The Democratic National Committee wraps up its first fully-virtual convention as Coronavirus death toll mounts across the United States. Steve Bannon has allegedly stolen nearly $1 million from the Build the Wall donors. Interview with Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) about the Senate hearing on the Post Office. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies in front of the Senate today. Senate report shows that the 2016 Trump Campaign worked with a Russian intelligence officer.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: He was wonderful to overcoming stuttering. He was fabulous and I believe he won the week. Thank you, guys, very much. He was amazing. He was an amazing young man. So, you want the weak, young guy. Thank you so much Jon Meacham, Jonathan Capehart. That is tonight's REIDOUT. Be sure to tune in for "A.M. JOY" tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Jonathan is hosting it. I will be one of his guests. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes start right now.
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JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is our moment. This is our mission. History will be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness begin here tonight.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Joe Biden rallies the nation and the first-ever pandemic convention is a stunning success. Tonight, Biden insider Ron Klain on what his candidate accomplished this week and what democrats need to do to win.
Then, the Trump gang. More shocking details on the scam, prosecutors say, Steve Bannon ran to dupe Trump voters out of their money.
Plus, our new reporting on the U.S. mail slowdown across the country as Trump's Post Office hatchet man faces the Senate.
And cheating to win. Bad news for Trump on his taxes and what we now know definitely about his Russian collusion when ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. I'm going to be honest, the last four days the Democratic National Convention went a lot better than I thought it would. I mean, it was a real open question, right, how a fully virtual convention was going to go.
Over the last nearly 70 years of televised conventions, there's a predictable program, there's a framework in place, right? You got a big arena, it's packed with delegates and with press, there are speeches and signs, a lot of pomp and circumstance and the whole thing always, always, always ends with a balloon drop. So you know what it looks like. There's a visual grammar for everyone to use, right?
This year, with all that out of the question due to the ongoing pandemic, most of us, myself included, just have no idea what is this thing. Like, how do you program a convention like this? What would it look like? Would it even be moderately watchable without the crowds and the cheering and of course crucially, the balloons?
Well, as it turned out, it was a lot more than moderately watchable. It was actually, and I say this as someone who has to make television every night, an incredibly compelling televisual achievement from a party trying to stake a claim over a broad majority of the country during a time of unprecedented crisis.
And that unprecedented crisis, the plague we are experiencing loomed over everything this week. It was unforgettable in every moment, precisely, because of the remote format and the technology and the social distancing. It was palpable and the strange little pauses before a live speech started as the delay of the signal had to work its way through.
And the view of the nearly empty room is Kamala Harris delivered her acceptance speech just a few scattered socially distant reporters in the audience, and in Joe Biden's speech with the same empty hall with not a single interruption for applause. All of that, every moment of that was a constant reminder that we are right now in the midst of a once in a century catastrophe, and that 176,000 of our fellow Americans are dead and more dying every day.
And in the words of Joe Biden last night, as he accepted the Democratic nomination, it did not have to be this bad.
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JOE BIDEN: The tragedy of where we are today is it didn't have to be this bad. Just look around. It's not this bad in Canada, or Europe, or Japan, or almost anywhere else in the world. And the President keeps telling us, the virus is going to disappear. He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him. No miracle is coming.
We lead the world in confirmed cases. We lead the world and deaths. Our economy is in tatters with Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American communities bearing the brunt of it. And after all this time, the President still does not have a plan. Well, I do.
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HAYES: Joe Biden's performance in that speech was widely recognized even by his opponents and his critics as extremely strong. It was by far the best speech of his campaign, the best moment of his campaign so far. And people that have watched Biden for decades of his career say it could be the best moment of his entire political career spanning nearly five decades.
And part of what made it so good, so compelling, as NPR is Domenico Montanaro writes, is that it was more fireside chat than convention barn burner. The former Vice President spoke directly to the American people without distraction. The speech and the presentation were unadorned. It was just Joe Biden alone on that stage with some flags and practically alone in the room, speaking plainly about the state of the country, and it was very compelling.
Last night, Biden channeled two key themes of his campaign, competency and compassion. He called himself an ally of the light who will set his mind to doing the job and he will do it with a big heart. Of course, this is a man who has known unfathomable tragedy, and he's able to channel that, speak to it at a time when the nation is in grief, in mourning. And yet there has been no public recognition of that morning, of that grief, from our current leader.
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JOE BIDEN: I understand how hard it is to have any hope right now. And this summer night, let me take a moment to speak to those of you who have lost the most. I have some idea how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in the middle of your chest and you feel like you're being sucked into it. I know mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.
