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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 8, 2020

Guests: Andrew Friedson, Hakeem Jeffries, Melanie Zanona, Faiz Shakir, Harry Litman, Wendy Sherman

Summary

According to researchers, Sturgis Rally is a super spreader event liking to 267,000 coronavirus cases. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls McConnell's bill pathetic and doesn't come close to addressing the nation's problems. In an interview, Michael Cohen says that President Trump believed Putin was behind his $50 million profit in sale of mansion.

Transcript

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Jennifer Palmieri, I wish we had more time. Shermichael Singleton, thank you both very much. I appreciate you guys. That is tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why now? Why didn't you do it while it was contained to get ahead of it?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is being contained. And do you not think it's being contained?

HAYES: Tonight, alarming new details by way of the Sturgis motorcycle rally showing just how uncontained this virus still is. And why Democrats are actually playing hardball to get relief to Americans.

Then, why on earth is the Department of Justice seeking to defend the president in a defamation case brought by a woman who says Donald Trump raped her?

And ahead of Rachel Maddow's big interview with Michael Cohen, a new claim for why the President is beholden to Vladimir Putin.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: He believes that Putin controls all of Russia and all of its wealth. And anything like the purchase of this -- of this home has or had been through or with the permission of Vladimir Putin.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. You know, back in the earliest days of this pandemic, when the virus was only in one province in China before it reached our shores and spread all across the globe, tens of thousands of people in Wuhan gathered for an annual tradition. It was a Lunar New Year mass banquet.

40,000 families prepared nearly 14,000 dishes and the organizers were going for a world record for number of dishes served to mark that event's 20th anniversary. Attendees set close together sharing the meal. And soon after, people began getting sick and 57 residential blocks within the Wuhan neighborhood that held the banquet were labeled fever buildings.

Now, looking at those images now is really gut-wrenching. It's fair to say it was most likely not a good call to go ahead with that event. But again, this was mid-January. I mean, the Chinese government was suppressing information about the virus. Most people did not understand yet what we were dealing with.

But now, seven months after the first case popped up here, we have a better sense of what this pandemic is or we should. We know that as a country, we need to avoid big gatherings with no social distancing, particularly indoors, so no nightclubs, and no bars, no frat houses, no big, massive, massive events. And if we wear masks and we are careful, well, maybe we can muscle through this and lead a semi-normal life.

Well, this was the scene in South Dakota last month, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held over 10 days. This took place seven months after the Lunar New Year banquet in Wuhan, China. At the start of this event, 160,000 Americans had already died, and it has been abundantly clear for months that big events mass gatherings without social distancing are extremely high risk for spreading coronavirus.

But South Dakota's Republican Governor Kristi Noem did not want to hear that. She's a rising Republican star. She recently hosted the president at Mount Rushmore and lectured about violence in the streets during the RNC. And just the other day, showed up at a Republican Party event in Iowa, appearing to set the stage for a future run for president.

And Governor Kristi Noem has made it her regular practice to thumb her nose at all those condescending liberal talking heads who say we should take the pandemic seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's concern about this big motorcycle rally that's happening this weekend in South Dakota. And we don't have to play the soundbite that oh my God, on television, all the cable news. How dare you. It's going to become a super spreader event, governor, a big suit spreader event. Look at all those people. Look at how they gather.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): Well, we've had several big events in South Dakota already. We had the first spectator attended a professional sport. The professional bull riding was held in South Dakota. We had the July 3rd event and saw no increase in cases because of that crowd that gathered to celebrate our country's freedom and independence.

People have been gathering. We've been back to normal for over three months here in South Dakota. So we know we can have these events, give people information, let them protect their health, but still enjoy their way of life and enjoy events like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. We hope people come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: We hope people come. We're back to normal. We're back to normal. The virus went away. Now it is important to consider the scale of what we're talking about here with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Remember the big outdoor crowds we saw protests in the wake of George Floyd's death? A lot of people, including myself, as I said multiple times in the show, were really concerned that those events could lead to a lot of spread virus.

But, you know, months have gone by and the evidence suggests they did not, thank goodness. And part of the reason for that is because of the scale of those events. In New York City, a city of eight million people, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, and the protests themselves stopped other people from going out. And so, they didn't lead to big super spare events.

