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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 6/8/17 –Sen. Intelligence Committee hearing

Guests: Michael Schmidt, Adam Schiff

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 8, 2017 Guest: Michael Schmidt, Adam Schiff

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Run for office. Run for something. Public service has gotten a bad rap in my generation and I think subsequent generations. I`m old.

Public service has gotten a bad rap, right? But forget that. Just run for office, right? We are a small-D democratic country. Our government is of the people, by the people -- why not you? Why somebody else? Why not you?

But, you know, if you were never persuaded by that argument before, if you never felt motivated to serve your fellow citizens, if you never felt that patriotic civic impulse to help shape the future of our country and your community, even if none of that stuff ever moved you in the past, today, we all got one, big, fat, new, very persuasive reason for why we should run for office.

You should run for office if you`re nosey, because it`s the only way to satisfy an acute sense of nosiness we all have for today, because only people who once ran for office and won a seat in the United States Senate and got themselves onto the Intelligence Committee, only those people got to hear the really juicy stuff today.


SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What do you know about the Russian bank BEV?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Nothing that I can talk about in an open setting.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the Steele document?

COMEY: Mr. Chairman, I don`t think that`s a question I can answer in an open setting.

KING: Is it not true that Mr. Flynn was and is a central figure in this entire investigation of the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians?

COMEY: I can`t answer that in an open setting, sir.

BURR: And when you read the dossier what was your reaction given that it was 100 percent directed at the president-elect?

COMEY: Not a question I can answer an open setting, Mr. Chairman.

KING: Does that mean that the dossier is not being reviewed or investigated or followed up on in anyway?

COMEY: Obviously, can`t comment -- I can`t comment either way. I can`t talk in an open setting about the investigation.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Did you have at the time that stories published any indication of any contact between Trump people and Russians intelligence officers, other government officials or close associates of the Russian government?

COMEY: That`s when I can`t answer sitting here.

COTTON: We can discuss that in classified setting then.

Did you ever come close to closing investigation on Mr. Flynn?

COMEY: I don`t think I can talk about that an open setting either.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Are you aware of any meetings between the Trump administration officials and Russian officials during the campaign that have not been acknowledged by those officials in the White House?

COMEY: That`s not it -- even if I remember clearly, that`s not a question I can answer in an open setting.

COTTON: Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?

COMEY: It`s a question I don`t think I should answer in an open setting.


MADDOW: I want to know. Only one way to find out, is you can get into that closed session.

What we saw today was the open session, obviously -- the public hearing which we were all allowed to watch. But then after the public session ended at 2:00 p.m. today, that same small group of senators, they got to question the fired FBI director again, except in the afternoon session, we weren`t there. It was the closed session, was classified and presumably he was able to give them answers to all those questions he said he couldn`t answer in the open session that we got to see on TV.

Even in that unclassified testimony that we all saw though, we did learn a ton. I think the most surprising, substantive thing we learned -- we learned a lot of interesting sort of gossipy and personal things I think, but the most surprising, really substantive thing we learned today, which I definitely didn`t see coming, I`m not sure if anybody saw it coming and it has now turned into a story that is continuing to develop into this evening, the big surprising substantive reveal today was about the current attorney general of the United States Jeff Sessions.

Attorney General Sessions appears to be in the crosshairs here, in a way that we did not previously understand. Now, yesterday afternoon, we got an advanced copy of Director Comey`s opening statement for his testimony tonight. We got that in writing. And part of that statement explained James Comey`s allegation, which the president denies, that President Trump told James Comey in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office that the FBI should let go its ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn -- the investigation into Mike Flynn and his contacts with the Russian government.

In his written testimony that we got yesterday in advance, Comey said after President Trump told him to lay off the Flynn investigation, Director Comey left that meeting and immediately wrote a memo about what had happened at that meeting. He also told his senior staff at the FBI exactly what had happened at that meeting and what the president had told him to do.

But he did not tell the head of the Justice Department. He did not tell his superior. He did not tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

And this is how he explained why he didn`t tell Jeff Sessions. This is what he put in his written statement: quote: We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Jeff Sessions who we expected would likely recuse himself from an involvement in Russia related investigations. He did so two weeks later.

