For the Record with Greta, Transcript 3/20/2017

Guests: Mike Quigley, Michael Turner, Ron Hosko, Matthew Miller, David Preiss, Robby Mook, Kelly Ayotte, Peter Alexander, Kristen Welker

Show: For the Record with Greta Date: March 20, 2017 Guest: Mike Quigley, Michael Turner, Ron Hosko, Matthew Miller, David Preiss, Robby Mook, Kelly Ayotte, Peter Alexander, Kristen Welker 

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, NBC NEWS HOST FOR THE RECORD: Good evening. In a rare public hearing a short time ago FBI Director James Comey taking the historic and rare step of confirming a counterintelligence investigation into whether there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. Especially those investigations that involve classified matters. But in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so. As justice department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances. I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia`s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: The other major revelation, the FBI director shooting down President Trump stunning twitter allegation that President Obama had wiretapped him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM SCHIFF, 28TH CA REP: Director Comey was the present statement that Obama had his wires tapped in Trump tower a true statement?

COMEY: With respect to the president`s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.

No individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone. It has to go through an application process, ask a judge, the judge can then make the order.

SCHIFF: So President Obama could not unilaterally order a wiretap of anyone?

COMEY: No president could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Meanwhile just blocks away from where I am at the White House, the White House refusing to walk back that wiretap accusation. That didn`t stop President Trump from getting back on twitter today and tweeting from the official presidential account. Quote the NSA and FBI tell congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. And then what happened after President Trump tweeted that? Well, Director Comey was then asked about that tweet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HIMES, CONNECTICUT CONGRESSMAN: This tweet has gone out to millions of Americans, 16.1 million to be exact. Is the tweet as I read it to you, the NSA and FBI telling congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process? Is that accurate?

COMEY: Well, it`s hard for me to react to that. Let me tell you what we understand the state of what we`ve said is. We`ve offered no opinion, have no view, and have no information on potential impact, because it`s never something we looked at.

HIMES: Ok. So it`s not too far of a logical leap to conclude that the assertion that you have told the congress, that there was no influence on the electoral process is not quite right?

COMEY: Right. It certainly wasn`t our intention to say that today, because we don`t have any information on that subject. That is not something that was looked at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: With me Congressman Mike Quigley Democrat from the great city of Illinois, who serves in the House Intelligence, nice to see you sir?

MIKE QUIGLEY, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Listening to director Comey saying he has no information that President Obama wiretapped President Trump, it`s either right or it`s wrong or it`s wrong that it was either the president tweeted that based on that he was mistaken or did it intentionally. What do you think this is?

QUIGLEY: I`m not sure what`s worse. The president of the United States lying about this or watching Breitbart and tweeting it or actually believing that it`s true. And adding insult to injury, the president of the United States tweeting about that during perhaps the most important investigation since Watergate`s first hearing is extraordinary, a surreal day on the hill.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, what can you do or what`s the recourse? What do you tell the American people? Where does congress take it beyond this hearing on that particular issue?

QUIGLEY: I think what comes out of today`s hearing (inaudible) the American public knows this investigation has to move forward. That this isn`t just, smoke somewhere, that there is there. And we can`t be stymied. We are going to need resources to do this investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: the same two issues, one is the tweet that President Trump made that President Obama wiretapped him. That seems now has been put to rest, although the White House is still standing behind it. The other is the investigation into whether there was collusion or improper contact between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Is that right?

QUIGLEY: That is right. And what we`re waiting for is the next distraction. What we sense that this whole thing was about Trump tower was the president in typical fashion trying to find a distraction, because he didn`t like the news cycle.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. How fast do you want this to go or how fast can it go as to whether or not Russia and Trump campaign were included in a way, because this is hanging over the administration and when it hangs over the administration it has a profound impact on how everything operates in Washington.

QUIGLEY: Yes. I mean, this is a complicated, layered, textured investigation. It`s going to require compelling people to testify who really don`t want to testify. We`re probably going to have to get people immunity if that is possible. So we`re going to need cooperation from the Republicans. It would help a great deal if we got cooperation from the White House. I think what we`re going to see is obstruction.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right there are two things that could happen. If you get here on Capitol Hill and bring people to testify and giving them immunity, you run that applying in the courtroom should it end up in a criminal venue? So I mean, even what you do, you have to do carefully.

QUIGLEY: Absolutely, and that is true. That is why we`re going to need cooperation with the FBI.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You`re a former criminal defense lawyer, presumption of innocence. A lot of names get thrown around today. A lot of suppositions, a lot of things -- you have some sort of empathy for the names being thrown around here as possible? I know Paul Manafort has issued a statement saying he is got nothing to do with this and his name got drag through today.

