The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 5/11/2017

Guests:
Laurence Tribe, Matt Miller, Paul Butler, Michael Scherer, E.J. Dionne, David Frum, Ron Klain, Laurence Tribe
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again

tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good

evening, Lawrence. 

 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD:  Rachel, I was watching your

opening segment tonight with this extraordinary reporting on Paul Manafort.

 

And I promised on Twitter that I would give you one, two, three, or as many

minutes as you need to summarize that story once again.

 

I think we need to hear it a second time.  Stunning reporting that Paul

Manafort has not registered as a foreign agent, which everyone assumed he

did.  You`ve discovered he hasn`t and that tells us – go ahead.

 

MADDOW:  Well, he – so he made public statements that never said I am

registering as a foreign agent, but really made everybody believe that he

was going to.

 

You know, headlines coast-to-coast, all over the country never corrected

saying that he was about to register, and he didn`t.

 

And we`ve been looking into why that might be.  Because Manafort`s

spokesman has been forthcoming about the fact that his – that his client,

that Paul Manafort has been having overt discussions with federal

authorities about his foreign work, about his political consulting in

foreign countries.

 

Now that as far as we can tell would be the Department of Justice because

that too has jurisdiction over the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

 

He is saying that within – with – having this consultation with these

federal authorities, he is taking appropriate steps around this matter,

leading everybody to believe he would register, and he never did.

 

The interesting thing there is two-fold.  Number one, we have seen other

people involved in this, namely, Mike Flynn register retroactively as a

foreign agent, apparently after consulting with the Justice Department.

 

Raising interesting questions about whether or not he is being pressured to

become a cooperating witness because of the threat of prosecuting him for

his previous unregistered work on behalf of foreign governments.

 

That pressure you can see them exerting on Mike Flynn.  Why would they not

be exerting that same pressure on Paul Manafort?

 

It just raises interesting questions about the disparate treatment of these

two people, and whether or not Manafort is getting the same kind of

pressure.

 

The other difference we`ve got between Flynn and Manafort is that Jeff

Sessions has said overtly that he at the Department of Justice is recused

from any matter involving Mike Flynn.

 

We thought when we started calling the Justice Department about this, that

they would tell us that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also recused from

matters involving Paul Manafort since Manafort was the Trump campaign

chairman.

 

The Justice Department will not say that.  They`ve told us a million other

things.  They gave us paragraph-long stories about what recusal is and

where it comes from.

 

And this whole idea of recusal and oh, it`s a big question.  And what do

you really mean by that? And we went after – back at them again and again

and again and again.

 

And considering just publishing our back and forth between me and the

Justice Department – 

 

O`DONNELL:  I hope you do because some of it involves Rachel Maddow.  You

were on – your staff was making calls, but you got on the phone yourself

to the Justice Department to say is Jeff Sessions recused from matters

involving Paul Manafort, which could involve – which do involve Ukraine

and Russia?

 

And if he is – if he`s – if he`s recused on Russia, he must be recused on

Manafort and there is no answer –

 

MADDOW:  They will not say.  I wasn`t on the phone, I was on the keyboard

but that means that –

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes –

 

MADDOW:  Our whole back and forth actually have in writing.  So I mean, I

remain convinced that the Justice Department has an answer to this

question, it`s either yes or no.

 

He`s recused or he`s not.  They won`t – they won`t tell us yes or no. 

Which leads me to believe – leads me to suppose that Sessions is not

recused from matters involving Paul Manafort.

 

And given that Manafort has been named in open source reporting as

potentially being involved in investigations related to his foreign agents

stuff, related to his potential money laundering stuff, obviously related

to Trump campaign Russia ties and all these things.

 

If he is involved in any investigations like that which are currently going

through the Justice Department and the FBI.

 

And Jeff Sessions has his thumb on any of those scales, that`s a very big

story.  And we need to hear a clarifying statement from the Justice

Department about that.

 

Because Jeff Sessions is going to have to explain –

 

O`DONNELL:  And then – and then – 

 

MADDOW:  If he is not recused.

 

O`DONNELL:  And then quickly, Rachel, as my other guests await –

 

MADDOW:  Yes –

 

O`DONNELL:  If Paul Manafort is getting guidance from the Justice

Department about how to comport himself, and that guidance does not

include, oh, by the way, you must retroactively register.

 

Does that mean that Paul Manafort is a cooperating witness with the Justice

Department, with the FBI investigation?

 

And is he talking about what he knows about the Trump campaign`s

interactions with Russia?

 

MADDOW:  We have –

 

O`DONNELL:  That`s one of the other questions –

 

MADDOW:  We have –

 

O`DONNELL:  That you left for us –  

 

MADDOW:  Exactly, we have no – we have no way of knowing, but when you

want somebody to become a cooperating witness, usually you pressure them

with things that you can prosecute them for.

 

That`s what we`re all looking for signs of.  And in this case, it`s

disparate signs from Flynn and Manafort with no explanation. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Rachel, thanks, great reporting.  I had to follow it up when I

saw you do it and we`ve made the promise to Twitter and now we delivered. 

Thank you, Rachel –

 

MADDOW:  Thank you for letting me eat five minutes of your show.  Thanks,

Lawrence. 

 

O`DONNELL:  It`s all worth it, thank you.

 

MADDOW:  Appreciate it.

 

O`DONNELL:  We have breaking news tonight from the “New York Times”

disputing what President Trump told Lester Holt today about James Comey.

 

President Trump said today that James Comey requested a private dinner with

the president in order to ask that he, James Comey continue in his job as

FBI director, even though he was in the middle of a ten-year appointment.

 

Associates of Mr. Comey are now telling the “New York Times” tonight that

that is simply not true.  The dinner was requested by the president, and

the FBI director felt that he could not refuse a meeting with the

president.

 

The FBI director told associates that the president demanded loyalty from

Mr. Comey at that dinner.  Mr. Comey refused to pledge loyalty to the

president.

 

And according to the “Times”, Mr. Comey told President Trump that the

president would best be served by an independent FBI and Justice

Department.

 

Nine months before he was driven out of office at the threat of

impeachment, the president of the United States said this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

RICHARD NIXON, LATE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And in all of

my years in public life, I have never obstructed justice.

 

And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I

welcome this kind of examination.

 

Because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. 

Well, I am not a crook.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Forty four years later, the president of the United States said

this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I said if it`s possible,

will you let me know am I under investigation? He said you are not under

investigation.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  That was President Trump`s I am not a crook moment.  It

happened today in an extraordinary interview conducted by Nbc`s Lester Holt

in which the president made everyone in the White House who has commented

on the firing of James Comey a liar. 

 

The vice president, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and others, publicly lied

when they said that the president`s decision to fire James Comey was based

entirely on the recommendation of the deputy Attorney General and the

Attorney General which the president received the very same day that he

fired James Comey.

 

Here is President Trump telling Lester Holt that all of those people, all

of them lied.  And that there is never a reason, there is never a reason to

take seriously anything that anyone working in the Trump White House says.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Yes, he is a showboat.  He is a grandstander.  The FBI has been in

turmoil, you know that, I know that, everybody knows that.

 

You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil less than

a year ago.  It hasn`t recovered from that.

 

LESTER HOLT, JOURNALIST:  Monday you met with the deputy Attorney General

Rod Rosenstein. 

 

TRUMP:  Right. 

 

HOLT:  Did you ask for a recommendation?

 

TRUMP:  What I did is I was going to fire Comey – my decision.  It was not

–   

 

HOLT:  You had made the decision before they came out – 

 

TRUMP:  I was going to fire Comey.  There`s no good time to do it, by the

way.  They will –

 

HOLT:  Because in your letter, you said I accepted their recommendations –

 

TRUMP:  Yes, well, they also –

 

HOLT:  You had already made the decision. 

 

TRUMP:  Oh, I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation.  He made

a recommendation.  He is highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy.

 

The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him.  He made a recommendation

but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The president – the president might have changed the White

House story because of a report in “The Washington Post” saying that “the

deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign after the

narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a

prime mover of the decision to fire Comey, and that the president acted

only on his recommendation.”

 

The “Wall Street Journal” reports “Rosenstein pressed White House Counsel

Don McGahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate White House depiction

of the events surrounding FBI Director James Comey`s firing.”

 

Lester Holt asked the president about the strangest firing letter ever

written by a president of the United States.  

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

HOLT:  Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey.  You

write: “I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions

that I am not under investigation.”  When did you put that in there? 

 

TRUMP:  Because he told me that.  I mean, he told me that.

 

HOLT:  He told you, you weren`t under investigation –

 

TRUMP:  Yes, and I –

 

HOLT:  With regard to the Russia investigation? – 

 

TRUMP:  I`ve heard that – I`ve heard that from others.  I think it`s –

 

HOLT:  Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face-to-face?

