tv MSNBC Live With Stephanie Ruhle MSNBC June 8, 2017 6:00am-7:01am PDT
yesterday we got nothing. >> there you saw -- >> it was dull james comey departing right now on his way to capihill. >> final question for the panel this morning, is mika right or what? >> i am right. >> oh, absolutely right. >> always. >> she's always right, right. >> contentious alex is being to toss to break. >> as always, we greatly appreciate it and really appreciate -- we're looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. >> this is former fbi director james comey, leaving in an suv, headed to capitol hill for key testimony today. that does it for us this morning. we're going to be live tomorrow on capitol hill to break down today's testimony by comey and brian williams picks up the testimony of the coverage right now. >> brian will agree with you. >> great show, guys. thank you. and, indeed, we just saw james comey part of a two suv grouping that will be taking him from his suburban home into the district of columbia. government vehicles because for today, he is a government
witness in that room. easily the most anticipated day of testimony in a generation. is the media compartments full to bulging inside the hearing room and our army of correspondents and analysts are set up to cover the entire day. hallie jackson, our chief white house correspondent, is standing by, the first among equals she is just above the hearing room this morning. start us off. >> yeah, brian. i was wandering on the floor where you see folks milling arrive. 30 minutes from his home to the capitol. we will see him at the top of the next hour. in my discussions with members of congress on the hill over the last 24 hours we have already seen a preview of james comey's testimony. we know what his opening statement is and all of the questions that raises, particularly about that loyalty pledge that the president asked about.
that's something you're already hearing bipartisan condemnation on, particularly from house speaker paul ryan as well as other republican members of congress. beyond the opening testimony it's the questions and you heard this alluded to on "morning joe" in that discussion just now, it's the questions that these senators ask that could reveal new information about the president's actions in relation to the russia investigation. that's partly why this is so highly anticipated. james comey has the best seat in the house. ours isn't too bad either. who else will be watching, donald trump. with the senior administration official telling nbc news he will be in the dining room watching tv just like a lot of the rest of the country, watching as this unfolds. he has a speech here in washington in the afternoon, but not until 12:30. he will certainly catch the beginning, if he is tuned in, to james comey's testimony. a list of talking points from the rnc, their strategy of how they want to go after this to counter comey. you will see that develop today, brian. >> we've seen the list of the various points they want republicans to bring up.
odd it was sent out the night before. we have heard word one from james comey, other than this introduction which we by now have all read. chris jansing is in the hallway just outside this hearing room. our senior national correspondent, chris, good morning. >> good morning brian. it's not an exaggeration to say anticipation here is at a fervor pitch. when is the last time you saw bars in washington, d.c., opening early, so they could have viewing parties and take a look at this line here. the first people got in line at 4:15 this morning. a lot of the folks that we talked to along here, are hill interns. good luck having an extra seat inside there because folks who ruthis comttee room say ey have not had a demand for tickets like they've seen for this in decades. one compelling empty seat so far has the name of preet bharara on it, the u.s. attorney, like james comey was fired by donald trump. who to watch for, a lot of interesting things because
number one, you have somebody in that witness seat who has a way of telling a story. we've seen it in previous congressional testimony by james comey, we saw it in the written opening statement that kind of reads like a dramatic movie script, so he's there. but then you have john mccain, a member who has decided to come in on this, you have the chairman richard burr, who really wants to show that this committee has credibility, you have marco rubio, and angus king, who showed yesterday in questioning other intelligence committee members that they're ready to go at it and i would watch, brian, for kamala harris, the only prosecutor on this team, they are ready to go. >> it will be very interesting to see which senators come to play and get out of the confines of party politics today. kristen welker, our white house correspondent, standing by across town. kristen, with a president's clean calendar until noon today, a lot of people asking, what could possibly go wrong?
