The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 3/29/2017

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Tim Mak, Ned Price, Mieke Eoyang, Max Kutner, Cecile Richards

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: March 29, 2017 Guest: Eric Swalwell, Tim Mak, Ned Price, Mieke Eoyang, Max Kutner, Cecile Richards

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow, now it`s time for THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, remember when some people wondered why we were spending so much time covering a traffic jam on a bridge which was so much more than a traffic jam on a bridge?

MADDOW: In the alternate universe where nobody covered it, we`d be talking about President Christie in all likelihood now --

O`DONNELL: Exactly. And it was just amazing, I mean, how so many people still after all of that, after everything that came out, they were still -- had him in the presidential sweepstakes as if he ever could have possibly won a single state.

MADDOW: No, exactly, and as if that scandal was anything to do with traffic rather than being a gross New Jersey style "Sopranos" episode of abuse of power.

And people who got that from the beginning were riveted by that story. People who resisted that central truth of it never understood why traffic was on the national news, never --

O`DONNELL: And no one was more riveted by it than New Jersey voters with whom his popularity has -- is about like what Donald Trump`s is with the country.

MADDOW: Maybe even worse, thank you --

O`DONNELL: Thanks --

MADDOW: Lawrence --

O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel. Cecile Richards is going to join us tonight because Planned Parenthood is once again under a new threat directly from Paul Ryan after his healthcare bill failed last week.

First, we`ll be joined by a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has fallen into chaos. While the Senate Intelligence Committee today showed Washington and the country how a bipartisan committee is supposed to work. and that was not good news for anyone named Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: We`re here to assure you that we will get to the bottom of this.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The Russians interference in our election, it wasn`t some 400-pound guy on the bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re trying to do this in a serious bipartisan way so that it has credibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you implying that`s not what`s happening in the House right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I would never imply such a thing.

GRAHAM: It`s just a mess, I don`t like what Nunes did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going over to the White House, looking at this stuff and then telling Donald Trump about it.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: You begin to wonder if the House Intelligence Committee is an oxymoron now.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: It appears like the Democrats are not very serious about this investigation.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When and where he shares things, et cetera, are issues for him and the committee and the House of Representatives, not for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still refusing to reveal who cleared Nunes in.

SPICER: I have asked some preliminary questions I have not gotten answers yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any White House official could learn in five minutes who signed Nunes into the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nunes is like a guy who can`t swim, he`s locked in the deep-end of the pool.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I`ve got a job in the United States Senate. And I take that job extremely serious. It overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The president has a problem, and that problem is from North Carolina. And there`s something reminiscent about that.

Republican Senator Richard Burr; the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is that problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Burr, have you -- have you personally coordinated with the White House at all on the scope of this investigation? And how do you prevent it from going off track?

BURR: No, sir, I have not. And it`s the relationship and the trust we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Chairman Burr appearing today with the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat Mark Warner.

The working relationship that they displayed today is the exact opposite of the chaos created in the House Intelligence Committee by its stunningly unprofessional and obviously incompetent Chairman Devin Nunes.

You just heard former Senator Bob Kerrey say that Devin Nunes is like a guy who can`t swim locked in the deep-end of the pool.

Senator Kerrey served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he also served on the 9/11 Commission. He knows what professionalism looks like in this arena.

He knows that Devin Nunes as we`ve been saying on this program is in way over his head. Senator Richard Burr shamed Devin Nunes today without ever mentioning his name.

Senator Burr and Senator Warner specifically said they had no intention of answering any questions about the House Intelligence Committee, and instead they tried to restore America`s faith in the Senate Intelligence Committee`s ability to dig out the facts involving Russia`s interference in our presidential election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURR: We will always say to you this investigation`s scope will go wherever the intelligence leads it. So it is absolutely crucial that every day we spend trying to separate fact from fiction and to find some intelligence thread that sends us to the factual side of all the names and all the places that you in this room have written about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: While all of the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are now calling for Chairman Nunes to recuse himself or resign his chairmanship, here is what Democrat Mark Warner had to say about the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARNER: Let me just -- I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together with the members of our committee are going to get to the bottom of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: North Carolina has been here before. Richard Burr occupies the same Senate seat that was occupied by the legendary Senator Sam Ervin, who in 1973 was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee to investigate campaign practices.