 

TRUMP:  I had a dinner with him.  He wanted to have dinner because he

wanted to stay on.  We had a very nice dinner at the White House very early

on –   

 

HOLT:  He asked –

 

TRUMP:  That dinner was arranged.  I think he asked for the dinner.  And he

wanted to stay on as the FBI head.

 

And I said, you know, consider, we`ll see what happens.  But we had a very

nice dinner, and at that time he told me you`re not under investigation,

which I knew anyway. 

 

HOLT:  That was one meeting, where was the other two? –

 

TRUMP:  First of all, when you`re under investigation, they give you all

sorts of documents and everything, I knew I wasn`t under.

 

And I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level that I

wasn`t.  Number one –

 

HOLT:  So that didn`t come –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

TRUMP:  Then during the phone call he said it, and then during another

phone call he said it.  So, he said it once at dinner and then he said it

twice during phone calls. 

 

HOLT:  Did you call him?

 

TRUMP:  In one case I called him, in one case he called me. 

 

HOLT:  And did you ask him am I under investigation?

 

TRUMP:  I actually, I said yes.  I said if it`s possible, will you let me

know am I under investigation? He said you are not under investigation. 

 

HOLT:  But he is given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing

investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the

Russian government.

 

You were the centerpiece of the Trump –

 

TRUMP:  No –

 

HOLT:  Campaign, so was he being truthful when he said – 

 

TRUMP:  All I can tell you is, well, I know that –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

I know that I`m not under investigation, me, personally, I`m not talking

about campaigns, I`m not talking about anything else.  I`m not under

investigation. 

 

HOLT:  Did you ask him to drop the investigation?

 

TRUMP:  No, never.

 

HOLT:  Did anyone from the White House –

 

TRUMP:  No, in fact, I wanted the investigation speeded up.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The president still cannot bring himself to say anything

negative about Russia.  He cannot admit that Russia interfered with our

election.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election

having to do with Russia – or by the way anybody else, any other country.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  If there was a problem with Russia in our election, there is

the president and Lester Holt trying to suggest that there was either no

interference in our election, or no interference from Russia, or that there

could have been interference from some other country.

 

At a Senate hearing today, all the president`s men who run the agencies

involved in intelligence and counterterrorism agree that Russia did

interfere in our election.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA:  Do you believe that the January 2017

intelligence committee`s assessment accurately characterized the extent of

Russian activities in the 2016 election?

 

And its conclusion that Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for

the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation in order to

influence our elections? A simple yes or no would suffice. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I do, yes, sir.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, senator. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The new director of the FBI, acting Director Andrew McCabe made

his first public comments today at that hearing.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

RUBIO:  Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted,

stopped, or negatively impacted any of the work, any investigation, or any

ongoing projects at the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

 

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION:  Quite

simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing

the right thing, protecting the American people, and upholding the

constitution.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would it have been wrong for the director to inform him

he was not under investigation? That`s not about conversations, that`s a

yes or no answer. 

 

MCCABLE:  As you know, senator, we typically do not answer that question. 

I will not comment on whether or not the director and the president of the

United States had that conversation.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will you refrain from these kinds of alleged updates to

the president or anyone else in the White House on the status of the

investigation?

 

MCCABLE:  I will.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, David Frum; senior editor for “The Atlantic”,

Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and Al Gore

and a senior aide to President Obama.

 

He was also a former chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And

David Frum, this latest report tonight, Comey associates telling the “New

York Times” the president requested that Director Comey come to that

dinner.

 

The president earlier today telling Lester Holt saying, oh, I think – I

think that Comey asked for the dinner.

 

And how long do you imagine that the president imagined he was going to be

able to get away with his version of these interactions with James Comey?

 

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC:  Well, who talks that way? You

know, even –

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes –

 

FRUM:  The presidents who`ve had the strongest feudal sense of their

powers, Lyndon Johnson, for example.

 

If they were given somebody – like the FBI this treatment, they would have

ways of asking for that where they would indicate, you know, I know what –

you know what I`m saying.

 

I know what I`m saying, but I`m not going to say it.  Because if I say it,

I`m in dangerous territory.  There is something kind of like – just Donald

Trump get these ideas of how to behave from mafia movies?

 

Who talks like this? And of course – by the way, Sarah Huckabee has denied

it so we know it`s true.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, Ron Klain, what are the restrictions now on what James

Comey can come out and publicly say and not say?

 

For example, when the president does an interview with Lester Holt and

starts describing these interactions with James Comey, does that open it up

then for James Comey and allow him to come out publicly and say, no, I did

not request a dinner with the president?

 

This is what happened at that dinner.  This is what was said.  He asked –

he basically demanded loyalty of me.  How much of that can James Comey now

say?

 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN:  Well, I think he can say

all of that, Lawrence, I think he obviously can`t reveal any classified

information.

 

But I don`t think classified information is the question.  I think if the

president is going to put words in James Comey`s mouth, it`s within his

rights and knows the American people, an accounting of what actually did

happen.

 

What actually did he say? Did he actually say three times you`re not under

investigation? Did he actually – was he summoned to this dinner and asked

for loyalty or did he ask for?

 

These are all fair questions I hope that he will answer them.  I hope that

Congress will ask them.  I hope Congress will finally after today`s

incredible events, insane events, Congress will finely get some backbone

and start to, you know, get serious about some of investigations of what`s

happened here.

 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s look at one of the parts of the interview with Lester

Holt today where he talks about cooperation with the Congress.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Knowing there was no good time to do it and, in fact, when I

decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia

thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

 

When I did this now, I said I probably maybe will confuse people.  Maybe

I`ll expand that, you know, I`ll lengthen the time because it should be

over with, it should in my opinion should been over with a long time ago.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  All right, that wasn`t the piece I was asking for.  We`ll come

back to the piece I was asking for.  But David Frum, that raises what

everyone is saying sounds like the president is thinking about firing the

FBI director.

 

When he thinks about firing the FBI director, he thinks about the Russia

investigation.

 

FRUM:  Right. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And then he says to himself, it`s OK, I can fire the guy

running the Russia investigation because I think the Russia investigation

is fake.

 

FRUM:  There is something else in that clip.  When the president says there

is no good time to do it, actually there was a good time to do something.

 

If a president who had lost the popular vote, and he knew that many

Democrats whom he – whose support he would need for things felt that the

election had been unfairly influenced by the FBI.

 

If he called them in on the day after the inauguration, and said look, I

don`t agree with you about what happened in this election, but I do agree

with you that we need a new page at the FBI.

 

If you`d like to give me your suggestion, I`m going to ask the director for

his resignation because he`s lost your confidence.

 

He will give me some recommendations? He could have put his administration

on a different kind of footing to do that on the very first day.

 

To do it at this point with so many lies so obviously to protect himself,

yes, that`s not a good day, it`s not a good reason.

 

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, there`s a piece of this Lester Holt interview that I

know you`re particularly interested in, I want to show that, and we`ll talk

about it after we listen to it.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

HOLT:  The Senate Intelligence Committee wants information from the

Treasury Department`s Financial Crimes Unit about your finances, your

business` finance.  Can you –

 

TRUMP:  Yes –

 

HOLT:  Tell us whether you, your family, your businesses, your surrogates

have accepted any investments, any loans from Russian individuals?

 

TRUMP:  Yes, in fact I just sent a letter –

 

HOLT:  Or is divisions –

 

TRUMP:  To Lindsey Graham from one of the most prestigious law firms in the

country.

 

A tremendous, highly rated law firm that I have nothing to do with Russia. 

I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Ron, your interpretation of that. 

 

KLAIN:  Well, since the president in that interview with regard to his

letter firing James Comey admitted that he lied in that letter, I`m not

sure why we should take much solace from his new statement about a new

letter about Russian investments.

 

And two things in that, Lawrence.  The first thing is that even his

representations are very limited.  He doesn`t have investments in Russia,

that doesn`t mean Russia doesn`t have big investments in him.

 

So he parsed his words very carefully.  And finally, if the president wants

us to take him seriously on this, he should stop sending letters.

 

He should send us a FedEx package that contains his tax returns.  Because

his tax returns – not more self-serving letters is what`s going to put

this issue to rest.

 

O`DONNELL:  David Frum, Ron Klain, thank you both for joining –

 

FRUM:  Thank you –

 

O`DONNELL:  Us tonight, really appreciate it.

 

KLAIN:  Thanks, Lawrence –

 

FRUM:  Thank you.

 

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe will join us,

we`ll get his reaction to the loyalty oath that President Trump demanded of

James Comey.

 

And later, the president attacked James Comey today in his Lester Holt

interview, but in that same interview, the president defended Michael

Flynn.

 

Why that worries White House lawyers, that`s coming up.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICO:  Director McCabe, you obviously have

several decades of law enforcement experience.  Is it your experience that

people who are innocent of wrongdoing typically need to be reassured that

they`re not the subject of an investigation?

