Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 21, 2019 Guest: Nick Akerman, Shelby Holliday, David Corn, Andrew McCabe
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We begin tonight with breaking news in an open case in the Mueller probe. Trump Adviser Roger Stone just took the stand for the first time. He was just grilled by a Mueller prosecutor for the first time and he was rebuked and silenced by a federal judge.
We are reporting on a truly wild day in federal court where Judge Amy Berman Jackson took Trump Aide Roger Stone to task. There`s really no other way to put it. Pressing him in public court proceedings on whether he was today lying to the court and then she shut him down, supersizing a partial gag order into a full gag order against Donald Trump`s longest- serving adviser.
What does that mean? It means tonight, I can report for you, Roger Stone can`t say anything else in public about his case. The judge also suggesting this is the final warning, a clear suggestion the next time that Stone would be punished, it will be with immediate jail time.
Now, Roger Stone is a defendant in this Mueller probe so these developments happening late today are obviously progress for Bob Mueller and they come in an extraordinary afternoon that revealed the legal limits on Roger Stone`s very well-known effort to turn serious proceedings into a Baroque Theater of the absurd.
This normally voluble dirty trickster turned mournful and morose as he pled for mercy from the court while taking the stand, again as I mentioned, for the first time today. And when Stone did leave, as you see here with his freedom hanging by a thread, it was noticeable, he did not say a word in the departure you see on your screen from the courthouse.
Mark today as the official end to Roger Stone`s attempts to publicly attack the Mueller probe and the judge or the FBI as he did in releasing this video and going on and on about his arrests. There has been weeks of those attempts to use that footage.
Well, we are now a long ways from Roger Stone`s antics that you may have seen on television when he was first indicted. From the Nixon victory salute to holding impromptu press conferences at the courthouse. Now, let me tell you, all of this obviously right now, which is big news no matter how you slice it is happening as Washington and the legal and political worlds around the country buzz over whether this long-awaited Bob Mueller report is coming soon.
But these issues that all came to light today are a reminder that even if large parts of the probe are heading towards some sort of resolution, this Roger Stone case, which touches on WikiLeaks and alleged potential attempts to collude, it`s open. It is alive and it is putting heat on the Trump world which makes understanding these developments very important.
So let me take you through some of them in detail. Roger Stone came in today and began by telling the court, "I`m hurtfully sorry for my own stupidity. It was a momentary lapse of judgment to post a picture which was seen as a threat to this judge." And then Stone said, "I`m having a hard time putting food on the table and making rent."
That very well may be true and many defendants make those kinds of arguments in court. But not usually to try to mitigate a potential threat to the federal judge overseeing their case. Because hardship does not explain that kind of conduct at all.
And this judge? Let me show you what happened. She didn`t buy it. In fact, she told the court and Mr. Stone, if you really felt bad, if he knew he made a mistake, then why did he continue "for the next two days to talk about how you`re being treated unfairly. How was that consistent with what you`re telling me now?" she pressed him. And Stone then responded saying, "Well, I didn`t have malicious intent."
Let`s stop right there. That`s a key inflection point, Stone claiming he did not intend to actually threaten the judge which could be true. But the judge rebukes him for the obvious problem with that argument in a world full of people who could be moved or incited by Stone.
So the judge says here today, "Do you understand that it could have a malicious impact?" And Stone replies "Well, that`s what I`m saying." So he`s sorry about the impact that he says he didn`t mean to ever risk causing.
Stone also cagey in these dramatic proceedings about how that picture which was seen as a threat to the judge was online at all because this is also new. A Mueller prosecutor grilling him in court for the first time and saying, OK, "who published this photo?" And Stone admits, "I did."
And the judge asks, "Did you not just tell me under oath someone that someone else posted the photo?" And Stone then says well, "I didn`t choose the image, I posted it." And then he wouldn`t say who did pick it. And the judge went in hard saying, " An individual who you cannot identify selected a photo that you posted?" And then Stone says "Yes, other people use my phone."
And when pressed on how many volunteers or other people he has, Stone then says, "About five or six people." But he wouldn`t say in these hearings today who they were. Mueller prosecutor then gets in and says, "You can`t remember the people who worked for you four days ago?" And Stone says simply, "No".
Quite a performance. This is the reality part. Stone was doing the reality show part, we`re in the reality part today and the judge said that reality was a problem. Let me show you exactly what she said. "These were deliberate choices. I don`t find any explanations credible he couldn`t keep his story straight on the stand." That`s a polite reference to potential perjury.