>> that's right. a lot of people asking, will he be live tweeting the event. i've spoken to a number of top republicans who say they hope he does not. however, they're bracing for that possibility, brian. but this white house also trying to engage in a little bit of counter programming. the president does have a big speech a little bit later on this afternoon. that speech comes, by the way, just as we anticipate the comey testimony will be wrapping up. the rnc is ready with their talking points as you started discussing with hallie. among the top points they are going to make, they will say the president feels vindicated. that's something we heard from his outside counsel yesterday. they're also going to point to the fact that comey's opening statement backs up the president's assertion that comey told him he was not under investigation. and then look for the republicans to blast out all of those statements that democrats have said about comey in the wake of him coming out, that october surprise about hillary
clinton's e-mails when a number of them questioned whether he was the right person to serve in that position. they're going to try to paint democrats as hypocrites and they will make the point a lot of democrats wanted comey to go as well. they will say this was a tough choice by the president but ultimately made it for the good of the country. they are ready with their counter programming and programming at the rnc and white house. >> for folks who might have taken the comey introduction its sudden appearance as very bad news for this white house, remind our viewers why the talking point that of all the things the president feels vindicated now that it's been dropped? >> a couple of points, brian. one, because he told lester holt that comey told him he wasn't under investigation. that is the key point that the administration is focused on that his outside counsel is focused on. of course, all references to the russia matter now go through his
outside counsel marc kasowitz. that is one of the key focuses here. the second part of that, brian, has to do with obstruction of justice. yes, comey's opening testimony does say that the president said that he wanted to see him steer clear of looking into mik flynn, his former national security adviser, however, what comey doesn't say, he doesn't use the term obstruction of justice. so i was talking to a senior administration official here last night who said basically nothing to see here. there is no bombshell in the comey testimony. we'll have to wait and see whether that actually holds true through the end of the day, but those are the two main points that they are focusing on here at the white house to say that this president is vindicated. >> thank you very much. we'll be talking to you throughout the day. our justice correspondent pete williams and our nbc news washington bureau watching this all day. pete, first of all any reason to think that james comey will read anything but what's now been out in the public domain for chose
to 24 hours and as they say what will you be looking for? >> i can't imagine that he will do anything but to stick with his prepared statement which the committee, by the way, says it was his idea to get it out early and you might wonder why is that? possibly to clear the decks for the perhaps more interesting things that he'll say in answer to questions today because there's things in the statement, there's things, obviously, not in the statement. what was he thinking at the time? the only time he ever sheds any light on that is very early on when he says, he decided after his first meeting with donald trump that he had better take careful notes an started doing so as he drove away from trump tower on january 6th. so did he consider it obstruction? what his friends have told us, brian, is that he did not. i mean if he did, he would have had to start an investigation and there's no indication that they did on that issue. he kept it to himself. he didn't tell the people who were investigating the russia whole issue. so he didn't clearly think at
the time that it was obstruction. but he kept careful notes about it. obviously, they'll want to know what he thinks about that. secondly, a lot of people at the fbi thought that james comey was fired because he wouldn't shut down the russia investigation, the whole thing, all he says in his opening statement here and all the friends of his have told us at the time, that when he was told about it is that the president has to be shut down the flynn investigation. >> pete, correct me if i'm wrong, he has traditionally shut down and refused to budge when anyone calls for a judgment or a characterization on his part and i expect that will happen a lot today? >> sometimes yes, sometimes no. i mean the statement is interesting in the sense that in some ways, it's very factual and some ways he puts lots of little color in it. a little bit of drama here and there. so, you know, he's out of
government now, he's not a government official. he's a little freer to answer those questions. so, obviously, he has constraints. he knows what he shouldn't say to interfere with the ongoing investigation. there's things he, obviously, won't answer because he believes it's not prudent and i'm sure that he's had a discussion with robert mueller, the special counsel, on what he shouldn't say. there will be some areas where he won't stray. i expect he will be a loser james comey than we've seen before. >> pete williams, who will be watching closer than most this morning, pete, thank you very much. >> let's introduce our guests here in the studio, starting with our ari melber who covers all things legal related for us, nicolle wallace is here, host of the 4:00 p.m. broadcast and former communications director in the bush 43 white house and stephanie ruhle who we would normally see on television, stephanie, you have a dual role today, some reporting from inside this white house as they go into a more important than
average day. >> you know, interest those i've spoken to, they're somewhat relieved, not running a victory lap but as far as a smoking gun is concerned they feel like what they've seen in the james comey testimony or what they've seen in his statement thus far in their mind this is trump just being trump. the argument has been made he's behaving in like a ceo. if you saw a hostile takeover of a company and a new ceo came into town his first year might be spent trying to wrangle those inside, getting them all on message. that's the argument they want to make. but when you put into perspective all of the issues surrounding this president, and also they're not feeling relieved in terms of there's still a full-scale investigation going on to the left a la robert mueller but today they feel somewhat relieved. >> stephanie has been open about the fact that this is how they are viewing this. nicole, one would presume an incoming ceo would be mindful of the law? >> yeah. listen, even companies accept in
