The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 5/10/17

Guests:
Devlin Barrett, Tim Weiner
Transcript:

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  And thanks to you at home for joining us for

this next hour. 

 

I got to tell you, we have kind of a big show tonight.  We`ve got a number

of guests who I`m very excited to talk to you tonight. 

 

But also just – there is a – there`s a lot going on.  We`ve got some

exclusive information tonight and we`ve got a sort of a roundup about

what`s happened over the course of today.  But these are times when it is

it is worth paying attention.

 

And here`s a specific thing that I think is worth paying attention to: Mike

Flynn resigned as national security adviser on February 13th.  It`s very

big news obviously.  No national security advisor has ever had a tenure

that short. 

 

Also, no administration has ever lost someone that senior ever for lying

about and concealing contact with a foreign government.  And in time, we

would also learn that Mike Flynn had been a paid agent of a foreign

government we learned that when he retroactively registered after he had

left the White House. 

 

NBC News has since reported that the Trump transition was actually aware of

payments that Mike Flynn had received from foreign governments, but

apparently, they did not see that as a red flag to be worried about hiring

him, nor did they require him to report those payments, which his security

clearance required him to do. 

 

In time, we would also learn – actually just this past week we would also

learn – that Mike Flynn was required to get a new security clearance from

the CIA in order to take the national security adviser job, but the Trump

transition apparently didn`t make him get that before they gave him the

national security job anyway. 

 

In time, we would also come to learn that the outgoing president, Barack

Obama, had specifically, personally, directly warned the incoming

president-elect that he should not make Mike Flynn his national security

adviser, but the president-elect and the new White House ignored all of

that and they put him in place anyway.

 

So, it was very, very important that Mike Flynn get into that job despite

all those screaming reasons why he should not even when the Department of

Justice brought worse warnings than that to the White House – warnings in

the first week of the new administration that the national security advisor

Mike Flynn was lying about his contact with the Russians, warnings that his

underlying conduct that was known to the Justice Department was itself

problematic when it came to the Russians, even aside from him lying about

it, warnings that he was compromised by the Russians, that he was

potentially vulnerable to them blackmailing him while he was serving as

national security adviser.

 

Even after those warnings, we now know, they kept him in place.

 

Yesterday, the White House spokesman even confirmed that after those

warnings from the Justice Department, the White House did nothing to

restrict Mike Flynn`s access to sensitive information nor did they take any

other action to protect national security and state secrets from a man they

had just been informed might be being blackmailed – might be being coerced

by Russia while he had access to the highest level secrets in the entire

U.S. government.

 

So, in time, we would come to learn all of that mind-bending information

about Mike Flynn and how he got into the White House and what he was doing

there and how the White House treated all of the security concerns around

him.  In time, we would learn all that.

 

But on February 13th, on the day he resigned, we didn`t know all that stuff

on February 13th – we only knew that Mike Flynn had just become the

shortest serving national security adviser in U.S. history.  On February

13th, we knew that this guy hadn`t even lasted for weeks. 

 

Before we could even start to absorb that information though, before we can

even start to figure out all the backstory on Mike Flynn that has proved to

be so damning and so illuminating in the weeks and months since, before we

could even absorb that, before we can even start digging into it, that

story – that Mike Flynn just resigned as national security adviser, that

story got its tail stepped on because Mike Flynn resigned on February 13th. 

 

And then the very next day, February 14th, is when “The New York Times”

dropped this: Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian

intelligence.

 

And, you know, what you see that like, oh, right, OK.  At that point, yes,

oh, it`s interesting that the national security adviser had to resign

yesterday but, holy, look at this.  I mean, this was remarkable, right? 

Phone records and intercepted calls showed that members of Donald Trump`s

presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contact with

senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

 

Quote, American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the

communications, around the same time they were discovering evidence that

Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election.

 

Quote, the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement

agencies.

 

Quote, the National Security Agency which monitors the communications of

foreign intelligence services, the NSA initially captured these calls

between Trump`s associates and the Russians as part of routine foreign

surveillance.  After that, the FBI asked the NSA to collect as much

information as possible about these Russian operatives that were on the

phone calls with Trump people.  They asked them to search through troves of

previous intercepted communications that had not been analyzed. 

 

Bombshell, right?  Valentine`s Day bombshell.  Trump campaign officials and

Trump associates have repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence

officials and other Russian government officials while Russia is attacking

the United States then to try to sway the election in Trump`s favor.  Just

bombshell comes out February 14th, comes out one day after the Mike Flynn

resignation, which was over his surreptitious contacts with Russian

officials, but it steps right on the tail of that story.  It`s just huge. 