That was its formal title, it was known as the Watergate Committee. Here is Chairman Ervin questioning President Nixon`s Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans who was also the campaign treasurer who after this testimony was charged with perjury and ultimately pled guilty to accepting illegal campaign contributions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM ERVIN, LATE FORMER POLITICIAN: You think it`s perfectly normal of the kind of things you would expect people who had records concerning outlays of campaign funds to destroy those records after five men are caught in an act of burglary with money that came from the committee in their pockets?

MAURICE STANS, LATE ACCOUNTANT: The fact that they came to me after the Watergate was pure and innocent coincidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That testimony was in the Summer of 1973. In the Summer of 1974, President Nixon resigned and was immediately pardoned so that he never had to face criminal charges himself.

North Carolina was proud of the work Sam Ervin did on the Watergate Committee, America was proud of him.

Sam Ervin was in the Senate for 20 years, and he has his place in history now, thanks entirely to the work he did for one year.

Work he never expected to do, conducting a special investigation of the president of the United States. The Senator who holds Sam Ervin`s seat now knows that his entire Senate career will be judged by how he handles his duties investigating the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He served as an adviser on the Trump campaign, can you say hand-over-heart that you can oversee an impartial and serious investigation?

BURR: Absolutely, I`ll do something I`ve never done. I`ll admit that I voted for him. We always hide who we vote for, that`s part of the democratic process.

But I`ve got a job in the United States Senate. And I take the job extremely serious. It overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have.

Mark and I might look at politics differently. We don`t look at the responsibilities we have on the committee differently. And that`s to earn the trust and the respect of the intelligence community so they feel open and good about sharing information with us.

Because that enables us to do our oversight job that much better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Every word of that directly shamed the way Devin Nunes has conducted himself as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Every word of that shames the way Paul Ryan has worked as a partner to Devin Nunes` cover-up of how he obtained intelligence information last week that he first shared with Paul Ryan before sharing it with the president.

And every word of what Richard Burr just said should make Donald Trump fear him as much as Richard Nixon feared Sam Ervin.

We don`t know where this investigation is going. We don`t know who might end up in jail because of this investigation the way so many Nixon people did.

And we don`t know who in this investigation will find a place of honor in history the way Sam Ervin did.

But we do know that at least on this day, if Sam Ervin could have seen what we saw today, he would no doubt be proud of the man who now holds the Senate seat that once was his.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERVIN: I`m sorry that my distinguished friend from Florida does not approve of my method of examining the witness. I`m an old country lawyer and I don`t know the finer ways to do it. I just have to do it my way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell; member of the House Permanent Select Committee on intelligence.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. I can imagine if you were watching the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee today, it must have been a difficult thing to watch.

Watching the way this is supposed to be done, watching the way this is supposed to be handled while your chairman is out there saying the Democrats aren`t serious. The Democrats don`t want to do this job.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Lawrence. I did watch that press conference with envy, but also a sense of familiarity.

Our chairman and Ranking Member just weeks ago were working hand-in-hand, so were all the Republicans and Democrats on the Committee.

We had a pledge to follow the evidence. We had a productive open hearing as we went down an investigative road together.

Unfortunately, the chairman exited that road to go and work with the White House, and what`s at stake now is our committee`s independence, credibility and ability to make progress.

And Lawrence, I`ll give you one other example though that informs me. I was a 20-year-old intern in Washington on Capitol Hill when September 11th happened.

I saw Republicans and Democrats after that attack stand hand-in-hand on the Capitol steps saying God bless America, and then went to work to make the reforms necessary to make sure this never happened again.

And that also I think should be a model of how we can unite around an attack and protect the American people, and our very democracy that we hold so sacred.

O`DONNELL: And there was a bipartisan commission investigation of 9/11, how that happened, how that found its way -- how things found their way through the cracks of intelligence and FBI intelligence collection.