billions and he got in trouble for not doing it himself. this is what the white house would like us to do and they're doing parsing so the president's new attorney has taken out the president and somehow removed him from the fact that he was part of an entity called his campaign. and they said, you know, case closed, the president's been exonerated. and this is what's so amazing. the goalle posts have changed with every revelation and we've become -- we've normalized these questions about whether his orbit, his team, his campaign, was in cahoots with the russians because we hear about it every single day, every night before your broadcast, after mine, sadly, there's a new story in "the new york times" or "washington post" but another story every day about whether -- and it started with sort of the outl outliars in the orbit, manafort -- >> satellite point. >> the latest revelations -- >> satellite associates. >> whether jared kushner set up
a back chanel that may have taken place or allowed for communications at the russian embassy to communicate one-on-one with the russians. the goal posts keep changing but the story is the same and the cloud that he wanted james comey to get rid of him is the same and of his campaign's own doing. i'm just stunned that we sort of talk about how it's good news in the white house's view because kasowitz found one line which they said the president wasn't involved. the president can't collude with his own press secretary. i can accept maybe he didn't collude with the russian government but comey will paint a picture of a guy who has been in the cross hairs of democrats, in the cross hairs of republicans but who when the first time he met with this president-elect he was so uncomfortable by the whole vibe and the whole sense that laws weren't for him that before the car pulled away from the curb outside of trump tower he started pecking away at his laptop recording that meeting. >> brian, they're asking us to ignore the president's overall conduct. the fact that they're
celebrating the fact that there isn't the president saying, james comey, you do this or you're dead meat, like that's the win here, in terms of conduct and overall behavior, to nicole's amazing interview with chris christie when he said this is what conversations between new yorkers sound like, pardon me, chris christie, no, it's not and as far as business leaders in new york go, last i checked, mike bloomberg is the most powerful business leader here and that guy just gave $15 million to make up for the fact that he stepped out of paris accord. >> ari melber, is ignorance of the law or this case, ignorance of the ways of washington, the relationship ideally between a president and an fbi director, is it any defense, any of it? >> ignorance can be a defense because the mental state of whether you were trying to corrupt an investigation is one of the elements that would be under review to the extent that anyone, the special counsel or anyone else, does an inquiry regarding the criminal liability
of the white house. be that the president or anyone on down. so ignorance can be helpful from the narrow arguments of defense counsel. it's not as helpful when you broaden tout what people typically want out of their president. take a step back as we look at these live shots of this historic hearing that we expect under way here momentarily within 44 minutes as you know, this is going to be a presentation under oath from a man with impeccable law enforcement credentials, who ran the fbi, who was deputy attorney general under a republican administration, who was a prosecutor, a u.s. attorney in new york, a post people recognize -- >> southern district. >> it is as you mentioned billions, the real-life version of that, it is where preet bharara who has gotten some acclaim where he was first asked to stay on and removed by the president comes from, this is a
man who i think has earned his day under oath and in the spotlight if it's not the spotlight he would have chosen today and what he is outlining in the letter and what we'll hear in further detail is, conduct that he thought was inappropriate by a president and that interfered with his ability do his job. that's what we're going to hear and concerning for a lot of reasons. >> i mentioned our family is with us. we weren't kidding, chris mathews with us from washington. chris, i called this the most anticipated day of testimony in a generation. do you think that's fair and accurate? and what similar days are on your mind going into this? >> well, certainly, mccarthy in '54 and john dean in '73, those are two biggies and -- but nothing like this. i think that comey may be the great witness because you look at this broad sheet, full page in "the washington post" today of his testimony already, so he's laid it down. it's like a cur vash yo painting, it's not a sketch of
grandma moses it's detailed with tremendous detail and giant information like he leapt through the door of the grandfather clock and i could see reince priebus and vice president pence, tremendous detail he's laying down to establish the evocative nature of the proof here. he's offering of proof that's easy to follow. and especially that gothic scene, in the white house, in the green room which we all visit around christmastime when they have the press in, and that room, in an oval office -- i say an oval shaped table these two men met with the navy stewards coming in to serve them drinks and food and then leaving them alone. in that amazing scene where the president asked for his loyalty. almost like the godfather restaurant scene. i want your loyalty. and he does offer it up. and then comey, of course, is believed but here's a case where he's saying i'll give you honest loyalty and trump hold the noun. maybe comey was holding on to
the adjective honest. remember that thing, in april, he said remember that thing, talking about that oath of loyalty he believed comey had given him and wasn't honoring that was allowing the cloud over him to stay up there. this is fascinating stuff. trump must have read this. i know he doesn't read anything but i think he read this today and he knows what he's up against. i agree with everything said so far of all the other reporters and commentaries. this is a hell of a day. >> chris mathews throwing down some art history in the morning. don't go far from a microphone all day, though. please. because we want to check back in with you as we want to check in with chuck todd, host of "meet the press" host of "meet the press daily" and a busy man today. your thoughts? >> i feel like they've all been expressed, brian. i'll be honest. when you have 15 people it's hard to -- everything has been said, i guess not everyone said it. look, i think the important --
politically the important thing to watch the republican tone of questioning, how much of it is -- how many are willing to play defense attorney for the president and how many of them decide it's -- they're not willing to go out on that him for him. i think that's an important thing. but can i just tell you, i feel as if we have lost the focus on the initial premise of this which is only goes to the mismanagement and unforced errors of this president, which is, we're now having a major hearing, the biggest hearing maybe in a generation, is not about the substance of what the investigation is about, which is the russian meddling and the collusion, it's about how the president has handled the investigation since he's been in office. i mean it's a -- you know, to borrow the painful watergate metaphors essentially the coverup, not the crime that we're focused on or the potential coverup here and that is a reminder why these