QUIGLEY: Look, these are important charges. And I recognize that. People`s names get thrown out there. I didn`t hear anybody`s name thrown out there that didn`t have a tremendous amount of evidence out there suggesting that they played a role. They were particularly close to the Trump campaign and particularly close to the Russians. And there`s enough smoke there to connect them to this. Any investigation begins with some inference of understanding that there`s a problem afoot. From there they have the entire protection of our criminal justice system.

VAN SUSTEREN: As a former trial lawyer in the courtroom, who`s the one person -- if you only give one person one question in this investigation, who do you want to speak to and what`s your question?

QUIGLEY: It`s tough. I mean, obviously I`d like to get General Flynn to tell us exactly what took place.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you expect he is going to testify before your hearing?

QUIGLEY: I do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has he been called?

QUIGLEY: I wouldn`t know that. I don`t think anybody`s been called yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why would you bring him out to testify? He is not going to talk or you`re going to give him immunity. If he is got other problems down the road, then you have a bigger problem.

QUIGLEY: The problem is we have to get to the truth somehow and they can`t just go on forever as you suggest. This is difficult for the reasons you just stated. I`m not saying it`s easy. To answer your question, I want General Flynn to tell us exactly what took place.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you are going to get to the bottom of this?

QUIGLEY: I think we`re going to get to the bottom of this. We`re going to need the public pressuring all the congress and the White House to release information to cooperate.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, nice to see you. Hope you come back.

QUIGLEY: You too. Thanks again.

VAN SUSTEREN: One name we heard many times in today`s hearing, James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence who earlier this month denied that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump tower. Now, former DNI Clapper also said there was also no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL TURNER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We obviously have the statements of Mr. Clapper that there`s no evidence of collusion with Russia. He just left the intelligence community. And as you were aware, we now sit, because as you said admiral Rogers, the Russians wanted to put a cloud over our system. And Mr. Comey by your announcement today, there is now a cloud that undermines our system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: And then today NBC news received a new statement from Clapper which read as follows. Quote, former director of national intelligence James Clapper has been clear that while he was not aware of any conclusive evidence related to collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russians prior to leaving government he could not account for intelligence or evidence that may have been gathered since inauguration on January 20th. And as I mentioned Paul Manafort the president`s former chairperson was also mentioned repeatedly at today`s hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOAQUIN CASTRO, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Surprise to say, Paul Manafort was a major part of the Trump campaign including serving as its chairman, convention manager and chief strategist before departing campaign in August 2016. Is Paul Manafort a subject in your investigation?

COMEY: I`m not going to comment on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: And moments ago, Manafort released this statement in part. Quote, I had no role or involvement in the cyber attack on the DNC or the information gained from the attack. I have never spoken with any Russian government officials or anyone who claimed to have been involved in the attack.

With me Congressman Michael Turner Republican of the great state of Ohio, who serves in the intelligence, nice to see you sir?

TURNER: Good seeing you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you not find it significant that former DNI Clapper said while he was at DNI that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. He goes right up to January 20th.

TURNER: Right, absolutely. Remember. Comey today is announcing that his investigation dates back to July. So from the period of July coming into January, you have the director of national intelligence said he saw no evidence of collusion. Remember even though the FBI director today had announced there had been an ongoing investigation, he also said draw no conclusions from the fact that there is an investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you find it unusual? I find it stunning but we`re in an awkward position that the FBI director would even be talking about an ongoing investigation. That is usually kept under wraps.

TURNER: It is. But certainly I think it`s also shocking for us to have now public discussions about the fact that the FBI director had both the Democrat and Republican campaigns under investigation as we were coming to a close from the campaigns. You also have to remember that this public hearing today comes hours after we`ve had classified briefings with all of these people testifying multiple times. These are questions that involve (inaudible).

VAN SUSTEREN: But you haven`t heard from General Flynn, have you?

TURNER: We have not. But -- what is important is, the witnesses today they`re testifying, many of their questions they said they were not able to answer in this forums. They are able to answer them in forums where we are able to receive the answers and this was all a part of our Chairman Nunes bringing fort to the public this discussion.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The three issues, there`s President Trump tweeting that President Obama wiretapped him. He denies it, but there`s been no evidence there`s been any wiretap and whatsoever. Then there is question whether it is (inaudible) between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the course of the election. DNI Clapper said that he has found no evidence, there may be evidence but at least that is what he is saying. And we got the Russians messing around with our election, hacking into the DNC. Those are the three primary issues?

TURNER: That is the important issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did (inaudible).

