tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC June 17, 2017 2:00am-3:01am PDT
collision while at sea and collision while at sea and you're fired. let's play hardball. good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. today for the first time since the trump/russia probe got under way president trump publicly acknowledged he is under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. he said so. in doing so, however, the president took direct aim at the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, the only person in the executive branch who has ultimate authority over the special counsel's probe. . trump tweeted quote i am being investigated for firing the fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fbi director.
which hunt. over the last five weeks that man, rod rosenstein, has risen from relative obscurity and been thrust into a key role in the unfolding investigation. it was rosenstein who the president asked to draft that now infamous memo that served as the pretense to fire former fbi director james comey last month. however, it wasn't long before trumconfessed that rosenstein's recommendation had thing to do with the firing. >> regardless of recommendation i was going to fire comey knowing there was no good time to do it. and, in fact, when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia, is a made up story. >> days after that admission that rosenstein appointed robert mueller as special counsel to pick up the trump/russia investigation where comey left off. with talk that the president is considering ways to oust mueller as special counsel rosenstein is the only person who stands in
his way if he remains in his job. as rosenstein acknowledged tuesday his firing remains a distinct possibility. >> mr. rosenstein, could you be terminated without cause? >> yes. >> who would appoint your replacement. >> the president. >> that's a possibility? >> anything is possible, senator. >> i understand. >> "the new york times" reports today that mr. trump has left open the possibility of dismissing mr. mueller but the people briefed on the president's thinking said mr. trump knows firing mr. rosenstein would be politically dangerous. i'm joined by nbc news intelligence and national security reporter ken, marcus is a reporter, and national security reporter adam. let me start with kent. try to put this together for a person trying to figure out what the hell trump is up to. why would he put all his fire
power in the direction of rosenstein, who is basically a career servant, not a politician, why is he focusing all the attack and anger on him? >> chris, i don't know. that tweet seemed like a primal scream of frustration. it may, though, have the effect of putting pressure on rosenstein to recuse which would put this in the hands of rachel bran the number three at the justice department but that's not going to change anything. chris, donald trump cannot stop this investigation by firing people. he would have to fire 14,000 fbi agents and even then he would have congress to deal with and he can't fire them. it's not clear what the strategy is beyond donald trump's immense frustration with this whole thing. >> second point why would it lead to his recusal? why would he feel the need to recuse himself if trump keeps the heat on him, rosenstein? >> that wouldn't be the direct reason. that adds to the pressure. the real reason he might have to recuse is he could be a witness in the obstruction of justice probe because he was involved in the firing of comey and the firing of comey is the essence
of this probe. comey believes he was fired because of the russia investigation. donald trump told lester holt he was fired because of the russia investigation. the question is, is that obstruction of justice and that's one of the things that robert mueller is looking at. >> this is nixonian. the president's tweet appeared to suggest rosenstein's role in the firing of james comey may compromise rosenstein's ability to oversee the special counsel's probe. tuesday rosenstein was asked whether that's a conflict of interest since he could become a witness as ken said in the potential obstruction case against the president. here he goes. >> you become a witness in this investigation do you think there's a conflict of interest there. >> i'm not going to answer hypothetical questions and the reason is i am working with career professionals who know these rules and responsible for enforcing these rules and we are going to do the right thing and defend the integrity of the investigation. >> according to abc news today rosenstein has privately discussed recusal with the justice department, quote, rosenstein raised the possibility of his recusal
during a meeting with the associate attorney general rachel brand number three in the department. rosenstein told her that he was here -- whether to recuse himself she would have to step in and take over those responsibilities. she gets to be robert bork. the pattern is clear, if trump decides he doesn't want to be prosecuted or investigated, thinks he's above the law, he starts peeling off these people, got rid of comey, threatened mueller and now going after rosenstein, he's threatening him today. more stuff from trump. >> well, it is evocative of the good old days. >> you work for "the washington post." >> yeah. >> has a history in these matters. >> i can't remember that. >> on the saturday night massacre nixon ordered his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor, the attorney general refused, the deputy attorney general refused the person who carried out the order was robert bork the solicitor general. >> nixon had to deal with richardson but he let him