investigations almost always turn out to be bad news, no matter where you go, because even if the initial issue, just ask bill clinton and that whitewater special prosecutor and where it ended up going, the initial issue can lead to abuse of power, obstruction of justice and these things that suddenly this president is facing right now. look they can take comfort in the fact that the president has been ruled out right now as a target, i don't understand why they take comfort. i know the why the president individually takes comfort in that but doesn't sound like he should. the president has introduced the idea maybe some of my associates did something i don't know, you better find out. how is infrastructure week going for this administration thus far? what are the deliverables they will have for their base, the american people? what are members of congress
going to go home and talk about on the next break that they are so proud of having done in washington? >> i have to say, the most tone deaf thing the idea that is their number one, the first thing they rolled out was totally tone deaf. that is a -- it's not a 1% problem but that is a 10% problem. that people experience. the folks that he promised to deliver some infrastructure spending and to repair roads and bridges, they didn't, you know, they're not concerned about how hard it is to travel up and down the east coast. it feels as if the president used his infrastructure plan to deal with a problem that impacts him and his friends. >> brian -- >> rather than something that the rest of the country could use. we have an issue with our air traffic control system that needs to be modernized but that was his lead, not roads and
bridges and stuff that will touch more communities in this country. on what they led with was tone deaf and it's not as if they have any deliverable really to talk about beyond that. >> we will be anxious to talk to you all day and by the time "meet the press daily" comes on the air tonight this will be history. thank you so much for joining us this morning. stephanie ruhle, almost crawled over the desk to make a point here. what was it? >> in terms of that air traffic control plan market carlson put it right the other night, more like a letter to santa. there isn't even a plan and all this, the president sitting there, signing these -- they're not bills. they're memos. they're photo opportunities because you know he love those richy rich signing and moving on. it's a grand total of nada. >> just being told by the control room we should have an arrival shortly on capitol hill. we're going to fit in a quick break if anything happens during
it, we will bust out and come back to our live coverage. see kind of a shaky picture there where we hope to see the two car motorcade pull up. we're just getting started as the comey hearing is now 37 minutes away. remember our special night? abdominal pain... ...and diarrhea. but it's my anniversary. aw. sorry. we've got other plans. your recurring, unpredictable abdominal pain and diarrhea... ...may be irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea, or ibs-d. you've tried over-the-counter treatments and lifestyle changes, but ibs-d can be really frustrating. talk to your doctor about viberzi,... ...a different way to treat ibs-d. viberzi is a prescription medication you take every day that helps proactively manage...
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welcome back to our live run up coverage to as we've been saying easily the most anticipated day of testimony in a generation. and that is james comey, the former head of the fbi, now appearing today as a private citizen, as we said on the broadcast last night, perhaps exerting more power over the president and the direction of this investigation today as a private citizen than he had when he was fbi director. chris mathews, among those standing by in our army of correspondents and analysts. chris, as we make these stops along the way, prior to our live coverage, when people ask you, who is this guy? who is james comey, what's he like, how do you answer? >> well, i think he's as you
see. he's a very tall manrs very impressive. -- tall man. very impressive. jimmy stewart genuineness which will be somewhat daunting to the president and his people. a guy of true independence to his institution. that's something you know in washington, someone who loves nasa or fema, or the fbi or the cia, their loyalty is to the troops around them. so many of the times he's made decisions that offended either the left or the right, do not offend his institution. and i think that's where his loyalty lies. and i think a lot of that is what we're seeing with trump. his battle with institutions. people keep asking me, when is this thing going to explode if washington. trump can be eruptive in his personality but the institutions in washington are not eruptive, they grind slowly. the way that this testimony was prepared is an example of how the bureaucracy works. lots of note taking and writing, getting it clear, creating a record, and confronting the new
guy in town, the president of the united states, with their power. i think he's going to bring all that institutional support from all the fbi agents in the country who i believe will be rooting for him, against a president who is the new guy in town. it's really a man who leads his institution. >> chris, a point you've made over and over and should be made again today because it's going to end up germane to any conversation we have, it's been your contention that president probably can't identify with the career person at the department of labor in washington, d.c., who takes the metro in to work everiedy, the subway -- every day, the subway from suburban maryland, maybe brings a bagged lunch and end of the career or life well lived gets a plaque of appreciation, takes their government role very seriously, takes their job very seriously, and considers it an honor to work for the federal government. >> you left out everything but the pocket protector and short
sleeved shirts. you have it pretty clear there. you got the picture of this guy or woman who comes in, in their mid 20s and stays to the mid 60s and devotes themselves to the bureau of labor statistics who want that as a life, like the security of it, okay, the fact that the income is moderate or modest, gets up pretty high by most standards but not a lot of money, they love the fact that the regularness of it and they live a regular life. they like getting into work a little early, coming home basically on time for dinner with their kids, but they really are straight iarrows that build the rocket to the moon, the kind of men and women who basically play by the rules and work hard. and trump doesn't understand those people, they're not entrepreneurial enough for him not wild guys like he is, not mad men. but they're reliable. and that's how the system works. in the end it's going to be the judge, the people that come to work, the howard bakers, the regular guys if you will, not flashy, that brought down
