Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 19, 2017 Guest: Ted Lieu, Bob Bauer, Olivia Nuzzi, Sam Stein, Mark Warner
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- the Middle East centered on Syria, they did it with a Moscow simultaneously engaged in manipulating who won the American Presidency. And this led inevitably to the danger, that the future President`s aggressive push for friendship with Vladimir Putin would come to appear as a hand in glove engagement with Putin`s own effort to decide who that President would be. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There`s no collusion. Russia is fine.
HAYES: The Russia investigation moves inside the White House.
TRUMP: But I can always speak for myself and the Russians.
HAYES: Twin scoops from The New York Times and The Washington Post. A senior Trump administration official is now a person of interest in the Trump/Russia investigation.
MATT ZAPOTOSKY, WASHINGTON POST JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: You`re going to see subpoenas, potential interview requests in the coming weeks.
HAYES: And the President in the Oval Office told Russia`s Ambassador that the pressure is off now that the, quote, nut job James Comey was fired.
TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s pretty clear --
TRUMP: You`re the puppet.
HAYES: Tonight the case for obstruction of justice, the White House responds and all of the massive fallout from these two stories when ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Tonight, with the President in the air on his first overseas trip, major developments in the stories still surrounding the White House he leaves behind. Tonight the stunning revelations that a senior White House adviser is under investigation, that the President bragged to Russian officials in the Oval Office about the firing of his FBI Director and finally that former Director Comey himself has agreed to testify publicly before the Senate. First, the investigation. The Washington Post first to report today that the law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest. The post reporting the investigation appears to be entering a more overtly active phase and is likely to intensify. Post reporter Matt Zeptosky described the situation early or MSNBC.
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ZAPOTOSKY: You`re going to see subpoenas, potential interview requests in the coming weeks and the big way that escalated is now a focus of it is someone inside the White House.
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HAYES: A short time ago, NBC News citing two U.S. officials confirmed that an unnamed current White House official is under FBI investigation related to Russia collusion. Meanwhile, McClatchy citing a member of Congress briefed today by Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein is reporting that investigators into Russian interference in the election are now also probing whether White House officials have engaged in a cover-up. One note of caution, one House democrat who is in today`s briefing told NBC News he or she did not come to the same conclusion. But here`s Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen on what Rosenstein said when he briefed the Senate yesterday.
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SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: He was very clear in his comments that a criminal investigation was part of this and part of the purview of the Special Counsel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he use the words, were you looking into a cover- up?
VAN HOLLEN: I`m not sure if he used the word cover-up, but the word obstruction of justice was used and that amounts to the same thing.
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HAYES: Democrat Elijah Cummings who was in today`s briefing on the House side had a message for reporters afterward.
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REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D) MARYLAND: If there is any moment that the press in our country`s history has a major role, it is this moment. This is your moment. You have got to put it out there so people can understand what is going on. I have said it before, and I`ll say it again. This is about the fight for the soul of our democracy. We cannot afford to lose this one.
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HAYES: And then this. A New York Times reporting that when the President met with Russian officials in the Oval Office last week, where he reportedly disclosed classified, high-level intelligence provided by Israel, the President in that same meeting also told the Russian officials, quote, "I just fired the Head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That`s taken off." President Trump adding, "I`m not under investigation." Senator Patrick Leahy responded to the story on Twitter by quoting the President adding, quote, "this is what obstruction looks like." The White House is not disputing the account which came from a document that has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. In a statement, the Press Secretary Sean Spicer said once again that the real story is that the conversation leaked and complained that Comey had, quote, "created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia." An unnamed official told The Times the President was merely quote "using a negotiating tactic to coax concessions from Russian officials." All this coming just days after The New York Times reported that President Trump personally asked Former FBI Director James Comey to drop the Russia related investigation into his Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Late today we learned at Comey has agreed to testify in an open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee sometime after Memorial Day. Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California, Member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee. There`s so much to get to here, Congressman. Let me start with just your reaction to The Times report about the President`s calling Comey a nut job, saying he fired him, seeming to explicitly state it was to get away from the investigation that essentially the White House confirming it today. What is your reaction to that?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Chris, for that question. Let me say that we no longer just have smoke. We have a raging ten-alarm fire at the White House. As a former Prosecutor, what the President did in firing James Comey and then saying he did it to relieve pressure on himself because of the FBI investigation is the classic case of obstruction of justice, a federal crime. Anybody else who did something like this would be facing a federal indictment and a criminal trial.
