The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 3/22/2017

Guests: Michael McFaul, David Corn, Ken Dilanian, Adam Jentleson, Eric Swalwell, Rajesh De, Mieke Eoyang, Matthew Rosenberg

Show: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Date: March 22, 2017 Guest: Michael McFaul, David Corn, Ken Dilanian, Adam Jentleson, Eric Swalwell, Rajesh De, Mieke Eoyang, Matthew Rosenberg

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Dead -- Nbc has been doing -- you can`t get nor do they appear to want any Democrats votes, that means their magic number in terms of no votes from Republicans is 21.

If 22 Republicans vote no, the bill is dead. Nbc has been doing a whip count of no votes, and the list of Republicans who say that they`ll vote no tomorrow or are that leaning strongly against the bill tomorrow right now is well above 22.

It`s 28 say they are no or leaning no. Again, 22 no votes and it`s dead. You have to wonder if that self-imposed 7:00 p.m. deadline is really realistic.

But they tell us tonight they`re still going to try for it. Tomorrow is going to be another big day. We will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Hey Rachel, so every once in a while they do go to the floor with the bill in the House where they think they`re maybe six votes shy or something like that.

And they put all the pressure on those guys on the floor, and you watch them extend the time of the vote. But 28 --

MADDOW: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Twenty eight like --

MADDOW: I know. Well, I mean, they can go down to 22 no votes. They`ve got -- we`ve got 26 in the whip count right now. Presumably, people are going to get some -- you know, brutal knocks on the door this evening.

They`ve got, you know, 21 hours to try to make this happen. It`s going to be a pretty intense time.

O`DONNELL: We will be watching.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. Well, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has described a cloud of scandal over the White House.

And today he chose to walk straight into that cloud himself. We have a member of the House Intelligence Committee with us to respond to what happened today.

We have an expert panel tonight, a former NSA general counsel will join us, former staffer of the House Intelligence Committee will join us, a "New York Times" national security reporter will be here.

We have got all of the angles of this story covered today on this remarkable day in Washington. It was a day like we`ve never seen before, of course, thanks to Donald Trump, and this time Devin Nunes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), UNITED STATES HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: The intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Today`s actions I think have really been a body blow to the credibility of the committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a true break-down in the entire oversight process.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: It was done to give Trump ammunition to cover his crazy tweets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel vindicated by Chairman Nunes coming over to this place?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Obama actually wiretap Trump Tower which we know didn`t happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the physical act of wiretapping -- do you see anything in the information?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today was Devin Nunes standing on his tippy-toes trying to hold an umbrella over the president during a political hurricane.

NUNES: The reports that I was able to see did not have anything to do with Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This should not be as political as it is. This is about Russia attacking our elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s clear this investigation is picking up steam. And this may be an attempt by the chairman and the White House to slam the brakes on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never seen a committee chairman come out in front of the press to just kind of pour gasoline all over himself and light himself on fire, which is basically what he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: This has been the most extraordinary week in Devin Nunes` career, and it`s only Wednesday. On Monday, he chaired a historic hearing in the House of Representatives that was devastating to the president of the United States.

The FBI director and the director of the National Security Agency told the House Intelligence Committee that the president lied when he tweeted that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower and wiretapped Donald Trump.

Devin Nunes as the Republican chairman of that committee did not offer one word of defense of the Republican president`s tweet. Not one word.

No Republican member of that committee defended the president. They almost all tried to change the subject to a completely unrelated matter.

They expressed concern about leaks to "The Washington Post" that revealed that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador for which Flynn was then fired.

Only, of course, when "The Washington Post" exposed that Donald Trump had known about those lies for two full weeks. That hearing went very badly for Donald Trump.

Not a single Republican defended him. They did more defending of Michael Flynn.

And then today, Chairman Nunes apparently having obtained some new information about surveillance that incidentally picked up information about people working in the Trump campaign, possibly even Donald Trump decided to walk that information straight into the place filled with people being investigated by the FBI for possible contacts with the Russian government or Russian agents during and after the presidential campaign.

