tv MSNBC Live MSNBC May 18, 2017 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
you can go away and we promise we won't have any news what so ever. >> we begin this afternoon with another wild day, a fast breaking news from washington, d.c. we've just lesharned that senat lieberman is a top pick for the fbi director. in are a half-hour, the president will hold a press conference. this will mark the first time we've heard from the president on camera following last night's appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible coordination between 2016 trump campaign and russia. former fbi director robert mueller has agreed to take the job. reaction is pouring in from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. >> we're glad that form he fbi director mueller is addressing
this. >> i waspposed to the appointment of a special unsel. however, if you are going to have a special counsel, you cannot have a better person than bob mueller. >> his choice was the right choice for the job. >> i'm very happy with the selection of bob mueller. i think he brings a recovered integrity and independence and i think bipartisan support. >> i think everybody is really, whether openly or secretly, that robert mueller has been appointed. >> mueller is a great appointment. >> is this a big deal? >> yes. >> i think it really does have the possibility of hampering the senate intelligence committee will be doing. >> i believe the professionals of the justice department need to do their jobs independently, objectively and thoroughly and i believe the special counsel, which is rob mueller now, helps them do that. >> wow, a little bipartisanship on capitol hill. meanwhile, senators are participating in a closed door briefing right now with deputy
attorney general rod rosenstein on the james comey firing. we're hearing reaction from the president himself on the appointment of the special counsel. he is not happy about it. president trump tweeted, this is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in american history with all the illegal pacts took place in the clinton campaign and obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed. all this comes as we're following more bombshell reports about michael flynn. reuters is reporting that michael flynn and other advisers to president trump's campaign were in contact with russian officials in at least 18 calls and e-mails during the last seven months of the presidential race. "the new york times" is reporting that flynn told the transition team weeks before the investigation that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for turkey during the campaign. it is not known whether the president himself was told about flynn's reported disclosure. to help us break it all down, i want to bring in kelly o'donnell
from the white house. nbc's chief legal correspondent,ari melber. and also, the author of anatomy of terror, senior correspondent ator "time" and author of the social media attack on the u.s. look at this cover. this is animation of it. if you buy the magazine, you don't get animation. it is about russia blending and almost being -- the white house blending and almost being overtaken by the kremlin. we're just over a half-hour away from this press conference document we expect anything from president trump on the developments in the last 24 hours? >> well, there are some tea leaves that suggest that the president might be willing to make news and perhaps this would be the venue to do it. that is, we are hearing from senior administration officials that the president is close to a decision on the new fbi director and then similarly, we're told all the candidates who have been through this process, a very
public process, since at least the weekend, joe lieberman, former senator of connecticut, former vice presidential nominee, is a front-runner this is president colombia arriving right behind me. at he will be a guest of the president and be at the news conference that's coming up. as he front-runner among choices. he stands out because he has a political back ground. obviously a democrat for much of his career. >> kelly, can i stop you for a second? we have a camera on the president of colombia getting out. just that to be greeted by president trump who is waiting there. not with anybody else to greet him. they're saying their hellos right now and standing there, they haven't decided to take a turn and go into the white house.
>> reporter: and this is something president trump has done, yet another example than predecessors. it used to be the chief protocol officer who would greet visiting dignitaries and then the president would greet they will inside the white house. the president coming to effectively his the front door. that is the meeting. and then one of the opportunities for both the colombian press who is here in great numbers and tuesday press to have a chance to take, hopefully get a chance to question the president. would this be the venue where he chooses to make news on the fbi director? we don't know. however we're getting suggestions that close is something that the president is flair overing down his decision. the timing of this decision would certainly help to change some of the headlines. it also is sort of book ended by, after a very volatile period of time. by tomorrow his departure for
saudi arabia, israel, italy and belgium for his first overseas trip. it would seem to make more sense to have made an announcement or a decision of this type while in the united states. not something done overseas. so that leads us to think that the timing today is notable. one of those days where, don't get a cup of coffee. don't call your mother. stay close. >> please do that for us. the author of anatomy of terroror, in your books, black banner, you talk about the fbi under mueller. you've seen these bipartisan comments about the job he did as fbi director. it is actually hard to be on the job for 13 years and not garner a great deal of criticism. what do we need to know about robert mueller as a special counsel? >> he is such an amazing individual. he has so much integrity, so much honor. he is a marine, an amazing prosecutor, a phenomenal fbi director it is and one of my
greatest honors to serve under director mueller. you don't remember when mueller took over the fbi, it just immediately after 9/11 happened, and he had to captain the ship in such a chaotic environment. and one of the things that he was able to do, not to reinvent the fbi to neat challenges of terrorism, the challenges of counter intelligence of the 21st century, but also to create that balance between counter terrorism and our values. one of my fondest experiences with mueller that shows what kind of an individual he is when i was involved at the black had sides and we started seeing torture. >> interrogation sites. >> yes. and we reported to the fbi, he supported his agents 100% and he actually pulled us out and he said we don't do that. he stood up against the illegal wire attempts and james comey. and they famously wrote the
