tv MSNBC Live MSNBC June 7, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm PDT
president of the united states asking the fbi director to get out this message that he, in fact, was not under investigation. again, we're just reading this, so i don't want to put you on the spot here in terms of analysis. >> well, and of course, it's no surprise that it's been reported before that the president had asked him or asked the fbi to say that he wasn't on the hook. but what he says is, he said, i hoped i could find a way to get out, in other words, make it public, i guess, that he wasn't being investigated. i told him i would see what we could do, comey says, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could. he says, immediately after that conversation, comey called the man who was acting as deputy attorney general at the time, because already attorney general sessions had recused himself, to report the substance of the call from the president and said i would await the justice department's guidance. i didn't hear back from him before the president called me again two weeks later.
now we're up to april 11th. the president called me, comey says, and asked what i had done about his request that i get out, that he was n -- get out t personally under investigation. i passed that on to the justice department but i had not heard back. he said the cloud was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. he said maybe he would have his people reach out to the justice department officials. i said that was the way his request should be handled. i said the white house counsel should contact the leadership of the justice department to make the request, which was the traditional channel. the president added he would do that and said, because i have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know. i did not reply or ask him what he meant by "that thing," i said only that the way to handle this was to have the white house counsel call the justice department. he said that's what he would do and the call ended. he said that april 11th conversation was the last time he talked to the president.
>> there is another odd exchange, pete, and if you could, just go back to where you were before i interrupted you to take you to the end and pick up there. >> march 30? >> yeah. there is this section also getting a lot of attention now duringhe testimony tomorrow. apparently the fbi director is gog to say, quote, he said he had nothing to do with russia. had not been involved with hookers in russia and had always assumed he was being recorded when he was in russia. he asked what he could do to lift the cloud. go ahead, pete. >> i think this is a reference to what they talked about in their very first meeting, the derogatory information that was in this british intelligence document that had been partially leaked out. there was some very scurilous things against the president that when he was in moscow there were some things he didn't want made public.
the president always denied having any such activity, and here he is talking about that as a cloud and he asked what the fbi can do to lift the cloud. comey says i responded that we were investigating that as quickly as we could and that there would be great benefit if we didn't find anything to having our work done well. he agreed but then reemphasized the problem this was causing him. the president asked why there had been a congressional hearing about russia the week before at which i, comey says, confirmed the investigation. this is the famous -- the hearing in which mr. comey, for the first time publicly confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between russian influence on the campaign and the trump campaign. he said, i explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in congress for more information and that senator grassley, the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, was even holding up the confirmation for deputy attorney general until we debriefed him in detail on it.
he said, i reminded him i had previously told him that we were not personally investigating president trump. and he repeatedly told me we need to get that fact out. >> where are you, pete? >> this is t end of pe 6. and mr. comey says, i didot tell the president that the fbi and the deparent of justice had been reluctant to make public statements, that we would not have an open case on president trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct should that change. nothing in this statement exactly corresponds to what the president said in the lester interview, but it's pretty close to what the president said, that he three times, in essence, that comey told him three times that he wasn't under investigation, and at least that part appears to be true. >> pete, keep sifting through, if you can. our chief legal correspondent
ari melber also standing by. what do you see here? pete, continue. >> that's pretty much it, craig. i was simply going to say that that part of it is -- squares more or less with the accounts that the president gave in his interview with lester. and you may recall that in his letter firing james comey, he says, i appreciate you told me three times that i wasn't under investigation -- whether he says three times or not -- but at least mr. comey is saying here that he did tell the president on a couple of occasions that he was not under investigation. >> pete, apparently you have three paragraphs left. they would very much like you to finish reading those paragphs r our viewers and listeners at home. >> that's not truement. i got through the whole thing. >> never mind, then. pete got through the whole thing. ari melber standing by. what's jumping out at you? >> just to add to pete's reporting here, this is a big
picture, an extraordinary piece of testimony. seven pages of explicit detail about the innermost contacts between the president and then fbi director comey. we would never normally see anything like this. this is, in some sense, a document for history regardless of what one makes of it. i see six big takeaways having looked at this just momentarily in our newsroom. number one, the fbi director explains that he did initiate an explicit practice of documenting his conversations with president trump. that's something he didn't do with prior presidents. indeed, after the trump tower meeting, he said he explicitly started typing the notes on a laptop in the fbi vehicle so as to ensure they were as accurate as possible, reflecting some of his concerns. number two, director comey describes this now famous dinner as something that was a pretense to get his loyalty. that's obviously a fairly negative or judgmental word. number three, he describes donald trump, president trump repeatedly asking about that
