CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: -- said that James Comey told him on three occasions that he was not the subject of an FBI investigation into his dealings with Russia. Well, given what Trump said about Comey on the other related questions, it is hard to believe this one, isn`t it? And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC AL IN HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on.
HAYES: An NBC News exclusive.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you call him?
TRUMP: In one case I called him.
HAYES: President Trump admits he called the FBI Director to find out if he was under investigation.
HOLT: Did you ask him, am I under investigation?
TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said if it`s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?
HAYES: Tonight, did the President just admit to obstruction of justice? I`ll ask Congressman Adam Schiff.
Then, the new story on the Comey firing.
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. My decision.
HAYES: Tonight, how the Rod Rosenstein lie died and the mounting pressure on the Deputy Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor.
And about those Russians.
TRUMP: When I spoke with Putin, he asked me whether or not I would see Lavrov.
HAYES: Tonight, how the White House says it was tricked and my interview with former Trump Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page on what he told the FBI.
CARTER PAGE, TRUMP FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: I`m not going to deny that I talked with him.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. We now know the White House has been lying about why the President fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI overseeing an investigation into the Trump campaign. And we know this because today, the President himself weighed in. Since Comey was fired two nights ago, the White House has offered a series of shifting, conflicting, pretextual rationales for the move. Vice President Mike Pence, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway among others all insisted the President was merely acting on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein,who conducted a review of his own initiative. Asked yesterday if the President had made up his mind to fire Comey before receiving Rosenstein`s memo, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered unequivocally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it true that the president had already decided to fire James Comey, and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that fire?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did he make the decision?
SANDERS: He made the decision for the final decision to move forward with it was yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. That was yesterday in the press briefing. Today, in an interview with NBC`s Lester Holt, the President revealed the exact opposite to be true. Contrary to what his numerous spokespeople said, the President was already dead set on getting rid of James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look, he`s a showboat. He`s 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.
HOLT: Monday you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
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 in the room?
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There`s no good time to do it by the way. They--
HOLT: Because in your letter, you said I accepted -- I accepted their recommendation.
TRUMP: Yes, well they also --
HOLT: So you had already made the decision?
TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation. He made a recommendation. He`s 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)
HAYES: The President had already made up his mind to fire the FBI Director. That much we know. What we don`t know is why. The President called Comey a showboat and a grandstander. Meanwhile, multiple reports suggest he`s been unhappy with Comey`s handling of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the President`s campaign. According to a Washington Post report based on interviews with 30 sources, Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr. To a President obsessed with loyalty, according to New York Times, Comey was a rogue operator who could not be trusted as the FBI investigated Russian ties to Trump`s campaign. Politico reports, the President had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. In his interview with Lester Holt today, the President himself explicitly linked Comey`s firing to the Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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. It`s an excuse by the democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: At the same time, according to several different reports, the FBI`s Russia investigation itself was beginning -- has been beginning to move forward with greater and greater momentum. The Wall Street Journal reports that Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation beginning at least three weeks ago according to people with knowledge of the matter. Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion. Days before his firing, just days before, Comey had asked the Justice Department for more prosecutors and other personnel to step up the investigation as The New York Times reported. And according to another report, federal prosecutors in Virginia just issued the first subpoenas in the Russia investigation to former associates of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It`s against that backdrop of an accelerating federal probe, the President took the extraordinary step today of admitting he asked the FBI Director if he, himself, is under investigation. An act that would violate a bedrock principle of shielding criminal investigations from political interference. The President first claimed Comey told him he`s not under investigation in his termination letter earlier this week. Today, new acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe was asked about that claim in a hearing before the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Is it standard practice for the FBI to inform someone that they are not a target of an investigation?
ANDREW MCCABE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION ACTING DIRECTOR: It is not. I`m not aware of that being a standard practice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: According to The Wall Street Journal, one Comey associate said that the President`s claim, quote, "That is literally farcical." But not only is the President standing by his claim, he`s admitting to asking the FBI Director about the investigation during what was effectively a job interview.
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. Why 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 with regard to the Russia investigation?
TRUMP: Yes, and I`ve heard that -- I`ve heard that from others. I think - -
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 --
HOLT: He asked for a dinner?
TRUMP: a 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, I`ll consider. We`ll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.
HOLT: That was one meeting. What -- where was the other two?
TRUMP: First of all, when you`re under investigation, you`re giving 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.
