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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  March 17, 2018 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT

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trump. >> mike flynn tonight awaiting sentencing on his felony guilty plea but being essentially basically ready to crowd surf there at that republican congressional fund-raiser in california. apparently you can do that while you're awaiting sentencing. that does it for us tonight. now it's time for "last word" with lawrence o'donnell. so if you get a standing ovation for pleading guilty, what do you get for not pleading guilty? >> if paul manafort was able to walk into that room i imagine they would have, like, declared -- >> we've got information about stormy daniels trying to move the lawsuit ninety-two federal court. stormy daniels' lawyer actually on an airplane at this moment. we hope to hear from him as soon as he lands. but i want to bring you
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something else which is what general baron said tonight. he tweeted reluctantly i have concluded that president trump is a serious threat to u.s. national security. he is refusing to protect vital u.s. interests from active russian attacks. it is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of mr. putin. >> wow. i mean that's -- that's remarkable because of who is saying it. to have general -- i mean general mccafry is a four-star general. there aren't that many in history let alone america. and to have him say something that serious, talking about it being under the sway of the pentagon and being a national security threat, that's very grave. i'm glad you're going to have him on. >> and we all remember white
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house press secretary saying you must never question or doubt the generals. i suspect this particular general might run into a little something from this white house. >> yes, exactly. >> thank you, rachel. and now joining us by phone is general baron mccafry, a retired four-star general, a decorated veteran of vietnam, also an msnbc military analyst. thank you for joining us tonight, and i'm wondering why tonight what was it that brought you to this point of seeing this president as a serious threat to u.s. national security. i know you didn't choose those words lightly. >> no, not at all. you know, i've been fairly critical of the president for a variety of reasons. but what really i think -- the turning point in my mind was his reluctance to personally stand with the brits over what has been a documented series of
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essentially russian intelligence murders in london. and the latest one being really a signature attempt ed assassination of a former russian intelligence officer and his daughter using a chemical agent that was clearly only available to former soviet operatives. >> general, mccafry, i'm going to have to interrupt you with some breaking news now from the justice department. attorney general jeff sessions has just fired andrew mccabe who was briefly the acting director of the fbi. mccabe who had stepped down from his post earlier this year but remained an fbi employee had been accused of misleading investigators when asked about it. mccabe had been electing rod in
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the use of private e-mail server and special counsel robert mueller's probe into whether any trump associates coordinated with russian associates to interfere in the 2016 presidential race. and we are now joined by phone by pete williams, nbc news justice correspondent. pete, what can you tell us about this? >> well, what the attorney general says in a statement that just came out a few seconds ago is he has accepted the recommendation for both department inspectors general and the office of personnel responsibility, the apr of professional responsibility. both have recommended that andrew mccabe be fired for two reasons, according to jeff sessions' statement. first they say he authorized the unauthorized disclosure of information about the clinton investigation while the investigation was going on. and what the inspector general
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had said is that violates fbi policy not to discuss investigations while they're going on. but secondly and perhaps more importantly what the statement from the attorney general says is that when mccabe was asked about this on more than one occasion including while he was under oath his answers they believe were not truthful. and for that reason the attorney general says he concludedtist right to accept the recommendations. so andrew mccabe has been fired. so what this means for his pension, which an important question. his actual retirement date was two days from now, sunday, his birthday. he stepped down as fbi director in late january, presumably at the urging of the fbi director chris ray who was aware of these recommendations. but mccabe had said his retirement date would be this
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coming sunday. so it puts his pension in jeopardy but doesn't necessarily mean he'll lose it according to government personnel i talked to today. he has some options he can pursue that perhaps will preserve part of his pension. but the bottom line here is that the attorney general has accepted the recommendation and emphasizes in his statement that this is what the justice department's inspector general and the fbi recommended. obviously attempting to say this was not politically motivated. >>let me get those distinctions clear. it's a recommendation not just from the inspector general but also from the fbi? >> the inspector general right after the inauguration said he was launching an investigation into how the fbi handled the entire clinton e-mail investigation. as part of that he became aware
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that in october of 2016 the fbi -- "the wall street journal" was working on a story about the status of the clinton investigation and had picked up suggestions that the fbi was dragging its feet on part of that, which is an investigation of the clinton foundation. and what apparently happened here is that andrew mccabe authorized someone in the fbi to talk to "the wall street journal" reporter and basically say, no, that's not the case. you know, we believe there's still reasons to keep that going. that is what got the inspector general's attention. and then when according to the ig when he was questioned about it he wasn't totally forthcoming. so he looked into it, conquered and then in essence that would have been the end of it except