We got that in writing from James Comey yesterday. And at the time when that statement came out yesterday, we were all wondering, hey, how did the FBI know two weeks in advance that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to have to recuse himself on the Russian investigation?

Well, there`s an answer to that. Director Comey solves that mystery and explained that today and his explanation frankly made perfect sense.


COMEY: We were convinced -- in fact, I think we`d already heard that the career people were recommending that you recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia related matters much longer. And that turned out to be the case.


MADDOW: So, that does -- that does make sense, right? So, the FBI`s directed -- FBI director is saying, yes, the president told me to stop the FBI investigation Mike Flynn concerning Flynn`s contacts with Russia. Comey told multiple other people about that directive from the president, told multiple other people at the FBI, but he and his top team at the FBI deliberately decided that they weren`t going to alert the attorney general because all of these top people at the FBI knew the attorney general was going to have to recuse himself from all Russia related matters and soon.

And he explains their the reason they knew that he was going to have to recuse himself is because a process was already underway at the Justice Department to decide about whether or not he was going to have to recuse himself. And the career people at the Justice Department were known to have already recommended that Jeff Sessions was going to have to recuse himself. So, that was known at the Justice Department. The FBI people had heard about that. So, that makes sense.

In short order, Jeff Sessions isn`t going to be allowed to know anything related to any Russia investigations, so don`t tell him this stuff about the Flynn Russia investigation now if he`s just going to have to pretend to forget about it two weeks down the line. All makes total sense. It was a little bit of a mystery yesterday all made clear by today`s testimony, all makes sense, all`s well.

Except for the reason you should run for office, in case, you`re nosy, so you can get into that freaking closed session, because in addition to all that recusal stuff which was really put to bed and explained within totally normal terms today, in addition to all of that, apparently, there`s something else going on that we`re not allowed to know about yet with regard to the attorney general and Russia.


SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: In your statement you said that you and the FBI leadership team decided not to discuss the president`s actions with Attorney General Sessions even though he had not recused himself. What was it about the attorney general`s own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?

COMEY: Our judgment as I recall was that he was is very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can`t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia related investigation problematic.


MADDOW: So, in addition to the he`s going to have to recuse himself issue which is normal and can be explained and discussed openly even on TV, in addition to that, there is something classified concerning the current attorney general which the director of the FBI and the whole top team at the FBI knew about in February, well before the attorney general has ever recused from these matters.

It`s something about the attorney general and Russia -- I mean, let`s play that bit again. He said -- the word that he used there was problematic. Play that part again.


COMEY: We also were aware of facts that I can`t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia related investigation problematic.


MADDOW: Like I said, run for office. That`s the only way you find out on a day like today whatever it is that can`t be discussed in an open setting.

Now, what happened next on this matter concerning the attorney general is that all these senators on the Intelligence Committee, they went into a closed session. They went into a classified session with Director Comey where they got to ask him again all these questions that he couldn`t answer in an open setting, and after they had that classified closed-door session with him, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia came out and he talked to reporters from NBC News, and he told them essentially that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to explain, at least one of his own meetings with the Russians.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: You know, Jeff could add a lot of light to it, you know, if you just wanted to know why he recused himself or his meetings he had what was said in this and that, what we don`t know or, you know, it would pretty much gotten pretty good records of everything. There`s one meaning that we don`t, and people like to know about it.


MADDOW: There`s one meeting we haven`t gotten good records about -- gotten pretty good records, we`ve pretty much gotten pretty good records of everything. There`s one meeting that we don`t, people would like to know about it. What`s that?

So, now, we are in an unexpected place. The FBI -- the fired FBI director says he and the entire top leadership of the FBI were aware of something classified about the attorney general, something that cannot be discussed openly, but it`s something that made it problematic for even other top law enforcement officials in February to talk with the attorney general about something that related to Russia, and that`s separate and apart from the issues that led to the attorney general recusing himself for overseeing the Russia investigations a couple of weeks later.