HOLT: So that didn`t come directly from him?
TRUMP: Then during a 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, am I under investigation?
TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said if it`s possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, "You are not under investigation."
HOLT: But he`s given sworn testimony that there was an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government. You were the centerpiece of the Trump campaign.
TRUMP: Well, all I can tell you is -- I know -- 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, do you believe the President`s account of James Comey telling him directly he is not under investigation?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You know, it`s hard to believe honestly anything the President says on the subject of the Russia investigation. But even if you accept him at his word, it`s breathtaking because what he has just admitted is he has dinner with Director Comey at Director Comey`s request. Comey wants to keep his job, and in the context of Comey wanting to keep his job, he asked Comey, am I under investigation? Comey supposedly tells him, no. And when he wants to know whether he`s going to stay on as FBI Director, the President says, we`ll see. In what world is that ethical? Certainly not this one. And that the President thinks this is somehow to his benefit to portray this way is just as breathtaking as anything else. It is just scandalously unethical, and I`m amazed that they think this is a defense for his actions.
HAYES: I`ve seen a lot of people today make the argument it`s more than unethical. That it violates the statute on pertaining to obstruction of justice. Obstruction, of course, one of the articles of impeachment during Watergate having to do with the President`s firing of Archibald Cox. Is what the President did today on the record, in his interview with Lester Holt, to you, does that meet the threshold for obstruction?
SCHIFF: I would need to know a lot more about the President`s actions and just whether there was any form of a demonstrable quid pro quo or further interference in the election. I wouldn`t be prepared to form a judgment on the basis of merely that snippet of the interview that I heard. But nonetheless, it is just appallingly unethical, if not more, and I think Congress needs to know a lot more about just what was involved and what the decisions were. Given how the explanation has so radically shifted from yesterday to today. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Who told Sarah Huckabee Sanders to put out that false line if, indeed, that was false yesterday according to what the President said today? It`s just astonishing that they would turn 180 degrees from where they were yesterday on this.
HAYES: The President was also asked by Lester Holt about involvement in Russia. I want to play that clip for you. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever. I don`t have property in Russia. a lot of people thought I owned office buildings in Moscow. I don`t have property in Russia. I am not involved in Russia. No loans, no nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Are you satisfied that`s the truth?
SCHIFF: Look, I don`t think we can take the President`s comments on this at face value by any means. And I think we need to do a thorough investigation into whether, for example, among other things, the Russians used tactics they have used in Europe where they try to financially entangle people. I don`t want to read too much into the President`s comments. He seems to be very focused in his statements and his tweets on the lack of his -- excuse me -- his investments in Russia. He seems to say very little about the Russians` investments in him. His own children have said publicly that the Russians were major contributors or leaders or participants financially in their business enterprises here. So I think even taking the President for what he said, a very perilous thing to do, he has said very little about the Russian investment in he and his family.
HAYES: All right. Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for being here.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: I`m joined now by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Democrat from California. And Congresswoman, I thought of you today because I remember that moment when you came out in great frustration from the James Comey briefing. Let me basically play that very briefly to remind everyone of that moment, which is burned into my head. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D) CALIFORNIA: It`s classified, and we can`t tell you anything. All I can tell you is the FBI Director has no credibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And I thought of -- I thought of the President today saying that James Comey was a showboat and a grandstander, which I thought, well, that`s something that I feel like a lot of Clinton supporters agreed with, whether they think that the firing was legitimate. Do you agree with that?
WATERS: Well, as you know, I did say that he had no credibility, and I still say coming out of that classified briefing, that I had come to the conclusion he didn`t have credibility. Now, this comparison that`s being made about what democrats are saying now about him and whether or not he should be fired should be looked at critically. This is an investigation that is going on. The circumstances are such that he`s in the middle of an investigation, and he gets fired. And it appears that this President having admitted that he interfered with the investigation by asking him if, in fact, he was under investigation. So I don`t think that`s hypocritical at all. The hypocrisy lies with this President. This man lies every day. He changes his story. He does not even realize that most people don`t believe him anymore. And so I don`t think that democrats should be looked at as being hypocritical because we knew that something was wrong when Comey basically 11 days before the election came up with a new investigation for Hillary Clinton and didn`t tell us about the investigation that was going on with the President.