nixonian. nobody flashy brought down richard nixon. john dean kept his records and memory sound and an awesome witness. it is the institutions of washington coming up against the flamboyant president. >> they should separate us. before you know it we will go down the rabbit hole of tread fred thompson and lowell and they'll talk during comey's testimony. chris matthew, we're happy is part of our coverage this morning. jeremy bash, former chief of staff at pentagon, cia, former counsel to house intel what's your on your mind as we head here in the closing minutes? >> what struck me and i'm sure counselor melber is focusing on this as well, the president required jim comey to reaudition for his job. and that is in direct conflict with the ten-year tenure of an fbi director. the reason we have that system so fbi director does not have to re-audition for his job. what that re-audition constituted was essentially a threat. if you don't shut down the mike
flynn investigation, if you don't lift the cloud, if you don't clear me publicly, if you don't swear loyalty to me you're not going to have jur job. all of the interactions in and of themselves may or may not be obstruction of justice. when you add that with him carrying through with the threat, firing the fbi director, that i think at least makes a case that under the statute which by the way says whoever engages in a threatening communication to impede a federal investigation is guilty of an offense, that i think makes a place that the president has violated the law here. now we all understand you can't indict a sitting president and this is ultimately going to be a quasi political legal issue before the congress, but that's 18 months away and this gives bob mueller many things to look at about motive interviewing many other witnesses about this misconduct. >> all right. more from you later as we need more explanations. ari melber, we're watching this man and viewers perhaps joining us in kansas would be forgiven
for not being as obsessed as some new york and washington types are with this gentleman named preet bharara, give us the thumbnail sketch of who he is, why he's in the hearing roomnd why it's important? >> preet bharara was the prosecutor for the southern district of new york, very important area that includes wall street, that includes terror threats and includes trump tower. we was asked in a very unusual one-on-one meeting or several meetings at trump tower during the transition to stay on as prosecutor and then he was informed he would be fired with the u.s. attorneys which is a lawful right any president can exercise, but he unlike most of the others, insisted on staying on until he was certain he was being removed because it contradicted his prior messaging from the president himself at the time the president-elect. secondly, what we now know is a pattern of at least two, is that preet bharara was concerned about the president's repeated efforts to have direct phone call communications with pim hp
he alerted the doj and declined to take one of the calls which again as you point out to viewers, people may think, well the president can talk to a lot of people in the federal government. that's true. almost everybody. except the people that are running investigations if there's no good reason and here we have this letter from jim comey ending with the same concern about improper contact. preet bharara, like jim comey, a fired federal prosecutor, fired former sdny attorney in the room awaiting this testimony. >> nicolle wallace, that point that ari raised in our discussion this morning, it's -- it soundses pompous to call it the ways of washington -- >> no, it's -- >> propriety. >> i have the same thought, but it's about -- so we're correctly focused on donald trump and his inappropriate and sort of outrageous behavior in the context of any norms. but it's not all his fault. what is also on trial i think in terms of public opinion is the fact that no one around him has the strength, the courage, the
willingness or the experience in their own right to walk in and say hey, mr. president, you do not ask the fbi director to stay behind when he's, obviously, uncomfortable. now we know he asked his boss, ag sessions don't leave me alone with the president. he skeevs me out. the nonlawyer at the table. everyone around him is so weak, so afraid of being disinherited or fired -- >> or so new to this. >> they can't say to him you don't do that, you don't call the u.s. attorney and get involved in his investigation, you don't tell the director of the fbi the crown jewel of this country's law enforcement agencies, the director of the fbi, and it is unfathomable that the entire scrum of people, always there, in every picture, he can't sign his richy rich signature without 30 people being in the photo none said to him you don't do that? it's stunning. >> and trump businesses are
based in new york so could preet bharara been working on looking into the trump organization unclear. and the fact that he wouldn't take a call from the president, the fact that he has shown i'm not going to behave like a loyal subject, could that have been one of the issues for the president? >> this is not intended to be as personal as it's going to sound, but when your chief counselor is your son-in-law, age 36, real estate zion from new york, new to all of this -- >> no, listen that's where we are. he's in a little bit of -- i won't call it hot water but questions about his actions as a transition official. he reportedly set up a back channel with the russians as i mentioned before and the two explanations are both bad. one, relies on his ignorance of the way it's supposed to be. the other relies on perhaps conflicts he was representing his family business after the election, which is wholly inappropriate. this is where they are. the white house has landed on well the president just didn't know and whether it's sharing
classified information with the russians, saying i get such good intel it's the best intel in the world, they're saying he wasn't leaking, he was -- he didn't know. he didn't know -- this is where they have landed. that he just didn't know. chris christie with me yesterday said he didn't know -- >> new york discussions. >> we elebted an outsider this is what people wanted. they wanted a disrupter they did not want someone who breaks the law or walks right up to that line and perhaps sometimes inadvertently crossed it. that's not what they chose. >> to echo that point in law enforcement, people around the country have a lot of respect for police, for cops. >> yeah. >> the fbi, they're federal cops. jim comey was the head of the federal cops. that's what this is. and so i don't think it's very complicated at the end of the day, interesting to see what people take from the hearing, we have to hear what else he says, but at the end of the day you have the guy who used to run the cops saying that he was uncomfortable in his role as law enforcement, and he's worked for many presidents in both parties and this was the only time he took these extra measures and