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that mccabe appealed this to the justice department which is his right, and now the attorney general says he reviewed it and thinks the recommendations are correct. >> pete, i want to clarify for the audience, the inspector general is not a trump appointee. this is long time justice department employee, isn't he? >> right, he served under the obama administration as well. >> and "the wall street journal" article in question actually cites sources at certain points that are labeled as sources close to mccabe. and so it was pretty obvious that where the journal was getting that help. but the information that was coming from the mccabe sources actually read as not -- as somewhat anti-clinton information. it was information that pushed the investigation further in the direction of looking at what hillary clinton was doing. >> well, that's right. i mean two points about that,
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lawrence. one is the the article itself says that the fbi officials that talked to the journal reporter who, by the way, is named -- at "the washington post" and is a very smart guy, the story says the fbi pushed back at that suggestion that they were trying to drag their feet, that they thought there was something to the clinton foundation investigation. so mccabe has come under a lot of criticism from the president, from republicans in congress who thought he was too favorable to hillary clinton in the e-mail investigation. but the statement that was given to "the wall street journal" is definitely not favorable to clinton. >> pete, why 10:00 p.m. on a friday night? what happened between, say, 4:00 this afternoon and 10:00 p.m. tonight? what prevented the attorney general from doing this during normal business hour snz. >> well, only yesterday did
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andrew mccabe meet with the staff of the deputy attorney general. so the deputy attorney general had to take his time with this and then pass it along to the attorney general who was out of town yesterday. he was meeting with the international association of chiefs of police in nashville and then had another meeting in louisville and didn't get back until late today. so jeff sessions didn't get a chance to look at this. we were told earlier today this process was moving very slowly. to be quite canned dud, jeff sessions was in politically for himself. this is someone has been criticized repeatedly by name by the president. so no matter what happened -- and also people were well aware of sessions' own desire to please the president. so no matter what he did, if he said mccabe should be fired
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there will be people criticizing him for that. he put him in a tough position, so that's the job. >> pete williams, thank you very much for joining us tonight with this breaking news. attorney general jeff sessions firing the former acting director of the fbi andrew mccabe just two days before andrew mccabe's retirement date was to become official. we're now joined by harry litman a former u.s. attorney and deputy attorney general assistant and ted price, and a former cia analyst, ruth marcus at "the washington post" and david johnson journalist of "it's even worse than you think, what the trump administration is doing to america." we have a panel who has seen everything. harry, i want to go to you first. what's your reading of this? >> my reading is it's a grave
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injustice, lawrence. pete's reporting is accurate, and there is a serious mark on mccabe's record. the record overall, though, is 21 years of exemplary service and respect by everyone in the department. what really stinks about this one is the rush to get this done by friday, which was only motivated in a petty way take his pension away from him. compare this with john yu, the author of the torture memos, the same thing happened to him. opr recommended and then it wercwent to the attorney general. yew was given six months to state his case, and the fact that mccabe was rushed into this presentation yesterday and sessions turns it around today i think is completely abnormal and
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was done only in order to be sure they could take away his pension before sunday. >> harry, let me stay with you on this distinction because of the case you just mentioned was not of a member of the fbi. is there within the justice department a higher standard for the hires of the fbi for situations like this in the reports that indicates did not tell the truth when he was questioned? >> the short answer is no. mccabe was of a certain level that the attorney general himself needed to decide the issue. but the overall procedural path from the ig, the same ig to opr to the attorney general is the same. it just happens that the opr in one instance is with the fbi and the other instance, department of justice. no reason at all to do it on this time line except to maliciously take away this guy's pension, something that fbi
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agents really think about, know about and are going to be shaken up about. >> ned price, your reaction to this. >> i would agree with harry. something about this smells very fishy, and it's more than just the timing. it's more than the fact this comes just 48 hours or so before his retirement would kick in. it's more than the fact this takes place on a friday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern time. it's also the fact this takes place separate and apart from the release of the inspector general report. the inspector general report on the andrew mccabe and hillary clinton matter as i understand it has been completed for a while now. it's been undergoing review. so why wugs this? why disaggregate the two? pull out the andrew mccabe information, fire him well before it seems the ig report is going to be released. we also have to remember the point you raised before. the information andrew mccabe is accused to give to "the wall
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street journal" was very damaging for the clinton campaign. it did not look good. there are previous instances of top trump officials giving information to news outlets that is exculpatory that looks good for them. mike pompeo it has been documented on at least one occasion -- and i highly suspect there have been more -- reached out early in the administration to two news outlets to tamp down these rumors at the time there may have been rampant connections between the trump campaign and the rugs. we now know that to be true. mike pompeo was not disciplined. in fact, he was just nominated to be the secretary of state. so i suspect if andy mccabe had done was to get information that was exculpatory towards the trump campaign we would see a different outcome here am. this looks more than anything like a purge. >> andrew mccabe has given a couple of comments to the "the