 

MCCABE:  No, sir.   

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I said if it`s possible, will you let me know am I under

investigation? He said you are not under investigation.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  You can ask the FBI director if you`re under investigation.  I

can ask the FBI director if I am under investigation.

 

But can you ask the FBI director if you`re under investigation if you`re

the president of the United States and you have the power to fire the FBI

director?

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Isn`t it inappropriate for the president of the United

States to ask the FBI director directly if he is under investigation?

 

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No, I don`t

believe it is.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But one of these conversations the president said

happened at a dinner where the FBI director according to the president was

asking to stay on as FBI director.

 

Don`t you see how that`s a conflict of interest? The FBI director is saying

he wants to keep his job, and the president is asking whether or not he is

under investigation?

 

SANDERS:  I don`t see that as a conflict of interest, and neither do the

many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last

hour. So no, I don`t see that as an issue.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now – joining us now Laurence Tribe; Harvard Law

Professor.  Professor Tribe, so, I can ask the FBI director if I`m under

investigation.

 

But if I have the power to fire the FBI director, I`m president of the

United States, what are the implications of me then asking the FBI director

if I`m under investigation?

 

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR OF LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL:  Well, it`s much

worse than just a conflict of interest.

 

You`re essentially dangling in front of the person that is supposed to be

investigating the chaos swirling around you, and perhaps you.

 

You`re basically saying if you will assure me that I am not going to be

under investigation, then maybe I`ll keep you on.

 

We`ll see what happens.  I mean, he – it`s essentially the language of

bribery.  It`s the language of the underworld, of racketeering, not the

language of a president who is supposed to be enforcing the rule of law.

 

It`s staggering.  I mean, for all of the bizarre things that have happened

in these 112 or 113 days, this is really like the 13th chime of a clock. it

makes the whole thing come apart.

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, and this is what the president is claiming today in his

conversation with Lester Holt.  We don`t know if it`s true because of

course, it was Donald Trump talking.

 

But James Comey now has let it be known to the “New York Times” through

associates that yes, there was a dinner.  James Comey says that the

president invited him to that dinner, and he felt that he couldn`t refuse a

meeting with the president.

 

And at that dinner, he was asked by the president to pledge his personal

loyalty to the president.  Your reaction to that, professor?

 

TRIBE:  My reaction is that it`s staggering.  I mean, if that is clearly on

its face obstruction of justice.  And it is characteristic of the way we

know Donald Trump talks and the way he`s behaved.

 

He only wants loyalists, yes men and perhaps some yes women around him. 

And in this case, what loyalty clearly means, and I think the statements

that Director Comey has made to close associates validate this view.

 

What it really means is can I count on you not to make me a target of this

investigation? That`s clearly an impermissible question.

 

So either Trump`s own account of the discussion is true, in which case he

is guilty of obstruction of justice in one respect, or much more likely

Comey`s account is true in which Comey gave him no assurances, said you can

count on me to be honest, but not to be reliable and not to swear fealty to

you.

 

My loyalty is to the law and to the constitution in which case, again,

Trump is guilty of attempting to suborn obstruction of justice.

 

Either way, as with the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon,

this is a series of high crimes and misdemeanors all by itself.

 

Regardless of whether Trump was or was not part of a collusive plot with

Russia to steal an American election.  I mean, some people have not drawn a

clear-enough distinction.

 

There are two kinds of impeachable offences here.  One, we don`t know

enough about yet to charge, and that is what is the truth of all of the

complicated interactions with Manafort and Stone and Flynn and the whole –

the whole – the whole catastrophe with Russia?

 

That`s the underlying conduct.  But whatever the underlying conduct,

sometimes the cover-up is at least as bad.

 

And in this case, the cover-up is now completely on its face.  I mean, by

changing the story as he did, by in effect hanging all of his staff and all

of his assistants and the vice president out to dry, and suddenly coming up

with a new truth, the president has made clear that he is trying to cover

up the cover up.

 

And I think that we are now in a situation where the only way to avoid

constitutional crisis is for members of Congress to basically get a spine

or grow a pair and really stand up to their responsibilities to the law.

 

O`DONNELL:  Laurence Tribe –

 

TRIBE:  So we need an independent counsel, but we also need an independent

act of Congress.

 

O`DONNELL:  Professor, you`ve joined a group called the shadow cabinet,

which is a group of 19 policy experts that will follow statements and

positions made by the President and his cabinet.

 

TRIBE:  Right.

 

O`DONELL:  And debunk and interpret as need. You`ll be in the role there as

the citizen attorney general in that shadow cabinet. I assume you will be

focusing mostly on this Russia investigation?  But you`re also been

focusing very heavy on emoluments.  Do those two things intersect?

 

TRIBE:   They certainly do. I mean when the President basically went out of

his what to say that, you know, I don`t have any investments in Russia, As

Ron Klain rightly said, Russia may have investments in him.  The emoluments

problem is a problem of divided loyalty.  And we have a lawsuit pending

against the President saying that he has so many foreign entanglements that

he is in constant violation of the constitution because basically he is in

a position of getting benefits from foreign governments, including perhaps

loans and owing things to foreign governments in violation of a basic

principle that the framers put in place to avoid having our President

corrupted by foreign powers.

 

And if we had Attorney General that we could trust, then there would be

direct investigation by the Justice Department into the President`s

violation of the emoluments clauses.  Instead we have to sue him.  And I

think we`re going to succeed in getting a judicial decree. So stay tuned.

 

O`DONELL:  Professor Laurence tribe, thank you very much for joining us

tonight.  It`s a great honor.

 

TRIBE:   Thank you.

 

O`DONELL:  Coming up, the most important thing that happened at the Senate

Committee hearing today happened backstage.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONELL:  The most important thing that happened at the senate

intelligence committee hearing today happened backstage.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

RICHARD BURR, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  Can I say for member, the vice chair

and I have to step out for a meeting that we can`t push off.  I would ask

Senator Harris, Senator Cotton to complete their first round of questions.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  I`ve seen hundreds of senate hearings. I`ve never seen a moment

like that.  The Republican and Democratic Leaders of the Committee both

have to leave for a meeting more important than the hearing they`re having

right there.  All the professionals in the room knew something huge was

going on. It turned out to be hastily arranged meeting for senator Richard

Burr and Senator Mark Warner With Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

who wrote the memo that was first credited by the Whitehouse as the reason

for firing James Comey.  Later, when reporters discovered who was in that

meeting, the Senators were asked this question -

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Did Director Comey come up at all in this meeting?

 

BURR:  Director Comey did not come up.  He was not the subject of it.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  Here is Chairman Burr`s explanation for having that meeting with

the Deputy Attorney General in the middle of a very important intelligence

committee hearing.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BURR:  Since the committee has an investigation going on that is very

similar to what the Department of Justice has going on, we felt that there

was a great need to set up a process for de-confliction so that when we had

witnesses that we needed to talk to, we made sure we weren`t stepping on

top of anything that might be an active investigation.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  Here is what Senator Warner had to say.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOHN WARNER, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  I think it was a productive session, 

But I still have concerns about Mr. Rosenstein in terms of his role in the

Comey departure in terms of the memo.  I expressed – and this is where the

Chairman and I just disagree in terms of the needs for this narrowly

tailored independent council. I expressed that concern to Mr. Rosenstein. 

He took it under advisement.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  Joining us Matt Miller, former Justice Department`s spokeman for

Attorney General Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor. Also joining us Paul

Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University and a former Federal

Prosecutor.  Matt, you know how these meetings get scheduled. I have to

say, I was quite struck to see this kind of meeting occurring in the middle

of a hearing in which both of the leaders of that committee had to get up

and leave this very important hearing.  It seems to put it mildly,

peculiar.

 

MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes.  It`s very peculiar, especially

because I think they said this meeting had been set up for some time.  The

Deputy Attorney General is a busy guy, obviously.  He is not so busy that

he can`t find time to meet with these two senators outside of a meeting. 

 

You suspect a couple things. one, the Senate Intelligence Committee really

does seem to be trying to step up its investigation.  Richard Burr a couple

of times, including a few weeks ago has been criticized publicly for slow

walking it.  And every time he is criticized publicly, he responds by

speeding up. But I think that`s what is going on.

 

But they also have to have real questions for Rod Rosenstein. I think

Senator Warner clearly does.  Rod Rosenstein was supposed to be the

institutionalist that would protect the Department of Justice and protect

its independence.  And in the last few days we see he clearly isn`t up to

that job.  So Senator Warner, you know, pressed him privately, pressed him

publically and I think the Senator will continue to press him to appoint a

special council.

 

O`DONELL: Let`s take a look at how awkward this meeting was For Senator

Warner because you`ve just heard Senator Warner say I still have concerns

about Mr. Rosenstein in terms of his role in the Comey departure.  Let`s

listen to the way he put that on this program.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WARNER:  I voted for this gentleman based upon his reputation in Maryland. 