HAYES: So let me ask you this. Given what the President said today, which is that he said, when I thought of firing Comey, I thought about Russia. He asked Comey three times directly, once in the context of essentially a job interview, if you were -- if it was a world in which the democrats controlled a majority of the House and you were the speaker, what actions would you be taking pursuant to what`s revealed today?
WATERS: Well, absolutely I think he can be looked at and perhaps even charged with obstruction of justice. I think that --
HAYES: So you mean impeachment proceedings?
WATERS: I beg your pardon?
HAYES: You mean impeachment proceedings?
WATERS: Well, here, you know, I`ve said all along that he would lead us to impeachment, and he`s doing just that. Every day, more and more is unfolding. I told you that I thought there was a Kremlin clan and these were his allies. I had a resolution back in February that said it should be investigated for collusion. Everything that I know, that I`ve been able to find out, if we do the investigations, the information is there. We`re fiddling while Rome is burning. This President needs to be impeached. I believe that. I believe there was collusion. We need to get on with the business of doing real investigations. As a matter of fact, the press has been better on helping to unveil what is going on with this President and his allies than the Congress of the United States of America. I am just so ashamed that our House investigation led by Nunes has not been able to get very far, and I thought the Senate investigation -- their Intelligence Committee was going to be better. And now I`m really upset with them because, in fact, they have not hired the staff that they need in order to get on with this investigation. And so whether it`s the FBI, the House Intelligence, or the Senate Intelligence, everybody, just go at it. Go at it before all of the records are shredded, before --
HAYES: Do you think that`s what they`re doing? Do you -- do you -- do you worry -- I mean, I saw someone today expressing concern that James Comey was out of the office when this happened, that he`s even the basic integrity of the papers being preserved.now, Andrew McCabe says, of course, the men and women of the FBI are sterling examples of integrity. Everything is fine. The investigation proceeds. Do you trust that to be the case?
WATERS: No, I`m not sure that that is the case. Look, I worry. As long as this President has the power to appoint, I worry about those who get appointed and whether or not they`re going to be afraid that they`re going to get fired.
WATERS: If, in fact, they don`t go along with him, or if they don`t look as if they`re trying to protect him. I worry about that. And I think that he has shown us consistently if you come too close to this Russia investigation, he`s going to get rid of you.
HAYES: Yes. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, thank you for your time.
WATERS: Well, you`re certainly welcome.
HAYES: Still to come, former Trump adviser Carter Page is here at the table to talk about the ongoing FBI investigation and his face-to-face involvement with it. The next -- next, Josh Earnest and Steve Schmidt on the high stake misinformation campaign coming from the White House in the wake of the Comey firing right after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Look, I think that there`s been a long list of reasons that Director Comey isn`t there. I think the biggest reason is really, really simple. He lost the confidence of the rank-and-file members of the FBI.
I think it really came down, the bottom line was he`d lost the respect not only of the rank-and-file within the FBI.
Look, I think it`s real simple. Director Comey had lost the confidence of the rank-and-file within the FBI.
And most importantly, the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their Director.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Among the several significant lies the White House has told over the last 48 hours, one of them has been that former FBI Director James Comey was fired because he had lost the confidence of his agency`s rank- and-file. That assertion made by Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was flat out rejected today by the Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who has been with the bureau for 21 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D) NEW MEXICO: In your opinion, is it accurate that the rank-and-file no longer supported Director Comey?
MCCABE: No, sir. That is not accurate. I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: After being directly contradicted by the FBI`S Acting Director, Huckabee Sanders stood by her claim that Comey lost the support of his rank-and-file.
SANDERS: I`ve heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the President`s decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t you think the Acting Director of the FBI has a better handle on the rank-and-file than you do?
SANDER: Look, I`m not going to get in a back and forth on who has a better handle. Again, I`ve heard from multiple individuals that are very happy about the President`s decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said now today and I think you said again yesterday that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean really? Like, I mean --
SANDERS: I mean, between like e-mail, text messages, absolutely, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 50? 60? 70?
