tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC March 1, 2017 11:30pm-12:01am PST
the first story that came out tonight was from the new york times, and it tells the tale of the waning days and weeks of the obama administration, people with security clearances who are in possession of intelligence. shall we say, distributing that intelligence to preserve it against any challenges of the incoming administration. it is the newspaper story that started the conversation tonight that also now includes the attorney general. but importantly, in the new york times it is a triple biline. matthew rosen berg, adam goldman and michael schmidt. michael rosen has joined us by telephone. it's your second paragraph -- he covers intelligence and national security. it's your second paragraph that talks about overseas our allies, their intelligence assets having
picked up potential contacts of trump officials with russian officials. can you flesh that out for us? >> i mean, i wish i could flesh it out more. some of the stuff -- >> we do, too. >> sensitive and we're working at it. and basically they're picking up -- others are picking up talk of meetings and they're passing the stuff on. at the same time, the americans are picking up conversations between russian officials, some of them inside the kremlin talking about speaking with campaign -- trump campaign associates. in the middle of this they're giving december-january -- the americans know this much broader campaign on the election and at this moment there are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. >> i want to -- there's two people i want to bring in to this conversation.
but the first of them is evelyn farkas who joins us here in new york. evelyn is jermaine to this because she served three chts at the pentagon. >> three defense secretaries. t. >> forgive me. what can you speak to. >> i had loeflt the administration. i had contact in the administration. i was worried that the obama administration would leave the intelligence -- they had kreernss but they would be leaving. they also had the authority to declassify. presidents can declassify intelligence information. they would leave and the american people wouldn't know they knew and more importantly, i thought congress wouldn't know. congress has the clearances they should be -- even if they're not read into the sensitive compartments, they should be able to be read into them.
i actually went and i talked to officials in our administration at the time, so my erstwhile colleagues. if there was more to this and if indeed there was some sort of relationship that was untoward or illegal between trump advisors and the russians that they would try to obviously conduct a coverup and maybe get at our sources and methods which would be really bad for american national security because we have excellent intelligence when it comes to russia. >> next, the washington post headline that came out tonight. that is about the attorney general. jeff sessions spoke twice with russian ambassador during trump's campaign. they say that's the first draf of what's two stories now. we have a guest on the phone to talk about this aspect of the
story. democratic congressman elijah cummings of maryland. ranking member among the democrats of the house oversight committee kchlt congressman, your reaction, your response to the story about the attorney general? >> it was shocking to the conscience that the number one law enforcement person in our country, the one who sets the done for u.s. attorneys all over this entire country would sit in a hearing and not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the senate of the united states of america. it is shocking. and i think at the very least, attorney general sessions should recuse himself. i don't think he has any choice, because basically, this is the kind of allegation if it were
brought before the oversight committee would be referred to the justice department, so in other words, at some point the justice department would be investigating its own boss. so it's just not a pretty picture. brian, one of the things that could -- concerning about the last guest, one of the things we're noticing is that there are a lot of people in -- that is, we, in the oversight committee are seeing more and more whistle-blowers coming forward because they are afraid that they have nowhere to go with information that is vital to saving and preserving our democracy. and so they come to members of congress and tell us. and i'm really concerned. a lot of people say well, democrats should be -- they're probably overjoyed about this development. i'm not overjoyed for one second. matter of fact, it saddens me that we seem to not be able to have an investigation take place that is filled with integrity
and one where the american people will feel comfortable that it would go forward and they can believe in it. and so i think that, you know, we have a situation where the trump administration just tonight as you've reported has said that the democrats franken, the senator is picking on the attorney general. i don't believe that to be true. the attorney general volunteered this information. and so -- and -- in a haerk. so i just don't have -- i'm just concerned and i think we all should be concerned. at the very least he should recuse himself and quite possibly if he's going to be the
one who sets the standard for all of our u.s. attorneys throughout the country, i don't think that that's a good place for him to be. >> congressman i've been handed this statement time stamped 11 kwlun 30 a.m. eastern time, statement from the attorney general. attorney general sessions has provided the following statement: i never met with any russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. i have no idea what this allegation is about. it is false. and congressman, as you know, part of their defense tonight is that our guy now the attorney general was on senate foreign relations -- >> armed services. >> armed services, rather, and he met with a lot of people. that was part of his job. >> sure. we all do. but the fact is that we knew that the russians war medaling and there was rumors coming forward. come on, brian. you would remember -- first of all, let's go back. president trump as late as the
last few days has said one of his number one people from the very beginning was attorney general sessions. he was his great advisor. he was the one that was with him when nobody else was with him. he brags about this, ok. i mean, from the beginning. so he was intimately involved in the campaign. now, keep in mind, we've seen all of these allegations with flynn. flynn is no longer 2 security
advisory. and you would think that at some point that the attorney general, who has probably sent people to jail nor not telling the truth in his role back there in alabama would say, you know what, i better -- maybe i need to let them know, even if i forgot, let them know that yes, i did meet with the russian of integrity and we cannot have the constant attacks on the fbi, the cia, all those very pillars that underpin this great thing we call a democracy. >> elijah cummings, democrat oversight committee ranking member in the house of representatives, thanks for calling in to us.
