tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC May 11, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
and it's not only republicans facing that this week. protesters at chuck schumer's office last night in new york calling for an independent commission to investigate trump in russia. sam >> rachel, i was watching your opening with the extraordinary reporting on paul manafort. i promise you'd i would give you one, two, three, or as many minutes as you need to summarize that story once again. we need to hear it a second time. stunning reporting that paul manafort has not registered as a foreign agent, which everyone assume head did. you discovered he hasn't. and that tells us -- go ahead. >> so he made public statements that never said i am registering as a foreign agent, but really made everybody believe that he was going to. headlines coast-to-coast, all over the country never corrected saying that he was about to register. and he didn't.
and we've been looking into why that might be. because manafort's spokesman has been forthcoming about the fact that his -- that his client, that paul manafort has been having overt discussions with federal authorities about his foreign work, about his political consulting in foreign countries. now that as far as we can tell would be the department of justice. because that's who has jurisdiction over the foreign agent registration act. he is saying that within -- having this consultation with these federal authorities, he is taking appropriate steps around this matter. leading everybody to believe he would register, and he never did. the interesting thing there is twofold. number one we have seen other people involved in this. namely, mike flynn register retroactively as a foreign agent, apparently after consulting with the justice department. raising interesting questions about whether or not he is being pressured to become a cooperating witness because of the threat of prosecuting him
for his previous unregistered work on behalf of foreign governments. that pressure you can see them exerting on mike flynn. why would they not be exerting that same pressure on paul manafort? it just raises interesting questions about the disparate treatment of these two people, and whether or not manafort is getting the same kind of pressure. the other difference we've got between flynn and manafort is that jeff sessions has said overtly that he at the department of justice is recused from any matter involving mike flynn. we thought when we started calling the justice department about this that they would tell us that attorney general jeff sessions is also recused from matters involving paul manafort since manafort was the campaign chairman. the justice department will not say that they told us a million other things. they gave us paragraph-long stories about what recusal is, where it comes from, and this whole idea of recusal and it's a big question. and what do you really mean by that. we went back at them again and again and again. i'm considering just publishing our back and forth between me
and the justice department. >> some of it involves rachel maddow. staff was making, but you got on the phone yourself to the justice department to say is jeff sessions recused from matters involving paul manafort, which could involve -- which do involve ukraine and russia and if he is -- if he is recused on russia, he must be recused on manafort and there is no answer. >> i wasn't on the phone. i was on the keyboard. but that means our whole back and forth actually we have in writing. i remain convinced that the justice department has an answer to this question. it's either yes or no. he is recuse order he is not. they won't tell us yes or no. which leads me to believe, leads me to suppose that sessions is not recused from matters involving paul manafort. and gwynn that manafort has been named in open source reporting as potentially being involved in investigations related to his foreign agents, related to his potential moneylaundering stuff,
obviously related to trump campaign russia ties, and all these things, if he is involved in any investigations like that which are currently going through the justice department and the fbi and jeff sessions has his thumb on any of those scales, that's a very big story. and we need to hear a clarifying statement from the justice department than. because jeff sessions is going to have to explain if he is not recused. >> and quickly, rachel, as my other guests await, if paul manafort is getting guidance from the justice department about how to comport himself, and that guidance does not include, oh, by the way, you must retroactively register, does that mean that paul manafort is a cooperating witness with the justice department, with the fbi investigation? and he is talking about what he knows about the trump campaign's interactions with russia? that's one of the other questions that you left for us. >> exactly. we have no way of knowing. but when you want somebody to become a cooperating witness,
usually you pressure them with things that you can prosecute them for. that's what we're all looking for signs of. and in this case, it's disparate signs from flynn and manafort with no explanation. >> rachel, great reporting. i had to follow it up when i saw you do it. and we've made the promise to twitter. and now we delivered. >> thank you for letting me eat five minutes of your show. >> it's all worth it. thank you. >> appreciate it. we have breaking news tonight from "the new york times," disputing what president trump told lester holt today about james comey. president trump said today that james comey requested a private dinner with the president in order to ask that he, james comey continue in his job as fbi director, even though he was in the middle of a ten-year appointment. associates of mr. comey are now telling "the new york times" tonight that that is simply not true. the dinner was requested by the president, and the fbi director felt that he could not refuse a meeting with the president. the fbi director told associates that the president demanded
loyalty from mr. comey at that dinner. mr. comey refused to pledge loyalty to the president. and according to the times, mr. comey told president trump that the president would best be served by an independent fbi and justice department. nine months before he was driven out of office at the threat of impeachment, the president of the united states said this. >> and in all of my years in public life, i have never obstructed justice. and i think, too, that i can say that in my years of public life that i welcome this kind of examination. because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. well, i'm not a crook. >> 44 years later, the president of the united states said this. >> i said if it's possible, will you let me know ram i under investigation?