Devin Nunes took that information straight to the White House and straight to President Trump, who we discovered in Devin Nunes` own hearing on Monday is himself being investigated by the FBI for possible contacts during the campaign with Russia or Russian agents.

No one in the Congress, no one in Washington had ever seen anything like what we saw today. The best run committees in the House and Senate are led by Democrats and Republicans who share important information with each other cooperatively.

The senior Republican and the senior Democrat do their best to keep each other aware of the committees` business. The intelligence committees have a very special obligation to do that.

Because they`re not passing partisan legislative bills. In the intelligence committees, there is no such thing as partisan intelligence or there isn`t supposed to be.

It is both in the tradition and the practice of the intelligence committees that the chair of that committee share crucial new information with the senior member of the opposing party on that committee.

They don`t have to share with the entire committee. In this case, just the top Democrat Adam Schiff. Today, Adam Schiff was stunned by what his chairman did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House or because he cannot do both.

And unfortunately, I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Republican Senator John McCain was shocked by what Chairman Nunes did today, and said he now thinks the House Intelligence Committee is not capable of doing their job, and that a special committee should be appointed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What this is now really, Greta, is a requirement for a select committee. I believe that there`s a better relationship in the intelligence committee in the Senate between Senator Warner and Senator Burr.

But this just shows a tremendous chasm between the two senior members of the House Intelligence Committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he could not understand why Chairman Nunes would rush down to the White House. Here is what Chairman Nunes said he told the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNES: This is information that was brought to me that I thought the president needed to know about incidental collection where the president himself and others in the Trump transition team were clearly put into intelligence reports that ended up at this White House and across a whole bunch of other agencies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The question everyone in Washington is asking is why did he do it? Why did he do it? You just heard him say that the information he brought to the White House was already known in the White House.

He meant the Obama White House. But what made him think that none of that information was transferred to the Trump White House?

And more importantly, what made him think it was his job to serve that information to the Trump White House? One of the answers, just one of the possible many answers, one of those answers is Paul Ryan.

Donald Trump is the second person that Devin Nunes gave that information to today. The first was Paul Ryan, his boss in the House of Representatives.

And Paul Ryan then told Chairman Nunes to bring it to the president. To completely bypass his committee, to completely ignore the tradition and practice of sharing that with the Ranking Member of his committee, Adam Schiff.

Just run it right down to the White House. And so Paul Ryan left Devin Nunes wide open to accusations that he was running down to the White House to offer some political protection for the damage his committee did to the president on Monday.

And the White House immediately tried to use the information exactly that way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel vindicated by Chairman Nunes coming over to this place?

TRUMP: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Here is the most important single reason that Devin Nunes did what he did today. He is a 43-year-old man who grew up on a big family farm in California that`s been in his family for generations.

Went to community college, then got a bachelor`s degree in agriculture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Worked his way into the good graces of the very powerful congressman representing his district, who was the Republican chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Who then retired, leaving an opening for Devin Nunes to win his seat in the House of Representatives where he has stayed faithfully close to the leadership of John Boehner and now Paul Ryan, who made him the head of the intelligence committee because the supply of intelligence in the Republican House of Representatives is so low that they do not have enough capable chairmen to go around.

And so Devin Nunes with no military experience, with no experience working in the intelligence community, Devin Nunes, the congressman from the overwhelmingly Republican farming district 200 miles north of Los Angeles is in way over his head.

Way over his head. That`s what he showed everyone today. Anyone in Washington who didn`t know that already, knows it now.

If Devin Nunes was trying to help the president today, he did a terrible job of it because he is in way over his head. You can`t help the president by making your investigation of Trump campaign contacts with Russia look rigged.

In other words, you can`t help the president in a situation like this by looking like you`re trying to help the president. And the smart chairman and experienced chairman would know that.

Devin Nunes hurt the president today by looking like the president`s errand boy. And he hurt the integrity of the congressional investigative process.