HAYES: You know, you have a particular perspective because if I`m not mistaken, you serve as a jag officer, as a prosecutor in the military system. And in that -- in those situations, you have the kind of improper use of the chain of command to manipulate investigations. That`s something that can be prosecuted. Is there a corollary here in what the President is doing?
LIEU: Absolutely. In the Air Force, we have Article 134 of Uniform Code of Military Justice for obstruction of justice. And what we have here is a President of the United States actively impeding, obstructing a federal investigation into his associates and potentially himself. It doesn`t even matter right now what the underlying investigation is. The fact that he fired Comey for the reason he stated is obstruction of justice and that is a federal crime.
HAYES: If that is a federal crime, does that meet the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors for impeachment as laid out in the constitution of the United States?
LIEU: The first article of impeachment for President Richard Nixon was obstruction of justice. I sit on the House Judiciary Committee. If there were to be impeachment proceedings, the House Judiciary Committee is where it would start. We have a lot of active investigations going on, including the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. We need to let those investigations run its course so we can get the full evidence and then proceed based on what the investigations show.
HAYES: So, what I`m hearing from you -- and I want to read you something that Adam Schiff -- there`s an article in New York Times about democratic leaders trying to slow calls to impeach Trump. Adam Schiff talking about the need to kind of let the facts come out. You are in the same place right as of now?
LIEU: I think we`re all in a different place as of now because of last ten days have been a turning point with the firing of Jim Comey. But today was a particularly turning point because now we have the President actually saying the reason he did it was to relieve pressure because of FBI investigation. That is obstruction of justice staring us in the face. I hope it`s a turning point for republicans who are now going to start taking this seriously and do the investigations and really look into how do we address these violations of federal law.
HAYES: We should note there`s also news tonight that White House counsel`s office has consulted experts in impeachment and have begun collecting info on how such proceedings work. Are you surprised by that news?
LIEU: I am not. What I am a little surprised about is there is also reporting that a current senior White House official close to the President is under investigation by the FBI. So now we`re not just talking about Michael Flynn or Paul Manafort or Roger Stone or others who worked for Trump during the campaign. This is a person right now in our government who may have colluded with a foreign power. That is a problem.
HAYES: Congressman Ted Lieu, thanks for being with me tonight.
LIEU: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining me now, Bob Bauer who served was White House counsel under President Obama. And I should note for disclosure, my wife worked in that office. All right. The White House is not contesting the account that ran The New York Times. In fact, Sean Spicer`s statement basically says, yes, the President fired the FBI Director because of the way he was conducting the investigation. Is that obstruction?
BOB BAUER, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Once again, and, obviously, we have a Special Counsel who can look into this and will look into this as part of the overall charge that he has. We don`t have all the facts and they`ll emerge and then someone will be able to piece together the case one way or the other, for or against obstruction. But certainly what you have is this accumulated series of statements that he was looking to take the pressure off of himself. That the President had himself in mind, his own exposure in looking to, first, obtain from Mr. Comey assurances that he wasn`t in legal peril and then reflecting to others that was his purpose. And so you take together these various statements, and it creates a picture that at a minimum is going to require attention from those who were responsible for that aspect of the investigation.
HAYES: You worked as White House Counsel. What would you be doing right now if you were in the White House and serving in that role?
BAUER: Well, it`s very difficult for me to say. I have not represented Mr. Trump. I have a different experience, different White House, differently structured, different personnel. I can only say that these are periods of time when it is very important for discipline to be restored in the building. And that`s going to wind up determining whether the President and his staff can get a handle on this from a communications and political perspective but also certainly from a legal perspective. If you have the President tweeting on the subject, if you have no discipline around what he says publicly about it if you have inconsistency of message, the President saying one thing, the staff saying another, that`s going to be an enormous concern to the White House Counsel and, quite frankly, to whatever personal counsel the President is consulting on these issues.
HAYES: Well, I`m glad you mention that because we have reporting today that there`s a person of interest inside the White House. We don`t know who that is. But at a certain point you start to have dueling sets of legal interest. There`s the White House Counsel who`s looking out for the President as the President of the United States. The President retaining private counsel most likely to sort of work on the investigation, and staffers probably getting outside counsel as well. How does that -- how does that all work?
BAUER: Well, you are correct. I mean, there are different interests here that have to be addressed. The staffers, as well as the other officials in the White House, the President, the White House Counsel, they have their official duties to attend to. But they also, in some cases, are going to require private counsel, and a ranging an orderly process for all of that to be sorted out and assuring that for example government communications of more personal nature involving personal liability are not confused is absolutely essential.