SANDERS: Look. we`re not going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I`ve heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they`re very happy with the President`s decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: As to whether James Comey lost the support of his rank-and-file, NBC News Investigations Reporter Tom Winter, who knows this beat and is a straight shooter, put it this way. When it comes to the moral thinking and feelings of the vast majority of the FBI agents it is unequivocal that the White House is lying. Joining me now, Josh Earnest, former White House Press Secretary for President Obama and MSNBC Political Analyst and Steve Schmidt, Republican Strategist and also MSNBC Political Analyst. Steve, let me start with you. I am -- I am not crazy that there`s a difference in the treatment of the truth by this White House than others. And I say that knowing that all politicians obfuscate, spin, sometimes deceive and lie. This seems like just a completely different planet.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No doubt, Chris. Look, every person who`s had the experience in their careers of being a spokesperson for the President of the United States, being a spokesperson from the north lawn of the White House, talking to the American people, including Josh and I, we`ve all done our fair amount of tap dancing. But you have never seen the systemic, nonstop lying, the nonstop prevaricating by every single person in this administration with a few exceptions, but including the President, the Vice President, and all of the political spokespeople who have taken an oath, are commissioned officers, and every day they foul that oath with the nonstop lying. And you put the lying on top of the sheer political incompetence. It`s very, very worrisome. The democratic societies, democratic countries are built on a foundation of truth. Autocratic societies are built on a premise that the leader decides what is true by virtue of what he believes or what he feels. And we`ve seen that from the crowd sizes to the millions of people who he claimed votes illegally, to this latest absurdity that we`ve seen play out over the last 72 hours.
HAYES: Those three examples, Steve, are the ones that I`ve been thinking about too. And Josh, to me, the key point here is, in some ways, this is similar to the inauguration crowd size where it`s just sort of black and white. Like clearly that`s not true, the thing you`re saying. We know that. But the stakes here just are so much bigger, it would seem to me, and I wonder if you think that`s the case. We`re talking about the firing of the FBI Director and now this sort of gas lighting, whatever you want to call it. Now we`ve got real stuff going on here.
JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, you`re exactly right. You can almost hear, you know, Sean Spicer from his very first appearance on the podium. Maybe he even described countless people showing up at President Trump`s inaugural ceremonies. So, look, it is hard to believe. They clearly are saying things that are demonstrably false. And what`s troubling about this, Chris, is, you know, I agree with what Steve said. They`re -- the stakes here are high. I think the thing that`s important for us to recognize is the current crisis that this White House is weathering is a self-inflicted crisis, and there is a yawning credibility gap. What`s going to happen, Chris --and this time will come -- when they`re not facing a self-inflicted crisis but actually a crisis from the outside world, whether it is some provocative action from an adversary of the United States, whether it is a natural disaster in which American lives are at risk? Maybe it`s a public health situation. But at some point, the credibility of the White House and the top surrogates of the White House will mean life and death, and what are we going to do then given the yawning credibility that -- the yawning credibility gap that exists at the White House podium right now?
HAYES: Is it doing something, Steve, to our political culture?
SCHMIDT: Of course. The truth, the definition of truth, the notion that words matter in the English language, that they -- that they have meaning. We`re a society, a nation of laws. You know, at the end of the day, it`s not elections that make a democracy. It`s the -- it`s the presence of the rule of law. And the rule of law is dependent on an understanding of truth, the ability to say, the sun is rising in the east and setting in the west and red is red and blue is blue. And, look, we keep saying in these discussions, someday the credibility of this administration may be shattered. It`s shattered.
SCHMIDT: It couldn`t be more broken. No one has any reason to trust a single word that any White House spokesperson says. They`re all serial liars. They lie constantly. They lie dozens of times a day. Lies compounding upon lies over this most recent example. And, look, anybody -- and it was clear from the beginning -- should understand the nature of the lie. There`s no elegance to it. This is like a 5-year-old who get caught with the jelly doughnut and jelly glaze all over their face. I mean, it`s a -- it`s a Lucy in the chocolate factory type of lie.
HAYES: I will say -- I will say my five-year-old actually is quite truthful and rarely lies. But when she does, she`s far more deft and sophisticated. But Josh, what is it like to watch this? Both to watch people do this job you that had and then to watch the President come out and just saw the limb off that Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States, that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that Sean Spicer, that all these people had gotten on to tell this demonstrable lie and the President to essentially call them liars on the record?
EARNEST: Yes, well, Chris, this is a good point. There actually are two kinds of credibility that you have to protect when you`re a White House spokesperson. The first one is the one we`ve been discussing, which is being able to state accurately what`s happening in the world. But there`s a second kind of credibility that is critical to the success of any advocate for the President, which is an ability to accurately describe the President`s thinking and his perspective on the world.
