tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC June 7, 2017 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT
i know you think he shouldn't. >> uh, yes, he will. he shouldn't, but he will. >> thank you, everybody, for watching. program note. tomorrow, the main event. i will be reporting from inside the comey hearing and anchoring live from capitol hill, 6:00 p.m. eastern time. check out my twitt and facebook for updates. "hardball" starts right now. comey speaks. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. we're just 15 hours now away from that explosive testimony on capitol hill of former fbi director james comey. and today the senate intelligence committee released comey's opening statement. and for the first time since he was fired, we're hearing from comey in his own words and they are packed with news. comey says just a week after he took office, the president asked him for his loyalty.
in february, he asked comey to drop the investigation of michael flynn, directly contradicting what the president had said. comey also confirmed, like the president has said, that donald trump was not personally under investigation by the fbi even as comey made clear to the country that trump's campaign and individuals associated with it were under investigation. we're going to go point by point tonight through comey's testimony. joining me are ken dilanian, michael schmidt, joy reid, and dan rather, host of the big interview on access tv. and here's what comey writes about that private dinner he had with president trump on january 27th. i assumed there would be others. it turned out to be just the two of us seated at a small oval table in the center of the green room. the president began by asking me whher i wanted t stay on as fbi director, which i found strange because he had already
told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped i would stay, and i had assured him that i intended to. my instincts told me that the one-on-one setting and the pretense that this was our first discussion my position meant the dinner was at least in part an effort to make -- have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. 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 in silence. the conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. well, let me go to dan rather on that. dan, this is -- i grew up basically in politics, and that looked like a meeting about loyalty. it was almost like the godfather. he was asking for him to genuflect and say, you're my boss. you're my patron, and i'm going to serve you, and as much as he could serving as fbi director,
he trimmed a bit, i must say. he said, i'm going to give you honest loyalty. trump took that as loyalty and he wondered afterwards did i say to that guy i was going to be loyal to him? you know, the green room. of all the strange places to take one of the state rooms on the first floor of the white house and meet there all alone. what do you make of the whole setting, dan? >> well, first of all, comey has done the white house and president trump a great favor by allowing tm -- givin them his testimony in advance and allowing them to sort of get ahead of the story and prepare themselves. number two, three times the president -- at least three times, comey says, on three different occasions, the president asked and comey assured him that he personally was not a subject of an investigation. i have a great problem with that. more about that later perhaps. but the central thing is when president trump asked for that loyalty, comey's answer should have been what i think any decent american's answer would have been.
i'll paraphrase mark twain. i have complete loyalty to the nation. i live loyalty to the government and presidents when they deserve it. that would have been his proper answer. >> that's not what he wanted, dan. the president wanted personal loyalty. >> that's the point. that's not what he wanted. and common sense tells you, you don't need to be a lawyer to understand what was happening in that room and during those conversations. this was pressure, extreme pressure on comey to assure the president that he had personal loyalty to the president, not to the nation -- to the president. there's no other way to read this, i think, than this is a code-red situation for the trump presidency, an emergency situation. it's not going to go away, and therefore it's a code-red situation for the country. this is a cloud over the presidency. it's going to remain a cloud over the presidency. there will be this and that said about it. for example, comey's attorney said today, well, there's no smoking gun. well, there may not be any smoking gun, but there's a red-hot gun barrel. and given other information that
we know and ongoing investigations, that barrel is going to get nothing but hotter. >> joy reid, my colleague, let me ask you about this because i want to talk about the circumstance of this meeting. it did have a godfather aspect to it. it was like the restaurant scene. it's like you're going to sit down and tell me i want protection. i want a deal. this is personal and enduring. i want to know that you're going to look out for me and protect me. and comey said, my god, what am i sitting in the green room of the white house, a state occasion room, just the two of us with the navy stewards coming in to serve the drinks or whatever they were, and then disappearing and leaving him in this sort of gothic setting. your thoughts? >> once again, chris, you and i are on the same movie page as well because i described it earlier, tweeting about this, that it was sort of like a scene out of a scorsese film. think about the setting. you're talking january 27th, seven days after the inaugural. remember, jim comey did not have to ask for his job. he was in a tenured position
which was not even close to the ten years. so this is somebody whose job in theory was assured. he invites him at lunch time. he says i want to bring your whole family over for dinner. sounds benign enough. then he comes to the dinner and i don't want your whole family. it's just you. maybe comey thought there would be other people there. he walks into the green room, and it's just him and the president alone. that in and of itself strikes me as an attempted intimidation, setting up a situation where somebody is off balance and essentially saying to him, you belong to me. you are simply another employee in the trump organization. i need you to actually vocalize that you are loyal to me. that is not only unprecedented, it struck comey as so bizarre that he felt that he had to write everything he could remember about it down, down to the clock in the corner of the subsequent meetings. it made him unnerved enough that he felt he had to document it because obviously he thought something was wrong.