dossier and the investigation, potentially investigating it, which director comey says was probably a bad idea. number four, one piece of good news here for donald trump in this testimony, one piece. the february 14 meeting regarding russia and the investigation and to let it go. director comey saying in his written testimony he understood that to be only about flynn, not the wider russia campaign investigation. now, that kind of request, as we reported, would be problematic no matter what it was about, but there are critics of president trump who have interpreted or read director comey as having said somehow the president was calling for dropping the entire russia inquiry. i want to be clear, that is not the written testimony here, brand new that we have. number five, very problematic. the "new york times" had initially reported this, but now we have it in former director comey's written words. he said he implored the attorney general to prevent one-on-one meetings between the president
and director comey, quote, implore implored. that at least reflects the repeated requests he was getting from the president to announce there was no personal investigation. you can investigate associations but not necessarily the head of the organization as a target. there is some good news, i think, for the white house and there is some bad news, because director comey throughout discussing what was so problematic of what he appeared to be ongoing pressure from the president. >> pete williams also standing by. katy tur here to pick up our coverage, the prepared testimony from jim comey servicing a few hours ahead of that scheduled testimony. >> we just got it a few minutes ago. thank you very much, craig. fwe again, this is the testimony, the opening statement that james
comey will be giving tomorrow in front of the senate. it's basically a timeline of his interactions with the president rkts stapresident, starting with his first meeting with him on january 6, going until april 11, the last phone call he had with the president. just a little more than a month before he was fired. as craig mentioned, we do have pete williams standing by in our washington newsroom, our chief justice correspondent. pete, we're parsing through this. we're trying to gure out what the highlights are. ari melber just went through it. i ow you've been talking to craig about it, but do a favor for me and our viewers who may just be joining in. what are the highlights? >> a couple things about this, katy. first of all, he says he had a total of nine one-on-one conversations with president trump in four months. three of them were in person, six of them were on the phone. and it's important to note that nowhere in this, and i think, if i can just sort of guess from my experience of watching james
comey testify before congress over the last several years, he doesn't try to put it all in the opening statement. because undoubtedly he'll have other things to say in response to questions, so he doesn't, in this statement, try to anticipate every question that he might be asked and put it all out there. so this is the sort of bare recollection of those nine one-on-one conversations with the president. nowhere in here does he say, azha as ari said, that the president asked him to stop the russia investigation. nowhere does he say that he thought the things the president was asking him to do amounted to obstruction of justice. we have been told by friends of mr. comey that he never did think that, that he thought -- and this is not in his statent here, but that he thought he could, in essencort teach the white house folks, including the president, about how you interact with the fbi, sort of
school them in how things really are supposed to work and how traditionally have worked, and that he thought he could, in essence, contain this. and he didn't want the people who were doing the russia investigation to know about these things because he didn't want it to influence them. so those are things he doesn't say in this statement. but in essence, he talks about the dinner that he first prescribed with lester and says that he got the sense that the president was asking him to, in essence, make the case for staying on in his job, which mr. comey says he thought was odd because he thought the president already knew he intended to stay, and indeed, his term is nominally ten years. then he said publicly what we have been told by friends of mr. comey before, that the president said he wanted mr. comey's loyalty, that comey said, well, what i can promise you is my honesty, and that the president said, well, that's what i want, is your honest loyalty.
then there is the conversation where he says he didn't -- the president says he didn't think that mike flynn had done anything wrong, and could mr. comey drop the flynn matter? and mr. comey says that they would pursue it, that he didn't really commit to doing anything, that he understood what the president was asking him. then there's a phone call when the president asks, can't the fbi, in essence, knock down these stories about what was in a derogatory intelligence summary that was given to the fbi by a british intelligence operative, some highly derogatory information claiming that mr. trump had done something with prostitutes in moscow. trump said this absolutely wasn't true. and trump says that he always assumed he was being recorded in russia and that -- the other
thing here is that it does appear to be correct that mr. comey. we assured the president more than once that he was not under investigation. that was as of their last meeting on april 11, their last phone conversation on april 11, ka katy. >> and just for our viewers, this is the president right now in cincinnati boarding air force i. pete, i want to go back to how we have so much detail in this statement. that is because the fbi director made a concerted effort to go back and note entire conversations right after they happened. why was he doing that, pete? could it be argued by the white house that he was doing that in order to set up the president, or is this just something that you do when you're the director of the fbi, and why these conversations in particular? >> well, we have mr. comey's own words on this, and i'll read
them to you. he says, i felt compelled to document my very first conversation with the president-elect in a memo. this was the meeting before he became president on january 9th. to ensure accuracy, i started typing it on a laptop in an fbi car outside trump tower the moment i walked out of the meeting. creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with mr. trump was my practice from that point forward. it had not been my practice in the past. i spoke to president obama twice in person and never on the phone about policy issues. he said goodbye to him late in 2016 and in neither of those circumstances did i make a memo of the conversations, but he decided to do so in his conversations with president trump. >> why did he feel that briefing the president early on on the dossier would be so potentially problematic? >> he just thought that he knew
