The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 5/10/17

Guests: Devlin Barrett, Tim Weiner

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  And thanks to you at home for joining us for this next hour. 

I got to tell you, we have kind of a big show tonight.  We`ve got a number of guests who I`m very excited to talk to you tonight. 

But also just -- there is a -- there`s a lot going on.  We`ve got some exclusive information tonight and we`ve got a sort of a roundup about what`s happened over the course of today.  But these are times when it is it is worth paying attention.

And here`s a specific thing that I think is worth paying attention to: Mike Flynn resigned as national security adviser on February 13th.  It`s very big news obviously.  No national security advisor has ever had a tenure that short. 

Also, no administration has ever lost someone that senior ever for lying about and concealing contact with a foreign government.  And in time, we would also learn that Mike Flynn had been a paid agent of a foreign government we learned that when he retroactively registered after he had left the White House. 

NBC News has since reported that the Trump transition was actually aware of payments that Mike Flynn had received from foreign governments, but apparently, they did not see that as a red flag to be worried about hiring him, nor did they require him to report those payments, which his security clearance required him to do. 

In time, we would also learn -- actually just this past week we would also learn -- that Mike Flynn was required to get a new security clearance from the CIA in order to take the national security adviser job, but the Trump transition apparently didn`t make him get that before they gave him the national security job anyway. 

In time, we would also come to learn that the outgoing president, Barack Obama, had specifically, personally, directly warned the incoming president-elect that he should not make Mike Flynn his national security adviser, but the president-elect and the new White House ignored all of that and they put him in place anyway.

So, it was very, very important that Mike Flynn get into that job despite all those screaming reasons why he should not even when the Department of Justice brought worse warnings than that to the White House -- warnings in the first week of the new administration that the national security advisor Mike Flynn was lying about his contact with the Russians, warnings that his underlying conduct that was known to the Justice Department was itself problematic when it came to the Russians, even aside from him lying about it, warnings that he was compromised by the Russians, that he was potentially vulnerable to them blackmailing him while he was serving as national security adviser.

Even after those warnings, we now know, they kept him in place.

Yesterday, the White House spokesman even confirmed that after those warnings from the Justice Department, the White House did nothing to restrict Mike Flynn`s access to sensitive information nor did they take any other action to protect national security and state secrets from a man they had just been informed might be being blackmailed -- might be being coerced by Russia while he had access to the highest level secrets in the entire U.S. government.

So, in time, we would come to learn all of that mind-bending information about Mike Flynn and how he got into the White House and what he was doing there and how the White House treated all of the security concerns around him.  In time, we would learn all that.

But on February 13th, on the day he resigned, we didn`t know all that stuff on February 13th -- we only knew that Mike Flynn had just become the shortest serving national security adviser in U.S. history.  On February 13th, we knew that this guy hadn`t even lasted for weeks. 

Before we could even start to absorb that information though, before we can even start to figure out all the backstory on Mike Flynn that has proved to be so damning and so illuminating in the weeks and months since, before we could even absorb that, before we can even start digging into it, that story -- that Mike Flynn just resigned as national security adviser, that story got its tail stepped on because Mike Flynn resigned on February 13th. 

And then the very next day, February 14th, is when "The New York Times" dropped this: Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence.

And, you know, what you see that like, oh, right, OK.  At that point, yes, oh, it`s interesting that the national security adviser had to resign yesterday but, holy, look at this.  I mean, this was remarkable, right?  Phone records and intercepted calls showed that members of Donald Trump`s presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

Quote, American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications, around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election.

Quote, the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Quote, the National Security Agency which monitors the communications of foreign intelligence services, the NSA initially captured these calls between Trump`s associates and the Russians as part of routine foreign surveillance.  After that, the FBI asked the NSA to collect as much information as possible about these Russian operatives that were on the phone calls with Trump people.  They asked them to search through troves of previous intercepted communications that had not been analyzed. 

Bombshell, right?  Valentine`s Day bombshell.  Trump campaign officials and Trump associates have repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials and other Russian government officials while Russia is attacking the United States then to try to sway the election in Trump`s favor.  Just bombshell comes out February 14th, comes out one day after the Mike Flynn resignation, which was over his surreptitious contacts with Russian officials, but it steps right on the tail of that story.  It`s just huge.  It`s sort of occludes, right, the impact of the Mike Flynn story because this story the next day is even bigger than that.