But I've learned two things. First, your loved one may have left this earth, but they'll never leave your heart. They'll always be with you. You'll always hear them. The second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joe Biden provided the country with a public national moment of mourning, directly addressing the many Americans who have lost loved ones in this pandemic, sharing his own loss and pain with them.
Tonight, we're seeing the first visuals of a mass memorial for the 176,000 lives lost. Hundreds of people marching the streets of cities like New York, and San Francisco, and Seattle, and San Diego on a day when more than 1,000 Americans died of the Coronavirus again.
HAYES: This is the reality of the situation we are in and what we have lost. It does not have to be like this. We can still turn this thing around. And given where things are, that seems as compelling a message to the final stretch of this campaign is that.
Joining me now is someone who knows Joe Biden as well as anyone, Ron Klain, who is Biden's Chief of Staff for the first two years when he was the vice president. Ron, I think a lot of people were impressed by this speech, it seemed true to who the man is. Your reaction to it, given the fact that there was quite a bit of pressure on this speech. I mean, this is the most high stakes rhetorical moment of this man is a very, very long political career.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, JOE BIDEN: Well, you know, Chris, I think people said it's the best speeches ever given. I've heard him give speeches like that before. I think what it was, was an authentically Joe Biden speech on the largest stage he's ever had. I think what made last night speech so different from other speeches was the moment the crisis we're in as a country, the multiple crises we're in as a country, and the fact that America was looking to see if Joe Biden is the man to lead us out of those crises.
And I think at that moment, at this time, I think him being himself so authentically who he is talking about the loss we've suffered as a country, talking about his toughness and determination, talking about the side he will choose to go forward with the side of the light, and then talking about what he would do about these things. I think these were very authentically Joe Biden ways of talking about things. And I think it's what the country is looking for right now.
HAYES: You know, it struck me last night, I've had a lot of moments like this throughout the Trump years where you watch someone who's a good politician, a practice politician, and seems to be a pretty decent person, and just performing the kind of normal ways the politician does. And Joe Biden is a good politician. The guy has been doing it since he was in his late 20s. He's done it through decades.
And there was a story last night, you know, about the rabbi talking about him coming in to said shiva for a woman who had given him $18 a year for every year. And I thought, you know, as I watched that, I thought, A, that's a testament to who Joe Biden is, but also it's a good politician. That's a smart -- you know, that's a guy who knows what he's doing right in terms of representing people.
And it just was like, from another universe from what we have. It was a it was such a banal point, but so striking to me in its contrast.
KLAIN: Yes. Look, Chris, I think one thing that this convention did all week, starting with Mrs. Obama on the first day, and of course, particularly Dr. Jill Biden, and then, you know, the former President Obama, and the real people who spoke was just hearing about the kind of person Joe Biden is.
I mean, obviously, he's a well-known figure in America. But I heard all week from people. I didn't know that about him. I didn't know that about him. What they heard about him was, this is a person of enormous compassion. A person who's obviously been through some very tough times in his life, and that hasn't made him bitter. In fact, it's made him reach out to others, touch others in their lost, touch others in their need.
Of course, we're living in a time right now where 170,000 families have lost a loved one due to COVID, but not just losses. I mean, the story last night of Brayden Harrington, the young man who stutters, who the vice president grabbed, you know, on a rope line in New Hampshire, and took the time to explain to him how he got over his stutter as a young man. I mean, that's just who he is.
Chris, I've known him for 30 years. I've seen Joe Biden do that time and time again when no one is watching. What I've loved about this week is that we've been able to tell those stories to the country as large so they can see why so many of us who know him well love him so much.
HAYES: There's also -- you know, compassion, obviously, one of the big themes here and competency. I mean, the idea that it didn't have to be this way I found very powerful because I think in some ways, one of the things you're running against as I watched this happen, I was on vacation for a week and sort of checking in where I would -- I would go and look at the COVID numbers. And it seems sometimes like the news cycle had sort of detached a little. And I would say, oh, I guess things are better. And I would look and see 1,400 people died today. 1,400 people died, oh my God.
And we're talking about, you know, whatever the sort of news cycle of the day is not that that should be the only people things people talk about, but selling the American people that we can do better. That we don't have to acclimate this, we don't have to accept this, and that there is actually a universe in which competent people in the government turn this around.