we know the hour is late. we have these two extraordinary breaking stories on our watch. andrea mitchell. >> i'm reading the sentence. and what it doesn't say is as important as what it says. i never met with any russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. so basically they're -- he's not denying that they didn't -- that they met. >> right. >> it's just saying it wasn't to discuss issues of the campaign. i have no allegation h idea what these allegations are. that's going to become an issue. >> if there were these meetings during the campaign, what does senator jeff sessions member of armed services talk about with the russian ambassador as a matter of course. >> let me give you the press dented to this. loretta lynch spent 25 minutes on the plane and they discussed golf and grandchildren and other things and she had to recuse
herself. that led to the fbi director james comey being in charge of that investigation. certainly, no matter what they discussed, it doesn't really matter whether they discussed politics or armed svs committee matters, he is going to be under increasing pressure to recuse himself. what has started is a political firestorm. we know that there was so much democratic opposition from jeff segs. they could not stop him from being confirmed. they are against him on so many other issues. >> same group will stay with us and we'll continue after this.
the second story about the now attorney general jeff sessions. we've heard from senator elizabeth warren. we need general ksh attorney general jeff sessions who should never have been confirmed in the first place to resign. we need it now. and andrea mitchell, we should point out the pushback from the department of justice. >> you bet. this is from sara flores, there was absolutely nothing 34iz leading about his answer, she writes. the answer to senator franken's questions at around r arms services. last year he had over 25 conversations as a senior member of the armed services committee. he was asked about communications between russia and 2 trump campaign, knots about meetings he took as a senator.
>> you see the defense. our guy talks to people all the time. >> and that when he was asked the question he was not misleading, forgetting, or lying. he was simply saying that it was -- he was asked about a campaign conversation and that it was not a campaign conversation. >> we have a new statement on background from a white house official, that is a out when official not for atry bulldogs. general sessions met with the ambassador in an official compassion as a member of the senate armed svs committee which is consistent with his system. -- testimony. it's no surprise senatorial franken is pushing the story following the successful address to the nation. ellen, you had a question as a long-time d.o.d. official about the timing of this series of events. >> right. i guess i'm really surprised that senator sessions wouldn't
-- or attorney general sessions wouldn't have remembered his conversations, his meetings with the ambassador because they were happening in july and september, according to the new york times story which is right when all of the media, washington post, new york times, etc., was covering the relationship between roger stone and roger page and -- >> carter page. >> carter page and roger stone, anyway, the two trump officials, campaign officials and russian officials. so it's in that context that he's having these meetings with the russian ambassador. it seems to me unwise, to begin with, but also that he should have rend it. >> malcolm nance is with us. our viewers know him well. malcolm, i was talking in a break. what seems like hours ago about
your appearance on bill maher's program and what's notable is from bill maher through the mainstream kind of news media, the same plotline, kind of the death of outrage, going deep, deep, deep into national security and intelligence gathering are asked to come on by hosts like us and kind of pinch us and say is this a new norm 58 that's being enforced? are we witnessing an attempt at the death of outrage? >> you are when you're talking about this russian connection to the 2ru6r7 administration. we're seeing something i've never seen in 35 years working in and around intelligence. we are seeing american citizens absolutely not care about a hostile intelligence operation against the united states. we have maybe as many as 25% of the american voting public are siding with a former kgb officer and a former drosh of russian intelligence on an operation that helped engineer the american electoral process. >> why do you think that is? >> i don't know.