And he added to the image of chaos surrounding the president and the congressional Republicans as they stumble toward a vote this week on their most important legislation so far, repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

And as they desperately try to change the subject from Russian influence on Donald Trump, Russian influence on Paul Manafort, Russian influence on Michael Flynn, who worked as the Trump White -- worked in the Trump White House for three weeks, while they desperately try to change the image of Donald Trump being Vladimir Putin`s errand boy.

Devin Nunes runs down to the White House and creates another scandal within the scandal. The picture of the chairman who was supposed to be investigating this case running down to the White House to help out in any way he can the people being investigated, looking like Donald Trump`s errand boy.

And doing it because squeaky, clean Paul Ryan told him to. That`s the image Paul Ryan has always wanted for himself, a squeaky, clean politician who only cares about policy.

But Paul Ryan is in over his head this week too. He has never tried to manage the passage of major legislation as the speaker of the House before. And he is so far doing a terrible job of it with an open revolt among his own members who show no fear of him whatsoever.

And in the midst of the chaos of that legislative procedure, Paul Ryan dispatched Devin Nunes down to the White House because Paul Ryan is in over his head too.

He is the only speaker of the House in history who has had to deal with the president of his party, who he is working with every day being the subject of an FBI investigation.

Paul Ryan has a much worse job than the impossible job that John Boehner had as speaker of the Republican House.

Because Paul Ryan has Donald Trump in the White House. And John Boehner had Barack Obama in the White House. And tonight, Paul Ryan is in way over his head. just like Devin Nunes and just like Donald Trump.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell; he is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

And Congressman, I just have to ask you, how long did it take for the shock to wear off? Because the traditions of the way your committee operates as you know is a very strong bipartisan history of the operations of that committee.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Lawrence, I`m still shocked. This committee for the past three years for me has been the most fulfilling thing I`ve done in Congress.

Because it`s a place you go to find bipartisanship to make the most important decisions. And today, our chairman betrayed the independence that our committee must show during one of the most trying times in American history.

He should have shared this with the intelligence committee first. He never should have shared it with a president whose campaign is under federal criminal investigation.

And now I think more than ever, the case has been made that we need an independent bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

O`DONNELL: Are you at the point of actively wanting to give up on your committee`s ability to proceed?

SWALWELL: I actively want to find out how we were so vulnerable, how the Russians were able to attack us.

Whether any U.S. persons on the Trump campaign were involved. And most importantly, how do we get out of this mess so this never happens again?

I`m very disappointed in our chairman, and I think we need to take this outside of Congress to depoliticize it, declassify as much as possible, and debunk the countless myths out there that the president continues to perpetuate.

O`DONNELL: You and Devin Nunes both represent California. You have more ways of running into him and doing business with him than just on the intelligence committee.

What is it about him you think that allowed -- where he allowed himself to get drawn into this mess this way? What did he miss? You know the person. Why didn`t the person you know turn to Congressman Schiff and make the right move?

SWALWELL: I`m puzzled, Lawrence. Because I`ve seen Devin Nunes be a leader on this committee. We passed the bipartisan cyber security bill.

We were able to pass an intelligence reauthorization act to make sure our intelligence services had everything they needed. And that was Devin Nunes on his best day.

And we`re not all as good as our best day. But now, what he`s done today has put our investigation on life support. And today so far is his worst day.

So we don`t judge people on their best days, we don`t judge them on their worst days, I`m going to judge him on what he does tomorrow.

Does he come to the committee at our hearing tomorrow and give us the evidence that he took over to the White House, apologize for what he`s done, and show that this committee can do the work that the American people are counting on us to do.

O`DONNELL: Has he acknowledged to any of you members of the committee that because he was a member of the Trump transition team, he needs to be extra careful and kind of extra above board in his dealings with this material?

Has he -- has he recognized his own vulnerability here as a member of the Trump transition team and what that means as he goes forward in this investigation?

SWALWELL: No, and there`s always been an asterisk around his leadership because of his connections to the Trump team. But he did agree with our ranking member to follow the evidence.

We had an open hearing this week where our concerns about the Trump-Russia ties personally, politically and financially converged with Russia`s attack on our campaign were validated by the FBI director confirming an investigation.

