Skip to main content

tv   Frontline  PBS  May 15, 2019 4:00am-5:01am PDT

4:00 am
>> narrator: tonight... >> president trump executive privilege to block demands... >> narrator: a growing constitutional crisis... >> ...voted to hold attorney general bill barr in contempt of congress... >> narrator: sparked by an investigation of the president... >> ... prosecutors saying trump would be hitith felony charges if he was not presid>>t... tonight on frontline... the dramatic events that led the country to this moment. >> it was a hoax. it was a witch hunt. >> he is everyday demonstrating more obstructionf justice. >> narrator: "the mueller investigation." >> frontline is made possible by rsntributions to your pbs station from vieike you. thank you. and by the corporation for viblic broadcasting.
4:01 am
major support is pd by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. morenformation at the ford foundation: working with vionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at fordfoundatioorg. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journasm. the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical ises. the john and helen glessner rtmily trust. supporting trust journalism that informs and inspires. d by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo annagler. >> robert mueller has submitted his reportn the russia investigation. >> bob mueller has submitted his report to the attorney general, period. d
4:02 am
>> narrator: the r the mueller report goes back to the 2016 presidential campaign and to russia. >> russia, if you're listening, i hope you're able to find... nc >> narrator: eviof russian interference had sparked a secret fbi investigation that followed trump into the white house. >> the very inauguration of president trump, you know, poses chalnges to the fbi, because they have instigations on paul manafort, the former campaign chairman; carter page, foreign policy adviser to the president's campaign; george papadopoulos, the foreign polic advi the campaign; and michael flynn, the national security adviser. so, i mean, these are four urpeople in the national sy space who are all under fbi investigation. >> narrator: within the first week of trump's presidency, fbie or james comey received a phone call. >> surprise call from thepr ident. "want to come over for dinner, jim?" and comey says, "uh... yeah, sure, mr. president."
4:03 am
>> narrator: wn he arrived at the white house for dinner, comey discovered the table had been set for two. >> two. nobody else is going to be there. he and the president. >> narrator: suspicious of the president's motives for the meeting, comey would type a record of the >> we sat each other at a small oval table set for two and plac in the center of the room. >> comey says the president had very nice words for him. and so it's this pleasant conversation. and then the president says,xp "can it loyalty from you?" >> he needed loyalty and expected loyalty. i did not reply, or even nod, or change my facial expression... >> narrator: the president would ask for comey's loyalty several times during the dinner. >> it's a remarkable moment. a president demanding loyalty of an fbi directo >> he then returned to loyalty, saying, "i need loyalty." i replied that hwould always get honesty from me. >> in the eyes of the white house, president trump was feeling out comey about where
4:04 am
the investigation stood, how he was going to handle it. comey saw it as intimidation, possible obstruction of justic this is the moment where things really start to split. >> russia has come up again and again in this... >> narrator: at the fbi, one of its investigations into nationar security advichael flynn was picking up lligence agencies had intercepted a phone call between flynn and the russian and then flynnied to the fbi about it. >> he dissembles. he suggests that he did not have such conversations with the russian ambassad. >> narrator: court documents detail what happened. >> flynn falsely stated th he did not ask russia's ambassador to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions. >> 25 days on the job, embattled national security adviser... >> narrator: fnn was forced to resign. >> shake-up for the trump administration... >> a tumultus first month in office... >> narrator: but he was still in jeopardy from the investigation.