It`s sort of occludes, right, the impact of the Mike Flynn story because

this story the next day is even bigger than that.

 

But then something happened to that story remember, right?  February 13th,

Flynn resigned.  February 14th, “New York Times” posts this bombshell

story, right? 

 

What was a headline?  Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with

Russian intelligence, February 14th.  And February 15th, the next day,

something very unusual happened.  The deputy director of the FBI went to

the White House for a 7:30 a.m. White House meeting on what was reportedly

an unrelated intelligence matter.  And at the end of that 7:30 a.m.

meeting, the deputy director of the FBI had a private pull aside, a little

private pull aside one-on-one meeting with the White House chief of staff

Reince Priebus.

 

The deputy director of the FBI, quote, spoke with White House Chief of

Staff Reince Priebus for five minutes after a 7:30 a.m. meeting at the

White House on February 15th.  According to senior administration officials

who briefed reporters on the matter, quote, the deputy director of the FBI

told Reince Priebus: I want you to know the story in “The New York Times”

is BS.

 

Deputy director of the FBI telling the White House, hey, that “New York

Times” story about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials, that`s a

bad story.  That`s BS. 

 

That`s really weird, right?  I mean, first of all, there`s an ongoing FBI

investigation of the president`s campaign.  No one in the FBI let alone the

deputy director should be talking to the president`s staff about that

ongoing investigation at all.  That – that literally and directly

compromises the FBI`s ongoing investigation.  They`re talking to the target

of the investigation.

 

Second of all, that contact – that strange contact between the deputy

director of the FBI and the White House chief of staff, that led to one of

the most bizarre compromises of the other investigations into Trump and

Russia.  I mean, after the White House chief of staff got that this story

is BS advice from the FBI`s deputy director, the White House then enlisted

these two Republicans – Congressman Devin Nunez on the left side of your

screen, Senator Richard Burr on the right side of your screen – the White

House enlisted them ask them to do a favor here, ask them to start calling

reporters and all the major news outlets to steer other reporters away from

“The Times`” bombshell story.

 

And, you know, you work at a news organization, that`s a heavyweight call. 

That`s heavyweight advice if you get a call from Devin Nunes or Richard

Burr telling you to stay away from a story, it`s BS, right?  Because these

guys aren`t just regular members of Congress, they are the chairman of the

intelligence committees in the House and in the Senate.  So, these guys,

theoretically, would be in a position to know what they were talking about

on a story like this.

 

It`s also a big deal because these are the two guys who were supposedly

leading to big congressional investigations into this very subject into the

White House-Russia connections.  And the White House had them making phone

calls, warning reporters off this “New York Times” story as a favor to the

White House. 

 

And apparently, on a recommendation and improper communication from the

deputy director of the FBI, who told the White House chief of staff

something about the FBI`s investigation said this story about what we`re

found and what we`re looking at, it`s all BS.

 

So, this is the mishegoss that happened right after Mike Flynn got fired,

and that was so screwed up in many ways.  So many days this new

administration, you`re like, wow, that`s a mess.  I can`t believe that

happened.  This thing was so screwed up at every level. 

 

I mean, there`s the guys leading these supposedly independent

investigations into the White House making PR calls about that

investigation to reporters at the behest of the White House.  There`s the

FBI which is supposedly leading the other independent investigation of the

White House talking on the sidelines with the White House about what is and

isn`t going on in their investigation, and giving the White House PR advice

about bad press they`re getting related to that investigation. 

 

I mean, what was the – what was the actual quote from the deputy director

of the FBI there?  It was, quote, I want you to know that “The New York

Times” story is BS.

 

Well, the biggest way this was messed up what happened back there in mid-

February, the biggest screw-up of all of this is that “The New York Times”

story wasn`t BS at all. 

 

“The Times” published this initial report Trump campaign aides had repeated

contacts with Russian intelligence, they reported this initial report. 

They posted this on February 14th.  Later that night, CNN reported their

own version of the story: Trump aides were in constant touch with senior

Russian officials during the campaign.  Then, “The Washington Post” got the

story, too, quote, “U.S. intelligence reports cite multiple contacts

between members of Trumps team and Russians with links to the Kremlin

during the campaign and afterward, according to officials who have seen

those reports.

 

By March, it is multiply sourced.  American allies, including the Brits and

the Dutch have provided information describing meetings in European cities

between Russian officials and others close to Russian President Vladimir

Putin and associates of Donald Trump.  And then further confirmation

thereafter, British intelligence past Trump associates communications with

Russians on to U.S. counterparts.