But what he has done today, it`s really setting us back and the future is in peril. And so he has to divulge to us tomorrow at our 9:00 hearing just exactly what`s going on.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Coming up, how could the chairman of the Intelligence Committee have taken that information and rushed it down to the White House?

There`s a lot more to talk about with experts who have worked on this subject. We have a former staffer from the House Intelligence Committee joining us, a national security reporter for "New York Times" and others. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNES: This is information that was brought to me that I thought the --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Information that was brought to me. Who could legally bring him that information? That is one of the unknowns at the moment. We`ll ask three experts about that, including a former staff member of the committee, a former general counsel to the NSA and a national security reporter for the "New York Times".

Who could legally bring him that information? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNES: In the dozens of reports I was able to see, I was able to determine that it was -- it looks like it was legal collection, incidental collection, but then made itself into intelligence reports.

So it has to deal with FISA and there`s, you know, multiple number of FISA warrants that are out there. But there`s nothing criminal at all involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Rajesh De; former general counsel to the National Security Agency, Mieke Eoyang; a former House Intelligence Committee staffer.

And Matthew Rosenberg; a national security reporter for the "New York Times". Raj, you were basically the NSA`s lawyer, you were the -- one of the lawyers for the 9/11 Commission.

Who has the -- who could legally have brought this information to the chairman based on the descriptions you`ve heard of the information from the chairman?

RAJESH DE, COUNSEL TO THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Well, thank you, Lawrence. As a legal matter, any of the agencies could bring the information forward. I think the two big questions are why would it be brought forward simply to the chairman, as opposed to the chairman and the ranking.

And who legally authorized what seems to be public discussion of classified information. That latter category is a far more limited universe of individuals.

O`DONNELL: Was it your practice at the NSA in a situation like this to -- if you were bringing information like that, that you would specifically bring it to the chairman and the ranking member?

DE: Yes, that is standard practice at a minimum to bring it to both the ranking and the chairman, if not the entire committee.

O`DONNELL: Mieke, your experience of working on the committee, again, the same question, who would legally -- who would you expect to walk in the door with this kind of information?

MIEKE EOYANG, STAFF, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So there are two kinds of disclosures to the committee. One are the official channels that Raj is talking about. They got brought to both the chairman and ranking.

But then often you get whistle-blowers. Folks who feel like the administration or their supervisors are not really listening to them, and they tend to come in on their own.

They`re protected by law, and they can bring disclosures to any member of Congress. And that may be what we have here, even the way this turns out - -

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, does that law protect anyone at any level in the intelligence bureaucracies to kind of -- to walk into the chairman`s office like that?

EOYANG: It does. There is some question about whether or not those protections apply to contractors like Edward Snowden. But federal employees should be protected, but this is a really bad sign to whistle- blowers across the government.

If you have a concern about the Trump administration and you bring it to Devin Nunes, he is going to take it straight to the White House.

O`DONNELL: Matthew Rosenberg, the -- you see that the people who have done this for a living are among the most shocked by it.

Trying to convey that outside of the Washington definition of shocked might not be easy for the country where they probably sense like this stuff happens all the time.

But how -- what has been the reaction in Congress and in the intelligence community to what Devin Nunes did today with the information that he obtained?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think you see it in Representative Schiff and others where the Democrats are simply saying this doesn`t work.

Running off to the White House before telling us about this, about this intelligence, it simply means this investigation is not going to be independent.

We need an independent investigation. That`s been the reaction from the Democrats. I guess even John McCain on the Republican side.

Intelligence community -- I got to tell you, I talked to a lot of people over there today, and a lot of them were just amazed at what was going on and kind of saying we won`t take a pass on this one.

I mean, what in the world is going on here where you`ve got incidental collection being portrayed as surveillance where the president is tweeting things out, it`s just a mess.

O`DONNELL: Talk about that difference, Matthew, between incidental collection and surveillance, and how that seemed to get blurred today.

ROSENBERG: So if the American Intel community surveils any number of foreign officials and foreign leaders. And if any American is calling them up, or if two foreign people who are under surveillance are talking about American, you`re going to get caught up in that surveillance.