resign. >> sorry. >> the nuances. >> i mean, if rosenstein could recuse himself, but it would not be exactly a bork situation. he would sort of dump this stinking mess of having to deal with an angry president and a complicated investigation into the president into the hands of rachel brand, the associate attorney general who might be none too pleased to have that mess land in her lap instead of off rosenstein's plate. >> in an ideal trump world, which is not an ideal world for anybody else, but for him, he would still have the guy he made attorney general, jeff sessions, in charge of the whole thing. he would be the guy overseeing whatever was done in terms of prosecution, right? >> right. >> no special counsel, all that stuff has built up since his firing brigade started because in the real world trump would like to go back to i'm the boss, i pick the attorney general, we both pick the fbi director we don't like him, we get rid of him. we've done that. now i get to pick the next one,
i decide whether it's a special counsel, there won't be a special counsel because i'm the boss and the ag is in charge. all this is going haywire because of trump's craziness and fear of something and by the way it's still not clear what he's afraid of, but it's something. >> he can't make this investigation go away. he's not going to stop it. as ken pointed out, what's he going to do, fire thousands of fbi agents. what he can do a couple things. make life really miserable for rod rosenstein. he loves to torture people who he feels have been disloyal and are somehow wronged him, especially if they work for him. >> [ inaudible ]. >> nothi at all. but as comey pointed out, rosenstein is asurvivor, and he's done things to insulate himself from being fired before. with trump specifically. number two, trump is gining up his base. let's not underestimate the way that he is playing this as a rigged system. rule number one of politics, donald trump style, is if donald trump is losing, someone else
must be cheating. so he is, therefore, casting this as an unfair system, a rigged system, and the forces who were out to undermine him all along politically are at it once again. >> fortunately -- i've been consistent over the years, there's certain grownups in the city and one is dianne feinstein and democratic senator dianne feinstein said in a statement today, quote, the message that president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn't apply to him and anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired. if the president thinks he can fire deputy attorney general rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation he's in for a rude awakening. she does remind me of an older sister of a nun because he's so clean and clear and grownup and doesn't like young idiots running around misbehaving. i heard it from her. that's classy feinstein. >> what we can see now is that the president is trying to reinforce this narrative that this is a witch hunt, right. you know, he was not being targeted, comey told him, assured him three times, he
wasn't the focus of this investigation. >> yeah. >> and then in the process of basically trying to enlist other officials to come to his defense, to publicly go out there and say that this narrative is false, that they're going after him, in the process of doing so he put himself in the cross hairs of the fbi. incredibly frurated by thi and trying again to change the narrive. >> big question, has he been intimidated. in a statement last night rosenstein issued an oddly timed warning about stories that site anonymous sources, quote, americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous officials. particularly when they do not identify the country let alone the branch or agency of government with which the alleged sources are supposedly affiliated. americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. let me go back to ken on this. this looks like an attempt to show even handedness, i'm on your side against leaks, mr. president, so don't come at me. that's the way a lot of people will read that as a sign of
weakness by rosenstein, that he felt he had to mirror or mimic what the president has been saying. about leaks. >> i agree on that. i can tell you our reporting at nbc news he did this on his own, this was his initiative, and that he's been frustrated with some stories about him that he thought were wrong, one early in the administration that said he threatened to resign, he claims that's not true, another where comey allegedly went to him asking for more resources for the investigate and rosenstein claims that's not true. the two post stories this week damaging leaks that put people inside the investigation. he's frustrated and wanted to send a message to his employees cut it out. you're absolutely right, it's also sending a message to donald trump who is probably wondering what are you doing about these leaks and this is his way of saying here's something we're doing. >> yeah. >> adam, your thoughts on this. >> i mean it's very strange the way he worded that, especially the first sentence, where he says especially officials who may not be identified as
americans. who is he talking about, russians here? >> he was trying to muddy everything up so people think the russians are here. >> source close to the white house it's a fair assumption it's not moscow or london or mexico city. we know it's from around here. >> yeah. and, you know, we didn't really think we needed to clarify in our stories -- >> he's mocking news stories. >> jeremy, he's mocking the press by saying they could be sources from oslo. >> guess what, the tone is set from the top and this is what trump has done all along. the statement issued last night as bizarre as it was was reminiscent of the mention of loyalty earlier this week around the cabinet table in the white house when they all had to say how -- what an honor and privilege it was to work for donald trump. the people around him feel this need and it's not a misplaced need, by the way, if they want to ingraceate themselves with the boss they have to profess their admiration. >> so third world. >> tribal societies where you have to show your love of the leader all the time.
