MTP Daily, Transcript 6/13/2017
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: June 13, 2017
Guest: Mike Rounds, Bill Kristol, Eliana Johnson, Daniella Gibbs Leger,
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifying
before the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is seven minutes after 5:00
on the east coast which puts us into Chuck Todd`s hour with “MEET THE PRESS
DAILY.” But we have our guests and experts assembled here so we`ll do a
quick round of reaction.
Starting with Nicole Wallace. A two-pronged question. How do you think
the attorney general did and what is your question going back to the top of
his testimony, going back to the GOP convention in Cleveland?
NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Well, two people got at the heart of the
second part of your question. I think Joe Manchin`s line of questioning
about the lifting of sanctions. Were you ever privy to the lifting of
sanctions? We have to staple this on the substance.
And the substance here was – is reporting that we now know to be true that
there were conversations about lifting sanctions. There have been
conversations about returning the homes that were largely used for
surveillance to the Russians.
So, Senator Manchin did a very nice job taking the questioning back to the
substance of the Trump-Russia relationship. And I think that Sessions
created more questions than he offered answers.
Senator Manchin went through all of the I guess what Trump would call
satellite associates and asked if he if any of them had contacts with the
Russians. Attorney General Sessions couldn`t answer any of those
I thought John McCain was getting at something really important. So, you
had two to three contacts with the Russians. Did you ever talk about
Syria? No. Did you ever talk about, you know, any security issues? No.
The point being, what the heck were you talking to the Russians about?
The other thing that is coming very clear. Comey testified that the
president in eight contacts, two in person and four conversations, the
president never once asked him about Russian`s role in medaling in our
democracy. The attorney general testified today that he has never once
been briefed on Russian hacking in the 2016 campaign.
WILLIAMS: Paul Butler, a veteran of the Department of Justice, now at
Georgetown Law. You can live your whole life, not hear someone use the
expression, I don`t recall, except in hearings.
My question is, is there any recourse for all the things that the attorney
general tried to lay onto this rule, regarding confidentiality, in
conversations with the president?
PAUL BUTLER, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN LAW: The recourse is for the Senate to
do to Sessions what the House did to Attorney General Eric Holder which was
to hold him in contempt when they thought Holder was citing a privilege
that didn`t exist.
Look, this is an investigation about whether the Republican-Trump campaign
conspired with Russia to avert (ph) our democracy and then whether there
was a cover up.
And to respond to that investigation, Attorney General Sessions sounded
like a lawyer. Probably he would have left the campaign if he had known
[17:10:00] BUTLER: Maybe if there are tapes that Trump is making, they
should be released. And then this, now you see it, now you don`t privilege
is not quite executive privilege. We don`t know where it comes from. When
I was at the Justice Department, I never heard of it.
WILLIAMS: Ari Melber, same question. How did you think the witness did?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Attorney General Jeff
Sessions did well in a legal performance which is what he was clearly
trying to do in walking these lines. So, given that he had a fairly bad
hand to play, I think he played it well.
The argument about Jim Comey was, he`s a big boy. He`s a veteran. He can
handle it himself. The news he made on his discussions with Donald Trump,
he only wanted to say positive things and he said Trump didn`t talk to him
about Bob Mueller and this investigation. He said he`ll stay recused from
I think a lot of people think that`s a good thing. He even made a little
bit of news for all these people, including Professor Alan Dershowitz and
others, who`ve claimed, well, what are you even looking at? There was no
crimes here. The attorney general just testified under oath that it is
likely that laws were violated in the 2016 meddling.
The biggest problems I thought that remained on the table, having
complimented his performance, were he could not ever explain the
circumstances of Jim Comey`s firing. That is a huge cloud that continues
to hang over this because it is possible he was fired for false reasons if
those letters weren`t true. And if they were false, what were you hiding?
WILLIAMS: We`re also honored to have here at the table Richard Painter,
who was the chief ethics lawyer for the Bush 43 White House. Richard, a
very basic question, I know one that strikes to your heart. Where is the
urgency and where is the outrage at what is an ongoing attack from Russia?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF ETHICS LAWYER, BUSH 43 ADMINISTRATION: Well,
it`s urgent, this situation. Russia has been engaged in this type of
conduct for a very long time. Since the 1917 revolution, they`ve sought to
destabilize western democracies and working with communist parties until
the collapse of the Soviet Union. And now, with various other elements and
most recently in France.
There`s a very serious situation what happened in the United States. They
broke into Democratic National Committee computers. They`ve broke into
computers of law firms, communicating with the Clinton Foundation,
attorney-client privilege documents were up on the WikiLeaks.
And what is amazing to me is that the president continues to deny that this
happened. That this attack on the United States occurred. And he
continues to describe this as fake news.