Sturgis, South Dakota, on the other hand, is home to 7,000 people. And this year's motorcycle rally drew over 460,000 people, like dropping a city the size of Miami into the middle of a small town. So, what happened? New research by health economist concluded the Sturgis rally led to over 260,000 additional Coronavirus cases, or get this, nearly 20 percent of the new cases in the U.S. between August 2nd and September 2nd, 20 percent.

Now, it's important to note, this paper is still under peer review. But look at this map. I mean, people came to Sturgis from all over the country, and then of course returned to their homes and communities spread from coast to coast. The researchers have calculated the total public health cost of all these cases at over $12.2 billion, which get this, is enough to have paid each person who went to Sturgis over $26,000 not to attend. Just stay home.

Now, like I said, it's preliminary research. It's not peer-reviewed. But think about it this way. Even if this study is off by say, I don't know, a factor of four, OK, it's still nuts. I mean, I wonder what the residents of Wuhan are thinking about us right now. Six months, seven months into fighting this pandemic and there are still so many difficult decisions and balances of costs and benefits. For instance, schooling, which we've been talking about a lot on the show night after night, there's so many questions where it's still hard to know what the right answer is.

But then there is a subset of stuff that is real, real easy like wear a mask and don't hold events with 400,000 people. But in America, we cannot even do those things. And that is because our attitude about the virus stems in part from the top, from the president, barking at a reporter petulantly yesterday to take off his mask, to the rising star governor of South Dakota, positioning herself in opposition to public health experts, we're back to normal.

And, of course, who can forget former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway seen here in the Oval Office sofa talking about having it contained way back in March.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You talk about how the administration initially had this contained. But during that time, why did the administration send out more tests and work to get hospitals prepared? Even today, the state of Florida is saying they can't test everyone for the administration guidelines because they don't have tests.

CONWAY: So, you're asking a couple different things there. I'll try to just give some facts. The HHS Secretary said this morning that we're ramping up. We're ramping up with the commercial masks --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But why now? Why didn't they do it while it was contained to get ahead of it.

CONWAY: It is being contained. And do you not think is being contained?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a doctor or a lawyer.

CONWAY: Look -- but you said -- you said it's not being contained. So, are you a doctor or a lawyer when you say it's not being contained? That's false. You said something that is not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Ah, yes, that little vicious condescending parrot or reporter who's asking a question. That moment, by the way, should be what everyone remembers about Kellyanne Conway, maybe the only thing they remember about her contribution to public life. And that tone seen there that petulant tone, it has not changed in six months as we take towards 200,000 dead Americans. It's why we are where we are today. It is why we are still holding huge, huge events without much social distancing over seven months into this.

Joining me now, one of the researchers who co-wrote that Sturgis study, Andrew Fredson. He's associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado, Denver. Good to have you, professor. I want to start first with just the methodology here. Like, how solid is this? How confident are you that the modeling you've used here is getting it right about what the -- what the effect was?

ANDREW FRIEDSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, DENVER: Yes, I'd even push back about characterizing this as a modeling exercise. What we're doing here is we're taking locations that are heavily exposed to the Sturgis rally either Meade county itself, or locations that we see a large number of cell phones traveling from those locations to Sturgis itself.

And then we're comparing those locations to similar locations that are on the same trend, have the same number of COVID cases. And we're just matching them up and showing they lay right on top of each other ahead of the Sturgis rally. Then post Sturgis rally, the places that had high exposure to Sturgis diverge, and they start seeing an uptick in cases relative to places that have the same levels in the same trends.

This is all based on actual data and actual numbers. The only modeling assumption going on here is it got places that look identical that some places were exposed to Sturgis and some places weren't. And if you buy that, then you buy the analysis.

HAYES: Right. So, you've got -- you've got county A and county B, and these counties are fairly similar counties before Sturgis, and you can look at why they're similar in similar vis-a-vis COVID. And then you know that a bunch of people from county B went to Sturgis because you have the cell phone beat data, but no one from A went. And then you start to see that rise index up a few weeks after Sturgis in the county where people were coming back from the rally.

FRIEDSON: Yes. And then, we can count up the actual differences in cases. This has been characterized actually by the governor of South Dakota as a B.S. model, and it's not at all. Its actual comparisons.

HAYES: It's the -- were you surprised by what you found? I mean, the numbers here -- the thing that jumped out at me was the 20 percent. And I guess I -- that jumped out at me before. I quite realize the scale of the event they sent. But 20 percent of the cases, 260,000 cases that the level of illness and disease and death and cost is staggering.