in north korea, i'm sure it's like that too. let me ask you about this whole thing that started this week so we have a friday explanation. everything that is still murky about what may have gone on between the trump people and moscow, what may have gone on whether business nature, political nature, something to do with sanctions are all mixed together, we don't know. it's murky. the clarity in this matter emerged when he fired comey. because he had tried to get comey to do a pledge of allegiance of some sort, clearly, he asked him to get rid of the flynn case and then says if you're not going to play ball you're out of here. which have the earmarks of obstruction of justice. he's getting clarity to the prosecution here. but all since firing comey. >> well, that's the astonishing thing here is the degree to which this is an incredibly self-inflicted wound inflicted by donald trump on himself. so we don't know what the facts are of collusion or not collusion made up stories according to trump. we don't know what the facts are
about financial dealings and other dealings during the campaign and the transition. maybe some of that will pan out, maybe it won't. but all of a sudden, we have this very live case which is what has caused the president to kind of flip out over this last week, which is a case of his own creation, his pressure on jim come demanding loyalty, pressing him to drop the case against flynn, enlisting others to get him to drop the case against flynn and then firing comey, which has not the -- you know, it's not a lay down obstruction of justice case but most prosecutors would be pursuing that at this point. >> walking filing cabinets. that's actually the way he did it. let's take a look at what we know about the investigation based on the reporting to date. when it comes to potential campaign collusion with russia, seven of trump's associates are currently under scrutiny. when it comes to potential obstruction the president's conversations with three top intelligence officials are also under scrutiny. trump asked former fbi director comey to drop the investigation
of flynn among other things and asked director of national intelligence dan coats to intervene with comey to get the fbi to back off flynn. and trump asked nsa director mike rojjers to publicly deny the existence of any collusion with russia. the difference between this and nixon, the broadest possible brush here, nixon knew he had done a lot of things wrong that could have come out. lots of this rithings are on th record, i did digging myself through the archives, nixon told his people to go in and steal everything from brookings. he said to go in and go to the republican national committee and make it look like a democrat job, all on the tapes and nixon knew that could come out, all the dirty tricks, going after what's his name's psychiatrist. it was all there. so he had reason to play defense. we have yet to find the clarity of what trump is hiding. >> that's ekly right. it's looking increasingly as if there are not tapes. we won't see those. we won't have the type of concrete -- >> content that might be on the tapes. >> that's right. what happens, this goes on the
way it will wh trump claiming every statement that comes out of comey or comes out of these hearings is an exoneration and his enemies saying it's an indictment. >> clark clifford the washington fixer and lawyer would tell somebody don't do anything and then send them a bill for $5,000. because that was the right thing to do. i want to go -- you're laughing because this guy, what's his name, kasowitz never tells trump don't do anything. he says $1500 an hour keep it coming and just be yourself. i mean why don't they -- why doesn't he tell the president stop doing anything you're going to be clear of this crap in six months, a bad six months but you will be clear if you don't do anything more. >> maybe that is his advice, chris, and trump is not heeding it. >> why is he paying the guy? why is he paying the guy to give him advice he's not going to listen. >> the graphic with the people under investigation i find that remarkable. i was texting with michael cohen trump's personal lawyer and ended the trump with any future
inquiries will have to go through my counsel. if trump's lawyer needs a lawyer this is getting serious. >> kasowitz has a flack work, the flack of the lawyer who doesn't work in washington this will end up in pittsburgh somewhere. thank you ken, ruth. nothing wrong with pittsburgh. jeremy peters, who is so skeptical i love it. coming up inside a white house under investigation. robert mueller is looking at jared kushner's finances. mike pence is lawyering up. should white house staffers be more afraid of mueller or their boss donald trump. that's ahead. plus the hardball round table and the big question tonight what would happen if president trump were to actually fire robert mueller or deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. also tonight, a preview of our special presentation of the documentary "all the president's men revisited" and the parallels that continue to take shape between the watergate scandal under nixon and what's happening with this president. trump watch, this is hardball where the action is. it's just a burst pipe, i could fix it. (laugh)
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ken starr the former independent counsel that investigated bill clinton argues fire robert mueller would be an insult to the founding fathers. star writes, quote, absent the most extreme circumstances the president would be sing similarly ill advised to threaten much less ord mueller's firing. we'll be back after this. finding time to get things done isn't easy.
