Zuckerberg testifies before Congress. TRANSCRIPT: 04/10/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: April 10, 2018
Guest: Jed Shugerman, Adam Schiff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: We do have a little bit of news. Thank you, my
friend. Much appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We do have some news
to break. There`s a lot going on.
First thing I have to say is a question. Why was President Trump called
David Dennison in the agreement that his lawyer made with porn star, Stormy
Yesterday, the president`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had his office
and his home raided by the FBI. Multiple news outlets report at least one
focus of the search warrant they executed was for information related to
that Stormy Daniels agreement and that $130,000 payment that Cohen says he
made to Stormy Daniels. Today, we learned that Stormy Daniels is herself
cooperating with federal investigators, as they look into that agreement
and that payment.
So, if this thing is no longer a dispute between private parties, if
federal prosecutors are now involved in assessing potential criminal
behavior implicated by that agreement and one party to that agreement is
cooperating with federal prosecutors in that investigation, then it`s worth
understanding whether it`s only the president`s lawyer, Michael Cohen,
who`s in trouble for that agreement or whether that trouble might extend to
the president himself.
And so my question: in that agreement, you might remember that a pseudonym
is used for both parties to the agreement. Stormy Daniels for her part in
the agreement, she agrees not to talk about her alleged affair with the
president in exchange for $130,000. In that agreement, she has a
pseudonym. She`s called Peggy Peterson. Donald Trump also has a pseudonym
in this agreement. He`s called David Dennison.
Now, what does Peggy Peterson mean? I have no idea. Your guess is as good
as mine. What does Stormy Daniels mean really as a name?
But for the president`s pseudonym, there`s only one David Dennison that we
know of in presidential history, or in adjunct to presidential history.
Look at this, we got this from NBC`s presidential historian Michael
Beschloss. This is from October, 1889.
Beschloss tells us this is a wire service story from 1889. I didn`t even
know they had wire services then. But you can see the headline. General
Grant`s secretary becomes insane. Dateline Washington, October 30th, 1889.
David Dennison Cone, who was for a time General Grant`s private secretary,
what that means is he was private secretary to Ulysses S. Grant when Grant
was president in the 1870s. David Dennison Cone, who was for a time
General Grant`s private secretary was locked up Monday night at the first
precinct station house, a raving maniac.
He is about 50 years of age. For the past year, his mind has been
gradually failing him. When he became violent, his friends put him in the
hands of the police to be taken care of until his relatives in Philadelphia
could be notified. That`s David Dennison in history.
Let the record show that in the bizarre presidential porn star hush money
sex scandal that led in 2018 to the FBI raiding the office and home of the
president`s private lawyer, the pseudonym used to refer to the president in
the legal agreement in question that led to all of this was apparently
lifted from American history, specifically the history of the Ulysses S.
Grant administration in which a senior aide to that president very publicly
and flagrantly went stark raving crazy, to the point where it made the
David Dennison is the president`s pseudonym in the Stormy Daniels`
agreement. Who picked that name, and why? And if in fact this particular
scandal ends up driving this president crazy, can we please get a rewrite
for this portion of the script because this is getting to be a little bit
over the top. Also, I would totally play Ulysses S. Grant in that movie.
After the FBI raids on Michael Cohen yesterday, the president today
continued to insist that every bit of any investigation into him and his
associates and his campaign and his administration, it`s all one big witch
hunt. The White House press secretary today insisted to reporters that the
president has been told that he has the power to fire special counsel
Robert Mueller. As a matter of law that is technically not the case, but
that doesn`t mean that the president hasn`t been told he can do that.
Two people who are not technically the president`s lawyers were seen at the
White House today in the wake of the Michael Cohen raid. Alan Dershowitz
was spotted by “The New York Times” at the White House and somebody from
Marc Kasowitz`s law firm was also spotted at the White House today by
“Bloomberg News”. Marc Kasowitz, of course, was fired after a public
meltdown but now someone from his firm was back at the White House premises
That news comes as “The New York Times” reports this evening that the
president told top staffers in December, December 2017, that he wanted to
fire Robert Mueller. This new report from “the times” is the second time
it has been reported that the president attempted to fire Robert Mueller as
special counsel. Once apparently last summer, that was reportedly thwarted
by White House counsel Don McGahn, and now this new report from “The Times”
tonight suggests that once again in December, the president attempted to
have Robert Mueller fired, although he did not end up going through with
it. So, we`re going to have more on that breaking news story ahead.
All this happening today as one of the world`s richest men testified in
Congress sitting on a booster seat, literally sitting on a booster seat.
Today, his company, Facebook, admitted that when tens of millions of
Americans had all their private data stolen off of Facebook by the data
firm used by the Trump campaign, that stolen data even included any private
messages you have ever exchanged with anyone on Facebook. It turns out
private messages on Facebook were not private. If you got scraped by
Cambridge Analytica, even your private messages went unredacted and with
all your identifying information to the company that Steve Bannon was
running in 2016, while he was also running the Trump campaign.