Furthermore, we have the fact that the FBI director was almost certainly
fired because of the Russia investigation. The president has admitted that
in press interviews and with all people in conversations with the Russian
And yet, that very clear act of obstruction of justice, Attorney General
Sessions is not willing to answer questions about his own communications
with the president about the real motive for firing James Comey. Even
though the president is willing to talk about that with the press and with
the Russian ambassador, our attorney general cannot talk about that with
the United States Congress. That looks like a cover up to me.
WILLIAMS: All right, thanks to all our guests and experts. As I said,
we`re intruding onto the hour of Chuck Todd and “MEET THE PRESS DAILY.”
Chuck has standing by a member of the Senate Committee we just saw taking
part in the questioning – Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Brian. Another day, almost summer. It
is a summer of hearings. If it`s Tuesday, what we just learned from the
Good evening from a very hot and sticky Washington. And we`re not just
talking about the politics these days. Welcome to MTP DAILY and let`s get
right to this afternoon`s breaking news.
With his job potentially on the line, certainly a lot of politics on the
line, embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions was just grilled on Capitol
Hill and what, at times, was an explosive hearing before the Senate
Intelligence Committee. Sessions, himself, lashed out against allegations
raised against him and the president`s campaign.
But he also dodged questions from committee Democrats which led to some
dramatic confrontations like this one when Senator Wyden pressed him about
former FBI Director Comey, saying the FBI was aware of information that
would be, quote, “problematic for Sessions in the Russia probe.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WYDEN: Mr. Comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal
that were problematic and he couldn`t talk about them. What are they?
SESSIONS: I – that – why don`t you tell me. There are none, Senator
Wyden. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty.
WYDEN: We can – we can –
SESSIONS: You tell – this is a secret innuendo being leaked out there
about me and I don`t appreciate it. And I tried to give my best and
truthful answers to any committee I`ve appeared before.
[17:15:05] And it`s really a – people are suggesting through innuendo that
I have been not honest about matters and I`ve tried to be honest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks, this hearing was dominated by denials and dodges. Sessions
denied colluding with Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was
aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country
which I have served with honor for 35 years or to undermine the integrity
of our Democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And he denied improper contact with Russia, in general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: Let me state this clearly, colleagues. I have never met with or
had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning
any type of interference with any campaign or elections in the United
States. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone
connected to the Trump campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: He also denied violating his recusal from the Russia probe when he
recommended that Mr. Trump fire Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: It is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single
specific investigation would render the attorney general unable to manage
the leadership of the various Department of Justice law enforcement
components that conduct thousands of investigations.
I recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president,
but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against false
scurrilous and false allegations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But he would not answer questions about whether or not he discussed
the Russia probe with President Trump when he made the recommendation to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (R), CALIFORNIA: Did you ever discuss Director
Comey`s FBI handling of the Russia investigations with the president or
SESSIONS: Senator Feinstein, that would call for a communication between
the attorney general and the president and I`m not able to comment on that.
FEINSTEIN: So, you`ve had no verbal conversation with him about the firing
of Mr. Comey?
SESSIONS: I`m not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature
of a private conversations that I may have had with the president on this
subject or others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And, of course, it was answers like that that was perhaps the most
frustrating part of the hearing for anybody watching. He – Sessions
dodged pretty much every question about his interactions with the
president, even though that he testified that the president did not assert
executive privilege over Sessions` testimony.
Sessions did not seem to have a legal reason for dodging these questions.
Instead, he cited unwritten long-standing policy at the DOJ. But when
pressed to specifically talk about that policy, he didn`t have it handy.
Now, the other big headline, Sessions testified that he could not recall an
undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.
Although, he didn`t deny it might have happened. He expressed confidence
in special counsel Bob Mueller after one of Mr. Trump`s friends said the
president was considering firing him.
Here`s the big take away. Sessions seemed a lot more comfortable and
probably believable to many people when it came to defending his own
actions. What he did as a senator.
But he was arguably on much shakier ground when he was stuck defending the
president`s actions, especially when he couldn`t explain what was said
behind closed doors, and especially when it comes to the interactions and
the former FBI director.
Let`s turn now to one of the senators who was in the hearing room with Mr.
Sessions. Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed. He was also – he was also the
ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator Reed, I appreciate you coming in.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND, RANKING MEMBER, SENATE ARMED SERVICES
COMMITTEE: Hi, Chuck.
TODD: Number one, let`s start with, do you believe the attorney general
testified as truthfully as he could?
REED: I think the attorney general tried to avoid any questions that
would, in any way, disclose his conversation with the president. He cited,
sort of, unwritten code. But I was not particular compelled. And I think
he had the obligation to be much more forthright in his testimony.
