Show: MTP DAILY Date: June 8, 2017 Guest:
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: That does it for this hour. I`m Nicole Wallace. "MTP DAILY" starts right now. Hi, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicole. We have some basketball to talk about but we`ll worry about that Friday.
WALLACE: We do. Who won last night?
TODD: I fell asleep in the fourth quarter.
TODD: Cleveland was winning. That`s all I remember.
WALLACE: Cleveland lost. Go warriors.
If it`s Thursday, James Comey is on Capitol Hill. And guess what? So are we.
Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd live from Capitol Hill. Welcome to MTP DAILY.
Folks, no matter your political views, James Comey` bombshell testimony today wasn`t a good thing. It wasn`t good for the president or the Justice Department or faith in government or even, arguably, for Comey, himself.
We`re going to see partisans of both sides spin what happened today. But there`s no avoiding it. Things smell all around and it starts at the top.
Under oath, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey testified that special counsel Bob Mueller is probably going to be investigating whether or not the president obstructed justice. Because according to Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump urged him to shut down probe into national security adviser Mike Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I don`t think it`s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning. But that`s a conclusion I`m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that`s an offense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Comey also told Republican Senator Jim Risch that he believed the president was directing him to shut down the Flynn probe when he said I hope you can let Flynn go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I took it as a direction. That it is the president of the United States with me alone, saying, I hope this, I took it as this what he wants me to do. Now, I didn`t obey that but that`s the way I took it.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: You may have taken it as direction but that`s not what he said.
RISCH: He said, I hope.
COMEY: Those were his exact words, correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks, even if you give president the full benefit of the doubt here, it doesn`t change the disturbing portrait that Comey painted of him.
First off, here`s why Comey says he started documenting his interactions with Mr. Trump in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The first time he used the L word. Here`s Comey`s brutal assessment of the White House`s justification for firing him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: And although law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly, the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led. That the work force had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And there`s the second time he used that word. Here`s what Comes told Independent Senator Angus King about the president`s later denials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: The president was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The president responded, quote, "No, no. Next question." Is that an accurate statement?
COMEY: I don`t believe it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And Comey didn`t mince words when asked why he believes the president did fire him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: It`s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired, in some way, to change -- or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That` is a very big deal. And not just because it involves me. The nature of the FBI and the nature of its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Comey also testified that the president asked him for his loyalty, during a conversation about whether or not Comey would keep his job.
And, folks, to be fair, there were serious questions raised about Comey himself. He admitted that, as a private citizen, he directed the leak of one of his memos which may have been FBI property in order to force the appointment of a special counsel. It was actually a remarkable admission.
The public is going to put a spotlight on that question and answer, among others, along with other parts of Comey`s testimony, that they believe exonerate the president from what you might call the worse-case scenario.
Here`s what I`m talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA, CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Did the president, at any time, ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. elections?
COMEY: Not to my understanding, no.
RISCH: I gather, from all of this, that you are willing to say, now, that while you were director, the president of the United States was not under investigation. Is that a fair statement?
COMEY: That`s correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And as you might expect, the president`s outside counsel, Mark Kasowitz, says Comey is telling the truth about the good stuff, as far as they`re concerned, like the president not being under investigation and not trying on impede the Russia probe.
But the president`s lawyer says Comey is lying about all the stuff that makes the president look bad. Like the president urging Comey to drop the Flynn probe or demanding that loyalty pledge.
So, it`s in the court of public opinion, at this point.
Joining me now is Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. She is a member, of course, of the Senate Intel Committee.
They questioned Director Comey publicly and privately today. And as we were discussing, Senator, you got -- your question got him to admit being a leaker. Did you know that was coming?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE, SENATE INTEL COMMITTEE: I must admit that I did not know. And that it came as a big surprise to me. In fact, I was stunned at the revelation.
When I asked the question, I wondered whom the director had shown his memos to.
COLLINS: I did not expect him to admit that he had given them to a friend of his, with the express purpose of having that friend leak it to the media in order to prompt the appointment of a special counsel which it did.
TODD: Your just reaction to that. Appropriate?
COLLINS: The -- I don`t think it was appropriate. I would argue that that was a government-produced document. It was work document. And I think it qualifies as a leak.
The irony is that the former director of the FBI has always been very annoyed when there are leaks.