So, another thing that is going on, which you`d think would be the biggest
story in the world, is the threat by the Trump administration tonight that
they`re going to launch another military salvo of some kind against Syria.
It was almost exactly a year ago that Trump did this the first time. That
missile strike on an empty airfield in Syria was basically an event in
isolation. It wasn`t tied into any larger strategic turn in Syria. It
doesn`t seem to have changed anything about the course of the war in that
country or the behavior of Bashar al Assad.
But now, a year and four days after those missile strikes on Syria, it
looks like President Trump may be ready to do something similar again.
Everybody is on watch in terms of the president`s decision on that and the
Pentagon`s actions. We may be talking more about that this hour, including
just the weird split screen of that military strike potentially getting
approved by the White House, while the White House fires yet more top
national security staffers.
This time, it`s the White House homeland security advisor and the National
Security Council spokesman. Both of those men losing their jobs within the
last 48 hours, as a new national security advisor, John Bolton, started at
the White House yesterday. Obviously, no reason you might need anybody in
those jobs while you`re about to start a brand new controversial military
So, there`s lots going on in the news tonight. This is one of those days
when it sort of feels like all of Washington is on egg shells and something
is about to crack and fail. But in the middle of all that, I would like to
pile on something new, because we do have a little bit of a scoop tonight.
OK. This is Dana Boente. Dana Boente first became a public official of
national interest when President Trump fired Sally Yates. Sally Yates was
the acting attorney general of the United States. She was fired after she
told the White House that she believed Trump`s Muslim ban was likely
unconstitutional. That`s the reason she was fired.
But we soon learned that while she had been acting attorney general, she
had personally gone to the White House to give the White House a warning
about national security advisor Mike Flynn and his communications with the
Russian government, which he had been lying about. And this all happened
very quickly, at the very start of the Trump administration.
Trump got sworn in on Friday, January 20th. Flynn was interviewed by the
FBI the following Tuesday, January 24th. On Thursday the 26th, Sally Yates
was up at the White House giving them that warning about Flynn. Then she
got called back the next day, asked to come back to the White House to
discuss that warning further. That was Friday, the 27th.
Then there was the weekend and then on Monday, she was fired, January 30th.
It all happened very quickly, the whole first ten days of the Trump
administration. She was out. She was fired even before Flynn was.
One of the enduring mysteries about the Russia investigation and this
president and this White House is that even after these totally
unprecedented warnings from the Justice Department, with the acting
attorney general coming to the White House in person to deliver this
unprecedented warning about the national security advisor being compromised
by a foreign power, even after that warning and then subsequent warnings
the next day, they kept that guy on for another 18 days. They didn`t fire
Flynn until mid-February – an enduring mystery that has yet to be
Well, a few weeks after they finally did fire Flynn, in May of 2017, we
found out in “The New York Times” that the White House had actually had way
more warning about Flynn than just that heads up they got in person from
Sally Yates. “The New York Times” was first to report in May of last year
that Flynn had actually warned the White House during the transition that
he was under federal investigation. I still remember reading this dramatic
headline for the first time: Trump team knew Flynn was under investigation
before he came to the White House. They did?
Quote: Michael T. Flynn told President Trump`s transition team weeks before
the inauguration that he was under federal investigation. Despite this
warning, Mr. Trump made Flynn his national security advisor anyway. This
article in “The Times” in May of last year, this is where we first learned
that federal prosecutors, in fact, a veteran espionage prosecutor, was
actively pursuing a criminal investigation into the president`s national
security advisor with a grand jury and subpoenas and the whole shebang.
Quote: The pace of the investigations has intensified in recent weeks with
veteran espionage prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, now leading a grand jury
inquiry in northern Virginia that`s scrutinizing Mr. Flynn. It`s begun
issuing subpoenas to businesses that worked with Flynn and his associates.
“The New York Times” reviewed one of the subpoenas. It demands all
records, research, contracts, bank records, communications and other
documents related to Flynn and his business Flynn Intel Group, his
business. The subpoena reviewed by “The Times” was, quote, signed by Dana
J. Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
All right. So, this revelation back in May was stunning at the time for a
few reasons. One, the president`s national security advisor was being
investigated by a grand jury led by a veteran espionage prosecutor. Two,
the White House knew that during the transition and they hired him to be
national security advisor anyway.
But the other reason that was stunning is because the federal prosecutor
whose office convened that grand jury, the guy whose office that
investigation was being run out of, the guy signing the subpoenas, was Dana
Boente, right, this same guy who Trump had made the acting attorney general
of the United States after he fired Sally Yates. And in fact, Boente went
through a whole string of the highest jobs in American law enforcement in
the first months of the Trump administration.