TURNER: Yes. But even more so it`s what are we going to do this doesn`t happen again. There`s a fourth issue, Greta. As the FBI director said, there are classified leaks that are absolute criminal acts. The FBI director said that today. He also said there are many stories that are being leak and classified but are not true, that are in the Washington Post and New York Times that is important for now.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about the president`s tweet, accused the former president of wiretapping him. What do you say about that as a fellow Republican?

TURNER: Well, you have to ask the president.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you say? Your constituents must ask you, right?

TURNER: You heard the president`s tweet. You heard the answers today. I think the answers were certainly clear. As of defending this tweet, you have to talk to Donald Trump himself.

VAN SUSTEREN: Don`t you want to say something? He is going to keep tweeting. He was tweeting this afternoon.

TURNER: There certainly is. There clearly was chatter of information about communications that were happening in the Trump campaign that have been leaked to the wants and "the New York Times".

VAN SUSTEREN: He says wiretapping.

TURNER: That is not to the level of what the president is saying. I think even though we all know that this chatter and this communications was happening, the president needs to explain.

VAN SUSTEREN: How fast cans this investigation will be, because this does hang over Washington and the administration. We`ve got health care, possible tax reform. We`ve got immigration reform perhaps. We`ve got so much going on in this country. Infrastructure bill and now this is sort of consumed all the oxygen.

TURNER: This is really troubling. As the people testifying today said, the goal of the Russians is to cause havoc and to bring questions about the Democratic process. This announcement of this investigation of course causes that sort of questioning. The FBI director said the investigation has been going on since July. Clapper has said so far had no evidence up until January. I think we`re all hoping and encouraging the FBI director let`s get this done and to the bottom of this and move on.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did we get so vulnerable to the Russians?

TURNER: Well clearly this is something that is part of our process so we can bolster ourselves and ensure our election process for the future. As we go forward, we have to make sure there`s no meddling.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you.

TURNER: Thanks Greta, great seeing you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so we learned a lot today. The FBI looking into possible ties between the Trump team and Russia and there is no evidence of wiretapping, but there is so much so that we still don`t know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say with any specificity what kind of coordination or contacts you`re looking at in your investigation generally when confronted with something like this.

COMEY: I can`t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you brief President Obama on any calls involving Michael Flynn?

COMEY: I`m not going to get into either that particular case, that matter, or any conversations I had with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With respect to any ongoing investigation whether the specificity of the person otherwise, you can`t comment on any of that?

COMEY: Correct. I`m not going to confirm any conversations with either President Obama or President Trump or when President Trump was the President-Elect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not the conversation, even the fact you gave it to him. Could you tell us who was in the room for that briefing you gave?

COMEY: You`re saying later ended up in the newspaper?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

COMEY: My talking about who was in the room would be a confirmation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all know that four of you went to Trump tower for the briefing. That is not classified, is it?

COMEY: How do we all know that though? Please don`t draw any conclusions from the fact that I may not be able to comment on certain topics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: With me former Assistant FBI Director with Ron Hosko who worked for Director James Comey in 2014.

RON HOSKO, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: The fact the FBI director even says an ongoing investigation is unusual, is it not?

HOSKO: I think it`s incredibly unusual, but I think it is driven by the stakes here, the intense public scrutiny. The fact it is the former president being accused by the current president. And so I think a conclusion was reached between the director and DOJ that he had to say something.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know journalists love leaks. Leaks are not good for national security at all times. Sometimes you could have the rare situation where they are. But, you know, what`s being done about these leaks internally.

HOSKO: I`m confident that they are looking as the director defined today. They`re looking at that subset of persons who might have had access to relevant sensitive information. That is your starting point. As he also made reference to, it isn`t necessarily that person who had that immediate access. It`s somebody they shared it with who is chirping on the side. So every hop out, every further ripple from the center that you get, the investigation gets much more complex.

VAN SUSTEREN: How is it that we are so vulnerable? That it got to the point where the Russians actually invaded the DNC and then poisoned the system. I mean, how is it that we have allowed ourselves to get so vulnerable?

HOSKO: First, my prevailing view is that America needs a crisis to truly act and respond. There has been a buildup of cyber intrusions, Chinese, Russian, and Iranian, other foreign actors, and North Korean, over the last ten years. The FBI sees this. The director testifies about it. But our collective guard is down. Our collective guard is way too low. And when you have foreign adversaries whose job it is to collect on us like we collect on them, they are most assuredly testing us and testing the medal of our leaders. Russia has been doing that.

