tv For the Record With Greta MSNBC May 17, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
guys with the scandals plaguing all of washington this weak, this small exhibit of cuteness was a nice distraction. so, thank you to the architect of the capital for quacking us up. that's all for tonight. we'll be back tomorrow with more mtp daily. for the record with greta starts now. lo and behold she has breaking news. >> unbelievable breaking news. we begin once again with break he can news. the justice department is appointing a special counsel to take over the russia investigation. the investigation will now be led by former fbi director robert muller. the decision to appoint a special counsel made by deputy attorney general rod rosenstein happened just moments ago and just to get a little background on who bob muller is, he was a former fbi director himself, serving 12 years. he served under president busch iv 3 and served two more years, ten years under bush 43, two years under president obama. you may remember he first became -- first became fbi director just days before 9/11
and served as ten years under george bush and on to time with president obama. he is a former marine. he knows rod rosenstein because it's a very small club, probably knows him because they are both united states attorneys. rosenstein, a u.s. attorney before he became deputy director of the justice department. he was a u.s. attorney himself. nbc's pete williams has more. >> here with a major development in the investigation into russian influence as it may pertain to the trump white house and the trump campaign. we want to go right now to pete williams with word of the appointment of a special counsel to lead an investigation. pete? >> lester, after serving as the deputy attorney general for 22 days, the deputy rod rosenstein today took himself out of overseeing the russia investigation, turning that over to robert muller. he is the former fbi director who served 12 years in that job. he was actually held over two extra years before james comey
became the fbi director. he will have the full authority to investigate that any u.s. attorney would, including the power to file criminal charges. this is exactly what congressional democrats have been pushing for for the appointment of a special counsel ever since rosenstein was confirmed. and partly because the attorney general jeff sessions has taken himself out of making any decisions about the investigation. so, to be clear, mr. muller's purview will be the entire russia issue, the whole question of whether any associates of the trump campaign were in any way involved in helping the russians try to influence the election last year, and any subsequent things that flow from that. now, it's important to note, lester, that as this special prosecutor, he's not completely independent like we used to have in the old days. special prosecutors are still subject to the control of the justice department, but it's much more independent, it's much more separated from the political appointees than it
would have been if rod rosenstein, a trump appointee, had continued to be the ultimate decision maker about this investigation, lester. >> and what about the work that's been done so far by the fbi? does that continue on? do they start from square one? >> they don't start from square one. the normal rule for special counsel is that they use the staffers provided by the justice department. typically career prosecutors, but he does have the authority under the rules to bring in his own people. but, lester, let's be clear. the immediate effect of this is going to be to delay any ultimate decisions about the -- where the investigation goes because when mr. muller comes onto the job, he'll have to spend a good deal of time getting up to speed on it. but he certainly is no stranger to the fbi, having been the longest serving fbi director in history, second only, of course, to j. edgar hoover. >> all right. pressure on this has been building certainly since the president fired james comey, the man who was leading the
investigation into russia and possible links of the trump campaign. we want to go right now to peter alexander -- >> we're going to head off to florida congressman carlos curbelo. kwong m congressman, the news tonight there is a special counsel former fbi director robert muller. your response, sir. >> greta, good evening from the capital. this is a very positive development. it is evidence that this administration is taking this russia probe seriously, that this is going to be a probe that is independent. the fact that they have chosen someone like director muller, someone who enjoys respect from both republicans and democrats, who is experienced, who knows how the fbi works, clearly as he led it for a considerable amount of time, also knows how the justice department works. this is something that every american should be celebrating today. why? because we all want to get to the bottom of what the russians did to influence our election and we need to know if any u.s.
persons in any way collaborated or colluded with the russians. this will get us many steps closer to the truth and that's something that we should all be very happy about tonight. >> well, when he was -- the u.s. senate voted on him to be the fbi director back in 2001, he received unanimous vote, 98-0 at the time there were 98 votes. is that in any way going to sort of calm the fires on capitol hill? because it seems that both sides are very poisoned against each other on this investigation. >> again, this is a very positive step towards getting closer to the truth of whatever the russians did to influence elections in the united states, if they tried to engage any u.s. persons, and if any u.s. persons ended up collaborating to undermine our democracy. something that republicans and democrats agree about is that our democracy, our institutions are the most important things
that we have to protect. again, this is evidence that this administration is at least now taking this very seriously, and i look forward to hearing from director muller to understanding exactly how he plans to continue the investigation that was already underway. and i surely hope that this will help us eventually get to the bottom of everything, make sure the full truth is revealed for every american to see. >> all right. thank you, congressman. >> thanks, greta. >> former independent prosecutor, and former assistant fbi director, he worked for fbi director james comey until 2014. both of you know bob muller. michael, how do you know him, and your thoughts? >> well, so, i worked for bob in the united states department of justice. bob was the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, the highest ranking officer in the justice department for criminal matters and i was his special counsel for money laundering matters.