it was about to. he knew he would be asking about it so the fbi feared it would go public, and he just thought the president should know about these things so he didn't feel about it. >> we do have matt here. matt, you know james comey. should any of this come as a surprise? are you taken aback by the detail here? are you taken aback by the number of meetings that comey had with the president? we've counted nine conversations, three in person and six on the phone. >> it's the number of meetings meetings. one was this conversation that had been previously reported where the president asked mr. comey to back off on the russia
investigation. that is the most inappropriate thing to ask the aorney general to do. it is asking the people who a supposed to be independent, who are suppos to conduct criminal investigations free from interference to end a criminal investigation. the thing is this idea of a quid proquo. if you think about the last conversation the president had with director comey -- >> on april 11? >> yes. he asked if he could lift the cloud that's hanging over him and making it difficult to do his job. director comey said he would take it up with the directing attorney general. that didn't satisfy president trump. he came back to him and said, oou been loyal to me. we have that think between us, you know. mr. comey never came out and said the president is under investigation, and the end result of that, we now know, is that he was fired. >> just so our viewers know, we
had this thing, you know. comey goes on to say, i did not reply or ask him what he meant by that thing. i said only that the way to happened he will it was have the white house counsel be the acting deputy attorney general. he said that's what he would do and the call ended. that was the last time i spoke to president trump. that is on april 11. plate w-- pete, what else? >> he said he anticipated the president might ask him whether the president was under investigation. let me just quote briefly from that sections. this is mr. comey talking now. i discussed with the fbi's leadership team whether i should be prepared to assure president-elect trump that we were not investigating him personally. that was true, mr. comey says. we did not have an open
counter-intelligence investigation on him. we agreed i should do so if circumstances warranted. during our one-on-one meeting of trump tower based on president-elect being trump's reaction to the briefing, and without him directly asking the question, i offered that assuran assurance. so the first time, in other words, that mr. comey says you're not under investigation is something that mr. comey, in essence, volunteered. >> and matt, is it normal for the fbi director to share the contents of a conversation with the president with the attorney general? comey said he didn't share the contents of his conversations with the president with the attorney general, but he did say, i don't want to be alone with him. make sure -- he implores him to make sure he was not alone with the president again. >> yeah, and he said in his testimony he did not show the contents with jeff sessions. >> why not? >> because he thought jeff sessions would be recusing
himself from the. . jeff sessions' reaction is pretty telling. i know the attorney general up there. he said, the president is asking to be alone with me. he's asking questions i'm not comfortable with. i never want to be alone with him. eric holder would have stopped that immediately. he would have said, your conduct is becoming questionable. you're crossing the line and you can never do it again. >> in the meeting when he was asked to stay and others were asked to go, he took the opportunity to implore the attorney general to prevent any further communication between the president and me.
we also have ari melber, chief correspondent. ari, what is going to be the most problematic for the president in this first opening statement? >> we're getting a preview of jim comey's story as written, turned in to congress. it's a story of repeated contacts that at least jim comey thought improper, and i should note the guidelines and manuals of the justice department, these internal documents would borne out that it was inappropriate. is it illegal? >> he expected him to say, no, there was some sort of effort to stop me from investigating? should we expect him to say that? >> what he is describing is the predicate for why this is important which does relate to rules and policies, so that's the distinction i'm trying to draw. when he says the president's requests about who was under investigation and how to get that information out, that he rejected it and referred him back to the deputy attorney
general, he is referencing, in fact, that under the protocols, the fbi reports in -- and i don't want this to be under investigation or his associates to be under investigation. that would be the worst example of it. so i would say what comes through here in this unusual document is a series of contacts that jim comey thought were inappropriate and some judgmental words. i mentioned earlier, when he talks about this famous dinner, he said he looked at it as a pretense. in the law, when you talk about something being a pretense or pretextual, you assume something is inappropriate. there is the cover, the figure leaf, if you will, which we know the white house will have its own rebuttal to, but comey is saying the dinner seemed like a way to try to create a personal, political or job-related
patronage that he thought was inappropriate. another thing that would be remarkable all on its own if it was on one page instead of seven is jim comey saying to congress, i was so concerned about the way the president was acting that i asked the attorney general to ensure we were never alone together in a room. that i remarkable. >> we have "neyork times'" correspondent charlie savage with us as well as white house post bureau chief phil rucker. phil, i want to talk to you first because you've been doing a lot of reporting on why the president has been so angry lately, specifically angry at his own attorney general, jeff sessions, for recusing himself. obviously this is not a traditional president. anyone who might have expected him to change should not be expecting that any longer. it's very clear that donald trump is not a politician, he's not going to act like a typical politician, he's not going to act like a typical president. he's not going to hold back when he feels like he is being