TODD: Right, of all people.
COLLINS: And then, it turns out that he leaked a document himself.
TODD: Do you believe Director Comey was forthcoming with you guys today?
COLLINS: I do. I believe that his testimony, which was under oath, was candid. It was straightforward. It was quite thorough.
He answered the questions that he could answer. There were some that got into the lane of the special counsel which he appropriately could not answer.
TODD: You went behind closed doors. Obviously, there`s plenty you can`t share because of that. I think we`re overclassifying as a whole other topic of discussion. But did he satisfactorily answer questions there? Did it get into the probe, itself?
COLLINS: He answered more questions in the private closed session. But that was a very short session --
COLLINS: -- compared to this morning`s. I`m not sure and, frankly, I think we would benefit from having a longer session with Mr. Comey in private.
TODD: A couple things. Since you now have the president`s personal lawyer confirming some parts of Director Comey`s testimony, denying other parts, including the direct quotes which are at issue here. Should Congress subpoena if -- should -- do you want Congress -- do you want to subpoena the White House for supposed tapes, of they exist?
COLLINS: If the tapes exist, I believe the special counsel should have them and our committee should have them. After all, there are two different investigations with two different purposes.
Our investigation is a broad investigation --
COLLINS: -- into Russian attempts to influence the elections last fall in the counterintelligence investigation.
TODD: Right. Do you -- OK. But do you think it needs to be subpoenaed? Do you think you`re going to have to issue a subpoena?
COLLINS: Well, I would hope that the White House would voluntarily turn over any relevant documents or tapes. There`s a big issue as to whether the tapes even exist or whether or not that was some sort of tweet that the president put out for whatever purpose.
TODD: Do you think the president needs to clear this up?
COLLINS: Yes, I do. I think it`s important that it be cleared up.
TODD: Look, you`ve got a he said, he said here. You know, you`re going to be put in the position of deciding who`s more credible, the former director of the FBI or the president of the United States.
COLLINS: Well, it`s really going to be the special counsel`s job who will have access to more witnesses than we do.
TODD: You don`t want to make that judgement?
COLLINS: And just looking at the criminal aspect of this. If you`re talking about an obstruction of justice issue, that really is the job of the special counsel. But I think it`s important for us to know the extent of White House involvement or the Trump campaign involvement, and whether or not there was any collusion with the Russians last fall, by any member of president Trump`s circle.
TODD: I`ll admit, it is not clear to me whether or not Director Comey, former Director Comey, confirmed whether there currently is now an investigation to whether the president obstructed justice. Are you clear? Is there an active investigation by the special counsel on whether the president obstructed justice? Do you feel like you know this fact?
COLLINS: I believe that Mr. Comey confirmed that as of the date that he was dismissed on May 9, there was no investigation of the president, himself.
COLLINS: There may well be, there undoubtedly are investigations of people in the president`s circle.
TODD: No, that I understand. But I`m talking about specifically the president, himself, and the obstruction of justice issue. During the testimony, he implied that the special counsel was investigating whether this was obstruction of justice.
COLLINS: I think that wasn`t clear. I think he said that he really couldn`t opine on that. And -- but it`s something that one would expect that he special counsel would look at all the evidence.
TODD: What unanswered question do you feel like still lingers out there that really bothers you after this testimony today?
COLLINS: Well, we still don`t have an answer to the basic question of whether or not members of president Trump`s campaign staff collaborated with the Russians. It`s pretty clear that the Russians tried to influence the election.
That`s not to say they changed votes. But it`s clear that they tried, through a public information and disinformation campaign, the release of e- mails, paid trolls, et cetera, to plant false stories to influence the election.
What`s not clear and what we don`t know the answer to is the very important question of whether or not any members of President Trump`s campaign were involved in that effort.
TODD: All right, Senator Susan Collins. I`m going to leave it there. One of your colleagues is -- we`re about to get in here. So, thank you for coming on.
COLLINS: Thank you. Chuck.
TODD: And I know it`s been a long day.
TODD: Nice to see you.
I want to quickly highlight another big moment today. Senator Dianne Feinstein asking former Director Comey why he didn`t just tell the president that asking about the Flynn investigation was wrong?
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: You`re big. You`re strong. I know the Oval Office and I know what happens to people when people walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation. But why didn`t you stop and say, Mr. President, this is wrong, I cannot discuss this with you?