And that was done in a completely bipartisan way. We heard something from Bob Kerrey who was a member of that commission in the beginning of our show tonight about your chairman and how disappointed he is in your chairman.

What are you hearing -- or are you hearing anything from Republicans, including Republicans not on the committee who are worried about the way this is looking for the Republicans in the House of Representatives?

SWALWELL: Yes, Lawrence, I wrote the legislation with Elijah Cummings to have an independent commission which we thought was the most comprehensive way to get to the bottom of what happened.

And one Republican Walter Jones who`s also called for Chairman Nunes to step aside from his investigation, he`s joined us on the independent commission bill.

And a lot of Republicans have told me, I don`t think we need a commission because we have a House investigation under way.

They`re rethinking that now. And so I hope they reconsider it. Leader Nancy Pelosi reminds me often that the September 11th Commission was not created on September 12th, but it actually was over a year later.

And that`s because people doggedly pursued how we could bring Republicans and Democrats together to have such a commission.

And it was the appeals of the families who came to Washington that made it happen. So now we`re hoping that it`s the appeals of our constituents who care about free and fair elections that also get us to that point.

O`DONNELL: I want to look at another moment in the press conference today the senators had talking about their working relationship with each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any circumstance with which you wouldn`t share with Mr. Warner one of your sources of intelligence on this investigation?

BURR: He usually knows my sources before I do.

WARNER: And let me assure you, I`ve also got his cellphone, which is, he needs to hear from me more than he sometimes likes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Congressman Swalwell, we show these little bits simply because it`s such a stark contrast to the way things are working on your committee.

And you point out it`s the way things were working on your committee two weeks ago, as recently as two weeks ago.

And what do you believe happened to change all that?

SWALWELL: I believe that after the open hearing, the dots that we were connecting as far as Donald Trump`s and his team`s personal, political and financial ties to Russia that were converging with Russia`s interference campaign were brought to light.

They were validated by FBI directors stating to the world that the president and his campaign were under federal criminal and counterintelligence investigations.

And so I believe that the chairman panicked. And the next day he goes to the White House without telling Democrats, receives classified information, and then goes back there the day after that to brief the president when he was just there the day before.

So, it looks like he is now working with the White House rather than showing the independence we need him to show.

And that`s why, Lawrence, this investigation is bigger than one person, and he would do us all a service if he just stepped aside and allowed us to again show progress.

O`DONNELL: What do you think of the point that some people are making today that, look, it`s actually the road gets crowded when both committees are doing the same thing.

The Senate investigative process and the intelligence committee, House investigative process and the same thing at the same time. And it may be better for one committee to voluntarily step aside.

That wouldn`t be what`s happening here, it would be one committee falling into chaos while the Senate proceeds.

But could you -- what do you say to that point that it may be better to have one concentrated center of this investigation in the Senate Committee?

SWALWELL: It would be better if we had a joint House and Senate investigation. That would avoid redundancies. I actually think if we had done that, that also would have probably prevented the chairman from going over there, or he would have probably been removed I think from a team investigation between the House and Senate.

But I`m not going to let this just be a Senate investigation, Lawrence. Democrats on our committee, we`re going to continue to follow all leads, receive evidence, and hear from any relevant witnesses.

The question right now though is, will there be an asterisk around our investigation or can we go back to being one that`s credible, independent and making progress.

O`DONNELL: Well, give us a quick answer to that. What are the possibilities for that?

SWALWELL: Recusal from the chairman and then to have that open hearing we were supposed to have yesterday with Sally Yates, John Brennan and James Clapper.

That`s a good first step. And then there is relevant witnesses like Carter Page, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort who I think would be logical witnesses to hear from in the public as well.

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

SWALWELL: My pleasure, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, could Chairman Nunes face an ethics investigation for the way he has handled classified information?

