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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  May 28, 2018 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT

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tv, you can get the last word anytime as a podcast. listen for free on apple podcasts now or wherever you get your podcasts. chris hayes is up next. good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. pretty much every day this year has brought new and dramatic stories about the presidency of donald j. trump, the investigation into the president and his allies, and the white house's ongoing attacks on the nation's rule of law. tonight a trio of interviews with some of the central figures in those story lines, beginning with my latest conversation with former trump foreign policy adviser carter page, a man who famously admitted for the first time on this very program last year that he did, indeed, meet with former russian ambassador sergey kislyak during the 2016 republican national convention. >> i'm just trying to get a straight answer. like did you meet sergei kiss lack in cleveland? did you talk to him?
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>> i'm not going to deny that i talked with him although -- >> so you did talk to him? >> i will say that i never met him anywhere outside of cleveland. let's just say that much. >> the only time that you met him was in cleveland? >> i -- that i may have met in possibly might have been in cleveland. >> let me start with this. has mueller -- i know you've talked to the fbi, right? >> absolutely. >> yeah. >> which has been disclosed, leaked to "the washington post." that's been out there, so -- >> so had they ever asked but that meeting back in the rnc? >> i told them a lot of everythi everything, you know, i had essentially been doing for quite a long time, including obviously, you know, everything in cleveland. so -- >> so you did talk about that? >> yes. >> the person that you say brought you on to the campaign, new york state republican party official named cox, is that correct? >> chairman of the republican party. >> right, chairman of the
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republican party. sam nunberg recently -- you know sam nunberg. >> i've heard of him. i don't think i've ever crossed paths with him. >> he said that lewandowsky brought you on to the campaign? >> i have no comments about that. you know, the problem is -- >> wait a second. you told me it was cox. >> well, he introduced me to people. i've stated that to the house intel committee as well, yep. >> point being it's not mutually exclusive. cox could have introduced you to lewandowsky who then makes the ultimate decision? is that a safe assumption? >> i don't assume anything but -- >> well, did it happen? i'm just asking you. >> you know, here's the problem, chris. we've talked about this previously, right, where people sort of make stories out of nothing, right? >> yeah. i'm not saying it's like incriticism natory. i'm little rally asking a factual question, like who brought you onto the campaign? it was lewandowsky? >> again, ed introduced me to a few people and i had conversations with various
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peopl people, yeah. in terms of campaign, i'm a volunteer. i was never paid one cent. i never gave anything to anyone in the campaign in terms of money or contributions or anything. so it was a pretty loose, you know -- it's like someone volunteering in any campaign. >> i want to talk about two memos you were writing back to the campaign. i know how these circles work. they're these kind of volunteer things that you'll hop on calls. campaigns will have their telecommunications advisers and they'll have a big call on what's your policy on neutrality, that kind of thing. this is sort of what you were doing, right? >> sometimes. >> campaign adviser carter page presented before gathers in moscow, including the 2016 commencement ceremony, russian deputy prime minister and nes board member arkady dvorkovich also spoke before the event in a private conversation, he expressed strong support for mr. trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems. you wrote that.
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>> that may -- you know, i think that's a little segment of a long, you know, relatively longer document. so -- >> but that's accurate? he did express strong support for trump to you? >> he -- we had a very brief hello, you know. it's similar to, you know, you mentioned attorney general sessions and, you know, ambassador kislyak in cleveland. those two, they walk by each other on the way out, you know. then senator sessions was walking out of that meeting that's cited in the reuters report, and that was it. you know, it was a brief -- from what i saw, you know, it's a massive -- >> i'm talking about you and -- >> well, it's the same thing, right? i had a brief, you know, hello to him as i was walking out. but i listened to him. he spoke at the same event where i spoke, right? and he gave a lot of interesting insights in terms of --