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new york times" tonight and he was saying he believes his firing by jeff sessions tonight is intended to affect the special prosecutor's investigation and particularly andrew mccabe's credibility in that investigation. he said the idea that i was dishonest is just wrong. this is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness. and of course he means as a witness in the mueller investigation. he went onto say, andrew mccabe did, it's incredibly unfair to my reputation after a 21-year durear. the real damage is being done to the fbi, law enforcement and the special counsel. your reaction to this breaking news. >> first of all, i agree with both of the lawyers this is extraordinary. there's a long history of people in the fbi doing things they shouldn't do and getting full official reports. but donald has a long history of sort of going on the attack. if he's accused of anything he's learned from roy cohen you go on
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the attack. so he needs to discredit and suppress the mueller investigation, and one of the things that will help him do that is try to make andrew mccabe less credible. and it sends a secondary signal from this white house which is you do your job from the law enforcement agent and it's going to cause me trouble as the president, we'll get you. >> harry litman, another triking coincidence in this breaking news tonight. there's what would have been the massive breaking news of the night which is the president of the united states actively engaging in trying to move a lawsuit by stormy daniels out of a state court in california into a federal court, the court where the president appoints the judges. that story now is competing with this new breaking news story, the president has not tweeted about his legal move tonight that he is a part of to try to move the stormy daniels case into federal court. but he has just tweeted about
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andrew mccabe. i think we know which one of these stories he wants us to concentrate on. he just tweeted fbi director andrew mccabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. the president was eager to get this done before this retirement date. but it's so striking that with the stormy daniels story breaking in less than an hour after it broke that the president was trying to move that into federal court within the hour of that news breaking jeff sessions executes this firing. >> yeah, we've gotten pretty used to nasty business coming on friday afternoon or evening. and here you're right. we have a double dose of it. i think he is going to want to tout the mccabe point, which again serves only as a kind of petty gesture in favor of
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opponents of mccabe, just stripping him of his pension for no good reason. and he is going to want to dampen the fact that this motion requires him to acknowledge his role in the stormy daniels controversy. he has moved to take this case from state court to federal court. in brief he has the right to do it, and the whole idea here, 100% is to try to use the arbitration clause in the hush money contract to keep her from talking, and his prospects with going to be a little bit better in federal court because federal judges he not only appoints them but they're well-known to be more well-disposed to the sort of arbitration clause he wants to use as a sword here. >> ruth, the stormy daniels lawsuit we just got the filing on it just before we were going on the air tonight and then
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minutes later we get this firing by jeff sessions. the stormy daniels lawsuit that the president is now actively engaged in threatens stormy daniels with $20 million in damages. that's specified by the president, and the president's lawyer in the new filing that they issued tonight. and then jeff sessions comes along right after that with this firing. >> so if i were stormy daniel's lawyer i would tell her to sit tight and don't worry about what number the president and his lawyer are coming up with tonight. if she wants to talk they're going to be able to stop her from talking. we do not have prior restraint in this country for porn actresses talking about their relationship with the president. if he wants to sue her and then she can go depose him and then have a lawsuit and have discovery, let them go ahead and do that. i actually really don't
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understand the president's legal strategy which seems to be bringing maximum attention to stormy daniels rather which he insists she has no credible story to tell. he has just guaranteed that everybody is going to be tuning in to a certain other network to see her talk. so on that, i want to dissent slightly just a little bit on andrew mccabe's story just for this reason. it's totally clear and really upsetting and very disturbing that the president has been gunning for andrew mccabe since the campaign. he's been gunning to get his pension taken away from him. this kind of friday night massacre is a little concerning. on the other hand, i do know the inspector general at the justice department. if it is true that he concluded that andrew mccabe's conduct was serious enough to warrant a firing, you can't fire the guy after he retires. i just want to know a little bit
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more about the underlying conduct before i go with the rest of the crew in completely decrying this. i am concerned by it. i don't like to see somebody's who's worked for the government his entire life stripped of his pension. and there's this magnificent shakespearean quality to all of this, right? because if andrew mccabe is fired, as he is fired and loses his pension as a result it'll be because he leaked something that was harmful to hillary clinton, the guy who the president kept describing as a pro-clinton shell. so there's an ironic magnificence to it. >> i want to go to harry litman on this as a former justice department employee. the inspector general who made this recommendation is a career employee. he's not a trump appointee. he served in the obama administration and bush administration before that. he has served both democrat and republican administrations. so this is not someone who had
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any apparent bias on the trump side. >> look, i agree. michael horowitz is his name. mccabe disputes whether mccabe was candid, but horowitz judged otherwise. my push back with ruth just has to do with the timing of this. notwithstanding when his retirement would have been. it's 100% clear this was driven from the white house for the petty reason of stripping him of his pension. that's wrong. >> i want to repeat what andrew mccabe said to "the new york times" tonight. the idea i was dishonest is just wrong. he said, this is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness. and he means as a witness in the special prosecutor's investigation. he's a witness to among other things, know he's a witness to the comey firing.