And we have breaking news. A new report says FBI Director James Comey may have tried to tell the public about the FBI`s Russia investigation last Summer during the campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS: I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: After the most embarrassing week in the life of a congressman since Anthony Weiner, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes has now decided it`s up to him to say who the serious people are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNES: Beginning to figure out who is actually serious about the investigation. Because it appears like the Democrats are not very serious about this investigation.

We always have to keep the committee bipartisan. But at the end of the day, we`re going to do an investigation with or without them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Some legal observers are now saying that Devin Nunes could be the subject of an investigation himself for something he said last week.

(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 is nothing -- nothing criminal at all involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Simply by mentioning the existence of FISA warrants, Devin Nunes may have disclosed classified information breaching an intelligence committee rule that states "the committee on ethics shall investigate any unauthorized disclosure of intelligence or intelligence-related information."

One national security lawyer told "The Daily Beast`s" Tim Mak, quote, "in my humble opinion, yes, Nunes disclosed classified information that day.

The existence or nonexistence of a FISA warrant is a classified fact." A spokesperson for Congressman Nunes said the chairman did not reveal any of the specific details of the information such as the target of the collection and did not reveal classified information.

Joining us now, Tim Mak; senior correspondent for "The Daily Beast", Ned Price; former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council.

Also with us, Mieke Eoyang; she`s a former House Intelligence Committee staffer and vice president of the national security program at "Third Way".

Tim Mak, first of this legal question, what did you dig up on whether or not Devin Nunes crossed a legal line?

TIM MAK, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, DAILY BEAST: So the House rules states that if there is an allegation by as few as a single member of Congress, that the House Ethics Committee shall investigate the issue.

That they shall launch some sort of inquiry as to whether the rules were broken. This is really different from other house ethics issues.

You know, if there are campaign finance issues or there are other -- there are other situations where people have been suspected of breaking house rules.

There`s usually a committee vote and it gets more complicated. But the rules are very specific when it comes to classified information.

And it means that there`s mandatory command shall investigate this issue. And it looks like it`s very possible that such an investigation has already begun, given the low bar to start such an investigation.

O`DONNELL: Mieke, you wrote when you worked on the committee, you were subject to those same kinds of rules.

What is your understanding of the rule, and what do you see when you listen to the Chairman speaking in the White House driveway there?

MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT, THIRD WAY: I mean, these kinds of investigations are very rare because usually members are very careful about not revealing classified information.

Which is what was so unusual about the chairman`s statement there in front of the White House. Usually, you don`t talk about these things. You talk about them behind closed doors.

O`DONNELL: Ned Price, I just want to -- there is a point in your resume that`s pretty unusual. You quit the CIA because of the election of Donald Trump. Could you just talk about that for a moment?

NED PRICE, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR AND SPOKESPERSON FOR THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Sure, Lawrence, this was a decision I came to very reluctantly over the course of several months.

Having seen President Trump, now President Trump as Republican nominee call the intelligence community liars, casually cast aside their high confidence judgment that Russia was responsible for meddling in our election, calling them Nazis as the president`s-elect.

And then as president on his first day in office, paying a highly disrespectful visit to Langley where he stood in front of the most solemn memorial in all of CIA headquarters and talked about the size of the crowd at his inauguration the previous day.

It was really the culmination of a series of data points, Lawrence, that led me to conclude that I could not in good faith serve this president as an intelligence professional.

O`DONNELL: Tell us what you`re seeing in this Devin Nunes story, including all those details about how he got access to the White House, who would have given him access?

Why is the White House covering up? Who gave him access to the White House and why the White House at all -- why would the White House grounds be involved at all in this story?

PRICE: Well, Lawrence, I think that`s exactly it. The focus on Chairman Nunes in my opinion obscures the key role of the White House in all of this.

Chairman Nunes is a pawn. He is a puppet. As soon as he confirmed that his meeting took place in the White House grounds, we knew one of two things.

The White House was either the source of his information or they played match-maker, pairing Chairman Nunes with his -- with the source who provided him this information.

You do not gain access to the White House compound without a White House staff member clearing you in. You do not gain access to a secure facility on the White House grounds without a staff member escorting you in.