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>> the russian perspective, totally. i guess -- no, no, no. i mean this, about a relationship that's deeply broken in many ways and -- >> it was more about, you know, ways forward for the russian economy and, you know, the royal economy if you will zblfn. >> i understand how you feel like things get manipulated. but it really does seem like you've got a deputy foreign minister telling you he supports trump. >> he did not directly use those words. i am interpreting a lot of things that i'm hearing. >> but then it sort of feels like -- are you sort of inflating your importance back to the campaign? >> i was not -- i think you're not reading the full context of that. i was talking about discussions. you know, it was input i had from a lot of people. you know, you're cherry picking. >> no, but -- >> you're not reading the full -- >> he expressed strong support for mr. trump. >> he expressed strong support for policies that i think
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aligned well with, you know, some of the important steps, some of the important possibilities that were things that then-candidate trump was talking about. but, you know, it was in the macro. >> the macro? >> you know, the macro view of the world economy and the russian economy. again, this is a speech. >> right. at an economic school. >> economists. this is my interpretation. i will also note, chris, i wrote that memo, that -- >> yes. >> sitting at jfk airport after taking a ten-hour flight and then flying back to london. >> right. >> i wasn't able to get a direct flight. so this is, you know, just sitting in a -- in the waiting area, you know, right near the gate at jfk airport, putting together some thoughts. you know, the fact that i would be talking with you on national
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television, you know -- >> well, that's -- >> almost two years later, you know, after having -- you know, on a day where i'm traveling 8,000 miles and just putting out some, you know, basic ideas of my interpretation. >> right. i mean i -- right. it seems from your perspective -- from my interpretation of your perspective, there's a very profound sense of like, how did i end up here, right? is that a fair -- >> chris, there was a great quote from your book, right? you say for subjects of authoritarian rule, humiliation is the permanent state of existence, page 71, right? i mean this is -- i mean it's just been a complete -- >> you think we live in authoritarian rule? >> i think -- you know, it's interesting on your privatization discussion with dr. shulkin, there's debates as to what should be privatized and what should not be. what's interesting in 2016 is the cia and fbi, nsa, you know, some of their key functions, not
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to mention doj, were, you know, were privatized by the dnc with this fake dossier, which is leading to abuse of process in federal courts. >> your big complaint -- and this is essentially the argument of nunes memo, is that the foreign surveillance warrant issued against you was wrong. it was improper. it should never have been issued against you, and that it shouldn't have been subsequently renewed multiple times, right? that's your contention. >> from -- you know, i can't imagine anything which could possibly warrant such a warrant. >> do you -- are you on the same page? my feeling about it is i just want to know what -- i wand to read the warrant. >> absolutely. >> just declassify the warrant. let carter page and chris hayes and everyone else read it and come to a determination about whether it was proper or whether it was improper. >> which is -- we're completely on the same page. you know, many people have been working on this. you know, there's a number of nonprofit organizations, yale
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law school, "new york times" have a big case. >> to try to -- >> judicial watch, a lot of people. so, you know, unfortunately what we've had so far is some of the most disclosure has happened in other courts where, you know, billionaire russians or multi-millionaire russians who are suing buzzfeed are getting a lot more disclosure than even house intelligence committee was able to get for a long time. and so, you know, i'm pretty excited that as more of these details come out, some of the, you know, court battles will start being handled more fairly. >> final question. have you talked to anyone in the white house in the last year? >> not in the last year, no. >> in the first year? >> no, not that i can think of. >> are you sure? >> i -- not that i can think of, no. again, i mentioned -- because it was forced out of me in the house intelligence committee with the -- you know, in this eight-hour day where i'm just
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being grilled nonstop that, you know, i had a brief conversation with steve bannon, you know, and things like that. >> he told you not to come on my show. >> it wasn't your show. it was -- >> okay. i don't feel as insulted by steve bannon, then. all right. carter, it's good to see you. >> great to see you too, chris. >> i hope things go well for you, and i hope we end up getting to read your warrant. i think we're both on the same page about that. >> i hope so. well, there's some talk about, you know, late july that there's -- even doj is kind of talking about that. there's been some reports. we'll see. >> you can come back and we can go through it together. up next, my conversation with another key figure in the trump/russia orbit, convicted criminal, former spy, and trump business partner felix sater. stay with us. discover card.
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there is perhaps no more mysterious and compelling figure in the trump/russia orbit than felix sater, the man who tried to build trump tower moscow.