4:05 am
...the first major departure of president trump's senior team... >> narrator: now the presidentn tooktraordinary step. >> on valentine's day 2017, there was a meeting in the oval office between the attorney general and the director of the fbi, jim comey. >> narrator: as the meeting ended, the president wanted toea to the fbi director alone. >> he finally gets the two of them, just the two of them in the room. and then proceeds to get to work on the michael flynn issue. >> he began by saying he wanted to "talk about mike flynn." >> saying, "can you just kind of ease up on him? he's a really good g >> "i hope you can let this go." i reied by saying, "i agree is a good guy," but said no more. >> is the president asking the fbi director to stop looking at russian inractions with the campaign? is he trying to shut down a 6?unterintelligence probe that began in july of 2
4:06 am
>> trump's talking t director of the fbi about an ongoing instigation by the fbi. and athat point, he's really, from comey's perspective, crossed the line. >> it's really in direct contravention of policies thatce have been in pver since watergate to not have that type of interference by the white house in investigations undertaken by the department or. the >> jim called me shortly after he lefthe white house. and i remember just listening to the details of that meing and really being in a state of shock, that's when i realizedhi thatwas not simply a lack of sophistication or a lack of understanding about how do our work. >> it was an active effort to influence what we were doing. >> narrator: once again cotyy d his notes of the meeting on his laptop. s>> comey begins opening laptop and typing down
4:07 am
words, the phras that he can remember the president said whcause he's that scared o this is that has just happened.e >>'s an old adage in the organization that, "if it happened and you didn't write it wn, it didn't happen." and so i think that he was thinking, at that time, that, you know, "the president is at lest walking himself down t trail to an investigation where he could become subject to investigationand i need to be able to document what has happened." >> for the first time, fbi director jes comey will reveal... >> narrator: but comey didn't back down. >> comey will be appearing before a house intelligence committee... >> narrator: in fact, he went public in testimony before congress. >> ...and tell you what he knows-- it's all public, on livo televisionilter. >> mr. chairman, ranking member schiff, members of the mmittee, thank you for including me in today's hearing. i'm honored to be hereti repres the people of the fbi. i have been authorized by the o departmejustice... >> and he says, "i have been authorized by the department of
4:08 am
justice," you know, "to confirm," and, and, kind of all heads turn to the television in every newsroom in america.d, nd we're saying, "is, is comey going to confirm on there rd that they're investigating the trump campaign?" >> ...that the fbi, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the nature of any links between individuals w associath the trump campaign and the russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and russia's efforts. >> he confirms this in front of these lawmakers. and that's kind of a big moment. suddenly we're off to the races. ,is is now, to trump's mi a direct and public threat to his presidency. >> i just want to make sure we get this on the record. uh, do you have any evidence that any current trump white house or administration offial coordinated with the russian intelligence services?n
4:09 am
>> not a questcan answer. >> that was the death knell, ate least as we tand the, the president's thinking. once he heard and saw that,nt because appa he was watchi, that was, at least in his mind, that was the end of m comey. >> the head of the fbi dropped two bombshells landing at the white house doorstep. >> comey publicly confirming for the first time that the fbi... >> narrator: as the headlines got worse, and under pressure from comey, trump left washington. he headed for his country club in bedminster, new jersey. >> it's a sort of rainy weekend in bedminster. so donald trump is supposed to be out golfing. he's stuck inse. he's in a sort of foul mood anyway. >> the president wasstrated. his family was frustrad. they felt like ty were being swept into this riptide of an investigation. and they thought if they cjuld pluck comey out, that maybeat the investigion could end. >> also new whirlwind developments reported in... >> narrator: in bedminster, on that rainy weekend, without any of his most senior staff
4:10 am
members prest, donald trump would make the most consequential decion of his first year in office. >> trump comes to the conclusion that, "i can't put up with this anymore, i'm going to fire jim comey." there'no consultation. there's just gut instinct and raw anger. >> narrator: trump dictated a letter to comey. a >> it ant, the original draft. nobody's original draft is thatr great, but thit is donald trump unloading all of the reasons that, uh, comey has failed him. >> narrator: on sunday, donald trump returned to wagton with the letter, determined to carry out his plan to stop jim comey once and for all. >> comey has been indicating that he knows so much more than he's letting on and he's not...o >> comns up another investigation into trump... >> comey isn't backing down, he's said he wouldn't do anything... >> active part of an fbi investigation, was therebe collusioeen trump associates... >> narrator: the next morning in the west wing, the word was out: trump was preparing to
4:11 am
take the fateful step of sending the letter. >> word gets back to don mcgahn, the white house counsel, tha this document has been prepared. and he freaks out. >> our understanding is that don mcgahn reads that and says, "yeah, you, you don't want t send that." >> narrator: even trump's abrasive adviser steve bannon s stunned. >> of all people, steve bannon is the one in the room who's saying, "you can't get rid of this guy jim comey. th would be a terrible, terrible mistake. it's going to cause a firestorm." >> just play it out. if you do this, it's going to create a firestorm. the fb institutionally, has to bleed you out. you're just, they're not going anto allow somebody to fir humiliate the head of the fbi. and we're going to get a spial counsel on top of it. >> narrator: the white house counsel had a plan that might soften the blow. >> mcgahn had separately learned that rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, also had concerns with jim comey.