KLAIN: Yes, no question. I mean, first of all, to your point, and to the vice presidents point last night. You know, yesterday, the five largest countries in Europe, which have collectively the same population as the U.S. lost 60 people to COVID. We lost over 1,000. So there's, there's no reason why it should be different here than there, and yet, it's vastly different.
I think there's a risk that we get a little kind of numb to the loss here, 1,000 a day, 1,000 a day. You know, more Americans have died in the past four months than any four months in U.S. history including wars. So, we can't get numb to that loss. I thought the vice president was quite articulate and powerful on that point last night.
But it's also important remind people, you know, we can do something about this. And Joe Biden issued warnings about this in January. Well, few others were speaking about it. He issued warnings about it in February. He laid out a comprehensive plan in March months ago, and has updated it periodically during the campaign.
And so, he is the man who has the compassion for this moment. But as you say, he also has the plan and the experience in fighting these kinds of crises before that's going to get this country to the other side of it. You know, that's the other thing I thought about the speech last night, Chris. It combined this recognition of this awful dark moment we're in now, but with hope and optimism about our ability as a country to get through this. And I think both those messages are so important.
HAYES: You got to sell people that things can be better than they are and I think he did a very good job on that last night. Ron Klain, who we will be checking back with throughout the next few months, thank you so much.
KLAIN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Joining me now for more on what we learned from this year's convention, Mehdi Hassan, senior columnist at The Intercept and host of UpFront on Al Jazeera English, and Brittany Packnett Cunningham, who was the member of President Obama's 21st Century Policing Task Force, and an MSNBC Political Analyst.
Mehdi, let me start with you because you you've worked in broadcasting and T.V., and I do too. And I have to say, one of the things that I found really striking about this week was, you know, in most -- in most cases, right, you get a genre or format. Someone says, well, it's going to be a talk show. It's an hour-long talk show where you have this many blocks, and you're going to do a monologue here.
You know, the people that ran this thing, no one gave them that. There was nothing. I mean, I literally thought to myself, like, what the heck does this look like? How do you break it up? How long do things go for it? I just thought it was a really -- I mean, it's a banal point, I guess, a production point but an incredibly impressive job at a production level of breaking that up and telling a story briskly.
MEHDI HASAN, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE INTERCEPT: It's not banal at all, Chris. Just think about it this way. Imagine if they hadn't pulled it off. That's what we'd be talking about, what a disaster it was.
HAYES: Yes, that's right.
HASAN: Just think about -- and you know -- you know what we can do, we can just wait for the Republican Convention to contrast the two. That's what we'll see. And not just production values, but content, real people. I mean, I objected, maybe we'll get into this, I think there should have been more real people amongst the actual speakers, but I can't deny the videos of the, you know, the families of gun crimes, of gun violence, very powerful. The woman who talked about losing her father to COVID. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald. These are very powerful moments that will be remembered, I would argue, along with many other moments normally remembered after convention.
And I think the format forced us all to pay attention to stuff like this rather than having been into a hole and networks cut away. I think they did -- you know, put a content aside. They did a very good job of pulling it off. And as I said on Twitter yesterday, don't you just miss competency?
HAYES: Right. Well, and that's part of the thrust of the -- of the message here. And Brittany, the only thing that was striking to me, and I think, you know, people talked about that roll call, which is a real, you know, traditional celebrated part of the convention where the states come up, and they're all in the hall and they had to reinvent it, and I think people really loved it.
And part of what was striking to me is, you know, the Democratic Party is, you know, there's a lot of criticisms people lever against it, and a lot of them are right. It's the only game in town for like a multiracial, diverse political coalition in American life right now. And you know, it's a not an easy job to stitch all those people together and you can kind of see the effort in this convention of what that task is.
BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think both of you are right. The production team did a phenomenal job and it is not a minor point. People have been saying to me personally that they felt like they were really a part of this instead of sitting on the outside looking in at a bunch insiders kind of celebrating one another and themselves.
And that is a really powerful point that we cannot minimize that came through the production quality, the content, and the approach that was made. I think amongst the most important distinctions that we will see between the DNC this week and the RNC forthcoming is that absolutely, that amount of diverse multicultural, marginalized people that were on screen talking about their perspective, talking about their lived experience, folks from immigrants who have experienced deportation to folks with disabilities who are speaking to their power, that is just a collective of people that the RNC is incapable of putting together.
And if nothing else, drawing that distinction was really, really important for the DNC to make. That this is a country that Democrats want to see continue instead of continue to erase folks from it as the RNC wants to.