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the soviet born business man has quite a résume. he spent a year in prison for slashing a man's face in a bar fight and was convicted for his role in a stock fraud scheme. he was also remarkably an intelligence operative for the u.s. government who obtained osama bin laden's phone numbers before september 11. he partnered with trump on a string of real estate projects. in 2015, he wrote an e-mail to michael cohen vowing to build trump tower moscow with vladimir putin's help. writing, i will get putin on this program and we will get donald elected. what kind of man are you, felix sater? >> i guess complex to say the least. you know, i'm an immigrant that came to this country at the age of 7, grew up here, went to school. >> right. >> went on to work on wall street. had a very successful career on wall street as a young man. unfortunately one night in a drunken bar brawl, one guy went
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for a beer bottle. i went for a margarita glass, and that changed the trajectory of my life. >> you did a year for that. >> i went to jail and i did a year for that bar fight. when i came out, i had no money. young child. had no money. and in a moment of weakness, nothing that i am proud of then or now or have i ever been, got involved in the stock scam, which is the shady side of wall street, which was something that was devastating to me because i had planned to have a very successful wall street career. and i did that for less than two years, left voluntarily on my own, got out of it because i just hated it. i despised every day and every minute of it. and when i used to go to sleep, i used to hate it. >> let me ask you this. how did you meet donald trump? >> i -- we formed a company in
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2000 to do real estate development. >> that was in his office? >> no. we were in the building. we were in trump tower. we were on the 24th floor. the trump organization is on the 26th floor. i basically knocked on his door, said i think we should become partners. i have great real estate deals. >> it's a very trumpian move. >> i think it's a very felix move. >> did you guys get along? >> yes. >> how would you characterize your relationship? >> friendly. >> talked a lot? >> sometimes a lot. >> talked in the phone, talked in person? >> mostly in person. i was two doors down. i would just go upstairs and speak to him. >> one of the things you do is you're working on trump moscow, right? >> no, no new york. we are now speaking about 1997, 98. >> as a person with contacts in russia, you speak fluent russian. later you become a business partner with donald trump. you guys work on ft. lauderdale.
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>> ft. lauderdale, phoenix, a whole host of other projects. >> but you end up working on trump moscow. that is an important project that produced those e-mails everyone now knows about. it's a project that a lot of people are curious about, and i want to ask you about your involvement on that project and what happened to it if you would stick around after this break. will you do that? >> absolutely. welcome to holiday inn! thank you! ♪ ♪ wait, i have something for you! every stay is a special stay at holiday inn. save up to 15% when you book early at
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>> you're trying to build a deal there. you're trying to do business in russia with trump. at one point you're over there with the trump kids, right? >> yes. >> with ivanka and don junior. >> yes. >> how connected are you in russia at that point?
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>> um, i know some business people there. i know enough business people to try to put together a deal, plus i speak russian. plus i have no problem knocking on somebody's door and saying, hi, i'm here, and we're going to build something beautiful, and let's do business. >> the trump/moscow deal you're pursuing, that e-mail -- here's the way people read that e-mail is that basically there's some back story here in which the deal is part of the election interference. there's some quid pro quo, or there's some idea. here's the one that i think is interestin interesting. they said, mr. sater said he was eager to show video clips to his russian contacts of instances of mr. trump speaking glowingly about russia, and said he would arrange for mr. putin to praise mr. trump's acumen. if he says it, we own this election. >> i did write that, yes. >> why in these e-mails -- there's two of them here. why are you making this connection between building this building in russia and his electoral success?
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>> me personally, i was trying to build the tallest building in the world or in europe. >> why is donald trump going to be elected president if he builds a building in europe, in moscow? >> well, because doing a gigantic deal, it would have looked good. it was good for business. it could usher in an era of detaid detaunt or good will. >> at any point, did any russian communicate to you interest in cultivating donald trump on behalf of the russians, russian governments, kremlin-friendly forces? >> i have risked my life to try to protect our country for over 20 years in situations and places that would make your hair stand on ends. the insinuation that i would get together with anyone, especially russia of all places or any other country in the world for the detriment of our country is not only insulting but
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laughable. >> that may be the case but not an answer to the question. did anyone suggest to you an interest in cultivating donald trump on behalf of either the creme l kremlin, kremlin allied forces when you were working on this moscow deal? >> absolutely not. >> was it ever communicated to you that they were interested in donald trump for reasons other than business? >> absolutely not. >> why does the deal fall through in moscow? >> because the trump organization announced that they were not going to do any more international deals. >> did you seek to acquire funding through russian banks for the deal? >> to build a building like that in moscow, the only banks you can go to are russian banks. >> was one of them vtb? >> yes, it was. >> so you did seek to acquire funding through vtb? >> well, it wasn't my deal. i put the deal together. i came to michael cohen, who is an old and dear friend. part of the e-mails is i've known him since i'm a teenager. so it's basically two old friends saying, hey, our guy can
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become president. we were excited. it wasn't something surreptitious. it was two guys who knew each other for over 30 years excited that somebody they work with is running for president. >> i've heard you say that before. >> it's true. >> i understand that. but you're a very -- you're not a kid and you're not a naive dude. >> of course. >> you've been in situations where your hand stands on end. you've been talking like cosa nostra, right? the idea that -- do you understand people might be skeptical this is just like giddy enthusiasm? >> yes, i'm sure they are, and the e-mails may sound damning. but at the end of the day, it was e-mails between two friends about a real estate transaction. and me from my -- from my perspective, from my side, i'm trying to build a billion-dollar deal. so the reality is putin, trump, and if i knew people in china, i would have tried to get the premier of china involved and get a terririfecta going.