It`s important now, I think, to recognize that at every step of the way, he
had a key role in the Russia investigation. I mean, the first thing that
was unusual about the way Trump treated Dana Boente is that he kept Dana
Boente on as the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia when he
fired all the other U.S. attorneys. We later found out that Boente had
been overseeing an investigation into Michael Flynn in the Eastern District
We later learned that in office, as the U.S. attorney in the Eastern
District of Virginia, Boente was also signing off on subpoenas and
overseeing an ongoing investigation not just into Flynn, but also into Paul
Manafort. I mean, Trump did fire all the U.S. attorneys last March.
Boente was one of the only ones he kept on.
And we later found out that Boente`s office was running those
investigations into Flynn and Manafort.
Then Trump makes him acting attorney general. As acting attorney general,
he became responsible for all of the various threads of the Russia
investigation beyond just the parts he had already personally been helming
in Virginia. So, he`s acting attorney general. That lasts until Jeff
Sessions comes on.
Jeff Sessions comes on. Boente then gets another plum job. He gets named
acting deputy attorney general. And that meant for a few weeks he actually
was no longer responsible for overseeing the whole Russia investigation.
But that only lasted a few weeks until Sessions had to recuse himself.
Then once again as acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente, was back in
charge of overseeing all the parts of the Russia investigation nationwide
again. He only had a few weeks off. In that capacity as acting deputy
attorney general, we now know Boente signed off on the FISA warrant to
conduct surveillance against former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
And then even after he got moved out of that job, after Rod Rosenstein got
confirmed by the Senate and he took over as the deputy attorney general,
Boente still was instrumental to the Russia investigation, because Trump
gave him another awesome job. He made him acting head of the national
security division at the Justice Department. And we learned just last week
that in that capacity, Boente personally signed off on some of the most
important criminal charges that were brought against Paul Manafort when he
was first indicted.
So, Dana Boente – I mean, not the most memorable looking guy in the world,
right? He turns out to be the Zelig of the Russia investigation, he`s
everywhere. Maybe he`s the Forrest Gump, choose your movie, right? But he
really has played a key role, and at times the key top supervisory role in
the Russia investigation all the way back to the beginning.
And I will tell you at a personal level, I remain convinced that there`s
some interesting story to tell about why Dana Boente got fired from the
Justice Department after having all those jobs. Right when Manafort got
indicted for the first time, Boente got fired from the Justice Department
and we still don`t know why. He was abruptly told to resign, both from his
job as head of the National Security Division and as U.S. attorney for the
Eastern District of Virginia. He held those jobs at the same time.
They abruptly told him to resign right at the time Manafort was indicted.
We still don`t know why. There`s – I believe there is a story to tell
there and some day we will tell it, mark my words.
But Boente ultimately got a soft landing. Yes, he got pushed out of the
Justice Department after holding off those jobs, but then the FBI hired
him. The FBI hired him as their general counsel, which is where he works
now. And arguably, that means he still has an important role to play in
the Russia investigation as the FBI increasingly comes under attack as an
institution, both from the president and from Republicans in Congress, who
are hostile to the whole Russia investigation.
So, Dana Boente is the man in the middle. From the very beginning here, he
is right at the heart of all of this.
And here`s what we figured out. Here`s our little scoop. We have obtained
some documents that have not previously been seen or reported on, which we
are going to show you tonight.
We have authenticated them to the best of our ability. And what we believe
these documents show is a few important things about Dana Boente and the
First, we can report exclusively right now that Dana Boente has been asked
to be interviewed by the special counsel`s office in the Russia
investigation. We know that because of this letter which we have obtained.
It`s dated January 2nd, 2018. It is a letter from Dana Boente, while he
was still acting head of the national security division at the Justice
Department. It`s a letter to another Justice Department official notifying
DOJ that this request has come in.
As you can see at the top of this letter, it`s addressed to Scott Schools.
Scott Schools is the senior most career attorney at the Justice Department.
Here`s how the letter starts. Quote: Dear Mr. Schools, special counsel
Robert Mueller has asked to interview me as part of the investigation of
the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential
election. In the event, I do not submit to the interview, special counsel
Mueller would have an authority to issue a subpoena for my testimony before
a grand jury.
Boente says: I served as acting deputy attorney general from February to
April. I should note there`s a little typo there. See, it says February,
2011, we think he means 2017 there, but that typo is unexplained in terms
of this letter.
Served as acting deputy attorney general and as head of the national
security division from April to the present, and he`s writing in January of
this year. He says, as the acting deputy attorney general, I was
responsible for the overall operation of the Department of Justice and
given the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, I was also responsible
for the investigation of the Russian government`s interference in the 2016
The requested interview from Mueller concerns activities occurring within
the bounds and scope of my duties within the Department of Justice. And
this is important. He says, quote, I have no reason to believe that I am a
subject or target of the investigation.
So, Dana Boente is not a target, he`s not a subject, or at least as far as
he knows he`s not. That means that he`s a witness for the investigation.
He`s telling the Justice Department, he`s notifying the senior career
official of justice that he has been called in to give witness testimony
And then he closes this letter of notification by asking for legal
representation in this matter. He says, quote, I am requesting
representation or a commitment for the reimbursement of legal fees. So,
give me a lawyer or pay my legal fees for me to hire one. Signed
sincerely, Dana J. Boente.