COMEY: That`s a great question. Maybe if were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in. And the only thing I could think to say -- because I was playing in my mind -- because I could remember every word he said. I was playing in my mind, what should my response be? And that`s why I very carefully chose the words.
And, look, I`ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes. I remember saying, I agree he`s a good guy, as a way of saying, I`m not agreeing with what you just asked me to do.
Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance but that was -- that`s how I conducted myself. I hope I`ll never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again, I would do it better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: California Democratic Dianne Feinstein joins me now. She, of course, is also a member of Senate Intel Committee and a former chair of the committee, and she`s a part of the Judiciary Committee which actually also came up a lot today.
Senator, nice to see you.
FEINSTEIN: Nice to see you, Chuck.
TODD: All right, I`m going to begin with you where I ended with Senator Collins. After all of this today, what`s unanswered from Director Comey? Did he leave anything unanswered that you feel like still needs some attention?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think what was unanswered was who can possibly replace him? He has the strength -- I`ve got to take this out.
TODD: That`s fine. We know. It`s echoey (ph) in here.
FEINSTEIN: He has the strength. He has the ability. I think he`s been a very good FBI director. Obviously, we had a difference over the Hillary --
TODD: You weren`t happy with how he handled the Clinton e-mail.
FEINSTEIN: No. I -- that`s right. And I told him so.
But as I listened to him today and I saw his credibility and I saw what he went through. I thought, what a tragedy that this has happened.
TODD: I want to ask another -- do you -- are you left with the impression -- because there`s some confusion here. Is the president currently under investigation for obstruction of justice by the special counsel? Director Comey seemed to imply it. One of your colleagues, Senator Graham, said there`s no way Comey would be testifying if -- that special counsel, Robert Mueller, would even let him testify if that was the case.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I can`t answer the question because I don`t know. But when Bob Mueller begins to take over the investigation, I think those decisions will be made. I don`t think any decision has been made.
TODD: There was -- I feel like today was a bad day for the Justice Department. It`s a bad day whether you were Loretta Lynch, the Obama Justice Department, the Trump Justice Department with Attorney General Sessions.
If I`m the average citizen watching today, I had the former director of the FBI essentially tell me, Obama`s Justice Department got politicized. Trump`s Justice Department`s been politicized.
And that tells me the Justice Department`s politicized. A bipartisan -- a bipartisan way over the last year. How do you recover from this?
FEINSTEIN: I don`t think the Justice Department is politicized.
TODD: I -- OK. But the perception is that it is. Director Comey seemed to imply it. He implied it with Loretta Lynch that he was concerned. He implied it with Jeff Sessions.
FEINSTEIN: Well, if that`s what you mean by politicized, --
TODD: In the implication.
FEINSTEIN: The Justice Department has to be independent from the White House. There`s no question about that. There by, they`re independent from us. They follow the law independently.
And that`s the way it should be. And I think with Director Comey, as he was testifying, what I saw was the inordinate loss this was. This is a man that`s only been director for, I guess, slightly less than four years. And it`s not true that the department`s in a mess. It`s not true that he`s a bad manager. He`s a good manager. And his people respect him and they work for him.
And so, this, I think, is very hard on the department. I thought did he a very fine job today without a note. He spoke from the heart. He spoke what he believed was the truth. And I don`t think you can ask for anything more from a witness.
TODD: Is it necessary, considering we have a he said, he said with the president`s lawyer and Mr. Comey, at this point, about which quotes are accurate that the president`s lawyer is embracing and some quotes that Director Comey attributed to the president that they are denying. Is it time for Congress to issue a subpoena to the White House that says, if there are tapes, send them over.
FEINSTEIN: I was thinking that as you asked the question. Yes.
TODD: Will you issue -- do you think you can issue a blanket subpoena that would do that?
FEINSTEIN: I don`t know. I will find out.
TODD: Is that something you work with the Judiciary Committee? Is it something on intel? Whose jurisdiction should worry about this?
FEINSTEIN: Well, the hearing is being done by intel now, so I`d like to talk to the chairman and the ranking member and I will do that. There may be some activity in the Judiciary Committee on this. And so, that may be appropriate.