VAN SUSTEREN: The Russian ambassador, I don`t know what he was doing in the RNC but we have a lot of instances where this is a lot of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. So it`s reasonable to be suspicious when we have the hacking. That is not unusual to be suspicious. Even having it started, have knowledge in July. And it`s still apparently was going on up until several months later.

HOSKO: Russian intrusions are going on today. They are determined adversaries. The director and the admiral acknowledged that today. Russia is out for Russia`s interests. They are trying to penetrate American defenses today to steal our intellectual property, to steal our defense secrets, to steal how our government works every day.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, thank you very much for joining us.

HOSKO: My pleasure.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right now President Trump is on Air Force One. He is en route to Louisville, Kentucky. He is going to be there to sell the GOP health care plan. But will he also talk about today`s big hearing? Meanwhile, anti-Trump protests have been taken place all in the area all day long in Louisville. President Trump is expected to land within the hour. We`ll be monitoring it. Also happening today, right here on the hill, confirmation hearing from President Trump Supreme Court pick, many Democrats voicing concerns. And what is the Clinton campaign thinking today? The Campaign Manager Robbie Mook will be here. And on defense, how is the White House responding tonight?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: All I can say is what I said before that we don`t have any information that supports those tweets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: One of the lessons they may draw from her is they are successful, because they introduced chaos and division and discord. And sowed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our Democratic process. We have to assume they`re coming back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: FBI director Comey saying Russians will try to interfere in future elections so what is our government and intelligence agency doing now to protect our democracy? And what about President Trump wiretapping claim? Director Comey says there was no evidence, but that is not good enough for President Trump. President Trump still refuses to concede as does his Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Spicer repeatedly defending the president`s allegations of wiretapping throughout his press briefing today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve got the FBI director denying the wiretapping. We`ve had a series of officials. When does this end for the president?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It`s not a question of a date. It`s a question of when we get answers. The president was clear and I think there`s continuing to be a very, very literal interpretation of his tweet which is whether or not there is a wiretapping. The president understands you don`t literally wiretap people the same way like you did in `70s and `80s with wires and things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said that there was no information to support the allegations that president made against President Obama. So is the president prepared to withdraw that accusation and apologize to the president?

SPICER: No. We started a hearing. It`s still ongoing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: David Priess is a former CIA officer and author of the president`s book of secrets. And Matt Miller is a former spokesperson for the Department of Justice. Matt, first to you, a former spokesperson, you listen to Sean Spicer. He is got a tough job.

MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: he got a tough job. He makes it harder for himself. If the White House would just come out and say with respect to the investigation, look, the president doesn`t believe he did anything wrong. He doesn`t know of any aides close to him that did anything wrong. And we have confidence in how this investigation will end and we hope the FBI director takes it where it would lead. He would be fine, same thing with the president`s tweets about wiretapping. If they would just come out and admit they made a mistake and there was nothing to it now that the FBI director has publicly testified that. But every time they get into a problem, they make it worse. If you look at what Sean Spicer did today, that is the textbook definition of flailing. Not only not explain, not giving answers, but making the problem worst and worst for himself with every answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: David, today we had the FBI and NSA. Is there any chance -- you`re former CIA. Is there any chance anybody was wiretapping that NSA and FBI would know about?

DAVID PREISS, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I can`t imagine so. And in fact it is funny to me to watch this, because you got to establish first what happened and then determined what was behind it and what the implications were. Today`s hearing didn`t really get that. You had two different sides talking about two different topics in the same hearing which raises for me the topic can this committee and the senate committee really investigate this to the satisfaction of the American people or is this going to go to some kind of independent commission like the 9/11 commission years ago?

VAN SUSTEREN: The problem is, though, if they do a rigorous aggressive investigation up here on Capitol Hill, they may step on a possible criminal investigation down at the courthouse, because if they give immunity to someone here, that person could use immunity at the courthouse.

PREISS: Some of those issues came up in the 9/11 commission. You`ll recall immediately after 9/11, some people were saying we must protect everything the president sought at all cost. Some people said there may have been almost criminal negligence on part of the president before 9/11. They resolve that to the satisfaction of all parties to have that independent commission.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The CIA -- I mean, the FBI director said that Russia back in 2018. Can`t the CIA and FBI and NSA protect us from all this?

PREISS: In the past we have had that. We`ve had them working together in past issues of foreign threats to America. There`s no reason it can`t happen now.

VAN SUSTEREN: How`d it happen this time?

PREISS: The issue is it`s a different threat. And it is a different kind of threat.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did we not know this one was coming? I mean everyone talks about cyber warfare all the time.

PREISS: People didn`t know how it was going to be applied. But people were talking about it. The real issue here is what`s the political implication? In Watergate you had it going out there when did he know it? Today people were thinking what is the FBI director what he was going to show. He didn`t show his cards today.