You`re going to be incidentally collected on is how I`ll put it. That`s a far different thing than if somebody says we want to go after a specific person.

We want to wiretap President Trump. We`ll go and get a warrant and we`ll look at him. And that`s sort of what the president suggested.

Nunes actually said today that didn`t happen. But the idea that it`s somehow unlawful or inappropriate to sweep people up in incidental collection is kind of strange and not -- is not -- it doesn`t reflect how things actually work and what the law is.

O`DONNELL: And Raj, based on the question of exactly who is -- who is in this material that Nunes is concerned about and he thought the president should know about.

He seems to hint today that he knew who it was. And then there were moments today where it sounded like he doesn`t actually know who was picked up in this incidental collection. Do we -- is that clear yet?

DE: It`s far from clear. And Matt was exactly right in describing incidental collection. There are all sorts of rules, generally, the names of people incidentally collected need to be blacked out.

And they can only be revealed in intelligence circles if there is information relating to a crime or if the name is necessary to understand the foreign intelligence.

And I think one big question is, which of those circumstances applies here if the names were in fact revealed in intelligence circles.

O`DONNELL: Mieke, what do you expect to happen at the committee meeting tomorrow? And what is the staff urging their members to try to achieve tomorrow in that hearing?

EOYANG: So if I were staffing members in the hearing tomorrow, I would be urging them to get all the information that the chairman has.

If he is willing to take it to the press, he should share it with every single member of the committee. They have to be able to talk about it and see what the context is in which this information was collected, how was it disseminated?

But I expect it`s going to be a very contentious hearing tomorrow.

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, what`s the future for the chairman on that committee if when -- if this information is revealed?

And it looks to members of this committee as though he wildly overreacted or he acted very inappropriately.

Is there -- is there a way for a chairman to repair that?

EOYANG: So Chairman Nunes serves at the pleasure of Speaker Ryan, Speaker Ryan can replace him at any time if he becomes a problem.

But you have to remember, Chairman Nunes was running the national security transition for the Trump administration.

So all the hiccups that we saw during transition, you can lay that at Nunes` door, and he is grading his own work as the chairman of the committee.

I think that he is in many ways very compromised as he goes forward and tries to figure out how to conduct oversight of the intelligence community.

O`DONNELL: Raj, who would have told the chairman that it`s OK to run down to the White House with this and then go out into the driveway and talk to the reporters about this?

DE: It`s hard to imagine any intelligence professional or experienced staffer providing that advice. So honestly, that is a big open question.

O`DONNELL: Matt, what happens next?

ROSENBERG: You know, your guess is as good as mine. I`m kind of curious to see if anybody is going to ask if what Mr. Nunes disclosed was classified.

He has gone on about leakers and the illegality of disclosing classified information. And he got up today and talked about things that are still classified as far as I understand.

O`DONNELL: Well, we`re going learn a lot tomorrow morning. Rajesh De, Mieke Eoyang and Matthew Rosenberg, thank you both -- thank you all for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

EOYANG: Thank you --

DE: Thank you --

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the story that the Trump administration really didn`t want anyone talking about, reports that Donald Trump`s former campaign chairman was paid millions by Vladimir Putin`s confidante.

That`s just broken -- that news just broke today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Manafort has done an amazing job. He is here some place. Where is Paul? Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort has done a fantastic job. And all of Paul`s people, Paul brought on the staff.

And we really do, we have a great staff of talented people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: That was the day after the republican convention, which was run by Paul Manafort, just as the Trump campaign was being run by Paul Manafort at that time. Today the Associated Press reports before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to greatly benefit the Putin government.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan, as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings, and news coverage inside the United States. Manafort pitched the plans to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006. Paul Manafort has confirmed that he did work for that Russian billionaire almost a decade ago.

And today he told NBC News I did not work for the Russian government. Once again, smear and innuendo are being used to paint a false picture. Of course Paul Manafort is painting a false picture of the AP report, which does not say that he worked directly for the Russian government and says that he worked for a billionaire ally of Vladimir Putin.