HAYES: What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that?
BAUER: Well, for one thing, as we learned in prior administrations, when questions of attorney/client privilege were litigated, the President if for example, consulting a government lawyer cannot invoke the privilege if he makes communications about his personal legal circumstances to the government lawyer. Those government lawyers are there to represent the interests of the United States.
BAUER: And that`s why he requires private counsel to have the full benefit of candid communications that are cloaked in privilege.
HAYES: So -- and it also strikes me that there`s some real issues you have to worry about if you are a staffer about your own exposure. I mean, we don`t know what`s happening, but we know that Mueller may be investigating obstruction, that we don`t know what orders have been given inside the White House about how to deal with any of this. But presumably there`s paper trails and memos and meetings that have happened about the firing of James Comey that you can find yourself -- you know, with some criminal exposure or at the very least being called upon to give sworn testimony.
BAUER: Well, as this plays out, that may well turn out to be true. We don`t know that yet of course, but certainly there will be people if for example, the obstruction phase -- and that`s not the only piece of it --
HAYES: All right. Yes.
BAUER: -- obviously, that Mr. Mueller is looking into. But if that begins to proceed, if there`s a basis for them to look into it and by the way, that may not just be a question of the President`s conduct. It may, in fact, involve the conduct of others in the government.
BAUER: And you are quite right. Then their conversations and their documentation are all going to be matters of interest to those who were investigating it. Absolutely. I would make one other comment about the White House legal team`s concerns. The President`s tweets, his comments, as I mentioned, all of these add significantly to the complexity of a situation. And there`s another aspect to what The New York Times reports. It is quite striking. The President telling a foreign government, the Russians no less, that he thought the former FBI Director was, I don`t recall precisely a nut job or nut case, cannot be helpful to him in the relationship that he has with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the agents currently working on the case. And these questions of how he positions himself publicly, what he communicates about himself, about his intentions, about the way he operates are just exceptionally important. And a counsel inside the building would are to be actively concerned that either by Twitter or in some other fashion, through impulsive means of communication, he`s making his life and everybody else`s much more difficult.
HAYES: Bob Bauer, thank you for your time tonight.
HAYES: Joining me now, Olivia Nuzzi, Washington Correspondent for New York Magazine and Sam Stein, Senior Politics Editor for the Washington Post. Well, Sam, I`ll start with you. Holy potatoes. I mean, let`s start the Times story. Just -- even if there`s nothing there underlying, just the notion that the President is in this meeting that the U.S. media are barred from, that Russian state media are in, Kislyak`s present is hidden -- presence is hidden from us in the official readout. We only learned from Russian state media and in that, he`s telling them he`s fired the guy that was investigating them, which is to say Russian government and possibly who knows, maybe even Kislyak in his -- I cannot believe he said that.
SAM STEIN, WASHINGTON POST SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR: That might have been the second most damaging thing he said in that meeting. He also revealed critical intelligence to the Russians that apparently come from the Israelis so he could have damaged our relationship with Israel as well. I mean, it would be tough to draw up a more damaging meeting from a communications, political optics perspective, whatever. It also just damages every line the White House communication shop had been trying to push for the rationale for the Comey firing. I mean, keep in mind, Rosenstein was supposed to be the person that compelled them to do this firing. Trump goes on to Lester Holt and says, no, no, it was about Russia. And then of course, divulges it to the Russians themselves. There is no coherence to anything that this White House has done. It does seem to be a White House in free-fall. But I actually just think that this is a case of people who have no concept of how the political system works. They think they can run roughshod over it. They improvise. They might have a different mentality because they`re from the business world but I can`t even imagine that this style works well in the business world as well.
HAYES: Well, and Olivia, you`ve covered of this White House closely so it think to me, it`s more than the political world too. It`s also the legal world. I mean, there`s a reason that White Houses tend to be chock full of lawyers because it`s very easy to break the law, actually, if you`re -- if you`re operating at that level. And it strikes me the entire culture there is somewhat lawless. Is that -- is that fair?
OLIVIA NUZZI, NEW YORK MAGAZINE WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Completely. And Donald Trump unfortunately, for his lawyers, is not someone who takes direction particularly well. So you imagine they are giving him legal advice and then he`s going out in an interview with Lester Holt or elsewhere and completely going against that advice and just saying whatever the hell he wants. I think it`s a terrible position for everyone in the White House. And you know, the White House seems to think they can get away with just positioning the press as the enemy again, positioning Comey as the enemy, saying this is really about leaks because they have gotten away with that for so long during the campaign. They had an enemy in Hillary Clinton, they had an enemy in the press, and they were able to withstand all of the different scandals during the campaign. It`s very different now. And they don`t seem to be aware of that.