I did not see this coming. I have no idea what this is about. Presumably, additional light will be shed on it at some point.

But what`s going on with the attorney general here. That just came out of nowhere.

We may find out something about that soon, at least he may face questions about it soon. This that I`m about to show you here, this that I`m about to announce -- this was not a very high-profile thing before today, but now with these revelations today about the attorney general, now that we know that he`s involved in this scandal the way we didn`t know before, it`s now all of a sudden, a big red letter item on the calendar that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to give public testimony in the Senate on Tuesday, previously scheduled. It`s on the topic that on any totally unrelated topic, but he`s due to be there in a public session Tuesday morning 10:00 a.m.

You will be allowed to call in sick to work again that day according to me. That said, I should note that the attorney general has a history of getting shy. Attorney General Sessions was due to testify to the House and to the Senate week before last, again on previously scheduled matters unrelated to the Russia investigation, he cancelled both of those appearances at the last minute, week before last, something came up. So, we`ll see if he keeps his date for next week.

Again, right now, he`s scheduled to speak to a Senate subcommittee Tuesday morning 10:00 a.m.

So, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions I think was the big revelation today. And then there are all the other things that we now have nailed down because of today`s testimony, including what I think is likely to cause the president himself the most serious legal trouble.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Do you believe the Russia investigation played a role?

COMEY: In why I was fired?


COMEY: Yes, I think the president had his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation, something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt created pressure on him they want to relieve.

I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russian investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of 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 -- that is a very big deal.


MADDOW: Yes, that is a very big deal. The FBI -- I mean just think about it in the abstract, right? The FBI director being fired by the president to try to change or stop an FBI investigation into the president`s campaign and his top staffers, that is a big freakin deal, even if Russia -- even if there`s no Russia factor here, even if this investigation was into, you know, criminal cheating at tiddlywinks, the president firing the FBI director to try to change or stop an FBI investigation into the president, his campaign or his top staffers or anything the president trying to effect an ongoing FBI investigation, that is a very big deal, again regardless of the Russia factor here, regardless of the big context.

And it`s very important for the president`s future that most observers believe that potential obstruction of justice is being investigated by the special counsel now.


MANCHIN: Do you believe this arise to the obstruction of justice?

COMEY: I don`t know. That`s Bob Mueller`s job to sort that out.


MADDOW: You know, that was a matter of speculation and assumption before today. Today at this testimony, it was settled. The special counsel Bob Mueller is investigating not just Russia, not just the Russia attack in our election, not just the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded in the Russia attack. Bob Mueller according to James Comey`s repeated declarations today, he is investigating obstruction of justice. He is investigating whether there was a criminal effort after the Russian attack to obstruct justice, right?

As the Russia affair started to come under investigation, he is now investigating whether there was an effort by the president or other people in the administration to obstruct justice as those matters are being investigated. And here is the gigantic problem that the president of the United States now has with that.


REPORTER: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also, as you look back --



MADDOW: That was the president last month declarative, no, no, I did not urge James Comey to close down the Flynn investigation.

Director Comey has now testified under oath that the president did urge him to close down the Flynn investigation. He also testified under oath that when the president denied that, he was lying.


KING: At his press conference on May 18th, the president was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation to Michael Flynn, the president responded, quote, no, no, next question. Is that an accurate statement?

COMEY: I don`t believe it is.

KING: Thank you.


MADDOW: Here`s what this fight is boiling down to. This may be what the presidency ends up boiling down to. Did the president tell the FBI Director James Comey to kill the Mike Flynn investigation as Comey says he did, or did he not do that? Did he try to kill the Flynn investigation or didn`t he? That`s what it boils down to even if the Russia thing had never happened.

I mean, the president has a new private sector lawyer now. As soon as James Comey testimony was over today, that lawyer went to do a press availability and he denied this claim, denied that the president ever tried to shut down the Flynn investigation. He denied it on the president`s behalf again in no uncertain terms.

They are declaring essentially that this is the hill they want to die on.