But I am deeply disappointed.  And if I could have that vote back, I would

be voting a different way.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL: Paul Butler, I`ve never heard a senator say i would like to take

my confirmation vote back just weeks after that

 

 

PAUL BUTLER, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN:  And that`s the wrong approach.

Look, Lawrence, Rod Rosenstein, a man of utmost integrity got played by the

President of the United States.  The President asked him for his honest

opinion about Director Comey`s competency in office and what Rosenstein

said in that memo is the widely shared view of virtually every Federal

Prosecutor I know. That in October, when Director Comey called Hillary

Clinton everything but a child of God, said I`m not going to indict her,

but she basically has no integrity.

 

That that broke every rule in an ethical prosecutor`s playbook.  So he had

to go. The question is the timing.  The timing was lousy. But in terms of

the substance of what Rosenstein said in that memo.  That was on the up and

up.

 

O`DONELL:  Matt, but the memo – Rosenstein`s memo was entitled restoring

public confidence in the FBI.  Rosenstein then recommends an action to the

president that has destroyed public confidence in the FBI. And in his memo,

Rosenstein never mentions the public confidence in the FBI is dependent on,

among other things, how the Russia investigation is perceived. the Russia

investigation is never mentioned.

 

MILLER:  Yes, look, that memo is a farce. I mean we - I think we all know

that by now.  The President himself admitted today he had decided to fire

Comey before it. And what Rod Rosenstein did is provide the President the

cover he needed.  Yes, he got played. But he knew he was getting played and

he went along with it.

 

That is what is so troubling about what he did.  You know every Senior

Justice Department official knows, it`s one of the things you hear there

all the time, there may come a moment where you have your moment in history

where you can stand up to the President and do what`s right, or you can

buckle under political pressure and do what`s wrong.  And when Jeff

Sessions and Rod Rosenstein went over and met with the President, they both

buckled under pressure.  And again, I expected that kind of thing from Jeff

Session.

 

But Rod Rosenstein was supposed to be the one who would stand up.  He said

at his confirmation hearing he would stand up to political pressure and do

what was right. And when the moment came, he didn`t.  He wrote that memo

that is a complete farce.  We all know that`s not why James Comey was

fired.  And he gave the President the cover to do what he wanted to do to

try to quash this investigation

.

O`DONELL:  Paul Butler, you know Rod Rosenstein.  I just want to get your

reaction to The New York Times editorial saying to him – saying directly

to rod Rosenstein you have one choice.  Appoint a special counsel who is

independent of both the department and the Whitehouse.  Is that the best

choice for Rod Rosenstein at this point?

 

BUTLER:  You Know, I`ve known Rod for 25 years.  We were baby prosecutors

together doing public corruption cases in the Justice Department.  And when

you do those cases, you`re taught you have to prosecute just like you would

any common criminal.  You don`t treat them differently because they are a

politician. In fact, you set the politics aside.

 

So did Rosenstein know that Trump would take what he said and use it to his

political advantage.  Yes, he did.  At the same time, it was his honestly

brokered opinion.

 

I do think that means, though, now there is an impetus for Rosenstein to

appoint a special prosecutor.  The appearance of justice is as important as

justice itself. I actually think that Rosenstein.  He is leading this

investigation now.

 

Remember the investigation does not end with Comey`s departure.  It goes on

now under Rosenstein`s leadership.  I do think in terms of the appearance

of fairness that he needs to step aside.  He alone can appoint a special

prosecutor. He`s got more power in this matter than the President than the

Attorney General who had recused him selves.  He does need to exercise that

power appropriately and appoint an independent investigator.

 

O`DONELL:  Paul Butler gets the last word on it tonight. Matt Miller, thank

you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

 

BUTLER:  Great to be here.

 

MILLER:  Thank you.

 

O`DONELL:  Coming up, Whitehouse lawyers are now reportedly very worried

that President Trump continues to try to communicate with Michael Flynn,

who is under criminal investigation and Congressional investigation. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  According to a report in the Daily Beast, White House lawyers

continue to warn President Trump to stay away from Michael Flynn, the man

at the center of all of the investigations of Russian influence in the 2016

election.  Although the president eventually fired Michael Flynn 18 days

after first learning that the acting Attorney General believes Michael

Flynn could be blackmailed by Russians. 

 

The president still has nothing negative to say about the national security

adviser that he fired.  Here is what the president said to Lester Holt

today about Michael Flynn.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This man has served for many

years.  He is a general.  He is in my opinion a very good person.  I

believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don`t

even know and immediately run out and fire a general. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  But not a word about how many years James Comey has served in

government or whether he is a very good person.  Coming up, we will be

joined by someone who had dinner with President Trump the night before he

fired James Comey. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MARTIN HEINRICH, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  Is it accurate that the rank and

file no longer supported Director Comey?

 

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR:  No.  No sir, that is not accurate. 

Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this

day.  I can confidently tell you that the majority – the vast majority of

FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  That was the acting director of the FBI today in his first

public comments.  Joining us now, Michael Scherer, Washington Bureau Chief

for Time Magazine.  E. J. Dionne, opinion writer for the Washington Post

and MSNBC political analyst.  And Michael, you had dinner with Donald

Trump.  Did he - did he ask you to pledge loyalty to him at the dinner? 

The night before he fired Jim Comey.  Go ahead.

 

MICHAEL SCHERER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR TIME MAGAZINE:  He also said

that – he actually said we were also dishonest media. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, he did. 

 

SCHERER:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  You – there`s an interview transcript that you have out that`s

absolutely fascinating where he`s going along and he talks about dishonest

media and he said, oh, by the way, you are, too.  And I suppose he`s just

smiling when he says that.  Like that`s just part of the –

 

SCHERER:  He`s a very hospitable host, he`s very charming, he`s very

gracious, but it`s odd also because there is this hostility that underlies

it.  And there`s an irony to it.  But you know the whole night there was a

real sense that kept coming up, he kept bringing it up of aggrievement of

this feeling that the press had not treated him fairly that his story was

not getting out, that the many successes of his administration had not been

heard. 

 

You know that we watched parts with him of that day senate testimony and he

was heard giving us rather aggressive color commentary.  But His point was

that the way his story, the story of his presidency is being put forward is

not fair or honest or true, even as he was saying things that actually

aren`t true. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And E.J., this is the president who has been caught publicly

and moralized than any other president in history and his big complaint is

the way they talk about me isn`t true.  And now we have in the New York

Times tonight James Comey pushing back through associates, telling the New

York Times about this dinner with the president in direct contradiction to

what the president has said about that dinner. 

 

E. J. DIONNE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  I mean, first of all, I`m

glad trump didn`t make Michael sign a nondisclosure agreement the way he

forces everybody else to.  It`s really astonishing how the lies have fallen

a part in general, and you showed one where the acting director of the FBI

says their story about the FBI agents losing confidence in Comey was all

wrong. 

 

You had the whole initial rationale for the Comey firing falling apart

completely.  And now what you have is almost a kind of mafia-like, if I may

use that, dinner saying, you know are you with me or with the other gang to

the Chief Law Enforcement officer of the country and of course Comey said

I`m going to be loyal to the truth and justice and the things he`s supposed

to be loyal to.  I think it`s very significant that he`s letting that story

get out. 

 

I think Trump made a huge mistake today when he attacked Comey.  He`s a

show boat, he`s a grandstander, said the president without seemingly much

self awareness.  Comey and his loyalists in the FBI are not going to take

that lying down.  And I think this is going to cause realty trouble for him

later. 

 

O`DONNELL: And Michael, there seems to be no understanding in the White

House or in the president`s part that Comey can do as much damage to them

outside of the FBI as in these – the New York Times story tonight, for

example, as he may have been able to do inside the FBI?

 

SCHERER:  Yes, I think Trump is coming to terms with the fact that what has

worked for him throughout his career in business, in the campaign,

spectacularly, which is breaking and pushing the rules of the game, doesn`t

work quite as well in the White House.  There are lots of limits on the

most powerful person in the world and - and they don`t always just work

through courts.  They sometimes work through leaks as well. 

 

O`DONNELL:  E.J., quickly, before we go, I said at the top of the show that

this was the - the Nixon, I`m not a crook moment today when he`s saying I`m

not under investigation.  Did it feel like that for you? 

 

DIONNE:  It felt like that for me very much so.  And it also felt like that

this is a guy who knows how much trouble he is in and he is constantly

pushing it away and doesn`t want too admit it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to leave it right there.  Michael Scherer

and E. J. Dionne thank you for joining us tonight. 

 

DIONNE:  It`s great to be with you. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  We`re supposed to have some photographs up on the screen. 

There we are – of the president in the Oval Office with his Russian

visitors the other day. These, of course, were taken by Russian

photographers.  And now there is a worry that there was a breach of

security by allowing those people - those photographers in the Oval Office

with their electronic equipment because of course this was

 

 

 

END   

 

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RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again

tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good

evening, Lawrence. 