TODD: So, what does that – how does that leave things with you? How does
that leave things with the committee if he`s not – and this is not the
first time you`ve had cabinet-level folks of the Trump administration
invoke their own form of privilege? What is going on here?
REED: Well, I think it`s an effort, individual or otherwise, to avoid
answering basic questions. And that is something that is very disturbing.
[17:20:00] We`re trying to conduct an investigation. We`re trying to go
ahead and find out, on behalf of the American people, what went on. We
need factual responses. We don`t need opinions. And we also don`t need,
sort of, I`d love to tell you but I can`t because of some unwritten code.
And, frankly, it`s not just the Justice Department. It seems to be in
Intelligence Services, too. So, we would be more well served, as a
country, if the – our witnesses were more direct and forthright.
TODD: Are you satisfied with the attorney general`s explanations of his
interactions with the Russian ambassador?
REED: I think there`s still questions. And I think those questions will
have to be resolved and it just seems to be very curious. He was asked by
Senator Leahy in writing about contacts with any Russian – member of the
Russian government. And he responded after the deliberation, no.
And then, he had to go back and essentially correct the record once again.
So, there`s still this question about the meetings, his recollection,
what`s the meetings. So, again, I think we`re still without a definitive
TODD: You know, your colleague on Armed Services, the chairman of Armed
Services who, like yourself, because you`re exofficios, you have some
privilege to participate in these Senate Intel Committees, and I`m
referring to Senator John McCain who –
TODD: – picked up questioning right after you. It was an intriguing line
of questioning about the types of things that Senator Sessions could have
been talking with the Russia ambassador about and perhaps didn`t. What did
you make of the – of that line of questioning in the Senate – and the
attorney general`s answers?
REED: Well, I thought what John McCain was trying to do was point out the
very hostile nature of the Russia intervention into the election and trying
to elicit from Attorney General Sessions whether he was, again, aware of
those incursions and if he was aware of it, why wasn`t he responding or
questioning he Russian ambassador?
And, again, I think the other thing that I found is that, initially,
Attorney General Sessions made the point about how this is a serious threat
through our American democracy and everyone should be proving it.
The president seems to have rejected his advice because he`s declaring to
the Russian foreign minister in the offers (ph) that he`s basically
unburdened himself of Comey and he`s got the Russian thing off his back.
That seemed to be diametrically opposed to what the attorney general was
suggesting in his opening comments.
TODD: Speaking of that, I think Senator Manchin was getting at this during
one of – during his questioning of the attorney general. Do you find it -
- do you find it troubling that it doesn`t appear the attorney general has
gotten a briefing – as part of the National Security Council has been
involved in any briefings whatsoever about the threats of Russia to – in
the cyber realm, in particular to the United States?
He seemed to be – he seemed not to say he had gotten it. He had only been
finding everything out through the news media. How unusual is that for an
attorney general who sits on the National Security Council?
REED: It`s very unusual and I think what it signals is the president`s
response to this. The attorney general is claiming these are the most
severe threats to our democracy that we`ve ever witnessed. The president`s
calling it a witch hunt, sort of the disgruntled losers in an election
trying to carry this on.
And, in fact, I think, as he indicated, the premise to the firing of Comey
was this whole issue of Russia, rather than a coordinated response to what
many have described, the intelligence community and by implication of
Attorney General Sessions as one of the gravest and continuing threats to
the United States.
So, I think it reflects the president`s, sort of, denial of what the facts
seem to be.
TODD: Do you feel like you have a satisfactory explanation yet for why
Director Comey was fired?
REED: No, no. In response to my questions, I pointed out Attorney General
Sessions was complimentary of Mr. Comey in July of last year when he made
his initial conference. After the election when he had made his statement
that the investigation was, quote, unquote, “being reopened.”
And then, suddenly, a few months later, he`s saying that this is so
objectionable conduct that Comey has to be fired. So, it`s very
TODD: How do you plan on compelling the attorney general to answer
questions that – where he invokes his own form of privilege?
REED: I think we`re going to have to look very carefully at the legal
basis of that invocation and if there`s no legal basis, then we`ll have to
– working through the committee. And the committee has been acting in a
bipartisan way, move to ask formally for responses to these questions.
TODD: All right. Senator Jack Reed, I`m going to have to leave it there.
Well, executive privilege was a central topic of conversation at today`s
hearing. Take a listen to this exchange between the attorney general and
Maine Senator Angus King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:25:00] SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Has the president invoked executive
privilege in the case of your testimony here today?
SESSIONS: He has not.
KING: Then, what is the basis of your refusal to answer the questions?
SESSIONS: Senator King, the president has a Constitutional –
KING: I understand that but the president hasn`t asserted it.