MARC KASOWITZ, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER: The president never in form or substance directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone, including the president never suggested that Mr. Comey, quote, let Flynn go.


MADDOW: The president in form or substance did not direct or suggest, he never told the FBI director to let the Flynn investigation go. This is it. This is the nut. If there`s only one thing that anybody everybody on earth is going to remember about this, at this point, this is what it`s boiling down to.

And on the one hand, there`s the president. The president now and the president`s lawyer on behalf of the president saying, I never did that. I never told the FBI to shut down the Flynn investigation.

On the other hand, there`s the fired FBI director who says the president did do that. There`s also the memo the FBI director wrote contemporaneously as soon as he says that conversation with the president happened. And there`s the people at the FBI who the FBI director told contemporaneously, right after that conversation with the president happened. A list of people who would be fired FBI director described today at length.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Who are those senior leaders at the FBI that you shared these conversations with?

COMEY: As I said in response to Senator Feinstein`s question, deputy director, my chief of staff, general counsel, the deputy directors, chief counsel, and then more often than not the number three person of the FBI who is the associate deputy director and quite often, the head of the national security branch.


MADDOW: So, just to summarize here -- on the one hand, there`s the president saying I never told the FBI director to stop the Flynn investigation. So, that`s the president.

On the other hand, there`s James Comey saying, yes, the president did that, oh and by the way, I wrote it down at the time. Oh and by the way, I told at the time, the FBI deputy director, the FBI chief of staff, the FBI general counsel, the FBI deputy directors chief counsel, the FBI associate deputy director and probably also the head of a national security branch at the FBI.

So, it`s their word and the contemporaneous written documentation of the FBI director on one side, oh, and also maybe they`ve got tape.


MANCHIN: Do you believe there were any tapes or recordings of your conversations with the president?

COMEY: It never occurred to me until the president`s tweet. I`m not being facetious. I hope there are and I`ll consent to the release of the --

MANCHIN: So, both of you, both of you are in the same findings here. You both hope there`s tapes and recordings.

COMEY: Well, I`m the -- all I can do is hope. The president surely knows whether he taped me and if he did, my feelings aren`t hurt, released the entire -- release all the tapes, I`m good with it. Look, I`ve seen the tweet about tapes, lordy, I hope their tapes.


MADDOW: Listen, even if the whole Russia thing never happened, the Russian thing happened. It was a Russian attack on our election. There`s this question as to whether or not the Trump campaign colluded or help or cooperated with it, right.

Set all that aside, even if Russia never happened, this is what it looks like it`s coming down to as of today, with the special counsel looking into the possibility that there was obstruction of justice. This is what it`s come down to.

The president trying to stop an ongoing FBI criminal investigation is a textbook obstruction of justice. The evidence for whether or not he did that just on the terms of the Flynn investigation, just in terms of Michael Flynn being investigated, that`s how it balances out as of today. On the one side, the president denies it.

On the other side, James Comey says, now, he did it, and his memo says, yes, he did it, he says he`s got witnesses that are the entire senior structure of the FBI that say that, yes, they will corroborate that I said he did it the night that he says -- that I say he did it. Oh and maybe also it happened on tape. That`s the balance of the evidence. President`s denial versus all of that.

And that is why it`s a problem for the president that as of today at least, his legal defense does not appear to be awesome, we`ve got more on that ahead. Plus, we`ve got "The New York Times" reporter whose story was attacked by James Comey and by multiple Republican senators at today`s hearing. "The Times" is sticking to its guns on that story.

Lots ahead. Stay with us.



SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: "The New York Times" wrote an article that suggested that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. You remember reading that article when it first came up?

COMEY: I do. It was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance --

RISCH: Correct.

COMEY: -- communications, yes.

RISCH: And that upset you to the point where you actually went out and surveyed the intelligence community to see whether you were missing something in that. Is that correct?

COMEY: It`s correct. I want to be careful in open setting. But --

RISCH: I`m not going to go any further than that.


RISCH: So thank you.