HAYES: To the point of it being different, there`s an amazing piece in the Daily Beast today which is just off, it`s just anonymous quotes from senior administration officials calling the President a moron, talking about how idiotic the --I mean, I guess my question to you, Olivia, having sort of reported on these folks, it also seems like the people around him are distancing themselves from him. That he has not inspired loyalty. That may be the most dangerous part of all of this.
NUZZI: Well, surely, yes, I think people are starting to get a little bit spooked. They`re not sure how much longer they`ll going to last there. But I would also point out, you know, there are people in all different agencies within this government who probably don`t necessarily work in the White House who are probably very scared right now to be associated with this administration in any respect.
HAYES: Sam, there`s reporting, obviously, that there is now a White House official close to the President under investigation, which is incredible to imagine. And then more reporting tonight from Reuters that the White House essentially plotting their counterattack against Mueller, possibly going to invoke some fairly arcane ethical rule that would force Mueller to recuse from investigating Manafort and Jared Kushner because he worked at WilmerHale which has represented them. It seems to me like that indicates an urge to double down which if we shouldn`t be surprised by but can be dangerous.
STEIN: Yes, and I go back to my point last time which was the initial statement put out after the appointment of Bob Mueller as Special Counsel is we welcome this. This will absolve us because there`s nothing there. Certainly you don`t act in this fashion, trying to impede the investigation before it begins if you have nothing to hide. It`s a bizarre, guilty-like behavior. And the other thing I would say that you know, we`re sort of losing a little attention. There`s so much focus and rightfully so on all this but there`s the possibility of real damage being done in the interim. And it`s not just divulging secrets of intelligence that the Israelis may have shared with you to the Russians. But there`s an underreported story that came out tonight about Trump deciding that he might blow up the individual market of health care for instance by not paying this ObamaCare subsidies. These things are happening in real time and there`s so much dirt being kicked up with the Russian stuff, with the Comey stuff, with the Kushner stuff that we`re barely paying attention to the totality of the damage that could happen.
HAYES: Olivia Nuzzi and Sam Stein, thanks to you both.
STEIN: Thanks Chris.
HAYES: Up next. More on the expanding Russian probe and the news that James Comey will testify publicly. Senator Mark Warner joins me after this two-minute break.
HAYES: The federal investigation into Russian sabotage in the 2016 campaign now reaches all the way into Donald Trump`s White House. Washington Post reported today that according to people familiar with the matters, the probe has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest. Not just any official, sources told the Post but someone close to the President. NBC News has confirmed a White House official is under investigation. And this comes right as the investigation is shifting into a higher gear entering what the post describes as a more overtly act of faith. Investigators are reportedly starting to conduct interviews and issue more subpoenas. And they`re not just looking at the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives according to Post. They`re examining whether any Trump associates may have committed financial crimes. As the FBI probe moves forward, so does the investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee which just announced that James Comey will testify in open session sometime after Memorial Day. His first public appearance since the President fired him as FBI Director just before that announcement was made, I asked the Ranking Member of that Committee Senator Mark Warner for his reaction to the news that someone in the White House is under investigation.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Well, Chris, I`m not going to comment on anything I may have been briefed on as a member of the gang of eight. Any classified information, but we`ve got a lot of work in front of us.
HAYES: The President told Russian officials in the White House that James Comey was crazy, a real nut job. What`s your reaction to him telling a Russian officials that?
WARNER: I find it outrageous. You know, it`s one of the reasons why I believe so strongly James Comey deserve a chance to come before our Committee in open session and tell his side of the story. It`s remarkable that a President would demean a Director of the FBI that way it`s remarkable that he`d say that to the Russians. This may have been I guess, the same meeting where he was also disclosing classified information. In a certain way, you just can`t make this stuff up but every day there seems to be another, oh, my gosh, kind of moment. And I got to tell you, it`s -- it is very, very concerning to me. It`s one of the reasons why the Senate Intelligence Investigation, while I commend the fact at the appointment of former Director Mueller to lead the criminal and the Justice Department investigation, our counterintelligence investigation, we`ve got to pick-up the pace. It`s more important than ever. We will have a different standard. There may be actions that are criminal that -- and certain actions that they may not hit that mark in terms of being criminal but they`re still factual and they still need to be reported in terms of counterintelligence and ultimately for the American people to then make their own judgments.