resignation letters, left it on their desks and went to motor the froze convince the president to not go ahead with the illegal wiretaps. so this is the kind of an individual robert mueller is. and i'm telling you, there is no one in this nation, no one i can think of who can do a better job in settling down this issuemuel. >> we have a brand new response from savannah guthrie. he was asked about the special counsel. i believe it hurts our country terribly because it shows
we are a divided mixed up not unified country and we have important things to be doing right now. whether it is trade deals, whether it is military, whether it is stopping nuclear, all the things we discussed today and i think this shows a very divided country. it also happens to be a poor excuse for the democrats having lost an mexico they should have easily won because of the electoral college being slanted
so much in their way. that's all this is. i think it shows division and it shows that we're not together as a country and i think it is a very, very negative thing. hopefully this can
go quickly because we have to showty if we're going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world. it is not actually true that this may go quickly. the history of special counsel, special prosecutors before them is that sometimes these take a long time. >> right. a couple highlights, some of what he said is false and some of what he said is improper. let's start with what's false because it is so easy. the electoral college is slanted toward republicans. that's why he got fewer votes but became president. whether this is a political issue would be tested, it is the trump doj and his own appointee. donald trump picked rod rosenstein three weeks ago and he decided there should be a special counsel. if donald trump doesn't like what his appointees are doing, the issue is with him.
not the democrats. now to what's inappropriate. this is an investigation. james comey's memo leaked to the "new york times" suggests the president improperly interceded into the investigation of michael flynn and other aides into russia. now here we are the day after this special counsel has been appointed. a special counsel who himself if you want to go down the political route was a george bush republican. but also, was reappointed by president obama for two more years so has a lot of credibility. that's the people we're talking about. if the president has a problem with this, the problem is with his own people in his own house. overdid rod rosenstein feel he needed to do this? we're just learning some. the private briefing was just now in the senate. we know with this highly unusual historic statement baltimore he felt the public interest standards and the conflicts of interests, the way donald trump has comported himself made it a requirement. i understand the president is upset and he has free speech
rights. but his anger seems to be at everyone except who set this in motion. and that person is donald trump. >> there's something interesting. ari is speaking to the why of president trump and the trump campaign. your cover story in "time" magazine, i want to show if we can put that animation up again. it speaks to e why on the russia side. after reading the cover story, one sentence stood out. marrying 100 years of expertise to the new world of social media, russia may have finally gained the ability of long sought but never fully achieved in the cold war. to alter the course of events in the united states by ma nep lating public opinion. why and how? >> the larger issue, the reason why thought matters is that russia was not just in this for the 2016 election. they had a set of agendas and goals around that election bubba
it is part of a larger manipulation war to weaken the u.s. on the world stage. as part of that, they've developed a real expertise in infiltrating and manipulating social media. they have used front organizations to buy fake facebook ads. they've set up fake facebook tokts target influencers including reporters. they've taken a host of different measures that investigators have under covered as they've gone into the 2016 election. but the larger message here we're all very focused on the day to day breaking news but it is important to keep in mind that much of this is the result of a russian effort to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the united states on the world stage. >> all right. stand by. we're waiting for presint trp to begin his joint press
conference with the president of colombia. we'll bring it to you lye when it begins. perhaps the president might tell us about his thinking about a new fbi director. before that, i want to talk to the congressman from florida. thank you for being with us. a lot of your colleagues are supporting the decision to appoint robert mueller in the russia investigation. do you? >> i would have preferred to leave with it the intel committee since as the newspapers have said today it remains primarily an intelligence issue. are it is on a bipartisan basis and i don't know that we need to go to the retired director of the fbi to tate outside. in fairness, we have two different intel committees. the national committee seem to be working a bipartisan basis. we've obviously had some real problems on the house side with nunez getting information and not sharing it. i think a lot of americans think
the house investigation is compromised. >> i thought they changed out the chairman so we'll have a new fresh face on the investigation from the republican side. >> right. but at that point, what does it hurt to bring a special counsel in who is not part of that operation? >> well, the problem with special counsels is they can become protracted. you go get people with them with alternate agendas like career making ones. and that is going to distract us from solving the problems the american people elected us to althre reform, tax reform, infrastructure projects to get ou count moving again. >> right. but sir, i heard this discussion. i heard mitch mcconnell make at this time other day. a lot of people are saying, hold on. let's get to the bottom of what's going on. i like you would love to see infrastructure and job crease and stuff going on. an economy with greater growth. but that's not a reason to fully investigate the russia tie to the trump campaign. is it?
