Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL Date: June 7, 2018 Guest: Adam Schiff
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I was struck by that vote on that resolution on the Senate floor which they just did by unanimous consent, where they were clearly voting on something that they didn't know what it was and they were told if you want to know more, ask the Justice Department. Don't ask the Intelligence Committee. And to hear you tell us that Ron Wyden, a member of the committee didn't know about what the "New York Times" is reporting tonight, which seems related to that resolution, that's really quite stunning.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Yes. I mean, it seems like whatever was going on with this investigation of this long-time staffer on that committee, I don't know how much senators knew about that, and senators on the Intelligence Committee won't tell us, they are actually great about not leaking from that committee.
But in terms of this investigation from the point of view of the Justice Department, involving long term secret surveillance of the phone and email records of an active working national security reporter, that is a whole different scandal. There have been scandals about that in Democratic and Republican administrations. There are supposed to be pretty strict rules around how the Justice Department does that, but you can tell from the tone of "The New York Times" reporting on this tonight that they are ripping mad about it, as will most news organizations be when this news gets out.
O'DONNELL: And the Senate staffer involved is a 31-year veteran. He just left the staff this year. That means that all of the senators on the committee know this staffer. And 31 years means he's obviously served in a bipartisan way over those time -- over that period of time in that committee. I'll be interested to see if Adam Schiff -- Congressman Adam Schiff, who's on the House Intelligence Committee, what he might know about this and how much interaction he might have had with the staffer because sometimes those committees get together. Not very much, but sometimes.
And, you know, I served in the Senate while the staffer was there, I don't know him. The Intelligence Committee staff tends to live apart from the rest of us in the Senate staff. So, I've only known a couple -- over many years I've only known maybe two Intelligence Committee staffers. So, this is not someone I know.
MADDOW: No, and it will be -- what will be most important here is figuring out the nature of this leak investigation. What exactly are they investigating him for? How serious is it? Did it justify these extreme measures against a reporter? Again, with big, big First Amendment implications.
We know nothing about we know nothing about the underlying investigation into this staffer at this point, but we know what appears to be serious collateral damage to the freedom of the press.
O'DONNELL: Well, we will see how much Adam Schiff can help us with this one in the coming hour. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Well, how much damage -- how much damage can Rudy Giuliani do to Donald Trump? That is the question that many in the White House have been asking since Rudy Giuliani became President Trump's TV lawyer going to war with the special prosecutor and the porn star.
Now, the question from the White House has expanded to how much damage can Rudy Giuliani do to the world after Rudy Giuliani travelled to Israel this week for a paid speaking engagement in which he created a major problem for the president and the secretary of state with North Korea? And while he was at it, Rudy Giuliani made comments about the first lady in Israel, in which he compared her, along with the rest of Donald Trump's wives, to a porn star.
The first lady's office issued a rebuke to Rudy Giuliani today in a statement to the "New York Times" which we'll get to in a moment. Today, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had to diffuse what Rudy Giuliani said about North Korea in the middle of all those things that Rudy Giuliani said about the president's wives and the porn star, Stormy Daniels, Rudy Giuliani offered his audience in Israel and through the news media around the world, a graphic imaginary description of North Korean's dictator, Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: Somehow North Korea, after he cancelled the summit because they insulted the vice president, he said we're not going to have a summit under those circumstances. Well, Kim Jong-un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Got back on his hands and knees and begged for it? The position you want to put him in?
This from a man who within minutes of that graphic, if not pornographic description, said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Now, I don't really look at porn, please get that down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: OK. So he didn't mean that thing about the hands and knees and the begging in a pornographic way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Kim Jong-un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: So, now the question is, did that sound like a joke to you?
He didn't get any laughs when he said that. But today, Mike Pompeo said he thought Rudy Giuliani said that in jest. And then the secretary of state told the world this about the president's TV lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Rudy doesn't speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation and this set of issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And not long after that today, Melania Trump told the world the same thing about Rudy Giuliani, he does not speak for her.
Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" tweeted this afternoon: Yikes, I asked FLOTUS spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham about Giuliani saying that she believes her husband, re Stormy Daniels response, I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani.