But then something happened to that story remember, right?  February 13th, Flynn resigned.  February 14th, "New York Times" posts this bombshell story, right? 

What was a headline?  Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, February 14th.  And February 15th, the next day, something very unusual happened.  The deputy director of the FBI went to the White House for a 7:30 a.m. White House meeting on what was reportedly an unrelated intelligence matter.  And at the end of that 7:30 a.m. meeting, the deputy director of the FBI had a private pull aside, a little private pull aside one-on-one meeting with the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

The deputy director of the FBI, quote, spoke with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for five minutes after a 7:30 a.m. meeting at the White House on February 15th.  According to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the matter, quote, the deputy director of the FBI told Reince Priebus: I want you to know the story in "The New York Times" is BS.

Deputy director of the FBI telling the White House, hey, that "New York Times" story about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials, that`s a bad story.  That`s BS. 

That`s really weird, right?  I mean, first of all, there`s an ongoing FBI investigation of the president`s campaign.  No one in the FBI let alone the deputy director should be talking to the president`s staff about that ongoing investigation at all.  That -- that literally and directly compromises the FBI`s ongoing investigation.  They`re talking to the target of the investigation.

Second of all, that contact -- that strange contact between the deputy director of the FBI and the White House chief of staff, that led to one of the most bizarre compromises of the other investigations into Trump and Russia.  I mean, after the White House chief of staff got that this story is BS advice from the FBI`s deputy director, the White House then enlisted these two Republicans -- Congressman Devin Nunez on the left side of your screen, Senator Richard Burr on the right side of your screen -- the White House enlisted them ask them to do a favor here, ask them to start calling reporters and all the major news outlets to steer other reporters away from "The Times`" bombshell story.

And, you know, you work at a news organization, that`s a heavyweight call.  That`s heavyweight advice if you get a call from Devin Nunes or Richard Burr telling you to stay away from a story, it`s BS, right?  Because these guys aren`t just regular members of Congress, they are the chairman of the intelligence committees in the House and in the Senate.  So, these guys, theoretically, would be in a position to know what they were talking about on a story like this.

It`s also a big deal because these are the two guys who were supposedly leading to big congressional investigations into this very subject into the White House-Russia connections.  And the White House had them making phone calls, warning reporters off this "New York Times" story as a favor to the White House. 

And apparently, on a recommendation and improper communication from the deputy director of the FBI, who told the White House chief of staff something about the FBI`s investigation said this story about what we`re found and what we`re looking at, it`s all BS.

So, this is the mishegoss that happened right after Mike Flynn got fired, and that was so screwed up in many ways.  So many days this new administration, you`re like, wow, that`s a mess.  I can`t believe that happened.  This thing was so screwed up at every level. 

I mean, there`s the guys leading these supposedly independent investigations into the White House making PR calls about that investigation to reporters at the behest of the White House.  There`s the FBI which is supposedly leading the other independent investigation of the White House talking on the sidelines with the White House about what is and isn`t going on in their investigation, and giving the White House PR advice about bad press they`re getting related to that investigation. 

I mean, what was the -- what was the actual quote from the deputy director of the FBI there?  It was, quote, I want you to know that "The New York Times" story is BS.

Well, the biggest way this was messed up what happened back there in mid- February, the biggest screw-up of all of this is that "The New York Times" story wasn`t BS at all. 

"The Times" published this initial report Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, they reported this initial report.  They posted this on February 14th.  Later that night, CNN reported their own version of the story: Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during the campaign.  Then, "The Washington Post" got the story, too, quote, "U.S. intelligence reports cite multiple contacts between members of Trumps team and Russians with links to the Kremlin during the campaign and afterward, according to officials who have seen those reports.

By March, it is multiply sourced.  American allies, including the Brits and the Dutch have provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials and others close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and associates of Donald Trump.  And then further confirmation thereafter, British intelligence past Trump associates communications with Russians on to U.S. counterparts.