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in that we know that james comey spoke to him about what the president said to him. and so when james comey is presented as a witness describing what the president said and did to him, andrew mccabe is part of that. >> yes, and comey did exactly what you should do in that situation. he immediately went and wrote the note memorializing the conversation. and courts give a lot of credence to immediately memorializing observations. and then he brought in his top people to discuss the is significant of it. partly to make a record with them but also to make sure he had correctly interpreted his options in dealing with this. so it's important to trump in his effort to discredit mueller to try and knock off witnesses wherever he can and take away their legitimacy. >> by the way, lawrence, if i can just quickly say the
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horowitz report that is not finished the bigger topic of it is what come ea did with respect to the clinton investigation when he came out and said it was extremely careless of her. it may well be that horowitz may yet also impugn comey in his broader report. >> joining the discussion now by phone is the editor-in-chief of law fair. he also knows some of the players involved in this controversy including james comey. your reaction to attorney general jeff sessions tonight firing former acting director of the fbi andrew mccabe two days before his official retirement date. >> well, i'm very saddened by it, and i wish very much that the resolution of this had been otherwise for the sake of everybody involved, particularly for andrew mccabe, who, you know, i still don't understand and have not seen a factual record that would justify this. i understand that there is an
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inspector general report that is, you know, suggested that he engaged in, you know, conduct that justifies this action. but the nature of precisely what he was supposed to have done and what the evidence of that is remains entirely opaque to the public. and as far as i can tell andy mccabe is somebody who served with a lot of honor and dignity under exceptionally difficult circumstances. and so i will i see -- excuse me. until i see a record that would justify this action taken two days before he was due to retire by, you know, in the face of presidential tweets demanding his scalp, i will, you know, regard it as an action that may be very difficult to justify. and that said, i will reserve
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judgment until i see what the inspector general has said. and whenever i see andy has responded to that and so i understand what the parameters of the dispute really are. >> the only response we have from andrew mccabe at this point is a comment he made "the new york times" tonight. and he said the idea that i was dishonest is just wrong. this is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness. and he obviously means as a witness in the mueller investigation. what is your reaction to that? >> well, i mean he is a witness in that investigation at least on the question of corroborating jim comey's claims about his interactions with donald trump. ando to the extent that the fbi has concluded or the inspector general has concluded that he was not honest with their
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investigation, that would have a discrediting effect in the context of a different investigation. whether it's justifiable or not, of course, depends on the evidence that the public doesn't have access to right now. >> andrew mccabe has apparently just released a statement tonight. it's a rather lengthy one. i will try to read some of it. actually, i'm going to start reading it and then, price, give us your reaction again to the possibility that this is actually, the timing of this is related to mueller investigation because andrew mccabe is obviously a witness in that investigation. as ben wittes just said, a corroborating witness to james comey. and if you can get him fired from his job for being untruthful that would haven effect on his credibility as a witness. >> well, i think that's exactly right, lawrence. we know from what direct comey
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had said he shared those encounters, those encounters where president trump may have attempted to obstruct justice, he share said those encounters with a small group of people. all of whom have now been either side lined or fired. and in the case of any mccabe he, of course, was sides lined weeks ago and now his firing as andrew mccabe was saying to undermine his credibility as a fact witness. the other thing we have to allude to is we haven't heard from michael horowitz, the is inspector general. we have heard from jeff sessions, the attorney general. and we don't have to go back in history to recall what happened to tillerson in the differing accounts we heard from the white house and the state department. the white house put out a statement leading all us to believe that rex tillerson knew
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this was coming, hat his time was up. but the state department it seems in a bit of candor that actually led to this individual's firing said this completely took him by surprise. so i'm not sure we can give this fuel credence and credibility knowing jeff sessions has squ d squandered a lot of his credibility. >> there's also an issue of proportionality. we're not talking about andrew mccabe having paid someone off not to tell a story. we're not talking about him having screwed up cases at the fbi. we're talking about how to deal with an effort to a journalist that was wrong. so the story is totally out of proportion to the action. >> i will read portions of of a statement just released. he says for the last year and a half my family and i have been the targets of unrelenting