aggrieved. phil, what is going on behind the scenes at the white house with the president. how is he feeling and how much is this getting under his skin? >> it's getting deeply under his skin, and sources have been telling me and my colleagues here at the post that the president is ready to go to war. he is digging in, he is preparing to counterpunch comey. he feels like his own character and reputation is on the line, and there is an effort here by the white house as well as outside trump allies to do everything they can in these next 24, 48 hours to undermine jim comey's character and his credibility. but the problem that trump has is that this document we have here, seven pages, is extraordinarily detailed. there is actual dialogue. there are contemporaneous notes that comey took immediately after all of these meetings, and kwlur going to have a case where it's comey's word against trump's word. yoknow trump as well as we all he doesn't take notes like this. he's not going to have this sort of recall and precision with the information, and it's going to
be -- >> the house said there might be tapes, phil. he can threaten this, and we don't know one way or another whether he has them. there was an opinion that this was a lot of talk, a bluff from the president, but the white house has not confirmed either way if those tapes do exist. we imagine the intel committees and juthe judiciary committees might be trying to subpoena any tapes if they do exist. but we do have reporting, phil, and this has been out there, that the president when he was just a businessman for the trump organization did, in fact, record some conversations. >> that's true, he did do that. we'll see how he responds to this. i think we're probably going to hear from him. it would be very unlike his character to stay quiet and mum, and i know that friends, long-time advisers of his like roger stone have been encouraging him to punch back, to fight, to get on twitter. they think twitter is the best weapon they have to go against comey, and now that this opening statement is out in public, we'll see that engagement begin,
probably. >> we've got kristen welker at the white house. kristen, have you gotten any reaction from the white house so far for this opening statement? kristen, are you there? have you gotten any reaction from the white house about this opening statement? >> reporter: we certainly tried, katy, but no reaction yet to this. i think when you look at this through a political prism and you take some of those headlines were just discussing with pete and ari, the loyalty pledge that james comey is set to talk about tomorrow in his opening remarks, and undoubtedly he'll get asked about that in me detail, that's something tha democrats undoubtedly will seize upon. but then on the other side of it, the fact that comey is also poised to corroborate what the president said, which is that he confirmed for him three different times that he, in fact, is not under investigation. that's something that this white house and that republicans will likely seize upon. so this is a debate that will undoubtedly just continue and get louder in the wake of
tomorrow. certainly some stunning new details, though, in this testimony that we're anticipating. from the perspective of the white house, they've really been trying to engage in some counterprogramming throughout the day. the president talking about infrastructure and health care in ohio, and then tomorrow he's going to be delivering another speech while comey is actually on capitol hill. i asked a white house official today if the president was planning to tweet, and no one seems to have the answer to that, indicate, but that could be the most robust response to james comey, if we don't get a few tweets today, katy. >> and he is basically stamping on the president eigwhat he sai. the fired fbi director did not want to be in the same room as the president. i want to go a little beyond that, though. this is quite different and much more forthcoming than what we heard in the senate a little bit earlier today when we saw the
top intelligence officials testifying and refusing to confirm that they had a conversation with the president about this investigation and whether or not he asked them to influence or try and somehow intervene in the investigation. they all said that they did not feel pressure to do so. they used that word "pressure," but none of them would say that they were asked. none of them would detail a conversation. what are you taking away from the difference here? >> well, i think you're putting your finger on something important here just to build off of what was just being said about the white house and trump going to war and the expectation that for the next 24 hours, there is going to be an effort to sofrten up jim comey, to dirty him up a little bit. i find it really striking, especially in light of that hearing this morning you brought up, that the senate committee put out a statement now. we're seeing this much earlier than we should. normally you would expect this would become public at the
moment that comey started talking tomorrow. i think just to make a point about how the media and the politics of all it have this is going to work, putting out such great detail now is going to monitor the next 24 hours. it's like preemting the campaign to discredit comey. we're starting to see that on social media where trump fans had talked about bad things the fbi had done under his watch. >> charlie, you wonder if they released this in an effort to -- i don't know, tell me if i'm wrong -- to shame the lligence officials that were testifying today, rogers and hammerstein, to say, look, this is what we expected from you guys? >> coats and rogers are
supposedly the ones who had conversations with trump and were asked both publicly and privately to undermine the russia investigation and today refused to do so. and then they were asked, did the white house observe protected privilege to borrow you for those representations? they said, no, we asked and they never got back from us. the white house said they were not going to assert privilege to try to interfere with comey's testimony, and what i had seen come out so unexpectedly early, it sort of took it off the table. if trump was annoyed and wanted to do something last minute, now the cat is out of the bag. the course is set. we know this stuff now, and there wouldn't be any attempt in the last minutes, maybe senator burr would shut down the hearing if he wanted to. although senator burr seemed annoyed today -- that's the republican chairman of the
intelligence committee -- he seemed annoyed that they weren't answering questions today, so i don't know if he would have done that, anyway. >> we're going to talk about how they were able to refuse to answer those questions. we're just getting to the half hour mark, 2:30 here on the east coast, and we want to recap for our audience what we have just learned. it is remarkable. it is the testimony that we are going to hear from fired fbi director james comey tomorrow when he sits in front of the senate intelligence committee. to take a couple quotes from it, of the january 27th dinner, comey said, my instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pre sense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. that concerned me greatly given the fbi's traditionally independent status in the executive branch. also on that same january 27 dinner, he added that, i was not