change your wifi password to something you can actually remember, instantly. everyone's talking about, tonight. and the bill you need to pay? do it in seconds. because we should fit into your life, not the other way around. go to xfinity.com/myaccount >> welcome back to "hardball." in a sign that the special counsel is expanding his investigation "the new york times" is reporting that members of president trump's transition team have been ordered to preserve all documents and materials. related to russian meddling in the 2016 election. according to a memo obtained by "the new york times" transition team lawyers requested team members preserve any physical and electronic records that may be related in any way to the subject matter of the pending investigation. vice president mike pence was in
charge of president-elect trump's transition team. we've now learned pence has hired how powered d.c. attorney richard collin to help him hire the russian probe related questions. the vice president has found himself among many individuals including jared kushner in the ensnared in the ever expanding trump/russia probe. in miami the vice president was asked about his decision to hire outside legal counsel. let's watch. >> any comment for the counsel? >> just very routine. >> very routine? >> very routine. >> 147 days by the way the past 147 days have been anything but routine. of course inside the white house according to reports, administration officials are trying to subdue an enraged leader, that would be the prident, to novail. look at the pictures of the guy. "time" magazine is also reporting that trump advisors feel like the self-inflicted wounds of the first five months are out of their hands and forced upon them by an instinct
tul impulsive president. that's a fair question. i'm joined by a correspondent for reuters and i'm joined by michael shearer. you've been interviewing the people in the white house. that's amazing to get them to talk. >> yeah. >> they're all told not to talk about russia. >> they don't talk much about russia. they'll talk generally about what they're trying to do to get the president in line. what we came away with for that story in the magazine is that it's sort of like the serenity prayer that the alcoholics deal with. they try to control, to deal with what they can control. they try to accept what they can't control. which is -- the ser reneety prayer. and to know the difference between the two things. >> what can they control? they think they have control over anything? >> this is interesting. the white house chief of staff and aides have built this enormous traditional structure in the white house that no one sees because it doesn't often matter. there's planning weeks ahead, themes, infrastructure, jobs.
>> in the roosevelt room. >> the theme next month will be made in america. a whole bunch of rollouts. >> somebody came out with the cuban thing. that was smart. but anyway. let me ask you about this, what do you know about the white house mood? i hear they're scared and gagged? >> i think it's like he was saying people are trying to keep their heads down and get their work done. they're trying to focus on the president's agenda but the president kind of keeps getng in the way by constantly tweeting about russia. it seems the idea is that they're going to try to power through. focus on the accomplishments that they say no one is paying attention to and kind of try to ignore the elephant in the room. >> but everything -- you guys know and everybody watching knows how transparent our country is. you can look at the president's face that tough guy thing he puts on his face. you know, you know what that looks like. i have to look tough like a street corner guy.
walk down the block and look tough. everybody knows that means he's scared and pence gets drawn into this like a mob thing. trump gets involved in getting rid of comey. all of a sudden he's a possible victim. i'm sorry, perhaps suspect. perhaps person of interest in an obstruction clean. -- obstruction case. pence is clean. he normally would not do anything like this. >> it's right to say pence hiring outside counsel doesn't mean he's guilty of anything or suspected. but if you're a possible witness be to something that will be investigated like what the president said about -- >> he was sitting in the room. he might have piped up and said get rid of the bum. we don't know what happened. >> just the fact of hiring outside counsel doesn't mean anything. it means he's probably not the last person in the white house that's going to have to have an outside counsel to deal with mueller. he's a fierce investigator. you don't want to interact with the fbi unless you have your own lawyer. >> what's it like in the white house? they eat together the top officials. i used to have one of those great jobs as a speechwriter.