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>> let me make sure i nail this part down. so you said you put the deal together. it wasn't your deal. was looking to vtb for financing. >> i had a local developer there and the trump organization here and i was in the middle. the local developer there would have gotten financing from vtb and/or another russian bank but vtb was at that point the go-to bank for real estate development. that's why vtb. >> your business has been sued before, bayrock. >> yes. >> and i want to read you part of that lawsuit, and i know you deny this, but i want to get you on the record. >> no problem. >> in a lawsuit filed by someone, bayrock was the group that helped develop trump soho here in new york city. someone that you worked with said, in the lawsuit, tax evasion and money laundering are the core of bayrock's business model. the lawsuit alleges -- it said trump soho building specifically, which you also developed with the president, was a monument to spectacularly corrupt money laundering and tax evasion. >> yes. it was an employee who first
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reached out to me who said, let's get money from your partner and from the law firms. and he sued me and 12 other law firms and over 100 individuals for $1 billion. subsequently in that lawsuit, a federal judge referred the lawyers who were handling that for criminal prosecution to the u.s. attorney's office. >> you think this is -- that's not a denial, though? >> well, it's an absolute denial. it's 100% denial. >> did bayrock ever launder money? >> absolutely not. >> did the trump soho deal depend on money that was being used, purchases that were being used to mass transactions for the purpose of laundering? >> no, absolutely not. >> you can know that definitively? >> well, us building the building and the money that it came from came from tom sa peer, who was a very large landowner in new york. that's what we -- that's the money that we used to build it. the buyers of those units, like anyplace else -- >> you don't know. >> some of them are llcs.
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you don't know who owners who, who's behind 2 it. but whether we were involved in selling to someone for the purpose of masking anything, absolutely not. >> how interested is donald trump in the people on the other side of the deal? >> if they bring a check and the check clears, they're a good customer. >> that's his mo? >> that's every developer in new york's m.o. >> you take that m.o., you put it in a different situation like, would you taking a meeting on dirt of your opponent, right? >> i don't know. i'm not a politician. i'm assuming every politician would, but i don't know. >> my question to you is having worked with the guy, is he the kind of person who would be open to that kind of thing? >> i don't believe that donald trump would. open to what type of thing? money laundering? >> accepting dirt from a foreign adversary on his opponent? we know his son said, if it's what you say, i love it. i'm asking about the president, someone whose character you
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know, and just describe as a american in a development situation, who is the person on the other side of the deal if the check clears -- is he the kind of person who says i don't want to know where this came from, but i'll take it? >> i guess from the reports of the meetings that happened, obviously the answer is yes. >> for don junior. i'm talking about the president. >> i don't know if i can answer that. i don't know if i can answer that question. i don't believe that donald trump would ever meet or collude with a foreign power against our country. i certainly would never even speak to him if i ever thought that was the case. i don't believe that other than getting dirt on an opponent, that it was thought through a lot. i don't believe the idea was thought through of where it was coming from, who it was coming from. it was political. oh, we got some dirt on our opponent. great, let's take it. >> do you think the russians meddled with the election? 100%. >> what's your feeling about that? >> i think they attacked us. i think it's an act of war, and i am absolutely disgusted that
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our politicians are having a 1 1/2-year postmortem about how they meddled, what they meddled. i grew up in brooklyn. it's a very simple place. somebody attacks you, you punch them back not once, but twice. at this point, doing something about it is very important for america to show everyone, don't mess with us. >> so why is the man that you worked with, that you know -- why is he not? >> you're going to have to ask him that question. >> but i'm asking because you worked with him. i didn't. >> i worked with a lot of people. i can't speak for all of them. >> but you knew something about how the guy operates, right? >> i believe so. >> let me put it this way. there is a supposition of some that the reason he has not acted more forcefully against russia is because they have something on them or he was engaged in a quid pro quo. is that a plausible story to you? >> no, it is not. look, anything is possible. i wasn't at every meeting. i wasn't part of the campaign. i wasn't part of the also. i was out of the trump organization in 2010. that was years before. and i only showed up just to do