So, this document is previously unreported. And we have not confirmed if
Dana Boente ultimately did an interview with Mueller`s prosecutors. But
this letter from him to the senior career official at the Justice
Department indicates that Dana Boente has been asked to do that interview.
Dana Boente, who`s had all of those senior Justice Department jobs, who
served as U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, including at
key moments in the Russia investigation, and who`s now the general counsel
of the FBI.
And now, here`s where it gets good. We have also obtained this document
from another senior Justice Department official. This time, it`s the head
of the counterintelligence division at the FBI.
This is a letter from that official to Dana Boente. It`s an unusual thing.
You can see here, this letter is dated just over two weeks after Boente
notified the Justice Department that Mueller wanted to talk to him.
This is dated January 17th. And this letter from the FBI
counterintelligence division is essentially a certification for Boente that
a certain set of notes that he took, handwritten notes that were marked by
a Justice Department employee as top secret, those notes are not actually
top secret at all.
Check it out. Quote: Dear, Mr. Boente – and then you see the “U” there at
the start of the paragraph. I think that means this is unclassified, “U”.
Dear, Mr. Boente, this letter serves as confirmation under my authority as
an FBI official – excuse me, FBI original classification authority that
your handwritten notes derived from your March 30th, 2017, conversation
with former FBI Director James Comey are unclassified. Quote,
understanding that your notes were marked as top secret by an employee of
the Justice Department without your consultation, this letter memorializes
a duly authorized finding that the contents of your notes are not top
secret or classified at all.
OK, you`re getting the importance now of what we`ve obtained here. At the
very start of January, day after New Year`s Day, Boente tells Justice
Department he`s going to be interviewed by Mueller. He asked for legal
representation or commitment to pay his legal fees.
A couple of weeks later, Boente gets a certification from
counterintelligence at the FBI that his notes, handwritten notes from a
specific conversation with James Comey shouldn`t be marked top secret.
That was improper. They are not classified as all.
Now, we don`t know for sure, because these are the documents we`ve got.
What we surmise is that Boente is getting his ducks in a row, so he can
show these handwritten notes to people while preparing for his interview
with Mueller, or perhaps more directly, he`s preparing to hand over those
notes to Mueller as part of this interview.
Well, we have also obtained those handwritten notes. Notes from Dana
Boente on his conversations with James Comey while Comey was FBI director.
Specifically, we have obtained his notes from a conversation in which Comey
says he was pressured by the president about the Russia investigation.
This is key to the question of whether or not the president may be
criminally liable for obstruction of justice.
Comey told Congress in June after he was fired that the president had
pressured him on the Russia investigation in a phone call on March 30th of
last year. He told Congress, he told Congress, I can give you from his
testimony – quote, immediately after that conversation, I called acting
Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente to report the substance of the call
from the president.
This is a key, key matter in the question of whether the president could be
liable for obstruction. Comey says the president pressured him. The White
House responded by saying, no, the president did no such thing. Comey
says, hey, I`ve got corroborating evidence for my side of the story and
that corroborating evidence is that I told other senior Justice Department
and FBI officials about what happened between me and the president at the
time it happened.
Since then, Comey himself and a number of officials he says he told at the
time about the president`s behavior have all ended up on the proverbial
guillotine, right, including Comey himself, fired and attacked by the
president as a liar, attacked by Republicans and conservative media for
almost a year.
Also, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, fired and attacked in much the
same way. McCabe says it`s because he can corroborate Comey`s testimony
from his interactions with the president at the time.
Other people briefed by Comey at the time have also been mysteriously
demoted and/or attacked by the president ever since. He`s been picking off
those witnesses one by one.
Well, Dana Boente is one of those officials who Comey briefed at the time.
And yes, he did end up getting pushed out of the Justice Department in
mysterious circumstances this past fall and we don`t really get that yet.
But he`s at the FBI now as their general counsel, and we have now obtained
what we believe are Boente`s contemporaneous notes from his conversations
with Comey at the time of Comey`s troubling interactions with the president
from March 30th.
And those notes do corroborate in very striking terms exactly what Comey
says happened between him and the president. Before now, nobody has ever
seen these contemporaneous memos or notes from those interactions between
Comey and the president, but we`ve got them tonight and we`re going to show
them to you, next.
MADDOW: So our big news tonight is that we have obtained what we believe
is a copy of the handwritten notes that Justice Department official Dana
Boente took on March 30th, 2017, when he got a phone call that day from FBI
director James Comey. On that date, Dana Boente was the acting deputy
attorney general of the United States. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was
recused from overseeing the Russia investigation and so, Dana Boente on
that date was in charge of overseeing all strands of the FBI investigation
into the Russia matter.