on anybody's side politically. he told this to the president. and couldn't be counted on in the political sense. a few moments later, the president said, i need loyalty, i expect loyalty. i didn't move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. we simply looked at each other. and obviously that is quite a bit of detail from the fired fbi director. he says he doesn't even change his facial expressions. he leaves that meeting and contemporaneously writes down exactly what happened. just break that down, ari. >> i think the breakdown is seeing an fbi director who is a form prosecutor, former deputy, attorney general himself sophisticated about these matters who understands that even the slightest pleasantry, a smile or a nod, could be misinterpreted, and in his view -- >> could convey the wrong thing. >> -- and in his view, he was ex
police thely concerned about this president, president donald trump, taking the wrong view and mischaracterizing it. there will have been questions about impuning your son's approach. he is saying how he approached it and -- this president was so different in his dealings, and this is, again, a public servant who has dealt with many presidents. that very, that he did not want to say anything, do anything, words or otherwise that could leave the president. i would say if we're ballparking it for viewers that perhaps aren't looking at every bottom line of the testimony, i would say it's majority bad for
president trump and the white house, it is majority bad for fact patterns if you believe this testimony under oath about the president's approach, his pro pr propriety, the potential investigations. some of these descriptions sound like donald trump was maybe upset or obsessed but might not necessarily have the criminal mindset one would need to say that this is the worst thing possible. >> is this trump being trump? >> trump being trump. another thing, the majority is bad. the other thing that is clearly better for the white house is that in this written testimony, the director is not saying there was a risk to the russian probe, but rather, trump seemed upset about two things. that is what i take from these pages. number one, the dossier. >> in the dossier, he talked about how he didn't believe any of it was true and he very forcefully wanted the fbi
director, it seems, to come out and say that, that he wasn't -- didn't have anything to do with hookers in russia, which is referring, again, to that dossier that was compiled by that british spy. ari, just take me through this letter. again, this is a timeline from the fired fbi director. . from they first meeting to their very last phone call before he was fired. >> and i think explicitly looking at the letter, take the obviously ex ploes. describe the russia language as a cloud. quote, he said he had nothing to do with russia. had not been involved with hookers in russia. ment he asked what we could do to, and this is in quotes, lift the cloud. those were the words used.
"lift the cloud" being potentially problematic if he's asking the fbi to do something for him. and then reading from the let r letter, director comey said, quote, we are expecting it as quickly as we could and there would be a great benefit to not finding anything. he agreed but reemphasized the problems this was causing him, end quote, and this was one of the final actions detailed in the letter, quote, unkroet, hookers in russia." you can see the complete tension these two men, katy. a president demanding this be finished no matter what the design says they didn't say anything that was 100% true, but the fbi has to finish their work early. >> he said he met president trump on friday, january 6, in a conference room in trump tower in new york.
he was there with other leaders to brief him and his new security international team on an assessment concerning russian efforts to interfere in the election. at the conclusion of that briefing, he says, i remained alone with the president-elect to brief him on some certain aspects of the information assembled during that assessm t assessment. >> he talked about, with bei left alone to brief him on this. why? >> because we know it's an unconfirmed -- he describes it as disastrous in this letter. he said it may be designed to trick people in the united states government. so what he's describing here in this very difficult meeting is that, pardon the term rkts that he drew sort of a short straw that he had time for.
we want you to know this is out and there reading from the letter, he basically said, although we agreed -- this is jim comey and the other intel chiefs -- it made more sense for me to do the briefing. they were concerned that the briefing might contain a situation where a person comes onto it with fears that he is addressing his personal contact. >> do we know definitively that the fbi was not investigating trump personally? and quickly because i want to get to a congressman. >> it is clear that jim comey's in this. it started broadly and hold on for a second with me, ari and matt. we hav chris stewart, a member of the republican house committe i want to read you a couple
quotes from comey's statement. this is from james comey. i was not on political side and in his best sinterests as the president. the president said, i need loyalty. i expect loyalty. i didn't move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. we simply looked at each other in silence. is that an appropriate way to act to the president? >> i expected loyalty from my staff in congress and i would hope president trump would have loyalty from his fbi director and other key principals. it's a little awkward for many of us to make it so plain and so blunt, but i don't think it's particularly nefarious. like i said, it may make some of us a little uncomfortable to be
so open about it. >> to be fair, the fbi director really isn't the same. it's not really his staff member. it's not the same if he was an employee or manager or executive at one of his businesses. the fbi director is loyal to the constitution. he's not loyal to the president, and he made that pretty clear. given that, do you think it's appropriate for any president to ask loyalty of somebody who is loyal to the constitution above all s all? >> remember, all of these people take an oath to our constitution. so in that sense, the director isn't different than any others. but you're right, i concede to you that the director is not a member of the white house staff, which is why i said, i think for some of us it makes us a little uncomfortable. but look, we don't really know the context of the entire conversation, and i don't think it's hardly an impeachable offense as some people have suggested. >> here's another passage,