HAYES: And Mehdi, I think also, when you -- when you talk about the RNC next week, I mean, you know, they've -- it's an interesting situation where you've seen -- I've seen some critiques of the Biden speech and others that, you know, it was too dark, wasn't hopeful enough, and they've got these themes for every night that are very hopeful.
But when you listen to Donald Trump, like what he gets off on, what he likes talking about is darkness, right? I mean, he's still running like he's the challenger. He's still saying, you know, look at what's happening in Minneapolis and Seattle. And if Joe Biden gets in, that's going to be you. It's like, well, you're the president now. I don't see -- he doesn't strike me as a person who has a hopeful register to go to next week.
HASAN: No, not at all. And you know, that's the problem with the comparison with the 60s where some people are getting worried about, you know, this all backfired protests against the left. The difference was, Nixon was running against the Democrats. Trump is the President, as you say. He's presided over the 170,000 dead. He's presided over the violence on the streets of our cities, police inflicted violence, and he's presided over the recession and the unemployment. So that's a real problem for that.
Just going back to what Brittany said. I totally agree about the kind of being part of that convention. One, not to be too much of a Debbie Downer, one thing I would say, in the actual keynote, speakers, I think they could have done a lot better. The fact that Michael Bloomberg got three times as much time as AOC, I think is a scandal. You know, very few Latino voices in 2020, zero Muslim voices at a time of heightened Islamophobia and the two Muslim women in Congress have been threatened by the President on a regular basis.
So, I would like to have seen a little bit more ideological diversity, racial diversity among speakers, and generation. I mean, in the long term, where are the Democratic leaders of tomorrow? Most of the speakers, the keynote speakers were in their 70s, whether it was Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on the left or establishment voices like know the John Kerry's, Nancy Pelosi, etcetera.
So, I think they need to do a lot more thinking about how they represent their party and speak for both marginalized communities and the young and the left and people generationally going forward.
HAYES: Although what -- part of what's interesting, Brittany, and this has been the case in many of the conventions I've covered is, you know, the convention is the first big general election coming out party for the nominee. And my experience of them is they are for the consumption of the median swing voter by and large. That is -- that is who they are targeted at.
I remember that that was the case -- in many cases, that '08 convention of Barack Obama. That was the case in '04 at John Kerry's convention. Like there is a degree to which it's a strange thing where you're presenting the Democratic Party, but what you're trying to do is speak to a person whose vote you don't already have. CUNNINGHAM: Well, I think that what we have to recognize, especially coming out of the lessons of 2016, is that the party is going to have to take very seriously the voters who chose not to tune into the DNC, the people who would literally rather watch anything else. It was important to hear people like Michelle Obama saying, look, I don't even like politics like a lot of you.
And that's just how serious this is. That's why we need to have these conversations. But I completely agree with many. Look, I don't understand. Truly, I'm still scratching my head on how we saw John Kasich and not Julian Castro. And not just because Julian Castro is a Latino leader, because he also represents a progressive wing of the party and the values and viewpoints of a lot of young people and marginalized voters. Those folks need to be brought into the tent too.
And those folks are legitimately asking if you are going to win and feel like you owe that win to the John Kasich's of the world, are you going to actually listen to the concerns and the needs of my community when it comes time? These are legitimate questions, and I believe that the party hasn't answered, but they need to make sure that the answers are fundamentally clear, because frankly, we see a lot of effort toward these white middle-class swing voters, the mythical white working class, which we continue to erase Black and Brown people from, but the Democratic Party hasn't won those folks in 50 years.
If you expand the base, and we learned this in 2016, if you expand the base and you pay attention to those folks who could easily be brought into the party, and they are invested in early and often that we can actually forge a clear pathway to the White House and make sure that we build the habit of voting in broader communities than just the ones we're used to addressing.
HAYES: I should not, a reporting today that Julian Castro was offered a speaking spot which he declined, just to make that note. Mehdi Hasan and Brittany Packnett Cunningham, great to have you both. Thank you very much.
Next, another member of the President's 2016 campaign in handcuffs. The build the wall GoFundMe that raised more than $25 million and got Steve Bannon indicted for fraud. That story after this.
HAYES: Back in December 2018, Iraq War veteran named Brian Kolfage started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to privately build a border wall and a bunch of right-wing stars, including the architect of Trump's 2016 campaign, or at least that's how it describes himself, Steve Bannon, seen here in the Oval Office quickly signed on to the effort.