>> no. that's not a reason per se. we have the intelligence committees can do the job and i don't see it sfwurng some kind of a media circus. we're talking about a lot of speculation here. we're talking about different investigation by d.o.d. about general flynn that could take its own course. i would rather see the intel people focus on the intel investigation. they have classified materials and they should evaluate what they mean to us. >> what do you think of the likelihood of joe lieberman being named the director of the fbi? >> well, obviously senator lieberman has had a distinguished career and has done many bipartisan things. i'm sure there are a lot of highly qualified candidates who could do that job and i'm sure he should be high on the list. >> congressman, you're a member of the house foreign affairs committee. president trump has his first foreign trim coming up. he'll to go saudi arabia and
israel. . places he is visiting, those are the most important in terms of american foreign policy. what advice do you have for the president? >> first i would like the throw the holy see in tre as one of the important venues. i think that he is going to saudi arabia, israel and the holy see reflects on the deep and legislation cultural aspects and deal with extremism. >> is this, the president is expected to make speech on islam in saudi arabia. are you confident that's a good idea? or will that be walking into territory maybe this president isn't in the best position to get involved in? >> no. i think we have to confront the problems of interpretations of islam which are not consistent with modern values and culter head on. nibble facing problems. ebl the senior imam in saudi arabia as well as the jordan minister of religion have said the same thing. we need on bring cultural
diplomacy as well as heart power to deal with the ideologies being leveraged by extremists. the holy see has a strong role to play in that. >> thank you for joining me. >> thank you for having me on. >> a great guy to comment this, what the congressman said, about the need to fix some things in the islamic world. how do you think the president needs to approach this? >> first i fear the president will go to the middle east and make a speech based, a speech that caters to his own base here in the united states. there are a lot of issues going on in the middle east. and a lot of the people who are fighting groups like isis and groupsike al qaeda are muslims. isis and al qaeda have been killing
more muslims. >> let's hold on for a second. there's the president with the colombian president.
>> it is a great honor to have president santos of colombia here. we will have long discussions today. colombia has been making great progress but we are working on knocking out the drugs because we have a problem with drugs and you have a very big problem with drugs. we're working very hard and very diligently. we'll be spending a lot of time together today. i know in the future, a lot of time. mr. president, it is an honor to have you with us. thank you very much. we will -- we will be talking about venezuela. we're very close to an fbi director. soon.
what's nappihappening in venezus
very sad. >> lindsey graham at the capitol now. >> the deputy attorney general decided to appoint a special counsel and one of the results of that is the ability of congress to call people who may be witnesses in an investigation conducted by mr. mueller will severely restrict what we can do. i never got to ask my question specifically about that. but the takeaway i have is that everything he said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation. so i think the biggest legal change seems to be mr. mueller will move forward with the idea of a criminal investigation versus a counter intelligence investigation. there were no facts laid out as to why he would challenge that. but appointing a special counsel has created, i think, a dynamic for congress that will have to be very lee of crossing into
that lane. i think we'll tell us what we can do and what we can't. >> so while you're inside, you may not have heard that joe lien lienor lieberman's nail has been mentioned a as top defender. >> they don't have to deal with this. i think joe lieberman is a pillar of credibility. i think he would be a good choice. now you have a special counsel. the new fbi director doesn't have to worry about riding herd over the investigation of the man who appointed him. >> this hurts our country terribly. >> he is entitled to his opinion. i would suggest to the president that one has been appointed. honor that decision. cooperate where it is appropriate. fight back when you have the legal ability to do so.
i've been through this once before with the clinton investigation. clinton hired an attorney to deal with all things related to ken starr. if write the president, i would focus on defending the nation. one of the side benefits is that congress has been pretty much side lined. not completely but much. we can go back to dealing with matters for the american people. the presidentay not have liked the decision. it w made. i have questions about it. i honor it. you couldn't pick a better man to do the job and i think most people in that meeting are generally okay with the idea of a special counsel. what they don't quite understand yet is i think this decision limits congress. i find it hard -- in their possession if i truly believe they may be subject to a criminal investigation. that's not fair to them.