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the trump moscow deal. i don't believe so, but i don't -- i wasn't there, and i don't know. i don't believe so but if you showed me proof that it happened, i certainly would take a look at it and say of course. >> one of the president always says is i got no deals in russia. we know that's true. he doesn't have deals in russia. the question everybody wants to know is is there russian money in his properties, right? the question is, was russian money directed into his properties? was it money that passed through different llcs? do you know the answer to that? >> to his properties? >> yeah. >> i have an assumption about that. for anyone in the russian government to pass money through to the trump organization through his properties, which had to have happened way before the election, i doubt anyone has a crystal ball and truly believed that one day this developer is going to be the president of the united states, so let's start funneling money to him. >> but they did take an interest in him. >> who? >> the russians. >> the russians -- >> they bring him over for the
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pageant. >> yes, of course, but that was bh business. >> wait a second. this story starts with you telling me that you're at a business meeting about telecom industry in russia and an american intelligence guy pulls you to the bathroom and says these are all high ranking operatives. you can't turn around and say that was just business because it seems like business and other things are pretty intertwined in russia. >> yes, they are, 100%. 100%. >> if donald trump is going and he's doing the pageant in moscow, the kremlin knows what's going on. >> 100%. >> do you know the aguilars? >> i've met one of them but i don't know them. >> you know emcnn. >> yes. >> in what context? >> dinner party in moscow. >> this is my final question for you. >> sure. >> it's established that you worked with the government as an intelligence asset, right? >> yes. there is no parentheses, no book
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end, no close on that relationship, correct? >> no, there is no book end and close end, and i would work with my government in any capacity that they would ask me today, tomorrow, until the day i die. >> you worked with the fbi? >> yes, i did. >> you worked with andrew weissman, who is a lawyer of the doj? >> he signed my cooperation agreement. >> andrew weissman now works for robert mueller, correct? >> yes, he does. >> people look at this and maybe start to think two and two equals four. you're a guy who knows how to talk to people and pass information along. are you working for robert mueller? >> i'm not working for robert mueller, nor have i ever worked for robert mueller? >> have you cooperated with the fbi on its investigation? >> i'm sorry. i cannot answer about anything about any ongoing investigations that are happening. that's not for me to say. >> do you understand why people might come to that conclusion? >> of course. that doesn't mean it's true just because they come to that conclusion. >> felix sater, you can read more about his pretty incredible
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life in buzzfeed. it was great to have you on the show. >> i would like to say that all i could say is after so much terrible things written about me, i'd like to thank anthony cormier and jason leopold -- >> you're trying to clear your name. that's what you're doing. >> i'm not trying to clear my name. i'm just trying to give everyone a full picture of everything that i've done, a full picture so there can be a balance instead of just reporting what i did in my 20s and i'm 52 years old, and reporting them as if it happened last tuesday, which it didn't. >> and there is a lot. >> yes, there's a lot. >> thank you for coming by. i really do appreciate it. >> thank you very much. i appreciate you having me. coming up, eric holder on donald trump's attacks on the justice department and the rule of law. that's next. this is your wake-up call. if you have moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, month after month, the clock is ticking on irreversible joint damage. ongoing pain and stiffness are signs of joint erosion. humira can help stop the clock.