SESSIONS: Well, I`ll –
KING: You said you don`t have the power to assert the power of executive
privilege so what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these
SESSIONS: I am protecting the right of the president to assert it if he
chooses. And there may be other privileges that could apply in this
circumstance. At this point, I believe it`s premature for me –
KING: You`re asserting the privilege of the president of you testify –
SESSIONS: – to deny – it would be premature for me to deny the president
a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege. That`s not
necessary at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Well, joining me now is Republican Senator Mike Rounds from South
Dakota. Senator Rounds, welcome to the show, sir.
SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Thank you, sir.
TODD: You just heard that exchange. And I want to start there because, at
times, there were a lot of questions the attorney general would not answer.
He invoked a different privilege that`s not necessarily through legal
privilege, but it leaves the impression of something to hide, whether that
was the intent or not, Senator.
Are you concerned, as a Republican, that it leaves the wrong impression if
that is indeed the impression it`s leaving with people?
ROUNDS: I guess what I look at it is it`s just on a practical note is that
I think the attorney general looks at the president as his boss. His boss
has had a private conversation with him and he`s not going to turn around
and share with the world what his private conversations are with his boss.
I don`t think it`s the first time it happened.
I think we`ve got history that says that that`s occurred in the past.
It`ll occur in the future. It`s frustrating because everybody would like
to hear what the president had to say in private. We understand that. But
I think the attorney general is probably on pretty firm grounds in saying,
wait until the president decides, yes or no, whether or not he`s going to
invoke executive privilege.
TODD: Isn`t that something, though, that the president has had an
opportunity. He has been offered this chance. He has decided not to. By
not invoking it, hasn`t he already made that choice?
ROUNDS: Not necessarily. He can still invoke it in the future if he wants
to. But, actually, what I still look at it is this is a guy who works for
the president of the United States. The president of the United States is
saying, look, I don`t want my private conversations with you guys out there
in the open.
And the attorney general is saying, look, I want to have continued with
this – with this president. And I think I`m going to have a lot better
chance of having honest and forthright conversations with him if I`m not
blabbing to the rest of the world what he tells me in private.
TODD: Well, I guess I look at it – look, let`s just – it`s hard to
believe that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general have a
meeting with the president about firing Comey and Russia doesn`t come up.
I understand why the attorney didn`t bring that up, because it would have
violated his recusal.
But that is the box that it looks like the potential trap that the attorney
general could have fallen into. Now, he was – by invoking this, he
doesn`t have to talk about it. And I understand that. But this is where
it doesn`t pass a basic smell test and it only adds to the suspicion. So,
I question why he did it.
ROUNDS: Yes. And I – look, I can`t answer that. I think he`s got the
grounds in which to do it. I think he`s on firm grounds in saying that
he`s not going to talk about that private conversation. You may very well
be right that they also recognize that it could be a trap.
So, for him not to do probably plays correctly and appropriately into the
direction that he wants to go which is I don`t want to go there with this
thing. I don`t want to have this conversation. I understand that.
But, at the same time, you know, what we ought to be talking about is
what`s going on with Russia and the fact that they are actively engaged in
ROUNDS: – cyber activity in the United States. That came up a few times
and I think it was a very important part of the discussion out there. And
I think a lot of people out there were surprised at just how far into the
United States Russia`s actually coming. Not just here in the United
States, but elsewhere. And so, we should be talking about that as well.
TODD: I mean, it seems to me that the basis for this hearing was about
trying to figure out what was the – you know, why was the FBIT director
fired? Was he fired for cause or was it for some other reason? Do you
feel as if your – you have – you are convinced you know why Director
Comey was fire. And if so, what is it?
ROUNDS: Well, first of all, I think he could be fired simply because the
president feels that he wants someone else in there. Do I think that the
president was happy with the performance of Mr. Comey? No. Do I think Mr.
Comey was a bad FBI director? No, I do not. But that`s the choice that
the president has.
Now, he can suggest a lot of different ideas for why he would make that
termination. That`s his choice. But, you know, all the different things
that come into play in here as they put together a justification for why
they would to it, I can`t answer what his motive was. I can tell you –
TODD: Is it your job to find out? Is it Congress`s job to find out that
ROUNDS: Let me ask you this. What then? Because he doesn`t have to have
TODD: I`m asking you. I don`t know. I`m asking you.
ROUNDS: That`s exactly what – well, let`s just take a look at the
investigation itself. It`s ongoing. It`s going to continue to go. I
think the attorney general made that very clear that the individuals who
are actively involved in the investigation are not stopping. They`re
moving forward. So, if the motivation as you are suggesting was to stop the
investigation, clearly that failed. Second of all, the president would have
known that if they would have had that discussion. So, if it was the fact
that he didn`t want an investigation, that part didn`t work.