Even though, I got to say, it seems suspect from the get go, indeed, reporter Brian Beutler had initially responded with the following commentary, "This almost certainly ends with some dumb F's or a group of dumb F's going to jail." And that was not necessarily an incredible act of prophecy, although a hat tip to Brian.
If you think about it for, I don't know, 10 seconds, how could this be anything but a con? Like a private group of citizens are going to easily build a border wall for the U.S.? How would they do that? Now, they do claim to have built less than five miles of wall with donations, but the whole thing never really made any sense. This is a big public works project. How would these people do it? And yet there were a lot of people who are willing to open up their wallets.
The We Build The Wall Campaign, which I guess props for naming it forthrightly, raised more than $25 million for a bunch of right-wing private citizen hustlers to pay for a wall that remember, according to the president, Mexico was supposed to pay for. Well, you will never guess what happened next. Well, you've guessed it. You probably heard by now, Steve Bannon and three other men including the guy who started the GoFundMe were indicted and charged with orchestrating a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors.
The indictment alleges that Bannon himself used nearly a million dollars from the fund for his personal expenses. He pled not guilty yesterday and promptly claimed that his indictment is part of a various scheme to, you guessed it, stop the wall. His court appearance came after he was taken into custody off the coast of Connecticut while aboard a 151-foot superyacht owned by a Chinese billionaire.
By the way, the indictment alleges the guy who started the whole campaign, the Iraq War veteran, use donors' money to buy himself this boat named the Warfighter seen here, you guessed it, sailing in a Trump boat parade. For more on this absolutely incredible story, I'm joined now by NBC News Reporter Brandy Zadrozny.
Brandy, let's start with this campaign. It was in the periphery of my awareness that Bannon was going around the country raising money for this. How did -- how did they raise $25 million?
BRANDY ZADROZNY, NBC NEWS REPORTER: It's so silly. This was -- Brian Kolfage is a decorated Iraq War veteran. But when he came home, what he did was he started to do -- his endeavors were soft stuff like fake news Web site. They were far-right Web sites that made people get really mad, and then they'd sign up for these petitions that would just really be an e-mail harvesting scheme.
And what he also did was he started GoFundMe. So, he did a lot of GoFundMe. He didn't one to pay for his house for $100,000. For his wife, he did one where he said he was going to visit places like the Walter Reed Medical Center and meet with veterans, but then we called Walter Reed he was never been there. He raised $20,000 to do that operation.
He was always sort of a small-time grifter. And what he did with rebuild the wall was it was during this time where Donald Trump couldn't get funding for as wall. And he like he did with other right-wing causes, latched on to it, made a GoFundMe, and then it just exploded in a way that I would bet even he was not prepared for. It raised millions and millions of dollars within days and weeks. Soon, it was $20 million, and it was the most successful GoFundMe ever done. And then he quickly had to stay, what am I going to do? And that's when Bannon sweeps in.
HAYES: Right. That's fascinating. I should note that Kolfage is a decorated Iraq War veteran, also triple amputee. So, the idea that he's like raising money for his home in the beginning is not crazy at all, right? I mean, people see this and they think, oh, this is a person who served the country and I want to help them out with that. So, there was a -- there was a certain kind of credibility there that was not insane.
But by the time you moved to this, you're getting $25 million, Bannon sweeps in. And also, here's Kris Kobach, another one who was sort of floating around the group, telling everyone the president vouches for it. Take a listen.
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KRIS KOBACH, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, KANSAS: I was speaking with the president, and we were talking about a variety of issues. And the topic came up, I mentioned that I was working with We Build the Wall. And he said, well, you tell the people you are working with that this project has my blessing. And he went further and he said, I want the media to know that this project has my blessing. He was really making a point that he was behind this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I mean, this clearly imprimatur mattered a lot to them in their fundraising.
ZADROZNY: Of course. And again, he's a decorated Iraq War veteran, a triple -- and he -- like he gave a lot to this country. And that to me as a reporter, you know, we were sort of following this and, and it reached a point where it's like, OK, you know, this guy has had some maybe shady fundraising schemes in his past. You know, you get back and you do what you can to make a living with your family, right?
So small time sort of grifter and far-right, but this was something different. And then, if the allegation is proved correct, what could have been a successful e-mail harvesting campaign, he could have sold this list of really, you know, eager, hungry willing to part with their money, list to political campaigns anywhere right? But instead, that's what's so brazen to me that what happened was just allegedly very obvious and campaign to defraud their donors who believe that this decorated Iraq War Vet was going to take none of their money personally. They said that. And you know, the DOJ says that they just lied and admitted all of it in text messages and e-mails which blows my mind.