COTTON: On February 14th, "The New York Times" published a story the headline and wit to us Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence. You`re asked earlier if that was an inaccurate story and you said in the main, would it be fair to characterize that story is almost entirely wrong?



MADDOW: Almost entirely wrong. Those are words that get reporters attention, right? Calling a story like that not true.

Here`s that story they were talking about at the Comey hearing today. It`s from February 14th, "New York Times" reports, quote, phone records and intercepted calls show member that members of Donald Trump`s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

Quote: the National Security Agency which monitors the communications of foreign intelligence services initially captured the calls between Trump`s associates and the Russians as part of routine foreign surveillance.

Now, this, of course, was a bombshell at the time. This is the first report about multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the campaign, right? Huge bombshell for obvious reasons. It came out the day after Michael Flynn resigned as national security advisor because of his contacts with the Russians.

And when "The Times" published this on February 14th, it provoked a lot of pushback from the administration at the time.

Here`s the thing though: "The Times" was not alone in that reporting. They may have been first, but a whole bunch of different iterations of this story followed from different news outlets, you know, slightly different details, slightly different narratives, slightly different sourcing. But all reporting that same basic story that Trump campaign associates had multiple contacts with Russians during the campaign. "The Times" was first, but they were not the only outfit that reported that.

In fact, the first follow-on story came within 24 hours on February 14th, within the same day that "The Times" published their piece, CNN posted this, their own version of the story. Quote: Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during the campaign.

Then, thereafter, here was "The Washington Post", quote: U.S. intelligence reports cite multiple contacts between members of Trump`s team and Russians with links to the Kremlin during the campaign and afterward.

By March, "The Times" itself as a secondary story, quote: American allies, including the British and the Dutch 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, this one from CNN, again British intelligence passed Trump associates communications with Russians onto U.S. counterparts. And then further confirmation from a different outlet, from "The Guardian", quote, through summer 2016, a number of Western spy agencies shared information with the U.S. government on contacts between Trump`s inner circle and Russians.

The basic nut of this story was even confirmed on the record under oath by the former director of national intelligence.


FEINSTEIN: Over the spring of multiple European allies passed on additional information to the United States about contacts between the Trump campaign Russians. Is this accurate?


FEINSTEIN: General Clapper, is that accurate?

JAMES 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.


MADDOW: OK. So, the U.S. got multiple reports from multiple European allies about them observing contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the campaign, yes, that`s accurate. It`s quite sensitive, but yes that`s accurate, confirmed.

So, "The New York Times" was first to report on Trump campaign aides having repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, but it`s not like "The Times" stands alone on this story. For some reason, though, from the day that this story was published, all the way up to today, at today`s Senate hearing James Comey himself, the fired FBI director, and multiple senators were pushing a hard on "The Times" story having been wrong here.

"The Times" is standing by its reporting against all of that pressure today. What is that about and wouldn`t you like to hear from the reporter byline on that story about what he thinks about this matter? Oh, good, he`s here next.


MADDOW: Couple of days ago, investigative reporter Michael Isikoff had a scope for Yahoo News on which he reported that the president was having a hard time finding a lawyer. Lots of big-name lawyers, lots and lots of big-name law firms we`re all saying no, when the White House approached them or even when the president himself personally called them to ask if he would represent the president -- if they would represent the president on the Russia issue.

Now, the president may have not been able to get big-name lawyers or big- name law firms to represent him, but it`s not like he`s going without. He did ultimately sign up a lawyer to represent him on the Russia issue, but what he got was one of his old lawyers from New York who has represented him in his real estate business and his casino business. His New York lawyer who has now come to D.C. to try to represent Donald Trump in this very different matter.

And that defense started out today with a swing and a miss, with a total basic screw-up.


KASOWITZ: Although Mr. Comey testified that he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that "The New York Times" was quoting from those memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey`s excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to be entirely retaliatory.


MADDOW: The debut of Donald Trump`s new/old lawyer today, zing in "The New York Times" and getting it totally wrong in the process, like he -- like, you know, flip it did the math wrong or basically, you know, sort of did the reading wrong?