HAYES: What more would you have to say? Senator Patrick Leahy tweeted that this is what obstruction looks like and then quoted the President. What more would you have to see? What more evidence would you need to convince you that the President has committed obstruction?
WARNER: Listen, while I went to law school, I never practiced a day of law so I`m not going to weigh in on the legalities but it sure does seem inappropriate, to say the least, that the President would both make these kind of comments to the Russians as well as the whole underlying reason that he has now acknowledged repeatedly that he fired james comey because of his concerns about the investigations into his associates who may have had possible collusion with the Russians during the campaign.
HAYES: Senator Lindsey Graham who, of course, is on judiciary, basically said yesterday, look, or I think, two days ago, Mueller is in charge now. We`re going to have to sort of step back. Everyone in the Congress is going to have to step back, let Mueller do this. And we should just get back to business. Go to work on the tax cuts and ObamaCare repeal and replace. What`s your -- what`s your reaction to that?
WARNER: Well, that may be -- I can`t say grace over what the Judiciary Committee may do or not do. I know that Director Mueller, I`m glad he was appointed but that simply means there`s a new boss for the already existing investigations that have been ongoing. We know now from many, many months. But I can assure Senator Graham and everybody else that the Senate Counterintelligence investigation is ongoing, full steam ahead. As a matter of fact, we are redoubling our effort. We`ve really picked up momentum as we start to go beyond the intelligence community, interviews and now starting to interview people that were affiliated with Mr. Trump and his campaign. We`ve still got a very, very critical job to do. And we`re going to do it.
HAYES: All right. Senator Mark Warner, thank you for joining me.
HAYES: Coming up. The amazing measures former FBI Director James Comey took to avoid interactions with President Trump. That after this quick break.
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BENJAMIN WITTES, FRIEND OF JAMES COMEY: This was somebody under intense pressure, and, look, Jim is a trooper. He handles pressure very well. He`s not a whiner and -- but the color of the wallpaper was that these were not honorable people, and that protecting the FBI from them was his day job.
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HAYES: The relationship between President Trump and then FBI director James Comey is now, of course, under intense scrutiny, particularly since it`s known the President called Comey a real nut job when he met with Russian officials in the Oval Office. Benjamin Wittis, a friend of Comey`s spoke with PBS NewsHour about a number of conversations they had about Comey and President Trump. Wittes who is Editor in Chief of a highly regarded law firm blog described a scene two days after the President`s inauguration at a White House ceremony honoring law enforcement officials. He says Comey was hoping to get through the event unnoticed.
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WITTES: He really wanted to kind of blend in and not be singled out. And he`s a -- he`s 6`8", so it`s when --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s really tough to do that.
WITES: He`s 6`8, it`s really hard to blend in. He`s wearing if you watch the video of it, he`s wearing a blue blazer, and he stands in the part of the room that is as far from Trump as it is physically possible to be and also against blue drapes that are the same color as his --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He chose that spot?
WITTES: He chose that spot because it was you know, like almost like a chameleon, you know, camouflage against the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blend in.
WITTES: So you know, he described you know, thinking he`d gotten away with that. Then he has to go over and shake his hand.
TRUMP: He`s become more famous than me.
WITTES: Then it`s a long walk across that room. And what he told me was that it was -- it was bad enough that there was going to be a handshake, but, you know, there really wasn`t going to be a hug. And so if you watch the video, he extends his hand and Comey`s arms are really long, and he extends his hand preemptively and Trump grabs the hand and pulls him into a hug but the hug is entirely one-sided. So one guy in the hug is shaking hands and the other guy is hugging. And Comey was just completely disgusted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disgusted?
WITTES: Disgusted by the episode.
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HAYES: The showdown between the president of the United States and the FBI director he fired to take pressure off of the Russians is about to happen in full public view. And we`ll talk about it, next.
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WITTES: So one guy in the hug is shaking hands, and the other guy is hugging. And Comey was just completely disgusted by it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disgusted?
WITTES: Disgusted by the episode. He thought it was an intentional attempt to compromise him in public in a way that would -- that would so -- and emphasize concerns that half of the electorate had about him and the bureau.
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HAYES: As FBI Director James Comey reportedly had several unsettling episodes with President Trump who we now know was thinking about the Russian investigation when he fired Comey and who bragged about it afterwards to Russian officials in the Oval Office.
On one occasion, according to the New York Times, when the president called Comey and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation, Mr. Comey told the president he should not contact him directly, but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquiries to the Justice Department.