we worked in the previous justice department as well. >> is he a tougher worker, tough boss? >> he is a tough boss. the only easy day with bob muller was yesterday, and he was tough. he is driven. i think he has great trust of congress and the american public because of the ground that he had crossed. so, i think it's a great selection. bob muller knows how to drive investigations forward with no nonsense getting the job done. >> we always love them it seems like day one. i think james comey probably had love from both sides of the aisle. this is just day one. can bob muller withstand sort of what's going on in the city, michael? >> i think so. he's with stood it for a long time. he's been in public life for a very long time. >> after 9/11 everybody was on the same side. this is a very different environment, i think. >> he's a thick skinned tough guy. he takes his job seriously. he takes the administration of
justice seriously. i don't believe that he is going to be derailed by the political shenanigans that may be on the side lines trying to pressure him one way or the other. i think bob is a terrific choice for this and i don't think he is going to be deterred in any way from the mission that he's been given by the deputy attorney general. >> ron, a lot of the fbi agents currently at the department, did they work with mull error has he been gone -- >> no, bob muller has only been gone the length of time jim comey has been there. he's well known in the building, well respected in the building, well regarded. to your last point, the struggle that we will all have, bob muller is a tight lipped guy, and as this develops, you know, counter intelligence pieces of it, perhaps white collar pieces of it -- >> relationship either of you
know with james comey? >> both were in the bureau, essentially overlapped successively in that job. >> actually now as i think of it, during the bush administration, bob muller was threatening to resign over a warrantless wiretapping. and i think that at the time -- >> they were in it together. >> that's right. >> they're close. they should be close. >> that's right. it was the ash croft bedside, renew the metta data, comey had one story, muller had one story, they conferred at the hospital. they know each other in a similar situation to this in a sense. >> peter baker of the "the new york times" wrote that story or broke that news. peter, tell me about the bob muller/james comey relationship. >> they are, in fact, obviously close. they did serve together in the bush administration as you guys were just saying. they have this formative experience in standing up to a
president, standing up to a vice-president. they both threatened to resign and it was when bob muller made clear that he would resign with james comey who was then the deputy attorney general over this surveillance program that president bush realized how serious it was. president bush realized he had another saturday night massacre on his hands and he wanted to avoid exactly that. he backed off in order to, you know, address their concerns. so, it was bob muller who ordered the fbi agents at the hospital when jim comey was rushing to get there, but to see ash croft, the attorney general before the president's emissaries got there, it was bob muller who ordered the fbi agents, don't let jim comey be thrown out of that room no matter what happens. they were allies and friends in this situation. it is a very interesting choice in that regard. these are not people with a disinterested relationship. >> so, when bob muller was named fbi director, 98-0 unanimous. at least the capitol hill at that time liked him on both sides of the aisle. this is a choice from rosenstein who is the deputy director of
the department of justice. this doesn't sound like -- this isn't the white house choice, and what do you think of the white house is thinking about this tonight, knowing that comey and muller have worked together before and quite closely and aligned on a very, very political story that was huge back a number of years ago? >> well, it's exactly right. i can't imagine the white house is very happy about this. this can't be the choice they would have preferred. bob muller does have bipartisan credentials as you point out. he was a int toed by president bush. he started just after 9/11 within days of 9/11 if i remember correctly. he reorganized the fbi to make it a terrorism fighting organization. but he was an institutionalist and well liked among democrats as well. so, president obama asked him to stay on three years beyond his ten year term. he's the only fbi director since they put that ten year term to go beyond that term and that was approved by congress and both parties. he does have a good reputation in that regard, and he has -- comes at this from an institutionalist point of view,
but somebody with deep ties to the fbi. it's going to be interesting to see how he approaches it. >> stay with me, peter. we're going to the white house. nbc's peter alexander. peter, i can't imagine this is the white house's first choice because bob muller is close to comey. he's close to rosenstein at the department of justice. >> yeah. >> he's close to a lot of people on capitol hill. i can't imagine this is the trump white house first choice. publicly they'll say it is. >> reporter: greta, be clear. their first choice was that there would be no special prosecutor. it was just monday that sean spicer said in the daily briefing, and i quote, there's frankly no need for a special prosecutor. he said what existed presently was sufficient, three investigations from both the senate and house intelligence committees and the fbi's investigation as well. he said the addition of any other investigation would effectively be superfluous. he said there was no need to have those additional resources dedicated to this. we've yet to receive a statement from the white house, from the press secretary or frankly a tweet from the president himself. i can tell you that within the
last hour we saw with our own eyes the attorney general jeff sessions arriving here at the white house, which at least to our knowledge was not a prescheduled, at least not a preannounced visit here. it came following the president's interviews with at least four individuals who were in effect finalists for the fbi director job that exists right now. joe lieberman, the former vice-presidential candidate among them as well as the acting fbi director andrew mccabe. so, we saw sessions arriving here. it's not entirely clear how this information was communicated to the white house. perhaps coming from sessions during that visit. we know the appointment ultimately was made as you noted by the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. >> so, rosenstein didn't go to the white house with sessions. it's not like they both went and briefed the white house. at least it appears at this early stage that rosenstein, as best we know, he made the decision himself. we don't know when he made it, but he didn't -- it doesn't look like he went over to the white house and communicated it to the president. >> we can't speak with certainty
rosenstein may have snuck in to see some of the entrances obviously to the west wing. we can say with certainty that we did see jeff sessions arrive here. my colleagues are in the west wing right now trying to get comment from sean spicer and his deputy sara huckabee sanders. they recognize there is urgency around this. as soon as we have it we'll pass it on to you right away. >> if you will do that as soon as you get that information, peter. let's go to nbc national correspondent ken delaney. this is breaking news, we have a new special counsel on this investigation. >> it's huge news, greta. as it happens my colleague tom winter on the investigative unit has been doing digging what is the status of this investigation. we have a story that is about to post on the web if it hasn't already. it's really interesting. we've learned that mike flynn and paul manafort, mike flynn the and paul manafort are subjects of the investigation. that is a term of art which means an investigator suspects