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the man who used to lead the department of justice, former attorney general eric holder, has watched as president trump has repeatedly attacked the doj and in the process undermined the rule of law in an effort to save his own skin. >> they have this witch hunt going on with people in the justice department that shouldn't be there. they have a witch hunt against the president of the united states going on. >> you're here at this table at a time that many people that the republic is in peril, that we're nearing a crisis point. do you feel that way? >> yeah. i think i've said that, and i don't think it's hyperbolic, that i think our democracy is under attack. if you look at the question of gerrymandering, the question of voter suppression, if you look at the way in which the norms that have normally kind of cabined the way in which
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government interacts with the people, the way in which people in government interact with each other, a lot of these things are falling by the wayside. >> what do you say to the people who say, it's all held so far, you know. the country hums along. unemployment's low, and robert mueller is continuing -- i mean, look, you talk about independence of the justice department. sdny raided the president's lawyer the other day. looks like everything is functioning. >> our systems are holding, but they are certainly be pressure tested. that's not necessarily a good thing. i mean the fact that we have the ability to say that a lot of this pressure is being placed on these systems and that they are standing in place, it's not necessary. in a normal situation, that pressure should not be applied to the situations, the institutions in the way that they have been. >> does the president have the authority to fire rod rosenstein? >> yes. yeah, he could do that. >> would that be -- would that constitute in your mind more
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evidence of obstruction were he to do that? >> i'm not sure it would necessarily by itself constitute obstruction. the question would be what was his intent in doing so. but it would play into a narrative that i think leads one to conclude that the president probably has engaged in some obstructive behavior. >> james comey obviously making the rounds this week and someone that you worked with, had interactions with while in government. what is your assessment of his character and his truthfulness? >> i think he is a truthful person. i think he's a man of honor, a person of integrity. i think he's also a person who made some really serious mistakes. and i wrote an article after he held that -- after he released that material in which i said that, you know, good men can make mistakes. and i think that's what happened to jim in 2016. but in terms of his credibility, i think that that is a touchstone for him. he tells the truth. >> one of the things about
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watching mueller go to work right now, it sometimes feels to me like is it true that there's just a bunch of really egregious white collar crime that's just hanging out there that is not prosecuted? like paul manafort's pattern of doing what he was doing with his various bank accounts and real estate dealings, it was out there in the public. and here comes mueller, and he puts out an indictment that tracks the reporting on it, and it makes me wonder, like, should i think that there's a lot of stuff like this that just isn't being prosecuted, or is there something special happening here with the people around the president's circle? >> i'm not sure about that. you know, there's a lot of crime that happens i think generally that doesn't get reported. people are stealing things out of grocery stores. you know, there are people doing things in banks that they shouldn't be doing. >> a lot of drugs moving around that never get busted. >> yeah. but when it comes to the things that are truly consequential, truly important, i think that law enforcement generally -- generally, not all the time, but
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generally focuses its attention on those kinds of matters and generally holds people to account. >> what is mueller's strategy here as you watch it develop? >> well, i think this is a classic case. he's building from the bottom up, you know. and people have to understand that this is going to take some time. we're only about a year or so into this. from my view of this, i always thought this was about a two-year case. >> really? >> yeah. but i think they've really been moving almost at light speed, what they have done in that first year. but this is building from the bottom up. you build the cases that you can and try to flip people until you work your way, you know, up to the top. it's a classic corruption case. >> i want to play you something that mitch mcconnell said about protecting mueller, and i thought it was interesting about whether there would be legislation introduced. there's been some movement in the judiciary committee. there's some interest from thom tillis, chuck grassley, republicans. this is what mitch mcconnell had to say about it today.
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take a listen. >> there's a move afoot among some of your colleagues just to make sure the president doesn't get rid of mueller, to institutionally shield mueller from being fired. how do you feel about that? >> well, that's not necessary. there's no indication that mueller is going to be fired. i don't think the president's going to do that. and just as a practical matter, even if we passed it, why would he sign it? i'm the one who decides what we take to the floor. that's my responsibility as the majority leader, and we'll not be having this on the floor of the senate. >> what do you think of that? >> you don't build a hurricane wall when you see katrina five miles out from the shore, you know? i think there's a basis for us to conclude that bob mueller potentially could be fired by this president, so let's put in place mechanisms that would p - prevent that from happening. you think about the chaos that would be unleashed in this country, the kushconstitutional crisis this nation would have to face and undoubtedly going to have to try to endure. you can take this preventive
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measure that would stop all of that in its tracks. >> why do you think they won't do it? >> i think that they are afraid of angering the trump base, which is the republican base. we can't make that distinction anymore. this notion that there is a trump base which is different from the republican base is inconsistent with all the polling, i think that we've seen. they are concern about making sure that their base comes out, that their base votes in november, that their base is behind them, their people who still have to deal with primaries. and i think at some basic level, at some basic level, they're afraid of him. >> do you understand that base is motivated primarily or in large part by racial animus? >> no, i'm not sure about that. i think there is a lot of fear that this president has certainly stoked, and he has certainly used race as a mechanism to engender that fear. but i don't think that is a primary motivator of the trump base. >> what about jeff sessions?
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>> you know, he is -- he's an interesting case. he's a person i think who is kind of stuck in the 1980s. you know, in the failed policies of that era. the notion that we want to, you know, get as many people as we can, put them in jail for as long as we can, and think that that in and of itself is the way to keep the american people safe without really looking at all of the things that have happened since then. >> do you -- does it strike you there's a contradiction between the way the president talks about the rule of law when it's people like rob porter, who was accused of domestic violence by two different women, and he talks about there's no due process for him, and he talks about how there's no attorney-client privilege. he's a really kind of almost bleeding heart, liberal, public defender minded person when he talks about people in his inner circle. and when he talks about drug dealers, he says we should execute drug dealers and deport all these differences. how do you make sense of those two different ways he talks about law and order?