>> comey wrote that the president tried to get him to drop the flynn probe during a february 14th meeting in the oval office itself. according to comey, the president then returned to the topic of mike flynn, saying, he's a good guy and has been through a lot. he repeated that flynn hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the russians but had misled the vice president. he then said, i hope you did see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go. he's a good guy. i hope you can let this go. this was all the president talking. that he is a good guy. i had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the russian ambassador in december. i did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into russia or possible links to his campaign. i could be wrong, but i took it to be focusing on what had just happened with flynn's departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. regardless, it was very concerning given the fbi's role as an independent investigative agency. and this testimony, of course, contradicts president trump's past assertion he never asked comey to drop the investigation.
let's watch the president denying what we just heard, according to comey, as having happened. >> did you atny time urge former fbi director james comey in any way, shape, or form to close or back down the investigation into michael flynn? and also as you look back -- >> no. no. next question. >> mike? >> well, comey provides a very -- a lot of specifics here that really get at the heart of -- he was pretty, you know, open about that. the thing that's interesting about that is there's a story in "the washington post" today about how trump did this with the director of national intelligence. and it's the same anecdote. it's similar. there's a meeting in the oval office. trump kicks everyone out of the room and then speaks directly to the director of national intelligence. it's the same thing comey says in the memo. >> in other words, he wants no witnesses. >> when comey's there, he's there with kushner, you know, all these guys. he kicks them out, and then
that's when he corners him and asks him about flynn. >> ken, let's pick up on this question of flynn. he wants the guy off. >> right. and one thing about the dinner is the dinner happened the day after sally yates came to the white house to raise her concerns about flynn. now we're two weeks later at this solo office meeting. what an extraordinary risk to take. why is he doing this? donald trump is not known as a man who has been very personally loyal to the people who have worked for him. flynn had been. -- now we're in the oval office meeting. flynn had been fired. he's saying to comey, i fired the guy. isn't that enough? can we drop the investigation? how could he think that was possibly appropriate to do with the fbi director? >> let me go back to dan on that, dan rather boy, there are shades of watergate here. i mean this guy has a john dean aspect to him, i'll tell you. remember how nixon tried to get dean to take the whole wrap. remember that so-called dean report which was a fraud to begin with? this whole thing about saying to comey, the fbi director, drop
the charges on my buddy. >> well, it's absolutely outrageous. in terms of comey's testimony, however and going back to the watergate period, comey has a very difficult job to do in preparing this and delivering it tomorrow. what he's done seems to me, to use an old watergate phrase, he's gone to a limited hangout, which is to say he's telling a lot of what he knows, but he isn't telling everything he knows, probably because he doesn't want to foul up in any way the special prosecutor mueller's investigation. the second thing we haven't mentioned about this, chris, i think we ought to mention. you know, in my experience, prosecutors and law enforcement people don't tell people whether they're under investigation or not. now, we have a country built on the idea of equal justice under the law. everybody, equal justice under the law. here what comey did with the president, i don't think he would have done it with any other suspect in any other case or anybody who asked him, am i under investigation? i doubt very seriously that he would have done it.
so he did the president a great favor there, indicating how much pressure he was under and how much pressure he felt. >> well, president trump insisted that comey had assured him three different times that he was not under investigation. let's watch that. >> he told me that. i mean he told me at. >> he told you you weren't under investigation with regard to the russia investigation? >> i've heard that from others. >> was it in a phone call? did you meet face to face? >> i had a dinner with him, and i said -- you know, i'll consider. we'll see what happens. but we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, you
are not under investigation. >> in his testimony, comey says he did not tell trump on several occasions he was not personally under investigation. anyway, that started early. according to comey, prior to the january 6th meeting, i discussed with the fbi's leadership where i should be prepared to assure president-elect trump that we were not investigating him personally. that was true. we agreed i should do so if circumstances warranted during our one-on-one meeting at trump
based on president trump's reaction to the briefing, i offered that assurance. the president's outside counsel, marc kasowitz, said in a statement, the president is pleased that mr. comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the president was not under investigation in any russian probe. the president feels completely and totally vindicated. he's eager to continue his move forward with his agenda. i don't know what the lawyer is talking about that for. anyway, back in march, comey told the senate committee, the fbi was investigating individuals associated with the trump campaign. let's watch comey publicly. >> i have been authorized by the department of justice to confirm that the fbi, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. and that includes invtigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the trump campaign and the russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and russia's efforts.