 

Oh, wait, further confirmation.  Quote: Through summer a number of western

spy agencies shared information with the United States government on

contacts between Trump`s inner circle and Russians.

 

All of that backing up that initial bombshell “New York Times” report from

February 14th. 

 

So, when the FBI`s deputy director inexplicably went up to the White House

and did a pull aside to talk to the president`s chief of staff about the

FBI`s ongoing investigation into the president`s campaign and he told the

White House chief of staff that this “New York Times” story was BS, not

only was that a scandal in its own right because the FBI deputy director

shouldn`t be talking about the FBI`s investigation with the White House,

not only was it a scandal because it resulted in the White House enlisting

as their PR flacks the members of Congress who were supposedly running the

independent congressional investigations into Trump and Russia – that

moment, that day that was also a scandal because that “New York Times”

story really was not BS. 

 

It`s been borne out by weeks and months of independent reporting since then

all of which has corroborated “The Times” story.  And if you don`t believe

any of the other press about it, you don`t believe any other reporters

because all news is fake news, well, this week it was even confirmed on the

record under oath by the man who is the director of national intelligence

at the time.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA:  Over the spring of 2016, multiple

European allies passed on additional information to the United States about

contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.  Is this accurate?

 

SALLY Yates, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I can`t answer that.

 

FEINSTEIN:  General Clapper, is that accurate?

 

JIM CLAPPER, FORMER DNI:  Yes, it is, and it`s also quite sensitive.

 

FEINSTEIN:  OK.  Let me ask you this – 

 

CLAPPER:  The specifics are quite sensitive.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  We got reports from multiple European allies about them observing

contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Is that accurate? 

Yes, that`s accurate.  It`s quite sensitive, but yes, that`s accurate. 

That`s confirmed, under oath, by the director of national intelligence.

 

So, when the deputy director of the FBI went up to the White House and said

“New York Times” reporting on that exact thing, that reporting is BS, you

know what?  T That reporting was not BS at all. 

 

Why the heck was the deputy director of the FBI running to the White House

and calling that apparently true story that now confirms story, why was he

calling that BS?  Why was he giving the White House that ex parte advice on

their bad press?  Why was he talking to the White House ex parte about this

investigation at all?  What the heck was the deputy director of the FBI

doing?

 

I don`t know.  I`ve never known.  It`s been one of the weirdest parts of

this investigation all along, but now, the deputy director of the FBI has

been promoted.  He`s now the director of the FBI, the acting director of

the FBI, which means he`s now leading the FBI investigation into the

Russian attack on our election and the Trump campaigns potential

involvement in it.

 

His name is Andrew McCabe.  He reportedly took a long in-person meeting

with the president yesterday at the White House and now he has been put in

charge at the FBI, including in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation. 

Given his previous named individual role in communicating inappropriately

with the White House about this investigation, given his extraordinary

effort to kibosh damning reporting about this story reporting that we now

know is well-corroborated and multiply sourced and confirmed as true by the

director of national intelligence, isn`t there an issue here with Deputy

Director Andrew McCabe taking over the lead in the FBI`s Trump Russia

investigation?  Isn`t there?

 

How can he specifically be the one who`s leading this investigation now?

 

Today, “The New York Times” and then “The Washington Post” and then “The

Wall Street Journal” and NBC News, eventually, everybody confirmed this

story today, that in the days before he was fired yesterday, FBI Director

James Comey went to the deputy attorney general and requested additional

resources for the Trump-Russia investigation.  We do not know what the

response was to that request.  We do know that Director Comey told members

of Congress he told Senators Richard Burr and Senator Mark Warner on Monday

night that he had made that request to DOJ for more resources, so those

senators presumably can corroborate that he told them about having made

that request for more resources.

 

Weirdly, the Department of Justice is denying he ever made that request,

but in any case, the following day, James Comey got fired from his job as

director of the FBI.  So, whenever additional resources he apparently

wanted for that investigation, history will show that you`re fired was the

response.

 

But things are happening – things are happening very fast now.  The White

House has now said that the president had hired a major Washington, D.C.

law firm to represent him on Trump-Russia matters.  We don`t know which

firm yet but we are trying to figure that out right now as we speak.

 

We have also learned tonight the former national security advisor Mike

Flynn has now been subpoenaed to hand over documents to the Senate

Intelligence Committee in their Trump-Russia investigation.  Mike Flynn

declined yesterday to hand over documents to the committee voluntarily. 