he said you are not under investigation. >> that was president trump's i am not a crook moment. it happened today in an extraordinary interview conducted by nbc's lester holt in which the president made everyone in the white house who has commented on the firing of james comey a liar. the president kellyanne conway, sean spicer and others, publicly lied when they said the president's decision to fire james comey was based entirely on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general which the president received the very same day that he fired james comey. here is president trump telling lester holt that all of those people, all of them lied. and that there is never a reason, there is never a reason to take seriously anything that anyone working in the trump white house says. >> he is a showboat. he is a grandstander. the fbi has been in turmoil. you me that. i know that. everybody knows that.
you take a look at the fbi a year ago. it was in virtual turmoil. less than a year ago. it hasn't recovered from that. >> monday you met with the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. >> right. >> did you ask for a recommendation? >> what i did, i was going to fire -- my decision. >> you had made the decision? >> i was going to fire comey. there is no good time to do it, by the way. >> because in your letter you said i accepted their recommendations. you had already made the decision. >> oh, i was going to fire him regardless of recommendation. he made a recommendation. he is highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. the democrats like him. the republicans like him. he made a recommendation. but regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire comey. >> the president might have changed the white house story because of a report in "the washington post" saying that the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the white house on tuesday
evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire comey, and that the president acted only on his recommendation. the "wall street journal" reports rosenstein pressed white house canal don mcgahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate white house depiction of the events surrounding fbi director james comey's firing. lester holt asked the president about the strangest firing letter ever written by a president of the united states. >> let me ask you about your termination letter to mr. comey. you write i greatly appreciate you informing me under three times that i am not under investigation. >> because he told me. and i've heard that from oirks was it a phone call? did you meet face-to-face? >> i had a dinner with him. he wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. we had a very nice dinner. >> he asked? >> that dinner was arranged. i think he asked for the dinner. and he wanted to stay on as the
fbi head. and i said consider. we'll see what happens. but we had a very nice dinner. and at that time he told me you're not under investigation, which i knew anyway. >> that was one meeting. >> when you're under investigation, they give you all sorts of documents and everything. i knew i wasn't under. and i heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level that i wasn't. number one. >> so that didn't -- >> then during the phone call he said it, and then during another phone call he said it. he said it once at dinner and twice during phone calls. >> did you call him? >> in one case i called him. in one case he called me. >> and did you ask are you under investigation? >> yes. i said if it's possible, will you let me know am i under investigation. he said you are not under investigation. >> but he is given testimony there is an ongoing investigation into the trump campaign and possible collusion with the russian government. you were the centerpiece of the trump campaign.
>> well, all i can tell you -- i know that i'm not under investigation, me, personally. i'm not talking about campaigns. i'm not talking about anything else. i'm not under investigation. >> did you ask him to drop the investigation? >> no never. in fact, i want the investigation speeded up. >> the president still cannot bring himself to say anything negative about russia. he cannot admit that russia interfered with our election. >> look, i want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with russia, or by the way anybody else. any other country. >> if there was a problem with russia in our election, there is the president and lester holt trying to suggest that there was either no interference in our election, or no interference from russia, or that there could have been interference from some other country. at a senate hearing today, all the president's men who run the agencies involved in
intelligence and counterterrorism agreed that russia did interfere in our election. >> do you believe that the january 27 intelligence committee assessment accurately characterized the extent of russian activities in the 2016 election in its conclusion that russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation in order to influence our elections? a simple yes or no would suffice. >> i do, yes, sir. >> yes, senator. >> yes, i do. >> yes, i do. >> yes. >> yes. >> the new director of the fbi, acting director andrew mccabe made his first public comments today at that hearing. >> has the dismissal of mr. comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped, or negatively impacted any of the work, any investigation, or any ongoing projects at the federal bureau of investigations?