So, my opinion, I think he decided he didn`t like the way that Director
Comey was doing that. He`s used to being a businessman who can hire and
fire basically at will and he decided he was going to terminate. He went
back and he wanted justification for why he could do that if anybody has a
question. Whether that`s right or not, I think he decided he just wanted a
different FBI director and he could do that. It will not impede that
investigation. As you can see right now.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, “MEET THE PRESS DAILY” SHOW HOST:
ROUNDS: . there is a continued investigation going on within the
intelligence committee. I think we are going to get to the bottom of how
deep Russia was involved in that election process as we move forward.
TODD: Are you satisfied with the sense of urgency in the Trump
administration about this threat from Russia? You brought it up. You just
brought it up with me. I tried to bring it up with a lot of senators.
Senator Manchin at his questioning today – the attorney general said the
first he has ever heard about any briefing, what Russia threat has been was
through the news media.
And I`m going wait a minute, as attorney general, you remember the National
Security Council, that to me tells me it`s not coming up as a top tier
threat in the Trump administration. Does that concern you that there is no
urgency on this threat?
ROUNDS: That did concern me. I can tell you that at the level of the
subcommittee that I`m on, I chaired the subcommittee on cyber security, we
are following it very closely. There has been two reports out. One of them
is a classified report.
The other is an unclassified report that was wait out in February detailing
very, very well the Russia`s involvement in the election process. Look,
they didn`t think they would be dealing with President Trump, they thought
they would be dealing with an injured.
ROUNDS: . President Hillary Clinton and that what`s their intent was. They
didn`t like the way that she was actively involved in discussions about Mr.
Putin`s reelection. She made that clear that she didn`t like the way the
process is working in Russia. And he made it very clear and he was not
afraid to let everybody know that he was involved in this.
He came into this election process and he told the world because he left a
lot of tracks out there what they were doing. That message was sent to say
leave my process alone and at the same time he let everybody else know that
he was doing his best to degrade our confidence in our election process.
The consequences for that have not yet been paid.
TODD: Senator Rounds, I`m going to leave it there. Powerful stuff there. I
appreciate you sharing your views coming on.
ROUNDS: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Thank you, sir. Let me bring in on the panel. Bill Kristol, editor-
in-chief of the Weekly Standard. Eliana Johnson, national political
reporter at Politico. Daniella Gibbs Leger, senior vice president at the
Center for American Progress and a veteran of the Obama administration.
Welcome all. Bill, I`m going to start with you because that was a very
emphatic answer from Senator Rounds.
I mean, look, politically I see plenty of Republicans tiptoeing, feeling
that they are doing what they have to do when it comes to defending some
these actions. But this lack of urgency in the Trump administration about
the Russian threat is exposing the administration in different ways.
Senator Rounds jump right in (ph).
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE WEEKLY STANDARD, NEOCONSERVATIVE
POLITICAL ANALYST AND COMMENTATOR: I think lack of urgency comes from the
top, doesn`t it? President Trump thinks it didn`t happen, could could have
been done by someone in his pajamas in his basement, could have been done
by another country. And seems not to move fast this administration to do
I think individuals probably, maybe Pompeo with the CIA and others in
senior national security positions are taking it upon themselves to try to
protect the country against cyber attacks. You are right. The president has
this curiously low on his agenda. That`s part of the questions that are
TODD: That only adds to suspicion. Eliana, I think that this is why you
sort of split Sessions` testimony into half, right? When Sessions was
defending his actions on the 2016 campaign, I thought he was very credible.
When he was trying to defend the actions of the Trump administration,
that`s when he struggled.
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER AT POLITICO: Look, I think – I
don`t think any serious person believes that Jeff Sessions met with Sergey
Kislyak and colluded to hack the election or throw it to Trump.
TODD: Which is not a serious allegation, like Senator Cotton denied. It`s
out there in the left-wing conspiracy theory.
JOHNSON: Well, I do think, you know, when people try to say, oh, he didn`t
disclose this meeting with the Russians, I think it`s a general tactic by
Democrats to try to raise more suspicion about what`s going on with the
Trump campaign or the Trump administration and Russia.
TODD: Forgetting Kislyak, it was becoming sort of a contagious issue.
JOHNSON: Yeah, I agree with that. But with Sessions in particular, I don`t
it holds much water. But it is difficult I think when you get into what
happened with Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein in their meeting the day
before the president made the decision to fire Jim Comey. Did the president
talk to them about Russia? That`s a tricky issue. We don`t know the answer.
Sessions refused I think fairly to discuss what the president said. But I
don`t think based on what Trump has said publicly that many people are
under the impression that the president didn`t bring up Russia and
therefore raises question, did Sessions violate his recusal (ph). I think
it raises real questions for Rod Rosenstein as well.