i think part of it is part of the battlefield and cyberspace shaping that the russians have done for some time. they are conducting hybrid warfare which is this perception management war. they have their own media outlets and they tie in closely with bright batter news, for example. they have people who are sympathetic to russia's position. i have never seen anything like it. ten years ago it would have been called treason. but today it's called partisanship. this level of part shan ro sedanship is dangerous. this nation was attacked last year and we need to get to the bottom of it. >> one reason why people may not be reacting to it, the white house said that these are the enemies of 2 trump administration, people reacting to try to undercut the success of his speech last night.
and what you have to look back to is the way the administration and the president himself have undercut the credibility or tried to undercut the credibility of the intelligence communities, which is something i have never seen before. i've never seen a president-elect speak about the aepgt the way this president did. that was not only demoralizing to them but it has diminished public support for their conclusions. >> evelyn, these are people you know, people malcolm 2340ez. >> yeah. i guess as a foreign policy expert i think i and my colleagues and those of us in the previous administration need to take a little bit of responsibility. somehow we didn't educate the american people sufficiently. i think that's part of it, too. we spent a little bit of time talking about it but these -- in the kremlin are people who are ruthless. they've ki8d journal i haves. they've conducted designations
over seas. we know yingo. they've bombed a u.n. convoy. the list goes on and on. somehow he just seems like a macho guy on a horse but actually there's a lot more danger behind it. whether we think russia is our adversary or not is not important. they want to weaken american. they do not want us to be able to do what we're doing which is creating freedom for commerce and alliances and security, economic and political. they want an america that's weak and inward, which we're doing effectively and fighting with our allies. >> if i could make a comment aboutst report on the bjs efforts to main taken intelligence. that's what we would call a
continue knewity of intelligence operations. right. that's the sort of thing we put in place when we think that a nation is going to fall. when you want to have resistance operations in the rear. it's packages of intelligence duplicated and subcompartmented so no one destroys a master file. that's just good intelligence business. you don't want someone to come in there and throw what could be actually counter intelligence information, espionage information from a foreign nation into a burn bag and throw it into the furnace and it disappears. the trump innings is going to say did obama administration were doing this. no. the president of the united states is at point on this trouble. this isn't about michael flynn. this isn't about carter page. this is about donald trump so long as he is president of the united states he should have said we're all getting to the
i have been called a surrogate at a time or two during that campaign and i did not have communications with the russians and i'm unable to comment on it. >> so critically, during his confirmation hearing, you just heard then-senator, now attorney general say he did not have contact with the russians. that is at the crux of one of two major stories that dropped tonight on our watch. a brief note to our viewers. at the top of this hour, the two-hour program we aired and had planned to be on the subject of u.s.-russia, putin-trump is going the air, so you will see organically what happened to us on our shift tonight when the two stories came in and became our operating thesis and our discussion topic. andrea mitchell, the question is just based on that exchange alone, just based on what al franken's going to want to say tomorrow, what elizabeth warren
is going to want to say, how does this unspool in washington? >> you have two sides, two armed camps, armed with words and press releases and statements and tweets, they're going at it first thing in the morning. the white house is saying this is an attempt to undermine the president and damage the aftermath of the warm glow of what they view as a very successful speech and the other side is going to say this proves that the attorney general is utterly conflicted and should either resign or recuse himself. >> to our participants, thanks for your service. i am told we need to wait only a few more hours to hear more from al franken. he will be a guest on morning joe in a couple of hours on this very network. our coverage of this topic continues.