>> did you get a satisfactory explanation from rosenstein about why comey was fired? >> i think mr. rosenstein viewed the whole process as something will mueller will speak on, not him. >> what did you think about the explanation? >> mr. rosenstein talked about why he voted, wrote the memo. the fact he believed what the fbi director did in july was inappropriate. >> was he tasked to write that memo? >> he did not -- i'll let you ask him that question. now that we have a special counsel about all things related to the process of the memo, i think you'll need to talk on mr. mueller about it. i have to go. >> all right. senator lindsey graham talking to reporters. an interesting had distinction he's making between what the investigation by congress would look at versus the investigation from robert mueller as special counsel. our chief legal correspondent is
with us. what do you make of that? >> senator graham just made some news there. this is what we would call hearsay because he is describing what mr. rosenstein briefed in a closed session. an unusual closed briefing from the senate. we have heard from trump's defenders and the president that this is a counter intel inquiry. what lindsey graham just said, that it is more like a criminal inquiry. and a report he said does that mean it is one? and he said mr. rosenstein didn't go that far. so that's not great news for trump. it is not any kind of confirmation of who the targets are and how domestic it is. but that is news. >> you say that it doesn't, the outcome, if writ counter intelligence and someone broke certain laws, it would make it criminal. >> if you have american citizens working for a foreign intelligence service and you can prove that, this is a criminal act. so you're going to be prosecuting them in u.s. court. so many times, the
investigations of foreign counter intelligence investigations, nothing happens. they go in a file. but every time when you have a spy inside the united states or you find individuals who have improper connections with a foreign entity, outside the realm of law, then you prosecute them. so now what will happen with mueller's investigation, they will look into facts and into evidence. if there is any ill proper actions by people like flynn, a lot of the people that we hear about them from the press and the media, or even obstruction of justice, there is a possibility they will investigate them properly. >> a quick look at the east room of the white house. in less than half an hour, we'll flare president trump. we'll give you a whole picture of the white house. president trump is there with colombian president juan manuel
santos. brian williams will pick up our coverage after this break. or plan for tomorrow? at kpmg, we believe success requires both. with our broad range of services and industry expertise, kpmg can help you anticipate tomorrow and deliver today. kpmg. i count on my dell small for tech advice. with one phone call, i get products that suit my needs and i get back to business. ♪ ♪
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sure robert mueller had complete discretion to take the investigation where he thought it needed to go. >> all right. again, rod rosenstein who is the deputy attorney general, especially given the recusal of the attorney general because of the russian matter, has been on the hill briefing members of the senate in a secure room just below the new senate visitors area that was constructed at great cost. we're going to read a quote on the record from president trump today, inside the white house because i want to get the reaction of nicole wallace. we're coming up as scheduled about, 17 minutes before we see this bilateral appearance of the president of colombia and the president of the
this is from our own savannah guthrie. question, you made a point about the special counsellor and you believe it hurts the country. here's the president's answer. i believe it hits our country terribly because it shows we're a divided, mixed up not unified country. and we have very important things to be doing. trade deals, military, stopping nuclear, all of the things we discussed today. and i think this shows a very divided country. it also happens to be a pure excuse for the democrats having lost an election that they should easily have won because of the electoral college being slanted so much in their way. that's all this is. i think it shows division and it shows we're not together as a country and i think it is a very, very negative thing. hopefully this can go quickly. we have to show unity if we're going to do great
things with respect to the rest of the world. now, nicole wallace, on our
broadcast a few scant hours ago, last night at 11:00 p.m. eastern time, i posited to you, if you're the communications director in this white house, you go into the boss and say the good news is you get a pass on having to discuss any of this. defer and deflect to the special counsel. what he is doing here, this wording is kind of a chip away at some of the pillars of our democratic system. >> and it shows we're divided. he is divided with himself. it was his deputy attorney general in several interviews, in an interview with lester holt and with judge jean on saturday night, he called him a great and brilliant man. i don't know with whom he thinks we're divided. his deputy attorney general appointed bob mueller to be the special counsel to take this out of white house. to take this out of the main doj. so his words make less and less sense by the day.
as you said, in a place that is running normally, people would absorb a setback, perhaps, having a special counsel announced and brought in. could fairly be viewed as a setback. they would do what you would say. they would say the good news is the sort of, the analysis once tempers have cooled is that we can deflect all questions about russia to the special counsel and we can assure the public and we can assure republicans and democrats that a man of impeccable integrity is on the case. and we can move on to our agenda. he is incapable of hearing that information. he is incapable of accepting that information and he is incapable of communicating that information. >> you are a number of things. you are a republican, an initutionalist and a patriot. and to hear a president say, send out the message that this is bad for our democracy. >> not just to say it is bad for our democracy. but the day after day, the
ignorance that he displays about how government works suggests to me not that there aren't people around him who know how it works burks it suggests he won't hear them. what is astounding to mow is that 119 days in office hasn't brought him in. what happens when you walk into the oval office the first time, it happens to everyone. they usually write about it in the books. they write about how the gravity of the office hits they will. and it hits them when they stand in the room or when they hear their first fbi briefing. when they meet the first family of a fallen soldier. all those things have happened and none of them have changed this imagine. nonof them have made him rise to the moment of being big enough for the office of the american presidency. that's what alarms me at this moment. >> mike viqueira is our man on capitol hill today. coming out of this rod rosenstein briefing. what have you been able to learn talking to members of the senate? >> well, going into this meeting, remember, it was set up
in the wake of the controversy. only ten days ago, the sudden firing of james comey when chuck schumer, the democratic leader, demanded this briefing, a closed door briefing for all senators. we were told it would be classified but senators have been trickling out now. we understand that rod rosenstein is still inside going on better than an hour now. we have heard from two senators who came before cameras on the record. first lindsey graham. his impression of the entire briefing. this was his takeaway. it is now gone from a counter terrorism investigation to a criminal investigation. among the upshots as far as lindsey graham is concern who had has a sub committee on judiciary who is concerned with counter terrorism issues is that this now puts congress on a back burner. no fewer than four committees are investigating now, asking for james comey testimony. asking for documents surrounding general mike flynn and james comey and all the things we've seen cascading.