Now, special counsel Robert Mueller had not yet been appointed. That
wouldn`t happen until several weeks later after FBI Director James Comey
was fired. So, on the occasion of this call from which we have photocopies
of the handwritten notes, you should know that Comey was still FBI director
and he was phoning Boente to report what had just happened between him and
Comey would later explain to Congress that he took notes himself on this
interaction with the president and others, and he briefed other senior
officials, senior law enforcement officials about this interaction with the
president and others because he believed those interactions were – for
lack of a better term or phrase – sort of important and unusual. He
wanted to make sure there was a record of those interactions.
Now, the president would later denounce James Comey as a liar, saying that
his accounts of his interactions with the president were not true. But now
for the first time we can compare Comey`s public statements about what he
says the president did, we can compare those public statements with the
notes taken by someone who Comey briefed about it that same day.
All right. You can see the heading here. First, it`s marked top secret.
And then that is crossed out and the cross-out is initialed by the head of
the counterintelligence division at the FBI, who also provided what amounts
to a cover letter to these notes, explaining that this top secret stamp was
basically affixed in error and these notes are not in fact classified.
Then, here`s the top line of the notes. Comey, March 30, 2017, 8:13 a.m.
The handwriting here is a little sketchy. We believe this to be Dana
Boente`s handwriting. And then it says here in the notes: cloud as a
result of Russia business. This makes running the country difficult.
That`s in Boente`s handwritten notes as what Comey described the president
as saying to him, to James Comey.
Compare that with what James Comey himself described publicly about that
interaction with the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You described two
phone calls that you received from President Trump. One on March 30 and
one on April 11, where he, quote, described the Russia investigation as a
cloud that was impairing his ability, end quote, as president and asked
you, quote, to lift the cloud, end quote.
How did you interpret that? And what did you believe he wanted you to do?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I interpreted that as he was frustrated
that the Russia investigation was taking up so much time and energy I think
he meant of the executive branch, but in the public square in general, and
it was making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Comey tells Congress that the Russia business was a cloud,
that the president believed was impairing his ability as president. That`s
what he said to Congress out loud. Comey explains that the same way to
Dana Boente, according to these notes.
Quote, cloud as a result of Russia business. This makes running the
country difficult. So that very closely tracks, his public testimony with
what he apparently told Dana Boente that day.
Here`s more from Comey`s written testimony to Congress that day. On the
morning of March 30th, the president called me at the FBI. He described
the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability to act
on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, he had
not been involved with hookers in Russia, he had always assumed he was
being recorded when in Russia. He asked what he could do to lift the
I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could
and that there would be great benefit, if we didn`t find anything, to our
having done the work well. The president agreed but then re-emphasized the
problems this was causing him. That is what James Comey testified in his
written testimony to Congress.
From these notes we have just obtained, it appears that is exactly what he
told Dana Boente the president said too. From Boente`s notes. Quote: what
can I do to relieve the cloud? Kept coming back to it, making it hard to
do business for the country. We will do the work well.
Again, Comey`s testimony to Congress about the president`s call to him on
March 30th about the Russia investigation closely tracking, including exact
phrases, closely tracking what these notes say he told Dana Boente about
the president`s call.
I`ve got two more. Actually and for this second to last one, let`s go back
to that Comey exchange with Feinstein. There will be a little overlap here
in the tape you just saw, but watch this to the end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: You described two phone calls that you received from President
Trump, one on March 30 and one on April 11, where he, quote, described the
Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability, end quote,
as president and asked you, quote, to lift the cloud, end quote. How did
you interpret that? And what did you believe he wanted you to do?
COMEY: I interpreted that as he was frustrated that the Russia
investigation was taking up so much time and energy. I think he meant of
the executive branch, but in the public square in general, and it was
making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his.
But what he asked me was actually narrower than that. So I think what he
meant by the cloud, and I could be wrong, but I think what he meant by the
cloud was the entire investigation is taking up oxygen and making it hard
for me to focus on the things I want to focus on. The ask was to get it
out that I, the president, am not personally under investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The ask was to get it out, that I, the president, am not
personally under investigation. That`s what Comey told Congress about the
president`s specific request to him in that call March 30th, 2017.
Here`s what Comey apparently told Boente that same day so there would be a
corroborating witness to this ask from the president. From Boente`s notes,
quote, reminded him we are not investigating you. That would be great to
So, Comey tells Congress what the president asked him to do was make a
public statement announcing the president wasn`t under investigation.
Comey apparently used that same description when he called Dana Boente that
day to brief him on the president`s behavior.
All right, last one. Part of the obstruction of justice concern here is
that the president shouldn`t have been calling James Comey anyway,
shouldn`t have been making this direct call to the FBI director about an
ongoing investigation. The president shouldn`t be having one-on-one solo
communication with the FBI director about matters actively under
Now, Comey explained to Congress that according to the rules, he shouldn`t
be talking to the president about this stuff alone at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Did you go to anyone at
the Department of Justice and ask them to call the White House counsel`s
office and explain that the president had to have a far better
understanding and appreciation of his role vis-a-vis the FBI?