EARNERS: And time and time again, we have seen that there is an inability of advocates for the President. And I`m not just talking about Sean and Sarah here. This has been true of Kellyanne Conway and even the Vice President.
HAYES: The Vice President of the United States, yes.
EARNERS: Yes. So the question really, I think, is are these surrogates actually speaking directly to President Trump? Is President Trump lying to them? Are the intermediaries -- if they`re not talking to Trump, are the intermediaries not telling him the truth? Are they out of the loop? That is troubling too and that`s going to have significant consequences in the face of a crisis as well.
HAYES: All right. Josh Earnest and Steve Schmidt thanks for joining us.
EARNEST: Thank you.
HAYES: Ahead, why the White House is saying why they were tricked by the Russians. I`ll explain after this quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have to speak with Putin also. It`s called Russia. But when I spoke with Putin, he asked me whether or not I would see Lavrov. Now, what should I say, no, I`m not going to see him? I said, I will see him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There were no American photojournalists allowed into President Trump`s Vladimir Putin arranged Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which meant the only pictures we saw yesterday, which were distributed widely and showed Trump looking exceedingly chummy with the Russians came from the Russian side.
An administration official told The Washington Post that the White House had been misled about the role of the Russian photographer, saying, Russian officials had described the individual as Lavrov`s official photographer without disclosing he`s also worked for TASS, that`s the Russian government-owned news agency that distributed the pictures.
"They tricked us," an official told CNN`s Jim Acosta of the Russians. "They lie."
The Daily Beast reports that senior administration officials are livid that Russia got to control the narrative. In a truly amazing quote, one official -- I repeat, an administration official -- said, Trump is, quote, either in bed with the Russians or too stupid to understand the severity of this mistake. Either way, the implications are truly terrifying.
In its read out of the meeting, the White House made no mention of the fact that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was there in the Oval Office with Trump and Lavrov. We only found that out because he was there in the photos released by the Russians. And even when the White House finally posted its own pictures of the meeting, well, Kislyak is nowhere to be seen.
This isn`t the first time the Trump administration has tried to hide or mislead people about contact with the Russian ambassador. Mike Flynn was fired for lying about his conversations with him. Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself for not disclosing meetings with Kislyak. And Senate investigators are probing meetings with Kislyak arranged by Jared Kushner.
And there`s another member of Trump world who was a bit dodgy about his contact with the Russian ambassador.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I`m just trying to get a straight answer. Like did you meet Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland. Did you talk to him?
CARTER PAGE, TRUMP ADVISER: I`m not going to deny that I talked with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Carter Page back on All In right after this.
HAYES: One of the people celebrating the firing of FBI Director Jim Comey is a man President Trump once identified as one of his key foreign policy advisers, Carter Page, who says he was interrogated by FBI officials in March over alleged ties between the Trump campaign in Russia, ties Page calls, quote, completely fake. The FBI reportedly obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor Page and less than two weeks ago, a Senate intelligence committee asked Page to reveal his Russian contacts.
And Page said Monday the committee`s requests were, quote, groundless and outrageous. And joining me now is Carter Page. Good to have you here.
PAGE: Good to see you.
HAYES: So, I guess, let me start with this. I mean, you must be relieved and feel like the heat is off now that Comey is gone.
PAGE: Chris, there was never any heat to begin with because there`s no truth to the primary thing that was allegedly in that FISA warrant that you alluded to, the dodgy dossier.
PAGE: This completely -- every word in that about me is totally baseless.
HAYES: OK. So, but there`s no heat. You protest your innocence, which is way you say there`s no heat.
But when you get interrogated by the FBI, that feels like heat, doesn`t it?
PAGE: Well, it`s interesting...
HAYES: I mean have you ever been interrogated by the FBI before?
PAGE: Not about me specifically. I have -- as I mentioned to Director Comey back in September, when I offered to help, is I`ve helped both the FBI and CIA on other things in the past. We`ve had tens of hours of discussions, and I spent a lot of time in Langley previously.
HAYES: Wait. Why? Why were you -- you`ve been spending a lot of time with the FBI and CIA over the years?
PAGE: I always -- sometimes you`re asked. I think it`s pretty well known.
HAYES: No, no, not sometimes you`re asked. Asked for what? Why?
PAGE: It is - very often the agencies ask for background on things that are happening around the world. And very often I`ve offered insights. And so frankly speaking, we`ve had disagreements over the years in terms of my views as to what`s actually going on in Russia. Actually having spent years and countless hours there, I think I`ve -- I hope to a certain extent, at least to an open-minded listener both in the intelligence community and also in the public more broadly there`s a different reality compared to the misperceptions out there.