4:12 am
and he brokers this deal. so he basically says to the president, you know, "mr. president, you don't need to send that. you should really talk to rod rosenstein." >> narrator: they set up a meeting tween rosenstein, attorney general jeff seions, and the president. >> the president lets them know he wants to fire james comey. that's clear.e and rective for sessions and rosenstein is to draw up the rationale, to write memos explaining why they believe comey had made mistakes on the job and deserved to be fired. >> narrator: they had their orders. rosenstein would build a case against jim comey's handling of the fbi. >> rod rosenstein, this guyye who's served 2s in the justice department, a boy scout, he looks le a boy scout. and he thinks that comey has violated the justice department norms by talking too much about hillary clinton during the election. >> narrator: the president m wanted to as soon as possible. it was a rush job.
4:13 am
rosenstein delivered it the next day. >> rod rosenstein's memo echd what a lot of the hiy clinton campaign people had been saying for months, that comey had inserted himself into th election, he'd made himself too public, he had taken on a role that did not really belong to him. >> the director ignored anothe long-standing principle: we do not hold press conferences toga release dery information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation. >> trump doesn't care about what comey did to hurt hillary clinton. but it becomes the excuse, or at least the initial e the white house uses to explain whyy ere firing the fbi director. >> narrator: donald trump hadre fired hu of people face-to-face on "the apprentice." this time, as president, it would be different. >> he just decides to do it. ertrump isn't going to delhe
4:14 am
message himself. he sends his longtime bodyguard in a white house car with the pink slip over to the fbi to deliver the bad news. >> keith schiller, the president's dy man, can't get into the fbi. the fbi is not a place you can just walk and be, like, "i have a note for comey, i'm from the white house." "great, you're from the white house, super. you can't come in here." >> narrator: he dropped off the leer and left. >> breaking news, james comey has been removed from heading the fbi... >> the attorney general looked at me and said, "i don'te know if you'eard but we've had to fire the director of the fbi. it was completely disorienting, kind of in the blink of an eye, i immediately sensed that everything had changed. so i just looked at the attorney general and i said, "no, sir, i hadn'ard that." >> narrator: as the news broke a political firestorm erupted in washgton. >> amid mounting outrage on capitol hill, some lawmakers are questioning the country's very fot dation... >>mes off the heels of what many saw as devastating
4:15 am
testimony. >> narrator: inside the whites. house: cri >> hope hicks bursts in the door and says, "the president watching tv. he's watching the coverage of the comey firing. o and there's out there to defend him. you guys aren't doing anything to fix this. >> the white house is interested in getting to thebo om of this though. >> narrator: at first the white house's response was to point to depu attorney general rod rosenstein. >> deputy attorney general is a gentleman by the name of rodse rosenstein, tein. he made a determination that the fbi director had lost his confidence... >> the message from the white house is, "we fired comey because he botched the hlary clinton investigation, period." >> you know, to those who say, "why now, why fire james comeyou now?", what doay? >> well, i would point them to the three letters that were received today, anderson.e tter by president donald trump, the letter by attorney general sessions, and really the underlying report by deputy attorney general rod rosensteini who the fbctor reports to. >> all of the people spinning on belf of the white house to
4:16 am
the press that the comey firing was based on a memo from rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, which had to do with comey's performance in the hillary clinton investigation. well, the press wasn't buying that. >> right, but a lot of this... >> mr. rosenstein goes on to say... >> most of this tter focuses on hillary clinton's emails. this is stuff that, as a candidate, donald trump praised james comey for. >> many questioning if comey was fired because the white house feared... >> narrator: the next morning, the president would celebrate comey's firing behind closed doors with the two unlikely whiteouse guests. >> russian foreign minister sergei lavrov and ambassador sergey kislyak. >> just ahead today's meeting with the russian foreign mister sergei lavrov... >> oye. >> president will meet with sergei lavrov in the oval office... >> that meeting. >> he is the highest ranking russian official thathe president has met so far... >> in a way it's like a play; you can't believe it really happened. but the president is esstially celebrating with the russian
4:17 am
diplomats. >> one day after firing the ma heading that probe into the trump campaign ties to russia, the present... >> no u.s. based reporters, no american white house reporters are in the room. si >> rs came in with a photographer from their state media agency tass, who took photos of this event, photos that were used, to some effect, in russia, as propaganda.cs >> terrible op terrible optics that just you ituldn't have scripteorse. >> trump says, 'we're going to have a great relationship. there's this investigation. it's just become a total irritant for me. and heays, "comey's firing, lifted a great weight for me. e guy was a nut job." >> james comey... first the firing, now the fallout. >> narrator: the crisis kept building. >> some are comparing comey's firing to richard nixon's 1973 saturday night massacre. >> president trump now facing outrage after firi comey. >> it is hard to overstate... >> narrator: then the president