Which brings us to, the president and the porn star and all the president's wives and all of Rudy Giuliani's wives thanks to Rudy Giuliani, the person who is supposed to be defending the person on TV, not creating new problems and horrors for the first lady on TV, which Rudy Giuliani has now done.
Let's review what Rudy Giuliani said about all that yesterday in Israel, beginning with Rudy Giuliani's slightly confused personal relationship with porn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Now, I don't really look at porn. Please get that down. I don't look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: OK. So which is it? I don't really look at porn or I don't look at porn? Because I don't really look at porn sounds like a Hollywood vegetarian at a drive through saying I don't eat meat while they're waiting for a double, double.
And viewers, not here, I apologize for the pornographic sound of the menu item, double-double but that's a real menu choice at In and Out Burger. But even though Rudy Giuliani has developed some major credibility problems in defending the president, let's just this one take Rudy Giuliani at his word that he does not enjoy pornography as much as the billions of people in the world who have made pornography one third of Internet content.
Let's assume that Rudy Giuliani sticks to the other two thirds of the Internet and he is a pornophobe.
If that's true, it's a good thing. Rudy Giuliani was not on Twitter today, which was filled and I mean, filled with naked pictures of the first lady from her modeling career, all provoked by Rudy Giuliani talking about women selling their bodies, women selling their bodies for exploitation in porn, which, of course, including still photography of naked women. That is how porn was born, photographs of naked women.
So, when Rudy Giuliani attacked women in porn, like Stormy Daniels, that unleashed more naked pictures of the first lady than anyone has ever seen on Twitter today. Here's what he said that provoked that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I'm sorry I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance, a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn't going to sell her body for sexual exploitation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Rudy Giuliani has been around enough to know that there's more than one way for a woman to sell her body for sexual exploitation.
Here's a question Rudy Giuliani will never be asked by the people he allows to interview him -- when you were mayor of New York and you were having an affair during your second marriage, which began as an affair during your first marriage, when you were mayor of New York and you were having that affair with your press secretary, was she selling her body for sexual exploitation because you were paying her, and you were having sex with her?
Was that press secretary someone Rudy Giuliani considers the kind of career woman he respects, or was she the kind of career woman Rudy Giuliani says he does not respect? Now, I wouldn't be bringing any of this up tonight if Rudy Giuliani did not decide to do something that Donald Trump has never done. Donald Trump has never once said one word of denial about having sex with Stormy Daniels. A lot of the news media gets this very wrong all the time. But the truth is Donald Trump has never, ever denied having sex with Stormy Daniels.
And so, Rudy Giuliani was telling a lie in Israel when he said that Melania Trump believes her husband that he did not have sex with Stormy Daniels. And we know it's a lie for two reasons. First of all, Donald Trump has never publicly said that he did not have sex with Stormy Daniels.
And today, Melania Trump said through her spokesperson that she has never spoken to Rudy Giuliani about this or anything else. Let's just now watch the ease with which Rudy Giuliani's very, very loose brain shifts from something true to something false in a second. Watch how quickly Rudy Giuliani goes from saying, I can't speak for Melania, which is true, he cannot speak for Melania. Watch how quickly he goes from saying I can't speak for Melania to I can speak for Melania.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I can't speak for Melania --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you're a personal friend?
GIULIANI: I am. She believes in her husband. She knows it's not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Now, that might be the 74-year-old brain of Rudy Giuliani in serious neurological decline or it might simply be Rudy Giuliani the pathological liar at work. And he wasn't finished. He actually asked us all -- asked us all to look at and compare all of Donald Trump's wives to a porn star.
Now, imagine what we would be hearing from the White House and from Republicans tonight if Samantha Bee had done that, compared the president's three wives to a porn star. Only Rudy Giuliani has done that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Look at his three wives, right? Beautiful women, classy women, women of great stance. Stormy Daniels?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And with that, the defense rested. The president's TV lawyer finally put down his microphone and rested his case in Israel, and that night, later that night, now that he's in the middle of his third divorce proceeding and shopping for the fourth Mrs. Giuliani, he rested this way, at a restaurant in Israel.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O'DONNELL: Joining us now, Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page columnist at "The Washington Post", Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer for "The Washington Post", and Tim O'Brien, executive editor at "Bloomberg View", author of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald", all are MSNBC contributors.