then he got fired. that's the story. it's not the whole story, president trump has a role, other people have a role, that's why you gather facts. it's not a good story at the end of the day for the white house. i don't see how you feel vindicated when the guy who does the law enforcement who works with the cops and the agents says this was wrong. >> the jared kushner story doesn't work either. the argument all along that he maybe wholly unqualified in terms of experience for that job, ivanka as well, but they have the president's ear and they will be the moderating force, well when is that going to kick in? if jared didn't know better in terms of the law and not helping in terms of moderating the president how are the president's closest aides what are they doing there? >> there's going to be a special guest in this hearing today, and that's john mccain, who is not a member of the committee hosting this hearing, but as chairman of senate armed services, is an ex-official yo member and he is using that courtesy, he will be
part of this hearing we're hearing his questions will be last in order. it's going to be something along the lines of, 15 minutes each for the two chairs from both parties, and then seven minutes at least one round with all the committee members, we may go two. there will be breaks, there will be a stop for lunch, there's going to be a closed session this afternoon. with us here is matt miller. we have yet to introduce you. you have joined our happy family here in the studio. former chief spokesman for the justice department. just a few hours ago on our broadcast last night, i asked you what would you ask james comey if you were either preparing a senator for this committee or, indeed, was a senator on this committee, tell us what you said then? >> i would want to ask him obviously about the interactions with the president that he details in his testimony, but i would want to go further and ask
about any interactions he had with the president's staff. any other interactions he had with people at the justice department. this, obviously, looks like a potential obstruction of justice case. we talked about whether ari called it a colorable case. we've talked about whether it's something that could be prosecuted. we don't know if it's something that can be prosecuted or turned over to congress for impeachment. but certainly know it's what a prosecutor would look at as a predicate to open an investigation. and the prosecutor in this case is bob mueller. he's going to be looking at this hearing today, and what jim comey says, about who talked to him about this case, about who at the justice department knew about the concerns that he had about the president's behavior, who at the fbi knew about those kidnappers, and those are all people he's going to want to talk to, maybe through interviews that the fbi conduct, maybe about putting people at the justice department and even senior white house aides in the grand jury and ask what they knew about why the president intervened with the fbi director and why the president eventually fired him. >> just to voice over and
describe what we're seeing in the hearing room, there is a pecking order to everything and that's what makes capitol hill go. there's a pecking order to where the senators sit in relation to the witness. there is also a pecking order among still photographers. some of the greats are in the shot from capitol hill with names like apple white and mcnamee, some of them second generation still photographers. they are staking out what they think is the best angle when the tall and lengthy former fbi director comes in stands to get sworn in and gets ready for his testimony. obviously, a very big ticket for those people in the hearing room. there's a pod of journalists in the middle sitting at their laptops. there's at least one overflow room. though candidly if you're not going to be in the hearing room you might as well watch the
audio and video presentation in the comfort of your own home or office. kasie hunt is going to be among our correspondents all day casing out the hallways outside. hey, kasie, what have you seen so far? >> hi brian. we are hear at the back door of this hearing room, so this is typically where senators will come in and out. there's senator carper not on the intelligence committee. i have to tell you it seems as though many of these senators have changed their usual walking plans. if you spend enough time up here you'll know that senator lindsey graham comes out of that elevator and walks this way, dianne feinstein from that side, that's where her office is, however there is a way into the hearing room through an elevator that doesn't allow us to talk to. more senators than usual are availing themselves of that and part of the reason why might be this line of reporters. i will ask my camera to step out here and show you a little bit down here. all of these cameras lined up waiting.
you can see if you were going to try to come down this hallway, and duck into this hearing room, it might be a daunting experience. so questions, of course, you guys have been talking about what we might hear from these different senators, different questions. i've spoke to john cornyn yesterday, we saw him go by earlier, and one of the things he said to me was he wants to talk about hillary clinton. and the things that had popped up with her and excuse me i will duck my head out here, this is senator cruz. >> what are you hoping to hear from the fbi director? >> looking forward to hearing his testimony. >> senator, do you think what the president did was appropriate? all right. as you can see not a lot of comment from senator ted cruz. but that is a little bit of the scene here, brian. just to finish the thought senator cornyn, number two, hang on one second here we go. this is senator from delaware. >> that were inappropriate, unethical unprofessional and made him as the director of the fbi intensely uncomfortable.
he mem morized those in memos and now for the first time in an open setting he will be be sharing with the american people the encounters he had with president trump. >> senator -- >> what do you want to hear beyond the opening statement? >> obstruction of justice or no? >> that's a conclusion that ought to be reached by prosecutor. certainly there is compelling evidence in the written testimony i saw in advance of today's hearing that the former fbi director had encounters with president trump in which he engaged profoundly unethical and unwise practices. >> senator koontz -- >> in the opening statement to you that was released. >> probably just to see it in writing, the repeat of the encounters where president trump pushed him to back off the investigation into the national security adviser, pledge his personal loyalty to him. president trump either doesn't understand or care about the long-standing practice of independence by law enforcement and intelligence leadership in our country. >> do you believe that alone is evidence enough of obstruction of justice? >> that's not a judgment call that i should be making. we'll leave that to federal -- to official prosecutors.