 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD:  Rachel, I was watching your

opening segment tonight with this extraordinary reporting on Paul Manafort.

 

And I promised on Twitter that I would give you one, two, three, or as many

minutes as you need to summarize that story once again.

 

I think we need to hear it a second time.  Stunning reporting that Paul

Manafort has not registered as a foreign agent, which everyone assumed he

did.  You`ve discovered he hasn`t and that tells us – go ahead.

 

MADDOW:  Well, he – so he made public statements that never said I am

registering as a foreign agent, but really made everybody believe that he

was going to.

 

You know, headlines coast-to-coast, all over the country never corrected

saying that he was about to register, and he didn`t.

 

And we`ve been looking into why that might be.  Because Manafort`s

spokesman has been forthcoming about the fact that his – that his client,

that Paul Manafort has been having overt discussions with federal

authorities about his foreign work, about his political consulting in

foreign countries.

 

Now that as far as we can tell would be the Department of Justice because

that too has jurisdiction over the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

 

He is saying that within – with – having this consultation with these

federal authorities, he is taking appropriate steps around this matter,

leading everybody to believe he would register, and he never did.

 

The interesting thing there is two-fold.  Number one, we have seen other

people involved in this, namely, Mike Flynn register retroactively as a

foreign agent, apparently after consulting with the Justice Department.

 

Raising interesting questions about whether or not he is being pressured to

become a cooperating witness because of the threat of prosecuting him for

his previous unregistered work on behalf of foreign governments.

 

That pressure you can see them exerting on Mike Flynn.  Why would they not

be exerting that same pressure on Paul Manafort?

 

It just raises interesting questions about the disparate treatment of these

two people, and whether or not Manafort is getting the same kind of

pressure.

 

The other difference we`ve got between Flynn and Manafort is that Jeff

Sessions has said overtly that he at the Department of Justice is recused

from any matter involving Mike Flynn.

 

We thought when we started calling the Justice Department about this, that

they would tell us that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also recused from

matters involving Paul Manafort since Manafort was the Trump campaign

chairman.

 

The Justice Department will not say that.  They`ve told us a million other

things.  They gave us paragraph-long stories about what recusal is and

where it comes from.

 

And this whole idea of recusal and oh, it`s a big question.  And what do

you really mean by that? And we went after – back at them again and again

and again and again.

 

And considering just publishing our back and forth between me and the

Justice Department – 

 

O`DONNELL:  I hope you do because some of it involves Rachel Maddow.  You

were on – your staff was making calls, but you got on the phone yourself

to the Justice Department to say is Jeff Sessions recused from matters

involving Paul Manafort, which could involve – which do involve Ukraine

and Russia?

 

And if he is – if he`s – if he`s recused on Russia, he must be recused on

Manafort and there is no answer –

 

MADDOW:  They will not say.  I wasn`t on the phone, I was on the keyboard

but that means that –

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes –

 

MADDOW:  Our whole back and forth actually have in writing.  So I mean, I

remain convinced that the Justice Department has an answer to this

question, it`s either yes or no.

 

He`s recused or he`s not.  They won`t – they won`t tell us yes or no. 

Which leads me to believe – leads me to suppose that Sessions is not

recused from matters involving Paul Manafort.

 

And given that Manafort has been named in open source reporting as

potentially being involved in investigations related to his foreign agents

stuff, related to his potential money laundering stuff, obviously related

to Trump campaign Russia ties and all these things.

 

If he is involved in any investigations like that which are currently going

through the Justice Department and the FBI.

 

And Jeff Sessions has his thumb on any of those scales, that`s a very big

story.  And we need to hear a clarifying statement from the Justice

Department about that.

 

Because Jeff Sessions is going to have to explain –

 

O`DONNELL:  And then – and then – 

 

MADDOW:  If he is not recused.

 

O`DONNELL:  And then quickly, Rachel, as my other guests await –

 

MADDOW:  Yes –

 

O`DONNELL:  If Paul Manafort is getting guidance from the Justice

Department about how to comport himself, and that guidance does not

include, oh, by the way, you must retroactively register.

 

Does that mean that Paul Manafort is a cooperating witness with the Justice

Department, with the FBI investigation?

 

And is he talking about what he knows about the Trump campaign`s

interactions with Russia?

 

MADDOW:  We have –

 

O`DONNELL:  That`s one of the other questions –

 

MADDOW:  We have –

 

O`DONNELL:  That you left for us –  

 

MADDOW:  Exactly, we have no – we have no way of knowing, but when you

want somebody to become a cooperating witness, usually you pressure them

with things that you can prosecute them for.

 

That`s what we`re all looking for signs of.  And in this case, it`s

disparate signs from Flynn and Manafort with no explanation. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Rachel, thanks, great reporting.  I had to follow it up when I

saw you do it and we`ve made the promise to Twitter and now we delivered. 

Thank you, Rachel –

 

MADDOW:  Thank you for letting me eat five minutes of your show.  Thanks,

Lawrence. 

 

O`DONNELL:  It`s all worth it, thank you.

 

MADDOW:  Appreciate it.

 

O`DONNELL:  We have breaking news tonight from the “New York Times”

disputing what President Trump told Lester Holt today about James Comey.

 

President Trump said today that James Comey requested a private dinner with

the president in order to ask that he, James Comey continue in his job as

FBI director, even though he was in the middle of a ten-year appointment.

 

Associates of Mr. Comey are now telling the “New York Times” tonight that

that is simply not true.  The dinner was requested by the president, and

the FBI director felt that he could not refuse a meeting with the

president.

 

The FBI director told associates that the president demanded loyalty from

Mr. Comey at that dinner.  Mr. Comey refused to pledge loyalty to the

president.

 

And according to the “Times”, Mr. Comey told President Trump that the

president would best be served by an independent FBI and Justice

Department.

 

Nine months before he was driven out of office at the threat of

impeachment, the president of the United States said this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

RICHARD NIXON, LATE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And in all of

my years in public life, I have never obstructed justice.

 

And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I

welcome this kind of examination.

 

Because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. 

Well, I am not a crook.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Forty four years later, the president of the United States said

this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I said if it`s possible,

will you let me know am I under investigation? He said you are not under

investigation.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  That was President Trump`s I am not a crook moment.  It

happened today in an extraordinary interview conducted by Nbc`s Lester Holt

in which the president made everyone in the White House who has commented

on the firing of James Comey a liar. 

 

The vice president, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and others, publicly lied

when they said that the president`s decision to fire James Comey was based

entirely on the recommendation of the deputy Attorney General and the

Attorney General which the president received the very same day that he

fired James Comey.

 

Here is President Trump telling Lester Holt that all of those people, all

of them lied.  And that there is never a reason, there is never a reason to

take seriously anything that anyone working in the Trump White House says.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Yes, he is a showboat.  He is a grandstander.  The FBI has been in

turmoil, you know that, I know that, everybody knows that.

 

You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil less than

a year ago.  It hasn`t recovered from that.

 

LESTER HOLT, JOURNALIST:  Monday you met with the deputy Attorney General

Rod Rosenstein. 

 

TRUMP:  Right. 

 

HOLT:  Did you ask for a recommendation?

 

TRUMP:  What I did is I was going to fire Comey – my decision.  It was not

–   

 

HOLT:  You had made the decision before they came out – 

 

TRUMP:  I was going to fire Comey.  There`s no good time to do it, by the

way.  They will –

 

HOLT:  Because in your letter, you said I accepted their recommendations –

 

TRUMP:  Yes, well, they also –

 

HOLT:  You had already made the decision. 

 

TRUMP:  Oh, I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation.  He made

a recommendation.  He is highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy.

 

The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him.  He made a recommendation

but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The president – the president might have changed the White

House story because of a report in “The Washington Post” saying that “the

deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign after the

narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a

prime mover of the decision to fire Comey, and that the president acted

only on his recommendation.”

 

The “Wall Street Journal” reports “Rosenstein pressed White House Counsel

Don McGahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate White House depiction

of the events surrounding FBI Director James Comey`s firing.”

 

Lester Holt asked the president about the strangest firing letter ever

written by a president of the United States.  

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

HOLT:  Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey.  You

write: “I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions

that I am not under investigation.”  When did you put that in there? 

 

TRUMP:  Because he told me that.  I mean, he told me that.

 

HOLT:  He told you, you weren`t under investigation –

 

TRUMP:  Yes, and I –

 

HOLT:  With regard to the Russia investigation? – 

 

TRUMP:  I`ve heard that – I`ve heard that from others.  I think it`s –

 

HOLT:  Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face-to-face?

 

TRUMP:  I had a dinner with him.  He wanted to have dinner because he

wanted to stay on.  We had a very nice dinner at the White House very early

on –   

 

HOLT:  He asked –

 

TRUMP:  That dinner was arranged.  I think he asked for the dinner.  And he

wanted to stay on as the FBI head.