And then the judge rules, "I find that released under conditions without modification he does pose a danger", that Stone can no longer speak publicly about the case or the participants, no statements on radio, T.V., reporters, blogs, letters to the editor.
And then this is key, she warns Roger Stone late today, "Today, I gave you a second chance. This is not baseball. You don`t get a third chance." This was another procedural victory for Bob Mueller. And the translation of that last line is quite clear, the next time Roger Stone tries anything like this, any further enforcement of his gag order will be put on him while he`s in jail.
I want to begin tonight with former Watergate Special Prosecutor Nick Akerman who actually interviewed Roger Stone in the Watergate case at one point. And "Wall Street Journal" Reporter Shelby Holliday who`s covered the Russia probe and a lot of the dealings around Roger Stone, including talking to the people who are now his alleged victims in the tampering.
Nick Akerman, what went down in that courtroom?
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: What went down in the courtroom was a very serious matter. You had Roger Stone lying right to the face of a federal judge, lying on very material items like who posted the photo, why he posted the photo. I mean this is an extremely serious matter.
MELBER: When you hear a federal judge, who is not a Mueller prosecutor, but a federal judge say to him and say to the court he can`t keep his story straight today, is she implying that he could commit a new crime in that courtroom?
AKERMAN: She`s saying he`s lying. It`s simple, he lied. That`s what she`s saying. He couldn`t keep his story straight. When you can`t keep your story straight, you`re lying.
Secondly. This is extremely serious. I mean the idea that he could be inciting other people to commit violence against a federal judge is a very real threat. We had a history in this country with several federal judges who have been killed because of people who had a grudge or felt that they didn`t get a fair shake or felt somebody didn`t get a fair shake. This is a serious matter.
Secondly, what he`s trying to do is influence the jury. This is exactly the same thing his buddy Donald Trump has been doing for the last couple of years and he`s been doing it with some success. And if you look at what happens in Virginia in the Paul Manafort trial, you actually had one juror who hung on certain accounts that were brought against Manafort and this was all done right in the same week that Manafort`s trial was going on.
Donald Trump was saying the whole thing was a witch hunt, Paul Manafort is a great guy. And what does this juror say? It`s a witch hunt. That`s why he didn`t vote for conviction on certain of those counts.
MELBER: Was this bad and embarrassing for Roger Stone today or was it also, in your view, progress for Mueller?
AKERMAN: It`s both. It`s progress for Mueller because he`s basically put Roger Stone in his place and it`s bad news for Roger Stone because in a way this is like baseball. The third strike and he`s off to the slammer.
MELBER: Before I get to Shelby on the reporting side, one more legal piece for you, which was very interesting. We always report every side of the case but sometimes people don`t like that and I always explain to people it`s not about what you like. If you want to understand where a court case is going, you have to look at both sides.
But tonight what I`m about to read sounds like something from Mueller but it`s actually the Roger Stone side. That what he did was "indefensible". That`s not the prosecutor`s demanding the gag order. That was the best "defense" his folks could come up with. Take a look. Again, I want viewers to understand exactly what went down.
Judge, "Why won`t this happen in the future?" Fair question if this is a problem. Stone`s own lawyer, "Sometimes a person learns a lesson, especially when a person is unrestrained in his speaking. It`s indefensible."
I agree. I mean excuse me, I`m going to repeat that. it`s indefensible, Nick. Then let me read Judge Jackson quote, "I agree with you there." What does it tell you legally when his side is not saying this is explainable, this was possibly misunderstood but just it`s indefensible?
AKERMAN: He has to fall on the mercy of the court. I mean he has absolutely zero defense. In fact, the fact that he lied on two key elements here, that the judge didn`t put him in jail, I think he`s extremely lucky. He`s the only --
MELBER: And that goes to the big question. Why didn`t the judge just put him in jail today?
AKERMAN: I think what happened was that her last gag order was a very limited order. It only prohibited him for making statements outside the courthouse. If he -- she had put into place at the time a full gag order, he would have gone directly to jail. Do not stop, go. Do not collect $200.
MELBER: That`s interesting. And this is something people forget. You`re speaking about the why the details matter. They may not matter to some of the people on the outside.
But you`re saying that because the judge tried to strike a balance, and we covered the balancing interest on this show, that it was narrower. And so because it was narrower, this is his last, last strike as she put it. A very interesting analysis. That`s the law.
Shelby, on the facts on where this case is headed, what did you see as significant?
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, before the hearing, I was reading some of Roger Stone`s previous Instagram posts, some of the things he had been saying leading up to this hearing. And a few things stuck out to me.