i loved working at the white house. i worked for a president who wasn't politically genius, jimmy carter, but h was clean. this is weird. >> i don't know what it's like in the mess. it seems like -- >> it is a mess. i mean, it seems like -- i mean they're still very defensive of the president. i think you kind of when you're on the team i think that a lot of them look at this like this is their team. >> let's get back to what you said. you said they have a structure like a normal white house. first of all reince preibus doesn't lock to me like a chief of staff, like a guy you're afraid of crossing because he will fire you. trump would never let reince fire anybody. >> reince has a structure but he's not playing the role of the traditional chief of staff. >> he can't hire or fire. >> he doesn't have the power the chiefs of staff normally have. >> he can't hire or fire. >> not without consulting with other people. more importantly, he can't be in a room with the president and say this is what you're going to do because this is the best thing and have the president listen to him.
he's one of several aides who can try that. history over the last couple months has shown the president won't follow along. >> i saw this coming the nepotism thing. you shouldn't hire your son-in-law. it creates problems. third world countries have all the time. you've got the prince sitting there. whether nobody messes with the prince. therefore the prince gets away with everything even his bafoonry. now the president -- i think knows that jared is not up to the job. i get that sense. yet he's the boss's son-in-law. >> i don't know if he thinks that jared is not up to the job but jared is a son-in-law, and i mean it is pretty ironic when you see or funny when you see them talk about like ivanka. she was involved in the work placwe andll theides are very careful to say when they're talking in public thank you to ivanka she did a very great job. >> i know. it's so obvious. they're afraid that all it
takes -- remember if you show up at a restaurant you get eye contact with them you're dead. >> the important thing to remember about jared he's not in the chain of command like other aides at the white house. he has a lot of pet prompts. he does saudi arabia, something about veterans, he does this or that. if he wants to weigh in he weighs in. if he doesn't he goes on vacation with his wife. >> >> you know what we call those guys. floaters. there's good floaters. valleyer are jarrett. susan thomas. every administration has a floater with unlimited power and everyone else has to crumble. >> that protects jared in the end. it gives him some distance. >> he's married to ivanka. >> yeah. that protects him too. >> thank you. from reuters and "time." buy a copy of "time" magazine this weekend. it's on your newsstands. still there. >> or subscribe. >> even better. >> a hardball round table and the hardest question in washington. what would happen if trump fired mueller or rosenstein or both if he goes nixon on us. this is "hardball" where the action is. ho doesn't cover your moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
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i'm dara brown. here's what's happening. seven crew members of the "uss fitzgerald" are missing and three others injured after the destroyer collided with a philippine container ship off japan. the fitzgerald suffered damage below the waterline. it began taking on water but it has been stabilized. in st. paul, minnesota, the streets are clear of protestest who shut down a highway after a jury acquitted a police officer
in the shooting death of a black motor rist. back to hardball. if president trump ordered you to fire the special counsel, what would you do? >> nors, i'm not going to -- senator, i'm not going to follow any orders unless i believe they're lawful. >> that was deputy attorney general rod rosenstein asserting his independence in erseeing the investigation of special counsel robert mueller into russian meddlingnto the 2016 election. rosenstein repeatedly assured senators he had no intention of taking action against mueller without cause. as long as it's his job to do so. let's watch. >> do you know of any reason for cause to fire mr. mueller as of this date? >> no, i do not senator. >> that would be your decision? if that ever happened, right? >> that's correct. >> and you're going to make it and nobody snels. >> as long as i'm in this
position, senator, it would be my responsibility to make that position. >> what you have said, you would not assent under the present situation? >> correct. >> there's no cause. >> yes, that's correct. >> is it fair to put that to rest? >> as far as i'm concerned yes, senator. i appointed him. i stand by that decision. i think it was the right thing to do under those circumstances and i'm going to defend the integrity of that investigation. >> let's bring in the "hardball" round table. clairn page with "the chicago tribune," annie lin for the "boston globe" and jason johnson politics editor at the root. here's how i see it. we're seeing a city that's like before a war, eery calm, like a monster movie. too quiet. everybody out there is thinking, what's the next news break going to be, the next crazy trump move, because everybody thinks he's not going to let this prosecution continue. right? is there any chance he's going to sit on his butt and let