>> senator, do you think that there are republican senators who have been trying to help out the administration here or do you think they've conducted themselves in an ethical way in the hearings you saw yesterday and what do you expect from them today? >> it's my hope that we will work together on a bipartisan basis to now move to russia sanctions. russia has paid absolutely nothing for its meddling in our election. i'm alarmed by suggestions that the trump administration may return to russia the two properties with an intelligence value that were taken from them by the obama administration as part of trying to impose costs on them for meddling in our election. we will see whether there are republican senators willing to join folks who have been leaders in this effort like senators mccain and graham. >> thank you very much, senator. bri brian what he was talking about, there's an iran sanctionses bill on the floor, potentially signed from mitch mcconnell he wants to see the president sign something along those lines. i'll send it back your way. >> kasie hunt, thanks. to paraphrase a president we
have the best people and they ask the best questions and they exhibit the best hustle especially in those hallways. we apologize for the video quality. looked kind of since chris mathews threw down art history looked like water lilies. it can look a lot like an oil painting and that is a still a primitive technology which is our only way of getting live programming out of some of these hallways and we get a lot of signal breakup and we're sorry for that. it's not as the same quality as our usual high definition. but senator koontz of delaware stopping to comment unlike senator cruz of texas. interesting there. and nicolle wallace, quickly, before we get to our next guest, if they go to hillary clinton, everyone watching will know exactly what that's about. >> i don't think it helps donald trump. donald trump is his own best
messenger when it comes to hillary clinton and donald trump doesn't need republican senators to use this hearing to, i guess in their minds, get on offense against hillary clinton. what donald trump needs the senators to do, i suppose, from a political standpoint, is to poke holes in either the v voracity of jim comey's account or sort of the significance of it. i don't think it's a good idea for senate republicans in their own right. i think that's been litigated over and over again. the guy is out of work. so it doesn't matter what his answers are, frankly, about hillary clinton. and i also don't think it serves the president that i presume they're trying to please or impress by taking this approach. >> matt slap is standing by to talk to us. matt is a -- in addition to other things, is a friend of nicolle wallace. and -- >> oh, god don't out him. >> matt is -- >> oh, no, twitter. >> matt's chairman of the american conservative union. last seen kind of moderating a
huge session at cpac. he among other things is a veteran of the bush 43 administration. so matt, last night we -- and this is common in politics, democrats do it, republicans do it, we all saw a copy of the republican party talking points for members of congress, and surrogates. including kind of some ham handed suggested tweets that they can send out before, during and after the comey testimony. where do you stand on all of this and how much do you just want to sit back, watch and listen to the former fbi director, what he has to say? >> well, in all candor, having worked in a white house that has an independent, you know, counsel, it's a very stressful time and i think it's very important for the country that we in a transparent fashion, get the facts out on the table and move beyond all of this conversation we've been having about russia.
and i think republicans have to let the chips fall where they may on these things. the one thing i know about investigations that i was tangentially involved with is like there's no hiding place in these investigations. it all comes out. the e-mails come out, the conversations come out. the frustration a lot of republicans like me have with jim comey, brian, is that -- and i've watched your coverage and the coverage on other outlets and read so many articles this morning, the -- this idea that jim comey has a sterling perfect reputation i want you to know a lot of democrat friends of mine in d.c., and republican friends of mine in d.c., feel very burned by jim comey. they feel like he's very political. it's really all about his own reputation and being able to stand up at very dramatic moments like this and be the guy. he loves the drama and the problem is that it was his sporadic and change activity throughout our election process that really resulted in so much of people losing confidence in what the fbi did during the
campaign. and i think he actually has arm harmed his reputation. i want the fbi to have the best leader and to do the very best things and i think the fbi will get that back. i think they lost some of that under jim comey and there's a lot of democrats democrats if they were honest, if this wasn't about donald trump it would be about the fact jim comey did some inappropriate things and maybe, maybe, did something to tilt the scales to against hillary clinton in the election, and i think, he's just not somebody i have deep respect for. >> matt, do you believe him? do you believe what he wrote in his testimony? >> yes, i think probably he did tell the president three times that he wasn't a subject of the investigation. >> do you also believe what he wrote in his testimony released last night was that donald trump said hey, if you find out any of my satellite associates were involved with russia let me know. do you think it's president trump's job to find out for myself and for the country if any of his satellite associates, aka campaign staffers, were
cluding with russia? >> all i can tell you, i read alan dershowitz's piece and he finds no wrongdoing in any of this. >> you and i aren't lawyers, that's why we work together but do you believe that president trump asking comey to tell him if any of his campaign staffers were in cahoots with russia is something that donald trump should want to or try to find out on his own? couldn't he call a staff meeting or family dinner and say guys -- >> let me try to answer here which is i believe that in the bush administration, alberto gonzalez had a policy where the president wouldn't meet alone with the fbi director because that insulates the president from an fbi director making charges and so i think it would have been better if those, if they hadn't done it in that way. from every lawyer i talked to, including a lot of our former colleagues in the white house, they find political errors, and they find no wrong doing in any of this, nicole, but i think like everyone, i want to hear