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assault. articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false defam nati defamation tweets against us. he called for me to be stripped of my pension after 20 years of service and all along we said nothing, not wanting to distract from the mission of the fbi after the lies repeatedly told about us. no more. my supervision of investigations involving hillary clinton. i was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. the fbi was accused of caving under that pressure and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. nothing was further from the truth. in fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts fully authorized under
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fbi rules to set the record straight on behalf of the bureau to the make clear that we are continuing an investigation that people in doj opposed. the oig investigation focused on information i chose to share with a reporter through my reporting officer and legal counsel. as deputy director i was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. it was not a secret. it tack place over several days, and others including the director were aware of the interaction with the reporter. it was the type of exchange with the media that the deputy director oversees several times per week. in fact, it was the same type of work that i continued to do under director ray at his request. the investigation subsequently focus on who i taulked to, wheni talked to them and so forth. during those inquiries i answered questions and truthfully and as accurately as
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i could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. and when i thought my answers were misunderstood, i contacted to correct them. the big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized and people who protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people. and harry litman, i want to get your reaction to that much of andrew mccabe's statement. >> it's true it's tragic. the broader story here -- first on mccabe the broader story as bannon would say is one of exemplary public service expected across from everybody, an unfair tarring. but this broader theme he sounds at the end of his statement, a politicization of law enforcement is nauseating and it's continued and continued.
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what they're trying to do to him now, trump had his press secretary go out and call mccabe a bad actor today. it's reminiscent of the defamation they visited on comey when he was fired and said falsely the whole fbi had turned against him. this kind of assault on independent law enforcement by the white house for the small ends of trying to effect the investigation against the president is really dangerous and toxic. >> i want to read one more passage of andrew mccabe's written statement tonight. he says here is the reality. i am being singled out because of the role i played, and the aftermath i witnessed in the firing of james chemo. the release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the house intelligence committee revealed i would corroborate former director comey's accounts of his
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discussions with the president. the oig's focus on me and this report became part of an unprecedented effort by the administration driven by the president himself to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation and possibly strip me of a pension that i worked 21 years to earn. the accelerated release of the report and the punitive acs in response makes sense only when viewed through this lens. thursday's comments from the white house are just the latest example of this. this attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally but to taint the fbi, law enforcement and intelligence professionals more generally. it is part of this administration's ongoing war on the fbi and the efforts of the special counsel investigation which continue to this day. their persistitance in this campaign only highlights the importance of the special counsel's work. ben wittes, your reaction to
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andrew mccabe saying the reality here is he is being singled out. he said i am being seengled out and treated this way because of the actions i took and the events i witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of james comey. >> look, we don't know what the underlying evidence that the ig has reported about andrew mccabe is. we do know that the singling out of the deputy fbi director by the president of the united states on a repeated basis is a unique event in the history of the united states. we do know that firing a long serving fbi official two days before he's due to retire anyway is a highly unusual matter. and we do know that the political pressure of the justice department to do that
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was extreme. so i can't say that, you know, andy mccabe's protestaceans of innocence are accurate about him. i can say that the situation stinks. and as i said before i will evaluate the evidence that supposedly justifies this action at the point at which it becomes public. and until then, look, a lot of what andy mccabe is saying in that statement is just plainly true. >> and ruth marcus, as ben just said we don't have the inspector general's report but we do have andrew mccabe's written response to it at this first stage of this news. and i'm going to zero in on the sentences in which andrew mccabe is directly dealing with what
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must be in that inspector general's report. he says during these inquiries i answered questions truthfully and as accurately as i could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. and when i thought my answers were misunderstood i contacted investigators to correct them. and ruth, when we get to read the inspector general's report i believe it will be several pages that describe what andrew mccabe is describing there. and we'll have to hold one against the other. >> right. and two things can simultaneously be true, and ben put this well when he was describing it. it is absolutely clear -- name another deputy director of the fbi who became a household name? he became a household name because he was attacked by first presidential candidate donald trump and then president donald trump. and he was attacked, and i would