>> ken, to sum up so far in the program, we've got three points. one is that he asked for his loyalty in an almost gothic way in the green room. number two, he did ask him to drop the case against regarding at least the cause of being fired. and three, he said he wasn't under personal investigation. however, that does stand aside his public statement that the campaign's under investigation, and the individuals like manafort and people like that are definitely under investigation. >> another thing about that, comey made clear in his testimony that he's told trump he wasn't under counterintelligence investigation. but what we know about this investigation is that it has morphed into a criminal investigation as well. so that can go in a lot of different directions. the other issue is we don't know right now whether donald trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice by robert mueller. today on the hill, andrew mccabe said he couldn't talk about his conversations with comey on this matter because they could potentially fall under the scope of robemueller's investigation.
>> we'll be right back with three other angles of james comey's testimony that were covered today, including more on how comey told attorney general jeff sessions he didn't want to be left alone in a room anytime with president trump. you got that? he didn't want to be ever alone with the president again. in fact, he was mad at sessions for letting it happen the first time. plus the legal questions comey's testing is raising. does any of thi reach the level of obstruction of justice? that's the big question, and we'll get to it tonight. and the political reaction to what we've seen today from james comey. he testifies tomorrow, of course, live, and that begins in the morning at 10:00 eastern. we're going to get reactions pouring in tonight. they're all over right now from left and right. finally let me finish tonight with trump watch. he won't like it tonight. this is "hardball," where the action is. enemy into an ally? microsoft and its partners are using smart traps to capture mosquitoes and sequence their dna to fight disease. there are over 100 million pieces of dna in every sample. with the microsoft cloud,
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getting in the way of those investigations. i guess they agree with comey. and when it comes to james comey, 61% said they believe the president fired the fbi director in order to protect himself. they say they don't think he did it for the good of the country. and we'll be right back. you too, unnecessary er visits. and hey, unmanaged depression, don't get too comfortable. we're talking to you, cost inefficiencies and data without insights. and fragmented care- stop getting in the way of patient recovery and pay attention. every single one of you is on our list. for those who won't rest until the world is healthier, neither will we. optum. how well gets done. are made with smarttrack®igners material to precisely move your teeth to your best smile. see how invisalign® treatment can shape your smile up to 50% faster today at invisalign.com
he's a showboat. he's a grandstander. the fbi has been in turmoil. you know that. i know that. everybody knows that. you take a look at the fbi a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. it hasn't recovered. >> director comey was very unpopular with most people. i actually thought when i made that decision, and i also got a very, very strong recommendation as you know from the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein. but when i made that decision, i actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision.