COMEY: In general, I did. I spoke to the attorney general and I spoke to
the new deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein, when he took office and
explained my serious concern about the way in which the president is
interacting, especially with the FBI. And I specifically as I said in my
testimony asked the – told the attorney general, it can`t happen that you
get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Told the attorney general it can`t happen that you get kicked out
of the room and the president talks to me. Meaning I can`t be having these
conversations with the president alone.
So, that`s what Comey told Congress. He says he let the Justice Department
know, he let the attorney general know, it can`t be that the attorney
general gets kicked out of the room and the president talks to the FBI
director alone. Can`t happen.
That`s what Comey says to Congress about what his conversations were like
on this subject, right? Well, it turns out the notes that we have obtained
indicate that he told Dana Boente the same thing. Quote: Told A.G. before
his recusal, I cannot be speaking with the president alone.
So, the FBI director, James Comey, told Congress about his basically
strange interactions with the president on the Russia investigation. He
says he had these interactions with the president that were about the
Russia investigation that were strange and then the president fired him.
The president later told visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office and
he told Lester Holt on NBC news that the firing of James Comey did have to
do with the Russia investigation. The president just yesterday made public
claims that firing James Comey was the right thing to do. The president
has spent the last year denouncing James Comey as a liar, saying he`s
somebody who lied publicly about his interactions with the president before
he was fired by the president.
Well, these notes which we believe are Dana Boente`s firsthand handwritten
notes from his conversation with Comey after that March 30th call, this is
the first contemporaneous evidence that we, the public, have seen of what
James Comey told other public officials at the time about the president`s
behavior. And as best as we can tell, it absolutely matches his public
statements about the president`s behavior.
Now, we have a few other documents that we have obtained that we are still
reporting out. This is what we`ve got so far.
I should tell you, we have reached out to the Justice Department, no
comment. We`ve reached out to the FBI, no comment. We`ve reached out to
James Comey, no comment. Dana Boente, no comment.
But we`re working on changing as much of those as we can.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we`ve been talking tonight about a new set of documents that
we`ve obtained exclusively. We believe they are the handwritten notes of
former Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, who`s now the current general
counsel of the FBI. These are notes that appear to memorialize what FBI
Director James Comey told Dana Boente about pressure he got from the
president on the Russia investigation, specifically in a phone call on
March 30th, 2017.
These notes we believe show James Comey saying in private to Dana Boente on
the day of that conversation very much the same thing that he told the
Senate later under oath after the president had fired him.
Quote, what can I do to relieve the cloud? Kept coming back to it makes it
hard to do business for the country. We will do the work well.
All of that echoing almost to the exact phrase the way Comey described the
president`s behavior and statements under oath later to the Senate.
Also, this note in which Comey appears to have told Dana Boente, quote,
told A.G. before recusal, I cannot be speaking with the president alone.
Joining us now is Jed Shugerman. He`s a professor at the Fordham
University School of Law. He has been an eloquent legal observer in this
matter. Mr. Shugerman, thank you for being here.
JED SHUGERMAN, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Well, thanks for having
MADDOW: Let me just ask your top line response here. I have been very
enmeshed in authenticating these documents, figuring out the relevance,
trying get comment from all people involved. I feel like I`m sort of
seeing the trees but not the forest.
Now that you have just learned this information as our viewers have, what
is your reaction?
SHUGERMAN: Well, it was quite – this is quite a story that you have and I
was interested in how I think this does a couple of things. One is this
starts building the case or is part of building a case for obstruction of
So, my view has been that firing Comey by itself was enough, was sufficient
arguably to build an obstruction of justice case under statutes. To build
that case, you need to establish, quote, corrupt intent. And so, you can
only get into the mind of Trump through a couple of things. It helped that
he told Lester Holt, as you said, on NBC, I fired Comey because –
MADDOW: I was thinking of the Russia –
SHUGERMAN: – I was thinking of the Russia investigation. He tells
Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office the day after he fired Comey that`s
what he was doing.
But a prosecutor will want to go backward and say, this is part of a
MADDOW: So, even if it`s just the firing itself that is the act of
obstruction of justice, previous meetings and previous contacts between the
president and the person he fired leading up to the firing end up being
legally important because they go to the president`s state of mind, the
why, as to why the firing happened and whether or not it was an illegal
SHUGERMAN: That`s exactly right. For a criminal prosecution, you need two
big pieces. One is a bad act, which would be in this case firing Comey.
And then you need the mental element, the mens rea, which is what was in
the person`s mind, what were they intending.
And so, that intent, we have lots of pieces of evidence. Comey`s testimony
suggests that there`s this background leading up to the firing. But
contemporaneous notes show that it`s not just a he said/he said, but that
you also have Comey with contemporaneous notes and backed up by people he
spoke to with those notes.
So, it`d be very important not just to compare Boente`s comments with
Comey`s testimony, Comey has contemporaneous notes. It would be really
important for a prosecutor to line up Comey`s notes and show that they are
consistent from the contemporaneous notes of Boente.