HAYES: Yes. And he was telling people he wouldn't take a penny and got mad at people on Twitter who said otherwise. And there's a lot more on this. And Manhattan district -- U.S. Attorney I want to talk about when we next return to this story. But for now, Brandy Zadrozny, thanks for being with me tonight.
ZADROZNY: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Coming up, Louis DeJoy testified before the Senate today, answer -- to answer for his crippling of the Post Office. Tonight, our new reporting on the damage that's already done. What we're hearing from you right after this
HAYES: The president's new Postmaster General Lewis DeJoy's breaking of the Post Office has been the top story in the country for weeks now, in national media and local media around the country, including the slowing down of mail, the removal of sorting machines, changes to postal worker schedules.
And today, DeJoy testify before a Republican-led Senate committee. And it's worth pointing out, Republicans called him to testify as a preventative measure to kind of let off some steam from the anger that's built up across the country. Today's Senate hearing was supposedly friendly terrain where the Postmaster General apologize for some things and tried to spin others.
The reason the erosion of the Post Office's service is such a big story, the reason no amount of spin will work is because the Postal Service is a central part of so many people's lives, something they rely on, and it is either working or it's not. We here at ALL IN have been covering this story for a while and we've been talking to people across the country about this breakdown.
A small business owner in the south who uses the mail frequently told us it's hurting his business. "It used to be a good thing to look at my email because they were sales. Now, I swear, a third to a half of them must be buyer messages. It's people who haven't received their items yet wondering what happened."
A longtime postal worker told us how the process has changed. "In the past, we always strive to get all the mail out. If a particular trailer is not quite loaded with all the mail it's available yet, we will hold up that driver, make sure that all the mail that's available is on that trailer. Now, it's sealed the trailer up 30 minutes before departure time. I don't care how much mail is on it. I don't care if there's mail on the docks. This trailer has to be sealed up 30 minutes before departure time."
And a nearly 20-year postal carrier in Long Island noted the deep importance of USPS to the entire country. "Are we a business or are we a service? Are we a money-making business now or a service that's in the constitution that's vital to the fabric of this country?" That is what real Americans impacted by the changes of the post office are telling us here at ALL IN.
The big question is, will the Postmaster General undo the damage he has already done. And here with me now, one of the Senators who grilled the Postmaster General on what he has done, Senator Maggie Hassan, she's Democrat of New Hampshire. It's great to have you, Senator.
First, I want to start with this. Whether or not the changes they have instituted are defensible, and whether or not the reason that they've instituted them are on the up and up, I don't even understand what they say they're doing. Do you understand after this hearing today what their own defense of their actions is?
SEN. MAGGIE HASAN (D-NH): Well, here's my takeaway from the hearing today. We have a postmaster general who either doesn't understand the impact of these operational changes he made about -- started about a month ago, or doesn't care about the impact on real people in my state and all across the country, who as you pointed out depend on the postal service for everything from getting their medications to getting business supplies or their social security checks.
And as troubling is that when we presented him with this information, he refused to actually reverse course at all. In my state of New Hampshire, that's particularly concerning. They've removed one of two critical sorting machines from our biggest distribution facility, leaving us with just one. It broke this week and that delays everything.
So he's refusing to reverse course even when we tell them how it's impacting people. The other big takeaway was, you know, he said that they would prioritize election mail as we're heading towards an election where record numbers of Americans will vote by mail. But he had no specific set about how he was going to accomplish this. So, it was a concerning hearing, to be sure, and we just have to keep after him and push as hard as we can.
HAYES: Well, again, the sort of -- the admixture of malice and incompetence here is a little unclear to me. But on the -- on the incompetent side, like why is this guy doing this? I mean, what experiential basis does he have to come -- I mean, this is a complex system. This is not a guy who's like an expert in logistics or like ran FedEx or something, right? I mean, he's just a wealthy donor. Like, where does he get off basically, I guess, is my question.
HASSAN: I think we're frozen up here. So, I can't answer that question other than to say that he seemed to think that this was going to improve operations. That was the excuse he gave. It clearly isn't. The number of contacts my offices have received since mid-July about concerns about the post office has just skyrocketed. And he just doesn't seem to really confront how critical this service is to all Americans, especially in rural America.