>> welcome back to "hardball." donald trump spent the past month insulting and threatening the man he fired as fbi director. he just heard him there. today for the first time we're hearing from
james comey in response to that diatribe. according to testimony he will deliver tomorrow before the senate intelligence committee, comey said after a february 14th oval office meeting, he confronted jeff sessions with a request. quote, shortly after the meeting, i spoke with attorney general sessions in person to pass along the president's concerns about leaks. i took the opportunity to implore the attorney general to prevent any future direct communication between the president and me. i told the attorney general that what had just happened, him being asked to leave while the fbi director was there, who reports to the ag, remained behind was inappropriate and should never happen. he did not reply. we're back with ken dilanian, joy reid, dan rather, michael schmidt. michael, this is an amazing story. so tell this story about how
comey felt that he'd been sort of marooned, left alone with the president when he's supposed to report to the ag. the ag is told to leave the room, leaves the room, allowing the president to start pressuring him. >> if there's anything we know about comey, he prizes his independence, and he thought he needed the attorney general there to shield him from the politics of the white house. he had similar issues under the obama administration. this wasn't new to him. but the next day, he goes to -- >> but didn't the president before, the previous president, obama, didn't he say i don't want to meet alone with the guy again? >> i met alone twice with obama, but he didn't feel concerned enough about it like he did with trump to write a memo because you have to remember as we learned today, comey wrote a memo about every phone call and every meeting he had with trump. there's something that happens the first time he meets trump at trump tower that sets him off. it's not in here today. but as he says here, he gets into his fbi suv, and he starts pounding out his first memo, and that's even before trump's in
office. >> ken, can you delineate here what he's afraid of comey for? why did he want comey to give this almost gothic, godfather-like loyalty oath to him? what's comey got on him or is afraid will get on him? >> look, at the time. comey was investigating one of his most trusted aides, mike flynn, or the fbi was. it's got to be so strange for jim comey because we have these post-watergate rules that set up the fbi director who serves a ten year term and he thinks he's operating under these terms. so to have these meeting and requests out of left field that seem totally inappropriate, comey is going, what do i do with this? it's interesting he didn't report the flynn meeting to the attorney general, but then he reported a subsequent meeting to the attorney general, suggesting he was more concerned about that. >> joy, what's your thought about this? it's such a wide open question, but clearly this whole manner of which trump has handled this, whether you hear about executive
privilege being floated out ther water-gate style all over peoplealking about taking the fifth. you talk about people asking for immunity like flynn. i mean everybody seems to be pushing back against exposure. what is it they're afraid of? and i ask this question openly around this show every night as you do. i think that is the question most reasonable, middle of the road people are asking. what are they hiding? what are they making such an effort to hide? joy first. >> with donald trump, if you go back to the very beginning of this memo from comey, their very first interaction on january 6th, what is that interaction about? it's about the dossier that wound up being published by buzzfeed with salacious allegations, and donald trump seemed obsessed with it. it was at that january 6th meeting where comey has to deliver the information to him by himself, one-on-one, so as not to embarrass donald trump essentially because the contents are so salacious. donald trump at that time gets assured by comey this isn't about us investigating your
personal conduct. so one of those three so-called assurances is saying don't worry, just because this material is out there, that's not what we're investigating. then trump brings up that exact issue again at that private dinner. again he gets the reassurance from comey. what trump seems to be worried about are two things. thick numb thing number one, that dossier, because he brings it up again at the dinner. but recall comey won't give him the public assurance that he is not under investigation because he says it could change. >> he's aing com to investigate that. >> exactly. >> and comey says if i do that, the word will leak out that i'm investigating you for that dossier. it's going to hurt you public-wise. >> comey has one of the key sentences in this entire seven pages, is when comey says on page 6, he wouldn't give those public assurances that donald trump was not under investigation because if he did, it would create a duty to correct should that change. >> i understand. >> i think that's the key sentence in that whole thing. >> niecomey writes the presiden
tried to get him his help to, quote, lift the cloud of the russian investigation. according to this comey and this statement is coming out tomorrow, on the morning of march 30g9, the president called him at the fbi. he described the russian investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. he said he had nothing to do with russia, had not been involved with hookers. that's his word -- in russia, and always assumed he was being recorded when in russia. he also asked what he could do to lift the cloud. and i stopped -- this is comey -- that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could and there would be a great benefit if we didn't find out to having done the work well. he agreed. he then reemphasized the problems this was causing him. dan, i understand any normal person would want to get that dossier cleared up if that was floating around. i understand that. but trump seems to have a larger worry. what do you make of it? >> well, what i make of it is we need to pull back what we call in television the wide shot and see this great clarity. donald trump is afraid that investigations are going to