I mean just a few days ago, five or six days ago, he posted a thank you note of sort to Judge Amy Berman Jackson saying, "I appreciate you allowing me to keep my First Amendment right and I will be judicious about what I say about this case."
Well, today, the judge came back and said, "If this weekend`s conduct was judicious, it would be foolhardy of the court to take no action and find out what injudicious is." And she talked about inciting violence even if Roger Stone himself isn`t violent.
HOLLIDAY: He also told the judge that he didn`t recognize the symbol as crosshairs when he posted it. If you scroll back through Roger Stone`s Instagram feed, he has repeatedly used crosshairs in imagery and in comments to talk about how he himself is in the crosshairs of the Mueller probe.
He knows what crosshairs is. He`s posted about it. He has one on his forehead in some of his pictures. I mean it`s very hard to wiggle your way out of a comment like that. So I think some of the things that he has said in the past -- and the judge has been paying attention. I mean she paid attention to his media comments over the weekend. She asked, "Well if you immediately regretted posting that photo, why did you go defend it and time again?"
MELBER: Yes. Right. She called, what in the law they call BS, on all the things he was saying. And BS can turn into perjury which is a new potential charge here. Both of you stay with me.
David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones has been all over all these stories. David, when you look at the larger picture, you`re our guy in Washington here on the top of the show, everyone in Washington is buzzing around is this Mueller report coming to an end? We covered that a lot last night and what does that mean?
And then you go right back into the courthouse today and it`s like wow, these Mueller prosecutors, they were on the job today and the Stone case is far from over.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: I mean we still don`t have a clear indication of what the Mueller report is even going to be. You know we`ve talked about this before. There`s no -- he hasn`t -- Robert Mueller has no obligation to produce an expansive report explaining all that he`s found.
He does have the ability or, you know, under the Justice Department Regs regulations to do that if he chooses to but he doesn`t have to do that. And then what happens to the report is also not clear. Goes to the attorney general, supposed to be confidential. We don`t know what happens.
So he`s only supposed to do any type of report at the end of his investigation. Now, they only busted Roger Stone a couple of weeks ago and presumably got access to his devices, the computers, that could give them weeks of more investigative work to do.
We still don`t know if they got everything. They followed up every lead that they got out of Michael Cohen or what they did get out of Paul Manafort when he did cooperate before that agreement broke down. So I don`t know.
I mean from my view, it looks like there`s still more work to be done and it`s not -- we`re not -- there`s no reason to think they`re going wrap up other than the reporting that we`ve seen. So --
MELBER: David, I want you to weigh in on another piece of this. And you, like the rest of the panel, have proven quite intelligent in analyzing these issues so I hate to serve up a really dumb question but it`s part of my job sometimes.
CORN: Go ahead.
MELBER: Roger Stone, like a now a star of the "Empire" show that`s gotten a lot of attention, was always of the view that any attention is good attention. Take a look at Roger making that claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, LONG-TIME TRUMP ALLY: My name is Roger Stone and I`m an agent provocateur. Stone`s rule, it`s better to be infamous than never be famous at all. Stone`s rule.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I have to ask you, has that proven to be true for him? Did that prove true in court today?
CORN: Well, Roger has always liked the circus and he`s always fashioned himself a tough guy, a dirty trickster who gets away with stuff. That`s all well and fine but not in a federal criminal case, right, because you don`t get to control it. It`s not about the spin. It`s not about the circus.
CORN: It`s about right and wrong. And he`s at the heart of portions of Mueller`s case.
CORN: He helped amplify the Russian disinformation during the 2016 campaign, their denials that they were involved in hacking. He believed it and circulated that. Why was he colluding with them on that?
And, of course, the key question in the case, and you covered this, is why did he tell the world that Randy Credico was his go-between with WikiLeaks when it actually was Jerome Corsi. Why did --
MELBER: And we interviewed both of them to get to the bottom of that.
CORN: I know. You`ve interviewed all these people.
MELBER: Hang with me. I want to give Shelby the same question, same apple. Did it work for him this idea that it`s just great to get press no matter what?
HOLLIDAY: No. And actually, I wonder if this hearing today did him a favor in pointing out that your shenanigans will not fly in court. Your spin that you use in the media and that you use online, it will not work here. I wonder if his lawyers are rethinking their legal strategy because Stone intends to fight all of the seven counts against him and --
MELBER: And you`re using the word strategy loosely at this point?
HOLLIDAY: Here today, we see him up on the stand.
MELBER: This was the opposite strategy. Yes.