There were reportedly several other interludes between the president and Comey before he was fired. Tonight, we learned Comey will have a chance to give his full version of events in public testimony to the senate in the next few weeks.
And joining me now, MSNBC contributor Naveed Jamali, former FBI double agent, Chris Lew, former assistant to President Obama, former deputy secretary of Labor.
And, Chris, let me start with you as someone who worked in the White House for awhile, what -- how forthcoming to you anticipate Comey`s testimony to be when he finally goes before the senate committee.
CHRIS LU, FRM. ASSIT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, Chris, for having me on.
I think he`ll be very forthcoming. And I think he`ll be forthcoming about what the procedures are for contacting the FBI working through White House counsel`s office, working through the Department of Justice.
I spent four years in the Obama White House, and what we have seen over the last couple of weeks in terms of contacts is unprecedented. We were warned up and down about not having contact with agency officials about investigations, whether it was the FBI, ICE, EPA, any enforcement action, we should not have any contact.
And the fact that you have this amount of contacts between the president and the FBI director is really shocking.
HAYES: And not just the president, Chris, you have Reince Priebus we know also talking to him. I mean, just to be clear, you are saying in the White House, you and your colleagues and the president did not and would not have called the FBI director or other agents for updates or to ask them to come out with a statement?
LU: Absolutely not.
You had Bob Bauer on. Bob Bauer would have dragged me to the White House chief of staff and had me fired if I had done anything like that.
And what is also amazing, is you just go back and look at the history of Watergate. Richard Nixon went to Haldeman, to the CIA, to the FBI, to stop that investigation. Donald Trump cuts out the middle man and goes straight to the FBI director. It`s shocking.
HAYES: Naveed, what`s your reaction to the stories emerging about the way that Comey was trying to sort of negotiate this relationship?
NAVEED JAMALI, FRM. FBI DOUBLE AGENT: Yeah, I think that that`s an interesting point. There`s been a lot of sort of buzz about why didn`t Comey resign? Why didn`t he bring this up the minute this happened?
And I think that people should understand that as Chris is sort of pointing out here, the level that perhaps this conversation took place didn`t rise to some sort of criminality. And I think that it was probably the right thing to do to sort of sit on this.
But, you know, I sort of feel like in the military with this term command undue influence. When there`s an investigation in the UCMJ, a commander cannot exert his or her influence to shape the direction of the investigation. And to just use that construct here, it certainly seems that there was, whether by design or not, that there was an attempt here to sort of steer things in a particular direction. And that`s, boy, if you are the commander-in-chief, that`s just -- you just can`t do that.
HAYES: Well, and Chris, respond to this. I mean, look, you know, the point that Benjamin WITTES is making there, right, the grasp there was to try to reaffirm the distrust that half the -- half of the electorate had for Comey because of the Comey letter and the Clinton campaign and pretty robust empirical evidence that extremely powerful effect on the election, helped get Donald Trump elected.
I mean, what do you say to people who say, look, this guy is a grandstander and he is a sort of deft Machiavellian Washington figure who is playing his way through this. And now he`s going to get another chance at the committee.
But all the liberals who suddenly love him are forgetting all their characterological reservations about the man.
LU: You know, Chris, look, I don`t know Jim Comey, but what we have seen over the last 110 days or so from this White House is a complete disrespect for the rule of law. And that starts with the way they`ve treated ethics, with conflicts of interest.
This is not a president or White House that just accidentally had these contacts because they hadn`t had the right level of training. They consciously went into these contacts with an intention to send a message to the FBI director and that`s improper.
HAYES: Naveed, with the news tonight that there`s someone in the White House right now who is a person of interest in the investigation, I mean, just talk me through what it would be like to be in the FBI right now working on that investigation with someone who is close to the president as someone you`re investigating.
JAMALI: Well, look, I think the first question they`re probably looking at is how far back do we have to go? I think it`s not right to think this started in 2017. The Russian involvement started in 2017.
JAMALI: We know for example General Flynn with RT.
So, I think on the FBI they`re trying to figure out how far back do we have to go? Do we want to look at other cases? I mean, there`s this interesting case with this Russian bank and Jared Kushner and his failure to disclose that connection on his security forms.
You know, so it`s a pretty wide net and I think that the FBI is probably going to go back a lot farther than 2017.
HAYES: So, you think they are now looking at -- I mean, the reporting about -- they`re now looking at financial crimes. I mean, your point is that the portfolio of what investigators can look at is, you think that the signals are being sent in the reporting is fairly broad.