on joe lieberman who savannah guthrie is reporting has emerged as perhaps the top candidate for fbi director, one of the three amigos, this remember, graham had expressed on "meet the press" that he might have some reservations about a politician, someone who has run for office. those concerns have been all allayed. and he was asked to respond also to president trump's recent comments a few minutes ago, expressing his misgivings, shall we put it about, the appointment of a special counsel. temd president is entitled to his own opinion. and we caught the tail end of that. i asked about lieberman. what her views were about a possible replacement. she is against it. she doesn't think anyone with a political back ground should have that position. we're loing at marco rubio now.
>> all the matters are now in the hands of director mueller. so i have full confidence in him. he is widely almosted for his professionalism. he will conduct a full investigation. and. >> senator, does it put things to a back -- >> do you believe this has crossed a threshold -- typically does not flult criminal charges to a criminal matter and that will impede -- >> i can't comment. >> to call witnesses and obtain evidence? >> so i can't comment on the justice department's efforts. it is now in the hands of a special counsel who i have full faith and confidence in. the counter intelligence matter moves forward and it is my hope that they will not be in conflict with one another and i do not believe they need to be. >> is it your understanding that rosenstein knew comey would be fired before he wrote his memo? >> i'm not sure he address that had with a level of clarity --
>> joe lienorman's name has now emerged as a top candidate for fbi director. is that acceptable to you? i have great admiration for joe lieberman and i think he can do a fine job. ultimately that's the president's decision to make. >> had -- it hurts our country terribly. is that your assess. >> we're a country of law. there is now a special counsel and everyone should fully cooperate with the special counsel so they can conduct their work and put forth an investigation that is thorough and fair and arrives at the truth wherever it might lead. >> the president called this a witch hunt. >> we're a nation of laws. >> does that language hurt the process? >> the president is entitled to his opinion. we're a nation of laws. that's not a criticism of the president. that's a reality that our institutions work. the acting attorney general has the authority to appoint a special counsel and has done so. and the acting attorney general with the fact the attorney
general is recused on russia matters, and in that capacity he has appointed a special counsel, a person of high esteem. of whom i have high respect for. i believe he will conduct an independent, fair investigation. meanwhile the senate will continue its work on the counter terrorism aspects of this matter and everyone should fully cooperate with both. >> based on what you heard today, are you more or less comfortable than with what has transpired in the last week? >> i don't know if it is a level of comfort. i think it is that we are a nation of laws and we have institutions irrespective of our politics or people's political views. those laws and rules will be followed. there is a special counsel who little bit conduct a fair and thorough investigation and will establish facts and lead us to the truth, where ever that may be. and i have full confidence that the senate will continue its investigation on the counter intelligence aspects of russian
interference. >> do you think the president should get a lawyer? do you think the president should obtain a lawyer? >> that's outside the purview of what we're here to talk about. he was very limited in what he talked about. he didn't want us to come out here and tell you. look, i understand the desire of those in the justice department to ensure no american is treated unfairly through disclosures in the white house. i do understand that congress has an important role to play. in oversight and in our constitutional authority. that should not be impeded. i have to go. >> mike viqueira, that's what we called double coverage. we had kristen welker and mike viqueira at the outer edge. and i think mike was still talking there. i apologize. we could not hear him.