So, I need a couple of days to find out. I need a little bit of time for the questions and answers to sink in. But I think, for me, it`s pretty clear that there was an attempt, by the president, to manipulate the director of the FBI. And to lift that cloud which is the Russian investigation.
The Russian investigation is going to go on. And it`s not going to stop. And the president should have known that. And the president should have known --
TODD: Do you think it`s a fair explanation that he`s just not -- doesn`t understand the ways with which Washington does business? Is that a good excuse?
FEINSTEIN: Well, this isn`t the ways Washington does business as much as you kick out the FBI director`s boss from the meeting, the attorney general, and you have -- you meet with him alone. And you ask him some things you shouldn`t ask him.
And I think we all know what we can ask and not ask. That he`s entitled to function independently. And once that independence is in question, it`s highly problematic.
TODD: Can you confirm any FBI director that the president nominates, considering what you heard today?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I`ll tell you what. If this new nominee is not going to show a semblance of independence from the Oval Office, I won`t vote for him. Because we`re not going to have a situation where by the president controls the Justice Department.
TODD: All right. Senator Feinstein, I`ve got to leave it there.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
TODD: It`s busy. Good to see you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you. Good to see you.
TODD: Thanks for coming on. I know it`s a long day.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
TODD: We`re breaking down the key points of Comey`s testimony with our all-star panel. That`s just ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: Do you have any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back.
As we said at the top of the show today, we saw President Trump on trial as well as James Comey. But we notice another case being laid out to some -- by some senators today. The case against us, the media.
It happened again and again. Sometimes more subtly than others. And mostly from Republican members of the committee. Here are Republican Senators James Risch and Tom Cotton on a February story from "The New York Times."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: That report by "The New York Times" was not true. Is that a fair statement?
COMEY: Yes, in the main, it was not true.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But it was this almost Trumpian exchange with Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma that really caught my ear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: You had mentioned before about some news stories and news accounts. But without having to go into all the names and the specific times and to be able to dip into all that, have there been news accounts about the Russia investigation, about collusion, about this whole event or accusations? That as you read the story, you were stunned about how wrong they got the facts.
COMEY: Yes. There have been many, many stories reportedly based on classified information about lots of stuff but especially about Russia that are just dead wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Ah, the broad brush. In fact, the RNC is already pushing that exchange out on YouTube. Folks, I get it. I`m not that surprised. President Trump already named the press the enemy of the American people.
But the Russia investigation is already damaging the credibility of the White House. The Justice Department and the FBI. And, it seems, some on Capitol Hill want to make sure that the media goes down with everybody.
There you go. Nothing like the broad-brush attacks. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back.
It`s panel time. Tonight`s panel is Amy Walter, National Editor of "The Cook Political Report," Matthew Continetti, Editor-In-Chief of "The Washington Free Beacon," and my colleague, Chris Matthews, of course is Host of "HARDBALL" on MSNBC. Welcome, all.
Chris, don`t take offense but I`m going to go with Amy first. I think people we refer on this on. So, Amy, what did you hear today that makes you think this investigation is somehow going to get better for the president or worse for the president?
AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "THE COOK NATIONAL REPORT": Yes, Chuck, I think that if you went into this thinking you were going to find a bombshell, you didn`t get it or a smoking gun, that didn`t come out of it either.
But depending on where you sit on the political spectrum, there was something for you to like. If you really dislike the president, you think that there`s something more there. What you had from Comey suggesting that he couldn`t tell you for 100 percent certainty that there was no collusion.
That he believes that he took it as a, quote, "direction" that the president wanted him to drop the Flynn investigation. That he couldn`t trust the president. He had to write things down. That would make you feel better.
If you are supportive of the president, think that there`s more smoke here, no fire, no smoking gun, you didn`t get any of those from Comey. He said there was no indication that the president was trying to stop a broader Russian investigation in -- with his -- with his comments.
That the president, of course, wasn`t officially under investigation. And that Comey went and actually leaked information himself through an intermediary to "The New York Times."
So, it gave everybody a little bit of something. I think what we`re going to see at the end of this, everybody goes into their partisan corners. They find what they like out of the -- out of the testimony and we go forward.
And, once again, it`s really in the court of Bob Mueller. His decision. And if it ends anywhere, we will have an answer. But I have this feeling it`s going to take long time before we get anything definitive from him.