HAYES: So, what you`re saying is the CIA and FBI had consulted with you about your read on things in Russia at various times. You have cooperated with them over the years. That`s what you`re saying.
But this was different. You have said that FBI agents in March, they questioned you specifically on this probe.
HAYES: Well, what were they asking you about?
PAGE: It`s interesting because almost everything to some extent was based on all those false allegations in the dodgy dossier.
HAYES: They were asking you...
PAGE: ...that`s why it`s so encouraging. You talk about obstruction of justice, one of the aspects of obstruction of justice is false evidence. So I can`t -- I have a number of appeals out under the privacy act to get the court warrant, which is supposedly as thick as a wrist. And so let`s see what`s in that court warrant and whether there`s false evidence in that because then we`re really talking about false evidence, Chris.
HAYES: Will you tell me what they asked you about? Like what did they ask you?
PAGE: Read the dodgy dossier.
HAYES: Like they were asking you, basically, based on the dossier, they were asking you did you meet with this person? Did you meet with that person?
PAGE: In broad terms.
Again, I don`t want to dig into specifics, but everything to a large extent was related to that, yeah.
HAYES: OK, will you answer the biggest mystery of Carter Page for me?
HAYES: The president of the United States said your name, Carter Page, Ph.D. He was talking to The Washington Post. There`s a bunch of Trump people who say this guy had nothing to do with us. He was a hanger on. He was an ancillary figure. I don`t know who the guy is.
At some point, Carter Page, Ph.D. got onto a piece of paper that the president of the United States read. What was the conduit by which Carter Page Ph.D. entered the campaign of Donald J. Trump?
PAGE: The favorite term I like that you use there was hanger on. I think the biggest thing which I`ve been this year is hung on account of being a supporter, and that`s in the end of the day my biggest...
HAYES: Right, I know that. I hear you out. I hear that you feel you`ve been unfairly persecuted because you`re a supporter. I get that.
But there is just a factual question here, which is that someone put you in touch with - there was some way that you joined the campaign as an adviser. How did that happen?
PAGE: well, here`s the thing, Chris. If I tell you that, then that person will get dozens of calls within the next hour.
Look at the privacy intrusion...
HAYES: No one thinks that person did anything wrong.
PAGE: Other networks where they`ve got little wire diagrams of Putin, Carter Page, and then puts an x...
HAYES: Was it Paul Manafort?
PAGE: No. I never met Paul Manafort. I`ve never spoken with him.
HAYES: OK. Do you have relationships -- do you know Roger Stone? Have you ever talked to him?
PAGE: I had one conversation with Roger Stone, a very interesting conversation.
HAYES: Every one with Roger Stone is an interesting conversation.
PAGE: Well, it was -- I said hello to him briefly last May at a book signing for the Clintons` war on women. And he asked me one question.
PAGE: He said-- and I told him I`m a supporter, and I`m helping out some people on foreign policy front. He asked me, are you a neocon? I said to him, the answer was I -- Roger, I am about the farthest thing away on the spectrum from a neocon.
HAYES: Well, this is the - two more quick questions. One, do you believe the intelligence community`s finding that the Russia criminally sabotage the compromised the emails of the DNC and John Podesta?
PAGE: I think that the sabotage by the last administration with these FISA warrants and all the propaganda that went on around that, to me, that`s the biggest influence on the 2016 election.
HAYES: I understand that, but that`s what they used to call what aboutism when they`re talkingabout - the question is do you accept the intelligence agency`s findings about that? Do you think that Russia did that?
PAGE: I don`t have enough evidence and I`m not convinced. And so that`s why I love -- I mean I`m focused on the human rights element.
HAYES: I know you are.
PAGE: I look forward to reading your book.
HAYES: Let me ask you the most important question.
HAYES: Every time that I`ve seen you on television, whether you`ve been on this show or other shows, people that I know that are lawyers tear their hair out. The question is what are you doing? You are the subject of a federal investigation. You`re talking to FBI interrogators. This is very serious, high-stakes stuff. You are going on television without an attorney. Why are you doing that?
PAGE: Chris, if I felt that there was anything even close to being wrong with anything I`ve done, not only over the last 24 months, that time horizon that they`re looking at here, but really going back over the course of the last quarter century since my first trip to Moscow in the summer of 1991, then I would be concerned, and I would be holding myself back.