FRIEDSON: Yes. It shows how much a single event or a single large event can contribute to the national spread. This is what exponential growth is, right? You have a large number of people, and then they all touch two people, and then they all touch two people, and it just goes off and off and off.

The thing that really jumped out at me was how much of the numbers or what percentage of the numbers come from outside of South Dakota. We only have about 3,000 additional cases due to the Sturgis rally, according to our analyses, in South Dakota, whereas the rest of the country accounts for everything else.

So this is a situation where all the economic benefit of having a large event like this rests in a single state, and all the public health cost is borne by everybody else.

HAYES: That's a great point. It's like a massive pollution enterprise, right? Like the negative externality gets thrown all across the nation, and the businesses and all the folks who count on it -- and I understand 100 percent why if you're a person in Sturgis, around Sturgis, you want that event to happen, because obviously there's enormous economic engine for the people around there in the state, and it would be crushing if it doesn't happen. But now you've got 257,000 excess cases around the country.

FRIEDSON: Yes, that's correct. And I get it. People are tired of the disease. I'm tired of the disease, but that doesn't change the facts on the ground that this is still an incredibly infectious and incredibly deadly disease.

HAYES: Andrew Friedson who's a professor of economics there at the University of Colorado Denver. Thank you. That was -- that was great. I really appreciate it.

FRIEDSON: Thank you for having me.

HAYES: Over 190,000 Americans are dead from the Coronavirus, about 1,000 are still dying every day. We have over six million cases. And while Democrats, you might remember, passed additional relief months and months ago. Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans, and the White House have balked. And the odds now of further legislation are not looking very good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Republican's skinny bill is less than a skinny bill. As Chuck Schumer and I have said, it's an emaciated bill. It falls short in meeting the needs of the American people when we talk about putting money in their pockets, when we talk about feeding the food insecure people in our country, preventing evictions for those who become homeless, completely ignores what we need to do in a very substantial way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That's why I want to talk to someone in democratic leadership involved in all these negotiations by Nancy -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi's side, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who's a Democrat from New York.

Congressman, the Heroes Act, which was passed by the Democrats in the House months and months ago, money for a variety of things, several trillion dollars, Republicans and the White House at first said, oh, we don't need anything. Then the sort of economic damage continued to show up, a bunch of things ran out from that first bill, the President has tried to jerry-rig it together with executive orders. Now, they've come back with their counterproposal which is far, far less than what the Democratic proposal is. And I guess the logic would be like, we'll meet halfway. Why is meeting halfway not good enough?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, that's a great question, Chris. And we've been asking that for the last several weeks. In fact, Speaker Pelosi offered to meet the Republicans halfway. Remember that the Republican bill was originally $1 trillion. They are going in the other direction, because the bill that Mitch McConnell has introduced today is approximately 500 billion.

The crisis isn't getting any better. It's gotten worse. And as a matter of fact, when we acted on May 15th decisively, because we understood that both the public health aspect of the crisis and the economic aspect of the crisis required a transformation intervention, since that moment, 116 days later, more than 105,000 Americans have died. Tens of millions of Americans continue to be unemployed.

And in fact, there have been more than five million cases of Coronavirus infection, Chris, since the house acted. And so, the challenge that we have is that the Republicans and Donald Trump are living in a fantasy land. They want to wish the virus away.

HAYES: The White House has been sort of back and forth on this in a way where -- I mean, again, you're calling it the White House as a unified entity I think probably overstates things, because there's the president, there's his whims, there's his staffers. I don't think there's much coherence there, or even the Republican Party or the Republican senate caucus, which I think is part of what's made negotiate is kind of difficult. Here's Larry Kudlow today basically saying, if we don't get anything, it's fine. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We talked about the hardship, we talked about the disparity beneath the numbers that you and I have talked about a million times over the last several months, still a lot of pain out there. I'm just trying to gauge from you there as we have this discussion about this recovery. How comfortable you would be going into the back end of the year without an agreement with the other side of the aisle?

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Look, we can live with it. We can absolutely live with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Is that -- you think that's your position, like, were good?

JEFFRIES: You know, it's unfortunate, because in the legislation that was rolled out today on the Senate side, there was no money for state and local stabilization. We include approximately a trillion dollars to protect public safety, public health, public education, public transportation, and the provision of public good. There was no additional round of direct stimulus payments to the American people.