And, Ruth, I want to start with you -- in any part of this that you would like to select and focus on.
RUTH MARCUS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you for that excellent double-double offer there, Lawrence.
I would really like to know this about Rudy Giuliani. How did he become, first of all, the judge of women? He gets to judge who's classy and who's not classy? And then he's like the women whisperer, he knows what's in Melania Trump's head. I mean, who does he think he is?
We can have a discussion about whether being a porn star is empowering to women or is exploitative to women, but as you pointed out, the last person on earth who should be lecturing us about judging people and proper behavior is Rudy Giuliani.
O'DONNELL: And, Gene Robinson, once again, Rudy Giuliani who's supposed to be out there making things better for the president has made them worse for the president, and a much, much worse situation for Melania Trump today.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think my very classy colleague, Ruth, actually said it all. Who does he think he is?
And I -- I mean, that's a serious question at this point. Who does he think he is? Where does he think he is? Does he know?
I mean, is this a sign of his failing, frankly, mental capacities? Or is it just inveterate lying of a sort of brutalist nature? I mean, you know, there's a lot of Trump in Giuliani, and he gets Trumpier, it seems, day-by- day. And I don't see how this is doing the president any good, and certainly not doing America's mayor any good in the image department.
O'DONNELL: Tim O'Brien, most -- I think Rudy Giuliani is relying on something that has basically worked for him, which is that most people in the national media, most people in America don't know anything about him prior to 9/11. Then he became the mayor who was here in New York in the middle of 9/11 and gained a lot of sympathy for himself in that.
But those of us who were here before 9/11, remembered on 9/10, the most chaotic modern mayoralty in New York City history. This man had been driven out of the mayor's mansion by his second wife when he was caught having an affair with his press secretary, as I mentioned, and was living in friends' apartments. It was chaos and utter madness in his personal life and city hall.
TIM O'BRIEN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And it was seen as morally unseemly.
O'BRIEN: And he transformed on 9/11 from someone who had been seen as this, you know, marriage buster into someone who was compassionate, intelligent and insightful. That was really the image left with the public until now. And now, we have to deal with this whiplash with him altering between church lady and being your sort of a doddering old grandfather wandering alone at night and you have to pull him inside before he hurts himself.
Issue after issue, he's claimed super constitutional powers for the president. He's claimed he's in touch with the Mueller investigation, without providing any real evidence that he is. He's spoken for the president's views on Kim Jong-un, without any evidence from Mike Pompeo -- Mike Pompeo saying he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's chosen to speak for the first lady with a spokeswoman for the first lady saying he doesn't speak for me, I don't know think he knows what I'm thinking, and on and on across various serious issues, national security, the constitution, and the president's marriage.
And we've got nothing to believe in what he's saying that's tied to anything in the Trump administration other than his need to stay in the spotlight and I think pretend he has greater access than he has. It's a tragic and disturbing unwinding of someone in a public forum.
O'DONNELL: And, Ruth Marcus, we might discover how much power, if any, that the first lady has in a situation like this. It's hard to imagine she wants to hear any more from Rudy Giuliani because obviously in her private life, her spokesperson said she never shared her opinion with Rudy Giuliani about anything.
MARCUS: You know, this been -- wouldn't you want to be the fly on the wall when Melania Trump learns that Rudy Giuliani is her mind reader and has discovered that they believes her husband that he didn't have an affair with Stormy Daniels? And that was courtesy of Maggie Haberman, thank you, Maggie. Just the greatest put down of all time.
We've just been at the end of this mystery of where's Melania and Melania Trump and her disappearance, and she reemerged in public yesterday. Today, she kind of reemerged with a vengeance on Twitter and you could imagine her views have a little more sway with the president perhaps than Rudy Giuliani's do. And her displeasure that she made clear on Twitter with her spokesperson very possibly she made clear in other ways inside the White House.
