually working on a bipartisan basis to try and find common ground, to try and find four votes to move forward on matters.

But starting in 2008, things just got a lot more polarized in Washington, things got a lot more partisan, campaign finance became a more polarized and partisan issue, and it became harder to find four votes to move forward on anything.

And then, as you know, we`ve lost our quorum for 16 months, including pretty much the entire election year of 2020. We didn`t have enough commissioners to take any votes, which is part of the delay issue that we`ve run into. And when we were reconstituted, that was at the end of December.

So, really, it`s only been since the beginning of this year, that a new group of commissioners. I don`t want to make too many predictions because, you know, it`s a new group, there`s still time, there`s hope that we could forge some decent relationships.

But this case was pretty disappointing, because as you`ve noted, we had fairly conclusive evidence without even doing our own investigation, that $130,000 payment was made for the purpose of influencing an election. That`s what Michael Cohen pled to.

And he said, Mr. Trump knew about it, he directed it, he knowingly and willfully accepted that. And so, that`s really hard to see how that`s not a campaign finance violation.

HAYES: What was up with the recusal and absence?

WEINTRAUB: Well, that you`d have to ask my colleagues about.

HAYES: Wait, what`s that?

WEINTRAUB: You have to ask my colleagues why they made the choices that they made. I can`t speak to that.

HAYES: Oh, OK, I can get them on the program. You guys did actually do something bipartisan the other day. I think it might have been yesterday, which is the sort of a move to look into regulating this really scammy means of raising money of having people default to recurring donations.

There was a big New York Times piece by Shane Goldmacher about the Trump campaign doing that having to refund $55 million. It is not limited to them other fundraising communities, mostly Republicans, but also Democrats have done it too. How did that come together?

WEINTRAUB: Well, every year -- well, most years, we send a package of legislative recommendations to the Hill. And we had everybody threw out whatever ideas they wanted to contribute and we saw where there was consensus, this was actually an idea that I put in having read Mr. Goldmacher`s piece.

And also, having the experience in the agency. We have heard complaints about this for years now. I`ve gotten e-mails from people from time to time saying, I seem to be trapped in this recurring contribution system and I can`t get the committee to stop charging me money. And the commission really doesn`t have sufficient tools to deal with a situation like that.

So, we now as part of our package and legislative recommendations have asked Congress to strengthen the law, to make it illegal to have an automatic checkoff like that, so that people aren`t (INAUDIBLE), so they`re not confused and when they make a choice to give money, it is their free and voluntary choice and they give as much as they want (INAUDIBLE).

HAYES: I think that makes good sense. I hope that`s taken up in Congress.

Ellen Weintraub, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for making time tonight.

WEINTRAUB: Thank you.

HAYES: Note to the staff at the control room, let`s -- can we run down the absentee and the refusal just for next week? All right, that is ALL IN for this week. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.