We believe that the American people need an additional round of up to $6,000 per family. There was no money in the Republican bill to assist renters who are struggling. And homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage, we include approximately $175 billion. It's just extraordinary in terms of the negligence and the malpractice of the White House.

And it's a confusing message, Chris, because, you know, every other day, they're sending a different message as to whether they want an agreement or not.

HAYES: I want to just put a fine point on this with something you just mentioned. So there was that $1,200 check that came in the first cares act for people to qualify making under certain threshold. You said there's more -- the Heroes Act would have additional sort of just direct check payments to people, right, whether you're unemployed or not.

Am I reading this right? Right now the Democratic Party wants to send basically every American household making under a certain amount of money thousands of dollars six weeks before an election that the President is the incumbent for with the President's signature on it, which is what he did last time. And the President and the Republicans are like, we don't want to do that. We want to not send people that money. That's the current state of affairs.

JEFFRIES: Yes. It's extraordinary when you think about it from the standpoint of, if the President is unwilling to do the right thing, because he's just unwilling to do the right thing, you would think he'd be willing to act in his own self-interest weeks before an election to try to turn things around. Here's my theory on this, Chris, that when we criticize the president for only caring about himself, we're wrong. The President cares about himself, his golf game, and the stock market in that order.

And I think because the stock market has been largely immune from the economic shocks to the system that everyday Americans are experiencing, he's decided he's good. And that's unfortunate and the American people should draw a lesson from that. He doesn't care about the working class. He only cares about the (INAUDIBLE) class.

HAYES: It's a fairly compelling theory for a set of facts that are hard to figure. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you for making time tonight, sir.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Next, it's worth remembering as much as Donald Trump fancies himself master of the art of the deal, Nancy Pelosi has had this guy's number since day one. She's still in the power position. We'll talk about that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: In my years of covering legislative negotiations on Capitol Hill over big rescue packages and Omnibus spending bills, there's a tendency for Democrats to be more or less fine with half a loaf because a lot of times they care about what that bill delivers to their constituents, and they don't want it to be nothing, right, that they're not going to walk away.

And Republicans are usually more comfortable saying they are fine with nothing, particularly when it comes to domestic spending on Democratic priorities, like say, nutrition programs or unemployment, right. So, they have some leverage there. It tends to put Democrats at a disadvantage when you're fighting overspending levels for these kinds of programs.

This time, though, as you just saw with Hakeem Jeffries, it is a very different dynamic. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are clearly saying basically this. We need to appropriate enough money right now to push us through the next fiscal year when Joe Biden is hopefully to them elected, so we will not be begging for another vote and more money in a few months. I think they are finally realizing that doing a little is actually worse than doing nothing.

And joining me now are two people who know how these Capitol Hill negotiations work. Faiz Shakir is a former senior adviser to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, and Melanie Zanona, Congressional Reporter for Politico. Melanie, let me start with you as someone who's been covering what's going on the Hill. Are you surprised it's gotten to this point? And what is your sense of what the sort of theory of Pelosi and the Democratic caucus is?

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, the Speaker Pelosi, she's feeling confident about her chances of keeping the House majority in November. Democrats that I've talked to on Capitol Hill have said she's never had a tighter grip on our caucus or wielded more power. And you can really see that in these negotiations.

She's feeling confident about her position. She has been really standing firm. She's even been taking these classic sort of Pelosi jabs at Mark Meadows saying what's his face, I prefer to negotiate with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin. And so, you really see that in her negotiating posture right now.

And I think to your point earlier, you're exactly right. Democrats are starting to realize that there's a very good chance that they could not only have the House, but also have the Senate and the White House after November and perhaps they could get a bigger package done if they just hold on. And they're betting that Republicans will get blamed for not doing anything on Coronavirus.

But, of course, as you know, Chris, that could be a huge risk, and it could backfire, especially with these unemployment benefits that have expired that millions of out of work Americans have really been relying on.

HAYES: Yes, I mean, the -- we should say that the substantive problem here is enormous, right? The President has tried to put together these executive orders have sort of dubious scope or legality to kind of plug the holes that legislation has sort of left but my read here, Faiz, which I think is fascinating is basically the worst -- the worst of all worlds is you pass something that gives a boost to the economy short term right before the election, and perhaps boost the political chances of your opponents. And then they immediately turn to austerity if Joe Biden is elected, which we know they will, and then everyone's screwed next year and there's a recession which you can't get a single Republican vote to spend a cent.