TODD: Daniella, I thought if Attorney General Sessions was trying to figure
out how he was going to answer the question about did the the president
bring up Russia to you in that conversation, there as no good answer other
than I can`t talk about it. And so that came up on me. I`m sorry.
DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND STRATEGY
AT AMERICAN PROGRESS: Sure.
TODD: It is because he`s – I think the man values the oath. I mean, this
is not somebody who is going to sit there and lie.
GIBBS LEGER: Uh-hmm.
TODD: And so, they came up with this. I get it politically.
GIBBS LEGER: Right, but it really doesn`t. Like you said, doesn`t pass the
smell test. Like the president hasn`t had the past couple of days to think
about whether or not he was going to invoke executive privilege. The time
to do it is before your attorney general goes to testifies before congress.
You know, I do agree with your point about Sessions. I don`t think anyone
is really seriously saying that he helped hack the election with Russians,
but did he talk about sanctions? Did they talk about other things that were
happening with the Obama administration regarding Russia? That I think is a
JOHNSON: McCain was getting at Sessions.
TODD: McCain, I think so, yeah.
JOHNSON: . and Sessions distinguishing between his meetings as a senator
and his meetings as a campaign surrogate. It got blurry when McCain asked
KRISTOL: With your point at the very beginning, this is bad I think for
President Trump for this season. Sessions is unwilling to discuss his
conversations with Trump. What do we have on the record?
We have James Comey with alleged contemporaneous memos which we will see
one of these days, which Bob Mueller will see much more quickly and I
suppose that he will, saying that Trump suggested he get off, let Flynn go,
get off basically, and he wanted a loyalty oath from Comey.
We have the president`s attorney saying the president neither, what he
said, neither (inaudible) substance, I guess that`s legal talk, really did
not say those things. Why did the president`s attorney go out of his way to
deny those things? He could have just said the president doesn`t shared the
coffee, expressed what they called friendship for Flynn, the normal
Republican talking points or much more.
The president is not used to dealing with legal stuff. He was emphatic on
this. Why? He sees a real legal problem there. That is close to obstruction
if the president asked Comey in one-on-one meetings that the president set
up, the president said, he thought Comey would want to have dinner with
He asked Comey to go easy on Flynn and for the loyalty oath. Sessions is
not helping the president by those things and as you said by his silence
makes kind one assumes that the president did raise Russia in that session
right before he fired Comey.
TODD: There was another hearing this morning with Rod Rosenstein who was
taking the place of Attorney General Sessions and he was asked about this.
I don`t know what to call it. Is it a trial balloon, the Newt Gingrich,
Chris Ruddy, the people that talked to Donald Trump on the phone outside of
the White House trial balloon, right? Maybe he can fire Muller.
Rosenstein really shut the door on that where he has created a scenario. I
don`t think this will be the first time we hear rumors that the president
wants to fire Mueller. Like I feel every three months this is going to be a
thing. But he created a Saturday night massacre type of scene now if the
president does this the way Rod Rosenstein testified today.
JOHNSON: I mean, I`m sure in the deep recesses of Trump`s spine, he does
want to fire Mueller and with Rosenstein testimony, you heard a collective
sigh of relief from every Republican in Washington. But it`s hard for me to
believe that unless Trump had a political suicide death wish, which he may.
KRISTOL: I don`t agree with that.
TODD: What do you make of it?
KRISTOL: I think he is very scared of this investigation. That`s why he
TODD: That`s the logic.
KRISTOL: And he`s scared of Mueller because he didn`t expect this. One
thing he didn`t expect he made Jeff Sessions the attorney general of the
United States, special council.
TODD: Being appointed by the Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions.
KRISTOL: And that special council would end up being Robert Mueller, former
FBI director who happens to probably have a high regard for James Comey,
the person Trump got fired. Trump got himself in a terrible situation. I am
absolutely convinced he discussed this Chris Ruddy and with Newt Gingrich.
I don`t think Chris Ruddy was just going out there and being hey, what a
crazy idea. I bet they chatted about it. Trump wants to do it. He won`t do
it, I think, because it would cause such a backlash and Rosenstein won`t do
it so he have to fire him too. But I think Trump wants to do it.
TODD: I would be agreeing, but I didn`t think he would fire Comey. I will
just say that I didn`t even think of it on the day of perhaps even with
getting a hint that it could happen. I didn`t think it will happen. He
knows how to do self-inflicted wounds. Let`s pause here. Still ahead, we
are going to hear from big supporter of the president. What does he think
and what we saw today in the Session`s hearing.