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submit probably fired for largely political reasons. and i would throw in there the absolutely shameful singling out that sarah huckabee sanders did of him from the podium yesterday. but this episode that he alludes to, it's part of this behind the scenes dance. it's really a necessary part of washington that goes on where on background officials guide reporters to help reporters get their stories more accurate to make sure things are not written that are unfair to subjects or targets of an investigation. this is a dance that has to go on, that needs to go on behind the scenes. but something happened there that at least it sounds like the inspector general found something wasn't exactly right, and then something happened with mccabe's testimony that the inspector general i suspect had a problem with. so the fury that mccabe has
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about the politicization of the fbi and about his being fired i totally get. i don't want to say that it's clear that his conduct has been completely above reproach because it feels like it's a much more complicated story than that. >> and david k. johnson, it seems andrew mccabe still has a lot more we're going to hear from this. we have justice department experience here as well as reporters because this is journalism story, too. mccabe is in trouble because of communication with "the wall street journal," with reporters. mccabe describes that in his written statement tonight as his job. he says this is one of the things that the deputy fbi director is charged with doing, clarifying for the press when possible what the fbi is doing or what it's not doing. and so he says here that he has done this -- he said it was the type of exchange with the media that the deputy director
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oversees several times per week. in fact, it was the same type of work that i continued to do under director ray at his request. so he's saying the trump appointed fbi director had him doing exactly the same thing with the press. >> you get to see the knife with that one. this is exactly how this stuff works. and, of course, the fbi and other agencies are concerned. they don't want a reporter who has a story to mess up their investigation. witnesses can be affected by these things. and, no, we don't know exactly what mccabe did. but i think there's a very poignant line there about how he effectually felt how the people who questioned him didn't get the answers the way he intended, he setout to correct them. now, unless there's something showing he was mendacious and obviously so, it would seem to suggest that he may have been to
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some degree set up or -- and he certainly indicates he believes he was trying to make the record as accurate as possible. >> and describes in his first round of trying to remember truthful answers about this, he says he was doing the best he could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. and i think we all have a feel for what that must be been. we're joined now by phone by jill winebanks, and she's an msnbc contributor. jill, i wish you could be on camera so we could see your st. patrick's green you were wearing. first we began simply with the fact that jeff sessions approximately 10:00 p.m. tonight on a friday night fired andrew mccabe, the former acting director of the fbi with only two days left before his official retirement. we now have a full written statement by andrew mccabe that
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i've been reading here. your reaction to what we know about this so far. >> first of all, we take st. patrick's day very seriously in chicago. >> i know you do. >> but on a serious note, but on a 10:00 p.m. on a friday night before his retirement becomes effective does throw some doubt into the credibility and reasons for the action. i do agree, of course, with ben that we need to have all the evidence before we pass judgment on what the recommendation was. we need to see the i.g. report. i also think the mccabe statement is a very per situative and compelling one that i'd like to more about the background of. and i wonder if the president realizes all these people that he fires now have no reason not to cooperate fully with mueller and to speak out and whether people are realizing how much
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distraction is happening in the chaos of the white house from the mueller investigation, from the stormy daniels investigation and from the overall effect of trying to taint the fbi and mueller and the department of justice and whether mccabe has been denied due process. i can't believe he's already had a hearing that would be entitled to any senior person such as himself before he gets fired. he hasn't had a chance to defend himself and tell his side of the story, so i don't think we should jump to conclusions that he's innocent or that he's guilty. we need to see the full evidence. and in the context of this president and how they have attacked not just mccabe but the entire fbi and the department of justice and mueller, it makes me suspicious and makes me wonder about the truth of this. >> harry litman, i want to go to one of the points that andrew mccabe raises, which he believes
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this is designed to damage his credibility as a witness in the mueller investigation. what's your reaction to that? >> well, it's true. and that's probably what -- i mean, trump has that in mind as a practical goal. it seems moo tee-hee just as the more petty goal in mind of just gratuitously taking away the pension of someone who has crossed him. >> but, harry, can i and you to focus as a legal practitioner on the actual practical effect of this, on the perceived credibility of andrew mccabe as a witness going forward, if you were in the special prosecutor's office and you were in charge of him as a witness going forward, how would you feel tonight? >> look, i would feel only a little worse. there's all kinds of people they use that will have some kind of impeachment material. but, yes, here's how it'll be.