Oh, wait, further confirmation.  Quote: Through summer a number of western spy agencies shared information with the United States government on contacts between Trump`s inner circle and Russians.

All of that backing up that initial bombshell "New York Times" report from February 14th. 

So, when the FBI`s deputy director inexplicably went up to the White House and did a pull aside to talk to the president`s chief of staff about the FBI`s ongoing investigation into the president`s campaign and he told the White House chief of staff that this "New York Times" story was BS, not only was that a scandal in its own right because the FBI deputy director shouldn`t be talking about the FBI`s investigation with the White House, not only was it a scandal because it resulted in the White House enlisting as their PR flacks the members of Congress who were supposedly running the independent congressional investigations into Trump and Russia -- that moment, that day that was also a scandal because that "New York Times" story really was not BS. 

It`s been borne out by weeks and months of independent reporting since then all of which has corroborated "The Times" story.  And if you don`t believe any of the other press about it, you don`t believe any other reporters because all news is fake news, well, this week it was even confirmed on the record under oath by the man who is the director of national intelligence at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA:  Over the spring of 2016, multiple European allies passed on additional information to the United States about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.  Is this accurate?

SALLY Yates, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I can`t answer that.

FEINSTEIN:  General Clapper, is that accurate?

JIM CLAPPER, FORMER DNI:  Yes, it is, and it`s also quite sensitive.

FEINSTEIN:  OK.  Let me ask you this -- 

CLAPPER:  The specifics are quite sensitive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  We got reports from multiple European allies about them observing contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Is that accurate?  Yes, that`s accurate.  It`s quite sensitive, but yes, that`s accurate.  That`s confirmed, under oath, by the director of national intelligence.

So, when the deputy director of the FBI went up to the White House and said "New York Times" reporting on that exact thing, that reporting is BS, you know what?  T That reporting was not BS at all. 

Why the heck was the deputy director of the FBI running to the White House and calling that apparently true story that now confirms story, why was he calling that BS?  Why was he giving the White House that ex parte advice on their bad press?  Why was he talking to the White House ex parte about this investigation at all?  What the heck was the deputy director of the FBI doing?

I don`t know.  I`ve never known.  It`s been one of the weirdest parts of this investigation all along, but now, the deputy director of the FBI has been promoted.  He`s now the director of the FBI, the acting director of the FBI, which means he`s now leading the FBI investigation into the Russian attack on our election and the Trump campaigns potential involvement in it.

His name is Andrew McCabe.  He reportedly took a long in-person meeting with the president yesterday at the White House and now he has been put in charge at the FBI, including in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation.  Given his previous named individual role in communicating inappropriately with the White House about this investigation, given his extraordinary effort to kibosh damning reporting about this story reporting that we now know is well-corroborated and multiply sourced and confirmed as true by the director of national intelligence, isn`t there an issue here with Deputy Director Andrew McCabe taking over the lead in the FBI`s Trump Russia investigation?  Isn`t there?

How can he specifically be the one who`s leading this investigation now?

Today, "The New York Times" and then "The Washington Post" and then "The Wall Street Journal" and NBC News, eventually, everybody confirmed this story today, that in the days before he was fired yesterday, FBI Director James Comey went to the deputy attorney general and requested additional resources for the Trump-Russia investigation.  We do not know what the response was to that request.  We do know that Director Comey told members of Congress he told Senators Richard Burr and Senator Mark Warner on Monday night that he had made that request to DOJ for more resources, so those senators presumably can corroborate that he told them about having made that request for more resources.

Weirdly, the Department of Justice is denying he ever made that request, but in any case, the following day, James Comey got fired from his job as director of the FBI.  So, whenever additional resources he apparently wanted for that investigation, history will show that you`re fired was the response.

But things are happening -- things are happening very fast now.  The White House has now said that the president had hired a major Washington, D.C. law firm to represent him on Trump-Russia matters.  We don`t know which firm yet but we are trying to figure that out right now as we speak.

We have also learned tonight the former national security advisor Mike Flynn has now been subpoenaed to hand over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee in their Trump-Russia investigation.  Mike Flynn declined yesterday to hand over documents to the committee voluntarily.  Now, they`re subpoenaing him.  This is the first subpoena sent by the Senate Intelligence Committee since the 9/11 investigation.