congressman. he then said, i hope youan see your way -- this is the president saying this according to comey -- your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go. he is a good guy. i hope you can let this go. i replied only that he is a good guy. in fact, i had a positive experience dealing with mike flynn when he was a colleague as director of the defense intelligence agency at the beginning of my term at fbi. i did not say i would let this go. can that congressman be considered an obstruction of justice, the president asking the fbi director to, quote, let this go when it comes to the investigation into his nsa. >> yeah, you know, if the president inappropriately pressured anyone, that would be something that would concern all of us. we would want to hold him accountable. but i don't believe the director viewed that as direct interference and direct pressure. part of the reason i say that is if director comey had felt like he was being pressured by this president to interfere or in any way intervene in this
investigation, he was responsible. when i say he, i mean the director, was responsible to report that to the department of justice so that they could take appropriate action. the reality is that director comey didn't report that, and i think he's made it pretty clear, as have some of the other principals, that they didn't feel like the president was actually trying to interfere directly in the investigation. i think that the president probably didn't get a sense early enough of the fine line between his relationship as a president and a director with a ongoing investigation. as i said earlier, that makes some of us unmfortable. but i really don't believe that it was a direct desire to interfere or to obstruct in any way. >> to be fair, congressman, this is not somebody learning on the job in most industries, this is the president of the united states, you're saying, who is learning on the job. he has advisers. he's hired people. they're the ones that come in and sit and tell him what he can and cannot do. we're hearing often from reports inside the white house that he
just doesn't listen. do you expect that any of this is going to change? i want to take the word "pressure" out of your vocabulary for a moment and just get to the heart of this. is it okay even asking, even bringing it up? take "pressure" out. >> as i said earlier, it makes many of us uncomfortable, and it wouldn't be acceptable for him to direct or interfere with an investigation. you asked earlier will he change. i don't know. it seems like he doesn't. but at the end of the day, after we have these conversations about what director comey wrote in his notes or pressing reports, it's this thing that the principals have all said, as they said earlier in testimony before the senate today, we didn't feel like he was trying to interfere, we didn't feel like he was trying to intervene or to press us inappropriately. at the end of the day, that testimony is the one thing that
matters. >> congressman chris stewart, thank you so much for your time. we know you have to run, so we'll let you go. >> thank you so much. >> charlie savage, more on this dossier. the president clearly was very irked by it. >> that's right, and the reporting of this dossier, you may remember, this was the dossier that was prepared by a british former intelligence official. this is the one that had the solacious thing about prostitutes that russia had gathered on president trump. when the news media first reported that. if i remember correctly, cnn reported its existence and then buzzfeed published the document itself, it was kind of an event in itself because many people in the news media had that dossier for months and we were unable to affirm the authenticity of the information within it so we didn't put it out there. i'm not speak foing for myself
personally but this is what was reported happened. seeing cnn saying it existed and putting it to the world was that president trump had been briefed about it. that sort of made it news whether or not it was true. and some trump supporters, and i imagine the president himself, who didn't want this information out there at all, felt sort of blindsided on that. there is a narrative on a trump-supporting right that maybe that was all a conspiracy, that the intelligence community or the fbi briefed him about this dossier for the purpose of making it newsworthy. so one nugget in this testimony from mr. comey that hasn't been discussed yets he puts out a defense of the fact that he briefed trump on january 6 about what was in this sort of sketchy assembly of accusations against him. he says that he knew it was going to come out -- or they, the intelligence committee, knew it was going to come out in the media, anyway, and they wanted
to inocuate him a little bit so if somebody tried to blackmail him, at least he knew this was out there ahead of time. that part strikes me, because i don't think it would come out in the news media necessarily if they hadn't done the briefing. that was the peg that allowed it to become newsworthy whether or not the information was authenticated. that was something subtle, but another nugget in this dossier that hasn't been discussed yet this hour is comey sort of responding to that critique of the first conversation he had with president trump, then president-elect trump, which arguably got them off on the wrong foot from the start. >> we've got another lawmaker to talk to us about this, this one from the other side of the aisle. democratic congressman eric swalwell from california who apparently has just disappeared from our camera. we're going to put that on hold and hopefully he'll come back. ari, i want to ask you in reading this and now we're taking some time to digest this. anything that you've read so far amount to obstruction of
justice? because ultimately that's what everyone is looking for. can any of this be used as a case for obstruction of justice? >> i can't answer that question one becausen a legal sense, this is stimy. this is what we would call testimonial evidence. any case, when you're looking at criminal liability or whether a statute might apply to conduct, a federal crime vovrinvolves mo than that. let me put it like this. this kind of testimony evidence offered under oath to the congress is not helpful to the president's case. it is problematic because it shows that this former chief of law enforcement was describing in his own words things that he thought were problematic or improper. but alone, no, i don't think this answers any of that such question. we just saw -- again, things moving so fast, a hearing this morning where people said they couldn't answer questions because the mueller investigation, they said firing comey might come up in that. they said that's one of the things they might look at. >> congressman eric swalwell i'm