VAN SUSTEREN: It was unusual that he was even speaking. That he got permission from the Justice Department. He works for the Attorney General, right?

MILLER: In this case he works for the deputy attorney general. I actually think this is another problem that Donald Trump created. For months this investigation had been going on. The FBI director had refused to talk about it publicly. Were it not for Trump`s tweets accusing the FBI of illegal wiretapping, I`m not sure you would have confirmed this investigation today. The justice department had to make sure it hadn`t broken the law. In doing that they had to brief members. And they end up confirming the entire investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Also had to do that for fast and furious, constantly answering subpoenas, answering inquiries from Capitol Hill. What does that do to the day-to-day operations? Is it compartmentalized or is it a big problem?

MILLER: It`s a huge problem. The attorney general was taken out of the picture so it`s not a distraction for him. But for the others it`s a huge problem. That the senior officials at the justice department are dealing with on a day-to-day basis at the same time they`re conducting that investigation is extremely difficult. It`s why in previous investigations like moving forward, they`ve done it with a special council. It`s in the long run the only you can conduct this type of investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think Putin is thinking?

PREISS: Well it raises real issues for the Intelligence and the president as well, because the president (inaudible) includes information from all sources on all topics. What`s happening now? If there`s this denial of any activity with Russia, are they still including that information? All the intelligence, professionals who are retired and current would say of course that information so goes to the president, whether it`s about Putin or other aspects of this, but that raises a real issue as these progresses.

VAN SUSTEREN: I just wonder what the Russians are thinking, what Putin is thinking as he reads about all the discord and the confusion that we have right now. I guess we`ll sort it out. Anyway, gentlemen, thank you.

PREISS: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Breaking news. We have new video from just moments ago showing crowds outside President Trump`s rally in Louisville, Kentucky. He is there to sell the GOP health care plan. We`re going to go live there later in the hour. Also today here on the Hill, more big news, President Trump`s Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, he had his first day as confirmation hearing before the senate judiciary committee. The Democrats were talking about President Obama`s former nominee Judge Merrick Garland and the issue of courtesy. And also here on the Hill, the hearing about the FBI investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, Secretary of State`s Clinton`s 2016 campaign manager joins me to respond next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Knowing what we know now, would the FBI have done anything different in trying to notify the DNC of what happened?

COMEY: We`d have just kept banging and banging on the door. Knowing what I know now, we made an extensive effort to notify. I might have walked over there myself knowing what I know now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Is it fair to say that you`re still relatively early in your investigation?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: It`s hard to say because I don`t know how much longer it will take, but we`ve been doing this -- all this investigation began in late July. So for a counterintelligence investigation that`s a fairly short period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: FBI director James Comey saying that since July the FBI has been investigating whether anyone in the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, and today someone at Secretary Hillary Clinton`s campaign questioning why that investigation was not made public last July during the campaign for president. Director Comey also saying in retrospect he would have gone -- the investigation was not made public last July during the campaign for president. Director Comey also saying in retrospect he would have gone directly to DNC headquarters to warn them of the hacking, and today at the hearing the heads of the FBI and NSA both saying there`s no evidence of the Russian meddling in the election affected vote tallies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEVIN NUNES, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Admiral Rogers, do you have any evidence that Russia cyber actors change vote tallies in the state of Michigan?

MICHAEL RODGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: No, I do not. But I would have highlight we`re a foreign intelligence organization not a domestic intelligence organization. So it would be fair to say we`re probably not the best organization to provide a more complete answer.

NUNES: How about the state of Pennsylvania?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: The state of Wisconsin?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: State of Florida?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: State of North Carolina?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: The state of Ohio?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: So you have no intelligence that suggests or evidence that suggests any votes for changed?

ROGERS: I have nothing generated by the national security agency, sir.

NUNES: Director Comey, do you have any evidence at the FBI that any votes were changed in the states that I mentioned to Admiral Rogers?

COMEY: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: And as I noted earlier, the FBI director responding to a tweet from President Trump during the hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIM HIMES, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Is the tweet as I read it to you, the NSA and FBI tells congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process. Is that accurate?

COMEY: Well, it`s hard for me to react to that. Let me tell you what we understand the state of what we`ve said is we`ve offered no opinion. Have no view. Have no information on potential impact because it`s never something that we looked at.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With me is Robby Mook, Secretary Clinton`s 2016 campaign manager. Nice to see you, Robby.

ROBBY MOOK, HILLAR CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Nice to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: When`d you first learn of the hacking or what was going on with the Russians vis-…-vis DNC, or the Clinton campaign?