4:18 am
decided to speak out himself, on his old networ >> this is "nbc nightly news with lester holt." >> tonight, stunning revelations from president trump in our nbc news exclusive interview tonight our wide-ranging... mondayyou met with the deputy attorney general, rod rosen... rosenstein... >> right. >> did you ask for a recommendation? >> what i did is, i was going to re comey. my decision; it was not... >> you had made the decision before they came into the room.i >> is going to fire comey. >> it is a dramatic moment to see the president come out and not only completely une the case that his white house had been making, as spurious a case and as odd... transparent as a case it was, it still had been the official line. the president comes out andt demolishes tse immediately. >> so you had already made the decision. >> oh, i was going to firess regardf recommendation. >> i think there's a level on which president trump doesn't want tbe portrayed as just doing the bidding of some aides who write a memo. he's the decider, to coin a phrase. o in fact, when i decided to just do it, i saidself, i
4:19 am
said, "you know, this russiaru thing with and russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the democrats for having lost an election tt they should have won." >> you know, the thing with donald trump is, he often says what he believes. and if you just wait long enough, he'll, he'llyou the truth. i mean, he'll say it. >> it is the interview that will kely dominate... >> narrator: the interview backfired. >> the president's comments contradict the white houseus prevtatements. >> the president admitting russia was on his mind. >> at the fbi, acting director andrew mccabe was concerned that the president may have fired comey to shut down the russia investigation. p >> osibility would be that that president who did not wanti that issue invted by the fbi was in fact in league with, influenced by the russian government. and that is an unbelievably significant concern. >> narrator: mccabe informedth rosenstein thafbi wanted to investigate the president of
4:20 am
thunited states. >> i alerted rod to the fact that my investigators had recommended opening a case on the president of the united states for both possibility ofru obion of justice and the possibility of national security threat. >> narrator: rosenstein made a decision to appoint a special counsel to oversee the investigation. >> rosenstein said, "i need someone to not only stabilize the investigation, i need to stabilize the department of justice." ro had been under siege from president trump,public scrutiny. >> narrator: he named one of the nation's legendary prosecutors: former fbi director robert s. mueller iii. mueller had a lifetime of preparation for this moment. >> he volunteered to serve in vietnam as a united statesri , highly decorated, wounded in action. >> narrator: in the '90s,
4:21 am
mueller had tried his hand inat the prsector at a prestigious law firm. he hated it. >> $400,000 a year, he felt like he wasn't dog the lord's work. he quit. >> narrator: he took a substantial pay cut to become a line prosetor. he worked homicide in washington, dc. his great joy was putting away bad guys and answering his phone, "mueller, homicide." >> bob mueller cares about o thing, and one thing only: um, indictinbad guys and putting them in ison. >> narrator: a republican, he'd run the fbi for both george w. e sh and barack obama. pulled out of privactice, robert mueller was back at the center of the action. >> we begin with breaking news. the white house in crisis. the justice department appointed special counsel to... >> this is a guy who has no problem with holding people accountable, being dect and driven to get the answer. that he's going to do it right,
4:22 am
you know, in accordance with the rule of law. that's all that matters. us >>ce department tonight naming special counsel to take over the investigation. >> he was announced as special counsel. and i just go, "oh my god, this is gonna be a grind." because this is a guy that doesn't leavany stone unturned. i mean now we've bought it. >> ...and mueller coulexpand the probe to include... >> narrator: at the white house, the president happened to be meeting with attorney general eijeff sessions when rosen called to announce mueller's appointmen >> president trump doesn't like to get bad news, and this was bad news. it was more than bad news, it was terrible news. >> and now you see him really unleash all his anger on jeff p sessions ainly tells jeff sessions that, "you are the reason why all of this is happening." >> narrator: sessions-- trump's hand-picked attorney general-- had recused himself from the russia ansessions was powerless
4:23 am
to stop mueller. >> trump was furious and took it out on sessions and humiliated him. trump obviously felt himself endangered by a specl counsel, and, uh... lost his temper. >> there are things that jeff sessions apparently won't do fo donald trump, nald trump won't forge him for that. >> narrator: sessions had had enough of the president's anr. >> sessions just ends up bolting out of the white house, rushing out to his car. he said, "you want me to quit? i'm going to quit." >> he's resigning as, as attorney general. he's distraught, and he's had it. he's at the end of his rope. he's been sulted by trump. he's, he's decided that that's it. >> narrator: in the west wing, all hell broke loose. >> don mcgahn, the legal counsel, bursts into reince priebus's office and says, g "we' trouble. not only do we have a special counsel appointed, but jeff sessions has just resigned." prbus says, "you're kidding me."