HAYES: So, they issued a statement saying they're -- you know, they're going to forestall some of the operational changes. What I'm hearing from you and what I've heard from others is a lot of it isn't being undone. Those mail sorting machines, for example, aren't being put back in. One big question here is about what happens legislatively. There's a -- there's a house bill to give $25 billion to USPS, I think partly on the thinking that if he's pointing to cost-cutting as the reason for these operational changes, then we can give the Post Office the resources it needs to do its job. The President issued have a veto. How important is a statutory fix or a legislative fix here to what we're seeing?
HASSAN: Well, I support a legislative fix that would suspend the changes he's made and reverse them and invest more money in the United States Postal Service, such a critical service to everybody in America, but particularly people right now during a pandemic, and particular, rural America where among other things, they may not have reliable access to broadband, for instance.
So we need to invest enough and work to make sure that the Postal Service enshrined in our Constitution, the only federal agency enshrined in our Constitution can deliver the way it always has, and people can again rely on it for everything from medications to Social Security checks, and Daily Mail and communication.
HAYES: Well, he's gonna be before a House hearing on Monday and we'll keep our eyes peeled for that. Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, thank you so much for making a little time for us tonight.
HASSAN: Thank you so much for having me.
HAYES: Ahead, how was it the Senate was able to find the Trump-Russia nexus that Robert Mueller couldn't. Jeffrey Toobin on the bombshells we learned this week and the Trump campaign of cheating ahead.
HAYES: It's pretty well established that Donald Trump is a guy who spent his whole life in business cheating, padding invoices to siphon millions of dollars from his father's Empire, using those inflated receipts to justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants and stiffing contractors repeatedly out of millions of dollars, running a fraudulent university which resulted in a $25 million settlement, and according to the New York Times, lying on his taxes. And then when he got into politics, he just kept on cheating and it worked.
Earlier this week, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released its final report on Russia's sabotage of the 2016 election. And it found that Trump basically used Russia to cheat on the election, including when candidate Trump "directed campaign officials to stay in touch with Roger Stone about future WikiLeaks activities regarding Clinton related e-mails.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. We will talk more about this incredibly revealing report in a few minutes. There is also of course, the criminal scheme where Trump's own fixer, Michael Cohen, made hush-money payments in violation of law on Trump's behalf and ended up going to prison.
Then, you'll remember that last year, the president tried to cheat by using the power of his office to extort Ukraine into making up dirt on Joe Biden and his family, but he got caught and impeached for that cheating scheme. That was his plan to try to win the election against Joe Biden. And it did didn't work.
And now Trump is trying to cheat again. He is undermining the Postal Service while demonizing mail in ballots during a pandemic where millions of people want to vote from home. Listen to this. Just last night, the President said he plans to use law enforcement as poll watchers, a threat the executive director of the lawyers committee for civil rights under law called "an old and familiar tactic pulled right from the Jim Crow playbook and often specifically targeted black voters and voters of color.
So, from his businesses to his election, to his presidency, to his re-election, it's all one story. The Russia stuff, the Ukraine stuff, the stuff now, Donald Trump is a cheater. He does not believe in fair play. He sure as hell doesn't believe in free and fair elections. And that's why the stakes are so high. Free and fair elections are what's on the table. If Donald Trump is able to cheat his way back into the White House, our democracy is broken, perhaps irreparably.
HAYES: Because it's Friday and because every week right now feels like a year, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that just on Tuesday, a bipartisan Senate committee released report confirming the essential contentions of the Russia gate story, which is that the Trump campaign coordinated with agents of the Russian plot to sabotage the Clinton campaign.
And there are two huge bombshell revelations here. One is that the guy that Paul Manafort was working with, remember he had that guy abroad Konstantin Kilimnik, he was labeled in the Senate report a "Russian intelligence officer." Now, the Mueller report only went as far to say that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence. The Senate report, again released by Republicans just comes out and says Kilimnik was a Russian spy who appears to have been running Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager as an asset.
Then, there's a second bombshell. Remember on the most fateful day of the campaign, October 7, 2016, the Access Hollywood tape drops and then that same day, WikiLeaks releases the Russian hacked e-mails of Clinton's campaign chief John Podesta. That's on a Friday it happens. And according to Senate report, this was no coincidence. Of course, it didn't look like one at the time. Trump's dirty trickster, Roger Stone, told his pal conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi to make it happen.
"Corsi recalled learning from Stone, the Access Hollywood Tape would be coming out that's before it actually publishes, and that Stone wanted the Podesta stuff to balance the news cycle. According to Corsi, Stone also told him to have WikiLeaks drop the Podesta e-mails immediately."