And so Paul Manafort did not address the new revelations today. Here is what Sean Spicer said about Paul Manafort in today`s White House briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was a consultant. He had clients from around the world. There is no suggestion that he did anything improper or -- and -- but to suggest that the president -- knew who his clients were from a decade ago is a bit insane.

There is not -- he is not a government employee. He didn`t fill out any paperwork attesting to something. There is nothing he did that suggests at this point that anything was nefarious. He was hired to do a job. He did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now you know what Sean Spicer looks like when he is lying. Actually, it`s not that he was lying about that stuff. It`s just that he always looks the same way. Like when he was lying about Paul Manafort the other day. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: And obviously there has been discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and MSNBC contributor Michael McFaul. Also with us David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones and MSNBC political analyst, David has been reporting on the Manafort-Trump connection and wrote an article today titled "Paul Manafort tried to help Russian oligarch suspected of mob ties get a U.S. Visa."

David, you`ve got some real detail there to add for us. I want to start with the ambassador to talk about the significance of this, of the ways in which Russian influence works. That Paul Manafort is standing on the point today that I didn`t work for the Russian government. Based on the story as it stands tonight, what do you make of that point in the totality of what we know?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, I know Oleg Deripaska. I dealt with him when I was in the U.S. Government and as a U.S. Ambassador. I think what people should understand is this distinction between the state and the private sector in Russia is a lot more blurred there than it is here in the United States or in any liberal democracy.

Mr. Deripaska coordinates very closely with the Kremlin. He made his fortune because the government basically helped him make his fortune. And at least in the reporting in the AP story today, the secret document, the strategy document says very explicitly that Mr. Manafort will help Putin and his image and the Russian government in all those different arenas, the political and economic and press arenas.

So even if he is paid by somebody in the private sector, although in this murky definition of a private sector, the job was to help the Russian government and the image of Vladimir Putin.

O`DONNELL: David, I basically just want to say go to you and tell what`s you think we need to know about this story, given everything that has been said about it today and where we stand at 10:37 p.m. Tonight.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think the AP story was brilliant. And my piece followed up on that just because I was talking to someone about Manafort who told me years before Manafort signed this deal with Deripaska, he also was helping Deripaska get a travel visa to the United States. In the late `90s, the state department had said that Deripaska could not travel here because he was suspected of having ties to Russian organized crime.

And really, for the next ten years, and even up to now, the travel visa issue has been a big matter for him. He hired Bob Dole as a lobbyist as well and others to try to win a visa for him to come to the United States. And the FBI let him in here once because they wanted to talk to him about organized crime ties. Then they said you can`t come back because you didn`t tell us the truth.

So there`s just been a lot there. But it just goes to show that Manafort, you know, had a long connection with this guy. And was doing it probably for a lot of money and the point that Spicer makes, well, you know, this is all like ten years ago. It doesn`t matter. Well, the point was that a fellow who had made millions of dollars by helping a Putin ally was running Trump`s campaign while the Russians were hacking the democrats and the whole campaign, while Trump was saying very inexplicable things about Putin.

So it`s not an odd question for anyone in the White House press corps to put to Sean Spicer or Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL: And while they were changing the republican campaign platform.

CORN: Of course, that too.

O`DONNELL: On Ukraine and the U.S. Policy there. Ambassador McFaul, to -- to the -- one of the points David just raised, the -- the idea that this guy could not get a visa because of suspected mob ties, you`ve dealt with these cases as the ambassador. They would come across your desk. What -- what level of evidence was necessary in order to push these visa applications aside on those kinds of suspicions? Was it just any suspicion?

Was there some certain level of suspicion that had to be reached?

MCFAUL: Well, Lawrence, given your previous conversation before the break about not revealing secret information, I`m not going to talk about that. What I will say is that in the governments his case was raised at the highest levels many times, and he eventually obtained a visa by the way by becoming a, "diplomat". Being part of the APEC Summit Delegation and that`s how he has now travelled to United States from time to time.