>> quite simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the fbi from doing the right thing, protecting the american people, and upholding the constitution. >> would it have been wrong for the director to inform him he was not under investigation? that's not about conversations. that's a yes or no answer. >> as you know, senator, we typically do not answer that question. i will not comment on whether or not the director and the president of the united states had that conversation. >> will you refrain from these kinds of alleged updates to the president or anyone else in the white house on the status of the investigation? >> i will. >> joining us now, david frum, senior editor for the atlantic, ron klain, and a senior aide to president obama. he was also a former chief council of the senate judiciary committee. and david frum, this latest report tonight, comey associates telling "the new york times" the president requested that
director comey come that dinner. the president earlier today telling lester holt saying oh, i think, i think that comey asked for the dinner. how long do you imagine that the president imagined he was going to be able to get away with his version of these interactions with james comey? >> who talks that way? even the presidents who had the strongest feudal sense of their powers, lyndon johnson, for example, if they were giving somebody like the fbi this treatment, they would have ways of asking for that where they would indicate i know -- you know what i'm saying. i know what i'm saying, but i'm not going to say it. because if i say it, i'm in dangerous territory. there is something kind of like donald trump has the ideas from mafia movies. who talks like this. and of course sarah huckabee has denied it. so he we know it's true.
>> ron klain, what are the restrictions now on what james comey can come out and publicly say and not say? for example, when the president does an interview with lester holt and starts describing these interaction was james comey, does that open it up, then, for james comey and allow him to come out publicly and say no, i did not request a dinner with the president? this is what happened at that dinner. this is what was said. he asked -- he basically demanded loyalty of me. how much of that can james comey now say? >> well, i think he can say all of that, lawrence. he obviously can't reveal any classified information. but i don't think classified information is the question. if he is going to put words within james comey's mouth, it's within his rights. the american people, an accounting of what actually happened. did he actually say throw times you're not under investigation? did he actually -- was he summoned to this dinner and asked for loyalty or ask for loyalty? i hope he will answer them.
i hope congress will ask them. i hope congress will finally after today's incredible events, insane events, congress will finely get some backbone and start to get serious about some of investigations of what's happened here. >> let's look at one of the parts of the interview with lester holt today where he talks about cooperation with the congress. >> 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. when i did this now, i said i probably maybe will confuse people. maybe i'll expand that, i'll lengthen the time. it should have been over a long time ago. >> all right that wasn't the piece i was asking for. we'll come back to the piece i was asking for. david frum, that raises what
everyone is saying sounds like the president is thinking about firing the fbi director. when he thinks about firing the fbi director, he thinks about the russia investigation. and then he says to himself, it's okay. i can fire the guy running the russia investigation because i think the russia investigation is fake. >> there is something else in that clip. when the president says there is no good time to do it, actually there was a good time to do something. if the president had lost the popular vote, and he knew that many democrats whose support he would need for things felt the elect had been unfairly influenced by the fbi, he called him in on the di telephone inauguration, and said look, i don't agree with you about what happened in this inauguration, but i'm going to ask the director for his resignation because he has lost your confidence. will you give me some recommendations? he could have put his administration on a different footing to do that on the very first day. to do this at this point with so many lies obviously to protect
himself, that's not a good day. that's not a good reason. >> ron lane, there is a piece of this lester holt interview that i know you're particularly interested in. i want the show that, and we'll talk about it after we listen to it. >> the senate intelligence committee wants information from the treasury department's financial crimes unit about your finance, your business' finance. can you tell us whether you, your family, your businesses, your surrogates have accepted any investments, any loans from russian individuals? >> yeah. in fact i just sent the letter to lindsey graham from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. a tremendous, highly rated law firm that i have nothing to do with russia. i have no investments in russia, none whatsoever. >> ron, your interpretation of that. >> well, since the president in that interview with with regard to his letter firing james comey admitted that he lied in that letter, i'm not sure why we
should take much solace about his new statement about his a new letter about russian investments. and two things, lawrence. the first thing is even his representations are very limited, he doesn't have investments in russia, that doesn't mean russia doesn't have big investments in him. so he parsed his words very carefully. and finally, if the president wants to take him seriously on this, he should stop sending letters. he should send a fed ex package with his tax returns. his tax returns is what is going to put this issue to rest. >> david frum, ron klain, thank you both for joining us tonight. i really appreciate it. >> thanks, lawrence. coming up, harvard law professor laurence tribe will join us. we'll get his reaction to the loyalty oath that president trump demanded of james comey. and later, the president attacked james comey today in his lester holt interview. but in the same interview, the president defended michael flynn. >> why that worries white house lawyers.