One of the things to watch on Mike Flynn and on other Trump campaign figures, particularly people who find themselves sort of in the crosshairs here, one of the things to watch here in an ongoing way with each development in the news here is whether those folks who are in the crosshairs and potentially have stories to tell about what happened here between the Trump campaign and Russia, one of the things to watch here is whether those individual people from Trump world are facing any sort of pressure from potential prosecution, pressure that could be used as leverage to conceivably make them flip on those above them in the hierarchy, so they can save themselves from going to the pokey by telling tales about people who might be bigger fish.

So, the first subpoenas now flying in this investigation mean that we can now invoke that dynamic and start watching for that. 

We`ve got the Senate Intelligence Committee again subpoenaing Mike Flynn tonight.  We`ve also got both CNN and CBS now reporting that federal prosecutors have sent grand jury subpoenas related to Mike Flynn to his business associates.  So, two different types of subpoenas now sort of orbiting around the Mike Flynn part of this story.

Also, keep an eye on Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.  We do not know if Paul Manafort also refused to hand over documents voluntarily to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.  The committee has not announced whether or not he handed over those documents they have requested.

But there are some interesting loose threads to watch with Paul Manafort.  Paul Manafort, obviously, the former campaign chairman for the Trump campaign -- I just want to give you one heads-up about him now, that there is a new, very large, very interesting question mark about Paul Manafort and his potential involvement with the Justice Department.

OK, this is this is something that that we`ve got a bead on that we are actively reporting tonight literally while I am on the air.  We are trying to continue to report this out.  I swear we will have news on that. 

We will have an answer on that for you by tomorrow at this time at the latest.  But the way things have been going today, we might have it before the end of this hour.  Just stick a pin in that.

Busy night, lots more to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  So, tonight, we get another glimpse -- a new glimpse into how we got to this point, how we got to this remarkable point in U.S. history where we`ve never been before, where we`ve got a sitting U.S. president who has just fired the head of the FBI while the FBI is investigating him and his presidential campaign in a counterintelligence investigation.  This is brand-new tonight just posted moments ago at "The Washington Post".

And to give you a sense of where we are right now at this story in this new piece just post by "The Washington Post", they`ve got 30 sources, 30.  "The Post" tonight sighting 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, 30, most of them speaking anonymously.

The story explains basically that the White House official line that it was a Justice Department decision to get rid of James Comey and the president just endorsed that decision, that official White House line is untrue.  That is not at all what happened.  Instead, in this remarkably sourced piece, "The Post" details how the president firing James Comey was motivated specifically by the president`s own frustration and anger about the Russia investigation.  So, that`s important. 

There`s also this really interesting stuff that they`ve just dug up about how -- about what has happened today since the firing, basically about how the firing has landed in the intelligence community and the law enforcement community.

Listen, listen to some of this blowback now to that presidential decision.  Quote, one intelligence official who worked on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases.  Another said Jim Comey`s firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won`t soon be forgotten.  The president had, quote, essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI.  One official said, I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.

In other words, you`re waging war on us, well, war can be way to the other direction, too.  Gulp..

This new reporting from "The Washington Post" tonight is chilling.

Joining us now is Devlin Barrett.  He covers national security for "The Post" and was writing part of this new story tonight when we called him.

Mr. Barrett, thank you very much for joining us.  I really appreciate you being here.

DEVLIN BARRETT, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  Hi.  Sure, happy to be here.

MADDOW:  Let me just actually first of all that the remarkable sourcing here and how upfront you guys are being about the number of people, more than two dozen people, 30 sources who you were able to speak to on the record or on the record or anonymously in most cases for this story.

Tell me about that sourcing.

BARRETT:  Well, you know you see a bunch of names on the byline and that`s because, you know, this is a big story obviously and we fan out to talk to as many people as humanly possible, and you know, collect all that and see what it all adds up to.  And I think that story is what it adds up to and it sort of tells the story of what`s going on in the White House in recent weeks, but also how, you know, the last hours has transpired in the intelligence community and within the FBI and within the Justice Department. 

And those are important things, right?  Like these are these are agencies that their work doesn`t stop because Comey leaves.  Their work continues and you know I just think it`s important to track how that work continues.

