The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 5/10/17
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
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
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
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
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
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
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”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
MADDOW: Obstruction of justice was the first article of impeachment
against Nixon, right?
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
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
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
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
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.
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
“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
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
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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