Now, they`re subpoenaing him.  This is the first subpoena sent by the

Senate Intelligence Committee since the 9/11 investigation.

 

One of the things to watch on Mike Flynn and on other Trump campaign

figures, particularly people who find themselves sort of in the crosshairs

here, one of the things to watch here in an ongoing way with each

development in the news here is whether those folks who are in the

crosshairs and potentially have stories to tell about what happened here

between the Trump campaign and Russia, one of the things to watch here is

whether those individual people from Trump world are facing any sort of

pressure from potential prosecution, pressure that could be used as

leverage to conceivably make them flip on those above them in the

hierarchy, so they can save themselves from going to the pokey by telling

tales about people who might be bigger fish.

 

So, the first subpoenas now flying in this investigation mean that we can

now invoke that dynamic and start watching for that. 

 

We`ve got the Senate Intelligence Committee again subpoenaing Mike Flynn

tonight.  We`ve also got both CNN and CBS now reporting that federal

prosecutors have sent grand jury subpoenas related to Mike Flynn to his

business associates.  So, two different types of subpoenas now sort of

orbiting around the Mike Flynn part of this story.

 

Also, keep an eye on Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.  We

do not know if Paul Manafort also refused to hand over documents

voluntarily to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.  The committee

has not announced whether or not he handed over those documents they have

requested.

 

But there are some interesting loose threads to watch with Paul Manafort. 

Paul Manafort, obviously, the former campaign chairman for the Trump

campaign – I just want to give you one heads-up about him now, that there

is a new, very large, very interesting question mark about Paul Manafort

and his potential involvement with the Justice Department.

 

OK, this is this is something that that we`ve got a bead on that we are

actively reporting tonight literally while I am on the air.  We are trying

to continue to report this out.  I swear we will have news on that. 

 

We will have an answer on that for you by tomorrow at this time at the

latest.  But the way things have been going today, we might have it before

the end of this hour.  Just stick a pin in that.

 

Busy night, lots more to come.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  So, tonight, we get another glimpse – a new glimpse into how we

got to this point, how we got to this remarkable point in U.S. history

where we`ve never been before, where we`ve got a sitting U.S. president who

has just fired the head of the FBI while the FBI is investigating him and

his presidential campaign in a counterintelligence investigation.  This is

brand-new tonight just posted moments ago at “The Washington Post”.

 

And to give you a sense of where we are right now at this story in this new

piece just post by “The Washington Post”, they`ve got 30 sources, 30.  “The

Post” tonight sighting 30 officials at the White House, the Justice

Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, 30, most of them speaking

anonymously.

 

The story explains basically that the White House official line that it was

a Justice Department decision to get rid of James Comey and the president

just endorsed that decision, that official White House line is untrue. 

That is not at all what happened.  Instead, in this remarkably sourced

piece, “The Post” details how the president firing James Comey was

motivated specifically by the president`s own frustration and anger about

the Russia investigation.  So, that`s important. 

 

There`s also this really interesting stuff that they`ve just dug up about

how – about what has happened today since the firing, basically about how

the firing has landed in the intelligence community and the law enforcement

community.

 

Listen, listen to some of this blowback now to that presidential decision. 

Quote, one intelligence official who worked on Russian espionage matters

said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases.  Another

said Jim Comey`s firing and the subsequent comments from the White House

are attacks that won`t soon be forgotten.  The president had, quote,

essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI.  One official said,

I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.

 

In other words, you`re waging war on us, well, war can be way to the other

direction, too.  Gulp..

 

This new reporting from “The Washington Post” tonight is chilling.

 

Joining us now is Devlin Barrett.  He covers national security for “The

Post” and was writing part of this new story tonight when we called him.

 

Mr. Barrett, thank you very much for joining us.  I really appreciate you

being here.

 

DEVLIN BARRETT, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  Hi.  Sure,

happy to be here.

 

MADDOW:  Let me just actually first of all that the remarkable sourcing

here and how upfront you guys are being about the number of people, more

than two dozen people, 30 sources who you were able to speak to on the

record or on the record or anonymously in most cases for this story.

 

Tell me about that sourcing.

 

BARRETT:  Well, you know you see a bunch of names on the byline and that`s

because, you know, this is a big story obviously and we fan out to talk to

as many people as humanly possible, and you know, collect all that and see

what it all adds up to.  And I think that story is what it adds up to and

it sort of tells the story of what`s going on in the White House in recent

weeks, but also how, you know, the last hours has transpired in the

intelligence community and within the FBI and within the Justice

Department. 