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he'll testify if it comes to a proceeding that comey told him exactly what he said he said. and then the defense attorney would say is that right, isn't it true mr. mccabe that you were found to have committed misconduct? isn't it true you were fired et cetera, et cetera and impeachment will have whatever value it has in front of a jury. i just want to say here, though, that it's true as ben and ruth says that part of what's going on -- we, of course, don't know exactly what he did. and it's odd that horowitz found these things. whatever he did the timing of his being railroaded out is indefensive and political and most political of all the demonization of law enforcement that he sounds at the end of his statement, that does really i think should be the headline for us as a country. >> we've already brought up the
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timing coincidence, that as we went into this hour of television i believe that our hot air breaking news tonight was going to be about the president's attempt to move stormy daniel's lawsuit into federal court. i want to switch focus to that because it's hard to believe that the timing is kwecoinciden tonight, that the president was not paying attention to what was happening in this news cycle and how this announcement could change that. the president of the united states is actually asking a federal court in california to take jurisdiction of stormy daniel's lawsuit against donald trump. the president of the united states is asking the federal court to take the lawsuit away from a california state court, and tonight's legal filing in federal court in california by a california lawyer representing the president of the united states claims that stormy daniel's lawsuit against donald trump should be moved from state court to federal court because stormy daniels is a resident of
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texas, donald trump a resident of washington, d.c. in new york city and because of the multi-state locations of the parties the case should not be heard in a california state court since none of the parties live in california. the legal filing says that president trump and his lawyers are quote, aware of at least 20 violations by clifford, that's stormy daniels' real name. clifford expressly agreed in these agreements to liquidate damages in the amount of $1 million for each breach of the confidentiality provisions which is approximated to already be in excess of $20 million. we are joined pie phone now by stormy daniels' attorney michael abinotti. what is your reaction to the president trying to move this case into federal court? >> well, thanks for having me.
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i'm not at all surprised. we anticipated that the president and mr. cohen might attempt to do this. it's really a prelude and interim step where they really want to go, which is arbitration. they want this matter decided by a private arbitrator in a a conference room in a private office building as opposed to a public courthouse open to the people, where people can actually judge for themselves the facts of the evidence. this is just more of the same. i mean it is consistent with the way they've treated my client for some time now. they've attempted to bully her and intimidate her, and ultimately they do not want this matter public. it's just that simple. this is more of the same. their attempts to gag and muzzle my client. and we're not going to stand for it. >> it's a really striking legal filing to see because there you see the name of the president of the united states on the title page of this pleading in federal
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court, and the name of the president of the united states typed in there by his lawyer also has an alias beside it typed in there by his lawyer. the president of the has a lawyer who refers to him as donald j. trump also known as david dennison. that is how the president's lawyer represents donald trump in this case. a client with an alias trying to keep everything that stormy daniels knows about him secret. >> well, i think what is truly remarkable about this, if we just take a step back and really think about this for a moment, i actually think this is a remarkable moment in our nation's history. i don't think that there is ever been an instance and i know that is a big statement but i stand behind it. i don't think there has ever been an instance in the history
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of the united states where you had a sitting president who undertook a personal vendetta against a private u.s. citizen who was nearly -- >> okay. >> who was looking for opportunity to tell her version of events and is seeking $20 million worth of damages. i don't think that is ever happened before in the history of the united states. it's frightening, quite honestly. >> now, your client has already spoken to 60 minutes. 60 minutes has announced they intend to broadcast that interview on i believe march 25th. that presumably by the president's definition will constitute what he considers another breach or another several breaches of this agreement so according to the president's reading of the situation, do you expect at the end of the broadcast of the 60 minutes interview for stormy daniels and the president's view
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to be liable for another 20 or $100 million. >> no, we don't. the president also thinks he won the popular vote too. so i don't know what to say. but look, this $20 million demand or $20 million claim of damages is laughable. and next i guess we'll hear 50 or 100 or $200 million. it is an absolute joke. we don't believe the agreement will be upheld and even if it is upheld, that liquidated damages clause -- will never be upheld because it is what it is called legally unconscionable even as the parties agreed to and even if they read and understood it, in the -- [ technical difficulties ] that no word will enforce a [ inaudible ] when it was only $130,000. so this is pie in the sky. it is a bullingy tacting
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designed to intimidate my client and i and clearly they haven't been pay ago tepg over the last two weeks. we're not going to pack up and go home or dismiss the case. she's not going to -- she's not going to prevent the 60 minutes piece from airing. we'll let the chips fall where they may and continue to strive to tell the american people what happened here and we're going to allow them to make a determination on who is shooting straight with them and who is not and it is that simple. >> and mr. avenatti and one more point and you have a lot of attention this morning on this network on "morning joe" when you said that stormy daniels has been threatened and that she has been physically threatened. has she been threatened by anyone representing or connected to the president? >> again, i'm not at liberty to discuss that. i'm confident that when people tune in to 60 minutes on the 25th of march they'll learn the details surrounding that threat or the threats and judge for