them of crimes. to be clear, paul manafort and mike flynn, and to be clear, their lawyers have denied any wrongdoing on their part. and no evidence has surfaced publicly linking them to this russian effort to interfere in the election, but there have been some -- there are financial transactions have been examined. in mike flynn's case he registered as a foreign lobbyist for turkey not having done so during the campaign. and paul manafort, there had been some questionable real estate transactions that have been the subject of grand jury subpoenas. in both cases we have grand jury subpoenas relating to records for these men. we have also been reporting on the fact this is an fbi investigation that spans multiple field offices, and we're talking to people involved in it who say that despite, you know, the recent news about donald trump's request to former fbi director comey regarding mike flynn, they have experienced no effort to impede this investigation. it's going full steam ahead,
greta. >> ken, if i get this right, is this the investigation out of the eastern district of virginia, that grand jury investigation that is going up to manafort and flynn, that's the grand jury? >> that's one of the grand juries. our understanding is they're all working together. there's multiple districts and multiple field offices. that is one place where subpoenas have been issued, my colleague tom winters learned, and there are others. but it's all being -- it's all under the rubric, greta, of this russia collusion investigation. >> and just aside, michael, you know the eastern district of virginia, it's no secret that's a very infamous in the whole u.s. attorney's office and the country how aggressive -- that is one of the last districts you want going after you. >> they refer to it as the rocket docket. i think they've slowed down a little bit since. but the point that is being made here is that these investigations are multifaceted. you have a collusion investigation, you've got an interference investigation, you've got a money laundering styled investigation with respect to manafort, and the
real estate. you've got lying and fraailure register types of investigations with flynn. there is a multifaceted investigation ongoing here which bob muller will have to get his hands around in all aspects. >> and of course we are just getting the official announcement, appointment of special counsel, that's the term to be used because we keep throwing around special prosecutor, independent counsel have slightly different functions. rosenstein announcing former department of justice official robert s. muller serving as special counsel to serve over the russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters. meanwhile we have on capitol hill the whole fuss and controversy and legitimate controversy over what was said to comey by the president. >> and i think that is going to take sometime to play out as well, is there a potential claim of executive privilege with respect to those communications. were there other people in the room. so, there are many details yet to be learned of that
engagement. >> all right. and we are getting reaction from members of the house intelligence committee right now. brian williams joins me with that. brian? >> greta, just to add to your coverage here a brief moment, this is really the first reaction from members of congress, especially members of, as you pointed out, the all-important intelligence committee. we have mike quigley, the democrat of illinois with us from capitol hill, and as luck would have it, next to him is chris stewart, the republican from utah. gentlemen, thank you very much for agreeing to talk to us. we are all reacting to the same breaking news. congressman stewart, since you are the majority republican, you can go first. your reaction to not just the appointment of a special counsel, but this particular man. >> yeah, you know, i actually think it's a good idea. i've been saying for a while as a member of the committee -- in fact, i had discussions with other republican committee members this morning. this may be the best way forward for us. i tell you, brian, one of the reasons i worried about that is because there are a lot of
important things still going on in the world. there's north korea, there is the aggressiveness of vladimir putin in eastern ukraine, a whole list of other things i'm afraid we've been distracted with as we've spent so much time on this one issue. >> and congressman stewart, your understanding now is the work of your committee in this area, do you just cart your files and what you've learned across town to wherever muller sets up shop? >> you know, i would suppose that's the case. but honestly this is just so new that i don't think we know the answer to that yet. we're going to facilitate anyway we can. obviously we want this to be done as quickly as we can. i think the american people want it to be done as quickly so we'll help in any way that's appropriate. >> congressman quigley, the reaction from the other side of the aisle, the minority party, the democrats? >> evidence that bipartisan cooperation and agreement can exist, i completely agree with my colleague. there is critical work to be done. i think there is a cloud that makes it difficult. and the fact that this is now taken out of the hands of any
reasons to question it, a good person i think chosen for this. >> another way to put it, congressman quigley, congress can concentrate on things congressional, knowing that all the while bob muller will staff up, he will be given a budget. they will get the benefit of anything your committee has gathered, the senate side, justice, fbi? >> that's clearly our intention, that he has the resources necessary to do a proper investigation. at the same time, our investigation is back on track. we're having hearings. we're reviewing documents and we're moving forward interviewing witnesses. >> congressman stewart, what's your advice for how the president, how the white house, how the white house staff should react to this heading into their first big overseas trip? >> well, you know, it's -- far be it to me to give this president political advice. i think this is something that the american people are going to appreciate. i do think, you know, mr. quigley and i sitting on the
intel committee, that's a bipartisan committee. it always has been. we try to do that. part of the reason is we can do it behind closed doors. we don't have cameras in our face all the time. it allows us to do the work we think is so important. i think the president should take much the same view. this will allow him to move forward knowing that there is an investigation going forward that will get to the bottom of this. and i think it will do that hopefully very quickly. and allows him to concentrate on the work that he needs to do as well. >> i would add staff tweeting -- stop tweeting, let the investigation take its course and do your normal work. >> we know you keep secrets for a living on the intelligence committee. but now it can be told. did either or both of you know this was coming at 6:00 eastern time today? >> no clue. >> i found out just before we came on the air with you. i've been busy with other folks so it's very new to me. >> congressman stewart, is another way to put what you said at the top of our interview, this was getting untenable and getting unwieldy and threatened to take attention away from