O'DONNELL: Tim, back to people who were watching the Giuliani mayoralty on 9/10 and years before that, none of us that surprised that anything that's happened in his political career since. Flaming out as a presidential candidate, we all predicted that and expected that. And now, this flame out daily as the president's TV lawyer. This is the kind of incoherence you were getting from Rudy Giuliani publicly. His children were disowning him publicly back in that period of conflict in his marital life, personal life, and his mayoral life.
O'BRIEN: Well, and it's interesting. You know, with Trump, it's sort of Groundhog Day with Trump. He's reintroducing us to all of these '80s characters of Manhattan that you and I have watched back and forth. And suddenly, they're reborn again, they're just reborn again in the sort of opera, buffet kind of way.
And it's very -- it's strange and unsettling, and as much as we talk about Giuliani's own comportment or Giuliani's own bad judgment, the fact is the president of the United States is letting him stay out there. He's been out on the public forum now for a while saying loopy stuff and the president isn't pulling him back. And I think it's because the president likes this. The president likes somebody goes out and stirs the pot because the president himself is injudicious.
O'DONNELL: And the president is getting what he's paying for. He's paying Giuliani nothing I think we know why Giuliani isn't taking any paycheck for this, because he was getting a very big paycheck in that paid public speaking engagement in Israel, and I'm sure he's picking up a lot more of those that he would be inhibited in getting if he was actually on any form of the Trump payroll.
We're going to have to take a break here. Tim O'Brien, thank you very much for joining us.
And when we come back, we have information from the "New York Times" that the Justice Department has seized the phone and email records of a "New York Times" federal law enforcement reporter. Congressman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee will join us. We'll find out what he might know about this.
O'DONNELL: We have breaking news just at this minute about that Senate staffer we were talking about earlier in the program with Rachel Maddow. That Senate staffer has now been indicted according to a press release from the United States attorney's office in the District of Columbia from the Justice Department.
The title of the press release says: Former U.S. Senate employee indicted on false statement charges. The long-time director of security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is accused of lying to the FBI about repeated contacts with reporters. James A. Wolfe, 58, of Ellicott City, Maryland, was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of violating federal law at the time he made the alleged false statements to the FBI.
I want to go now to Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
And, Congressman Schiff, this shocking development literally occurred just during our commercial break. We were going to talk about this staffer whose name we only learned minutes before the show. But do you have any reaction to what we're learning tonight about these charges against this Senate Intelligence Committee staffer?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I don't know anything about the facts of it, Lawrence. I know only what I've seen in these very recent public reports about his position within the Senate. And it's a very key and important position. We have a like responsibility on the House Intelligence Committee.
And so these charges obviously very serious. Leaks are a serious problem. But the attacks on the press are also a serious problem also with this administration.
And I have to hope with extraordinary use of either national security letter or subpoena or whatever device the Justice Department used to seize the reporter's records that they followed all the proper procedures that this was a remedy of last resort, because that's another problem we've seen in this administration, in addition to the leaks, is this whole scale attack on the press.
O'DONNELL: Well, in addition to the administration, though, Congressman, it seems the United States Senate itself has been a party on this investigation, because that resolution that we all reported that the Senate voted on unanimously last night without knowing what it was about. It was just a matter of a resolution saying that the Senate Intelligence Committee could and should cooperate with the Justice Department on an investigation. And at that point it was an unknown investigation.
On the assumption that it was this investigation -- and, in fact, we don't know that -- but on the assumption that it was, then this investigation would have the complete support of the United States Senate, not necessarily the particulars of subpoenaing information from reporters?
SCHIFF: That's exactly right. The Senate committee, I have to expect, and again, I'm not speaking on the basis of first-hand knowledge about this, but I can tell you on the House Intelligence Committee, if we were approached by the Justice Department and they had evidence that one on our committee was responsible for leaking classified information, we'd want to cooperate with that investigation also.
I don't know the particulars about what other efforts the Justice Department may have gone through before seeking phone records from a reporter, and I don't know whether my Senate colleagues had that information either. But certainly the Senate committee would want to help the justice department in any way that was required.