senator joe manchin was able to escape that gaggle. but nicole, that answer from marco rubio is what we're talking about. >> marco rubio has a fully functioning communications staff. he also is able to sort of understand the political, the national security, and the legal aspects of where the story is heading in a way the president isn't. two remarkable things that i flar heard from marco rubio. he said, he was asked if rosenstein, based on the memo, that comey would be fired. he said wasn't clear. i've heard it had boss i think that it may have been on the white house lawn and surrogates reading from the memo as political cover for hing done the very act of firing james comey. the other extraordinary thing i haerld marco rubio say is we are
a nation of laws. not of men. when asked about donald trump's early morning post tv show rage that seems to boil around 7:40 to 7:50 when he tweeted morning it was a witch hunt. and i think marco rubio showed some of his political acumen saying we are a nation of laws, not a nation of men. >> michael smith from "the new york times" is with us. for any moment during the last few days, know that among his stories, the comey memo story made a bit of news this week. it seems like about a year ago, all due almost. where can you bring us up to speed, well, you pick the topic but especially fbi. >> i guess the most interesting thing was the statements from mccaskill where she said that rosenstein knew that comey would be removed. it raises questions about how this was reverse engineered. if rosenstein, if the white house used the memo as the
rationale for it, why, rosenstein, why did he stay around? does he feel like he's been used in this process? it raises all the new questions. if you read between lines on what some of the senators were saying, it seemed like mueller may be looking at the firing as part of this. and the other thing we were talking about, with mueller coming on, it looks like it will limit what congress can do. mueller may try tohut all that down because it could jeopardize his investigation. that means we may not see comey testify. >> a lot of people have said, if the latter chance happens, that that isn't a tragedy. it cuts down on noise, confusion, partisanship. and i'm going to interrupt my own question because dick durbin is at the microphones. >> gained a lot of support from his decision last night to appoint bob mueller as the special counsel when it comes to this investigation of the
russian interference in our election. and any involvement by the trump campaign. mueller is widely respected, he is smart, principled, most of us who have known him and worked with him for years believe he will put country first. that's critical for credibility. mr. rosenstein today answered a lot of questions but declined to answer a lot as well. and many of those came down to his concern about whether he might interfere with the investigation by mueller. so we left with a lot of information but not all the information. >> based on what you heard today, sir, do you believe the deputy attorney general knew before we wrote that memo, that james comey was going to be fired? >> yes. >> what was it you said that led you to believe that? >> is the day before. >> do you think he was pressured into writing that memo? >> no. >> was it senator graham who said based on the briefing that he believes this has crossed
from counter intelligence investign, to a iminal investigation? is that also your assessment? >> well, that's the responsibility. the ultimate responsibility is whether any crimes have been committed. do i trust him. i want to make it extremely clear to everyone here. i thought deputy attorney general rod rosenstein face ad very stark decision. co-either appoint someone of the stature of director mueller or resign to protect his own credibility as a professional prosecutor. he made the right decision and mueller has the responsibility to decide if laws were broken. >> did he explain to you why he decided to appoint a special counsel? >> yes, he can. he said to it make sure that the integrity of the department of justice was protected. to make sure the american people felt this would be handled fairly and justly. >> how he knew the president
planned to fire comey before the memo in. >> he said that on may 8, he learned the president would terminate comey. did the president's investigation now take a back seat? >> there are different investigations. there are counter intelligence investigations which go beyond law or the commission of a crime. and those are critical investigations and i trust the senate intelligence xlcommittee. i think there's more to be done. i think there should be a bynum commission asks the fundamental question, what will we do the next time putin comes after an election? >> what were the bigst unanswered questions? >> well, a lot of details, the role of attorney general sessions. in each instance he made it clear that he felt this had the danger of going too far and getting into information that bob mueller might need. >> the president has referred to the special counsel as a witch hunt. what do you think? >> i think that's an outrageous statement.
anyone who knows director mueller, his service to our country, in the military, a a federal judge, as director of the fbi torsion characterize any undertaking by him as wix hunt is totally unfair. >> did he shed any light on the comey memo? >> effectively -- >> no. no conversation about that. >> was he asked about that? >> not directly. i'm done. >> okay. i feel a little better that dick durbin had trouble recalling the comey memo which was the lead story to end all lead stories 48 hours ago. you were talking about how the mueller investigation may lessen the impact of the senate and house investigations, and may lessen the chance that we are going to see james comey at 6'8" tall raise his right hand and be sworn in in a public hearing.