reveal something that he thinks will be very, very harmful to him. the key question and you've asked it night after night is what is he afraid of, and what are they hiding -- the president and those around him? otherwise, we wouldn't be gng through all this. we wouldn't be having this thing with testifying tomorrow. that's the central question. what is the president afraid of? he's obviously afraid of something with this, and what are they hiding? >> well, finally comey described the final conversation he had with the president. this is fascinating. quote, on the morning of april 11th, the president called me and asked what i had done about his request that i get out, that he is not personally under investigation. i replied i had passed his request to the acting deputy attorney general, but i had not heard back. he replied that the cloud was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. he said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the acting attorney general. i said that was the way his request should be handled. i said the white house counsel should contact the leadership of doj to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
he said he would do that and then added, 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." ken, i think i know what that thing was, that meeting in the green room. >> absolutely. here's what's fascinating about this. donald trump thought that if jim comey put out the word that he wasn't personally under a counterintelligence investigation, that would make this whole thing go away. the whole point and the interesting thing about the dossier is that it alleges a conspiracy between the trump campaign and russia to collude in this campaign to interfere in the election. it doesn't say anything about donald trump doing that. it's all these people around trump. was he briefed on it? so whether he is personally under investition -- >> michael, this tng about that thing, it really does have this -- you remember that time? you remember that time? it has this sort of mob aspect. you remember the time you swore an oath to me? >> this is when comey has a real miscalculation because by the beginning of april, the end of
march, beginning of april, he thinks he's taught the white house the lanes of the road. i thinks, look, i've spent a lot of time and energy on this. trump understands you can't come directly to the white house. you have to go through the white house counsel's office. he think he's got the lanes of the road done. >> and then he's fired. >> then he gets fired. >> dan, it looks like he thought he could handle him. he thought he could manage the president. he thought he could keep his job. he trimmed a little bit there saying, yeah, honest loyalty. the president heard the word loyalty. he also said you're not under personal investigation, but everybody you know in the entire campaign is under investigation but you, and it might get to you. but he trimmed a little bit there, comey, to keep his job. but it didn't work, dan. it didn't work. >> well, it didn't work. >> trump knew he wasn't his man. >> we have to see comey -- you know, i have great respect for him. he's a lawyer and a law enforcement person who has great integrity, but he also is a politician with great dexterity. and reading through that, he
says, i'll give you honest loyalty. he was trying to wiggle out from underneath the pressure. one can empathize with that, but on the other hand, he has to accounfor that. he didn't handle himself in that situation as you would ideally hope that an fbi director would do. >> i agree. joy, i think that's the problem. he trimmed a little bit there in terms of his answers to the president to keep his job. remember thomas jefferson said the whole art of politics is the art of telling the truth. but he didn't quite get to the truth, did he? not the whole truth. >> and he didn't completely stand up to him. but i think when you look at this moment mow from comey, what you get the picture of is an fbi director who is sort of in splendid isolation. he obviously didn't 100% trust the people who were directly supervising him, meaning mr. rosenstein and jeff sessions. jeff sessions had his own issues with having meetings that would later come out with the russian ambassador. but this is somebody who because it was a counterterrorism investigation had to compartmentalize that from the criminal division of the justice department. so it was only himself and a small echelon of fbi senior
people that really knew anything that was going on, including the attempt at pressure that we're being put on him by the president. he couldn't even tell jeff sessions that. i think one of the things we definitely now know is that any mistrust that jim comey had in mr. rosenstein and jeff sessions was very well placed and very well founded because they absolutely did not have his back clearly. >> you harvard law people. anyway, thank you, joy. joy reid, thank you. dan rather, ken dilanian, and michael schmidt. up next, we're going to get deeper into the legal questions comey's testimony is raising. does any of this constitute obstruction of justice on the part of the president? this is "hardball," where the action is.
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senator, do you think the president has obstructed justice? >> i have no idea. i have no idea. i think that's why we're having investigations. >> welcome back to "hardball." senator john mccain just said this morning the question whether president trump has on instructed justice will be determined in the course of this investigation. former fbi director james comey's account of his multiple conversations with the president confirms, however, much of what has already been reported but also sheds new light on how comey interpreted the president's agenda. in describing the white house dinner for example where trump asked him for his loyalty, comey notes that his instincts told him that, quote, the dinner was at least in part an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage
relationship. comey also explains the reason he did not comply with trump's request to announce the president was not under investigation. quote, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct should that change. i'm joined now by sean turner, former senior adviser to james clapper, cynthia objectikney, e columbus. in order, going across the om, what struck you in legal terms watching this thing? the president's determination to get some sort of oath of loyalty from james comey, the discussions of whether he would drop the case involving michael flynn, whether the president was personally a target of the fbi or just his campaign? >> so to be direct, all of the above. i think that what stands out to me most as i read this statement, chris, is if you look at comey's accounting of these meetings, in each and every case, there was a situation in which the president was making a request and looking for something in return. and i think that if you believe