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>> he believes in situational law and order. there is no way that i think you can resolve the tension that you have just described. he is not a believer in the rule of law. he wants to make sure that those people who he likes, the people who support him, are treated in one way, and those are other people, whoever those other people are, are treated in a different way. >> we're going to now do something slightly strange, which we're going to play a game of eric holder, this is your life, with an individual that you've worked with at the justice department who is going to come and join the table who is a friend of the show. matt miller is going to join us. we're going to talk about what is going on in this department of justice right now and the attacks that are happening on it. stay with us if you would, and you at home as well. we'll be right back. have to happen? i didn't see it. (vo) what if we could go back? what if our car... could stop itself?
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in iihs front-end crash prevention testing, nobody beats the subaru impreza. not toyota. not honda. not ford. the subaru impreza. more than a car, it's a subaru. you always get the lowest price on our rooms, guaranteed?m let's get someone to say it with a really low voice. carl? lowest price guaranteed. what about the world's lowest limbo stick? how low can you go? nice one, carl. hey i've got an idea. just say, badda book. badda boom. badda book. badda boom. nice. always the lowest price, guaranteed. book now at we are back. joining us, matt miller, who was chief spokesman at the department of justice when holder was the attorney general. we talk a lot in this news cycle about the independence of the justice department, and it's a
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word that has a lot of force and meaning. i think for people that are outside it, what does that actually mean? day to day reality how you think about it in the culture of that place when you were there in the obama administration. >> given the power that the attorney general has, the adilt to deprive people of their liberty, the ability to actually execute people, that power has to be used in a way that is independent of any political influence. and so on a day to day basis, we were -- we made sure that we made our decisions on the basis of the law and the facts without any consideration of what the white house wanted us to do. sometimes to the detriment of the relationship we had with the white house. not anything that was necessarily expressed to me, but things that i heard, you know, maybe sometime thereafter because i think in the obama administration, the president realized that an independent justice department was something that was important. >> what did it mean to you when you were there, matt?
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>> well, i came to the justice department from politics and learned pretty early that you had to take this job -- you had to look at this job differently than any job you had ever had because there was this killtucu on the department and you learned it on day one that you don't talk to the white house about criminal cases. you can talk about policy matters, communications matters, but you don't talk to them about criminal cases and you never in a million years would talk to them about a criminal case that involved someone at the white house or someone close to the white house, which is what has made watching this white house so hard is that the white house intervenes all the time about the things that affect the president, things that affect the president's friends. and the other side, too, trying to affect the president's political opponents, still trying to get them to prosecute hillary clinton. >> these are just some tweets from the president. everybody is asking why the justice department isn't looking into the dishonesty going on with crooked hillary and the dems? why is ag jeff sessions asking the ig to investigate
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potentially massive fisa abuse. will take forever. h i mean this amounts to the president ordering his ag to prosecute his political enemies. >> right, and that's a frightening thing. our institutions have held, and i think our institution also probably hold, but these are tests of our institutions and we have seen these kinds of things in other countries in earlier times. and i think we have to be cognizant of that. there are things that are at risk here by that kind of conduct of the president. >> so the institutions have held. you haven't seen, you know, hillary clinton being indicted and them trying to prosecute. but you see the justice department scurrying around all the time trying to do little things to make the president happy. appoint a u.s. attorney to do document review, coming and meeting with the president to turn over documents about the clinton investigation. you see them freeing up a whistle-blower on the uranium
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one thing because the president was angry and had his white house counsel called over. you see all these little lines being crossed. they can't give the president the big thing he wants, so they do these little things to try to make him happy. >> but that erosion on the margins has an impact and is something that we should not discount. there's not a huge line between having a system that works correctly and one that works incorrectly and the more of this little stuff that you do, that line disappears. >> that, to me, is the most profound takeaway from this moment as i sit here every day and try to process this and do the news. we think about the constitution. everyone talks about the constitution. all this stuff we're talking about, the department of justice, white house, none of it is in the constitution. department of justice doesn't get created until the grant administration if i'm not mistaken and during reconstruction. all this stuff about, well, the president shouldn't just direct people to prosecute his enemies. that's not in the constitution. you could do that, right? i mean i guess the question is at the end of the day, what is stopping it? what holds it back? >> well, there are norms that