But if you look at all the false information, and frankly I disagree with many of your past speakers, Representative Waters. I actually knew her husband, Ambassador Williams, when I was an officer on the USS Carr when he did a port visit down there. The future of diplomacy and fixing this current narrative and this current terrible trajectory that we`re on comes down to acting like Ambassador Williams in terms of diplomacy and having a better approach to this.
HAYES: You just feel like, I got nothing to hide. I`m going to talk to whoever I talk to.
HAYES: Snd for your sake, I hope that proves to be the wise course of action.
Carter Page, thanks for being with me. Appreciate it.
HAYES: Coming up, the man who wrote the memo, how Rod Rosenstein became the center of the White House narrative and what power he now holds over the investigation.
Plus, the wrath of the constituents in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two after the break.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, Republicans heading back to their districts during the congressional recess are feeling the wrath of their constituents, especially for congressman Tom MacArthur, the New Jersey Republican who brought Trumpcare back from the dead by authoring that amendment that gave states a way to opt out of Obamacare patient protections.
In an area of his district in which he got only 12 percent of the vote, Congressman MacArthur held a marathon five-hour town hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long are you and your fellow Republicans going to defend this American nightmare? You, Mitch McConnell, how long? Open your eyes!
REP. TOM MACARTHUR, (R) NEW JERSEY: Folks, I didn`t come here to defend our president tonight. I came to answer your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds like you did!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife was diagnosed with cancer when she was 40 years old. She beat it, but every day, every day she lives with it. My children both have preexisting conditions from birth, one cardiac, one thyroid. You have been the single greatest threat to my family in the entire world. You are the reason I stay up at night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: But if you thought that was rough, Betsy DeVos gave her first commencement address since becoming education secretary, and, well, you could hear most of it over the booing. That`s Thing 2 in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos went to Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Florida, to give her first commencement address yesterday.
Now, the same Betsy DeVos who as education secretary issued a statement saying that historically black colleges and universities, quote, are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. After a backlash, she acknowledged HBCUs were also born out of racism.
Despite opposition, her invitation to Bethune-Cookman University was not withdrawn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETSY DEVOS, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Dr. Jackson, board of trustees, thank you so very, very much for this great honor and privilege.
DEVOS: I am honored to become a wildcat. And it`s a real honor and privilege to be with you as we celebrate the Bethune-Cookman University class of 2017. Congratulations to all of you.
DR. EDISON O. JACKSON, PRESIDENT, BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY: If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.
HAYES: Both the secretary`s speech and the reaction continued, but graduates did receive their diplomas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 I`ll consider. We`ll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner. And at that time he told me you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All right, we have some breaking news about that dinner that Donald Trump had with now former FBI Director James Comey. New York Times, citing conversations Comey had with associates reports the dinner began with small talk but the president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him. Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge and said Mr. Comey, as recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump he would always be honest with him, but that he was not reliable in the convention political sense.
By Mr. Comey`s account, his answer to Mr. Trump`s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president. The associate said later in the dinner Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty.
Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him honesty and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.
The White House has said that the account provided in The New York Times is not correct.
Joining me now is Darqun Demirjian with The Washington Post and Michael Zelden, former independent counsel and federal prosecutor.
Well, Michael, that seems like a fairly significant bit of news.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FRM. INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, it seems what you would have expected from the FBI director which was to say I`m honest and I`m doing an honest investigation and that`s what you want from me. This is not a matter of loyalty or not loyalty, this is about integrity and that`s what my job is to be the head of the FBI is to be an honest and integral part of the criminal justice system, which relies on integrity.
HAYES: Karen, there`s a lot of focus right now on the man that the interim director reports to on the Russia probe which is Rod Rosenstein. You`ve been covering some of the sort of back and forth about him. This is a person who wrote that memo, widely respected, both sides of the aisle, et cetera, now as seen as having tarnished himself and who apparently, according to reporting behind the scenes, was pretty furious that the decision was heaped on him. Is that your understanding?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, THE WASHINGTONTON POST: Yes. He has certainly came under a lot of fire especially from Democrats who are saying that basically they don`t believe that this memo was up to the snuff of someone who`s deputy attorney general and they want answers for why he wrote it and let himself be at the center of this whole affair.