But I just want to emphasize again this distinction that they`re trying to make that this is a private contract that had nothing to do with the Russian government. That`s not how the Russian system works. It all is intertwined there in Moscow.

O`DONNELL: Ambassador McFaul, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

MCFAUL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: David Corn, I`m going to need you for a later discussion. Please stick around.

CORN: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: When we come back, the investigations. Have you lost track of them? Can you -- do you know how many there are in the congress right now? The FBI, the investigations of all of these Trump connections to Russia and Russian influences, we`re going to map it all out for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: There is the FBI investigation. There is the house intelligence committee investigation, there is the senate intelligence committee investigation, there is the senate judiciary subcommittee investigation that Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse are leading as bipartisan partners. How do you keep track of all of them?

And which one is the most important to follow? Joining us now Ken Dilanian, NBC News Intelligence and national security reporter, Ken, I suspect the most important one to follow is the one we`re not allowed to follow which is the FBI investigation because that can actually end up with people in court being charged with crimes. But of what we can follow, where should we be keeping our eye, and what do we expect to happen when in these investigations?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Lawrence, I could not agree with you more. I`m focused on the FBI investigation because, you know, James Comey revealed to the world what we had already reported. But it was important that he revealed it, that they`re doing a counterintelligence investigation into how Russia hacked and leaked and interfered with the election.

There is also a criminal investigation into whether Trump associates were complicit and colluded with that effort. And, you know, if you want to understand the template or one of the template, all you need to do is read the dossier written by former British Intelligence Operative Christopher Steele.

That dossier alleges a well developed conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. It`s got names. It`s got dates. It has some things in there that are not true.

But my understand, my sources tell me that the FBI has corroborated some of it. And, you know, the FBI was prepared to pay Christopher Steele to investigate for them. That deal fell through. But they have found him to be credible.

And, you know, I`m told that as many as 100 FBI agents are assigned to this investigation at three different field offices around the country. They`re getting help from the CIA and the Treasury Department abroad there are some challenges. I mean they can`t interview witnesses in Russia, for example.

This investigation has now become public. And so it becomes difficult for them to do things that they normally do behind the scenes. But, you know, we know because it`s so public, we know some of the figures that they`re interested in looking at. Obviously you`ve got Roger Stone, who is claiming back channel with Wikileaks. We`ve got Carter Page, a former Trump adviser who traveled to Moscow.

You`ve got Mike Flynn who had to resign after he was alleged to have lied to the Vice President about the Russian Ambassador. So there is a lot for the FBI to grapple here. My understanding is they`re going through records. They`re trying to interview every witness possible. And it may take some time.

It may take as long as a year or two. And the Congressional Investigations are inevitably going to have to follow the FBI because the FBI`s got the investigative firepower. And Congress is going to have to take the documents and the information from them. And we may not get a neat conclusion here, Lawrence, but it`s definitely a serious matter and it`s a story that is not going to go away.

O`DONNELL: So it may be for example in the Congressional Investigations they reach a point where they can`t get any further because then they would be -- then they would be invading the FBI investigation. And they just have to wait. That`s something we`ve seen before.

DILANIAN: as you know, you can put an FBI investigation in jeopardy if you`re a Congressional Investigation. So they may do other things like bring former CIA Director John Brennan and former DNI James Clapper to talk in public about the Russian angle and what they did and how that was a threat to democracy. So that`s the way they can inform the public while the FBI is doing its work behind the scenes, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: KEN DILANIAN, thanks for keeping it all organized for us, really appreciate it.

DILANIAN: Good to be with you.

O`DONNELL: Thanks. So can the Trump Whitehouse get legislation passed while it`s struggling to survive all these investigations? In other words if you like your Obamacare, you might no be able to keep your Obamacare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here`s the leader of the Conservative House Republicans who call themselves the Freedom Caucus after their meeting tonight on the Trump Health Care Bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MEADOWS, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Again, there has been no formal offers of anything that is a detailed enough manner at this particular point to suggest that it`s all over. We`re only one component of several people trying to make a decision here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where would you place the odds that you`ll get to in the next 24 hours?