And you do not gain access to a White House electronic network as Chairman Nunes claimed he did without a White House staff member logging you in.

You know, Sean Spicer said today 72 hours after he was first asked that he still didn`t know who cleared in Chairman Nunes.

It would take about 120 seconds for a White House staffer to look into that matter. Look, I know the team there is new, so I will tell them exactly how to do it.

You go into the waves database and -- a database that most people at the White House have access to. Type in Nunes, n-u-n-e-s, and it will show you exactly who cleared him in.

And if it`s not in there, that means his name was purged, which I think, Lawrence, raises even more serious questions about what exactly happened.

O`DONNELL: And Tim Mak, previous White Houses have actually had these logs of visitors made public on a regular basis.

It wasn`t really a mystery about who was visiting the White House when.

MAK: Certainly the Obama White House decided to make these logs public. The Trump administration has not made a determination, or at least is stalling on making a decision on whether to do so.

When asked, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said they`re still trying to figure out exactly how that`s going to be done.

If you go to the White House website right now and try to look at the visitor`s log, it`s empty, there`s nothing there.

So it will be interesting to see whether investigations, the House or Senate investigations, other investigations looked into this visitor`s log, tried to obtain who visited the White House.

And that may show the role of the White House behind this whole situation with Nunes.

O`DONNELL: Mieke, as a former staffer, if a member or the chairman in this instance called you, told you I`ve just been told about this information, I now want to go see it and I`m being offered the White House. What would you have said?

EOYANG: I would have asked who in the White House is organizing this. I mean, members of Congress don`t go to the White House to review information usually without clearance from the highest levels of White House personnel who know what`s going on there.

You don`t just come into the White House grounds without clearance. It`s really surprising.

O`DONNELL: And Mieke, to the point of Devin Nunes` behavior after all of this, after that night or that time at the White House where he looks at this, he then decides that he is going to go tell Paul Ryan.

And after telling Paul Ryan, he then decides he is going to tell the press, then he is going to go tell the president, then he is going to tell the press again.

That whole sequence beginning with Paul Ryan as the first stop, what do you read in that?

EOYANG: What that says to me is that this wasn`t about furthering the committee`s investigation. If it was about furthering the committee`s investigation, he would have brought that information back to the committee, briefed all the committee members about it, shared it with a ranking member, asked for further information, a follow-up information from the White House.

It`s one thing to go to the speaker of the House to have a conversation to seek some guidance. But then to go from there to the press, from the press to the White House, back out to the public, I mean, that whole sequence of events I`ve never seen anything like it.

O`DONNELL: And Ned Price, what`s your reading of whether the Chairman crossed the legal line here?

PRICE: Well, Lawrence, as you -- as you played, he certainly referred to the existence of FISA warrants. Anyone who has worked in the world of intelligence, whether on Capitol Hill or at Langley or anywhere in between will know that FISA intercepts are the most sensitive form of signals intelligence out there.

Not only is it marked top secret, but there are also handling caveats under that top secret marking.

By revealing the existence of FISA warrants, in my opinion, Chairman Nunes certainly revealed classified information.

What he said has the potential to tip off subjects of FISA warrants to the fact that they are being surveilled, which is what this classification seeks to prevent.

O`DONNELL: Mieke one of the members of the committee, no. Sorry -- Jeremy Bash last night on this program offered the theory that the Chairman did all of this very deliberately and deliberately, publicly, chaotically. That he wanted it to be a public mess so that it would completely derail the house investigation. He sees this as completely willful conduct from the start that was planned to have the effect that it has had.

EOYANG: If that`s what Devin Nunes is trying to do, I don`t understand why he is sacrificing the bipartisan relationship that he has with Mr. Schiff, the relationship of the committee, the committee`s work on all the other important intelligence issues to be deliberate, to distract from the underlying issues of Russian interference and cooperation with potentially members of the trump campaign to undermine our electoral process. I mean, this is -- there is important work that has to happen at the committee. And all of that son hold while we have to observe this whole sideshow.

O`DONNELL: And Tim Mak, if the house ethics committee is investigating the chairman, we would not necessarily know that?