FAIZ SHAKIR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO SENATE LEADER HARRY REID: Yes. Well, I'll just say a quick word about Pelosi here real quick, Chris, is she caused Mitch McConnell to stumble and Mitch McConnell is seen as like this legislative my show and occasionally it can be quite effective. But in this situation, you remember we went through multiple rounds of Coronavirus relief, all of which were generally unanimous.

So, we get to May, she offers up a $3 trillion Heroes Act to which McConnell responds with the quote "I do not feel the urgency to act immediately," which puts them at zero. So you have Nancy Pelosi at $3 trillion offering solutions, and McConnell decides to react by going to zero.

And he has left the playing field for the next four months in which Democrats are the only ones now offering an economic recovery bill legislation proposals defending the work that was done when McConnell could have allowed Trump to say hey, together we will get this economy on the right foot with bipartisan acts. But that's not the gear that McConnell has. He's a no agent. He's not an act to get things done agent.

HAYES: Well, that's a great point. And it also points to the fact that like -- let me just follow up with you, Faiz, for a second. It points to the fact that there's actually a ton of that Cares Act that was quite good policy and quite like bold and aggressive. I think the $600 us employment across the board like bonus, and I've talked to so many people about this, was a lifeline.

It was one of the boldest strokes of Democratic policymaking I've seen in the time that I've covered it. It was not -- like, there was not some fancy form you got to fill out and like a big a complicated equation. It was like, no, you're unemployed. Here. And it was -- it was clear and effective, and that all came from the Democratic Party.

SHAKIR: That's right. And so, you left -- you had McConnell and Trump have the opportunity to say, OK, another stimulus check, more saviors from evictions, more pay and leave. Yes, Nancy Pelosi, we'll strike the deal. We won't go to $3 trillion. We got a $2 trillion. But instead, you have him as a -- you know, like I was saying about McConnell, he's comfortable in the skin of gridlock, right?

He's a no on Merrick Garland, no on Obama appointees, no on gun violence prevention, no, no, no. And when he has to be at, yes, that means you have to say, OK, there's these 20 Republicans who are just going to be no forever, but I'm going to now work with Democrats to pass something. But you see McConnell, they can't wear that skin comfortably.

HAYES: Right. He can't do that. And so now there's this -- there's this fear, I think, Melanie, that's palpable among Democrats, right, which is like there's a bunch of senators, Republican senators who are balking because all of a sudden they've rediscovered the deficit, right, which is hilarious given what's happened. And that basically that this is their -- you know, they're essentially salting the fields as they retreat, right? That everyone sees what's going to happen if and when Joe Biden is elected, which is that there will not be a single Republican vote for anything the day that happens.

ZANONA: You're absolutely right. I mean, just look at the Tea Party which came to prominence really when Obama came into office and they ran on fiscal responsibility, all that has really gone out the window in the era of Trump. We've seen that with the Republican Party. The President has really remade the GOP in His own image.

But now that we're starting to see Republicans get to -- at least get privately nervous on Capitol Hill that the political tides are shifting, and that there could be a Democrat in the White House, they're starting to plant those seeds of fiscal responsibility. And now, all of a sudden, it's this latest Coronavirus package. We're getting closer to the election, and they're starting to express those concerns.

That being said, I do think Mitch McConnell is still working out -- working to lock down support for their skinny Coronavirus bill. There will be some Republicans vote against that. But there's some moderate vulnerable Republicans who were up for election who are really worried about not voting for anything and not doing anything and what the cost of inaction is.

HAYES: Right.

ZANONA: It's really an interesting vote on Thursday. Even though it's expected to fail, that's not (AUDIO GAP) getting these Republicans on board.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, the question is does it fail -- does it not get enough Republican votes, right? I mean, how many -- how many Republican votes he loses which would be just an enormous failure on McConnell's part. Faiz Shakir and Melanie Zanona, that was great. Thank you both.

SHAKIR: Zero is not the right answer, right? He's now saying I have to do something.

HAYES: Right, exactly. Zero was the wrong answer. Thank you both.

ZANONA: Thank you.