O'DONNELL: And we also, on this story, have no idea what time frame is involved in the offenses. Apparently, he's -- they're saying that he leaked information to reporters that was classified information, but this is a staffer who's been there 31 years. And so, it could have been last year or it could have been several years before that.
That's not something we know at this point.
SCHIFF: No, and again, just judging from the public reports, I think one of the reports stated that the phone records that were sought went back for a period of years. Now, that's very extraordinary. If you're going to follow the Department of Justice procedures I imagine you try everything else first and then your request is only as broad as it needs to be, so it would be a narrowed tailored request for phone records.
So, if they indeed looked for phone records for years or e-mails for years, that says they're looking for a long-term pattern of conduct. And they would have had, I expect, significant evidence to lead them to seek such a broad request for that kind of discovery.
O'DONNELL: The Justice Department report says James Wolfe was entrusted to classified, secret and top secret information provided by the executive branch, including the U.S. intelligence community. And it says Wolfe is alleged to have lied to FBI agents in December of 2017 about his repeated contacts with three reporters, including through his use of encrypted messaging applications.
Now, the James -- James Wolfe, who's been there for 31 years, that may be someone you know. I know the two committees in the House and Senate don't have much interactions but occasionally, is James Wolfe a Senate staffer on the Intelligence Committee who you have met?
SCHIFF: I don't know, Lawrence. I've certainly been in the Senate SCIF before and encountered some of the Senate staff, but I don't know that person by name. So, I really couldn't tell you whether I've met him.
O'DONNELL: Yes. And just for people who don't know how this works, that's a very common situation between House and Senate. There's very little interaction between the committees and certainly less interaction between the Senate committee staff and members of the House committee.
Congressman Schiff, there are -- there are other developments on your committee. You released today, publicly, released a letter you sent to Devin Nunes a couple weeks ago, asking for something like this, asking that the committee assist in or refer to the Justice Department for possible investigation for perjury, witnesses who appeared before your committee. So, that was your request to Devin Nunes to try to get the Justice Department to take a look at some of the testimony that's occurred in your committee.
Can you tell us why you released that letter publicly today?
SCHIFF: Well, for a couple reasons. Initially, when we began the investigation, we decided that the interviews should largely be conducted in closed session so that witnesses wouldn't be able to align their stories in an effort to get their alibis together.
But because of the intense public interest we also recognized that eventually this testimony needed to be made public so we committed when the investigation was over we would make the transcripts public.
Well, the Republicans announced a month and a half ago as far as they were concerned the investigation was over. And so we said, OK. Well then in that case, let's release the transcripts. Now, the Republicans re-neg (ph) on their commitment. And I think they did so for a couple reasons. For one thing the transcript showed just how often the Republican majority acted as defense lawyers for the President rather than through investigators. How often the witnesses were invasive with us as well as some of the evidence we found on the issues of collusion and obstruction of justice.
But having re-neg (ph) on that, it's now important that at least these transcripts be given to the special counsel. He would have had access if they were made public. But since they weren't, and because we have good faith reasons to believe that witnesses may have committed perjury, they really need to be provide in the special counsel.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And do you -- it's possible now for the special counsel to simply subpoena these now that the special counsel reading about your letter, obviously, knows about it?
SCHIFF: Well, if they subpoenaed it, if they were forced to compel the House to provide information then you would essentially have a fight between two branches of government. Not unlike the fight that the GOP is trying to provoke with the justice department right now.
I wouldn't recommend that. I don't see why the majority would resist providing these materials to the special counsel, unless they want to protect some of the close associates of the President from prosecution. That would be, obviously, an illegitimate reason to do it. But it's hard I think for them to articulate why they would object to this. This is one of the reasons why we made it public. They have not responded to our requests. They have shown no signs of being willing to assist the special counsel so they should have to explain publicly why they are protecting people who may have committed perjury.
O'DONNELL: I want to get your reaction to speaker Ryan saying just the other day that when the President was talking about pardoning himself that no one is above the law. Speaker Ryan didn't even take a position on whether the President could pardon himself. But he did say that phrase, no one is above the law. And that brought out some very sharp criticism from the real hard-core Trump followers in the House representatives.