MADDOW: So in terms of evidence of what happened between Comey and the
president, understanding what you just said about why that is potential for
any potential criminal case here about the president obstructing justice,
we know that Comey tells us he took notes and we know that those memos were
shared with other people and we believe they were also shared with the
Mueller investigation. We know that he also at least in this case with
Boente appears to have orally briefed other people contemporaneously in
that moment and they took notes.
I mean, I`m getting pretty good at reading Dana Boente`s handwriting. This
seems to me like very detailed information, including quotation marks
around specific phrases.
SHUGERMAN: That`s right.
MADDOW: How does a court evaluate the authenticity – not the
authenticity, I guess the veracity of remarks like that?
MADDOW: I mean, does the weight of them, the number of them matter?
SHUGERMAN: Well, you can`t really carbon date from a year ago, right?
SHUGERMAN: But you look at the notes, it`s not just a sliver or a cutout.
You`d see that the notes are taken over time. And you`d ask a jury to look
at it and you`d have to establish these notes look like they were over a
series of weeks that they look like they are in a flow of a narrative.
So that would be a way to authenticate. And, you know, it`s not like
there`s a perfect science about this, but when you line up notes together
and you show that they are contemporaneous, that`s a way that they do it.
But I do want to emphasize one other thing which is for this obstruction of
justice case, it seems like if Boente is taking these kind of detailed
notes which are so consistent with what Comey`s testimony, I want to go
back to February 14th, Valentine`s Day, where there was a conversation
between Trump and Comey where he says to Flynn – he says to Comey, Flynn
is a good guy. Flynn had just resigned the day before.
MADDOW: Just been fired, immediately, right.
SHUGERMAN: And on February 14th, he goes to Comey and he says, Flynn is a
good guy. How about letting him go?
That is a more – that`s a more direct intervention into a criminal
investigation. That`s more than just saying can you lift a cloud. I don`t
think you can base an obstruction case on a conversation about lifting a
But if it`s a part of a chain of events, including that key February 14th
conversation about Flynn, that`s Trump getting into this investigation
trying to obstruct the investigation of Flynn. And that`s also important
because you remember this tweet that Trump wrote that John Dowd said, oh, I
wrote that tweet.
SHUGERMAN: This is December 3rd of the past year. Maybe a reason John
Dowd is no longer the president`s lawyer because John Dowd may have been –
he said, I wrote that tweet. The tweet said, I had to fire Flynn.
MADDOW: Because he lied to the FBI.
SHUGERMAN: Because he lied to the FBI. Now, that is not what Trump ever
claimed before, but it is – he said he lied to the vice president. That`s
what was the claim.
It`s not a crime to lie to the vice president, but it is a crime to lie to
the FBI. And then when the tweet says he lied to the FBI and that`s why I
fired him, it means that Trump knew at least as evidence from this tweet.
SHUGERMAN: Now, so did Trump – did Comey with his notes, he says and go
back to his published testimony before the Senate. On the bottom of page 5
and the top of page 6, Comey says from that February 14th conversation
where Trump said let Flynn go, he says I spoke to the deputy attorney
general who was at that time the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of
MADDOW: Dana Boente.
SHUGERMAN: Dana Boente.
SHUGERMAN: So we don`t – I don`t know that we`ve seen these notes from
Boente, but this – what you`ve broken tonight suggests that Boente was
keeping these notes all along the way. I would be very curious if Boente
also has notes from that pivotal February 14th conversation, which in
itself could be the basis of an obstruction case.
MADDOW: And what`s less important than the fact that we have these notes
and have published them now is that we believe that he`s handed them to
MADDOW: Jed Shugerman, professor at Fordham University Law School – it`s
great to have you here. Thank you very much.
SHUGERMAN: Yes, thanks very much.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
All right. Much more to come. Stay with us tonight.
MADDOW: I mentioned this a few minutes ago. Here is this new report from
“The New York Times.” Quote: The president sought to fire Robert Mueller
in December. Quote, in early December, President Trump, furious over news
reports about a new round of subpoenas from the office of special counsel,
told advisers in no uncertain terms that Robert Mueller`s investigation had
to be shut down.
Quote: The president`s anger was fueled by reports that the subpoenas were
for obtaining information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank.
Quote, in the hours that followed, Mr. Trump`s initial anger over the
Deutsche Bank reports, his lawyers and advisers worked quickly to learn
about the subpoenas, and ultimately were told by Mueller`s office that the
reports weren`t accurate, leading the president to back down.
This will be the second reported instance in which the president is said to
have told top White House staffers that Robert Mueller had to go. “The
Times” previously reported that Trump sought to fire Mueller in June last
summer, but he backed down when his White House counsel refused to give the
I should also tell you tonight that CNN is reporting that the president is
also actively currently considering firing Rod Rosenstein, the deputy
attorney general. That`s according to multiple people familiar with the
discussions. CNN reporting that Rosenstein`s firing is one of several
options being considered by the president. Another includes firing the
attorney general, Jeff Sessions. This is all in response to the FBI`s raid
yesterday on the office of Trump`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Quote: Officials say if Trump acts, Rosenstein is his most likely target.