everything else, government or the administration is trying to do? >> yeah, i mean, just that was my view that there were other very important issues that i don't want to say they didn't get attention they deserved, but it became difficult for us to spread our time and our attention to those other important issues. and frankly, it absorbed everything that the media talked about, it absorbs much of the conversations here on the hill. i'm sure the same thing is true in the white house. and i think this is a positive step. >> i say nondefense i havely congressman stewart, i did note you were tough on the news media earlier. >> yeah. >> is it fair to ask now, however, that without a robust news media, we wouldn't be in this position where we are tonight? >> well, i certainly agree with that. and i think the media has responsibility to report on these kind of stories. my point before was i just felt like the rhetoric was so over the top. and, brian, i think you and i can probably agree with that. there were some things that were reported as fact that turned out not to be. there were some things reported that just didn't have the importance yet you would think
it was the end of the wrororld d of thing. i'm hoping for balance, substance matches the rhetoric. >> congressman quigley, before we send this conversation back to greta, one more question to you. so many people were next expecting -- and i'm sorry about the vote buzzers going off. so many people were expecting to see james comey raise his hand, get sworn in, and give his side as he turned over perhaps memos. do you think that will now no longer happen before your committee or the senate side? >> oh, no, i fully anticipate that will take place. i think, again, you've seen bipartisan request for that. i think you'll see it in open and closed sessions. you'll see it in the house and senate. it's the right thing to do. there is still a lot of information the former director can share. >> here we are 23 minutes into this latest breaking story. our thanks to congressman mike quigley, democrat of illinois, congressman chris stewart, republican of utah. gentlemen, thank you very much
for being a part of our broadcast. >> thank you. >> and greta, there you have it, the reaction from congress especially the intelligence committee a. thank you, brian. let me go back to our panel. michael, while we were listening to the interview we were talking as well. i think this is -- i don't think this is what president trump wants to hear. you think it's good news. tell me why. >> the facts of this case are anything but clear. whether there was collusion, whether there was not collusion, whether there was lie by flynn, whether or not there was manafort and money laundering. you need somebody who will take a very impartial a political eye to the facts and give -- and render a decision -- >> do you think he's going to feel that way knowing that comey and muller have actually a pretty interesting and deep relationship going back? although muller got 98-0 from republicans and democrats, do you think that's the way the president thinks tonight? >> if he takes a step back, he'll understand comey would have done the right thing in this investigation and muller will do the right thing in this
investigation. >> i don't think he's thinking that way. >> well, he may not be. but reflection, if they're able to reflect on it so quickly, should let them know that they have somebody who when they render their decision, the people are going to say, that's it, that's fair, that's the facts. let's move forward. >> let me go to charlie siekz who spent years as radio host in the great state of wisconsin now editor in chief of right wisconsin. charlie, your thoughts on this news tonight that we have a special counsel now appointed by the deputy attorney general of the united states? >> well, it is an extraordinary move, it is a bold move. as ar ee tweeted out, a serious man for a serious investigation. he is independent. the fact they appointed the special counsel is the intensity of the pressure on the administration not to try to deflect this. the president has tweeted out how many times that there is nothing here, this is fake news, this is a hoax. this is a democratic fiction. this ought to remind everybody
that this is a very serious matter and by the way, greta, i completely agree with you, this cannot be seen as good news inside the white house. this is the last thing that donald trump wants to happen, to have this investigation clearly escalating, clearly being put in the hands of one of the toughest, most independent prosecutors. and this comes a week after -- i think you could certainly plausibly argued james comey because he was afraid he was going to be too aggressive on all of this. to that extent the firing of james comey has back fired in a very dramatic way i would think. >> i'm just putting myself in the shoes of president trump tonight. i was thinking he's there with attorney general sessions coming over with possible candidates to go be director of the fbi who would otherwise be doing this investigation. meanwhile, back at the ranch, the deputy attorney general is appointing someone who is close to or seemingly close to the guy he just fired, who many people
are suspicious, certainly on the democratic side of the aisle, suspicious was -- had it out -- you know, that -- suspicious of him. so, i don't see how the president -- >> out of control. >> i don't see how this would be great for the president, but i don't see how he thinks it is tonight. >> no, this is out of control now. he can't rely on the partisan committees in congress. by the way, i certainly hope that congress continues to exercise its constitutional responsibility. but clearly you have now introduced a wild card into this investigation, and that cannot be something that a control freak like donald trump wants to happen at this moment. >> mike allen is executive editor of axia. mike, your thoughts on this? >> greta, this gives the white house some breathing room by having action here, by having this taken seriously. this gives them the chance to talk about something else and do something else. but as every single one of your guests has pointed out starting with the great peter baker, that
in the long run, real danger, real risk, real tonight worry about what's going to be found because as your guest just pointed out, one of the consequence of the comey firing is that there is more scrutiny of everything. that the justice department is more scrutinized. the hill investigation is more scrutinized. there's no chance of it going away. so, this is now a permanent fixture of this administration. you were just talking on the air very smartly about the staff and resources that this prosecutor will have. in the very short term, this gives the chance that -- the president to get this sort of mini reset that they hope he'll get on this trip. the president's credit, you covered him over many years, always looked better on the world stage, going abroad as long as you don't step on something is good for a president. so, now he has a chance to do a
bit of that reset, but oh, my, you know that they're going to have foreboding what it could cost. >> ken delaney was talking about the other investigations, grand jury investigations about flynn and manafort and if they're watching this tonight and their lawyers. i would always worry if i were a lawyer representing someone else who might be in this web that those two tonight might have a real interest in trying to cut some sort of deal. whatever that may be, with whatever information they have. you know, when you start doing this, we start having lots of investigations stepped up aggressiveness, people start looking for deals and that means trunl f trouble for others. >> that does mean potential trouble. let me make it clear about bob muller. he is aggressive, he's hard nose, but he is fair. he knows what a violation of law looks like. the people of best position to understand their jeopardy today are paul manafort and mike flynn and others who may be involved. if they're looking at themselves or talking to counsel, you know,