mueller do his job? >> i think there is a chance. it's hard for him. the fact he's been feeding the rumors to me says he's restless. he would like to do mething. he's done a good job og himself into a bigger controvey. earlier, the whole obstruction of justice charge. he could only make that worse by going and firing the prosecutor. he's heard of the saturday night massacre. he has no excuse. >> right. >> not to know what happened with nixon. >> the news keeps coming. i think he's got his eye on rosenstein. he's got his eye on the guy. rosenstein looks like he's buckling putting out the statement the evils of leaks, where did that come from? >> i know. i was surprised by that. >> this is what comey did in the private conversations. they try to finesse their relationship with this giant guy they're afraid of. finesse everything and looks like they're trimming. >> yeah, absolutely. >> you saw with rosenstein when he -- when he wrote that memo in
the first place about comey which was very surprising to me to read that because i've known rosenstein for quite a long time. i don't see him as a political actor in that way. to have him come out with that statement last night an then get undercut by trump again with this tweet today where he was saying he is under investigation after all. >> something else is going on, jason, the troops of the american regular order, the washington establishment, are behaving themselves. they're beginning to look very serious. feinstein is reliable. dick durbin is starting to look good. even the guy i have mixed feelings about lindsey graham they begin to act like senators now. something trump does makes them get spiff with their job. making them want to be unlike him. >> right. at this point you think everybody in the white house is updating their linkedin page. because 's gettingangerous. it's like when mike pence -- >> what does that mn? >> like resume, on-line resume. >> linkedin and -- >> oh, yeah.
>> linkedin to anybody. trying to link in to me, they don't want me to do it. >> the people are getting nervous and not only are they getting nervous but at this point if you go after rosenstein, at this point if you keep firing people, eventually the janitor is going to have to fire mueller or something else you don't want to happen. >> robert bork. >> yeah. you're going to have the situations where historically or legally you're going to run into someone who wants to fight back or says i don't want to be involved. >> you guys know, this is the toughest question, the penetrating question, who has the president's ear? >> oh, gosh. >> who can say it's friday night, i have to talk to you, you have to change. >> the same person who had his ear since he was leading the trump organization. and doing casinos in atlantic city, that is the last person who talks to him. that is who has his ear. that has been a pattern with donald trump for his entire life. the theory that i like to think about is how does he get out of this bind he's in, this investigation.
he does have the power to pardon. so could he not pardon himself? >> he could have done that for flynn in the first place. >> well would he really go to the supreme court with his assertion of the right to pardon himself of all crimes. >> he love toss go to court. >> of any president that has served so far -- >> did you hear that from the white house. >> it did come up in the hearing with sessions. >> i don't think it's come up. >> no it has not been. >> i guess you could do it any me you want. gerry fordid it. a source close to the president's counsel confirms the president has added john dowd added to his legal team. another high-profile lawyer investigated pete rose for major league baseball and represented john mccain during the keating -- >> that guy has been blooded and battled. he runs a restaurant in vegas of all places. the roundtable is staying with
>> back with the "hardball" round table. clarence, tell me something i don't know. it is a fry. >> indeed. everybody talks about how the trump base has held firm. over 538 they're finding his percentage of strong supporters has declined from 30% in january to slightly over 20% now. indicating his base is eroding at the edges. it's starting to happen. >> they still give the right answers. it's always 30%. >> you don't believe polls anymore, do you? >> i don't believe polls. >> i was left hanging last november. >> i'm in a similar spot. i saw a poll done by a client. a republican group for a client, and it was looking at what would that -- what would it take for the base to start eroding, which of the many trump scandals we're talking about impact them. it was interesting. it was not the russian investigation. it was not his tax returns.