Certainly we`ve reported that Trump initially did put the onus of the reasoning for this firing on that memo as you heard today, of course, in that NBC interview he then said well I would have found a reason anyway even if not with that sort of recommendation from Rosenstein. And as we reported yesterday, Rosenstein even threatened to quit over this at one point.
There were various things being thrown about today, because Rosenstein made a surprise visit to Capitol Hill. He met with the heads of the Senate intelligence committee behind closed doors. Now they said that meeting was prescheduled, but that raised all kinds of new questions also. And both of those heads of the Senate intelligence committee were asked whether they had confidence in Rosenstein afterwards. And it was interesting because Warner said he still has issues with him and Burr basically demurred and said, you know, we work who we are given to work with. We don`t choose the people that run these departments, and so that`s basically where we are.
There`s still tons of questions and everyone in the Senate is waiting. They`ve invited Rosenstein to come to Capitol Hill again as early as next week to brief all of the senate, they`ll have lots of questions for him from all sides of this. They haven`t directly heard from him yet. And he really is at the center of this whole thing at this point. And somebody that, you know, is trusted, was trusted, two weeks ago and he was confirmed by both sides.
HAYES: Well, and he also has this special role here, which is that now that - so attorney general Jeff Sessions has recused himself. He would be the person to appoint a special prosecutor. And this was a key question in his confirmation hearing. I want to play you Pat Leahy as asking him about this. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: Are you willing to appoint a special counsel to examine Russian interference in our elections and other criminal activity?
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`m willing to appoint a special counsel, senator, whenever I determine it`s appropriate based upon the policies and procedures of the Justice Department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now Michael, it`s my understanding you served in the capacity of special counsel. And I wonder if you could describe what exactly that means and how it would work.
ZELDIN: So, the way it is is that when the Justice Department believes that it cannot with integrity or without some sense of compromise conduct the investigation itself, it goes to an independent counsel, which is what I was to investigate the matter. I investigated allegations with respect to Herbert Walker Bush`s tampering of Bill Clinton`s passport files.
Under my tenure, we were appointed by a court. So the independent counsel statute, which was passed by Jimmy Carter, reupped by Clinton, provided for a mechanism by which the court of appeals of the District of Columbia, those three-judge panel appointed by the Supreme Court Justice - chief justice of the Supreme Court, would appoint us.
And so Judge Santello chaired that three judge panel appointed us. They took it completely out of the hands of the Justice Department. The Justice Department made the referral, but didn`t make the appointment.
But that statute sunsetted in 1999. And so we have no statute. So under the statute process now, under the customary practice now, the attorney general appoints. The attorney general is recused, so it goes to the deputy.
Now, the deputy has a problem because of this memo. Before this memo, I think people would have said, you know what, he`s a career guy. He served under Obama, he served ably in Maryland for eight years, he can make this decision.
Now because he`s stuck himself into the middle of this thing with this silly memo, I think people are going to say should he really be the person who makes the appointment?
I frankly think he probably can, but if I had a recommendation to these guys, I`d say, send it to the chief justice for the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia, Merrick Garland, let him talk with - no, seriously, let him talk with Judge Sentell (ph) who was the former chairman of that committee and let them pick a person who they think is capable of doing this.
HAYES: Well, from a writer`s room perspective, bringing back that character from earlier in the season would be a great twist, the Merrick Garland twist.
In fact, Karoun, there`s some sort of trolling suggest of Merrick Garland as the head of the FBI.
But I guess the question is, is there an alternative that you`re hearing about who --Schumer has floated the idea of the highest civil, you know, career person. It`s either going to be Rosenstein or no one it seems to me at this point.
DEMIRJIAN: Well, at this point it certainly his call. And certainly Democrats have been pressuring for a lot of different independent things - independent commissions, special counsel, people to get it out of the line of traditional fire, to get out of the line of fire of the president. But the Republicans have to get on board for them to be able to make any changes in the procedure in congress and to make changes in the procedure in the administration they have to pressure the president and they haven`t done it.
HAYES: All right, Karoun Demirjian and Michael Zeldin, thanks for joining me.
Before we go, I wanted to let you know I have a book event coming up on Monday if you`re in the Detroit area. I`ll be speaking at the Burton Manor as part of a luncheon hosted by the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society about my book A Colony in a Nation, which is out now. You can check out our Facebook page for more details. And if you`re in the area please come by.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END