HOLLIDAY: Didn`t go very well for him. Right. So --
MELBER: It`s fascinating. My special thanks to Shelby and Nick for being here. David Corn, if I have an Andy McCabe interview tonight, would you be willing to stick around and give reaction?
CORN: I think I can do that.
MELBER: OK. That was pre-planned, everyone.
Up ahead, former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He has been talking a lot. We`re going to get into it. I`m going to talk Mueller report obstruction, what he expects to come out, and I`m going to press him on some legal issues. That`s on THE BEAT tonight.
Also, this is new, Michael Cohen spotted on Capitol Hill days before what his lawyers touted as the John Dean moment that could haunt Donald Trump. And we`re learning more about what will be asked by Democrats on Trump`s money, what they want to know from Cohen when they put him back under oath.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Former FBI Director Andrew McCabe is my guest on THE BEAT tonight and the Russia probe he helped start is, of course, back in the news as Mueller`s prosecutors just got a judge to rebuke Roger Stone late today issuing a wider gag order and warning the long-time Trump adviser`s next infraction could send him to jail.
Now, are these the outcomes former Acting FBI Director McCabe had in mind when he worked to lock in the Russia probe after Trump fired his boss James Comey? Well, as I`m sure you know if you watch the news, he has been speaking out plenty this week, generating big headlines including about Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein, Mueller`s boss, and whether they were talking about removing Trump from office and whether Trump ultimately sides with Putin for the wrong reasons.
So you`ve heard about some of that but there is a lot that McCabe hasn`t addressed in detail, including the tension and the legal implications around how James Comey got fired, whether the FBI made truly historic blunders in 2016 elections and whether we need to get to the bottom of everything that he and James Comey did in the Clinton e-mail case. And more relevant now than ever, what does Andy McCabe of all people expect from the Mueller report when it comes out?
It`s all on the table tonight. It`s all fair game. I turn to former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe for an extensive interview on THE BEAT. Everything is on the table when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Here with me now is former Deputy Director and former Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe. He is the author of what is now a best- seller "The Threat, How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump." Thanks for being here.
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, FBI: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: What`s the worst thing Donald Trump has done as president in your view?
MCCABE: In my view, the worst thing that this president does is the same behavior and actions that he engages in almost every day and it is this unrelenting assault on the FBI, men and women in law enforcement and intelligence professionals. I think that that constant attack, that denigration has a corrosive impact on those institutions that we rely upon to protect our democracy and the people working within them. I think it makes your job harder every day.
MELBER: You say unrelenting. Based on just what`s publicly known, how many different statements, actions and tweets would investigators have to review by Donald Trump alone when they assess obstruction? More than 10?
MCCABE: You know, Ari, I don`t think you can put a number on that. Obstruction cases are made every day with very few statements. It`s not about the volume of the evidence. It`s about the quality of the evidence you have. I mean in my personal opinion, I think in this case, in this investigation, they have a lot of things to pull from.
MELBER: Before we get deeper into the law, looking at the FBI as an institution that tries to keep America safe, you write in the book that Donald Trump would call you as president on unsecure phone lines. We know that he had Russian photographers in the oval office without the American press.
You also write in the book that his aides would take the daily intelligence briefing on laptops and hand it back and you could tell from the technology, they wouldn`t even open it. How concerned are you about those things which might be legal but seem bad for our security?
MCCABE: They were greatly concerning, not just to me but to the other officials and intelligence professionals I was working with. It presents the very real question of how do you get the proper intelligence and information to this president. How do you get it to him in a way that`s going to capture his attention, that`s going to put him in a position to benefit from the information we`re giving him and be able to make decisions to protect this country based on our best intelligence?
If he`s unwilling to read that material, if he`s unreceptive when it`s presented to him in oral briefings, we have a real problem. If we can`t get our intelligence to the highest level decision maker in this country, we have a problem.
MELBER: Is it just that he doesn`t care about the intelligence or he just doesn`t believe people like you who were in those roles?
MCCABE: You know I think it could be a little both. He certainly is not a fan of mine but I will say that when the president himself tells, not me, but the briefers presenting arguments and information to him that he doesn`t believe what they`re saying because he believes what he`s been told by the president of Russia, that`s a real problem. If you`re taking their information over ours, that`s got to cause investigators to ask why.
MELBER: Like James Comey, you would run these investigations, now you`re a witness in them. You spoke with Mueller`s team?
MCCABE: I did.
MELBER: Was he ever in the room?
MCCABE: I won`t talk about the details of my interactions with the team out of respect to the investigation.
MELBER: How many days were you with them?