it may be time to cut a deal or they may stand pat and say, i'm good to go. we've heard that from one of the other named involved, carter page recently where he's been on tv repeatedly defending his position. maybe he can hold to that. bob muller i'm confident will get to the truth. >> you know, michael, everyone is talking about how fair he is, and i'm sure he is fair and i'm sure he's going to do his best to be fair. but fairness is one of those things that's seen differently by different people. you've been a prosecutor, you've been a defense attorney. some prosecutors thought it was unfair but they were very fair. >> that's right. fairness is in the eye of the beholder. i just think that muller being -- so many jobs he's held in justice, in the fbi, in the u.s. attorney's office, brings a perspective of what is a real crime, what is not a real crime, what is a prosecutable offense, what is not a prosecutable offense. he's not cutting his teeth on anything. he's not taking something new for the first time. so, i think in some sense he
brings a seriousness of purpose to the job and will render a decision which is why i think it is ultimately in the white house's interests that is fair. based on the facts that are presented before him. >> and i will say that in all the years that he was director of the fbi, 12 years, two longer than the term, i always heard that he -- people always had a lot of respect for him on both sides of the aisle. he does come to the job with that. the only problem i see is his relationship with comey and it's not that it's necessarily unfair. some will say it has the appearance of being unfair because they were so close and because comey was fired by trump. not that that's necessarily true. but i'm saying people will have that suspicion. charlie, your thoughts. >> well, that's a very interesting point. next week, let's imagine that this testimony goes ahead and james comey' memos are made public. is the trump white house and trump media, are they going to try to attack the credibility of
james comey? are they going to go after him? that would be their normal play book. that obviously now becomes much more politically problematic, you know. they may have thought that they could discredit comey and dump on him. but now that somebody who is a close associate of the former fbi director is running this investigation, that becomes a much higher -- much more risky proposition, doesn't it? >> indeed it does. and there is also more news breaking tonight as if we couldn't get enough breaking news in every given hour. let me tell you what the washington post is just reporting just a short time ago online. washington post reporting, let me read it to you. a month before donald trump clinched the republican nomination, one of his closest allies in congress, house majority leader kevin mccarthy made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on capitol hill with his fellow gop leaders that trump could be the beneficiary of payments from russian president vladimir putin. this is quoting mccarthy. there are two people i think
putin pays. he names one congressman and the other one he says is trump. he said according -- this is according to a recording of the june 15, 2016 exchange which was listened to and verified by the washington post. house speaker paul ryan then immediately interjected stopping the conversation from further exploring mccarthy's assertion and swore the republicans present to secrecy. the one thing we don't know, charlie, is if kevin mccarthy is being flip. but it's just that unfortunately these things read very differently many years later as facts develop about stories. >> yeah, i'm going to be careful reacting to that because i don't know whether that was intended to be a joke, whether he was quipping or whether he was serious. once again, it raises this question that people who were in and around the republican party have had these suspicions, and that this just won't go away. and, again, going back to the breaking story, the appointment of a special counsel elevates this issue, makes it impossible to argue this is not a serious
you issue, and it will -- this is going to be the defining issue of the first year of the trump presidency. so, i cannot see how you can say this is welcome news for the white house. >> and just to go on, this washington post reporting it, not nbc news. this is just what the washington post is. it does say news had just broken the day before that the -- in the washington post that russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the dnc. so, i mean it's very easy to see how this could just be mccarthy being flip and making an off the cuff joke. that's the problem with all these things. it almost sounds like if you know mccarthy, he's flip like that. >> right. the irony, of course, here is that watergate was a follow the money investigation and we might be in the same exact situation in this case, which is following the money to several parties in a number of this investigation. we'll see how it shakes out. >> my guess on this is mccarthy is being flip. anyway, with me on capitol hill is mike vacara with the
reaction. >> the house of representatives had a vote. you can see the last residue of members spilling down the capital steps here. i've been asking members for reaction to both the rod rosenstein appointment of the special counsel as well as this washington post late breaking story. on the latter story, all of these members were asking me what the story was, asking me to read the story from my iphone. evidently they are unaware of it. mike conowe way who in the absence of devin nunes, the house intelligence chairman, remember he recused himself from this investigation. mike conaway the republican from texas now leading the investigation. i asked him about it. he said he had no idea. that's the story we're getting from republicans and democrats as they come down the steps at this late breaking story. on the rod rosenstein appointment of robert muller being greeted in open arms by open arms, with open arms by virtually all involved i've spoken with, jim heinz, a democrat from connecticut who is on the intelligence committee says it's about time.
remember democrats have been calling for this. even republicans i believe, some of them are relieved at this point to see this special counsel. it takes it off their plate. there is going to be less focus on them. they want some breathing room. they want some space to work on the things that they want to work on. however, unlikely, this might be with these late breaking developments seeming every day now, greta. >> indeed every day it does. just this hour, too, thanks, mike. come back to us if there's more. nbc's pete williams is joining us again. pete? >> well, a couple of things. first of all, just reaction you were asking about from the hill, diane fine stein who is the ranking democrat on the senate judiciary committee calls it a fine appointment. he's a u.s. attorney, he has the knowledge to do the right thing. this is an appointment, greta, under special counsel provision. i know you know this, but just as a reminder, we used to have something called independent counsel and that's what kenneth star was during the whole white water investigation. but that was subject to
congressional renewal and congress decided not to renew that law. it expired in 1999 and ever since we used justice department has used this special counsel provision. what it says is when the justice department either believes that it would be a conflict for the justice department or that it would be in the public interest to bring in someone from outside, that's what they can do, and that's the decision made today by rod rosenstein. he made the decision as the deputy attorney general because attorney general jeff sessions had taken themselves out of making any decisions about the russia investigation. and rosenstein says in his statement that he believes that this will allow the public -- that this move is in the public interest and will allow the public to have confidence in the outcome. so, that's sort of right out of what the rules for special counsel say. so, muller will be free to bring in his own staff if he wants. he can use existing people in the justice department. that's the normal rule for these.