director mccabe, you obviously have several decades of law enforcement experience. is it your experience that people who are innocent of wrongdoing typically need to be reassured that they're not the subject of an investigation? >> no, sir. so beautiful. what shall we call you? tom! name it tom! studies show that toms have the highest average earning potential over their professional lifetime. see? uh, it's a girl. congratulations! two of my girls are toms.
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if you're under investigation. i can ask the fbi director if i'm under investigation. but can you ask the fbi director if you're under investigation if you're the president of the united states and you have the power to fire the fbi director? >> isn't it inappropriate for the president of the united states to ask the fbi director directly if he is under investigation? >> no, i don't believe it is. >> one of these conversations the president said happened at a dinner where the fbi director according to the president was asking to stay on as fbi director. don't you see how that's a conflict of interest? the fbi director is saying he wants to keep his job, and the president is asking whether or not he is under investigation? >> i don't see that as a conflict of interest, and neither do the many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour. so no, i don't see that as an issue. >> joining us now, joining us now laurence tribe, harvard law professor. professor tribe, so, i can ask
the fbi director if i'm under investigation. but if have i the power to fire the fbi director, i'm president of the united states, what are the implications of me then asking the fbi director if i'm under investigation? >> well, it's much worse than just a conflict of interest. you're essentially dangling in front of the person that is supposed to be investigating the chaos swirling around you, and perhaps you. you're basically saying if you will assure me that i'm not going to be under investigation, then maybe i'll keep you on. we'll see what happens. it's essentially the language of bribery. it's the language of the underworld, of racketeering, not the language of a president who is supposed to be enforcing the rule of law. it's staggering. i mean, for all of the bizarre things that have happened in
these 112 or 113 days, this is really like the 13th chime of a clock. it makes the whole thing come apart. >> well, and that is what the president is claiming today in the conversation with lester holt. we don't know if it's true, because, of course, it was donald trump talking. but james comey now has let it be known through "the new york times" through associates that yes, there was a dinner. james comey says that the president invited him to that dinner, and he felt that he couldn't refuse a meeting with the president. and at that dinner, he was asked by the president to pledge his personal loyalty to the president. your reaction to that? >> my reaction is it's staggering. if that is clearly on its face obstruction of justice. and it is characteristic of the way we know donald trump talks and the way he has behaved. he only wants loyalists, yes men. and perhaps some yes women around him. and in this case, what loyalty clearly means.