TODD: Chris Matthews, was he a good witness? And you know what I mean by that. Was he --
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, "HARDBALL": Yes.
TODD: -- was he a compelling witness? Was he a forthright witness? What did you make of him?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think he`s great. I think he has a Jimmy Steward quality. I mean, nobody is perfect. But, first of all, he`s under oath and he knew it. And he was a very prepared witness. I thought the written testimony was fabulous. It was colorful. It was evocative. The scene in the Green Room of the state floor of the White House was very powerful.
He talked with great even giant detail about things like the grandfather clock door of the Oval Office. So, you got to -- and he talked about who was waiting on the other side of the door. You got a very clear, hard-to- deny picture of truth.
Now, no picture is total but I did think he was awful tough to take on in facts. In fact, I`m not even sure that the lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, came along and actually challenged him that much on fact. He just, sort of, threw stuff at him, as you would -- for $1,500 an hour, you better throw something at somebody.
But I thought the day that ended with the president of the United States having to bring in a very expensive lawyer to defend him at $1,500 an hour, it`s not a good day for the president of the United States when you`re there standing, basically, as a defendant with a criminal lawyer --
MATTHEWS: -- standing there helping you. That does not look good.
His own team wasn`t there. The White House counsel wasn`t there. The White House press people weren`t there. Nobody in the cabinet was there to defend him.
It was him alone as private citizen defendant. And that, to me, is a brutal day for a president of the United States. Worse than Nixon, in a way. Nixon at least was --
MATTHEWS: -- defending a presidency. This guy was defending himself, as an individual. Remember the cloud over the presidency? Nixon had a cancer --
MATTHEWS: -- in the presidency.
It was institutionally different. It was about a guy who --
MATTHEWS: -- became president but isn`t really president in the sense of having an institution around him the way that even Nixon did.
TODD: You know, Matthew Continetti, you were -- you came away with basically saying, well, it is going to be a -- if the president is impeached someday, it will be a tweet that undid him. And you specifically I.D.ed (ph) a specific tweet in your column today. Walk me through it.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON": Well, sure. I mean, if you -- according to Jim Comey`s testimony, he was fired by the president. He was kind of stunned he -- in shock. He didn`t know what to do.
And then, of course, the Friday following the firing, President Trump had that Twitter rant where he said, with the tapes, using the quotation marks, you know, Comey better watch out because if there are tapes of the -- our conversations. And Comey told the Senate today that it was that tweet that put in his mind the idea of getting the memos out there into the public.
And that`s where this whole issue of him directing his friend, the Columbia law professor, to leak the contents of the memo to "The New York Times" in the express desire, Comey says this in front of the Senate, in front of the world, --
CONTINETTI: -- to launch a special counsel. And put it in the special counsel realm, the independent investigation.
And so, when I -- I`m watching this testimony, I`m seeing Jim Comey, a very skilled lawyer and prosecutor, lay bread crumbs for Robert Mueller to basically walk Director Mueller up to saying that the president of the United States may have obstructed justice in his handling of the Mike Flynn false statements investigation.
TODD: Amy, there is a Shakespearean quality, all this, that, A, it would be a tweet that would take hi down. And everybody`s been criticizing him for his tweets.
But, B, in his -- in his obsession with trying to get Comey to say, publicly, that he was not a target of the investigation, his obsession with trying to get Comey to say that has now led to him being investigated for something else. In this case, obstruction of justice, we think.
By the way, that is bothering me today. We don`t know. It was implied by Comey that maybe, yes, the president is now under investigation.
TODD: But nobody`s confirmed that.
WALTER: No. And nobody outside of Mueller can confirm that. So, we`re still, as I said in the beginning, sort of, back to where we started.
This is just -- it seems to me, the reality here in this White House, which is how many of the problems the president is dealing with come right back to his own behavior, whether it`s Twitter, whether it`s the interview he had with Lester Holt, where he admitted that he --
WALTER: -- fired him because of the Russia investigation.
This is all self-inflicted. We haven`t even had an outside crisis. A crisis that is not from within. And I think that is going to be the next thing to watch for.
TODD: We have a real crisis. I would argue we have a crisis in the Middle East right now with what`s going on in the Arabian peninsula. And that`s a crisis that may have been caused, may have been inspired by the president and another tweet that may have been caused problems. Chris Matthews, today was a bad day for Loretta Lynch and Jeff Sessions.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, TALK SHOW HOST, AND AUTHOR: Yeah.