MOOK: Well, we learned that the Russians had hacked into the DNC very shortly before it became public.

VAN SUSTEREN: When would that be, around July, right from around there?

MOOK: No, because as you probably recall -- started releasing DNC documents in the spring. So it was sometime in spring.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was the sort of -- I understand, so the impact I realize that the FBI director said it didn`t have any impact on the vote tallies. But what was the sort of the impact on the campaign as you were hearing pieces of this? Was it disruptive or distracting or you didn`t paid attention to it?

MOOK: It was totally disruptive on a number of levels. First of all, the press had new material to report on every single day. And particularly those last two month of the campaign -- excuse me, the last month of the campaign when all of John Podesta`s e-mails were being released on a daily basis. It made it really hard for us to talk about anything except for responding to those e-mails. And certainly when we opened the DNC and the day before we have our opening, you know, opening programming, the Russians dump a bunch of information to upset Bernie Sanders supporters. Of course it was a distraction. And operationally for a campaign, this is a lot to handle as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in theory, it could easily be as DNI Clapper says there`s no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But the Russians independently could be causing -- I used the term mischief, I mean, I really understate the magnitude, but they could have been doing this all themselves. Because it`s reported that at least -- and then Comey today said that Putin hates Hillary.

MOOK: Well, first of all, I think that`s an important point. What happened here was not just the Russians trying to help Donald Trump. They were punishing Hillary Clinton because she had been a longtime advocate for human rights in Russia. That should be really scary to everybody. That if an American politician speaks out against a foreign dictator that they can be punish. That`s why we`ve got to do something about this, and why also not partisan. But I want to go back. We don`t know yet whether there was collusion.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I understand. I`m just saying.

MOOK: . between the Trump campaign. It`s really important. That`s what we need to learn.

VAN SUSTEREN: It`s so early. I mean, there`s so many unanswered questions at this point. I`m just repeating what somebody said today.

MOOK: Yeah, yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: It can change so much. What was Secretary Clinton saying during the time or during the whole lead up to the election with all this?

MOOK: Well, I think she was trying to focus on communicating her message. You know, she had important things to say about how we create jobs, how we improve education in this country, how we help a lot of these families that were really struggling and really frustrated with the way things are, start to get ahead in their lives. And all we were doing some days was just dealing with all this incoming. So, I think in that regard what the Russians tried to do was enormously successful. And as some people said today at the hearing, the point is not always just to spread OPO, it`s to spread confusion. It`s to spread misinformation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Or you might just not wonder when the next shoe is going to drop, so you`re sitting there waiting.

MOOK: Sure. It was obviously intended to create anxiety within our campaign organization. And I thought -- kudos to our team. They did a great job just focusing and pushing forward every day. But in order for our democracy to work, we have to have an honest exchange of ideas and facts need to be relevant and people need to have access to facts. And what this is doing is just literally taking our -- the apparatus of our democracy and weaponising it against itself.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, you said that -- I mean, Putin didn`t like Secretary Clinton, but I remember the reset with foreign minister Lavrov. I mean, she seemed to enjoy a good relationship with him, at least publicly it seemed that way.

MOOK: Well, I think she attempted to try to establish better relations with Russia. But again, one of the things I was proud of her for was she always held them accountable on human rights. She always spoke out. That is exactly why Vladimir Putin did not want her to become president.

VAN SUSTEREN: Secretary Clinton was in Scranton, Pennsylvania, last -- couple of days going Friday on St. Patrick`s Day. So everyone`s buzzing. What are the odds that we`re going to see her running again?

MOOK: I`m going to let her answer for that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you want to guess? What are the odds?

MOOK: Here`s the thing. I think what matters right now, we`ve got to get to the bottom of what happened in 2016 then we can start worrying about the next cycle. But we`ve really got to make sure that this cannot happen again in two years or four years to anybody else.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. And I realize you didn`t answer my question, but good job. Thank you, Robby. Nice to see you. Confirmation fight, President Trump`s Supreme Court pick here on the hill, will he be independent from President Trump? Former senator Kelly Ayotte is leading his confirmation fight. She joins us. And the three days away from a vote on the GOP health care plan, will it pass? And developing right now, Ivanka Trump is taking a new role at the White House. We have the very latest on that. A lot of action right here in D.C. stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: This unprecedented one of the greatest days of the 200-year history of this committee.