comey's accounts of -- there was always a quid pro quo here. i think as comey made decisions whether he was going to comply with the request, and we know he did not comply. each and every time the president found he wasn't going to get what he wanted, that sealed comey's fate. >> it reads almost like a biblical text. it's fascinating to read this guy's statement. there's so much richness in it. >> what you see as you analyze it from a prosecutor's point of view, which is what i did, really the building blocks of obstruction. you see, i want you to drop the flynn, and then you see that he's spending a little time trying to figure out with these quid pro quos that you were talking about, is he going to be loyal to me? when he finds out he's not going to be loyal, he fires him. then of course we know he threatened him on twitter. so those are the building blocks. >> punishedhim. >> what we need in these
hearings tomorrow is the fleshing out of that. are there other levers of power that he tried to use to push this obstruction. >> eric? >> i'm just amazed at how trump is obsessed with being told that he is not under investigation, which was completely meaningless at the time. it's like trump not being under investigation at that moment is like the titanic not being underwater at the time it's hit by an iceberg. it may be literally true but -- >> the whole campaign is under investigation. >> and the more and more comey and prosecutors learn, the more it's going to rise up. >> comey also says in a conversation in late march, quote, the president went on to say if there were some satellite associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but he hadn't done anything wrong. so, again, shawn, he's saying, i'm willing to throw some of these people under the bus, manafort or anybody else. if they go down, fine. faster the better. >> and i think this is the president's way of saying to comey, hey, it's okay to look at those other guys, but you need to assure me i'm not under investigation, that you're not
going after me. >> but why is he hiding then? why as he played resistance all through this if he's got something he's hiding? i've always asked this. why doesn't he just walk in front of the cameras and say, look, i'm here. what don't you like? what do you think is illegal i did? he could have done that months ago before he took office. >> i think he could be afraid of the answer to that question. you know, look, i think that as this white house is kind of dealing with what's going to happen here tomorrow, this white house has to be absolutely reeling. >> how about those poor satellite guys that he's going to throw them under the bus? one thing that's happening in these next couple days is everybody is making a personal evaluation. how long am i going to stick with this trump guy? >> here's my question to you. remember communism? how about comeyism? what happens when they all start talking? if comey has talk as he's done rather lucidly for that statement to the committee tomorrow, imagine when flynn talks because that might well be where the president had conversations with him. can you soften up the russ kis
on this. they obviously wanted me to win. those kinds of conversations can be a problem. >> it's hard to believe all these people were just freelancing, flynn and kushner. that really is not believable. >> it is odd to have so many people out there doing what you said you wanted done because he said he wanted to have good relations with the russians, and these guys are establishing relations with the russians. >> i think the most generous interpretation of trump behavior, picking up on a point made by josh marshall a few months ago, he compared it to the cia's resistance to investigating its role in the jfk assassination. it wasn't that the cia knew they were involved, but rather that they couldn't be sure that they weren't involved. and trump's campaign was so chaotic, so sprawling, so many shady characters, trump is terrified as to what might come out when -- >> but he's willing to throw them under the bus. he should do it now. anyway, in a senate intelligence committee hearing today, the director of the national security agent, mike rockers, and the director of intelligence, dan coats, said
they never felt pressured by the president to do anything improper regarding the ongoing investigation. from there, they repeatedly refused to divulge, the content of their conversations withhe president. >> today i am not going to talk about theoreticals. i am not going to discuss the specifics of any interaction or conversations. >> can you -- >> if i could finish please. that i may or may not have had with the president of the united states. i'm not going to talk about theoreticals today. >> can you set the record straight about what happened or didn't happen? >> i don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session. >> i am not asking for classified information. i am asking whether or not you have ever been asked by anyone to influence an ongoing investigation. >> i understand, but i'm just not going to go down that road. >> why are you not answering these questions? is there an invocation by the president of the united states of executive privilege? is there or not? >> not that i'm aware of. >> then why are you not answering our questions? >> because i feel it is inappropriate, senator. >> what you feel isn't relevant, admiral. >> i stand by the comments i've
made. i'm not interested in repeating myself, sir, and i don't mean that in a -- in a -- in a contentious way. >> well, i do mean it in a contentious way. i don't understand why you're not answering our questions. >> help me out, cynthia. >> totally disrespectful. >> it's disrespectful on the part of the witnesses and it shows that they know that these senators are never going to enfose enforce the questions. if you went into the grand jury, if i put a witness in the grand jury and they behaved like that, they'd have their butt in jail. if i ask you a question, i expect an answer. the president did not assert executive privilege. but what they also know is the senate won't enforce it. so they're just disrespectful. it's the same way when flynn doesn't respond to a subpoena. they don't have any respect. >> are we going to get anything out of these guys about what the president said to them? >> no, mueller is going to get it out of them and it's better that way because it will be done right. >> thank you all. up next, much more on the blockbuster testimony today that's coming tomorrow. we read it today from fired fbi
director james comey. he's coming aboard at 10:00 tomorrow morning, but there's plenty of reaction tonight already to what he said in his opening statement about his meetings with the president. you're watching "hardball," where the action is. (woman) when you have type 2 diabetes, there's a moment of truth. and now with victoza®, a better moment of proof. victoza® lowers my a1c and blood sugar better than the leading branded pill, which didn't get me to my goal. lowers my a1c better than the leading branded injectable.