and i think the statements that director comey has made to close associates validate this view. what it really means is can i count on you not to make me a target of this investigation? that's clearly an impermissible question. so either trump's own account of the discussion is true, in which case he is guilty of obstruction of justice in one respect, or much more likely comey's account is true in which comey gave him no assurances, said you can count on me to be honest, but not to be reliable and not to swear fealty to you. my loyalty is to the law and to the constitution. in which case, again, trump is guilty of attempting to suborn obstruction of justice. either way, as with the first article of impeachment against richard nixon, this is a series of high crimes and misdemeanors all by itself, regardless of
whether trump was or was not part of a collusive plot with russia there are two kinds of indefensible here. what is the truth of all of the complicated interaction was manafort and stone and flynn and the whole -- the whole catastrophe with russia? that's the underlying conduct. but whatever the underlying conduct, sometimes the cover-up is at least as bad. and in this case, the cover-up is now completely on its face. i mean, by changing the story as he did, by in effect hanging all of his staff and all of his assistants and the vice president out to dry, and suddenly coming up with a new
truth, the president has made clear that he is trying to cover up the cover up. and i think we are now in a situation where the only way to avoid constitutional crisis is for members of congress to basically get a spine or grow a pair and really stand up to their responsibilities to the law. so we need an independent council. but we also need an independent active congress. >> professor, you've joined a group called the shadow cabinet, sway group of policy experts that will follow statements and positions made by the president and his cabinet. >> right. >> and debunk and interpret as needed. you'll be in the role there as the citizen attorney general in that shadow cabinet. i assume you will be focusing mostly on this russia investigation? but you've also been focusing very heavy on emoluments. do those two things intersect? >> they certainly do. when the president basically
went out of his what i to say that, you know, i don't have any investments in russia, as ron klain rightly said, russia may have investments in him. the emoluments problem is a problem of divided loyalty. and we have a lawsuit pending against the president saying that he has so many foreign entanglements that he is in constant violation of the constitution. because basically, he is in a position of getting benefits from foreign governments, including perhaps loans, and owing things to foreign governments in violation of a basic principle that the framers put in place to avoid having our president corrupted by foreign powers. and if we had attorney general that we could trust, then there would be direct investigation by the justice department. into the president's violation of the emoluments clauses. instead we have to sue him. and i think we're going to succeed in getting a judicial
decree. so stay tuned. >> professor laurence tribe, thank you very much for joining us tonight. it's a great honor. >> thank you. >> coming up, the most important thing that happened at the senate committee hearing today happened backstage. the most important thing that happened at the senate intelligence committee hearing today happened backstage. >> thank you. >> coming up, the most important thing that happened at the senate committee hearing today happened backstage. (burke) at farmers, we've seen almost everything, so we know how to cover almost anything. even a coupe soup. [woman] so beautiful. [man] beautiful just like you. [woman] oh, why thank you. [burke] and we covered it, november sixth, two-thousand-nine. talk to farmers. we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪ wenit gave me a leafput in the names almost right away. first. within a few days, i went from knowing almost nothing to holy crow,
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the most important thing that happened at the senate intelligence committee hearing today happened backstage. >> can i say for member, the vice chair and i have to step out for a meeting that we can't push off. i would ask senator harris, senator cotton to complete their first round of questions. >> i've seen hundreds of senate hearings. i've never seen a moment like that. the republican and democratic leaders of the committee both have to leave for a meeting more important than the hearing they're having right there. all the professionals in the room knew something huge was going on. it turned out to be hastily arranged meeting for senator richard burr and senator mark warner with deputy attorney general rod rosenstein who wrote the memo that was first credited by the white house as the reason for firing james comey. later, when reporters discovered who was in that meeting, the senators were asked this question -- >> did director comey come up at
all in this meeting? >> director comey did not come up. he was not the subject of it. >> here is chairman burr's explanation for having that meeting with the deputy attorney general in the middle of a very important intelligence committee hearing. >> since the committee has an investigation going on that is very similar to what the department of justice has going on, we felt that there was a great need to set up a process for deconfliction so that when we had witnesses that we needed to talk to, we made sure we weren't stepping on top of anything that might be an active investigation. >> here is what senator warner had to say. >> i think it was a productive session, but i still have concerns about mr. rosenstein in terms of his role in the comey departure in terms of the memo.
i expressed -- and this is where the chairman and i just disagree in terms of the needs for this narrowly tailored independent council. i expressed that concern to mr. rosenstein. he took it under advisement. >> joining us matt miller an msnbc contributor. also joining us paul butler, a law professor at georgetown university and a former federal prosecutor. matt, you know how these meetings get scheduled. i have to say, i was quite struck to see this kind of meeting occurring in the middle of a hearing in which both of the leaders of that committee had to get up and leave this very important hearing. it seems to put it mildly, peculiar. >> yeah. it's very peculiar, especially because i think they said this meeting had been set up for some time. the deputy attorney general is a
busy guy, obviously. he is not so busy that he can't find time to meet with these two senators outside of a meeting. you suspect a couple things. one, the senate intelligence committee really does seem to be trying to step up its investigation. richard burr a couple of times, including a few weeks ago has been criticized publicly for slow walking it. and every time he is criticized publicly, he responds by speeding up. i think that's what is going on. but they also have to have real questions for rod rosenstein. i think senator warner clearly does. rod rosenstein was supposed to be the institutionalist that would protect the department of justice, protect its independence. and in the last few days we see he clearly isn't up to that job. senator warner pressed him privately, pressed him publically and will continue to press him to appoint a special council. >> let's take a look at how awkward this meeting was for senator warner. you heard senator warner say i still have concerns about mr. rosenstein. let's listen to the way he put that on this program.