TED CRUZ, U.S. SENATOR: We would not consent to a Supreme Court nominee until the people in the midst of the presidential election were able to choose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the fight is on. President Trump`s Supreme Court pick Judge Neil Gorsuch on the hot seat. The first day of senate confirmation hearings was today. Democrats making clear they have not forgotten how Republicans blocked former President Obama`s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and on issues after issues, Democrats and Republicans drawing clear battle lines over Judge Gorsuch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAZIE HIRONO, U.S. SENATOR: You rarely seem to find in favor of the little guy.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: You`re one of the best judges in the country.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve sided with corporations over workers, corporations over consumers, and corporations over women`s health.

LIDSEY GRAHAM, U.S. SENATOR: Donald Trump deserves to be congratulated for listening to a lot of people and coming up with I think the best choice available.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: Judge Gorsuch pledging today that he will not bring his personal beliefs into the courtroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: If judges were just secret legislators declaring not what the law is, but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk. And those who came before the court would live in fear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: The question and answer session starting tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM, it could get heated. One Democrat on the judiciary committee, Senator Richard Blumenthal (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY)

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, U.S. SENATOR: Every tool at my disposal, including filibuster.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With me former New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte who is leading Judge Gorsuch through the confirmation process. Nice to see you, senator.

KELLY AYOTTE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Great to see you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Now, the dirty little secret is if this were 1980, that this would not be highly contentious. It would probably be -- I`m not saying for or against him, but it`s probably a 9 to 10 vote.

AYOTTE: Oh, easily. Probably unanimous it we were going back to what the confirmation process used to be like.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what happened?

AYOTTE: You know, I think things have become more politicized, unfortunately. But no question that Judge Gorsuch is very qualified. Impeccable educational credentials and also, you know, judge is judge, been on the tenth circuit for ten years. You had President Obama`s former solicitor general, gave some very compelling opening today introducing him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me pick on the Republicans now because Merrick Garland from the U.S. court of appeals, the D.C. circuit, also well liked, nominated by President Obama last February, I think, never got a hearing by Mitch McConnell. And the Republicans could have given him a hearing and voted no if they didn`t like him. But they played politics.

AYOTTE: Well, Greta, I don`t have a doubt in my mind that if the tables were turned and we were in an election year, that the Democrats would have held that open too.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah, but somebody`s got to stop the cycle of the other guy did it.

AYOTTE: Yeah, well.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don`t know if these judges should be confirmed or not. You know, I don`t know -- position in making those decisions. But, I mean, both sides play politics. It`s ugly.

AYOTTE: Well, I have to say that, you know, this nominee I think is someone where you`ve got members from the bench. You`ve got all these members from the bar, both sides of the aisle that have said, hey, you know, he`s a fair judge, and that`s why you`ve had people that have come out. So if you want a fair judge, you want an independent judge, Judge Gorsuch is the nominee.

VAN SUSTEREN: He even has a former law clerk who worked in the Obama administration. The moment I saw the ad.

AYOTTE: Yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: . she said he`s fair.

AYOTTE: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, so -- I mean, he has said fair. Now, the decision by the U.S. senate according to the constitution is they provide advice and consent. I`ve always thought that in the first hour they ought to debate amongst themselves what that means. What does that mean? What are the parameters that these senators are supposed to be working within and trying to decide whether or not to confirm one?

AYOTTE: Well, it really depends on how the senator interprets it. I mean, you have someone like Senator Lindsey Graham who has actually voted for Obama Supreme Court justices, and also for President Bush`s Supreme Court justices. And he made the argument very strongly today, listen, tell me why Judge Gorsuch is not qualified? He`s imminently qualified (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY) judicial temperament. Does he have the qualifications? Instead of focusing on political issues from both sides of the aisle, cherry picking opinions that you like or don`t like.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if it`s qualifications whether you`re smart and you have the background to make a decision, clearly, you know, I think almost any nominee comes through is a good nominee. I mean, qualifications, that`s a pretty easy one. There`s really something else and that`s sort of getting past a political body that they like you.

AYOTTE: Well, I think, also, you know, will they be independent? Do they understand separation of powers? Will they make sure even if the president appoints them if they disagree that they`re going to be independent? And you see someone like Gorsuch who cites Justice Jackson as one of his heroes, who was clearly independent, was able to break from the president that nominated him. And so, he takes judicial independence very seriously. I think you`re going to hear a lot of talk about that in this hearing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Fairness to sort of my -- bottom on this. And I`d love to have him answer the question, does he thinks that Judge Merrick Garland was treated fairly, that`s what I want to know. I know he was gracious and called him when he got nominated. But I want to know if he thinks that was right what happened to Justice Garland.

AYOTTE: Well, I`ve been to many meetings on this topic, and I can tell you what he`s going to say.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is?