but he's free to ask to bring in other people. and special counsel have basically all the power that a u.s. attorney would have. in other words, full federal prosecution power. >> pete, do you have anything to add to what was reported at the white house, that attorney general sessions arrived at the white house apparently in connection with -- to try and help the president select a new fbi director, there is no indication deputy a.g. was with him. do you have any information how the white house learned about the appointment of special counsel, or even if attorney general sessions knew about it when he went over to help the white house pick a new fbi director? >> i can't answer either one of those, sorry. >> if you find out -- this whole sort of scenario as it's unraveling in this city tonight, there is so much intrigue and so much to follow. in fact let's go back to capitol hill. nbc's mike vacara has the latest reaction to the washington post story that nbc is not reporting.
mike? >> well, greta, and, in fact, we do have the first reaction from kevin mccarthy. the majority leader of the republican from bakersfield, california, who is quoted in this washington post story saying, i think these two individuals, the president -- now president trump and congressman dana rower balker of california, i think they're paid by the russians or on the payroll of the russians. mccarthy telling our producer alex mo just a moment ago, it's a bad attempt at a joke. and, in fact, we also have comment or a statement from speaker of the house paul ryan who according, again, according to the washington post article, was also present when this recording was made. evidently surreptitious reporting. similar comments, reaction from the speaker of the house paul ryan, calling it a joke and so that is the initial reaction we have here. again, that video should be coming in very shortly as far as rod rosenstein is concerned, of course, we do expect him on the hill again tomorrow briefing all senators. remember, this is what democrats
demanded in the wake of last week's allegations around the firing of jim comey, to have an all senators briefing, a classified briefing. chuck schumer made that demand on the senate floor. mitch mcconnell has gone along with it. that briefing happens tomorrow here in a secure room in the basement of the senate. greta? >> is it consistent with your thought? kevin mccarthy, everyone who works in washington knows mccarthy. it's actually sort of consistent with him that it's a bad joke more than a sincere statement. that was just sort of my reaction. i don't want to unfairly tarnish him. anyway -- >> without having heard the reporting and getting the nuance from his tone, it's hard to say. yes, he is often lighthearted member of congress. it's hard to say without context, you're right, greta. >> without a doubt. we should hear the tape and we have not. i just want to err on the side of caution on this one. peter alexander is now answering a question that i've had in terms of how did the white house
find out. this is peter alexander's report. a spokesperson for the department of justice tells nbc news the white house counsel's office was informed of the appointment of a special counsel after the order was signed this afternoon. no specific time provided. michael, that's sort of straight by the book. it's rod rosenstein as deputy a.g. it's his decision, attorney general sessions having recused himself. he made the decision and then after he made the decision he informed the white house. >> that's right. and i think what this is for rod rosenstein -- >> stein or stein? >> stein, i guess. is a resurrection of his reputation of being a straight shooter himself. i think he got sucked into this unfortunately with that hillary clinton protection memo, and that's the basis for the fire. i think this gets him out of that and puts him back where he always has been, which is well respected, middle of the road prosecutor who also likes to make things by the books, by the law, with integrity.
so i think that's good for him, good for the system. >> ron, do you think with all the breaking news and all the upheaval going on the last couple of days, is in any way impeded the investigation by the special agents who are actually doing the work on this? >> i don't. i think that, as we've discussed before, there was great confidence and respect for director comey. and if anything, the manner in which he was terminated would have only steeled them to move -- >> let's face it. the way he was fired, whether he should be fired or not, that's the president's decision whether we agree with him orp not. when he was in california, the way he was, that was off the charts bad. off the charts bad. >> on multiple levels. i think the next day the work was moving forward, perhaps with even more energy and determination to get to the truth. >> and he has been summoned to capitol hill to testify. chairman jason chaffetz, government oversight, has noticed a hearing for wednesday morning with the former director
of the fbi, comey. he said he wants to testify publicly, not behind closed doors. but he has not yet responded. i guess actually oddly enough, they don't have a telephone number for him because that's been taken from him. >> uh-huh. >> all right. we have no video, deputy attorney rosenstein and act being director mccabe leaving the u.s. capital. they did not answer shouted questions regarding the appointment of a special prosecutor. and i think it's pretty clear that these two men can't go anyplace in this town would you tell us chasing them with cameras. we're watching them every second. michael is michael issikof is chief correspondent. let me ask your thoughts on this. >> look, bob muller is a tough as nails, no nonsense prosecutor who -- and former fbi director who will make a case if there is a case to be made, and will not put up for a second with any
effort by anybody in the white house or the administration to get in his way. in that sense -- and i've covered muller for years, going back to his days as chief of the criminal division of the justice department during the first bush administration. this is in some ways the worst possible outcome for the white house because it will have absolutely no way to influence or impede in any way the justice department investigation. again, it obviously is all going to depend on the facts and what the evidence is. but if there is any case to be made, bob muller will make it. >> you know, i have a real appreciation for the way, at least the department of justice has relayed to us the way rosenstein did this. in this volatile environment, everything is sort of done by the book. it was a deputy ag's decision, and he made the decision, and then he notified the white house. so that we don't have all the
sort of, you know, suspicions flowing around that one. it was his decision, he made the decision, and at least that should at least stop some of the speculation. >> well, that will -- look, muller will not be criticized -- the appointment of muller will not be criticized by any democrats because, you know, they all know him, the ones that served on the judiciary committee certainly, you know. 12 years as fbi director, he not only finished his full ten-year term, but got asked by president obama to stay on for two years while he picked a successor. muller stood with jim comey when he threatened to resign over that big hospital confrontation about the bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. so, you know, it is just hard for me to imagine that president