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have always -- we've always had. >> god, does that sound insufficient to the task. >> insufficient to the task, and yet it is a part of, i think, the american dna. the american governmental dna. but and the question is whether or not we have sufficient amounts of that dna in our system. >> but there's got to be -- what does that dna look like? there's got to be something -- that means people -- when you say, "dna," that means, people make decisions. people in the sdny make the decision that we are going to serve a search warrant on the president's lawyer, because that is what our job and the law demands. >> yeah, right now it's in the dna, kind of embedded in people of all levels at the department. but if you had a attorney general, for example, who decided he wanted to take a different approach, and said, you know, the president wants this done, i'm going to do it, would see that change. the attorney general could probably do some of it. i think the question that -- trump is going to go away some day. i hope. and one of the questions we'll have to look back and say, you know, kind of like after
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watergate, are norms enough, or do we need to codify some of these structures that prevent this kind of interference? >> do you have faith in -- fundamentally, in the judgment and integrity of jeff sessions to uphold the norms that we're discussing? >> i worry a great deal. >> that's not a "yes." >> it's not a "yes." and this is a very difficult thing for me to say. this is a very, very difficult thing for me to say. i'm not a person who likes to criticize my successors, predecessors, because i know how tough that job can be. and yet, the actions that he has taken in response to criticisms that he's received from the president, his desire, it appears to me, to curry favor with a president who views him disfavorably, worries me a great deal. i'm not at all certain that he has got the steel that an attorney general has to have. in my conference room, as matt will know, you get to pick four attorneys general that you display. i had elliott richardson left, two down, to remind me that at
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some point, an attorney general's got to say "no" to a president. and maybe you're going to lose your job as a result of that. and i don't have faith in jeff sessions that he would look at elliott richardson in the same way that i did. >> i'm not sure i'll get the most honest answer from you for this question. so, i'll ask you, is he running for president? is eric holder running for president? >> i keep asking, because i need to know if i need to quit my job and move to iowa. i don't know. >> if he promises to be my press secretary, i might consider it. >> you are thinking about it? >> i am thinking about it. i've not made any determinations. i'm focusing on the work i'm doing with the national democrats, trying to deal with gerrymandering. >> which successfully got scott walker to call a special election he was trying to get out of. >> yeah. and we elected a wisconsin supreme court justice there, campaigned there, and got into a bit of a twitter war with governor walker. >> dude, stay out of twitter wars. i'm telling you, first person. let me tell you. if there's one piece of life advice i can offer you, eric holder, if there's one thing i know about really deeply, stay out of twitter wars. >> native new yorker, born in the bronx.
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can't take too much. >> born in the bronx here, as well. all right, former attorney general eric holder, you are invited to come by this table any time you're in new york city. i love having you. and doj former chief spokesman, matt miller, who recently had a child in your family. congratulations on that. i haven't had a chance to congratulate you. >> thank you. lse. lse. why accept it from your allergy pills? flonase relieves your worst symptoms including nasal congestion, which most pills don't. flonase helps block 6 key inflammatory substances. most pills only block one. flonase. the first survivor of ais out there.sease and the alzheimer's association is going to make it happen. but we won't get there without you. visit to join the fight.
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♪ ♪ i love you baby applebee's 2 for $20, now with steak. now that's eatin' good in the neighborhood. just over 16 months into the trump presidency and every night brings a plethora of news about this white house and the mueller investigation. if you miss any of it here on "all in," you can now listen to our show wherever you get your
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podcasts. and while you're there, you can subscribe to our brand-new podcast, "why is this happening?" that's "all in" for this evening. "the rachel maddow show" starts right now. only aleve targets tough pain for up to 12 hours with just one pill. [ cheering ] [ rock music ] aleve back & muscle. all day strong. all day long. welcome to holiday inn! thank you! ♪ ♪ wait, i have something for you! every stay is a special stay at holiday inn. save up to 15% when you book early at save up to 15% when you book early does it look like i'm done?yet? shouldn't you be at work? [ mockingly ] "shouldn't you be at work?" todd. hold on.
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thank you for joining us tonight. happy to have you with us. towards the end of barack obama's presidency, "the new york times" published an article full of colorful little details about how the president spent his alone time at the white house. according to that report, president obama got barely five hours of sleep each night, but that was partly because of this sort of elaborate evening routine he had when he was in the white house. after dinner with his wife and daughters at 6:30 p.m., "the times" said the president would withdraw to the treaty room, his private office down the hall from his bedroom on the second floor of the white house residence, and there, according to staffers, president obama would spend four or five hours by himself. and in that four or five hours, he'd do all the expected thi


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