MAK: We wouldn`t necessarily know that. And in fact, their findings wouldn`t be publicized unless they were substantiated. So this investigation could go on for some time and we would never know about it. And believe me, it`s very difficult to talk to house ethics committee members or staff who would ever reveal the nature of such an investigation.

They`re very, very professional. But to Mieke`s point, regarding Chairman Nunes, it would seem to me very strange that he was actually a mastermind of this entire thing. The idea that he would sacrifice his reputation, his committee`s work, and all the other important work that they do, it`s very strange to me.

He is now seen -- he is mocked by a member of his own party. You know Senator Graham called him Inspector Clouseau yesterday. He seems bumbling. He seems not being able to have a clear message at a press conference. It`s not even obvious to people like me who have been following this issue for days and days and days what he`s actually said.

PRICE: If I might --

O`DONNELL: Go ahead Ned.

PRICE: If I might, it is undeniable that last Monday`s hearing was such an unmitigated disaster for Republicans and for the Trump Administration that it is certainly conceivable that the Whitehouse set up Chairman Nunes to do exactly what he has done. And that is to put the brakes on all committee proceedings. There has been absolutely no business done in the committee there has been nothing in public.

There has been nothing in private. And for the past week, jail discussed is this, Chairman Nunes` antics. So in a way Chairman Nunes working with the white house were quite successful if that was their goal.

MAK: I`m not sure they would imagine they would be even this successful, though.

O`DONNELL: Well, there is always the Senate Intelligence Committee. And so far it`s working. Tim Mak, Ned Price, Mieke Eoyang, thank you all for joining us tonight, really appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a new report out tonight says the FBI Director James Comey may have actually tried to publicly reveal that the FBI was investigating Russia`s interference in the presidential campaign as early as last summer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The breaking news of the night is Newsweek reporting tonight FBI Director James Comey attempted to go public as early as summer of 2016 with information on Russians campaigns to influence the U.S. Presidential election. But Obama administration officials blocked him from doing so. Two sources of the matter tell Newsweek.

And that well before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence accused the Russian government of tampering with the U.S. Election. In an October 7 statement, Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign.

The other National Security Officials didn`t like the idea, and Whitehouse officials thought the announcement should be a coordinated message backed by multiple agencies. Joining us now, the co-author of that Newsweek report, Max Kutner senior writer for Newsweek. Max, this is a real stunner because people have already been questioning why the Obama administration revealed as little as it did when it did. And now it turns out there was a push to reveal more and reveal it sooner.

MAX KUTNER, SENIOR WRITER, NEWSWEEK: We heard a little bit of information from the federal government in October. We heard a lot of information in this declassified report that came out in January. But yes, this would have been half a year before that. We`re told in June or July

O`DONNELL: And was this part of just a general underestimation of what Russia was up to?

KUTNER: Hard to say. What I`m told by people who know FBI Director James Comey and know his leadership style, he is very transparent. That`s what we saw in July with his press conference over the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation.

That`s what we`ve seen since then. A lot of people say he is actually too transparent. So this would have been in line with that. He wanted to get out what he wanted to say perhaps to The New York Times. That`s what we`re told.

O`DONNELL: Any indication -- what are your best indications about why the Obama administration did not want to make this public earlier?

KUTNER: Sure. We`re told that they wanted a more coordinated effort. And that`s the kind of effort that we did see in their October statement. And then we saw again later on in January. They felt that to write an op-ed to The New York Times could not be enough of a joint effort.

O`DONNELL: And were they afraid that no matter what they did, it would look political? that they were just struggling with how do we get out there and not look like we are using administration assets to politicize this?

KUTNER: It wouldn`t surprise me if they were thinking that, given that this was happening we`re told in June or July. This is not only the height of the election season with the conventions were going on at this time.

But it`s also at the height of this Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy and the FBI`s investigation into that. In July we saw Director Comey holding his press conference that a lot of people said was unusual. So the FBI was already being seen -- as scrutinized as being seen as political. And that scrutiny only continued later on into as we all know October 28th with his letter.