JAMALI: Yes. I think that, you know, when it comes to this if there was collusion, or which I tend to not think is the case, but if there was this nexus, it probably didn`t occur just in 2017.
So, the question of obstruction is one thing, but when you go back to the counterintelligence side, this is -- these are things that take years, operations take years. So, I think they`re probably going to go back quite a few years.
HAYES: All right, Naveed Jamali and Chris Lu, thank you both.
Ahead, yet another set of damaging reports to the White House coming out just minutes after Air Force One took off for the president`s first international trip.
Plus, James Comey isn`t the only one who wanted to avoid a hug from Donald Trump. And that`s tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two after the break.
HAYES: Thing One tonight -- we`ve documented President Trump`s oddly aggressive handshakes turning a friendly gesture into a kind of power tug even with his vice president, his secretary of state Rex Tillerson or, most notably, of course, his supreme court pick.
But the yank and pull isn`t the only move this president deploys. As we just discussed, there was the president`s Oval Office half embrace with then FBI director James Comey when he pulled a reportedly uncomfortable Comey into a hug.
But Comey is not the first person apprehensive about an unwanted hug from Donald Trump in front of cameras. Hillary Clinton worried about the same thing and we know that because there is video of her practicing how to avoid it. You don`t want to miss Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: At the first presidential debate last year, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took the stage and shook hands. And while Trump placed a hand on Clinton`s back, she avoided what happened to now fired FBI Director James Comey, an unprovoked embrace from Donald Trump.
And that was no accident. Today, long time Clinton aide Felipe Raines tweeted, not easy to avoid the unwanted Trump hug, sometimes it even takes practice, then posted a video from their debate prep taken two days before the first showdown with Raines playing the part of Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, two major party candidates for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump.
CLINTON: Hey. Look at you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Right now, the president is in the middle of a 14-hour flight to Saudi Arabia, the first of five countries he will visit on his first overseas trip. He left his home country at the end of a truly astonishing week of fast-moving, stunning news about his very young presidency. It was only Monday, again of this week, that The Washington Post had the blockbuster report that President Trump had revealed highly classified intelligence to Russian officials inside the Oval Office. Tuesday was when we learned from the New York Times about the Comey memo, alleging the president asked the former FBI director directly to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Then on Wednesday, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate Russia`s interference in the presidential election. And of course there were smaller stories like the Turkish security forces beating a peaceful protesters on the streets of Washington, D.C., as their president looked on.
Today, the president departed this country on Air Force One headed for Saudi Arabia at 2:30 p.m. and just 30 minutes later the plane barely out of the D.C. metro air space, The New York Times dropped the report the president told Russian officials he`d been under great pressure because of Russia, but firing James Comey, quote, "a real nut job," took the pressure off.
It was two minutes after that that the Washington Post reported that a current White House official is a person of interest in the Russian investigation.
Who knows what will happen tomorrow, or even in the next five minutes. We`re going to take a few minutes just to talk about all of this with Sam Seder and and Leon Wolf right after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look at the way I`ve been treated lately. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Nelson Mandela from heaven saying, hmm.
Joining me now Leon Wolf, managing editor of The Blaze, and Sam Seder, host of the Majority Report and an MSNBC constributor.
I just don`t know -- I don`t think we`ve ever seen anything like this in the two weeks. Well, we haven`t seen anything like the last two weeks in the last decade or so, I would say, and particularly from a sort of -- specifically scandal investigatory standpoint. What does it all add up to in your mind?
SAM SEDER, MAJORITY REPORT: I mean, I don`t think we`ve seen anything like this even a decade ago because it`s coming from so many different directions. And I really do think that there`s a multitude of agendas at play here.
I mean, I think we`re seeing leaks from people around the FBI. I think we`re seeing leaks from the national security state. But frankly, someone`s in the White House--
HAYES: A lot of people in the White House. I think they turned on him. I think a lot of people turned on him.
SEDER: I think there`s a lot of people have turned on him. I think, you know, I know you tweeted the other day you perceive Mike Pence as maybe some type of like House of Cards figure. I mean, there`s a lot of reason to believe there are people in the White House who have a very strange agenda that doesn`t have to do with Donald Trump getting himself out of this predicament.
HAYES: You know, Leon, I`ve been tracking with some fascination the roiling debate on the right which has been roiling ever since Donald Trump set upon the scene and there`s been really heated discussions about what the Americans right`s relationship to him is. What has the last week done for that debate?
LEON WOLF, THE BLAZE: You know, it`s interesting. I think it`s kind of crystallized with a lot of different people.