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welcome back to "hardball." tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., the bell will ring on one of the most anticipated political fights in decades. in one corner, the career justice department official and former director of the fbi james comey. in the other corner, the bare knuckle brawler himself, president trump. today mr. comey landed the first punch. for more, i'm joined by the "hardball" roundtable, heidi przybyla and senior political reporter for the usa today, and eli stoke lds, white house reporter for "the wall street journal." let's go that way this way. eli, why do we get that really well written statement, because it was well written, today, early this afternoon the day before? >> i think given all the hype,
using box can metaphors to talk about this, all the anticipation, i think it deflates that a little bit. allows comey to look judicious and deliberate and lay out everything that is in the public sphere already, give people a chan tpore it over. it helps him because he can see the way people are reacting to it, see the way the white house is reacting to it. it just sort of sets this in stone. >> that's the thing. >> it will be in papers in the morning. >> people will read it in the paper tomorrow morning over breakfast and by the time they watch the hearings, they will be prepared on the facts. >> our reporting suggests he never wanted to set the record straight in a congressional hearing where you'd have the tug of republican and democrat partisans trying to pull him down different rabbit holes. he wanted to do a network interview. it didn't work out that way. this way he's drawing the lines. he's also telling these members of congress, look, this is how far i'm willing to go. i'm not going to characterize this as obstruction of justice, but i am going to tell you what
the president said on may 18th, which is that he never pressured me isn't true. >> and i would say that to continue the boxing metaphor, as you said in the intro, that comey got in the first punch. but i think by putting this down on paper, getting it out 24 hours in advance, it is the first punch that will lead to the second and third and fourth punches that will come in when the committee starts asking questions. and particularly democrats who are going to zero in on particular parts of his testimony to burrow in even further to what happened during all of those meetings that he talked about, nine in total. >> but the drama -- maybe it's just my judgment, but the drama is that meeting where trump asked for his loyalty, and it's such a godfather aspect to it, where you're in a room all alone with the president of the united states in the most historic part of the white house, one of those rooms that you visit when you come to visit the white house. you're all alone. a couple navy stewards come in once in a wheile and they leave and it's just you.
>> of course it wasn't just in that meeting. loyalty is a thread that runs through many of these interactions, including most chillingly, i think, in that final interaction where trump says to comey, i've been very loyal to you. >> yes. >> and he failed to extract in the final moment -- he failed to extract from comey what he wanted, which was get me out from under this cloud. it didn't happen. he never hears from him again until he's fired. >> and i think that -- what do you think the trashing campaign is going to be like tomorrow? can you anticipate it by trump's people? they've got the rnc up. it's very hard to find surrogates these days, i must say, for this guy. i get the feeling they're going to try to dismember this guy like the old jokes, little marco, lyin' ted. you know the stuff they do. >> that was during the campaign. they can say whatever they want. they can spend however much money they want to try to trash comey. it is not a fair fight. jim comey is going into that testimony tomorrow with his credibility -- the foundation of his credibility is solid, up
against a president of the united states who has a 34% approval rating and who has been shown to be someone you cannot rely on in terms of what is true. >> yes. >> what is factual. >> that's so good because even his fans will admit a lot of it is just nonsense he throws out. it's attitude. >> right. >> it's not truth. >> yeah. i mean i think also you can see whathe rnc is going to say day because they've already put out some statements saying, aha, you know, the president never was under investigation. that's what we found out today. >> they didn't believe comey on that point. >> here's the point that heidi made. it took no time for the rnc to hit back with a response. in a statement, the chairman wrote, quote, president trump was right. director comey's testimony reconfirmed what the president has been saying all along. he was never under investigation. well, his campaign was and is. >> i just think one of the big -- the big wild card tomorrow is the response, and it's going to be kind of all over the map. the rnc is saying one thing. kasowitz is saying something.