MADDOW:  In terms of the continuation of that work -- obviously, a lot of people who have been placing a lot of stock in the FBI investigation thinking that that`s how the American people are finally going to get a full accounting of this story, people have been worried about what effect the firing of the FBI director will have on the morale, the will, the focus of those folks what kind of pressure it puts on them. 

We certainly heard anecdotally reports today over the course of my news day that people who are involved in this investigation are shaken.  They were by this firing and when you hear about FBI agents being shaken it makes you wonder whether or not it`s going to derail them at all in their investigation.  You guys seem to be reporting more on a reaction of resolve anger and maybe even a desire to get revenge.

BARRETT:  Yes, I mean, I think revenge is a little strong.  I think -- you know, look, there are career professionals in both the FBI and the Justice Department who, you know, are for better for all practical purposes are lifers at this, and while there certainly they were certainly surprised and upset about what happened to Jim Comey, you know, I think it was interesting -- I would say, and among the people I talked to I would say about 75 percent of the reaction was anger and I would say about 25 percent of the reaction was a kind of fear, a kind of wariness as to you know -- so does this mean that we`re actually going to pull back?  I don`t want to pull back, but maybe there will be some collective you know cautioned that this firing produces.

But to be honest, you know, most of the folks I talk to in the law enforcement intelligence base today were, you know, determined not to do anything differently and if anything were more motivated today than they were yesterday.

MADDOW:  Andrew McCabe was the FBI deputy director has now been elevated to acting director of the FBI. 

In our opening segment tonight, I recounted an incident that he was involved in in February that raised some eyebrows in terms of his contact with the White House about this investigation.  Reince Priebus citing him by name, naming him in terms of his title as having had contact with the White House about reporting concerning the Trump-Russia investigation.

When you talk about some of the reaction being anger and some of the action being fear among FBI agents responding to this firing, has a deputy director now acting Director McCabe done anything to kind of to shore people up about this to reassure people or to give any sense of what kind of leadership he`s going to have on this matter.

BARRETT:  It`s funny.  There was actually a going-away party at the Justice Department tonight for a departing career official and McCabe spoke at that.  And I`m told that he was actually he made a little bit of a joke about his last 24 hours.  He kind of you know frankly is described to me put a lot of folks at e with the notion that, wow, this guy`s just been thrown into the fire, and there`s a lot riding on him right now.

You know, the folks I talked to said they were actually -- they actually felt a little better after watching him talk to a big room of national security folks this evening.  And so, you know, I think -- I think there`s some hope there and I think there`s some, you know, cautious optimism that there`s still a lot of -- you know, Jim Comey may be gone but there`s still an awful lot of good people here who can do good work and they`re not scared.  I think was another sort of thing that kept coming up.

But I`ll be honest, you know, in talking to folks you know that anger came through in private discussions at that event, too, like there are people who are ticked off.

MADDOW:  Ticked off and angry and some people expressing fear and a lot of uncertainty.  Just a -- just a remarkable time, remarkable thing to be living through but also a remarkable thing to be reporting on.

Devlin Barrett, writing about national security for "The Washington Post", you`re right in the middle of it, my friend.  Thank you for helping us understand this reporting tonight.  I appreciate it.

BARRETT:  Sure.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Still ahead tonight, what Devlin Barrett was just talking about there in terms of how the FBI does its work, how the actual agents who are on this investigation are now coping with their changed circumstances, we`ve got a very specific take on that coming up next with somebody who is one of the world`s foremost experts on the FBI, and what might change with their director having been fired in this incredibly politically charged way.  You are going to want to see this next interview. 

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  "Reuters" first reported in February on the structure, the physical structure, the geographic structure of the FBI investigation into the Russian attack on the presidential election last year and into possible collusion by the Trump campaign in that attack.  "Reuters" had the news a couple months ago that the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office, of the FBI was playing a key role in the FBI investigation.  They have been tasked specifically with trying to identify the people behind breaches of the DNC`s computer systems.  Apparently, the Pittsburgh field office is known as being sort of a crack office in terms of cyber crime.

Another field office, one in San Francisco, was tasked with trying to identify the people who called themselves Guccifer 2, the ones who posted email stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta`s email account. 