trump is going to be in any way pleased by this appointment. and, you know, i can foresee an outcome down the road if muller gets too aggressive, trump -- and knowing what we know about trump -- will start thinking about a saturday night massacre. we're not there yet. we're a long way from that, but i'm just saying you can see the ingredients already there for that. >> i don't know if we'll ever get there, but i think we are going to get a tweet someplace down the road about the fact that muller and comey at one time worked together and on a high profile matter. i think that's what we will get, but i don't expect that soon until there may be or if there is a problem. let's go to msnbc's chief legal correspondent. ari? >> good evening, greta. great to be part of your coverage on clearly what is a big story. i would put it like this. the buck stops with the president, but the facts are going to start with this special
counsel. if there are facts to be found that are problematic for the white house, i don't think anything about director muller's history suggests that he will find fear, favor or bias, whether that affects the people he's worked with in the past or the people that he is investigating now, which may include folks connected to donald trump. so, this is in form and substance, as the lawyers say, a clearly strong pick. in form, deputy attorney general rosenstein is saying he is doing what he told the judiciary committee he would do during his confirmation, which is appoint a special counsel if he deemed it necessary. he has found that fact. and then they have a name that as far as you can get in modern washington, unimpeachable. >> you know, ari, the one thing my attention -- our respective backgrounds being lawyers, i would be somewhat -- where my antenna is up, you have these grand juries, one in the eastern district of virginia, subpoenas have gone out for financial documents. we have two people we know to be
subject to investigation. sooner or later immunity agreements start going out, deals start to be cut. this is really sort of where the rubber hits the road. things are going to, i suspect -- we may not see it publicly, but i think there is going to be a lot of activity if tlgs there is a problem out there. >> certainly. as we know, you noted it on air, in fairness to the individuals involved, we in the public can't say because someone is investigated or their records are being pulled, what that says about their criminal exposure. what is historic and unusual of commentators have noted, this has only been done in the current structure, special counsel structure in the modern era, once before during the bush era, not at all in the eight years of the obama era, it is unusual for the d.o.j. to take this move that is because prosecutors pride themselves on always being nonpartisan. what mr. rosenstein's statement clearly says is that the conditions that have now occurred and been borne out, including, i read it as a reference to some of what donald
trump has said, whether he said it willfully or inartfully or otherwise, those conditions have cast enough doubt that he is using rosenstein, quote, the public interest standard it is in the public interest of the united states to have this extra degree of independence, as he put it. and former director muller obviously i think meets the standard of independence. we'll see what facts he finds. >> all right. ari, if you'll back me up on this one, that memo that we're all talking about which are james comey's notes, nobody has seen that memo. we're told about explosive contents of the memo. and i'm telling everybody sort of hold their fire until we actually see the memo, but in this town we take sides. we sometimes don't wait for the facts. so, can you throw some -- tell people a little caution until we get the facts on this one? >> i've heard a lot of statements made about the memo. i would agree with you. i haven't seen it. the reporters who broke the story at the "the new york times" say they haven't seen it. so, we are dealing with oral -- an oral excerpt or portion at the times and other outlets have confirmed as accurate, but we don't have the whole context.
so, i think to your point we won't really know much about that until jim comey fully outlines it, hopefully under oath in a public hearing. that's what folks are talking about. another point is, look, the fbi has these fbi has these memos. memo to file or sometimes what are called 302s, interview summaries. the taking of them doesn't mean anything bad happened. in this case, the statements allegedly made by president trump could have been concerning or they could have been sloppy. you and i know sloppiness is not a crime. aggressiveness in speech is not a crime. it's whether there was that intent. i think the big news tonight is clearly something is working at the doj. let's put the politics aside. for people who are concerned about whether this system works and the system was built by the founders to be much bigger than any person or party, the system tonight appears to be working. the recusal of jeff sessions, the propriety and the decision made by the deputy attorney general, nbc's peter alexander
reporting the white house was informed of this after the fact as they should be because they shouldn't be involved one way or the other in it. they are not advising on a decision. so all of that suggests tonight a part of this system is working. >> yes, and going back to that memo, that memo can be awful for the president, great for the president, or something in between or something for everybody. but we have to see it, and maybe we'll learn this wednesday if director comey does testify in public as he might before government oversight. now let me go to my colleague, stephanie rule. stephanie. >> i love the memo is like a buff buffet, something in it for everyone. the market down over 370 points. here's why. have you seen trump's agenda lately? tax reform, health care reform, deregulation. none of this. this is what president trump ran on. it's what sparked that trump rally, the trump bump. the first meeting he had that first monday in the white house was with 15 ceos, and he said, how do i help you manufacture
more, sell more, get more business done and create jobs? that's not being spoken about. we're focused on the special prosecutor. so the markets are suddenly realizing these are promises we might not see come to fruition. factor in the possible shake-up at the white house. the markets also like stability and predictability, and they like the administration being pretty wall street heavy. they never viewed trump as a markets guy, but he's got as his economic adviser the former president of goldman sachs. who knows if gary cohn's going to be in his seat, wilbur ross, steve mnuchin. this is a dark and confusing time, and the market's suddenly responding. >> can i give you sort of a half full? you're the expert, so you tell me. could it be possible the market would say tomorrow, finally we have some order. the deputy attorney general who has the authority to do this, to appoint a special prosecutor, has appointed a special prosecutor, taking a little bit of the mystery of how it's done. he did it the right way. he did it himself and telling