>> if mueller will be looking at the firing and looking at how that was done and comey'sent actions with the president and whether there was any obction there, muell may say, look, comey is a witness in this and i need for comey tonight speak publicly and as we move forward with this investigation, and then afterwards, then comey could testify. the thing is that mueller's investigation will likely take a long time. it seems like there is a lot to look at. and mueller will want to be able to say conclusively that he looked into every lead and turned every stone over. so this could be, maybe we don't hear from comey for a few years. >> and mueller notoriously hates leaks so it is likely going to be a tight operation. he will get to get his own staff, he will get autonomous office space wherever they wish and that effort it appears to be launched. michael smith, since you're always on deadline for
something. thank you for your patience today and for joining our abbreviated broadcast. a heads up to our viewers. we are showing in the far right-hand corner will the east room of the white house. and you see the general news media milling about. they've just been brought into the room. allowed to find their seats. we'll have the president of colombia and the president of the united states. tradition calls for opening statements. perhaps we'll have a moment to talk about this president of colombia and the state colombia is in as these two nations meet. and what the stakes are for a meeting like this prior to the president's departure for overseas. kelly o'donnell standing by at the ite hoe. obviously we're running behind for a 3:45 ent. >> reporter: we are. and what i uerstandm our colleagues who are in the room, some of the front row seats have been assigned for the vice president, the secretary of
state, the senior adviser to the president, jared kushner, kell yaenl conway. and prior to the president's first foreign trip, he participated in a luncheon with journalists from a number of organizations are. not only our network but also some that might have a more direct involvement in some of the destinations on the four-country trim. so that's where the quote has come out from the president, a lengthy quote at the request of the white house, that the full sentiment. president about his concern that's having a special counsel is in his words, dividing the country. that's certainly referencing the frustration the president has displayed on his twitter feed and from sources who have been able to observe the president's mood and attitude. he feels many more about that matter in the frustrated, agitated zone, than in the
original paper state from the white house that had a much more subdued typical kind of response welcoming, acknowledging the appointment of the special counsel and hoping for a thorough but speedy investigation. the president clearly upset about this based on those who have been able to observe him, to speak with him, and also, believin there are larger implications that this i not good for the country in terms of his agenda, not good for the constituents who he believes support him. and in sort of an offhanded way, the president made reference to his status in his search for the fbi director. not something that was brought up by him directly. i say that because sometimes something on the president's mind that he chooses to bring up might be more urgent than being asked about it. it makes me think the matter on the fbi director might not be as
hot button and ill penalty in as we were told 20 minutes ago. we've been told there are a number of candidates who have come through. both interviewed at the department of justice level we are told by a number of senior advisers, who are familiar with the conversations the president is having, the joe lieberman, former senator of connecticut, is someone given strong consideration, described by some as a front-runner, described by others as more than a 50/50 chance to be appointed. but i think it's notable that that was not the thing the president was choosiing to talk about on his own, but responded almost in an offhanded way when pressed on the timing of the new fbi director. brian? >> kelly o'donnell, thanks. good, sharp-eyed viewers will notice we're triple covered at the white house this hour with kelly, peter alexander in the east room, and watching hallie jackson read something off her device. still a lot of hubbub in the east room. a long way before we are ready to get under way. colle wallace, again, because of your association with joe
lieberman, i wted to get you on the record with the possibility that he might become the nominee for fbi. >> yeah, listen, there are a lot of people that would be comforted by a decision like that. certainly, the republicans in the congress that worry this white house the most, john mccain, lindsey graham, who have been the loudest critics of all of these sort of ties in the dark clouds and the swirl between mike flynn and the trump orbit and russia, would be very comforted by having their longtime friend, joe lieberman, running an agency. he is a man with sort of the same kind of code of ethics and code of honor that we speak about when we talk about bob mueller. from joe lieberman's stand popo, he capped a lifetime of service. he was al gore's runs mate. he then became an independent and he said his party had left him, he hadn't left the party. i don't know if the white house thinks this is thing that democrats will swoon over. it might be more of a mixed picture from democrats, but he is certainly someone with mountains and mountains of
integrity, a great depth of good will. i understand that the president, himself, has some affinity for joe lieberman, the man, and that he has eyed him at other points since winning election for a place in his foreign policy apparatus, if you will. i think the calculation from joe lieberman's part is he probably has a pretty nice life. he and his wife spend a lot of time with their family. he's very involved in causes near and dear to him. he's involved in foreign policy efforts that he cares about. so i think from him, the decision might end up being a personal one, if it is offered to him, and i don't kno that it has been. >> my personal favorite fo notable things about his resume begins with the fact that he was a freedom rider at a time when that really took guts and courage and conviction. people forget that that was kind of the birth of his political life. >> yeah, i said, you know, that bob mueller is a national treasure and i feel that he is. he's someone i know and i worked with but i feel the very same way about joe lieberman. he is a national treasure and the country probably needs him more than he needs to go back in
the government. sometimes those are the exact right kinds of to appoint at hours like this. >> we have other guests at the table here. and we've been remiss in all of our swinging around to different venues and correspondents in not bringing them in. ian bremer, founder of the eurasia group. spent most of his adult life talking about things risk related and things overseas. malcolm nance, you know as well. veteran of the military and homeland security and intelligence business. malcolm, this is all russia related, and you wrote the book this year on this. how much of this, for you, is almost deja vu given how much of it you predicted? >> oh, 100%, but, you know, there are -- i'm hearing this every day that we're getting bogged down in a myriad of different stories and breaking news. there's only one story here. one. and that is the russian intrusion -- i don't even like