This is an embarrassing error. He tried to hit "The Times" here, tried to hit James Comey, absolutely 100 percent missed.

I mean, this is -- this is the way it actually happened. This is a story "The New York Times" published on May 11th, just two days after Comey was fired. It`s a story about how the president had asked James Comey for loyalty during a dinner conversation they`d had. The day after that story came out, the president tweeted that there might be tapes of his conversations with James Comey. That was May 12th.

Then, it was four days after the president`s tweet that "The Times" published this scoop that the president asked James Comey to kibosh the Mike Flynn investigation and he wrote a memo about it that night, memorializing that fact and making a contemporaneous record about it. That`s the way this happened. That`s the timeline.

Today, we got an explanation from the fired FBI director as to how and why that timeline happened the way it did.


COMEY: I asked -- president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there`s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn`t dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation there might be a tape, and my judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square and so, I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn`t do it myself for variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel and so I asked a close friend of mine to do it.


MADDOW: So, that`s very straightforward. Here`s how it went down. First, May 9th, Trump fires Comey. Two days later, May 11th,"Times" publishes that story about the president asking for Comey`s loyalty and they source friends who Comey told about that dinner and the loyalty request at the time. The next day, Friday, May 12th, the president tweets that call me better hope there are no tapes.

And then the following Monday after that weekend, Comey says he wakes up in the middle of the night makes a decision to ask his friend to share the contents of his memo about the Mike Flynn thing with a reporter. The day after that, Tuesday May 16th, his friend shares the contents of that memo and "The New York Times" publishes their story based on that memo. The headline was very clear: Comey memo says Trump asked him to end Flynn investigation.

And that`s the timeline, that`s what happened. Trump`s lawyer completely blew that today.


KASOWITZ: Although Mr. Comey testified that he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that "The New York Times" was quoting from those memos the day before the referenced tweet.


MADDOW: Nope, exactly wrong, not at all, 100 percent, failure.

I mean, obviously, a lot of the importance of James Comey is testimony today and the importance of him as a figure in this scandal is about what he says happened versus what the president says happened, and you have to decide him to believe. But this from the president`s brand new lawyer, you know, that there`s a "New York Times" story proving James Comey lied about when he shared the memo with the press and why, that is categorically not true. It`s a big swing and a big obvious miss. And that does not bode well for a president who may end up needing serious legal help sometime very soon.

Joining us now is a key person who was never named in the Senate hearing today. He`s the reporter who broke the story about the Comey memo last month. He is also the reporter who wrote the story about reported evidence of communication between Russia and the Trump campaign during the campaign. His name is Michael Schmidt, "New York Times" reporter.

Mr. Schmidt, you have had a whale of a day. Thank you for being here tonight.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: Thanks for having me. I appreciated that rundown. It was a -- it`s been a busy month. So, thank you.

MADDOW: Yes, you`ve been -- you`ve been doing a lot of work.

On that -- on that sort of last point first, on that timeline, is -- did I basically get that timeline correct? It seems to me that the president`s lawyer just sort of blew it, just got that backwards today. Is that the way you understand it as well?

SCHMIDT: I`ve tried to make this point over the past few weeks and this really illustrates it -- the tweet is what causes what happened today. Comey sees that tweet and says, wow, there may be a way to back this up. I really need to get this out there, and that is the reason why we knew that Trump asked him to end the Flynn investigation, and that`s why we had the hearing today. It`s just another example of the president`s tweet undermining him.

MADDOW: When James Comey explained today his thinking about that and his decision to ask his friend, this Columbia law professor, to share with you the contents of that memo that he wrote, memorializing the president`s request about Flynn, it seemed like he was going out of his way to be clear that you were never given the memo itself. Is that true? Is that what he was indicating?

SCHMIDT: We don`t have the copies of the memos. We were not sitting around with them on our on our desk and we pointed that out in our stories, that portions of the memos were read to us, but that we`ve never actually had them ourselves.

MADDOW: And when you receive those memos can you talk a little bit about how you verified that they were what they appeared to be?