TODD: Welcome back to “MTP Daily.” President Trump to some eyes continues
to look like he is afraid of the Russia investigation even though he and
his team maintain that it`s a phony and a hoax. But if he is innocent, why
does it look like he is afraid of the investigation running their course.
Joining me now is Anthony Scaramucci. He is a member of the Trump
transition and former hedge fund manager and a Republican donor. He joins
me now. Mr. Scaramucci, thanks for coming on, sir.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
Thanks, Chuck. Great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.
TODD: So, let`s go to the basic question here. What do you say to viewers
who are watching today and they don`t understand why it looks as if the
Trump administration is trying to slow down investigations. Why there isn`t
an embracing of the we have to get to the bottom of what Russia did to this
SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I clearly thought that the attorney general was
trying to be very open and very forceful today in explaining that there was
no collusion, that there is no there there. And so, for me, I take a little
bit of issue with the question because I think what`s going on inside the
administration is some level of frustration that they are trying to execute
the president`s agenda on health care, tax reform, issues related to
All of these things which are affecting possibly the stock market. But they
are getting ensnared in what I have been calling scandals incorporated,
Chuck, where it doesn`t matter. If Secretary Clinton have won, there would
be a scandal. They would catch her on a fishnet. Her and her aides.
And they would be up on the hill doing this sort of nonsense to her. And so
for me and I think for my friends that are inside the administration, we
sort of hoping that this stuff will finally dial town. There is obviously
no there there which is why the president is frustrated about it.
TODD: Let me stop you there. You said there is obviously no there there.
Why do you say that? We had 17 intelligence agencies say the Russians did
this. And more importantly, there is concern that some Americans helped
them. We don`t know yet. The investigation continues. Why are you so – I
mean, what have you guys done to investigate this?
SCARAMUCCI: Let me parch it out for you. I am speaking specifically about
any level of collusive activity between our campaign, the Trump campaign
and the Russian government or Russian hackers or anything that you would
describe there in. As it relates to the other aspects of the case, I think
the president has been very clear on that, that whether it was the Russians
or any group.
TODD: Let me pause you right there. That`s the point. When you are start
and answer, was saying well, the Russians or any group, automatically you
are actually introducing skepticism. It is not an opinion of the
intelligence community. It was a finding. There is a difference.
SCARAMUCCI: Not trying to do that.
SCARAMUCCI: Let me see that point to you. Let`s just talk specifically
about the Russians and I`m not here with any talking points. I`m just
trying to make the president`s case on his behalf and on behalf of the
administration. He would say if he was sitting in a chair that if the
Russians and it is absolutely definitive and you are saying that it is, but
I think the president has a little bit different information than both of
And I know you are saying that 17 agencies have said that. But typically
and even James Comey said this, typically the people that are doing the the
leaking, Chuck, are typically not in the know specifically of what`s really
going on. It`s the people that have the information that are likely not
leaking. I think all the president is trying to say is let`s let the
information be digested, let`s really define it, definitively what happened
and then he would take action.
Gary Cohen as an example said that the sanctions are being held in place
for now. The president said that he would be tough on Russia or any other
country. Again, I am not trying to parch it or spin it. I am just trying to
tell you what the opinion is from inside the administration.
I think there is growing frustration by our president because he is your
president and my president, our president is frustrated that he can`t get
his agenda up to the hill, but he can get scandals incorporated,
investigations incorporated in a nonstop manner.
I think frankly the American people on both sides, Chuck, Democrats and
Republicans, are frustrated with this and we would probably suggest to
people let`s subordinate this sort of nonsense and let`s focus on an agenda
that is pro-growth that`s good for the middle class families.
TODD: Do you think the president should stop tweeting about the
SCARAMUCCI: Well, you know, he is not going to listen to me on that. I
don`t think he is going to listen to you on that.
TODD: I hear your frustration.
SCARAMUCCI: I think some of the tweets are very effective.
TODD: Every time he does it though, he brings it up.
SCARAMUCCI: I think he spelled coverage wrong and it came out as
(inaudible). That is probably like a perfume now in Macy`s. Someone will
make some money on that. But I think the president is very entertaining,
Chuck. I think.
TODD: But isn`t that his issue? He is not compartmentalizing this. You say
this is scandals incorporated. I look at it and it`s the president that
insists it`s a hoax or president that has threatened Comey with tapes. In
every one of these steps, actions took place now. Based on actions the
president took on his Twitter feed.
SCARAMUCCI: I think what the American people love about him and what I love
about him is that he`s a fighter. And so, when stuff is being thrown at him
like this and allegations are being made at him like this, I think we can
both litigate this and you have to agree with me on this, that the
mainstream media, I think pure research (ph) or one of those independent
agencies said 88 percent of the coverage has been negative for the
That is going to be frustrating for him. So he has been using Twitter as a
device to hop over the mainstream media directly to the American people. I
do think the American people like the fight in the president. I think, you
know, when I was at campaign rallies wit him, I think the reason why people
came out in droves in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and places like Michigan
were because of that fight.