to use the word "intrusion." attack on the united states in order to corrupt the electoral process that stood firm for over 200 years. >> but hear that anger in your voice, where is that in other people? >> well, you know, it's a question of patriotism for me. you know, i spent my entire life defending this nation, and republican/democrat, doesn't matter. you know, what happened here is fundamentally that a foreign nation decided to intrude in our process and the story should end right about there, but every component of what we're getting, all of this breaking news, you're going to see counsel mueller is going to bring that story together into an overwhelming ark from the beginning to the end and anyone that's caught up in it that is an american citizen who may have had contact, communication, complicity, whatever "c" word you want to use, with russian intelligence, or the nation of russ russ russia in order to effect this and covered it up, that is where this entire process is going to
go. it will take a little while. it's not going to happen quickly. i know people want it to happen tomorrow. there's not going to be an impeachment in the next year. took 900 days for richard nixon from the time watergate was broken into until that point, but we don't even know what the nature of his findings are going to be, even though today you have senator lindsey graham saying it's moved from counterintelligence to criminal. and that's not a good place because counterintelligence means spy hunting. it's counterespionage, and at some point, then that means people believe that it has now gone from where u.s. statutes are broken and those people involved in whatever it will be, you know, be in the end, whether it was espionage, whether it was complicity, whether they thought they were joking around, that is going to now move to the criminal code. >> ian bremer, how do you see it? >> well, i mean, i do believe that rush sia is the big questi in the sense that it doesn't quite add up fornyone why trump consistently, even now, is
trying to be as close to the russians as he is. he understands that there's an immense vulnerability to his administration because there were many people around him. leave aside the question of collusion between the president of the yooirkunited states, his family, all this. there's no proof of that. but given the fact this has been such an incredible drain on his administration, he's not going to be able to develop a strategic partnership with putin, it's just not feasible given where congress, the media, the fbi is. then why is he still having a meeting with the foreign minister and the ambassador of russia in the oval office when all of this is swirling around? why is he still saying, why is he giving them intelligence and saying we can work more closely with these guys? >> is it true -- is it incompetence? or is there something else? is there something deeper? i think the reason why so many people are digging so hard into the story is because incompetence doesn't seem to add up to what what we're seeing from trump on this issue.
it does in many other cases. the tweets, his e hoaxmotional nature, inability to let go, fragility of his ego. for those of who us are really struggling russia, this was a problem well before we had hacks into the dnc and the election. this was a problem when suddenly during the republican national convention, the one change they decide to make to the platform is about arming the ukrainians. >> sure. >> and i'm like, what -- i know ruthat tmp wasn't aware of that, why were they doing that? >> why was that inserted? >> exactly. you looked into people like paul manafort, people like carter page and others who had been advising mike flynn on foreign policy who trump is still sticking by, even sending a message over to flynn the other day after the white house telling them, don't talk to flynn, saying stay strong. what is it? is is it just blinded loyalty and these guys are with me, i got to stick with them? that might explain it. most smart people i know think that there's a big piece of this story that hasn't yet come out. and that's why this investigation led by someone
that everyone left, right, indifferent, believes is going to do a good job -- >> everyone. >> -- is so critically important. we know we're going to learn something. >> right. >> that's the shoe we're waiting for. this story doesn't go away until we know that. >> ian bremer, thank you. it does appear they've hired the one man for that job. certainly looking at the coverage last night and today, it is as near universal as you're going to get in washington, d.c. one of our in-house counsel, ari melber, has been listening to us cover this story and has picked up on something that has been misreported in the past hour. ari, what's gone wrong here? >> well, brian, i want to mention it's always difficult when we have secondhand accounts and we're working hard to make sense of what different senators are saying. i just want to read explicitly what senator graham said. it is not quite as bad for trump associates as it might be interpreted. so let's start with the text. senator graham said, that his understanding of what deputy attorney general rod rosenstein believes at this juncture from
their meeting was, "the russ inquiry should be treated, quote, as if may be a criminal investigation. again, quote, as it if it may be a criminal investigation. that's a big piece of news for the reasons several people alluded to, that a criminal investigation is more serious and more focused domestically than what you see in a counterintel investigation. let's be clear, he did not, by that quote outside of the meeting, say that it, quote, was a criminal investigation or rosenstein was confirming that to members of the senate. so, that leaves, i think, from a reporting perspective, two possibilities, brian. one, that it is, indeed, a criminal investigation and that mr. rosenstein is alluding to that, or that it's not, but he wants extra room. >> all right. ari melber, thanks. we have just been handed a comical account of an encounter between a producer for the pbs "newshour quht "newshour" and senator john
mccain. mccain was asked about democrats saying joe lieberman may not have enough law enforcement experience to head the fbi. with a reminder of how many years john mccain spent happily in the u.s. navy. here is the quote from john mccain. "joe lieberman has more experience than all of my democratic colleagues combined. so screw them. and you can quote me." so senator mccain is on the board at this hour as we pass into the 4:00 p.m. hour eastern time. andrea mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent, "a," save us, "b," has been standing by listening to this. andrea, let's talk about the general flynn aspect and if you have time as we watch the front of this room load up, just set the stakes, give us the briefest biological sketch of the colombian president that the president of the united states is hosting today. >> reporter: sure thing. first of all, on that score, the colombian president is meeting with president trump in the aftermath of a secret meeting with