 

And I said, you know, consider, we`ll see what happens.  But we had a very

nice dinner, and at that time he told me you`re not under investigation,

which I knew anyway. 

 

HOLT:  That was one meeting, where was the other two? –

 

TRUMP:  First of all, when you`re under investigation, they give you all

sorts of documents and everything, I knew I wasn`t under.

 

And I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level that I

wasn`t.  Number one –

 

HOLT:  So that didn`t come –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

TRUMP:  Then during the phone call he said it, and then during another

phone call he said it.  So, he said it once at dinner and then he said it

twice during phone calls. 

 

HOLT:  Did you call him?

 

TRUMP:  In one case I called him, in one case he called me. 

 

HOLT:  And did you ask him am I under investigation?

 

TRUMP:  I actually, I said yes.  I said if it`s possible, will you let me

know am I under investigation? He said you are not under investigation. 

 

HOLT:  But he is given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing

investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the

Russian government.

 

You were the centerpiece of the Trump –

 

TRUMP:  No –

 

HOLT:  Campaign, so was he being truthful when he said – 

 

TRUMP:  All I can tell you is, well, I know that –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

I know that I`m not under investigation, me, personally, I`m not talking

about campaigns, I`m not talking about anything else.  I`m not under

investigation. 

 

HOLT:  Did you ask him to drop the investigation?

 

TRUMP:  No, never.

 

HOLT:  Did anyone from the White House –

 

TRUMP:  No, in fact, I wanted the investigation speeded up.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The president still cannot bring himself to say anything

negative about Russia.  He cannot admit that Russia interfered with our

election.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election

having to do with Russia – or by the way anybody else, any other country.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  If there was a problem with Russia in our election, there is

the president and Lester Holt trying to suggest that there was either no

interference in our election, or no interference from Russia, or that there

could have been interference from some other country.

 

At a Senate hearing today, all the president`s men who run the agencies

involved in intelligence and counterterrorism agree that Russia did

interfere in our election.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA:  Do you believe that the January 2017

intelligence committee`s assessment accurately characterized the extent of

Russian activities in the 2016 election?

 

And its conclusion that Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for

the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation in order to

influence our elections? A simple yes or no would suffice. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I do, yes, sir.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, senator. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The new director of the FBI, acting Director Andrew McCabe made

his first public comments today at that hearing.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

RUBIO:  Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted,

stopped, or negatively impacted any of the work, any investigation, or any

ongoing projects at the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

 

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION:  Quite

simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing

the right thing, protecting the American people, and upholding the

constitution.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would it have been wrong for the director to inform him

he was not under investigation? That`s not about conversations, that`s a

yes or no answer. 

 

MCCABLE:  As you know, senator, we typically do not answer that question. 

I will not comment on whether or not the director and the president of the

United States had that conversation.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will you refrain from these kinds of alleged updates to

the president or anyone else in the White House on the status of the

investigation?

 

MCCABLE:  I will.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now, David Frum; senior editor for “The Atlantic”,

Ron Klain; former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and Al Gore

and a senior aide to President Obama.

 

He was also a former chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And

David Frum, this latest report tonight, Comey associates telling the “New

York Times” the president requested that Director Comey come to that

dinner.

 

The president earlier today telling Lester Holt saying, oh, I think – I

think that Comey asked for the dinner.

 

And how long do you imagine that the president imagined he was going to be

able to get away with his version of these interactions with James Comey?

 

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC:  Well, who talks that way? You

know, even –

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes –

 

FRUM:  The presidents who`ve had the strongest feudal sense of their

powers, Lyndon Johnson, for example.

 

If they were given somebody – like the FBI this treatment, they would have

ways of asking for that where they would indicate, you know, I know what –

you know what I`m saying.

 

I know what I`m saying, but I`m not going to say it.  Because if I say it,

I`m in dangerous territory.  There is something kind of like – just Donald

Trump get these ideas of how to behave from mafia movies?

 

Who talks like this? And of course – by the way, Sarah Huckabee has denied

it so we know it`s true.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, Ron Klain, what are the restrictions now on what James

Comey can come out and publicly say and not say?

 

For example, when the president does an interview with Lester Holt and

starts describing these interactions with James Comey, does that open it up

then for James Comey and allow him to come out publicly and say, no, I did

not request a dinner with the president?

 

This is what happened at that dinner.  This is what was said.  He asked –

he basically demanded loyalty of me.  How much of that can James Comey now

say?

 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN:  Well, I think he can say

all of that, Lawrence, I think he obviously can`t reveal any classified

information.

 

But I don`t think classified information is the question.  I think if the

president is going to put words in James Comey`s mouth, it`s within his

rights and knows the American people, an accounting of what actually did

happen.

 

What actually did he say? Did he actually say three times you`re not under

investigation? Did he actually – was he summoned to this dinner and asked

for loyalty or did he ask for?

 

These are all fair questions I hope that he will answer them.  I hope that

Congress will ask them.  I hope Congress will finally after today`s

incredible events, insane events, Congress will finely get some backbone

and start to, you know, get serious about some of investigations of what`s

happened here.

 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s look at one of the parts of the interview with Lester

Holt today where he talks about cooperation with the Congress.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Knowing there was no good time to do it and, in fact, when I

decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia

thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

 

When I did this now, I said I probably maybe will confuse people.  Maybe

I`ll expand that, you know, I`ll lengthen the time because it should be

over with, it should in my opinion should been over with a long time ago.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  All right, that wasn`t the piece I was asking for.  We`ll come

back to the piece I was asking for.  But David Frum, that raises what

everyone is saying sounds like the president is thinking about firing the

FBI director.

 

When he thinks about firing the FBI director, he thinks about the Russia

investigation.

 

FRUM:  Right. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And then he says to himself, it`s OK, I can fire the guy

running the Russia investigation because I think the Russia investigation

is fake.

 

FRUM:  There is something else in that clip.  When the president says there

is no good time to do it, actually there was a good time to do something.

 

If a president who had lost the popular vote, and he knew that many

Democrats whom he – whose support he would need for things felt that the

election had been unfairly influenced by the FBI.

 

If he called them in on the day after the inauguration, and said look, I

don`t agree with you about what happened in this election, but I do agree

with you that we need a new page at the FBI.

 

If you`d like to give me your suggestion, I`m going to ask the director for

his resignation because he`s lost your confidence.

 

He will give me some recommendations? He could have put his administration

on a different kind of footing to do that on the very first day.

 

To do it at this point with so many lies so obviously to protect himself,

yes, that`s not a good day, it`s not a good reason.

 

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, there`s a piece of this Lester Holt interview that I

know you`re particularly interested in, I want to show that, and we`ll talk

about it after we listen to it.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

HOLT:  The Senate Intelligence Committee wants information from the

Treasury Department`s Financial Crimes Unit about your finances, your

business` finance.  Can you –

 

TRUMP:  Yes –

 

HOLT:  Tell us whether you, your family, your businesses, your surrogates

have accepted any investments, any loans from Russian individuals?

 

TRUMP:  Yes, in fact I just sent a letter –

 

HOLT:  Or is divisions –

 

TRUMP:  To Lindsey Graham from one of the most prestigious law firms in the

country.

 

A tremendous, highly rated law firm that I have nothing to do with Russia. 

I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Ron, your interpretation of that. 

 

KLAIN:  Well, since the president in that interview with regard to his

letter firing James Comey admitted that he lied in that letter, I`m not

sure why we should take much solace from his new statement about a new

letter about Russian investments.

 

And two things in that, Lawrence.  The first thing is that even his

representations are very limited.  He doesn`t have investments in Russia,

that doesn`t mean Russia doesn`t have big investments in him.

 

So he parsed his words very carefully.  And finally, if the president wants

us to take him seriously on this, he should stop sending letters.

 

He should send us a FedEx package that contains his tax returns.  Because

his tax returns – not more self-serving letters is what`s going to put

this issue to rest.

 

O`DONNELL:  David Frum, Ron Klain, thank you both for joining –

 

FRUM:  Thank you –

 

O`DONNELL:  Us tonight, really appreciate it.

 

KLAIN:  Thanks, Lawrence –

 

FRUM:  Thank you.

 

O`DONNELL:  Coming up, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe will join us,

we`ll get his reaction to the loyalty oath that President Trump demanded of

James Comey.

 

And later, the president attacked James Comey today in his Lester Holt

interview, but in that same interview, the president defended Michael

Flynn.

 

Why that worries White House lawyers, that`s coming up.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICO:  Director McCabe, you obviously have

several decades of law enforcement experience.  Is it your experience that

people who are innocent of wrongdoing typically need to be reassured that

they`re not the subject of an investigation?

 

MCCABE:  No, sir.   