O`DONNELL: But right in the middle of all that heat about comedy`s public comments about the Hillary Clinton investigation and the heat being that the FBI never comments, except this time they did, in the middle of all that, he wanted more. He actually wanted to step into that same heat or that same issue of comments on another investigation, in this case the Russian Investigation.

KUTNER: That`s what my colleague Josh Shawl and I found apparently so. And this is what I`m told by several people with the FBI. This is his style. This certainly was not the style of his predecessors, his immediate Director Muller. This is James Comey. He is a transparent person and a lot of people have scrutinized him for it

O`DONNELL: Max Kutner, thanks very much for joining us tonight, appreciate it.

KUTNER: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, an enemy of Vladimir Putin who was poisoned and almost killed testified to a senate committee today. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: He`s a killer though, Putin is a killer.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of killers. We`ve got a lot of killers. What? You think our country is so innocent? You think our country is so innocent?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today Vladimir Kara-Murza appeared at a Senate Hearing to urge the United States to do more to contain Vladimir Putin. He told the story of how the Putin regime tried to kill him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, RUSSIAN POLITICIAN: In May of 2015, and just last month, both times in Moscow, I experienced a sudden onset of symptoms consistent with poisoning that led to a multiple organ failure and left me in a coma and on life support. Doctors estimated a chance to survive at about 5 percent so I`m very fortunate and certainly very grateful to be sit hearing today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What signal would it send in your view if America decided to forgive and forget what Russia, the Putin regime tried to do in our election?

KARA-MURZA: Mr. Putin, you know his background. He is from the KGB. And for those people, accommodation and compromise is not an invitation to reciprocate, but it`s a sign of weakness, and it`s a sign to be more aggressive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we decided to forgive and forget, that would be screaming weakness to Putin?

KARA-MURZA: Weakness, lack of any kind of will, I would think, and an invitation to carry on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a new threat by Paul Ryan to defund planned parenthood, Cecile Richards will join us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Breaking news tonight from Hawaii. Federal Judge Derrick Watson who had issued a temporary restraining order on the president`s travel ban has now granted a motion to convert that temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction. This is now a more permanent block of the president`s travel ban.

This applies to, as it says in the judge`s order, all United States borders and ports of entry, and all issuances of visas. This Hawaii court now Judge Derrick Watson has made his temporary restraining order now a permanent injunction until that case can be heard. Cecile Richards will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now that republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare has failed, Paul Ryan thinks he has a new way to defund Planned Parent Hood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We think the best -- we think reconciliation is the tool because that gets it in law. Reconciliation is the way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That means Paul Ryan expects to be able to attach defunding of Planned Parenthood to a bill that would need only 51 votes to pass the senate. But there`s indication when he would try to move such a bill through the house, what is clear is that as long as the republicans control the house and senate and as long as there is a republican in the White House, Planned Parenthood will be under threat.

The president of Planned Parenthood of Federation of America, Cecile Richards will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that he`s made very clear what his position is on Planned Parenthood and obviously this was an opportunity to defund it. And he -- but I don`t want to get ahead of our legislative strategy. We`ll look at other opportunities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Sean Spicer talking about the president`s disappointment in not being able to defund Planned Parenthood. Defunding Planned Parenthood was part of the Trump/Ryan healthcare bill which failed in the House of Representatives last week. But the threat to Planned Parenthood continues, joining us now Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

First of all Cecile how did you feel last week when the health care bill went down and with it, its attempt to defund planned parenthood?

CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA: Well it was an extraordinary win for the women of America. I mean I think all of this started when 4 million plus Americans marched for women`s rights back in the day after the inauguration and we kept seeing that level of activism and I think that`s a large part why this bill was unsuccessful and the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood were unsuccessful as well.

In fact the interesting thing is from the day that Paul Ryan announced he was going to kind of defund Planned Parenthood on this bill, you couldn`t get a phone call in to his office, the phone lines were so jammed and that`s what we`ve been seeing ever since. This is wildly unpopular. But it does look like they`re going to continue to try to do it so the threat is very, very real.