In addition to that, "Reuters" reported at the time that FBI counterintelligence agents based in Washington, D.C. were pursuing leads from informants and foreign communication intercepts.  So, if you think about the FBI investigation, it`s not just like an inchoate thing that happens on a listserv or all in FBI HQ, you`ve got people in at least three different places working on three different parts of it. 

Thereafter, "The Financial Times" added this: the FBI creating a special unit in Washington not at the Washington field office, but Washington FBI headquarters to oversee this investigation overall.  So, instead of it all being spread out among Pittsburgh office, San Francisco office, other field offices, they would centralize the main part of this investigation in D.C.  Twenty dedicated agents all centralized at FBI headquarters.

That does not happen with every investigation.  That does not even happen with any major investigation.  But that`s a change that they made about this investigation that was due to take effect this month.

Second end up being important here -- we know now, as of today, that fired FBI director James Comey requested more resources for this investigation just days before he was fired.  So, there`s already a very real question about whether the FBI believes there are enough resources dedicated to getting the bottom of this, but now there`s also this geography question there`s an interesting question about where this investigation is being handled and whether that affects its independence.

Again, not every investigation ends up centralized in headquarters, but in this case, they did it.  By centralizing the investigation in one place, in FBI headquarters, from which FBI Director James Comey has now been fired, is there any possibility that that makes the people working on the Russia investigation more susceptible to political pressure?  Should be we -- should we be watching that kind of a dynamic to see what sort of impact that`s going to have now that the FBI director has been fired in the middle of a major investigation into the sitting us president?

Joining us now is Tim Weiner, an expert on the institution of the FBI and the CIA, too, for that matter.  He spent years covering and writing about American intelligence agencies, a work that has won him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.  He`s the author of "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA", which won the National Book Award.  He`s also the author of "Enemies: A history of the FBI" which was a deserted bestseller.

Tim Weiner, thank you for being here.  It`s nice to see you.

TIM WEINER, "ENEMIES: A HISTORY OF THE FBI" AUTHOR:  Always a pleasure.

MADDOW:  Let me -- let me just get your top-line reaction to this -- to this news.  What did you think when you learned that James Comey was being fired?

WEINER:  I thought that the president of the United States had committed an act that someday may be seen as an obstruction of justice.  An impeachable offense.

MADDOW:  Obstruction of justice was the first article of impeachment against Nixon, right?

WEINER:  Correct.

MADDOW:  How do you know whether this is obstruction of justice?  The White House has done an unusual thing in the 24-plus hours since this has happened, they`ve put out an official line through White House spokespeople saying this is a department of justice decision made by the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, and the president just endorsed that decision -- it wasn`t him.

Then, they have allowed multiple -- like many multiple sources to tell reporters a totally different story, that this was a decision driven by the president specifically because of the Russia investigation.

WEINER:  Oh and her emails.

MADDOW:  Yes, oh, yes and Hillary`s emails.

WEINER:  And the emails.

MADDOW:  He`s very concerned about making sure that Hillary Clinton is not disparaged.

WEINER:  Yes, that did not have the odor of truth.  I meant the Donald Trump believes that as he said repeatedly that the Russia story is a hoax, and he wants it to go away.  Failing that, he wants to discredit the reporting on it, and failing that, he has tried now to decapitate the FBI by firing its director.

MADDOW:  Is that also a way to try to discredit the FBI?

WEINER:  He can`t.  It is -- let`s say -- counterproductive.  He has put himself in greater legal jeopardy.  He has redoubled I think the commitment of the hundreds of professional agents or working on this case.  He has put himself in bad odor with some pretty important people in Congress who are Republicans or senators.  He has revived talk about there being a bicameral committee like the Iran-Contra Committee of 30 years ago to go after this case, to do the work that the Senate Intelligence Committee has barely begun and the house intelligence committee was derailed in doing by its own chief.

And I think that this story is going to be with us for months and I think it will torment Trump well into next year.