said is back with us. he's on the intelligence committee. congressman, i heard you took a phone call. i'm not going to hold it against you, but we're ready to talk about this opening testimony we're going to be hearing from james comey tomorrow. obviously highly anticipated, and this gives us a very detailed outline of exactly the interactions the fbi director had with the president of the united states. nine interactions in total, three of them in person, conversations, i should say, three in person and six on the phone. what is your first reaction to this, congressman? >> it's the president using his office to try and influence the fbi director to do something to help the president's friend under investigation. what stood out, katy, was that james comey noted that during his tenure under president obama, he ner memorialized anything, and he felt that he had to do so here. think that shows you that in the mind of james comey, he was concerned by the conduct of the
president. also -- >> but can't the white house make the argument that because he did that, because he never had the need or never felt the need to document a conversation with president obama, that that does amount to him, in effect, trying to build a case against this president from the onset? >> i think it shows president president trump acted completely different than president obama did in that he felt the responsible thing to do was document it. he also had no one he felt comfortable going to in the department of justice by way of attorney general sessions having his own relationship and positions not being filled. it was inappropriate to ask for the director's loyalty, it was inappropriate to ask him to make the investigation of flynn go away twice and ask for director comey to lift the cloud around the russia investigation. this is still america. tomorrow director comey will face questioning from republicans and democrats and will develop further just what
took place and hopefully eliminate even further what happened. >> congressman, you say inappropriate, but is inappropriate obstruction? >> that's for prosecutors to evaluate. it sounds like director comey will be talking wh special counsel mueller. they'll loo at other witnesses out there. our job is just to tell the american people what russia did in the last election, whether any u.s. persons were involved, whether there was a cover-up with that behavior and then make sure it doesn't happen again. >> congressman coats, rogers, mccabe and rosenstein today all refused to detail or get into any conversations they mayor o may not have had with the president. there are lots of reports of the president talking to these officials, including names i just mentioned, about the investigation into russia, specifically coats and rogers. the senate intelligence committee couldn't get answers out of them and they had a hard time justifying a legal basis for them not to give those
answers. there is no executive privilege that has been evoked so far. what does the house hope to get from them when you have that panel in front of you? >> we hope to hear from them as to what the president said and whether he asked whether he asked them to involve themselves in the russia investigation. there's no legal reason they can't tell us that. no patriotic reason to protect the president if that's indeed what he was trying to do. so we will go at it with them and i hope they understand that americans deserve to know what the president wanted them to do with respect to the russia investigation. >> thank you very much for joining us. >> my pleasure. and the former chief spokesman for the justice department that an msnbc justice and security analyst is still with us. there is a lot in here. there's a call for loyalty that was brought up in one of the veryarly converons, the january 27th conversation, that the president had with james comey and that same call for loyalty was brought up again in
the last conversation that the president had with james comey. this was on i am a 11th. where he says because i've been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know. he's talking about how he requested that comey get out, playing it known that the president himself was not being personally investigated. >> i've been loyal to you. i kept you in your job. referring back to the conversation they had right after the president had taken office. where he brought him to the white house and raised the question of whether he wanted to stay in the job which is an odd thing for a president to raise. fbi directors are appointed to ten-year terms designed to stretch beyond presidential administration. beyond any one term. because they're not supposed to be loyal to an individual president. they're supposed to be loyal to the constitution. one of the things that's striking to me from the testimony, you raised the question of whether this is obstruction of justice and this is one answer to the puzzle. one very key witness to help make case if that case is going to be made. we heard some other key
witnesses who weren't willing to get into their conversations with the president. dan coates and mike rogers. there are a lot of other key witnesses too. if a prosecutor, if the congress is going to try to show that the president obstructed justice, what did he say about these conversations with director comey to members of the white hoe staff? what did he say to members o the white house staff about why he would fire director comey and the last thing in director comey's statement, he said that the appropriate way to handle this worst white house counsel to call the acting deputy attorney general and the president said he would do that and get back. did he ever do it? if so, what did he say? >> and we haven't mentioned this. we should. it is relevant. the former dni was in australia today and he said this whole russia investigation pales in comparison to watergate. >> yeah. that was a pretty extraordinary statement. and it is important to remember the russia investigation is about so much more than what
president trump may have said to jim comey or the dossier or even general flynn. it is -- excuse me, it is about tampering with the election wrgs the campaign process last year and a really couldn't certained broad strategic effort by the russian government to try to influence the campaign in favor of donald trump and that's something the u.s. intelligence agencies have could be clueded happened. and that's what the fbi is trying to investigate. whether there was collusion between russia or any representatives of the russian government and the trump campaign or trump associates. there's a bigger story here. >> none of the officials could say the that the white house invoked executive privilege but none could answer a simple question. did you talk to the president about interfering or influencing or in any way about the russia investigation? did he ask you about it? and they said repeatedly that they didn't feel pressure. and we had a real contentious