>> i voted for this gentleman based upon his reputation in maryland. but i am deeply disappointed. and if i could have that vote back, i would be voting a different way. >> paul butler, i've never heard a senator say i would like to take my confirmation vote back just weeks after that confirmation. >> and that's the wrong approach. look, lawrence, rod rosenstein, a man of utmost integrity got played by the president of the united states. the president asked him for his honest opinion about director comey's competency in office and what rosenstein said in that memo is the widely shared view of virtually every federal prosecutor i know. that in october, when director comey called hillary clinton everything but a child of god, said i'm not going to indict
her, but she basically has no integrity, that that broke every rule in an ethical prosecutor's playbook. so he had to go. the question is the timing. the timing was lousy. but in terms of the substance of what rosenstein said in that memo, that was on the up and up. >> matt, but the memo, rosenstein's memo was entitled restoring public confidence in the fbi. rosenstein then recommends an action to the president that has destroyed public confidence in the fbi. and in his memo, rosenstein never mentions the public confidence in the fbi is dependent on, among other things, how the russia investigation is perceived. the russia investigation is never mentioned. >> look, that memo is a farce. i think we all know that by now. the president himself admitted today he had decided to fire comey before it. and what rod rosenstein did is provide the president the cover he needed.
yes, he got played. but he knew he was getting played and he went along with it. that is what is so troubling about what he did. every senior justice department official knows, it's one of the things you hear there all the time, there may come a moment where you have your moment in history where you can stand up to the president and do what's right, or you can buckle under political pressure and do what's wrong. and when jeff sessions and rod rosenstein went over and met with the president, they both buckled under pressure. and again, i expect that kind of thing from jeff session. but rod rosenstein was supposed to be the one who would stand up. he said at his confirmation hearing he would stand up to political pressure and do what was right. when the moment came, he didn't. he wrote that memo that is a complete farce. we all know that's not w jes comewas fired. and he gave the president the cover to do what he wanted to do to try to quash this investigation. >> you know rod rosenstein. i just want to get your reaction to "the new york times" editorial saying to him -- saying directly to rod rosenstein you have one choice. appoint a special counsel who is
independent of both the department and the white house. is that the best choice for rod rosenstein at this point? >> you know, i've known rod for 25 years. we were baby prosecutors together doing public corruption cases in the justice department. and when you do those cases, you're taught you have to prosecute just like you would any common criminal. you don't treat them differently because they are a politician. in fact, you set the politics aside. so did rosenstein know that trump would take what he said and use it to his political sflang yes, he did. at the same time, it was his honestly brokered opinion. i do think that means, though, now there is an impetus for rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor. the appearance of justice is as important as justice itself. i actually think that rosenstein, he is leading this investigation now. remember the investigation does not end with comey's departure.
it goes on now under rosenstein's leadership. i do think in terms of the appearance of fairness that he needs to step aside. he alone can appoint a special prosecutor. he's got more power in this matter than the president, than the attorney general who had recused himselves. he does need to exercise that power appropriately and appoint an independent investigator. >> paul butler gets the last word on it tonight. matt miller, thank you both for joining us tonight. really appreciate it. >> great to be here. >> thank you. coming up, white house lawyers are now reportedly very worried that president trump continues to try to communicate with michael flynn, who is under criminal investigation and congressional investigation. why do some cash back cards make earning
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the investigations of russian influence in the 2016 election. although the president eventually fired michael flynn 18 days after first learning that the acting attorney general believes michael flynn could be blackmailed by russians, the president still has nothing negative to say about the national security adviser that he fired. here is what the president said to lester holt today about michael flynn. >> this man has served for many years. he is a general. he is in my opinion a very good person. i believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don't even know and immediately run out and fire a general. >> but not a word about how many years james comey has served in government or whether he is a very good person. coming up, we will be joined by someone who had dinner with president trump the night before he fired james comey.