SCHIFF: Well, you know, this has been the pattern during the entire Trump administration. And that is the speaker has been asked to defend our institution, to defend the rule of law. He was asked, for example, when the President threatened to pull NBC's license because he didn't like its coverage, what he thought of that. And continually the speaker was unwilling to defend our system of checks and balances. Deep disappointment I think to all Americans who expected more from this speaker. So I'm not surprised he would avoid the question on whether the President could pardon himself.
And the sad thing is to the degree that the leadership in the House and Senate, like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, are unwilling to confront the President, the President reads it as a green light. A lot of what the President does is a trial balloon. The announcement of these pardons and potential pardons, the claim he can pardon himself, to claim that he can obstruct justice and nobody can indict him and nobody can impeach him, all this is trial balloons for the President to press further, to come down harder on Bob Mueller, to potentially fire him, and sadly we get no push back from the GOP majority.
O'DONNELL: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
And we are going to continue our breaking news coverage now.
We are joined by phone by NBC justice reporter Julia Ainsley, covering the breaking the story about the 31-year Senate staffer being indicted tonight for false statements to the FBI.
Julia, what do you know about this investigation at this point? We know the name of the staffer is James Wolfe, Senate intelligence committee. He was in-charged of actually maintaining the security and secrecy of documents on the committee. He is charged now with lying repeatedly to FBI agents in December of 2017 about repeated contacts with three reporters, including through his use of encrypted messaging applications?
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER (on the phone): That's right, Lawrence.
We also know he is being charged with improperly handling sensitive committee materials. They say this represents a major breach. Obviously, though, there are political undertones to all of this. It's a matter of where he is leaking this information. And I don't think it can be taken totally in a vacuum considering that tonight the "New York Times" is reporting that one of its own reporters had her telephone and electronic communication seized by the justice.
We understand that's Ally Watkins. She is someone who cover the same beat I do. We both know -- the justice department (INAUDIBLE) cover the Robert Mueller investigation. So I don't think these two things can be taken separately. And I think it is sending it as a signal.
I mean, first, yes. Someone in Wolfe's position is supposed to be very sensitive about the way they handle materials and certainly they can be charged with lying to the FBI. You know, we have seen people like Andrew McCabe being taken down from lying to the inspector general. Lying in that position is not something that's not tolerated.
But in this case it seems it's a message that is being sent to anyone who wants to leak materials to journalists, even people who think that the right message isn't being delivered by these committees. So if they think that there is more information that needs to get out that is being covered up, these people are now going to be arrested for that, as we have seen tonight. So it's a big message. And I think that people on my beat, on Ally's beat and across this beat, now will be possibly very cautious going forward. I think this could have a chilling effect.
O'DONNELL: Yes. The "New York Times" reporter involved, Ally Watkins who has been a reporter at other news organizations prior to the "New York Times," she's the one subject to this subpoena at the "New York Times." And the justice department release on this tonight says that James Wolfe was arrested today or tonight. He will make his first appearance tomorrow in federal district court in Maryland. And that's because that's where he lives. He was arrested in Maryland where he lives.
The release also makes this very clear that this is not part of Robert Mueller's investigation. Special prosecutor has nothing to do with this. It's the release tonight says, the investigation into this matter is being conducted by the FBI's Washington field office. The case is being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys for the District of Columbia with the assistance from the counterintelligence and export control section national security division of the U.S. department of justice.
And Julia, all of that means this investigation is being conducted routinely. That's who would routinely, according to routine, be conducting exactly this kind of investigation.
AINSLEY: Right. They would be conducting espionage cases, any cases having to deal with sensitive information. But there was a sentence tonight that really stood out in the justice department statement to me.
And if I could read that to you, Lawrence. It just says, the attorney general has stated that investigations and prosecutions into unauthorized disclosure of controlled information are our priority of the department of justice.