michael cohen, the president's personal lawyer. >> are they trying to distract from the white house by having the rnc come out and -- >> the white house doesn't want to be stained any more with this, the staffers. they want to believe if they sort of outsource this, they can focus -- >> good luck with that. [ overlapping voices ] >> bill clinton with much less troubles did that with mark fabiani. he had someone else handle the flackery. it didn't quite work. the roundtable is staying with us. up next, these three people tell me something i don't know. this is "hardball," where the action is. ddos campaigns, ransomware, malware attacks... actually, we just handled all the priority threats. you did that? we did that. really. we analyzed millions of articles and reports. we can identify threats 50% faster. you can do that? we can do that. then do that. can we do that? we can do that.
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tomorrow coverage of former fbi director james comey will begin at 9:00 a.m. eastern. i'll be joining brian williams for full coverage of comey's testimony throughout the day. our coverage starts tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. as i said. comey takes the witness stand starting at 10:00 a.m. eastern. join me then. we'll be right back. yet some cards limit where you earn bonus cash back to a few places. and then, change those places every few months. enough with that! with quicksilver from capital one you've always earned unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, everywhere. welcome to unlimited what's in your wallet? will you be ready when the moment turns romantic? cialis for daily use treats ed and the urinary symptoms of bph.
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we're back with the roundtable. jonathan, tell me something i don't know. >> okay. so republican sources are telling me that republicans on the hill are looking at tomorrow's testimony by jim comey as a release valve in the same way that they saw senator marco rubio's questioning yesterday to take the pressure off, to go against the president. >> they're going to feel free to go after him now. >> yeah. >> to that point, based on my reporting today, there is no crisis management team.
the white house is in crisis right now, and usually in these situations like -- >> no war room. >> with scooter libby and george w. bush, there was an entire web, coordinated white house groups, the rnc, the white house. that's not happening. according to sources who are some of the main surrogates, they hadn't even received any -- >> this is great. trump's got to be worried. tomorrow is a big day for somebody else, comey. does he call somebody like reince priebus and say put together a team and make sure everybody is covered on this? who does he talk to? >> it seems like it's kind of too late for that. according to my sources there is a conference call tonight, and it anybody's guess what the strategy that's -- >> eli? >> they talked about lewandowski, the outside war room, and inside the white house, just picking up on this point, as much as they've tried to sort of set this aside and outsource the p.r. and rapid response, people inside that white house are freaked out right now. there is more tension that is palpable when you call and e-mail and talk to people. they're sort of snapping over small things that aren't even
basically pertaining to this stuff. >> i know. >> there is so much tension building over these four months and you talk about a release valve, we're already seeing -- >> they're smart enough to be scared. anyway, jonathan capehart, heidi pez bow la and eli stokols. when we return, let me finish with trump watch. you're watching "hardball," where the action is. got it. rumor confirmed. they're playing. -what? -we gotta go. -where? -san francisco. -when? -friday. we gotta go. [ tires screech ] any airline. any hotel. any time.
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godfather lately, i invite you to read james comey's description of his january 27th dinner with president trump in the white house green room. it reads like a loyalty ritual where the mob boss demands of anyone seeking his favor that he first genuflect down to him, vow his undying loyalty and call him godfather. i need loyalty, comey quotes trump. i expect loyalty. he wants comey to beg for the job of fbi director, kneel down before him and say godfather. the dinner was at least in part an effort to have me ask for the job, comey says in a statement released today, and create some sort of patronage relationship. i asked senator sheldon whitehouse about this last night. i think trump doesn't get the very notion in which our country was built. the idea of limited government, that the president of the united states has to operate within our system of checks and balances, that he can't boss around the fbi director. he can't tell the courts what is constitutional. he can't tell the free press what to report. why would a president invite the fbi director to dine alone at
the white house, then proceed to seek his personal loyalty if he didn't have a problem? that is the same question we've had for months here. why all this talk about immunity and taking the fif amendment and exercise executive privilege if you're not hiding something? why ask the fbi director for a loyalty oath if you're not afraid of him investigating something? that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in" with chris hayes starts right now. tonight on "all in." >> the president said, i need loyalty. i expect loyalty. >> james comey on the record. >> comey quotes the president, i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go. >> the fired fbi director's sworn testimony about his conversations with the president is released. >> he said he had nothing to do with russia, had not been involved with hookers in russia. >> tonight, based on what comey