HAYES: Up next, breaking news tonight. Bill Barr's Justice Department is officially seeking to defend Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges Trump raped her. That story after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Today, Attorney General William Barr's Department of Justice filed in court to take over the defense of Donald Trump in a defamation suit brought by a woman who said that he raped her about 25 years ago. You may remember this cover story in New York Magazine last year, Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll wrote in graphic detail about how Donald Trump allegedly raped her in a fitting room in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City.

She also described the assault to my colleague Lawrence O'Donnell on the "LAST WORD." And I have to warn you, her account is disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

It hurt and it was against my will. And it -- I don't know where I got the strength because he was big. But I think I was stomping my foot. I have my handbag and this arm. I never put it down. I just -- I'm holding it. I have no idea. The only reason I know I'm holding it is because when I get out the street, I still had it in my hand. So somehow, I got my knee up and pushed him back. And the minute he backed up; I was out the door.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Two women later came forward on the record to say that Carroll told them about this incident at the time, two friends of Carroll's. Trump, for his part, claims he never met E. Jean Carroll. He said that she's a liar and he told reporters he would not have assaulted her because, "she's not my type."

Carroll in turn sued the president for defamation since he called her a liar. And now the Department of Justice, the agency that's supposed to enforce the law and ensure public safety is preparing to defend the president in his rape accuser's defamation suit. In a court filing, the Department said that, "President Trump was acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States when he publicly denied as false the allegations made by plaintiff."

Here with me now, someone who understands the Department of Justice from the inside out, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, Harry Litman. Harry, what is going on here?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: All right, it's sort of tough sledding legally, Chris. But what you say is exactly right. The Department of Justice says he was acting in his scope of employment. And that means the suit that's against him personally, oh, it's really against the Department of Justice. We can take it over now. And guess what, the punch line is the United States gets to choose who can sue it and for what, and the law says it cannot be sued for defamation. So, if they can prevail on this argument, the suit is over.

On the other hand, this isn't one of those things that Bill Barr can just decide whatever he says because the Supreme Court has held that the department is going to have to prove to the federal court, they've brought the case now from state court into federal court, but they're going to have to prove to the federal court that Trump was acting in the scope of employment.

They cite some cases, but the cases are really not on point. There are cases in which federal employees were talking about, federal matters, news, etcetera. Not Trump talking about this personal accusation. And basically, they're saying anything the President does, that's public business. But it's not. We know that already from Bill Clinton among others.

HAYES: Right. OK, so you got -- so they were -- I mean, my sense was that in state court, they were losing. They were kind of back on their heels. They had a bunch of judgments against them that was sort of allowing the suit to go forward. In fact, the lawyer for E. Jean Carroll today said basically, this was a kind of Hail Mary. Oh, we're losing in state court, let's pull this maneuver where we pull it over to the Department of Justice, and you can't sue the U.S. for defamation, ergo, no lawsuit. That's the trick they're trying to pull here.

But I guess the question is, like, has the DOJ ever done this before for a president? Is this -- how -- in the spectrum of normal to abnormal, where is this?

LITMAN: Well, you know, as always, we're -- we already start with the abnormal just because of Trump's own conduct. There's only been a couple suits ever alleging this kind of civil harm by a president. It starts with Clinton v. Jones. What you say though is exactly right. They were at the point of disaster for Trump, because there was going to be a deposition in state court, New York State court, and that's complete bedlam and peril for him.

Now, Bill Barr can without any question, move it to federal court but he can't keep it there. Here's the rub, though. Probably it takes a few months for it to work its way up for the courts, not just the district court, to say, this isn't Trump acting in scope of employment. This is Trump doing something personal defaming a woman saying she's not my type. That's not what the law.

And it's New York State law by the way. The law has to be, is this what he's employed to do? It's a little weird with the president, but no, he's not employed to call people liars and say she's not my type. This is not what the President does, you know, as part of his duties.

HAYES; OK, so this is interesting. So, you think on the merits, he's got a tough case. But like everything that Trump does in the courts, as far as I can tell, everything is just kicking the can. And if you kick the can long enough, like, you know, as John Maynard Keynes said, in the long run, we're all dead.

LITMAN: We're all dead, yes.

HAYES: Like, if you could just keep things, if he could go to live another day, you know, get through the election and get through next week and get through next month and he did it with Mueller and he's done it with a million different contractors he stiffed, like, who knows? Maybe you just can wriggle out of it. So, you're saying this is essentially a delay tactic?