I think that is saying that, you know, this is a priority for Sessions. There are a lot of things that come across the table at the justice department. A lot of things that come across counterintelligence at the FBI but they really sought this out as a priority. And we know that this administration has been incredibly harsh when it comes to leakers. The attorney general himself says that he plans to have new rules in place that actually go further than the Obama administration. That was an administration already critiqued for being too hard on people for leaking information to journalists that they felt was in the public interest.
So I think the fact that they are gearing in on this is sends a message, especially from an attorney general who we know is trying to do what he can to get back in the good graces of this President.
O'DONNELL: Julia Ainsley, thank you very much for joining us on this breaking news story.
We are also joined now by Ruth Marcus and Eugene Robinson still with us.
And Ruth and Eugene, whenever you see subpoenas going out from the justice department to the "New York Times" for their records, I know that people in the news media get very nervous about that. But this is already an extraordinary case, a 58-year-old, 31-year veteran of the Senate staff, a veteran of the Senate intelligence committee. Someone you would think would have known better than to ever find himself in a position where he is being charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters.
And Gene, if he had played it straight with the FBI, he would apparently, according to the justice department's release tonight, be in effect at that moment confessing to crimes, but the trouble he is in tonight seems even worse than it would have been.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. It did seem the idea that when you lie to the FBI you make it worse. And you know, you would think that Mr. Wolfe, I believe his name is, who has been arrested and charged, would have known that.
Just a bit of context, and Julia gave a bit of it. In terms of the leak investigations and the press, you know, the Obama administration did conduct more of these justice department leak investigations than all previous administrations put together. That began what seems to be a trend that may well have intensified under -- it's worrisome -- under the Trump administration.
Jeff Sessions says that he now has three-times as many leak investigations going on as were left open by the Obama administration. That tends to suggest that this -- this is intensifying. And it does have a chilling effect.
This particular case seems to have all sorts of special circumstances. There was the alleged lying to the FBI, also an alleged relationship between Mr. Wolfe and Ally Watkins, the Times reporter who apparently, the period involved, seems to be -- have been when she was working for BuzzFeed or Politico.
So there's a lot of special circumstances. Nonetheless, it is a "New York Times" reporter, phone records were looked at, email records looked at. That's something that's worrisome.
O'DONNELL: Ruth Marcus, I have to say as a former Senate staffer myself, I am shocked by this in a way that's hard to describe because most committees in the Senate, the behavior that's described here of sharing information, inside information with reporters, there's nothing criminal about it, absolutely nothing. But the intelligence committee is by far the most sensitive. And it's hard to think of any information you could share from the intelligence committee to reporters, where you wouldn't run into crossing a legal line. And those staffers in the Senate I know all regard the intelligence committee staffers as the utmost professional examples of Senate staffers, the least likely place for something like this to happen.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is a really extraordinary set of allegations against somebody who has been working in the intelligence committee for such a long time. I just -- I can't think of a similar episode of a congressional staffer indicted for either the underlying leaking or for the lying.
And it's -- I think Julia is right to try to set this into the larger context of President Trump pretty much demanding of his justice department that they bring him the head of some leakers on a pike. So there's one head for President Trump.
O'DONNELL: Yes, I mean, everyone can do the search right now or start the search, but the last Senate staffer indicted by the justice department for lying to the FBI, in my personal search of my own memory, I cannot think of a case like this.
Ruth Marcus, Gene Robinson, thank you both very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, Bob Corker had another one of those phone calls with the President. A phone call in which they sharply disagreed and eventually the senator actually had to hang up on the President because the senator had something to do and apparently the President could have stayed on the phone all day.
Be right back.
O'DONNELL: I have listened to senators speak to the President of the United States on the phone. But what would it take for a sitting United States senator to actually hang up on the President? Because that's something I have never seen. I have never seen a senator tire of speaking to the President and just decide the senator has better things to do and hang up.
The President in this case, who is a member of the same party as the senator. We have now seen that happen. Because Senator Bob Corker had just such a conversation with President Trump. This was about President Trump's tariffs on Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, our strongest allies who the President is now trying to say are a national security threat to this country. Bob Corker is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he knows better and he is not running for reelection as Republican. And so he has introduced a bill that would require congressional approval when a President wants to enact tariffs based upon national security reasons.