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themselves as to whether she's telling the truth and whether she's credible. and at some point, mr. cohen and the president are going to have to account for they're various actions associated with attempting to silence my client and i'm counting the days. >> did michael cohen threaten stormy daniels. >> i'm going to stand by my same answer. >> and when were those threats, the most recent threats? >> i'm not at liberty to discuss the details of the threats. again, i think when people tune in to the interview they'll learn about it. >> michael avenatti appreciate you calling in. i know this was difficult for you to do. i appreciate it. thank you very much. >> no problem. have a good weekend. thank you. >> thank you. and our legal panel is still here. everyone who has been covering and following both of these. i want to go to ruth marcus first. because this -- before we even get to the legalism of it, i just want to pause over the fact that we live in a country where the president of the united states has a lawyer type his
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name in his legal pleading and then type his alias in right hoe bide is a-- right beside it ande in a courthouse where the president appoints the judges. >> well, yes. it has been quite a day of stormy daniels news as you pointed out, trying to get more information on what this threat and physical threat was and who it came from. and i'm just thinking about where we are and where we've been and my reporting career spans the clarence thomas anita hill hearings where we thought we heard things that we could never get into our newspapers back in those days when certain words weren't allowed and we managed to report that in our newspaper and then went to
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impeachment and bill clinton and blue dresses and things that didn't seem fit for a family audience and got those into the newspapers and now here we have with a president and a porn star. and it is a kind of dreary trajectory of -- of the kind of modern politics and the -- the craziness of this moment. and just the sordid nature of what we're being dragged into writing about when there are actually serious problems facing the country and serious policy issues to be decided. and we're talking about porn stars and threats and presidential aliases. so just throwing up my hands here. >> i understand. david k. johnston, no one on this panel knows more about donald trump as a litigant than you. you've watched him both be a phony bluffer and as he was when he threatened to sue me and i begged him to sue me because i
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knew he was bluffing. you've seen him sue feel and cave and settle and settle $25 million on trump university. what do you make of this filing tonight and is this the first one you've seen where he includes an alias besides him name. >> it is the first with the alias. but this extraordinary but in making the file they acknowledge this relationship went on and it was a hush money payment. but this again is donald bullying and going on the attack and i've done as you have, talked about donald and the drug trafficker if you think what i said isn't true, sue me. one of the interesting things is the removal to federal court. 1925 arbitration act was passed to allow corporation in different states to settle dispute. it was never intended to apply to disputes between individuals, and individuals and companies. if it were put up today in congress, it would never pass if it was going to apply to you and
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me, if we were in a dispute. and the lawyers on the panel are quite right, the federal courts have a different inclination about this than the state courts but this is not a dispute that should be allowed under the 1925 federal arbitration act because we're not talking about two corporations. we have one created solely for the purpose of helping -- they thought to hide the money. >> let me go to one of my lawyers. jill winebanks your reaction to what michael avenatti just had to say. >> i would say first of all he's doing a wonderful job of representing her and making her look better than the president. and david is quite correct that we now have absolute proof that d.d. is president trump. which is, i think, an unforced error on the part of his lawyers who didn't think two step -- st head when they filed the suit. i think michael was correct in saying something about the inequity ability of this. for $130,000 payment she agreed
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to pay $1 million for every breach. that is not only unconscionable just under the normal frames of contract law, you can't enforce a contract that is so inequitiable. we have a principle that is unenforceable and as to your question as to the credibility of mccabe hurt, it is no worse than flynn and the others who pled guilty to lie and now witnesses against the president and all of them are now free to tell the truth about the president. so again, it is bad thinking on the part of the president's lawyers to gotten into this situation where they're allowing this to happen. i really am just astounded at the bad lawyering on his part and -- but they have been affective in astrakti -- from distracting us from policy and ridiculous bragging about lying
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to the prime minister of canada, something we should all be apologizing to our neighbors to the north. there is so much other things of importance and the people of america can hardly keep track from day-to-day of what is important -- >> jill wine banks gets the lord word. thank you all. thank you all for joining us and thanks to barry mccaffrey at the beginning of the hour. 11th hour with brian williams starts now. the breaking news on this friday night, the attorney general has fired trump nemesis andrew mccabe, the former fbi director. also breaking, in a new court filing trump's lawyer is going after $20 million from the porn star stormy daniels. that news coming hours after her attorney dropped a bombshell on t.v. "the

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