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i can tell you that the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to director comey. >> that was the acting director of the fbi today in his first public comments. joining us now, michael scherrer, e.j. deon and michael, you had dinner with donald trump. did he ask you to pledge loyalty to him at the dinner? the night before he fired jim comey. go ahead. >> he actually said we were also
dishonest media. >> yes, he did. >> yeah. >> you -- there's a transcript you have out that's absolutely fascinating where he goes along and talks about dishonest media and he said, oh, by the way, you are, too. i suppose he's just smiling? >> he's very charm, very gracious, very hos pit balance. but it's strange because there's this underlying hostility. he kept bringing up an aggrievement, this feeling that the press had not treated him fairly thark his story was not getting out, that the many successes of his administration had not been heard. we watched parts with him of that testimony and he was giving us rather aggressive color commentary. his point was that the way his story, the story of his presidency is being put forward is not fair or honest or true, even as he was saying things that actually aren't true.
>> and e.j., this is the president who has been caught publicly and moralized than any other president in history and his big complaint is the way they talk about me isn't true. now we have in the times tonight james comey pushing back through associates, telling the new york times about this dinner with the president in direct contradiction to what the president has said about that dinner. >> right. i mean, first of all, i'm glad trump didn't make michael sign a nondisclosure agreement the way he forces everybody else to. it's really astonishing how the lies have fallen a part in general, and you showed one where the acting director of the fbi says their story about the fbi agents losing confidence in comey was all wrong. you hadded the whole initial rational for the comey firing falling apart completely.
and now what you have is almost a kind of mafia-like, if i may use that, dinner saying, are you with me or with the other gang to the chief law enforcement of the country and comey said giemg to be tloil the truth and justice and the things he's supposed to be loyal to. i think it's very significant that he's letting that story get out. i think trump made a huge mistake today when he attacked comey. he's a show boat, a grandstander, said the president without seemingly much self awareness. comey and his loyalists in the fbi are not going to take that lying down. i think this is going to cause realty trouble for him later. >> and michael, there seems to be no understanding in the white house or in the president's part that comey can do as much damage to them outside of the fbi as in these -- the near times story tonight, for example, as he may
be able to do inside the fbi? >> i think trump is coming to terms with what has worked for him throughout his career in business, in the campaign, spectacularly, which is breaking and pushing the rules of the game, doesn't work quite as well in the white house. there are lots of limits on the most powerful person in the world and they don't always just work through courts. they sometimes work through leaks as well. >> e.j., quickly, before we go, i said at the top of the show that this is the "nixon, i'm not a crook" point today. did it feel like that for you? >> very much so. also felt like that this is a guy who knows how much trouble he is and is constantly pushing it away arched doesn't want too admit it. >> we're going to have to leave it right there. thank you for joining us tonight. >> it's great to be with you. listen up, heart disease.
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donepezil, piperidine, or any of the ingredients in namzaric. tell the doctor about any conditions; including heart, lung, bladder, kidney or liver problems, seizures, stomach ulcers, or procedures with anesthesia. serious side effects may occur, including muscle problems if given anesthesia; slow heartbeat, fainting, more stomach acid which may lead to ulcers and bleeding; nausea, vomiting, difficulty urinating, seizures, and worsening of lung problems. most common side effects are headache, diarrhea, dizziness, loss of appetite, and bruising. (woman 2 vo) i don't know what tomorrow will bring but i'm doing what i can. (avo) ask about namzaric today. we're supposed to have some photographs up on the careen. there we are -- of the president in his office with his russian visitors the other day. these, of course, were taken by russian photographers. now there is a worry that there was a breach of security by allowing those people, those photographers in the oval office with their electronic equipment because, of course, this white house has no idea how to handle even the basic securities or
protocols of the west wing. that's the last word for tonight. the 11th hour with brian williams starts now. tonight. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. tonight, the nbc news exclusive interview with president trump facing direct questions for the first time about his firing of fbi director james comey and the answer he gave that blew up the cover story. also new reporting on that dinner between trump and his former fbi director. for the first time, comey's side of the story is starting to emerge. and why the president and his staff have struggled so mightily to keep their story straight at this white house. "the 11th hour" begins now. good evening once again from our headquarters here in new york. and while we think of it, that three-page justice department memo from two days back saying that comey was fired as head of the fbi because he'd been
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