but it was the fact that he keeps going down to mar-a-lago and -- on taxpayer dollars and they don't like that and you will see he is not going this weekend. >> how can they begrudge him his weekend vacation. >> so we know what -- next week we have the most expensive special election in american history. what a lot of us don't know georgia is one of only five states in the union that has no paper trail. there is no paper trail for the special election. you've had analytics and political science professors from emory and georgia tech write the state government and say this is a problem that we have a close election, no way that we can do a proper recount. everyone is lawyering up in anticipation. >> oh. >> i think the whole country should go to paper, i want records kept. the federal government should step in. we can't afford another joke. i think trump won the lem electoral college but so many questions about it it's not good for the country. >> most voters want that too.
>> the system had worked in this amazing way that a criminal president had been forced to leave office. the principle that nobody in the country is above the law, including the president of the united states. >> welcome back to hardball. that was carl bernstein detailing the significance of the watergate investigation. in a document about the scandal called "all the president's men re visited" it will air tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on the 45th anniversary of the infamous break-in. the documentary narrated by robert redford looks at watergate through the lens of firsthand accounts and skeeps from the movie "all the
president's men." let's take a look at the depiction of the nixon tape that ended up being the smoking gun in the investigation. >> what finally catches him is when the tapes are released, the smoking gun tape, puts the lie to the statement that he had no advanced knowledge. >> on the tape you hear nixon telling holeman to direct the cia to stop an fbi investigation. >> without going into the details don't lie. >> those words clearly led to an obstruction of justice. >> i'm joined by former u.s. congresswoman elizabeth holtzman who was on the house judiciary committee during the watergate hearing. congresswoman, you were there, i remember you there. >> thank you. >> a lot of other members. the great thing about it, it was solemn, it wasn't political, didn't seem to be. a number of republicans joining you in the final verdict.
you voted the articles of impeachment went home at night and you would be there, we would be watching from home and every bar in america, everybody watched that set of hearings. >> right. and it was a freshman member of congress who was from utah a democrat who forced the committee to have these hearings in public. he said, if the american people can't see what you're deciding, if it's behind closed doors and secret, they'll never have any credibility or belief in what you're doing. so ultimately the committee was persuaded and we had these open hearings. i think people may not have understood everything we were saying, but they could scrutinize people's faces on the committee. they saw that people were serious, that it was professional, that it was fair and that made a huge impression on the american people and bipartisan. >> one of the things the people i think keep getting wrong, it's a cliche, they say it's not the crime, it's the coverup. there's a reason for the coverup. there's a crime. in the case of nixon i did a lot of digging later on of the tapes
at the national archives and discovered a lot of nixon stuff, the hanky panky let's break into the brookings institute and the republican hdquarternd pretend the democrats did i it's on nixon is so criminal today. trump today it's hard to figure, what is he hiding that's so devastating to him and his presidency that he is playing this game of trying to intimidate all the prosecutors? >> i don't know but it must be something really serious. he's jeopardying his presidency over something we don't know but you can't fire comey, head of the fbi. you can't threaten to fire people around you threatening to fire mueller. you've can't threaten to fire the deputy attorney general without bringing the whole house of cards down. >> maybe you should be his lawyer? he's paying his lawyer $1500 an hour to give him the wrong advice. the documentary also depicts the saturday night massacre when president nixon fired multiple attorneys general before he could find the one who would
fire his special prosecutor. let's watch that. >> on a saturday night in october 1973, he also ordered his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor. the attorney general was appalled. he said no and resigned. then the president told one of his assistants to quality deputy attorney general. >> when i picked the phone up it was al hague, he said, he wanted me to fire cox. he said no. he said your commander and chief is ordering you to do this. i don't know what that added to the discussion. he said, well, who else is around? i said, well, bob bourque is here. >> the commander in chief finally found someone willing to carry out his orders. bourque fired cox and so ended what would be the saturday night massacre. >> the saturday night massacre was a sl to the american people that the president was putting himself above the rule of sxlau they demanded action. >> well, it's a hell of a