TODD: I have to say, as a private citizen, I could watch this testimony and come away with, gee, is any Justice Department independent anymore?
MATTHEWS: Well, yeah. I think they`re collateral damage. I just want to get by to what Amy just said, it`s so true. You know, we have dipped into the water here of a stream, as they say in law. This is going biased. This is Trump`s behavior, his persona. And no, I don`t think he is impeachable yet or anything like that. We`re way ahead of all that.
But his behavior is inevitably going to lead to a problem in the constitution. He doesn`t accept the fact that we have a government based on limited law, limited power. That`s what we have in this country, limited government. Everyone is limited. Senators have a limited number of amount of authority. Justices do. Cabinet members do. Presidents do.
He doesn`t seem to -- he is trying to shape the United States government and our system of government to him. He is trying to make it so he can be CEO again and everyone will be one of his puppets. If he can`t overcome that tendency, inevitably he will challenge the constitution because he seems like he wants to fit it to him.
And the way to have this meeting with the FBI director and chasing away the vice president and the chief of staff and his own son-in-law just so he can get this guy alone and get him to agree to drop a case. By the way, when he went to Lavrov and Kislyak, he said I want to drop the whole Russian thing, not just the Flynn case.
MATTHEWS: So he gave -- you just said a few minutes ago, he is doing it to himself and if he keeps behaving like this, he will ultimately do it to himself. TODD: Chris, you will appreciate. I got a producer named John in my ears saying I have to go to break. I think you know that feeling as much as I do.
MATTHEWS: I know it well.
TODD: So, Amy, Matthew, Chris, you guys are sticking around. Up ahead, the legal questions that were raised today including by the president`s lawyer. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Up next, could James Comey have put himself in hot water over his leaked memos? We`re actually going to take a closer look at some new legal questions some are asking after today`s testimony. Keep it right here.
(START VIDEO CLIP) JOE MANCHIN, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM WEST VIRGINIA: Do you believe you would have been fired if Hillary Clinton would have been president?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF FBI: That`s a great question. I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back. We`ve got lots of legal questions, technical on that front, after former FBI director James Comey`s testimony today including did Comey have the legal authority to leak his own memos to a friend who then leaked the contents to a reporter? President Trump`s attorney wondered that himself.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
MARC KASOWITZ, CORPORATE ATTORNEY AND LEGAL FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers. Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: But the White House specifically did say President Trump would not assert executive privilege for the hearing. That`s not all. Is the president under investigation right now? Could he be forced to testify and does Comey`s testimony today make a case of obstruction of justice against the president?
I`m not a lawyer and I`m not going to play one on T.V. But to talk about all this, I want to bring in a lawyer who actually knows what he`s talking about. Stewart Baker, a former general counsel at the NSA and a former DHS assistant secretary for policy. Mr. Baker, thank you for coming on, sir.
STEWART BAKER, FORMER NSA GENERAL COUNSEL, FORMER DHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR POLICY: It`s great to be here.
TODD: Let me start with the allegation the president`s personal attorney made. He sort of threw it out there. He didn`t directly make the allegation but implied maybe the leak was illegal. So let me start with this. Director Comey`s memos, whose property are they?
BAKER: They are actually, according to the FBI`s guidance, if you created it as part of your job as an FBI employee, that is FBI information and the memos belong to the FBI. There is an argument that he should have gone through pre-publication review, he shouldn`t have released them, not clear that that makes it a crime, but it could well be improper as well as being a bad idea.
TODD: I want to ask you about that, like, what -- walk me through it. Since you had been at NSA, I assume you know this as well as anybody, which is this. Is it always a crime to leak if you`re leaking from the FBI or NSA? When is it -- what is the line of criminal, when it becomes a crime to leak?
BAKER: So, it is a crime to leak classified information. And Jim Comey said that he wrote these memos so they didn`t have classified information so that he could share them. So it is pretty clearly not going to be the kind of crime that is usually associated with leaks from the FBI or from the NSA. It could also be a crime of obstruction of justice or other activity if you leak an information about an ongoing criminal investigation from the FBI.