MEADOWS: This is Washington, D.C. so the odds are never great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: According to NBC News whip count, there are now 29 Republicans opposed to the bill. No more than 22 Republicans can vote against the bill in order for it to pass without any Democratic votes. Is the Trump Whitehouse now too distracted in damage control to get its first big bill passed? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have seen direct evidence of collusion?

ADAM BENNETT Schiff, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I don`t want to go into specifics. But I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of investigations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How confident are you that the bill will pass? And if it doesn`t pass, is there a plan B?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITEHOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, there is no plan B. there`s plan A and plan A. we`re going to get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Adam Jentleson, the former Deputy Chief of Staff to Harry Reid. He`s currently the Senior Strategic Adviser at the American Progress Action Fund. And back with us is David Corn. And gentlemen, I just want to show a couple poll items here as we think about how this health care bill is going to move through Congress. First, on the Quinnipiac Poll, do you believe former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower?

70 percent say no and then on the approval -- the job approval for President, Trump 37 percent approve. 56 percent disapprove. Adam, when the President is trying to push a major controversial, difficult legislation through Congress as he is now with the health care bill, what does it mean when 70 percent of the public are saying we think he is a liar about the scandal that he is in the middle of and we strongly disapprove of the way he is doing his job. 56 percent disapprove. What do those numbers mean when you`re trying to push legislation?

ADAM JENTLESON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it means they`re being pushed by a very weak President, a President who in the public`s eyes is a loser and who doesn`t have the support of most people. I think it`s tough to get your arm twisted by someone who is weak. And the President is weak right now.

O`DONNELL: David in Washington, all subjects are the same subject. They`re all kind of glued together. And the Healthcare bill cannot escape what else is going on this week. And when you`re a republican member of the house thinking how much do I want to extend myself for this President, you`re looking at the mess he is in.

DAVID CORN, JOURNALIST: Yeah, you can see he has one foot on the plank. I mean it seemed like it happened three weeks ago, Lawrence. But it was only two days ago, doing the math here. Two days ago that the FBI Chief came out and said the President was in essence a liar for talking about the wiretapping claims. And oh, yes, by the way, we`ve been investigating at him, you know, at least his campaign crew since last July to see if they`ve been colluding with Russia on one of the biggest hacks of U.S. democracy.

So those are not strong positions to be in. and then you also see polling numbers that Obamacare is now approved by 58 percent of the public. And that what they want to do is rip health care away from millions of Americans. So I think this is a tough vote. And if it`s not a tough vote for a Republican, they should really read the papers again.

O`DONNELL: Adam, the Congress has multiple investigations going on about the whole Russia connection to Trump world. You have an FBI investigation going on. You have media investigations going on, David Corn working on it every day. How do you judge the system to be working at this point? And what else do you think the system, the overall system might need to get at whatever this truth is?

JENTLESON: I would say on the press side, the system is working well there is a lot of aggressive reporting out there. Reporters are the main people who are getting the truth out to the American people right now. I think on the Congressional side, it`s an open question. Our democracy is built to survive, to withstand threats from the executive branch.

But it`s an open question as to what happens when the legislative branch is complicit in those threats. And i think that`s what you saw with Chairman Nunes today. Rather than acting as an independent check on the President and holding him account, he is acting as his surrogate and as his willing, obedient foot soldier. And I think that`s a problem. And what happens is an open question.

O`DONNELL: Adam, real quickly before we go. What`s you`re sense of how all this machinery of scandal is impacting the legislative effort for the Republicans?

JENTLESON: well, I think it`s going to -- it`s not impacting it positively from their perspective. It`s very difficult to advance a legislative agenda with a President who is as unpopular and wracked by scandal and unable to drive a message on a consistent basis as this President is, as he is constantly dogged new revelations about Russia, new scandals. And I would just put in a plugs here. Tomorrow we`re launching a big new website called the moscowproject.org.

That one of the things with these stories it`s hard to keep your head around the whole story. And this is a one stop shop for everything you need to know

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.