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I said if it`s possible, will you let me know am I under

investigation? He said you are not under investigation.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  You can ask the FBI director if you`re under investigation.  I

can ask the FBI director if I am under investigation.

 

But can you ask the FBI director if you`re under investigation if you`re

the president of the United States and you have the power to fire the FBI

director?

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Isn`t it inappropriate for the president of the United

States to ask the FBI director directly if he is under investigation?

 

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No, I don`t

believe it is.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But one of these conversations the president said

happened at a dinner where the FBI director according to the president was

asking to stay on as FBI director.

 

Don`t you see how that`s a conflict of interest? The FBI director is saying

he wants to keep his job, and the president is asking whether or not he is

under investigation?

 

SANDERS:  I don`t see that as a conflict of interest, and neither do the

many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last

hour. So no, I don`t see that as an issue.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now – joining us now Laurence Tribe; Harvard Law

Professor.  Professor Tribe, so, I can ask the FBI director if I`m under

investigation.

 

But if I have the power to fire the FBI director, I`m president of the

United States, what are the implications of me then asking the FBI director

if I`m under investigation?

 

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR OF LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL:  Well, it`s much

worse than just a conflict of interest.

 

You`re essentially dangling in front of the person that is supposed to be

investigating the chaos swirling around you, and perhaps you.

 

You`re basically saying if you will assure me that I am not going to be

under investigation, then maybe I`ll keep you on.

 

We`ll see what happens.  I mean, he – it`s essentially the language of

bribery.  It`s the language of the underworld, of racketeering, not the

language of a president who is supposed to be enforcing the rule of law.

 

It`s staggering.  I mean, for all of the bizarre things that have happened

in these 112 or 113 days, this is really like the 13th chime of a clock. it

makes the whole thing come apart.

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, and this is what the president is claiming today in his

conversation with Lester Holt.  We don`t know if it`s true because of

course, it was Donald Trump talking.

 

But James Comey now has let it be known to the “New York Times” through

associates that yes, there was a dinner.  James Comey says that the

president invited him to that dinner, and he felt that he couldn`t refuse a

meeting with the president.

 

And at that dinner, he was asked by the president to pledge his personal

loyalty to the president.  Your reaction to that, professor?

 

TRIBE:  My reaction is that it`s staggering.  I mean, if that is clearly on

its face obstruction of justice.  And it is characteristic of the way we

know Donald Trump talks and the way he`s behaved.

 

He only wants loyalists, yes men and perhaps some yes women around him. 

And in this case, what loyalty clearly means, and I think the statements

that Director Comey has made to close associates validate this view.

 

What it really means is can I count on you not to make me a target of this

investigation? That`s clearly an impermissible question.

 

So either Trump`s own account of the discussion is true, in which case he

is guilty of obstruction of justice in one respect, or much more likely

Comey`s account is true in which Comey gave him no assurances, said you can

count on me to be honest, but not to be reliable and not to swear fealty to

you.

 

My loyalty is to the law and to the constitution in which case, again,

Trump is guilty of attempting to suborn obstruction of justice.

 

Either way, as with the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon,

this is a series of high crimes and misdemeanors all by itself.

 

Regardless of whether Trump was or was not part of a collusive plot with

Russia to steal an American election.  I mean, some people have not drawn a

clear-enough distinction.

 

There are two kinds of impeachable offences here.  One, we don`t know

enough about yet to charge, and that is what is the truth of all of the

complicated interactions with Manafort and Stone and Flynn and the whole –

the whole – the whole catastrophe with Russia?

 

That`s the underlying conduct.  But whatever the underlying conduct,

sometimes the cover-up is at least as bad.

 

And in this case, the cover-up is now completely on its face.  I mean, by

changing the story as he did, by in effect hanging all of his staff and all

of his assistants and the vice president out to dry, and suddenly coming up

with a new truth, the president has made clear that he is trying to cover

up the cover up.

 

And I think that we are now in a situation where the only way to avoid

constitutional crisis is for members of Congress to basically get a spine

or grow a pair and really stand up to their responsibilities to the law.

 

O`DONNELL:  Laurence Tribe –

 

TRIBE:  So we need an independent counsel, but we also need an independent

act of Congress.

 

O`DONNELL:  Professor, you`ve joined a group called the shadow cabinet,

which is a group of 19 policy experts that will follow statements and

positions made by the President and his cabinet.

 

TRIBE:  Right.

 

O`DONELL:  And debunk and interpret as need. You`ll be in the role there as

the citizen attorney general in that shadow cabinet. I assume you will be

focusing mostly on this Russia investigation?  But you`re also been

focusing very heavy on emoluments.  Do those two things intersect?

 

TRIBE:   They certainly do. I mean when the President basically went out of

his what to say that, you know, I don`t have any investments in Russia, As

Ron Klain rightly said, Russia may have investments in him.  The emoluments

problem is a problem of divided loyalty.  And we have a lawsuit pending

against the President saying that he has so many foreign entanglements that

he is in constant violation of the constitution because basically he is in

a position of getting benefits from foreign governments, including perhaps

loans and owing things to foreign governments in violation of a basic

principle that the framers put in place to avoid having our President

corrupted by foreign powers.

 

And if we had Attorney General that we could trust, then there would be

direct investigation by the Justice Department into the President`s

violation of the emoluments clauses.  Instead we have to sue him.  And I

think we`re going to succeed in getting a judicial decree. So stay tuned.

 

O`DONELL:  Professor Laurence tribe, thank you very much for joining us

tonight.  It`s a great honor.

 

TRIBE:   Thank you.

 

O`DONELL:  Coming up, the most important thing that happened at the Senate

Committee hearing today happened backstage.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONELL:  The most important thing that happened at the senate

intelligence committee hearing today happened backstage.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

RICHARD BURR, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  Can I say for member, the vice chair

and I have to step out for a meeting that we can`t push off.  I would ask

Senator Harris, Senator Cotton to complete their first round of questions.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  I`ve seen hundreds of senate hearings. I`ve never seen a moment

like that.  The Republican and Democratic Leaders of the Committee both

have to leave for a meeting more important than the hearing they`re having

right there.  All the professionals in the room knew something huge was

going on. It turned out to be hastily arranged meeting for senator Richard

Burr and Senator Mark Warner With Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

who wrote the memo that was first credited by the Whitehouse as the reason

for firing James Comey.  Later, when reporters discovered who was in that

meeting, the Senators were asked this question -

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Did Director Comey come up at all in this meeting?

 

BURR:  Director Comey did not come up.  He was not the subject of it.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  Here is Chairman Burr`s explanation for having that meeting with

the Deputy Attorney General in the middle of a very important intelligence

committee hearing.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BURR:  Since the committee has an investigation going on that is very

similar to what the Department of Justice has going on, we felt that there

was a great need to set up a process for de-confliction so that when we had

witnesses that we needed to talk to, we made sure we weren`t stepping on

top of anything that might be an active investigation.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  Here is what Senator Warner had to say.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOHN WARNER, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  I think it was a productive session, 

But I still have concerns about Mr. Rosenstein in terms of his role in the

Comey departure in terms of the memo.  I expressed – and this is where the

Chairman and I just disagree in terms of the needs for this narrowly

tailored independent council. I expressed that concern to Mr. Rosenstein. 

He took it under advisement.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL:  Joining us Matt Miller, former Justice Department`s spokeman for

Attorney General Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor. Also joining us Paul

Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University and a former Federal

Prosecutor.  Matt, you know how these meetings get scheduled. I have to

say, I was quite struck to see this kind of meeting occurring in the middle

of a hearing in which both of the leaders of that committee had to get up

and leave this very important hearing.  It seems to put it mildly,

peculiar.

 

MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes.  It`s very peculiar, especially

because I think they said this meeting had been set up for some time.  The

Deputy Attorney General is a busy guy, obviously.  He is not so busy that

he can`t find time to meet with these two senators outside of a meeting. 

 

You suspect a couple things. one, the Senate Intelligence Committee really

does seem to be trying to step up its investigation.  Richard Burr a couple

of times, including a few weeks ago has been criticized publicly for slow

walking it.  And every time he is criticized publicly, he responds by

speeding up. But I think that`s what is going on.

 

But they also have to have real questions for Rod Rosenstein. I think

Senator Warner clearly does.  Rod Rosenstein was supposed to be the

institutionalist that would protect the Department of Justice and protect

its independence.  And in the last few days we see he clearly isn`t up to

that job.  So Senator Warner, you know, pressed him privately, pressed him

publically and I think the Senator will continue to press him to appoint a

special council.

 

O`DONELL: Let`s take a look at how awkward this meeting was For Senator

Warner because you`ve just heard Senator Warner say I still have concerns

about Mr. Rosenstein in terms of his role in the Comey departure.  Let`s

listen to the way he put that on this program.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WARNER:  I voted for this gentleman based upon his reputation in Maryland. 