I don`t see that in this either. So it is probably if there is a legal violation here, it is either a violation of the requirement that you undergo pre-publication review for disclosure of FBI information or perhaps a privacy act violation in the sense that the director was releasing private information in an FBI file about the president.
TODD: All right. Let me ask you about the other big, I would say it is a debatable issue here which is, did the former director today confirm that there is an obstruction of justice investigation that`s been opened by the special counsel into the president or not? He let it open that there was -- what is your understanding? What did you hear when you were listening to that part of the testimony?
BAKER: I thought he was trying not to say anything on that. Part of it is he doesn`t know anymore what the state of the investigation is. He has got a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller and he expects Bob Mueller to look at this very carefully. And I think he probably does not want to crowd Mueller in either direction.
TODD: Well, let me ask you one specific issue. Senator Lindsey Graham has said to reporters today that he believed if Bob Mueller were actually pursuing an obstruction of justice case against the president, then he would not have allowed James Comey to testify in public. Do you concur with that?
BAKER: I am not so sure that is the case. At the end of the day, if there is an obstruction of justice case to be made here, the investigation is probably five minutes long and the thing he got by whether to bring a case is months of thinking because the facts are pretty straightforward. It is a conversation. Maybe two.
And whether that is obstruction of justice is more a judgment of what one should do in these circumstances with the president of this kind making statements that are ambiguous at least. And in the absence of something more than that, I would be surprised if Mueller decides that this is something that ought to be prosecuted.
TODD: All right. Stewart Baker, I`m going to leave it there. I appreciate you clearing up those two things for me. I have a lot more, but I don`t have enough time. Thank you for coming in, sir, appreciate it.
BAKER: Thank you.
TODD: We`ll be right back. We got a lot more from Capitol Hill including the panel.
TODD: It`s obsession time. Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed over the fact that I don`t have a lot of time to tell you what I`m obsessed about. But I have a topic, which is what we saw today, with the too many things that are classified. In fact, my obsession over classifying information has been declared classified at least for today. Maybe tomorrow it will be unclassified and I`ll get to it then. Actually I will. We`ll be back in a moment.
TODD: Welcome back. There were a lot of things that James Comey could not answer today because the answers apparently would get in the way of the investigation. We gathered more than 15 different questions he answered that way. He said he couldn`t comment whether the FBI confirmed the allegations contained in that salacious dossier nor whether the dossier was currently being investigated on.
And Comey said some, quote, nonsense is what influenced him to hold that news conference on Clinton`s personal e-mail server. But what made it nonsense? He couldn`t say. He couldn`t answer why he knew Attorney General Sessions would eventually recuse himself in the Russia investigation two weeks before he did. And he couldn`t say if he knew about contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.
That brings us to "The Lid." Amy, Matthew, Chris. Matthew, let me start with you. Trump supporters today, I think they feel as if they have enough fuel to sort of make themselves feel better. What about that next ring of the Republican Party, Matthew?
They`re not never Trumpers. They`re Trump skeptics. Frankly, I would count -- I would say probably 80 percent of the Republican conference in the U.S. senate, for instance. Did Trump help himself today or hurt himself today with that group of Republicans?
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR TO THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think that group of Republicans is worried, Chuck. I think the president clearly is in a legal fight now having his personal attorney out there answering questions about what`s happening and Director Comey`s testimony.
But there is also the political question to think about. We have a special election in Georgia coming up very soon. If the Democrats win that seat, Tom Price`s former seat, I think it will send another shock wave through the political system and worry a lot of those Republicans you`re talking about. Then two, remember on the legislative schedule, we have health care.
And the senate is still working on health care. And they have a very short window. Basically this summer in order to get a health care bill. And the sense on Capitol Hill is if you don`t get the health care bill passed, then Trump`s legislative agenda is also seriously in jeopardy. So I think there is a lot of worry on Capitol Hill.
One note about Comey`s refusal to answer. Remember, that`s exactly what made President Trump so frustrated with him in the first place, because President Trump has kept asking him, why can`t you tell people that I`m not under investigation? And when he didn`t do that in live testimony, I think that may have actually sealed Comey`s fate in terms of his employment. And it turns out that at that time President Trump was not under investigation.
TODD: You know, Amy, I feel like what got lost today is this was not a hearing about the Russia investigation. This was the hearing about the motive, the president`s motive behind the firing of James Comey. Is the Russia investigation getting lost here?