MCCABE: I don`t want to answer that question. Again, Ari, we get right to the heart of the work that they`re doing and I don`t want to take a chance of putting any of that in jeopardy.
MELBER: The rules that govern Bob Mueller do state that he writes a report about who he prosecutes and who he doesn`t prosecute, declination. In your view, just on those rules, does that then potentially include the president?
MCCABE: Well, it certainly could. It certainly could. I think that --
MELBER: So Mueller could write a report that says, "We did a declination. We didn`t try to indict the president and here`s why, here`s what we found."
MCCABE: I expect that Director Mueller`s team will produce an all- encompassing report that details exactly what they found and exactly what they think about it. They`re obligated to present such a report to the attorney general. I have no reason to believe they won`t do that.
I think once they do, I think it`s unbelievably important that that information is shared with Congress and I`d also like to see it shared to the greatest extent possible with the American people.
MELBER: You were close with James Comey. You looked up to him. You make no secret of that.
MCCABE: I did.
MELBER: When Rod Rosenstein fired him, were you mad? Did you think that was the wrong call?
MCCABE: I was shocked. I think like all FBI people, we were surprised by the step that had been taken. And I think really beyond that initial shock, I was concerned. Put together with the information that -- and the things that we had been collecting and observing through the course of our already existing Russia cases, this seemed like a very curious and concerning development of what --
MELBER: And you say concerning. And by now viewers have seen you lay out the case and it makes some sense, the idea that taken in context the removal of James Comey may have been inappropriate. Does that mean that you were concerned Rod Rosenstein was part of that?
MCCABE: I had many conversations with Rod Rosenstein during that period. I discussed with Rod several times exactly the steps that we were contemplating doing. And in this case, of course, referring to the opening of the case.
Rod was supportive of our efforts. I took that support as a good sign that Rod was --
MELBER: I`m going to press you on this --
MCCABE: Yes, sure.
MELBER: -- lawyer to lawyer.
MCCABE: Yes, go for it.
MELBER: You`re talking post-firing. It sounds like you`re saying you think Rod Rosenstein did the right thing post-firing. I guess I`m asking about pre-firing.
MCCABE: Rod, I think to this -- look, I can`t tell you what Rod is thinking. I can`t put myself in Rod`s mind.
MELBER: But I`m asking what you`re thinking. Did you think, "gosh, they just fired my boss, I`m worried they`re impeding and obstructing justice". And the person who engineered the firing as we all know was Rod Rosenstein.
MCCABE: That`s right. I read the memo just like everybody else did. I had my own concerns about it. But again, when I went to Rod and said, hey, I believe that this act may have been one of several things that puts us in a position to believe that obstruction of justice may have been committed here. Rod agreed with our assessment.
MELBER: You also write about his appearance, that he was "upset, glassy eyed, under distress, not getting much sleep." What are you getting at in that depiction?
MCCABE: What I`m trying to convey to the readers in that depiction is just how intense and stressful and unfamiliar this ground was for all of us. I mean think about Rod Rosenstein had been in his position only for a couple of weeks and immediately he finds himself in a set of circumstances that I don`t think any of us ever anticipated we would be grappling with.
MELBER: When you say glassy-eyed, are you suggesting he was crying?
MCCABE: I am stating that Rod was emotional.
MELBER: Overly emotional?
MCCABE: I don`t want to go into characterizing his emotions. Rod was clearly --
MELBER: Well, again, I`m just here to try to understand the facts.
MCCABE: Listen, Rod was --
MELBER: You described him in this way. And so readers of this book, and it`s quite a book, readers to come away with thinking are you describing someone who was cracking?
MCCABE: I am -- as any investigator would, I am describing for you what I saw. Rod was greatly impacted by the events that we were trying to navigate.
MELBER: There are some mysteries that as you`ve stressed you can`t talk about. Here`s a mystery that you probably can because it`s already gone through the full court process. You have this fascinating passage where you say in the book, Mike Flynn told you. You know what I said about Kislyak because you guys were probably listening. What is the deal with that?
I mean that was what he was ultimately charged on? He was lying about that. You`re saying he told you he knew you were listening and he still lied about it which isn`t in debate because he admitted to lying about it in court?
MCCABE: Yes. That`s what the man said. I can`t explain it. It`s a remarkable comment from someone who would then not only hours later sit down with our investigators and lie about something he presumably knew that we knew. I can`t explain it.
MCCABE: I mean, I`m sure all those things are possible. All I know is what actually happened. Our investigators came back from that interaction with Mike Flynn puzzled. Mike was gracious. Mike sat with them, answered all their questions, did so in a way that appeared to be credible and believed.