I haven`t seen a lot of people who I follow who have kind of gotten on the Trump bandwagon, or not even the Trump bandwagon, but there were people who were like in my boat. I was you know one of the Never Trump people who after he was elected said, you know what, let`s give the guy a chance. Let`s hope he succeeds.
I kind of hope just for the sake of the country that he doesn`t do too much of a terrible job. I don`t have much hope for that. Still, optimistically you would want the next four years to not be like the last six months.
So, I haven`t seen a lot of people just jump off that bandwagon, but I mean, if you believe the polls, there are people who voted for Trump who now think that he`s doing a bad job.
HAYES; Right. Yeah, that is a key point. We keep giving this a sort of like, oh, he`s at the floor, you know, he`s the lowest he`s ever been in approval ratings, and this -- the effect, the cumulative effect the last two weeks has been that there are people who saying he`s doing a bad job who didn`t think that before.
SEDER: Yes, but not as many--
HAYES: --las you might suppose.
SEDER: And we look at his numbers going down in terms of Republican approval, but we don`t see -- that`s across the country. In those congressional districts, you can imagine that it`s not hard to believe that those numbers are actually higher than they are amongst Republicans general speaking.
And so in terms of Donald Trump`s performance, of course, I don`t want him to turn the country into a dumpster fire. But the fact is, is that the Republican Party is under-girding this guy. And even though there are people who have a problem with Donald Trump, the fact is the entire infrastructure -- I mean, and you can take it from John McCain picking Sarah Palin, you can take it from Mitt Romney going and kissing the ring, you can take it from John Boehner who refused to tell his own caucus members don`t bring up birther bills.
I mean, there -- this is not coming out of any -- nowhere.
HAYES: And the thing I think about, Leon, if you know, if you`ve ever been at a surprise party or a situation where you`re blindfolded and someone is leading you, there`s this sense you have of just like profound vulnerability, right even if it`s someone you trust. And right now that`s basically what`s being done to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell by Donald Trump. They do not know where this is going. It is remarkable to me they are willing to walk along with this.
WOLF: Yeah, I mean, I said all along throughout the 2016 election that it seemed to me to be kind of like a 1968 type of a feel where the election issues were I thought more cultural than they were political. And I think a lot of people kind of missed that. And I think now we`ve like zoomed past the entire 68 through 72 period and we`re looking kind of 73, 74. It`s what it feels a lot like.
But I will say this, and I said this on Twitter earlier this week, you know, as a guy who was a Republican back in the `90s, there were a lot of times we assumed that Bill Clinton was dead. The stake was through his heart. It was all over. And I hear kind of a lot of liberals with that same sort of elation.
We`ve seen Donald Trump survive so much that it`s incredible.
HAYES: I agree with -- Ron Klain (ph) had a great piece about this -- and you`re nodding your head, and I want to bring this up. This is Brian Schotts, Hawaii Senator, sorry for yelling, guys, but in the middle of this s show, they are still trying to take away your health care and ruin the internet. Politico reporting that Trump has told adviser he wants to end payments of key Obamacare subsidies, a move that could send the health law`s insurance markets into a tailspin, and other reporting suggesting the administration is basically been telling insurers get on board this or we`re going to do this.
They still and a united government. And they still are pursuing this agenda.
SEDER: I mean, and I think that on the ground the greatest force of resistance is coming over health care. I mean, we see it at these town halls. They`re not coming in. I mean, you get a little bit of you`re just doing what Donald Trump wants you to, but you`re also getting some very pointed questions about health care.
And, you know, one thing that has come up I think through over the past couple months in terms of Obamacare, is that people are beginning to appreciate the patient protection part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act as it was came to be known sort of oversold the affordable part, frankly, but the patient protection part is something that fits -- that affects a lot more Americans across the country--
HAYES: PPACA is the official name of the bill, the law.
And I will say the final sort of closing thought here is that if they turn back to the agenda, I don`t think there`s a tremendous amount of clamoring for that health care bill or the tax cuts, frankly. So, I`m not sure like pivoting back into that is going to be the thing that saves them politically.
Leon Wolf and Sam Seder, thanks to you both.
One last reminder before the weekend, if you are anywhere around the New York area on Sunday, I`ll be at Lehman College in my home burrough of the Bronx to talk about A Colony in a Nation. The event is free, open to the public, and if you buy my book there, proceeds go to the Lit Bar, which is a great aspiring book shop you can read all about on our Facebook page as well as get the details for the event.
That is All In for this evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END