what jim comey has to say. i've seen lawyers scrub the testimony he released, rather dramatically. >> hold on jim comey likes drama more than president trump likes drama who released the name of his new fbi director yesterday? >> that's maybe why you asked me on. it's important to have this perspective, too, which is not everybody thinks that jim comey is the only honest man in washington. they just don't. >> i think he raises a lot of familiar points that many people have raised whether jim comey exercised his job very well or not and do you a big public job, you're going to get public criticism. i think what is missing perhaps sorely missing from mr. schlapp's analysis, whether any of that goes to the veracity of jim comey. what today is about and there's many days to talk about how you fell down on the job, that's well documented. today is whether you think he'll tell the truth under oath or
shade it or perjure himself. he's unlikely to pe per jure but we'll fact check. the notion he made a mistake i don't think speaks to veracity. lot of days in washington, have a lot of punches, counter punches and shadow boxing. today he's sworn in under oath and if trump officials come in under oath we'll listen to what they say. i haven't heard any evidence that would suggest mr. comey is about to perjur himself. >> thank you, matt. you sure engaged everybody on the panel. we love a chance to talk to you again. kasie hunt is, has just dropped in on what looks like a conversation with susan collins of maine. >> -- this whole controversy. i will be asking him many questions about his meetings with the president, in particular, i'm very interested in how he responded to the
president when the president asked him to let go of the investigation of certain aspects of michael flynn's calls with the russian ambassador. that will be something i want to flesh out. there were other meetings and phone calls, other than the ones that mr. comey comments on in his testimony. i'd like to know what was said during those meetings and phone calls, and whether or not he wrote memos each time. so that will be, those will be some of the questions. >> reporter: senator, do you think -- >> thank you. >> there you go, brian. if you are still with us, that was senator susan collins of maine, now going in the back door of this hearing room, saying she wants to know more about that meeting, that of course was where eventually mr. comey said honest loyalty. >> kasie hunt in the hallway
with the republican senator from maine. again, we are ticking down to the last six minutes. we're told there's every indication they're going to start on time. we want to bring michael leiter in here, a guy we've known for a long time, among our national security analysts, importantly he's the former director of the u.s. national counterterrorism center. michael, you know and worked with jim comey. as you listened to other people's portraits of him, other people's opinions of him, what is it that you are tempted to add to the conversation and what is it we should know about the jim comey you know? >> well, brian, i would say jim comey is a lot of things, and a lot of perspective rests on politics, rather than knowing the man. and i'll tell you that the man i know, first of all, he is incredibly bright. his intellect is really powerful. second, he's unbelievably experienced.
people don't fully understand that jim did not grow up as a politician. he grew up as a prosecutor in virginia, and then new york, and he wrorose to these ranks becau honestly he was the best at it. third, i would say he really is a man of integrity. now, that integrity at times can push into self-righteousness, and i haven't agreed with everything that jim did during the clinton investigation and even during the bush administration but he does it out of a deep sense of honor and integrity and i really think that his statement reflects that. it's not pontificating. eight not making accusations. it is fact bound. and any fbi agent who takes notes after an investigation called a 315 would be proud of that write-up because it wasn't colored through jim's eyes having been fired as the director of the fbi, in my view. it was written from the perspective of, i'm going to try
to say exactly what i experienced, and i think in that sense, jim will be a really stellar witness to put down the facts and then let others make the legal although i don't think this will come down to legal issues for the president, more likely to make the political judgments about what this means. >> and michael, that is one of the best thumbnail sketches i think we've ever heard about jim comey, and i know you don't delve into politics, but that bearing and demeanor you just spoke b the way he carries himself and what's important to him, not unheard of in the world of washington, government service, law, law enforcement, but perhaps the first time donald trump ever encountered anyone like jim comey was when he sat down with jim comey. >> brian, i think that's exactly right. and jim is an imposing guy. that is a solid 6'8" man. >> yes. >> and i think you see in jim's
recollection of that dinner, you couldn't put two people who are less alike in the same room. >> yes. >> the distinction between honesty and loyalty is striking. and i have to say, having served two presidents, having spent a lot of time in that oval office. it is flabbergasting some of the approaches, the conversations that were had. and i don't want to put myself in the mold of jim comey. i have to say if i had a president say some of those things, approached me in ways, i would have walked out, taken notes, called the justice department and said we're not in kansas anymore, guys. something's different here. >> michael leiter, who has a terrific bearing and demeanor of his own and a guy we've come to know, usually sadly on the subject of terrorism, but today, on law and law enforcement
because that was his way to the white house and beyond. nicole wallace we're going to want to live in this moment. there's camella harris from california, senator blumenthal from connecticut. everyone in that room knows what a big day this is, every senator, dutiful staff member sitting behind them all day long knows this is a day of great moment. >> great moment and high stacks. matt schlapp and chris christie are gifted advocates. coming up mixed reviews, that is the point. that is the point. comey is so powerful, because he didn't give a bleep what either side thought of him. that is why he is out of a sorkin screen play. he didn't care if he made a republican president mad.
he didn't care if he made a democratic president mad. that is why what he says today has consequences. >> dianne feinstein, go ahead. >> setting the stage for this sort of extravaganza, think about the irony. it is the ultimate in reality tv, with president trump being the reality tv king and in this episode he doesn't have any lines. he's watching it from home. >> interesting subplot with pete bharara, former u.s. attorney from the southern district of new york, by the way known to be in the midst of an investigation into fox news, of all things, just at the time he was pulled, angus ing can, the independent senator from maine, who caucuses with the democrats. not a pantangolie meeting the