MELBER: Right. Well, did you ever play Monopoly growing up?
MCCABE: Occasionally, sure.
MELBER: Remember they have those get-out-of-jail-free cards?
MCCABE: I do. I do remember those, sure.
MELBER: Do you remember those? Did Mike Flynn wrongly think he had one of those from Donald Trump?
MCCABE: I can`t tell you what Mike Flynn thought.
MELBER: As it sometimes the case, we leave that one there. I want to dig deeper into 2016.
MELBER: You are not as famous as James Comey, fair?
MCCABE: That`s right.
MELBER: But you were in the room for every single big hard call that James Comey had to make. Let`s take a look at this announcement he made that you detail in the book about Hillary Clinton in the decision not to charge her but also to publicly criticize her. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive highly classified information. Although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Right call?
MCCABE: Great question. There is no doubt that I felt that that was the right call at that time. And I`ve spent a lot of time thinking about that decision and trying to reevaluate what are we right or not. Ultimately, my conclusion is that we were overconfident. I think we gambled too heavily on Jim`s considerable abilities as a communicator. We felt so confident in the work that we had done. I still hold that confidence.
We felt so confident in the result of that investigation and we were overconfident in our belief that Jim could present those findings in a way that would convince people to kind of put their preconceived political approach to the issue aside and accept the work that we had done.
MELBER: This is -- this is really important. This was 2016.
MCCABE: That`s right.
MELBER: It sounds like you`re going farther than James Comey has to this day because you sound like you are at least with the benefit of hindsight and more information --
MCCABE: Of course -- of course.
MELBER: -- admitting a mistake. He hasn`t done that about that moment.
MCCABE: Look, all I can tell you is, as I said, Ari, I`ve spent a lot of time thinking about it.
MELBER: You write the FBI does everything possible not to influence elections. In 2016 it seems we did. Do you mean that by influencing the election there, you hurt Hillary Clinton before Election Day?
MCCABE: I think that our decisions in the end of the Clinton e-mail investigation, particularly the decision to make that announcement in October to Congress about the reopening of the case as a result of the emails on the Weiner laptop, I think it`s undeniable that those actions had an impact on the election.
MELBER: This is where we get to the complex part where both things can be true. You may have believed it was the right thing at the time.
MCCABE: That`s right.
MELBER: You may have learned later it didn`t go the way you wanted. And the question is do you learn from that? Then you have the Trump administration seized on this and say that basically because you guys were too mean to Hillary Clinton, that`s why James Comey was fired. Rod Rosenstein knew that wasn`t the whole story and yet he wrote a memo saying that was the only reason. Was that wrong?
MCCABE: That`s a great question. I think Rod had -- this is my opinion. I think Rod had substantive disagreements with our decisions regarding that announcement in July. How Rod felt about whether or not that was the full scope of the issues as to why Director Comey was being fired by this President, I can`t say that.
MELBER: Well, but we can say some of it. This now infamous letter from Rod Rosenstein cites one reason for removing James Comey --
MCCABE: That`s right.
MELBER: -- which was the handling of the Clinton case. That`s not true, is it? That`s not the whole story.
MCCABE: That is -- well, you know, Ari, it depends on -- I don`t know what you mean by the whole story.
MELBER: You can go or I`ll tell you what I mean.
MCCABE: Yes, go for it.
MELBER: What I mean is, your documentation and other evidence that we have suggests at the time Rod Rosenstein knew that Donald Trump wanted to remove James Comey because of Russia and other reasons and he wrote a public memo stating only one reason, a pretext it was only about the Clinton case.
MCCABE: Rod Rosenstein knew that the President had a whole scope of reasons that he wanted -- reasons upon which he want -- reasons for firing Jim Comey. The President presented those reasons to Rod Rosenstein ended infamous draft letter that was never sent. Rod`s memo only cites one reason for this firing of Jim Comey. I think that Rod believes in the truth of his memorandum and I take him at his word.
If you`re asking me did the president have other reasons in mind, I think we have good reason to believe that`s the case.
MELBER: Well, you took the letter from Rod that Donald Trump originally wrote that`s of issue in this investigation. It mentioned you.
MCCABE: It did.
MELBER: Did it mention any other DOJ or FBI officials besides James Comey?
MCCABE: I`m not going to reveal any other details --
MELBER: Did it mention Russia?
MCCABE: I will not talk about the details of the letter beyond what the President --
MELBER: Well let me play for you someone who talked about some of the details which is Andy McCabe on Sunday saying that Russia was something Rod Rosenstein knew that Donald Trump wanted as part of the reason. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn`t want to put Russia in his memo.