SCHMIDT: Well, there`s different things about whether the times line up you know about when new things were happening, was Comey indeed at the White House on the 14th -- that was something that we ran down pretty quickly. He was there. There was a meeting.

Their basic things like that that you can use to corroborate your facts and we do, but then you also -- you know, you have to trust your sources and you have to know who you`re talking to and, you know, I think we felt comfortable with the information that we had.

Michael, let me ask you about this other issue today with a story that you broke on February 14th. It`s one of the biggest scoops of this entire scandal thus far. It`s about members of the Trump campaign having repeated contacts with Russians or a year before the election.

Director Comey today said that that article was almost entirely wrong, he repeated that assessment a few different times. Do you know what he`s objecting to and do you believe there is anything wrong with the reporting in that piece?

SCHMIDT: No, and we`ve posted a full story on our website by myself and my two colleagues who did the original story that lays out why we are standing by this story. Comey did not explain today why he thinks the story is inaccurate. We point out in the story that there -- since it ran, we`ve learned about contacts between Carter Page and Russians, between Jared Kushner and Russians, and about different things that have been collected by the intelligence community.

The one thought that we that we think the disagreement may be here on which we point out in the story is on the use of intelligence officials. The FBI has a very narrow definition of that. Folks in the intelligence community abroad have a more looser definition of that, especially with Russia where the intelligence apparatus is deeply ingrained in this society.

But we`ve never been given an explanation by the FBI. We went back to the FBI today and said, please, clarify for us tell us where we were wrong, and they did not provide us that information.

So, you know, we have a story in our -- you know, we wrote a full story about this and we were -- we laid out the information that we have, and we know -- we are -- we stand where we are.

MADDOW: And as we`ve noted and a lot of people -- other have it -- other people have as well, and you note in tonight`s story multiple news outlets after your initial report have corroborated various aspects of this, citing it two different sources and with slightly different details. But it`s real strange that this is hanging out there, something they object to with that, and with nobody explaining the objection.

Michael Schmidt, reporter for "The New York Times", who`s writing was very much part of today`s news and will continue to be -- thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Today, the FBI director all but named six senior officials at the FBI who he says he told contemporaneously about his communications with the president, including what he says was the president`s directive to shut down the active, ongoing FBI investigation into Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn. So, it`s no longer just that he told other people, we now know who the other people are who he told.

He says he told the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe. He says he told the chief of staff to the FBI director, Jim Rybicki, I think is how you say the last name. He says he told the general counsel of the FBI, James Baker. He says he told the deputy directors chief counsel, we don`t know that person`s name but we`re trying to figure it out. He says he told the number three person in the FBI, the associate deputy director would be David Bowdich. And he says he told the head of the national security branch which we believe would be the executive assistant director of the FBI national security branch head, his name is Carl Ghattas.

Question for -- I have theirs if this is now going to be a battle of witnesses a battle of claims between the president and James Comey in terms of whether or not the president appears to have obstructed justice by trying to shut down this investigation, does this mean that all of those named leaders at the FBI can potentially be called as witnesses to corroborate what the FBI director says?

Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He`s a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for being with us tonight. I really appreciate your time, sir.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You bet. Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask you that that direct question that I just laid out there. We heard a list of names today, a list of positions to which we can attach names, people that the director says that he confided in after he had these conversations with the president. Will those people now be called to testify, do you expect, about whether or not they can back up what director Comey says?

SCHIFF: I would like to see them come before our committee and share what information they have. As you remember from the director`s testimony, at least some of them were even present when Director Comey was on the phone with the president and could testify about what at least one half of that conversation was. But, yes, we should reach out to all of them, to see if they can corroborate what the director said. I would add a few more witnesses to that list and that is the directors of the CIA -- Director Coats, as well as Director Rogers of the NSA.

We would want to know, did the president approach to them to lobby Comey on dropping the Flynn case. Obviously, that would be powerful corroboration.

We`ve already asked for the memoranda. Those are going to be important, and I think as we saw in the testimony today, a very basic rudimentary matter is, if there are tapes, we need to get them, and if there are not tapes, the White House has to come clean about why they made that suggestion to begin with? But that`s a threshold question that we need answered.