 

And those are important things, right?  Like these are these are agencies

that their work doesn`t stop because Comey leaves.  Their work continues

and you know I just think it`s important to track how that work continues.

 

MADDOW:  In terms of the continuation of that work – obviously, a lot of

people who have been placing a lot of stock in the FBI investigation

thinking that that`s how the American people are finally going to get a

full accounting of this story, people have been worried about what effect

the firing of the FBI director will have on the morale, the will, the focus

of those folks what kind of pressure it puts on them. 

 

We certainly heard anecdotally reports today over the course of my news day

that people who are involved in this investigation are shaken.  They were

by this firing and when you hear about FBI agents being shaken it makes you

wonder whether or not it`s going to derail them at all in their

investigation.  You guys seem to be reporting more on a reaction of resolve

anger and maybe even a desire to get revenge.

 

BARRETT:  Yes, I mean, I think revenge is a little strong.  I think – you

know, look, there are career professionals in both the FBI and the Justice

Department who, you know, are for better for all practical purposes are

lifers at this, and while there certainly they were certainly surprised and

upset about what happened to Jim Comey, you know, I think it was

interesting – I would say, and among the people I talked to I would say

about 75 percent of the reaction was anger and I would say about 25 percent

of the reaction was a kind of fear, a kind of wariness as to you know – so

does this mean that we`re actually going to pull back?  I don`t want to

pull back, but maybe there will be some collective you know cautioned that

this firing produces.

 

But to be honest, you know, most of the folks I talk to in the law

enforcement intelligence base today were, you know, determined not to do

anything differently and if anything were more motivated today than they

were yesterday.

 

MADDOW:  Andrew McCabe was the FBI deputy director has now been elevated to

acting director of the FBI. 

 

In our opening segment tonight, I recounted an incident that he was

involved in in February that raised some eyebrows in terms of his contact

with the White House about this investigation.  Reince Priebus citing him

by name, naming him in terms of his title as having had contact with the

White House about reporting concerning the Trump-Russia investigation.

 

When you talk about some of the reaction being anger and some of the action

being fear among FBI agents responding to this firing, has a deputy

director now acting Director McCabe done anything to kind of to shore

people up about this to reassure people or to give any sense of what kind

of leadership he`s going to have on this matter.

 

BARRETT:  It`s funny.  There was actually a going-away party at the Justice

Department tonight for a departing career official and McCabe spoke at

that.  And I`m told that he was actually he made a little bit of a joke

about his last 24 hours.  He kind of you know frankly is described to me

put a lot of folks at e with the notion that, wow, this guy`s just been

thrown into the fire, and there`s a lot riding on him right now.

 

You know, the folks I talked to said they were actually – they actually

felt a little better after watching him talk to a big room of national

security folks this evening.  And so, you know, I think – I think there`s

some hope there and I think there`s some, you know, cautious optimism that

there`s still a lot of – you know, Jim Comey may be gone but there`s still

an awful lot of good people here who can do good work and they`re not

scared.  I think was another sort of thing that kept coming up.

 

But I`ll be honest, you know, in talking to folks you know that anger came

through in private discussions at that event, too, like there are people

who are ticked off.

 

MADDOW:  Ticked off and angry and some people expressing fear and a lot of

uncertainty.  Just a – just a remarkable time, remarkable thing to be

living through but also a remarkable thing to be reporting on.

 

Devlin Barrett, writing about national security for “The Washington Post”,

you`re right in the middle of it, my friend.  Thank you for helping us

understand this reporting tonight.  I appreciate it.

 

BARRETT:  Sure.  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Still ahead tonight, what Devlin Barrett was just

talking about there in terms of how the FBI does its work, how the actual

agents who are on this investigation are now coping with their changed

circumstances, we`ve got a very specific take on that coming up next with

somebody who is one of the world`s foremost experts on the FBI, and what

might change with their director having been fired in this incredibly

politically charged way.  You are going to want to see this next interview. 

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  “Reuters” first reported in February on the structure, the

physical structure, the geographic structure of the FBI investigation into

the Russian attack on the presidential election last year and into possible

collusion by the Trump campaign in that attack.  “Reuters” had the news a

couple months ago that the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office, of the FBI was

playing a key role in the FBI investigation.  They have been tasked

specifically with trying to identify the people behind breaches of the

DNC`s computer systems.  Apparently, the Pittsburgh field office is known

as being sort of a crack office in terms of cyber crime.

 

Another field office, one in San Francisco, was tasked with trying to

identify the people who called themselves Guccifer 2, the ones who posted

email stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta`s email account. 