WALTER: No, I don`t think so. I think just to go back to Matthew`s point, if there is wobbliness among Republicans, I sure didn`t see it today in the questioning. Most of the Republican senators who questioned Comey were looking to provide some cover for the president right now. You don`t see rank and file voters or members abandoning this president.
He still has approval ratings up in the high 80s. There is talk about a bill that may get out soon on the senate side to be voted on. Who knows it`s going to pass or not. So, I don`t think there is going to be any sort of abandonment of this president either by voters or by members of congress.
But the way that I look at this Russia investigation now, Chuck, is I don`t know if you played these games when you were a kid, but where you have a whole bunch of tiles and underneath the tiles is a picture, right?
You have to put -- as you flip over each tile, you get a sense of maybe what that picture is. But until you flip all of them over, you have no idea what it is because maybe it`s a finger, maybe it`s part of a dog, you don`t know, right?
WALKER: Until you get all of them. So, what we`re all doing every day on this Russia investigation is putting over one other tile, putting over another tile here, and then expecting it to make sense. And, of course, your partisan lens is going to tell you what you think that picture is.
TODD: Chris, what`s the next six months look like? I mean, you know, Matthew outlined, I would argue the next six weeks we`ll find out whether the president has a shot at having a legislative agenda or not. If health care passes the senate, maybe that opens the door for other. If not, it`s probably hopelessly gridlock. But what does the next six months look like with this cloud that`s going nowhere?
MATTHEWS: Well, the history books are getting written already in terms of what happened and that is that moving forward, you have the fact that this hearing today was really about why was Comey fired. He was fired because of the Russia investigation. It was pretty clear. No one on the Republican side, no one really challenged that was really the reason we`re talking about.
Moving forward, everybody seems to think that there will be a collaboration between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the special counsel, Mr. Mueller, to go after this thing. And they`re going to keep going. It looks like Mueller is gearing up, staffing up, bringing the best lawyers he can find from all the departments. This is a major all-star effort by Mueller.
And it`s like that shot last night by Kevin Durant. He said at 45 seconds, I spent my whole life getting ready for this shot. And I think that`s true of Mueller. I think that`s true of today`s testimony by Comey. This is like the big thing of their lives, these guys. And I think they`re going to try to get pay dirt here and try to prove that they`re after something that`s there. And I think this is going to be serious on Mueller`s part.
TODD: All right. Before midnight tonight, very quickly, all three of you, will the president be tweeting at some form -- something about the Comey hearings tonight? Quickly. Do you think yes or no? Amy?
WALTER: No, I think he waits until the morning, he`ll watch the shows.
CONTINETTI: No, I don`t think he`s going to tweet about it.
TODD: All right. Chris?
MATTHEWS: He won`t be because he`s paid $1500 an hour not to have to tweet.
MATTHEWS: I think he paid the lawyer to do the work. TODD: Everybody betting on discipline. Everybody is betting on discipline. We will bring you back and tell you how wrong you guys probably all are in 48 hours. All right. Thank you all. After the break, James Comey did shed light on a comment from the president that we all missed.
TODD: Welcome back. In case you missed it, in a day with anticipation, former FBI director James Comey finally revealed the answer to a question millions have been asking. At issue was something that President Trump told him in confidence. It involves a moment that has been shrouded in mystery from the moment it occurred. It happened at a White House meeting and not just any White House meeting, but one that has been the subject of endless speculation.
The day, January 22nd, two days after President Trump`s inauguration. The place, the White House blue room. The agenda, a reception for law enforcement. We don`t know if there are tapes of President Trump`s private conversations with Comey as Mr. Trump has suggested. We do have videotape of this event. Let`s roll.
(START VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, and there`s James. He`s become more famous than me.
COMEY: Director Comey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Yes, we all heard the new president say of Comey, he`s more famous -- become more famous than me, but what did he say after that? What did the president whisper in his FBI director`s ear? Well, finally today we know.
(START VIDEO CLIP) COMEY: You`ve seen the picture of me walking across the blue room and what the president whispered in my ear was, I really look forward to working with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: There you have it. Just two and a half months later, President Trump no longer look forward to working with James Comey and of course fired him. You have been staying tuned for what happened next. Anyway, that is all for tonight. "For the Record" with Greta starts right now. All yours, Greta.
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