But I am deeply disappointed.  And if I could have that vote back, I would

be voting a different way.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONELL: Paul Butler, I`ve never heard a senator say i would like to take

my confirmation vote back just weeks after that

 

 

PAUL BUTLER, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN:  And that`s the wrong approach.

Look, Lawrence, Rod Rosenstein, a man of utmost integrity got played by the

President of the United States.  The President asked him for his honest

opinion about Director Comey`s competency in office and what Rosenstein

said in that memo is the widely shared view of virtually every Federal

Prosecutor I know. That in October, when Director Comey called Hillary

Clinton everything but a child of God, said I`m not going to indict her,

but she basically has no integrity.

 

That that broke every rule in an ethical prosecutor`s playbook.  So he had

to go. The question is the timing.  The timing was lousy. But in terms of

the substance of what Rosenstein said in that memo.  That was on the up and

up.

 

O`DONELL:  Matt, but the memo – Rosenstein`s memo was entitled restoring

public confidence in the FBI.  Rosenstein then recommends an action to the

president that has destroyed public confidence in the FBI. And in his memo,

Rosenstein never mentions the public confidence in the FBI is dependent on,

among other things, how the Russia investigation is perceived. the Russia

investigation is never mentioned.

 

MILLER:  Yes, look, that memo is a farce. I mean we - I think we all know

that by now.  The President himself admitted today he had decided to fire

Comey before it. And what Rod Rosenstein did is provide the President the

cover he needed.  Yes, he got played. But he knew he was getting played and

he went along with it.

 

That is what is so troubling about what he did.  You know every Senior

Justice Department official knows, it`s one of the things you hear there

all the time, there may come a moment where you have your moment in history

where you can stand up to the President and do what`s right, or you can

buckle under political pressure and do what`s wrong.  And when Jeff

Sessions and Rod Rosenstein went over and met with the President, they both

buckled under pressure.  And again, I expected that kind of thing from Jeff

Session.

 

But Rod Rosenstein was supposed to be the one who would stand up.  He said

at his confirmation hearing he would stand up to political pressure and do

what was right. And when the moment came, he didn`t.  He wrote that memo

that is a complete farce.  We all know that`s not why James Comey was

fired.  And he gave the President the cover to do what he wanted to do to

try to quash this investigation

.

O`DONELL:  Paul Butler, you know Rod Rosenstein.  I just want to get your

reaction to The New York Times editorial saying to him – saying directly

to rod Rosenstein you have one choice.  Appoint a special counsel who is

independent of both the department and the Whitehouse.  Is that the best

choice for Rod Rosenstein at this point?

 

BUTLER:  You Know, I`ve known Rod for 25 years.  We were baby prosecutors

together doing public corruption cases in the Justice Department.  And when

you do those cases, you`re taught you have to prosecute just like you would

any common criminal.  You don`t treat them differently because they are a

politician. In fact, you set the politics aside.

 

So did Rosenstein know that Trump would take what he said and use it to his

political advantage.  Yes, he did.  At the same time, it was his honestly

brokered opinion.

 

I do think that means, though, now there is an impetus for Rosenstein to

appoint a special prosecutor.  The appearance of justice is as important as

justice itself. I actually think that Rosenstein.  He is leading this

investigation now.

 

Remember the investigation does not end with Comey`s departure.  It goes on

now under Rosenstein`s leadership.  I do think in terms of the appearance

of fairness that he needs to step aside.  He alone can appoint a special

prosecutor. He`s got more power in this matter than the President than the

Attorney General who had recused him selves.  He does need to exercise that

power appropriately and appoint an independent investigator.

 

O`DONELL:  Paul Butler gets the last word on it tonight. Matt Miller, thank

you both for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

 

BUTLER:  Great to be here.

 

MILLER:  Thank you.

 

O`DONELL:  Coming up, Whitehouse lawyers are now reportedly very worried

that President Trump continues to try to communicate with Michael Flynn,

who is under criminal investigation and Congressional investigation. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  According to a report in the Daily Beast, White House lawyers

continue to warn President Trump to stay away from Michael Flynn, the man

at the center of all of the investigations of Russian influence in the 2016

election.  Although the president eventually fired Michael Flynn 18 days

after first learning that the acting Attorney General believes Michael

Flynn could be blackmailed by Russians. 

 

The president still has nothing negative to say about the national security

adviser that he fired.  Here is what the president said to Lester Holt

today about Michael Flynn.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This man has served for many

years.  He is a general.  He is in my opinion a very good person.  I

believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don`t

even know and immediately run out and fire a general. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  But not a word about how many years James Comey has served in

government or whether he is a very good person.  Coming up, we will be

joined by someone who had dinner with President Trump the night before he

fired James Comey. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MARTIN HEINRICH, UNITED STATES SENATOR:  Is it accurate that the rank and

file no longer supported Director Comey?

 

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR:  No.  No sir, that is not accurate. 

Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this

day.  I can confidently tell you that the majority – the vast majority of

FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  That was the acting director of the FBI today in his first

public comments.  Joining us now, Michael Scherer, Washington Bureau Chief

for Time Magazine.  E. J. Dionne, opinion writer for the Washington Post

and MSNBC political analyst.  And Michael, you had dinner with Donald

Trump.  Did he - did he ask you to pledge loyalty to him at the dinner? 

The night before he fired Jim Comey.  Go ahead.

 

MICHAEL SCHERER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR TIME MAGAZINE:  He also said

that – he actually said we were also dishonest media. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, he did. 

 

SCHERER:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  You – there`s an interview transcript that you have out that`s

absolutely fascinating where he`s going along and he talks about dishonest

media and he said, oh, by the way, you are, too.  And I suppose he`s just

smiling when he says that.  Like that`s just part of the –

 

SCHERER:  He`s a very hospitable host, he`s very charming, he`s very

gracious, but it`s odd also because there is this hostility that underlies

it.  And there`s an irony to it.  But you know the whole night there was a

real sense that kept coming up, he kept bringing it up of aggrievement of

this feeling that the press had not treated him fairly that his story was

not getting out, that the many successes of his administration had not been

heard. 

 

You know that we watched parts with him of that day senate testimony and he

was heard giving us rather aggressive color commentary.  But His point was

that the way his story, the story of his presidency is being put forward is

not fair or honest or true, even as he was saying things that actually

aren`t true. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And E.J., this is the president who has been caught publicly

and moralized than any other president in history and his big complaint is

the way they talk about me isn`t true.  And now we have in the New York

Times tonight James Comey pushing back through associates, telling the New

York Times about this dinner with the president in direct contradiction to

what the president has said about that dinner. 

 

E. J. DIONNE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  I mean, first of all, I`m

glad trump didn`t make Michael sign a nondisclosure agreement the way he

forces everybody else to.  It`s really astonishing how the lies have fallen

a part in general, and you showed one where the acting director of the FBI

says their story about the FBI agents losing confidence in Comey was all

wrong. 

 

You had the whole initial rationale for the Comey firing falling apart

completely.  And now what you have is almost a kind of mafia-like, if I may

use that, dinner saying, you know are you with me or with the other gang to

the Chief Law Enforcement officer of the country and of course Comey said

I`m going to be loyal to the truth and justice and the things he`s supposed

to be loyal to.  I think it`s very significant that he`s letting that story

get out. 

 

I think Trump made a huge mistake today when he attacked Comey.  He`s a

show boat, he`s a grandstander, said the president without seemingly much

self awareness.  Comey and his loyalists in the FBI are not going to take

that lying down.  And I think this is going to cause realty trouble for him

later. 

 

O`DONNELL: And Michael, there seems to be no understanding in the White

House or in the president`s part that Comey can do as much damage to them

outside of the FBI as in these – the New York Times story tonight, for

example, as he may have been able to do inside the FBI?

 

SCHERER:  Yes, I think Trump is coming to terms with the fact that what has

worked for him throughout his career in business, in the campaign,

spectacularly, which is breaking and pushing the rules of the game, doesn`t

work quite as well in the White House.  There are lots of limits on the

most powerful person in the world and - and they don`t always just work

through courts.  They sometimes work through leaks as well. 

 

O`DONNELL:  E.J., quickly, before we go, I said at the top of the show that

this was the - the Nixon, I`m not a crook moment today when he`s saying I`m

not under investigation.  Did it feel like that for you? 

 

DIONNE:  It felt like that for me very much so.  And it also felt like that

this is a guy who knows how much trouble he is in and he is constantly

pushing it away and doesn`t want too admit it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to leave it right there.  Michael Scherer

and E. J. Dionne thank you for joining us tonight. 

 

DIONNE:  It`s great to be with you. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  We`re supposed to have some photographs up on the screen. 

There we are – of the president in the Oval Office with his Russian

visitors the other day. These, of course, were taken by Russian

photographers.  And now there is a worry that there was a breach of

security by allowing those people - those photographers in the Oval Office

with their electronic equipment because of course this was

 

 

 

END   

 

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