 

In addition to that, “Reuters” reported at the time that FBI

counterintelligence agents based in Washington, D.C. were pursuing leads

from informants and foreign communication intercepts.  So, if you think

about the FBI investigation, it`s not just like an inchoate thing that

happens on a listserv or all in FBI HQ, you`ve got people in at least three

different places working on three different parts of it. 

 

Thereafter, “The Financial Times” added this: the FBI creating a special

unit in Washington not at the Washington field office, but Washington FBI

headquarters to oversee this investigation overall.  So, instead of it all

being spread out among Pittsburgh office, San Francisco office, other field

offices, they would centralize the main part of this investigation in D.C. 

Twenty dedicated agents all centralized at FBI headquarters.

 

That does not happen with every investigation.  That does not even happen

with any major investigation.  But that`s a change that they made about

this investigation that was due to take effect this month.

 

Second end up being important here – we know now, as of today, that fired

FBI director James Comey requested more resources for this investigation

just days before he was fired.  So, there`s already a very real question

about whether the FBI believes there are enough resources dedicated to

getting the bottom of this, but now there`s also this geography question

there`s an interesting question about where this investigation is being

handled and whether that affects its independence.

 

Again, not every investigation ends up centralized in headquarters, but in

this case, they did it.  By centralizing the investigation in one place, in

FBI headquarters, from which FBI Director James Comey has now been fired,

is there any possibility that that makes the people working on the Russia

investigation more susceptible to political pressure?  Should be we –

should we be watching that kind of a dynamic to see what sort of impact

that`s going to have now that the FBI director has been fired in the middle

of a major investigation into the sitting us president?

 

Joining us now is Tim Weiner, an expert on the institution of the FBI and

the CIA, too, for that matter.  He spent years covering and writing about

American intelligence agencies, a work that has won him a Pulitzer Prize

and a National Book Award.  He`s the author of “Legacy of Ashes: The

History of the CIA”, which won the National Book Award.  He`s also the

author of “Enemies: A history of the FBI” which was a deserted bestseller.

 

Tim Weiner, thank you for being here.  It`s nice to see you.

 

TIM WEINER, “ENEMIES: A HISTORY OF THE FBI” AUTHOR:  Always a pleasure.

 

MADDOW:  Let me – let me just get your top-line reaction to this – to

this news.  What did you think when you learned that James Comey was being

fired?

 

WEINER:  I thought that the president of the United States had committed an

act that someday may be seen as an obstruction of justice.  An impeachable

offense.

 

MADDOW:  Obstruction of justice was the first article of impeachment

against Nixon, right?

 

WEINER:  Correct.

 

MADDOW:  How do you know whether this is obstruction of justice?  The White

House has done an unusual thing in the 24-plus hours since this has

happened, they`ve put out an official line through White House spokespeople

saying this is a department of justice decision made by the deputy attorney

general and the attorney general, and the president just endorsed that

decision – it wasn`t him.

 

Then, they have allowed multiple – like many multiple sources to tell

reporters a totally different story, that this was a decision driven by the

president specifically because of the Russia investigation.

 

WEINER:  Oh and her emails.

 

MADDOW:  Yes, oh, yes and Hillary`s emails.

 

WEINER:  And the emails.

 

MADDOW:  He`s very concerned about making sure that Hillary Clinton is not

disparaged.

 

WEINER:  Yes, that did not have the odor of truth.  I meant the Donald

Trump believes that as he said repeatedly that the Russia story is a hoax,

and he wants it to go away.  Failing that, he wants to discredit the

reporting on it, and failing that, he has tried now to decapitate the FBI

by firing its director.

 

MADDOW:  Is that also a way to try to discredit the FBI?

 

WEINER:  He can`t.  It is – let`s say – counterproductive.  He has put

himself in greater legal jeopardy.  He has redoubled I think the commitment

of the hundreds of professional agents or working on this case.  He has put

himself in bad odor with some pretty important people in Congress who are

Republicans or senators.  He has revived talk about there being a bicameral

committee like the Iran-Contra Committee of 30 years ago to go after this

case, to do the work that the Senate Intelligence Committee has barely

begun and the house intelligence committee was derailed in doing by its own

chief.

 

And I think that this story is going to be with us for months and I think

it will torment Trump well into next year.

 

MADDOW:  We`ve had this very interesting reporter from “The Washington

Post” tonight.  We had reporter, Devlin Barrett, here just a moment ago

talking about that and he said in his reporting for that story and in “The

Washington Post” reporting for that story, they`re looking now at the

impact of the firing of Comey on the people who are doing the investigatory

work – the actual nuts and bolts go to work every day, shoe leather people

who are doing this investigation, he said he`s hearing 75 percent anger but

25 percent fear.  They`re actually scared in terms of what happens to them

next.