MADDOW:  We`ve had this very interesting reporter from "The Washington Post" tonight.  We had reporter, Devlin Barrett, here just a moment ago talking about that and he said in his reporting for that story and in "The Washington Post" reporting for that story, they`re looking now at the impact of the firing of Comey on the people who are doing the investigatory work -- the actual nuts and bolts go to work every day, shoe leather people who are doing this investigation, he said he`s hearing 75 percent anger but 25 percent fear.  They`re actually scared in terms of what happens to them next.

WEINER:  Probably a healthy reaction. 

MADDOW:  Well, let me ask you about that.  I mean, you`ve studied the FBI intensely for your fear seminal work on their structure as an institution, how they function, the good things about them and the bad things they do about -- the bad things about them.

How do you think FBI agents will respond to this firing?  Do you think this could have the effect by decapitating the agency, could that have the effect of de railing the investigation?

WEINER:  No, it can`t.  An investigation has a life of its own and we have found when you are the FBI and you are looking at a president, investigations beget investigation.  The FBI went after Nixon and helped bring him down.  The FBI went after Ronald Reagan`s national security team in the Iran-Contra imbroglio when the White House was selling weapons to Iran, skimming the profits and slipping them to guerillas in Central America.

MADDOW:  Resulted in many, many, many indictments.

WEINER:  The indictments.

The FBI famously went after Bill Clinton and with the White House position in attendance got blood from the president`s arm to test it against the DNA on the infamous blue dress. 

The FBI will pursue an investigation up to 1600 Pennsylvania, knock on the door and serve subpoenas, because they are dedicated professionals who believe in the rule of law. 

MADDOW:  Tim Weiner, the author of "Enemies: A History of the FBI" and "Legacy of Ashes: History of the CIA" -- Tim, thank you.  Good to have here, my friend.  Thanks.

WEINER:  See you again.

MADDOW:  Always here on terrible nights, something terrible has happened.  Call Tim Weiner -- sorry. 

But much more tonight.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It was back in March when she was first supposed to testify.  Back in March, the House Intelligence Committee had asked Sally Yates, former acting attorney general, to testify about her warning to the Trump White House that their national security advisor Mike Flynn was lying about his contacts with Russia.  Sally Yates wanted to testify.  She was scheduled to testify but then, suddenly, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee cancelled the Sally Yates hearing.

And Chairman Nunes never really gave a good explanation for why cancelled that hearing.  Frankly, he was up to all sorts of stuff that he couldn`t explain around that time.  But on the day that Sally Yates had been supposed to testify on March 28th, what we did get was a look at some very interesting documents that revealed what had been going on behind the scenes when that hearing was cancelled.

Sally Yates had been telling the Justice Department, I want to testify, I`m going to testify.  But then we learn from these documents that came out on March 28th, that the Trump administration tried to block her from testifying. 

"The Washington Post" broke this story on the day Sally Yates had been scheduled to testify before that hearing got cancelled, quote, Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA Director John Brennan, made clear to government officials that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made.

So, then, the Justice Department and the White House responded, OK, that as far as they were concerned, her testimony would likely be in violation of the presidential communications privilege, and the deliberative process privilege.  Huh? 

In not so many words, they were telling her she could not testify about anything that she told the White House, which is what she was supposed to testify about.  That exchange of lawyer letters between the White House lawyers and Sally Yates` lawyers, that all happened on a Thursday into a Friday.  By the end of Friday, the Sally Yates hearing was cancelled, and that was sort of a bump in the road, sort of an interesting explanatory sidebars time when it happened. 

That ends up being the first, real, concrete, black-and-white, in print evidence that we got of the Trump administration trying to block the Trump- Russia investigation, to block the investigation into ties between his presidential campaign and Russia while Russia was attacking the U.S. election.

The question of obstruction of justice looms large here, not just because it was the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon, but because this is not a one-off thing.  We saw them try to block Yates from testifying.  Obviously, eventually, she was allowed to testify, but that when she was going to testify to House Intel, they tried to block her.

Today, we learned that a few days before he was fired yesterday, FBI director James Comey went to the new deputy attorney general and asked for more resources for the Trump-Russia investigation.  Not only did Comey never get those resources, the new Trump appointee he asked for those resources then wrote a memo laying out all the reasons Jim Comey should be fired and, of course, Jim Comey, director of the FBI, was fired yesterday. 