the wlohite house later. could the market maybe respond tomorrow and say we do have some adult supervision in d.c.? >> the market may do that and the fact that congress can focus on their day jobs and not focus on this. but in the last week or so, the swirl of this has taken over the news cycle and taken over the president. so this special prosecutor could be a positive. but just think about this. honestly, greta, when was the last time we talked about trump's agenda? >> pass. i don't know. >> exactly. >> i don't know. i can't answer that. >> not in quite some time, and it's that agenda that's got the market excited. you can talk about deregulation, but are you going to do it or not? >> i don't know. anyway, stephanie, thank you. >> thank you. >> we'll see you tomorrow morning when the markets open. back with me, charlie sykes. charlie, i know you've been sitting here listening and you've got some thoughts. so tell me. >> first of all, stephanie makes a couple of outstanding points. number one, people keep asking, so what is going to change the
dynamic of republican support for the president? you know, number one, look, she's absolutely right. his agenda has been absolutely in eclipse, and i think we're starting to believe that, look, we're not going to get tax cuts, the tax reform. we're not going to see the infrastructure, health care reform. everything has been put on hold. that's absolutely true. if, in fact, the stock market continues to react negatively, that might be a game-changer. her other point is absolutely correct. i think this is bad news for the white house, but it's clearly very, very, very good news for congress. congress now can take a deep breath. they can now deflect the questions and the obsession on the issue and say, look, you know, we trust the independent -- not the independent counsel -- the special prosecutor. that's one of the reasons why i thought the republicans from the beginning should be asking for this so that it's not hanging over their heads, so this does in effect unshackle congress. maybe it will allow the trump administration to get some more momentum on its agenda because right now they are absolutely,
completely dead in the water. >> charlie, what do you think president trump is thinking tonight right now? >> oh, i don't really want to go there. that's a scary place for me. but i cannot think that he is -- he's happy about all of this. i can't think that he -- he knows what the headlines are going to be, the banner headline in every newspaper around the world is going to be a special prosecutor has been appointed. this is the first time this has happened in many, many years. i don't know that anybody in america ever thinks that a special prosecutor being appointed to look at them and their associates is ever good news. >> all right. let me go to michael isikoff, who has followed putin for so many years. michael, what do you think that putin's thinking tonight? >> well, i don't know. putin did offer earlier today to supply a transcript of the conversation between the president and lavrov at the white house to help bail out the
president, to show that nothing untoward was said. it will be interesting to see whether anybody wants to take him up on it. but, look, i mean to the extent that u.s./russia relations have been tainted by this investigation, this controversy, mueller's appointment guarantees it's going to go on for some time and is going to be extremely serious. so that is going to be an impediment to putin's hope that he could work out an improved relationship with president trump. >> mike, tell me what you think is going on at the white house. i mean the staff. >> yeah, greta, two bits of intrigue for the staff. one is we were talking about the comey memos were referred to online as comey's revenge. this could be seen as rosenstein's revenge. he certainly looked hung out to
dry on that earlier decision, and michael isikoff has been so astutely pointing out the loss of control for the white house, which does get it off their plate. but eventually could really come back to haunt them. remind your viewers, remembering how angry the president was when attorney general sessions recused himself. remember that video shot through the window of the oval office, him chewing out steve bannon and other staff members because they felt like the white house had either allowed, encouraged, pushed that recusal. he didn't want it, and now we're seeing one of the reasons why. >> let me go back to -- yeah, michael? >> can i just point out that's -- michael's point is exactly right. president trump has just lost control, complete control of the biggest investigation that threatens his presidency, and that's a very big deal. >> let me go back to capitol hill. mike viqueira is getting reaction from lawmakers there.
>> greta, one of the first republicans in the house of representatives out there alone for a couple of days, adam kin singer, one of the first to call for a special commissioner, aan outside body to look at this russian affair, to investigate russian meddling, to look into the firing of james comey, he just came down the capitol steps, one of the stragglers after a vote in the capitol. here's his reaction after the news of the appointment of a special counsel. >> it was yesterday after you see the reaction from some of the left that yell impeachment, some on the right that yell fake news, it became obvious to me that we have to detox this. we have to take the politics as best we can out of it. we've got to give the american people confidence we're going to get to an answer, and they frankly don't have confidence it could be done in the current situation. robert mueller is, i think, a fantastic person. i don't know him personally, and this is the right move. >> it's important to note that kinzinger does not represent a majority view in the house of representatives when it comes to this entire affair. most rank and file house members -- and i talked to about
a dozen of them this morning when they were coming out of a closed door meeting. their districts are strong pro-trump. they themselves are strong pro-president trump. so they are unswayed by all these arguments. they're criticizing the leaks. they're criticizing the news media. but still, overall, on balance as he said, it's a toxic atmosphere. it helps house republicans. i think that's the majority view of the leadership and certain republicans, rank and file as well. >> and it will certainly be interesting to see how the american people feel because he is the elected president, and there are a lot of americans out there who, you know, still have enormous amount of faith in him as their elected -- an elected leader. it certainly is a big night here in washington, though. robert mueller, the new special counsel appointed by robert rosenstein, who is the deputy attorney general of the united states. meanwhile, attorney general sessions was over at the white house helping the president pick a new director of the fbi. we don't know when we're going to get that name. the president leaves on friday for a huge trip.
he's going to a number of nations, saudi arabia among them, israel. there's going to be a lot going on, but you can expect there will be more breaking news. thank you for watching. i'm be back here tomorrow night 6:00 p.m. eastern. chris matthews and "hardball" starts right now. special counsel named to investigate president trump's russian dealings. this is "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. the city that just heard a thunder clap. the u.s. justice department has named a special counsel to investigate the possible role donald trump's campaign played with russia during and after the 2016 presidential election. this comes less than a week after president trump fired fbi director james comey for what he called this russian thing. and after "the new york times" reported yesterday that trump first tried getting comey to