He is going to be 71 years old I think tomorrow. You and I are not going to
change him. He has done more with his social media than my 18-year-old son
or my 21-year-old daughter. And so I`m impressed with that.
SCARAMUCCI: Now, you guys, some of the people don`t like that, but it has
been very effective for him over the two years that he has been a
politician, Chuck. He is celebrating that anniversary on June 16th, a few
days from today.
TODD: That is an important anniversary. Mr. Scaramucci, thanks for coming
on. You are a good defender.
SCARAMUCCI: Thanks for having me.
TODD: Okay, we`ll be right back.
TODD: We`ve got the lid. We`re going to come back and dissect a little bit
of the Trump defense. Keep it here.
TODD: Time for “The Lid.” Bill Kristol, Eliana Johnson, Daniella Gibbs
Leger. All of you got a little fiery when you heard Anthony Scaramucci say
– especially you, Bill. As if this this is Russia investigation fault. And
you just – like popped up and noted, where are the bills?
KRISTOL: Yeah, I like Anthony Scaramucci. He is a good defender of the
president. It`s just not true. I`m sorry the president is frustrated. How
many pieces of legislation have not been passed because we`re sitting
around talking about the Russia scandal? How many in Senate Intelligence
Committee is conducting investigation? Zero.
How many pieces of legislation have been submitted by the Trump
administration? Well, one, they endorsed the health care bill which has
passed the house and which the senators working on and the problems of how
Obamacare replacement has to nothing to do.
KRISTOL: How many nominations haven`t been acted on because of Russia?
Zero. It is just a fake talking point that Russia is frustrating the
TODD: But on those talking points, Eliana, for the base.
TODD: Like that`s to give the base like a fig leaf to grab onto.
JOHNSON: I think that helps the administration. They need the base to stay
with them. But in regard to legislation, it would be tremendously helpful
to this administration to have a tax plan in congress and what they have so
far is a one-page set of bullet points that were produced hastily in 24 or
48 hours at the demand of the president.
They have no tax bill. In fact, Steve Mnuchin has backed off his statement
that we would have one by August. So right now, we don`t know when we`re
going to have a tax bill at all.
TODD: Daniella, let me ask something that is happening in progressive land
which is it seems as if it is like Nancy Pelosi was trying to deal with
this today I think at house dem caucus meeting. You get some Democrats that
say it`s time to run on impeachment. And you got I think what did she say?
Oh, he`ll self-impeach but it was her way of trying to tap the brakes on
this. Where is the party heading on this?
GIBBS LEGER: You know, I think the majority of Democrats are willing to let
Trump, like Nancy said, self-impeach. You don`t want to get get ahead of
the process. We want to make sure that there is a full hearing. We want to
make sure that Robert Muller has all the tools that he can get to the
bottom of the investigation (inaudible) by Trump or anybody else. And if
the facts lead to impeachment, that`s where we should go.
KRISTOL: What happened to the Virginia.
KRISTOL: I`m curious. You`re a progressive. What happens to the Virginia
Democratic primary today? I voted Virginia this morning.
TODD: Do you think it matters?
KRISTOL: I still think some of the Republicans.
TODD: What I`m saying is do you think that a Perriello victory means be
tougher on Trump? Is that where you`re going?
KRISTOL: Yeah, sort of. I mean, more from what have been.
TODD: More of the establishment Democrat (ph)?
KRISTOL: He`s endorsed by Senator Kaine and by Governor McAuliffe. I think
it`s a big victory for the west.
GIBBS LEGER: I absolutely do. I would like to remind people that polls are
still open. Folks, get out there. Go, vote.
TODD: Perriello worked the cap.
GIBBS LEGER: Yes.
KRISTOL: On the Republican side, I think it is somewhat interesting,
Gillespie who should be the nominee who run a great race against Kaine and
against Warner in 2014. If he has a close race against Trump`s former State
Chairman Stewart, that would be indicative of where the Republican base is.
TODD: All right, guys, I am told we are out of time because when
Mario starts counting me down, we`re in big trouble. You guys were a
terrific panel. Thank you for watching the hearing with me. We`ll be right
TODD: That`s all we have for tonight. There`s Virginia governor going on.
Believe it if it`s Tuesday, it`s a primary day and it`s rare that there is
such a big news story that we fail to talk much about a primary, but that`s
going to happen. In the meantime, let`s get a chance tonight, go get some
rolling rock. Give it a little toast for our friend, Tim. “For the Record”
with Greta starts right now. Greta, all yours.
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