MCCABE: He did not. He explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo and the President responded, I understand that. I`m asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCABE: Yes. This is the exchange that took place between Rod and the President on May 8th.
MELBER: So if Rod knew that the president wanted it to be Russia and then Rod went forward with the Comey-Clinton explanation and didn`t include Russia, why would Rod be surprised at all by what came from then because what we`re now dealing with is the idea that this act of firing James Comey and the -- and the potential intent behind it is part of the obstruction case?
MCCABE: So what`s your question?
MELBER: My question is didn`t Rod Rosenstein know going in that it was about Russia and not Clinton as he writes in this letter which is potentially ironically titled "restoring public confidence in the FBI" how do we have public confidence in this if as you`ve documented, it was about Russia and Rod it effectively hid that in the letter firing your old boss James Comey?
MCCABE: You know, these are great questions that you`ll have to ask Rod. All I can tell you is that Rod knew from his conversation with the President that the President wanted Russia in that memo and Rod refused to put it in the memo.
MELBER: All right, I have some questions for you since you`re saying those are better for Rosenstein. When you take it all together, were you witnessing efforts to impede the Russia probe by Donald Trump potentially including the removal of Comey for that reason?
MCCABE: When you take all the circumstances together, that was our exact concern.
MELBER: Concern or conclusion?
MCCABE: Concern. You have concern that leads to the opening of a case. That`s where we were in this investigation.
MELBER: Now, I have to press you on this. I`ve seen with regard to your record on why you`ll remove which was under suspicious circumstances which we reported at the time. You`ve said there`s a lot of that you won`t get into for legal reasons. I`ve already seen you say that so we`re not going to retread that.
MELBER: But I do want to press you on what you just said sounds both bad and true. I think when viewers hear you say they were trying to impede the probe, it sounds true and it sounds like a bad thing. But it makes us wonder -- I want to play for you at a hearing where seeing you were suggesting otherwise when asked point-blank were they trying to impede while you were acting director. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped, or negatively impacted any of the work, any investigation, or anything ongoing the projects at the Federal Bureau of Investigations?
MCCABE: There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: May 11th, but it sounds at least from the book like by May 11th, there was an effort to impede the Russia probe, true?
MACCABE: On May 11th, our concern is that there may have been a federal crime committed. OK, so you have to look at what the FBI`s authority is. To open a full investigation, you need to have articulable facts that indicate that form the basis of the conclusion that there may have been a violation of federal law or there may be a threat to national security.
We felt that the firing of Jim Comey together with other circumstances that we were very aware of together with the President`s own statements, of course, including his now infamous interview with Lester Holt, put us in a position to be able to say we now have the obligation to open a case to conduct that investigation --
MELBER: Which makes sense and a lot of people think it`s a good thing that you did. But there you were saying there was no effort to impede at that time. I mean, you were saying that to the Congress under oath.
MCCABE: Right. On May 11th, I am not in a position to be able to say conclusive -- excuse me -- conclusively that there has been an effort to impede a case. And in fact, my response is on -- to the Senate Intelligence Committee were in response to a question of it has the case been impeded. No, it`s not been impeded. We are still investigating those cases that we`ve opened and of course, we`re in the process of opening additional cases.
MELBER: Its` another way to -- it`s another way to say that then, there was attempted obstruction but it hadn`t succeeded?
MCCABE: We didn`t know if there was -
MELBER: You weren`t ready to go that far?
MCCABE: We are not ready to go that far. Now, I also point out, Ari, that the steps that we did take in terms of the case that we did open -- and of course the appointment of the special counsel is something that we immediately briefed to the leadership of Congress including the ranking and minority members of that committee.
MELBER: A couple of other things I want to get to that are big picture. Number one, when you look at the larger outlines here, not getting into what you told the Mueller probe -- we understand the limitation -- but if the outcome of all this involves basically concerns about Donald Trump`s obstruction, the cover-up, but not proof of collusion, the underlying crime, is that at the end of the day not a big deal or a big deal because Americans should care whether there`s a cover-up?
MCCABE: I mean, I think that people should care about how the chief executive conducts himself in that office. I mean, if that makes me old- fashioned then so be it. If investigators believe that there is you know, some volume of evidence that indicates that the President of the United States has engaged in conduct that would constitute the federal crime, I think that`s relevant. I think that something people should know even if the Department of Justice policy is that a sitting president can`t be indicted.
MELBER: Andrew McCabe, a busy, busy person this week. I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.
MCCABE: Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you, sir.