In other words, the whole thing is what it looked like all along. So how in the world did Robert Mueller not know that? How in the world are we only finding out about this now? Joining me now to talk about this Jeffrey Toobin, Staff Writer for The New Yorker, author of the new book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump, which centers on the Mueller investigation.
It's great to have you on, Jeff. And maybe let's start there. I mean, that line that one line in the Senate Intelligence Report that says Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer. I mean, for years, we have heard ties to Russian intelligence, you know, trained by the GRU. That's an incredible thing to include. And that is not what Mueller says.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It's not and you know, I'm critical of Mueller in several respects in my book. There, I'm a little sympathetic because remember, the Intelligence Committee had access to intelligence, CIA, NSA, that Mueller did not exactly have.
TOOBIN: And I agree that it is hugely important that Kilimnik is identified as a Russian intelligence asset, but it's not because Mueller didn't look, it's just that he wasn't told. But think how important that is. I mean, this is -- the Russian military intelligence is hacking John Podesta's e-mail, and there is a Russian intelligence asset intimately involved in the Trump campaign through Manafort. It's an extraordinarily close tie.
HAYES: It's also -- I mean, what's interesting about your book, it sort of traces Mueller's approach to this. And one of the things I think that happened was the Barr whitewashing followed by this sort of barrage of no collusion, it's all a hoax, you know, helped quite a bit, I think, in public perception and yet, we find out like, no, actually, it sort of was exactly what it looked like.
TOOBIN: Exactly. And you know, the book is in many respects the story of the investigation in Mueller's story. You know, Mueller was a someone who dedicated his life to institutions, the Marine Corps, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and he had a respect for them that I think was admirable in an old fashioned way, but sort of obsolete because he trusted his old friend William Barr not to distort what he found, to release write the report as he thought it would be released, and Barr completely screwed him to use a technical legal term.
And that is not something that Mueller was prepared for. And even today, Mueller has never spoken out clearly in opposition, even though members of his staff remain livid about how Barr treated it.
HAYES: You know, from what I've read in the book, there's almost a kind of allegorical tale there about what happens when you -- when you kind of have deference and respect and sort of institutional disposition, and you go up against Donald Trump who like doesn't care, particularly on just the issue of whether he was going to talk to him, whether they were going to get questions from him, weren't they? They basically got rolled.
TOOBIN: They got rolled. I mean, that's one of the areas where I think it's just, you know, the Mueller performance was at its worst in the -- in the negotiations about the subpoena. But you know, the book opens with the scene. The only two times that Robert Mueller and -- the only time Robert Mueller and Donald Trump have met the day before Mueller's appointed a special counsel.
And you know, the two men, they have some things in common. Both born during World War II, both brought bought up in wealth, but they are like photo negatives of each other. You know, Mueller devoted his life to public service. Donald Trump devoted his life to Donald Trump. Yet, the -- Mueller could not adapt or chose not to adapt to the world that Trump now lives in.
And you know, in his failure to confront them over the subpoena, in his failure to say in the -- in the Mueller report just how clear the evidence was that Trump committed obstruction of justice, this was the kind of deference to institutions that comes from another time.
HAYES: Well, it comes from another time, but to me what's operationalized about the lesson here is that we're about to head into, you know, what could be -- I don't know, there's a wide spectrum of possibility about the future. But we could be heading into something that is on the order of the Saturday night massacre, or even worse in terms of the kind of genuine constitutional crisis about how the president reacts to a possible loss and what he does about balance, etcetera. And what is the lesson to you about how you deal with confronting this person or attempting to sort of adhere him to some norms?
TOOBIN: The only thing that can be done at this point is defeat him at the -- at the ballot box because if he wins, he will view correctly, I think, this as a vindication and a ratification of everything he's done. And this is what happens with bullies. You know, everybody remembers the July 24, July 25 proximity.
You know, Mueller testifies poorly before Congress and Trump is emboldened to lean on President Zelensky of Ukraine the next day to get dirt on Joe Biden.
HAYES: That's right.
TOOBIN: He is -- if he wins re-election, this is how foreign policy is going to work in a second term. It's going to be all about what foreign leaders and foreign countries can do for Trump personally, not for the national interest.
HAYES: Yes. That time proximity which I knew, of course, and had kind of forgotten at least briefly is a great, great reminder. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much for coming on tonight.
TOOBIN: All righty, pal. Good to talk to you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Friday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END
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