history lesson. maybe the president ought to watch. >> definitely should watch. >> because i remember the closest thing to tweeting is doing something on a saturday night. i mean, what is the president of the united states doing on a saturday night that he's so excited by the prospect of being prosecuted that he has to fire everybody on a saturday night? that's the biggest way to make news. it shakes everything up. >> and i think that was a signal to the american people that something was really wrong. you had attorney general of the united states resign rather than carry out a presidential order. you had the deputy attorney general of the united states resign rather than carry out a presidential order. these are both republicans working for a republican president. the american people said, hey, wait a minute. that's what triggered the impeachment proceedings. >> tell us about that. i worked for tip o'neill and that's when he began to push saying, we're going to have hearings to have him removed. >> well, what happened there was a lot of talk before the saturday night massacre. you had john dean saying, i told the president of the united states it was a cancer on the
presidency. people were paying bribes to the burglaries to cover up. the president said, i know where the money can be found to pay them. that had come out but it hadn't triggered impeachment. with the firing of cox and the resignation of two republicans at the top of the justice drngts the american people said, you know something, we're not a banana republic, weave had enough and we have -- congress, have you to act. that's what triggered it. it wasn't a reference from a special prosecor. itas the american people saying to the hf representatives, have you to do someing. >> i don't think anything mirrors what happened before. we don't even know what's at the heart of this. the one thing i like about washington is that it can be -- it's a pretty clean capital, compared to most capitals in the world, it's clean. but people like a republican local judge, federal judge here, a district judge, and he comes along and hangs him high.
he takes these watergated burglars and says, you don't get out until you tell me who does this. >> the system something come to play. >> that's what happened in watergate. you had a president who was criminal, a president who abused the powers of his office. that's the bad news. the good news is the res of the constitutional system jumped in and put the brakes on him. you had the checks and balances really working. it wasn't only the judge, who was a conservative republican judge who started this process of blowing the whistle but the united states supreme court and unanimous decision -- >> my here rose. peter aden o, jersey comes through and does it. sam irving comes in, and he comes out and does a good thing. >> what about howard baker. >> low key guy from tennessee, moderate republican, comes
through magnificently, some other people came through and performed so well. i see some of that happening right now with durban and fine steen right now. thanyou, ee ee liz bet. part of history. ne in tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern for our special presentation of "all the president's men revisited". let's finish with trump watch. you're watching "hardball." be the you who doesn't cover your moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. be the you who shows up in that dress. who hugs a friend. who is done with treatments that don't give you clearer skin. be the you who controls your psoriasis with stelara®
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17, 2017. donald trump has at long last become predictable. the moment a washington figure pops up to challenge him he knocks him over. first it was james comey, fbi director. trump wanted comey to bow to him or bow out. when he refused to bow, trump knocked him over. he didn't even bother calling the man to say he fired him. robert mueller dared to take up the investigation. soon word began oozing from the white house the president didn't like him. thghte was too close to comey or was that he s too serious in hiring top criminal prosecutors? in either case, trump soon made it clear he wanted mueller out. now trump is beating the trum or tweeting at dawn for the head of rod rosenstein, head of deputy attorney general he used to fire comey, or used as an excuse to fire comey. we see the pattern. you get a job investigating trump did the, you find your job is in jeopardy. there is a directions to all this, an arrow pointing in an historic directions. it's called the saturday night
massacre. as long as trump longs to knock off the guy coming at him, its only a matter of time before trump's fuse reaches the bomb. one thing we've learned is donald trump has a very short fuse. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "the rachel maddow" show starts now. on this show we have president trump's white house counsel. i'm looking forward to that. we have a lot to get to. first i wanted to update on this strange and now bad story off the coast of japan tonight. this is the uss fitzgerald. it's a u.s. navy destroyer. that's a large ship. it's about 500 feet long. there's nearly 300 crew on board. as can you see from these images, the fitzgerald has sustained some pretty serious damage. it got that damage when it