LITMAN: Yes. So, basically, what's going to happen is it'll go to the district court, and the -- and Carroll will say, he listened in his scope of employment. And I think the district court will rule for him. But then, the next move of the Department of Justice, Court of Appeals, appeal to the Supreme Court.

Now, if Trump is reelected, it won't work. But if he's not, like so many other things, he has run out the clock. However, again, this is going to be in the hands not of a new Department of Justice, but of Carroll. He can run out the clock, but still have to face justice whether he's president or not because that's what a private person Carroll is doing.

HAYES: Yeah Harry Litman, that was extremely edifying. Thank you so much for making the time.

LITMAN: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, we have a sneak preview of Rachel Maddow's exclusive interview with Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen. What he says about Trump and Putin and a Russian fertilizer mogul's purchase of a gaudy Palm Beach mansion, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: One of the really, really weird and disturbing things about Donald Trump, and admittedly there are too many to count, is his relationship, of course, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Just recently, the opposition leader in Russia and harsh Putin critic Alexei Navalny fell violently ill in Russia. He had to be evacuated to a German hospital. There are some wrangling about whether they'd let him go. And he's only now just coming out of a medically induced coma. And the German government says he was poisoned and poisoned by a specific Soviet era nerve agent.

It appears to be a brazen assassination attempt of a Russian opposition leader. And what does the President have to say about it? Nothing for weeks. And even when he did finally talk about it, he basically, as usual, took the Trumpian line saying, we haven't had any proof yet about who did the poisoning.

But, of course, that is par for the course with Trump. Remember back in 2018, a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned along with his daughter on British soil with that same Soviet era nerve agent. It was a major international incident. I mean, basically a targeted chemical weapon attack on U.K. soil. And the British government accused Russia of attempted murder.

Now, leaked meeting notes show that when former British Prime Minister Theresa May initially appealed to Trump to stand with the U.K. against Russia, Trump mirrored saying, I'm not ready for the U.S. to go first, and then make others do nothing.

Time after time, Trump has chosen to appease and avoid criticizing Putin. And nearly four years into his presidency, we still don't have a clear explanation precisely as to why. Well, tonight, in a brand new exclusive interview with Rachel Maddow in just about 15 minutes, former fixer Michael Cohen offers some insight into just how Trump thinks about the Russian president, thanks to a real estate deal that he made with a Russian oligarch in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: He believes that Putin controls all of Russia and all of its wealth. And anything like the purchase of this -- of this home has to have been through or with the permission of Vladimir Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The astonishing story of Trump's $50 million profit in a Palm Beach mansion, and what it tells us about his dealings with Putin as president next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: We are less than 10 minutes away from my colleague Rachel Maddow's exclusive in-depth interview with Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. He's now out of jail serving the rest of his sentence from home after having been convicted of tax fraud, lying to Congress, and violating campaign finance law on behalf of Donald Trump.

He has a brand new book in which he makes a bunch of explosive claims about his former boss which the White House, of course, disputes. And one of them involves a gaudy Palm Beach mansion that Trump had bought for more than $41 million and then had trouble selling. It was the mansion that no one wanted, the Miami Herald reported.

Then came a Russian fertilizer King. That fertilizer king bought the mansion for $95 million in 2008, which gave Trump a $50 million windfall on a property he hadn't been able to sell, and nobody understood why. In fact, the deal was so dodgy, it reportedly attracted the attention of the Mueller investigation that was not included in the final report.

Well, now, Michael Cohen says that Trump told him that Trump believe the real buyer behind the transaction was actually Vladimir Putin. This was before Trump was president to be clear. But if Trump thinks that putting just basically, I don't know, gave him a $50 million bribe for no reason or payment, that might have explain a lot.

In his interview with Rachel Maddow, when they discuss the Palm Beach property deal, Michael Cohn offers up some valuable insight into the way that Trump thinks about Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Did he actually think that Putin had arranged this $50 million windfall for him?

COHEN: Well, I don't -- I don't know what he was thinking. I can only tell you which I did in the book. I can recount the conversation. He believes that all of the Russian oligarchs are basically pawns of Vladimir Putin. He controls all of them, I guess, very much to the same extent that Mohammad Bin Salman had the ability within which to lock up all of his relatives and other members of the royal family for money, right.