 

WEINER:  Probably a healthy reaction. 

 

MADDOW:  Well, let me ask you about that.  I mean, you`ve studied the FBI

intensely for your fear seminal work on their structure as an institution,

how they function, the good things about them and the bad things they do

about – the bad things about them.

 

How do you think FBI agents will respond to this firing?  Do you think this

could have the effect by decapitating the agency, could that have the

effect of de railing the investigation?

 

WEINER:  No, it can`t.  An investigation has a life of its own and we have

found when you are the FBI and you are looking at a president,

investigations beget investigation.  The FBI went after Nixon and helped

bring him down.  The FBI went after Ronald Reagan`s national security team

in the Iran-Contra imbroglio when the White House was selling weapons to

Iran, skimming the profits and slipping them to guerillas in Central

America.

 

MADDOW:  Resulted in many, many, many indictments.

 

WEINER:  The indictments.

 

The FBI famously went after Bill Clinton and with the White House position

in attendance got blood from the president`s arm to test it against the DNA

on the infamous blue dress. 

 

The FBI will pursue an investigation up to 1600 Pennsylvania, knock on the

door and serve subpoenas, because they are dedicated professionals who

believe in the rule of law. 

 

MADDOW:  Tim Weiner, the author of “Enemies: A History of the FBI” and

“Legacy of Ashes: History of the CIA” – Tim, thank you.  Good to have

here, my friend.  Thanks.

 

WEINER:  See you again.

 

MADDOW:  Always here on terrible nights, something terrible has happened. 

Call Tim Weiner – sorry. 

 

But much more tonight.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  It was back in March when she was first supposed to testify.  Back

in March, the House Intelligence Committee had asked Sally Yates, former

acting attorney general, to testify about her warning to the Trump White

House that their national security advisor Mike Flynn was lying about his

contacts with Russia.  Sally Yates wanted to testify.  She was scheduled to

testify but then, suddenly, the Republican chairman of the House

Intelligence Committee cancelled the Sally Yates hearing.

 

And Chairman Nunes never really gave a good explanation for why cancelled

that hearing.  Frankly, he was up to all sorts of stuff that he couldn`t

explain around that time.  But on the day that Sally Yates had been

supposed to testify on March 28th, what we did get was a look at some very

interesting documents that revealed what had been going on behind the

scenes when that hearing was cancelled.

 

Sally Yates had been telling the Justice Department, I want to testify, I`m

going to testify.  But then we learn from these documents that came out on

March 28th, that the Trump administration tried to block her from

testifying. 

 

“The Washington Post” broke this story on the day Sally Yates had been

scheduled to testify before that hearing got cancelled, quote, Yates and

another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA Director John Brennan,

made clear to government officials that their testimony to the committee

probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had

made.

 

So, then, the Justice Department and the White House responded, OK, that as

far as they were concerned, her testimony would likely be in violation of

the presidential communications privilege, and the deliberative process

privilege.  Huh? 

 

In not so many words, they were telling her she could not testify about

anything that she told the White House, which is what she was supposed to

testify about.  That exchange of lawyer letters between the White House

lawyers and Sally Yates` lawyers, that all happened on a Thursday into a

Friday.  By the end of Friday, the Sally Yates hearing was cancelled, and

that was sort of a bump in the road, sort of an interesting explanatory

sidebars time when it happened. 

 

That ends up being the first, real, concrete, black-and-white, in print

evidence that we got of the Trump administration trying to block the Trump-

Russia investigation, to block the investigation into ties between his

presidential campaign and Russia while Russia was attacking the U.S.

election.

 

The question of obstruction of justice looms large here, not just because

it was the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon, but because

this is not a one-off thing.  We saw them try to block Yates from

testifying.  Obviously, eventually, she was allowed to testify, but that

when she was going to testify to House Intel, they tried to block her.

 

Today, we learned that a few days before he was fired yesterday, FBI

director James Comey went to the new deputy attorney general and asked for

more resources for the Trump-Russia investigation.  Not only did Comey

never get those resources, the new Trump appointee he asked for those

resources then wrote a memo laying out all the reasons Jim Comey should be

fired and, of course, Jim Comey, director of the FBI, was fired yesterday. 

 

So, that`s where we are, right?  Sally Yates warning the White House about

Mike Flynn and his ties to Russia, she gets fired.  When she tries to

testify to Congress about her warnings, the White House tried to block her

testifying. 