So, that`s where we are, right?  Sally Yates warning the White House about Mike Flynn and his ties to Russia, she gets fired.  When she tries to testify to Congress about her warnings, the White House tried to block her testifying. 

Then, the White House got a new deputy attorney general confirmed, and FBI Director James Comey went to him to ask for more resources for the from impression investigation, that deputy attorney general then wrote a memo to President Trump saying, fire this guy. 

And now, the Trump administration`s line on the Russia investigation is: what`s all the fuss here?  Why are we doing this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  My gosh, Tucker, when are they going to let that go?  It`s been going on for nearly a year.  Frankly, it`s kind of getting absurd.  There is no there there.  It`s time to move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Trying to block testimony from somebody you fired who warns you about national security risks in your midst, then firing the man who`s leading an investigation into your campaign, in general, these are not good ways to get people to let something go, right? 

And, you know, Sally Yates did eventually testify and the Senate Intelligence Committee has invited James Comey to testify next Tuesday, and they have now subpoena documents from Mike Flynn.  If this administration is so confident that this investigation is a whole lot of nothing, then why do they keep trying to block it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I told you this is one of those nights when news is going to continue to break through the evening.  That has proven true.  "Wall Street Journal" has just posted a new story on what is the story of the day.  The headline is: Comey`s firing came as investigators stepped up Russia probe. 

Let me tell you what they are finding here.  This is actually -- this is exclamation point stuff.  Here`s the lead: In the weeks before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a federal investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government was heating up, as Mr. Comey became increasingly occupied with the probe. 

What does that mean?  They`ve got specifics.

Quote: Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation.  That started at least three weeks ago.  According to "The Wall Street Journal" tonight, Mr. Comey was concerned by information showing potential evidence of collusion. 

The source for that is according to "The Wall Street Journal", people with knowledge of the matter and with the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

Last week, as had been reported by multiple sources now, Director Comey sought more resources to support the FBI`s investigation.  He requested additional personnel from Rod Rosenstein who`s been recently installed as the deputy attorney general. 

Now, the interesting -- one interesting sidebar to this is that the Department of Justice continues to deny that that request was made, but multiple new sources today have now reported it, and it`s also been reported that Comey briefed lawmakers after he made that request and told them that he had made this request of the Department of Justice. 

Now, "The Wall Street Journal" is adding to that reporting tonight with this: on Monday, Mr. Comey briefed lawmakers on his request to boost the investigation the lawmakers asked Mr. Comey if he could accelerate the FBI investigation.  Oh, this would have been the day before he was fired.

There`s also this: Senate Intelligence Committee investigators have grown alarms they reviewed intelligence reports.  Some investigators are persuaded that the evidence will show more than just casual contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.  One area of particular interest for the committee is Mr. Trump`s business dealings.

Yes, that is where this is headed, and that story -- a little bit more on that -- next.

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MADDOW:  At the top of the hour tonight, I said we are working on an interesting unanswered question concerning former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his potential connections to the Justice Department.  We are going to have that story for you tomorrow night at this time.  I hope that you will tune in for that.  I think you will find it interesting. 

I also want to tell you, in light of this very interesting reporting that has just come out from "The Wall Street Journal" since we`ve been on the air tonight, that it is an area of particular interest for investigators right now that Trump`s business dealings are sort of rising to the top of the heap in terms of focus -- areas of focus and concern for investigators. 

There has been a big change in terms of what we know about the investigation on Trump business matters.  An important thing related to Trump business matters was confirmed by Director James Clapper, former DNI.  James Clapper, in his Senate appearance on Monday.  We`ve also now got an interesting request from the Senate Intelligence Committee to the Treasury Department in their financial crimes unit in terms of money laundering and any connections they`ve been able to turn up with Trump and his business dealings. 

That part of it, the financial side of it, the business side of it appears to be driving subpoenas now around Mike Flynn both from the Senate Intelligence Committee and from U.S. attorneys offices in Virginia -- U.S. attorneys office in Virginia. 

This issue about business ties, potential money-laundering is also going to be the subject of a very special report on this show tomorrow night.  I will see you then. 

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Lawrence, I`m sorry to take 40 of your seconds.  Good evening. 

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