AYOTTE: He`s going to say he thinks the world of Merrick Garland, he thinks he`s really qualified. However, the advising consent process is an issue that could come before the court of what that means. So he`s not going to be able to let her opinion on that.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the tweet that President Trump said when he called judges the so-called judge who went out in Washington State?

AYOTTE: Well, I think that he`s certainly talked about that, but he`s talked about it in the context of any type comments as opposed to specific comments to the president. And he called them disheartening and demoralizing if the comments go to the independence of the judiciary not just the merits of the case. But he`s made very clear he`s not going to comment on political matters that he can`t on judicial cannon or specific comments in response to political comments.

VAN SUSTEREN: Some trivial about Senator Ayotte, are you for the Unites States Supreme Court Justice O`Connor`s last decision.

AYOTTE: Yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: . when 9-0.

AYOTTE: I did.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway.

AYOTTE: Thanks, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: . I thought I`d give you that plug. Thank you for joining us.

AYOTTE: I appreciate that. Thanks, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Developing now, Ivanka Trump has taken a new White House role. We have the very latest on that. And we have live pictures in Louisville where the crowd is anticipating President Trump`s arrival. It`s a health care rally, but will he talk about what the FBI director said today in congress? We`re live in Louisville.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Breaking just moments ago, NBC News reporting Ivanka Trump is joining her father`s staff at the White House. Now, she will not have an official title or get a salary, but she will have an office right in the west wing. NBC`s Peter Alexander has more. Peter?

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: Hey, good evening to you, Greta. We`ve just confirmed this information, Ivanka Trump who moved to Washington, D.C., with her husband Jared Kushner who, of course, is a senior advisor to the president, will be taking an office on the second floor of the west wing where she will be advising her father. Those close to her say that among her priorities is to, quote, create positive value on a series of issues that are close to her. For the moment we understand that she`s in the process of getting security clearance. That she will be receiving government issued communication devices as well. Important to note, she will not officially be a federal employee, but she is I am told by sources familiar with her plans going through all the necessary motions as if that were the case with all the restrictions applying that she has been consulting with office of government ethics as well as White House attorneys. As well as for her business, she`s already taking several steps to try to distance herself from that business. Among them through the trust that she has created, the business will not be allow to use her image or her likeness in anyway in promoting their products, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Peter, thank you. And the crowd in Louisville gearing up for President Trump`s arrival, he will hold a health care rally but will the FBI come up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: And those are live pictures from Louisville, Kentucky. President Trump will arrive any minute. He is pushing the GOP health care bill. The all-important house vote is in just three days, and at this moment it is not clear that bill can pass the house or even pass the senate. NBC counts only 16 house Republicans opposed to or leaning against this bill. The senate looks to be tough too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TED CRUZ, U.S. SENATOR: If Republicans hold a big press conference and pat ourselves on the back that we`ve repealed Obamacare and everyone`s premiums keep going up, people will be ready to tar and feather us in the streets and quite rightly. I cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: And there`s more, because on Wednesday former Vice President Joe Biden will rally with Democrats against the GOP health care plan. One question about this rally, will President Trump also talk about today`s intelligence hearing? He`s been tweeting about the hearing all day. NBC`s Kristen Welker is in Louisville. Kristen, what are you expecting from the president tonight?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: Greta, good evening. I would be surprised if President Trump didn`t comment on the hearings on Capitol Hill today. As you point out, he tweeted about it throughout the day. The White House in defense stressing that so far the investigation has not shown that Russia had an actual influence on the election or that there`s been any actual collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And as you know at these rallies he does typically weigh in on the news of the day, headlines. However, the focus here is going to be on health care, the president really trying to sell the Republican health care proposal.

This is a state that he won overwhelmingly, Greta. But it`s also a state where Obamacare has been a success story. A million Kentuckians covered under Medicaid. Some of them could stand to lose coverage under the Republican health care law. And consider this, in 2013, 20 percent of the state didn`t have health care, and that number fell to 7.5 percent just two years later. So, a lot of Kentuckians say Obamacare is working. But, of course, it is a mixed picture. I`ve been out talking to the folks here at the rally. Trump supporters, a lot of them say they`re behind his efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. But a number of them also say they want to make sure that any plan keeps costs low and continues to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Now, the president`s going to try to rally support here in Kentucky. But, of course, that push continues tomorrow when he visits house Republicans on Capitol Hill ahead of their big vote on Thursday, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kristen, thank you. And viewers thank you for watching. See you back here tomorrow night, 6:00 PM Eastern, if you can`t watch live set your DVR. Follow me on twitter @greta, that`s where you put all the anonymous mean things that you want to say about me. Also go to my Facebook page. Hardball with Chris Matthews starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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