O`DONNELL: Yes, as of this week Cecile it seems that defunding planned parenthood is the only thing that they`re going to continue to try to do that was in that health care bill.

RICHARDS: Which is just completely crazy Lawrence, I mean one in 5 women in this country have gone to Planned Parenthood for healthcare. And the more and more they talk about this, the more attention that folks are paying to it. In the last poll last week, the day before this bill was supposed to be voted on in the Quinnipiac poll, 80 percent of Americans supported federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the health care that we provide.

This is wildly unpopular. But as you say, certainly Paul Ryan and some members of congress are obsessed with trying to end women`s access to healthcare but we`re seeing across country, it is just solidifier among women and men all across America.

O`DONNELL: The other good news for you in the latest gallop poll tracking the president`s approval rating is that he`s in an all time low now, 35 percent approval for the president. 59 percent disapprove. And so when you see a president with that kind of approval rating trying to take this kind of action, there can be some encouragement that at least the public is not behind him on this.

RICHARDS: The public is absolutely not behind him. In fact President Trump`s own voters his own supporters disapprove of defunding Planned Parenthood. There are President Trump`s voters are our patients. Because of course women come To Planned Parenthood not to make a political statement, they come because they need access to affordable healthcare.

I was just in Paul Ryan`s own district where three of our health centers are, women there are livid. They cannot figure out where he thinks they`re going to go to for healthcare if he ends access to Planned Parenthood.

O`DONNELL: And Cecile the -- the idea that Planned Parenthood is the one thing left out of that bill they can keep going at. What strikes me is that they are now deeply embarrassed by this loss last week both the president and Paul Ryan. And they so desperately then need something. They need something to be able to say they got.

It strikes me that possibly increases the pressure on you more than it was before.

RICHARDS: Well I think that`s right. Because they are -- I mean look this was their signature issue. They said they were going to easily repeal the Affordable Care Act and it didn`t happen and it didn`t happen because people marched and they mobilized and they went to town hall meetings and our patients spoke out. So, they can keep trying and we`re going to keep fighting.

And I have to tell you, the American people are on our side. It is extremely unpopular to end women`s access to family planning, to breast cancer screenings, to pap smears, to well women visits and that`s what they`re trying to do. The American people know it and they don`t support it.

O`DONNELL: Paul Ryan just tonight has just been quoted saying he very specifically does not want the president to work with democrats on health care legislation. He`s getting nervous about those statements that the president is making. And again that may be another reason for Paul Ryan to be pushing the defunding of Planned Parenthood to keep President Trump where he wants him on this issue.

RICHARDS: Well I mean he can continue to try to do this. We will continue to try to -- we will continue to mobilize folks around the country. Again we have a ton of support. And then of course it has to get through the United States Senate where there is bipartisan support for Planned Parenthood that`s been public, that`s been very, very clear.

So, I actually I think they should turn their attention to try to figure out how we`re going to get more access to healthcare in America, not less and when people hear that his entire agenda is in defunding planned parenthood, or literally shutting down access, they wonder for what reason. Taking on the only national women`s health care provider in this country, it`s just not popular. It`s not popular with women, it`s not popular with men.

O`DONNELL: So, Cecile we heard from Paul Ryan that he wants to do it in reconciliation meaning, 51 votes in the senate.

RICHARDS: Yes.

O`DONNELL: Do you believe tonight that they -- that they would not be able to get 51 votes in the senate?

RICHARDS: I really -- I don`t think they could. It has been wildly unpopular over there as well. And then of course he`s not only talking about that, there have been a lot of rumors that they now want to put it on appropriations bill. They -- what literally with the republicans are trying to do before, threatened to shut down the federal government over the issue of Planned Parenthood.

And so we`re really watching that and making sure people understand the danger of them driving the government, you know, literally to shut down over the access of women to healthcare. But I think that Paul Ryan is looking at all of these options and so we have to be ready for them.

O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards who is not getting a chance to relax after the loss on the Republican Healthcare bill last week in the house gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams is next.

END

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