According to "the Washington Post" Corker said the President called him Wednesday asking him not to file the bill. But Corker rebuffed Trump's request. I'm a United States Senator. And you know, I have responsibilities and I'm going to continue to carry them up. Corker said, he told Trump.
He is obviously not pleased with this effort, said Corker, who has clashed with the President in the past. We had a heartfelt conversation. Finally a lot of time had gone by and I had other meetings.
Heartfelt conversation is southern gentleman for -- you can imagine. No one's time is more valuable than the President's time. I can remember sitting in the oval office worrying about the amount of Presidential time we were using to talk about a tax bill, especially on days when I saw the CIA director out in the lobby waiting to go in after us which might have been much more important. But time with this President is apparently worth less than other meetings to Senator Bob Corker. And he's not the only one who's got better things to do than to talk to the President on the phone all day.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we are doing well. Let's see what happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We are running out of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It's inappropriate just to be willy-nilly throwing tariffs around and changing your mind and throwing them around this direction and change your mind. I just don't think that's -- that's not the way you deal with economic issues like that. And to clarify to a state that they are, you know, national security issues when, I mean, there's almost no way you could stretch these to be national security issues. It then is abusing the authorities that you has.
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O'DONNELL: Joining us now is George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and an MSNBC contributor.
George, that certainly sounds very obvious to me that there is no national security issue involved in trade with Canada. But the President seems to think that the Canadians are forced to be somehow protected from.
GEORGE F. WILL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Well, the President is mad at China, so he has poked Canada in the eye. It's hard to follow the reasoning here.
The Corker amendment, which would claw back just some of the power that Congress has improvidently given to Presidents long before this, it's interesting that they made this vast grant of power for the President to do pretty much what he wants with trade in the name of national security. They did this in 1974. That is just as they were removing from office a President of the United States, Richard Nixon, who had abused power in many ways, always in the name of protecting national security.
You know, everyone knows a socialist ran for President in 2016. People are just beginning to realize, I think, that the socialist won. If socialism, as I think it is, the thorough permutation (ph) of economic life by political considerations and government power, that what protectionism is. It doesn't give rise to crony capitalism. It is crony capitalism. It's supplanting the market by the biggest, bossiest government you can imagine that tells Americans what they can buy, in what quantities, and at what price. It's astonishing.
O'DONNELL: And it seems that international trade is one of the least understood things in our government policy, especially by politicians because the President seems to think that tariffs are something that foreign countries will have to pay to the United States when every economist is trying to tell him they are simply sales taxes that the American consumer, the Trump voter will have to pay.
WILL: Tariffs are taxes collected at the border. And when you have tariffs on, say, aluminum and steel, what you are doing is cutting the defense budget. That is, you are effectively cutting what the defense budget will buy that's made of aluminum and steel, which is almost everything the defense department buys.
O'DONNELL: The G-7 meeting is coming up tomorrow, and President Macron of France is welcoming Donald Trump to it with tweets such as this.
Our values and interests are built through multilateralism, including American interests. Let us look at history. Isolationism is bad for the American people. I think President Trump knows that.
What's your reaction to that?
WILL: He is quite right. Joan Robinson, a very distinguished economist and an economist of the left, by the way, said protectionism is when you blockade your own ports. It's weird to do this, to raise the cost of the goods and services that the American people are going to buy. So you begin by, in the name of protecting a few American jobs, you cost many more jobs throughout the radiating effects of the economy, and you lower the living standards of the American people.
O'DONNELL: It sounds optimistic for President Macron to be saying, I think President Trump knows that.
WILL: Well, he is being more polite than he is required to be at this point. The funny thing is the President was supposed to understand nothing but business. He doesn't understand business.
O'DONNELL: George F. Will, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Tonight's LAST WORD is next.
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CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Melania Trump's first public appearance was with the President at the briefing and preparing for disasters. True. The event took place in the White House's metaphor room. So --.
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O'DONNELL: Conan O'Brien gets tonight's LAST WORD.
The 11th HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS starts now.
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