 

Then, the White House got a new deputy attorney general confirmed, and FBI

Director James Comey went to him to ask for more resources for the from

impression investigation, that deputy attorney general then wrote a memo to

President Trump saying, fire this guy. 

 

And now, the Trump administration`s line on the Russia investigation is:

what`s all the fuss here?  Why are we doing this?

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  My gosh,

Tucker, when are they going to let that go?  It`s been going on for nearly

a year.  Frankly, it`s kind of getting absurd.  There is no there there. 

It`s time to move on.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Trying to block testimony from somebody you fired who warns you

about national security risks in your midst, then firing the man who`s

leading an investigation into your campaign, in general, these are not good

ways to get people to let something go, right? 

 

And, you know, Sally Yates did eventually testify and the Senate

Intelligence Committee has invited James Comey to testify next Tuesday, and

they have now subpoena documents from Mike Flynn.  If this administration

is so confident that this investigation is a whole lot of nothing, then why

do they keep trying to block it?

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  I told you this is one of those nights when news is going to

continue to break through the evening.  That has proven true.  “Wall Street

Journal” has just posted a new story on what is the story of the day.  The

headline is: Comey`s firing came as investigators stepped up Russia probe. 

 

Let me tell you what they are finding here.  This is actually – this is

exclamation point stuff.  Here`s the lead: In the weeks before President

Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a federal investigation into

potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government was

heating up, as Mr. Comey became increasingly occupied with the probe. 

 

What does that mean?  They`ve got specifics.

 

Quote: Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the

investigation.  That started at least three weeks ago.  According to “The

Wall Street Journal” tonight, Mr. Comey was concerned by information

showing potential evidence of collusion. 

 

The source for that is according to “The Wall Street Journal”, people with

knowledge of the matter and with the progress of the Federal Bureau of

Investigation probe.

 

Last week, as had been reported by multiple sources now, Director Comey

sought more resources to support the FBI`s investigation.  He requested

additional personnel from Rod Rosenstein who`s been recently installed as

the deputy attorney general. 

 

Now, the interesting – one interesting sidebar to this is that the

Department of Justice continues to deny that that request was made, but

multiple new sources today have now reported it, and it`s also been

reported that Comey briefed lawmakers after he made that request and told

them that he had made this request of the Department of Justice. 

 

Now, “The Wall Street Journal” is adding to that reporting tonight with

this: on Monday, Mr. Comey briefed lawmakers on his request to boost the

investigation the lawmakers asked Mr. Comey if he could accelerate the FBI

investigation.  Oh, this would have been the day before he was fired.

 

There`s also this: Senate Intelligence Committee investigators have grown

alarms they reviewed intelligence reports.  Some investigators are

persuaded that the evidence will show more than just casual contacts

between the Trump campaign and Russia.  One area of particular interest for

the committee is Mr. Trump`s business dealings.

 

Yes, that is where this is headed, and that story – a little bit more on

that – next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  At the top of the hour tonight, I said we are working on an

interesting unanswered question concerning former Trump campaign chairman

Paul Manafort and his potential connections to the Justice Department.  We

are going to have that story for you tomorrow night at this time.  I hope

that you will tune in for that.  I think you will find it interesting. 

 

I also want to tell you, in light of this very interesting reporting that

has just come out from “The Wall Street Journal” since we`ve been on the

air tonight, that it is an area of particular interest for investigators

right now that Trump`s business dealings are sort of rising to the top of

the heap in terms of focus – areas of focus and concern for investigators. 

 

There has been a big change in terms of what we know about the

investigation on Trump business matters.  An important thing related to

Trump business matters was confirmed by Director James Clapper, former DNI. 

James Clapper, in his Senate appearance on Monday.  We`ve also now got an

interesting request from the Senate Intelligence Committee to the Treasury

Department in their financial crimes unit in terms of money laundering and

any connections they`ve been able to turn up with Trump and his business

dealings. 

 

That part of it, the financial side of it, the business side of it appears

to be driving subpoenas now around Mike Flynn both from the Senate

Intelligence Committee and from U.S. attorneys offices in Virginia – U.S.

attorneys office in Virginia. 

 

This issue about business ties, potential money-laundering is also going to

be the subject of a very special report on this show tomorrow night.  I

will see you then. 

 

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”

 

Lawrence, I`m sorry to take 40 of your seconds.  Good evening. 

 

 

END

 

                                                                                                               

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC.  All materials herein are

protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,

distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the

prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter

or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the

content.>