But it`s unclear whether even such a dramatic firing like that will be
enough to satisfy the president.
Joining us now is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee,
Congressman Adam Schiff.
Congressman Schiff, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMTITEE: My
MADDOW: A bunch of breaking news tonight. I first want to get your
reaction to these reports tonight that the president is actively
considering firing the deputy attorney general who oversees the Russia
investigation, and that he took steps to try to fire Robert Mueller in
SCHIFF: Well, it looks certainly like part of a pattern if indeed the
president fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation, and these
notes by Dana Boente certainly corroborate James Comey, and Andrew McCabe`s
also strongly corroborative James Comey. And you follow on with the
following of either Rosenstein or Mueller for the reason of trying to
obstruct an investigation that may lead to him, that looks like a part of a
And you see these reports of discussions in the White House that they`re
trying to concoct a justification for getting rid of Rod Rosenstein. Maybe
they could pin it on his memo talking about how James Comey should not have
been discussing the Clinton e-mail investigation. You really have to chase
down a rabbit hole to even understand how that theory is supposed to work.
They`re going to fire Rod Rosenstein because he did what the president
asked and produced a memo, assuming that`s how the memo came about.
So, it does look like a growing body of evidence that the president is
trying to obstruct an investigation that may lead to him.
MADDOW: These new notes that we have reported on tonight from Dana Boente,
Dana Boente has been an unusually large number of different law enforcement
positions that had an important relationship to the Russia investigation.
He was the Eastern District of Virginia U.S. attorney when that office,
prosecutors at that office were pursuing grand jury inquiries into both
Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort.
As acting attorney general, he oversaw the Russia investigation. As acting
deputy attorney general, after Jeff Sessions was recused, he also oversaw
the entire investigation. As head of the National Security Division, he
signed off on charges against Manafort.
And now as general counsel of the FBI, he is in an unusual position with
the FBI facing these attacks from the president and Republicans who are
hostile to this investigation. We`re reporting tonight that Boente has
been summoned to give an interview as a witness to the Mueller
Does that strike you as important?
SCHIFF: It does, and for this reason – as a prosecutor, before you embark
on these interviews of people who corroborate James Comey, you have to ask
one fundamental question. And that is, let`s assume everything James Comey
said was true. Does that constitute evidence of obstruction of justice?
Would that make a case of obstruction of justice?
And I agree that the suggestion or the dictate from the president that
Comey dropped the Flynn case is the single most significant action that the
president asked for. But if your answer is no, then you don`t do those
interviews. But if your answer is, if we can accept or prove what Comey
said was true, that would constitute obstruction of justice, then you do go
through these interviews.
So, it is significant I think that not only Dana Boente, but Andy McCabe
and others are likely being brought before the special counsel. I also
think it`s significant, Rachel, that each of these witnesses that
corroborate James Comey has been the subject of either firing or
disciplinary action or attack by the president or his allies.
So, you look at Baker, who was the prior general counsel for Comey has been
the subject of attack. Rybicki, the chief of staff has been the subject of
attack. Comey has been fired and the subject of attack. Boente and McCabe
was fired before his pension could vest at the urging of the president.
So, all of those witnesses who corroborate James Comey or are in a position
to do so, have been in the situation of efforts to undermine them. And I
don`t think that`s a coincidence.
MADDOW: Let me ask you specifically when it comes to Dana Boente. It
remains a mystery to me, and it may be absolutely innocent. It may have
nothing to do with this overall Russia scandal.
But it remains a strange story to me that Dana Boente was removed from the
Justice Department. NBC and MSNBC`s reporting is that Boente, although he
resigned was directed that he should resign both as head of the National
Security Division and as head of the Eastern District of Virginia U.S.
attorney`s office. Part of the reason we were able to report that out is
because Dana Boente had told people just a few days before that supposed
resignation that he was looking forward to getting back to the Eastern
District of Virginia and running that U.S. attorney`s office full time.
That happened right around the time that Paul Manafort was indicted for the
first time. We know that Boente signed off on those charges. Do you know
anything as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee about why Boente
was fired? About who fired him? Or about whether it was related to this
SCHIFF: I don`t know the answer to that. And the only thing that occurs
to me is if there were some issue with Dana Boente that could give the
president or any of his people a cause to have an issue with him, you would
think it would be unlikely that he would be brought in as general counsel
for the FBI.
SCHIFF: So, I don`t know the reason why he was fired from those two
positions or forced to resign from them. But given that he was taken on by
Director Wray, who I`m sure is trying to dot every I and cross every T, it
may be unlikely to happen if he was pushed out over his handling of the
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee – really appreciate your time here tonight, sir, on
very a busy night. Thank you for being here.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. That does it for tonight. Thank you for being with
us. We`ll see you tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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