Trump is keen on this power, and whether it's Putin, Mohammad Bin Salman, the Kim Jong-uns, Maduros, it's the power that he's so involved with and so in search of that this is exactly what he believes. He believes that Putin controls all of Russia and all of its wealth. And anything like the purchase of this -- of this home has to have been through or with the permission of Vladimir Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining me now is Ambassador Wendy Sherman who served as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs under President Obama, now professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

It's great to have you, Ambassador, I guess I would first start with just -- I mean, I have always thought this story was so nuts, right? It's sort of hanging out there. Like you can't sell this property, in comes a Russian oligarch who buys it. And not just buys it, takes off your hands for asking, for no reason, basically $50 million above what you're trying to get for it, right?

And I guess the first question asked is like, is the idea that something like that doesn't happen in Putin's Russia without some kind of Putin go ahead, is that a -- is that a reasonable assumption?

WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think the assumption here is that whether it was Putin directly or his support for oligarchs who can launder their money through real estate. You know, when you are in a country that is very corrupt, almost a kind of kleptocracy, where the leader really wants personal gain, status, and power at the expense of the government, sort of sounds a little familiar to some of what seems to be going on with Donald Trump, then indeed, what you try to do is get your money out of the country, because you really can't use it in all the ways you want to inside your country and you want to protect it. And one of the ways to do that is by buying real estate.

And I think one of the things that Donald Trump we may find out in the future has done very effectively, is use Russian oligarchs' money to take care of debt, properties like this, to gain himself power and finance, all for his own good not really to serve anyone else. And now, the owner has taken away the building, is subdividing the property. Even though he originally lost some money, he's now going to gain it back.

So, I think what we're seeing here is really one more piece of what is the connection with Russia. Whether that is bounties by Russia, on American troops in Afghanistan, whether it is the Navalny poisoning, which the G7 has now condemned today, or whether that is buzzing U.S. airplanes, a false investigation by Senator Johnson that just thrills Russia, no end. Something's going on here. One day, we will know. But what we do know today is it's not in America's national security interest, even though it may be in Donald Trump's interest.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, when you -- when you lay that out, I mean, what I find fascinating here is it seems to me actually a category of two. And it's interesting that Cohen brings up the Saudis and MBS because it really does seem that there's two leaders and two countries about which there is -- there can be no criticism whatsoever.

I mean, they hacked to death a news -- an American newspaper columnist. I mean, a Saudi national, but American newspaper columnist and Mike Pompeo went to go grip and grin and bear. And Trump is even on the record saying the Saudis buy lots of toys from Trump. I like the Saudis. Like the Occam's razor here is Donald Trump likes money, the Saudis and the Russians have lots of money, ergo, Donald Trump will not criticize the Saudis and Russians no matter what they do, because he wants some of that sweet, sweet cash on the other end of this gig.

SHERMAN: It certainly appears that way, Chris. I also add as Michael Cohen did, though, we all acknowledge Michael Cohen is a felon who has served time in jail, but nonetheless, this desire for power for self-aggrandizement for everything to be about oneself, we see that in what Michael Cohen said and what we've all seen in Donald Trump's adoration of Kim Jong-un in North Korea. I mean, really, honestly, what is there to have adoration about exactly?

HAYES: Yes, that's a good point because I think that obviously there's a corruption angle here, right? There's a sort of looking for the financial incentives. And I think with the Saudis and Russians, that's clear. But I guess you could say that Donald Trump doesn't have a lot of beliefs, but one of them is like dictatorship is good or like power is good and he genuinely likes that. And that's what Cohen appears to be saying there, right?

The Kim Jong-un thing makes no sense in these sort of transactional senses. It just seems like he genuinely likes the way the guy's running the country.

SHERMAN: I think he likes leaders who, it appears, are in total control. And that is what he has attempted to do as President. You just saw it in the story that you just ran about Jean Carroll, having the Justice Department take over a personal attack that Donald Trump ostensibly made, allegedly made against Jean Carroll, using the U.S. government for his own purposes.

So I think he sees that in Putin, he sees that in MBS, in Mohammad Bin Salman, and he sees that in Kim Jong-un, and any other leader that appears to have control over their country. That's not the U.S. democracy. That's not what we want. I don't think that's what the American people want. But it appears that that's what Donald Trump wants.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, a majority of them don't seem to want it at the moment. But these things are -- they're delicate as we have learned, as many generations of American politicians and theorists have warned. Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thank you so much for making some time with us tonight.

SHERMAN: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: That does it for ALL IN for tonight. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now, and it starts with Rachel's exclusive interview with Michael Cohen.

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

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