MADDOW: You mentioned the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the director of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers, they testified for the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, and avoided answering that direct question of whether or not the president asked them to interfering -- intervene, interfere in any way with the FBI investigation. They basically just said that they didn`t want to answer those questions.

What`s the way around that from your perspective? Do you think that your committee would have any better luck with them?

SCHIFF: Well, first of all, I think that was a completely unacceptable response. There was no claim of executive privilege. The information that they were asking was not classified and the fact that they would rather not share it, it is beside the point.

So, first thing I think we bring them back in closed session and if there is an executive privilege claim, let the administration make it I think frankly it would fall because they have already, including the president`s lawyer today represented what these gentlemen had to say about that very question. You can`t basically make a representation and then say, but we`re going to invoke privilege as to any other views of that same conversation.

So, I think it would be willing to talk in closed session I`ve raised this already with Director Rogers after that testimony, and if there is a claim of privilege, I think we should challenge that claim because this is information we need to have. Ultimately, it`s also information the American public needs to have.

MADDOW: Congressman, your committee has been the subject itself of some controversy. Your committee chairmen sort of took himself out of the leadership, his leadership role specifically on this investigation after some controversy and House ethics Committee investigation into his behavior. How do things stand at your committee right now and in terms of whether or not you are making good progress, whether we should expect hearings, whether you`re getting good responses from witnesses?

SCHIFF: We are making good progress. Mr. Conaway and I are working together well. We are conducting the Russia investigation. It`s true the chairman is doing his own thing, but we are trying to keep our focus where it should be and not allow ourselves to be buffeted by what others on the committee may do, including the chairman.

So, we are bringing witnesses in. We are receiving documents, so we are scheduling additional open hearings will have on with former Secretary Jeh Johnson in the near future. We need to get to the bottom of these questions.

And, you know, one other observation I do want to make about the hearing today, Rachel, because this really stood out to me viewing it as a member of the investigation but also as a former prosecutor, and that is between these two competing claims now between Director Comey and the president, the White House has no good answer to the question if the president wasn`t bring up anything improper, if the president didn`t ask the director to drop the Flynn case, why did he empty the room? Why did he tell everybody else to leave?

As a prosecutor, I can tell you that strikes me as evidence the president knew what he was about to do was wrong. So, I don`t think we`ve heard any answer to that from the White House and I don`t think there is a good answer that question.

MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, sir, thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: I`ll be right back.


MADDOW: For our closing thought tonight, it is very apt that we have here, NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

Michael, thanks for being here. It`s nice to have you here.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you, my dear, and I`m so glad to see you back.

MADDOW: Thank you. That`s nice for your to say.

Watching today`s hearing, I was thinking about you, thinking about Watergate, thinking about other presidential scandals, wondering where you put today`s hearing and sort of the number line of presidential scandal. From a historical perspective, how serious is the president`s situation right now?

BESCHLOSS: Well, I mean, people have been saying today that Donald Trump may be in danger of getting impeached and I think that`s not -- that`s not an overstatement. You know, the amazing thing, Rachel, here we are can you believe that Donald Trump was elected only seven months ago tonight?


BESCHLOSS: It seems like years. And in that quick time he`s gotten into this trouble that does have echoes of Nixon. You know, discussion of obstruction of justice and the attorney general under a cloud and maybe White House tapes. And something we didn`t see with Nixon which is an FBI director in public saying the president is a liar.

MADDOW: In leak -- because it is a legal matter, the cloud over the attorney general because that`s today`s hearing today really stood out for me. Is that a historically unprecedented situation?

BESCHLOSS: It`s not. Richard Nixon`s attorney general, John Mitchell, went to prison for 19 months. He was sentenced to about eight years for obstruction and perjury and conspiracy.

MADDOW: NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss -- thank you for being with us tonight, sir. It`s great to have you here, Michael. Thanks.

BESCHLOSS: Thank you. Be well, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you.

That does it for us tonight. It`s been seven months since the election. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.