moment with senator angus king going back and forth and him saying, i'll not asking you if you felt pressure. i don't care if you felt pressure. this is about whether or not you had the conversation. this is not classified. you should be able to tell us this. but wasn't just angus king who i should mention is an independent. it was also john mccain and marco rubio and of course, senator mark warner who is a democrat. >> and the senators asking the question knew the answer from the reporting in the "washington post" and my colleague where coates actually told his associates that the president had asked him to push back on the russia investigation and deal with comey. and this is something that i think the senators are probably asking coates about in the private closed door session. we'll see if they get a better answer. it was pretty extraordinary that the intelligence officials would not discuss this in the open forum and would not give a satisfactory answer to those questions. >> and phil, as always, you've
been doing remarkable reporting of your own. as to what exactly is going on inside the white house. and i want to get your last take, if you don't mind, on how he is feeling. and here's a quote from your article. ever since fbi director james comey launched this investigation, trump has been consumed, haunted and antagonized by thoughts of comey. >> this is t cloud that hangs over president trump right now. he is angry. sources tell us he's been watching more television, more cable news than normal and we know he already consumes a lot of it. he is frustrated his agenda congress is going nowhere. nothing is happening on health care right now. tax reform, infrastructure, and so forth. he can't get attention and he can't break through this russia question. and it is just hanging over him. beyond the president himself, you have a whole white house atmosphere that is consumed by these legal questions. a lot of staffers, senior and
junior alike are wonder figure they need to be considering hiring lawyers, if they need to be more careful about what they put in their e-mails or text messages or the conversations they're having in case there happen to be subpoenas down the road. it is a real paralysis right now for the president who wants to take advantage of the republican majority on capitol hill and push through an agenda and he is not able to do it. >> yes or no. are we going to see him live tweet this? >> i think we'll see something. >> live tweeting. >> i don't know about live tweeting but we'll see something from him. >> all right. thank you very much. my entire panel who stuck with me. just to recap, we got a little bit early from the senate intelligence committee is opening statements from james comey that he'll be reading tomorrow and they are remarkable. it is a, i believe, eight-page, seven-page opening statement. a time line of his interaction between himself and the president going from january 6 to april 11th. which is just about a month
before he was fired. l that, all of it mostly focusing on loyalty and the president repeatedly asking james comey to tell the american public that he was not under investigation. also talking about what he did with mike flynn. one more thing before we go. it was nearly a year ago, july 5, 2016, that then fbi director james comey made an announcement. he recommended no criminal charges against hillary clinton related to handling of classified information while she was secretary of state. that is where we begin as we'll take a look at the series of events that brought us to right now, to today. >> we are about to hear from the fbi director james comey, expected to make a statement from fbi headquarters in washington. >> although we did not find clear evidence that secretary clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive
highly classified information. after reading all these items where she is so guilty, he let her off the hook. >> the fbi may be reopening an investigation into the hillary clinton e-mail server. >> james comey sent a letter essentially saying that through another investigation, they found e-mails that are pertinent to the investigation of hillary clinton servers. >> it took a lot of guts. i really disagreed with him. i was not his fan. what did he, he brought back his reputati. >> decto james comey today told every member of congress that the fbi has found no evidence of any wrongdoing by presidential nominee hillary clinton. >> it is undeniable this has damaged their campaign. >> he's become more famous than me. >> the fbi as part of our counter intelligence mission is investigating the russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. >> this continued fair if i have
falsely tries to link the trump, the president, the white house into any of it. they continue to see if there's nothing there. >> the head of the fbi, james comey, has publicly explained why he delivered that october surprise. >> this was terrible. it makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election. but honestly, it wouldn't change the decision. >> this is an nbc news special report. >> we laernld short time ago that president trump has fired fbi director james comey. >> it seems so abrupt where james comey even found out about it about it television. >> i think the president was given a recommendation by the deputy attorney general who the fbi director reports to. the filibuster director had lost the confidence to lead to fbi and the president took their recommendation and agreed with it. >> regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire comey. as he show boat, a grand stander, the fbi has been in turmoil. you know that. i know. that everybody knows that. in fact when i decided to do it,
i said to myself, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made-up story. >> and this big news wasn't ough, we have big news makers on msnbc a little later today. chris christie will be on with nicole wallace at 4:00 p.m. and you're seeing a picture of paul ryan. he'll be on at 6:00 p.m. on "for the record with gretta. "so krothat will do it for me. hey, chris. >> thank you very much. we start with breaking news. we now have in james comey's own words for the first time what he says happened in his private conversations with the president before comey was fired as fbi director. his extraordinarily detailed statement based on written records he made right after nine one-on-one conversations he had