MCCABE: I appreciate it.
MELBER: And up ahead, we turn from Andrew became to this man. David Corn reacting and putting it all in the broader context as we await the Mueller report. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The rules that govern Bob Mueller do state that he writes a report about who he prosecutes and who he doesn`t prosecute. Does that then potentially include the president?
MCCABE: Well, it certainly could. I expect that Director Mueller`s team will produce an all-encompassing report that details exactly what they found and exactly what they think about it. I think it`s unbelievably important that that information is shared with Congress and I`d also like to see it shared to the greatest extent possible with the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Andrew McCabe tonight on THE BEAT. I`m joined by David Corn on the Mueller report. What did you think of what McCabe emphasized just there?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU, MOTHER JONES: You know, I wrote down that exact quote because that just jumped out at me. Now, McCabe is a witness in this case right? He`s not part of it. He used to be part of the case before Robert Mueller took it over. So I assume you know, I`m not saying it`s inside information but we can say he has inside insight, right? He understands the people working the case, the prosecutors, the FBI people, and has some insight into Robert Mueller.
And so when he says we`re getting all -- that there`s an all-encompassing report that`s going to be produced detailing basically everything they found, that is the most expansive statement we have from anybody close to the Mueller probe on the subject of the report which as we talked about earlier doesn`t -- isn`t obligated to be expansive.
CORN: There`s a tremendous amount of description there.
MELBER: And you have -- you have someone who says he witnessed Trump doing all sorts of bad things and is now saying even if you can`t indict a president, those things should be in the report and it should go public.
CORN: And it`s just -- but remember it`s not just about Trump, it`s investigating anything that happened on the Trump campaign the -- you know, the June Trump Tower meeting, you know collude -- you know, colluding with the Russian cover-up of the attack. There are things that --
MELBER: Now, David, the other thing I want to get you on -- you remember the 2016 campaign right?
CORN: I was there.
MELBER: And then everyone remembers how the Clinton case was handled. Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo is I just went back and forth with Andy on, that created a false case for removing James Comey which is now part of the obstruction probe. And so, I wonder what you think because it was notable sometimes what careful lawyers won`t say. It seemed like he got the most careful and quiet on that core issue. Take a look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCABE: How Rod felt about whether or not that was the full scope of the issues as to why Director Comey was being fired by this president, I can`t say that.
MELBER: How do we have public confidence in this if as you`ve documented it was about Russia and Rod effectively hid that in the letter firing your old boss James Comey.
MCCABE: You know, these are great questions that you`ll have to ask Rod. Rod knew from his conversation with the President that the President wanted Russia in that memo and Rod refused to put it in the memo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: David, what`s going on there?
CORN: You know, I see a lot of conflicting emotions in Andy McCabe on this point even though he`s not showing a lot. I mean, he has to be upset that Rod Rosenstein went along with the idea of fire Comey and kind of lied about the reasons the President had for doing it. And although he resisted the President`s you know, demands that he cite Russia and putting that memo together yet he sort of hails Rod Rosenstein for supporting the Russia investigation and the obstruction of justice robe of Trump afterwards.
In fact, he said rod agreed with our assessment that our assessment might be correct. That assessment being that Trump might have committed obstruction of justice. So I think you know, he sees Rod -- maybe they obviously had some disagreements, but he`s the guy who`s still there now and he`s not going to dump on him who was supportive and who`s under the gun for being supportive of the investigation.
MELBER: But who was on notice from Donald Trump about improper reasons and still wrote the memo.
CORN: And still wrote the memo, yes. But he`s the guy there now who is probably the best adult in the room from --
MELBER: Right. Which I think you put it perfectly. That speaks to the real world tensions. Not the perfect world but the real world that some of these folks are operating in. David Corn at the top of the show and right now, thank you so much.
CORN: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: And everyone can find the entire interview, we`re posting it on MSNBC.com and on YouTube. We have more tonight though. Michael Cohen was just spotted today on Capitol Hill as he preps for what his lawyer tout as a John Dean moment. Our cameras were there. What does it mean? What`s going to happen? That`s next.
MELBER: As if there wasn`t enough going on. Michael Cohen just made a surprise appearance on Capitol Hill. This is before much-awaited public testimony. That will be Wednesday before House Democrats talking about Donald Trump`s business practices, his money, and what he did during the 2016 election. Cohen`s legal adviser has told us there would be a John Dean-style moment like the thing that hurt Nixon to hurt Trump. We`ll be tracking that. Stay with us.
MELBER: We have a very special "FALLBACK FRIDAY" tomorrow --
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