4:24 am
priebus goes running down the staircase into the west wing parking lot. >>r..finds sessions in his preparing to leave. and he bangs on the door. "you got to come out. you got to come back in.e you can't leis way. you can't just blow up like this."ri >> andus essentially almost has to drag him back up into the west wing, where vice president pence and stnnon then come in and join priebus and, and talk sessions off the ledge. ♪ is >> i said, "here any doubt in your mind that this was divine providence that put us here?" he says, "no do" i said, "and you're never gonna quit?" and he says, "i will never quit." i go, "no mter how bad it gets?" he goes, "i'll never quit." and that's why i knew he was gonna hang in there. and he had some very very very tough days. >> it's clear that the mueller investigation is just getting started. we're going to head to washington. >> narrator: across town, in an bdisclosed secure location... >> ...continues told something of a dream team...
4:25 am
>> narrator: the new special counsel, robert mueller, was just getting started. >> when you become a special prosecutor, they give you a piece of paper with a mandate. t t moment, you don't have anything else. you don't have a sta. you don't have agents. you don't have prosecutors. you don't even have a legal pad and a paper clip and a pen. >> mueller has quietly gathered a team of more than ree dozen attorneys, investigators... >> narrator: from his offices, mueller built a formidable team. >> ...i believe his term was "ninja assassins"... >> this is le this moment at the beginning of "the avengers" movies, where all the superheroes are, are kind of spread across the globe, and bob mueller calls them all, and they all reassemble together in washington to take on this new mission. >> and the team mueller has assembled may be the a team of prosecutors for an ent generation. >> aaron zebley, who was a, an fbi agent before becoming a prosecutor. >> michael dreeben, who is one of the smartest people i know, who's argued over a hundred
4:26 am
supreme court cases. >> jeannie rhee, who was a highly respected prosecutor in the u.s. attorney's ofce. >> andrew weissmann-- he has a reputation for being a scorched-earth prosecutor. >> mueller put greg andres on his team, who s an experienced mob prosecutor in new york. >> i mean, that was the first sort of warning signhe trump white house, because, "they're killers," steve bannon calls them. >> narrator: mueller's team had broad authority to investigate trrussian interference, thp campaign, and, in the wake ofme the firing, possible f.struction of justice by the president himsel trump was under siege. in anger, he launched a counterattack. >> this is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in american history. (tweet sends) there is no collusion and no obstruction. i should be given apology! (tweet sends) you are witnessing the single greatest witch hunt american political history, led by some very bad and conflicted people.
4:27 am
>> the president definitely seized on that term "witch hunt." hesed it again and again. he used it in tweets. he used it when he was at a microphone.hi it's som that he felt was working to undermine the mueller investigation. >> after seven months of investigations and "collusion with the russians," nobody has been able to show any proof. sad! (tweet sends) >> president trump calling the mueller investigation a witch hunt has an impact in washington, in that the ople who want to be loyal to president trump can use thatag same lan >> "fox and friends" starts right now.>> arrator: and at fox news, that's just what happened. >> the president is really m >> he tweeted this out: "as the phony russian witch hunt continues..." s>> this is a very danger witch hunt. >> only because i think this is a witch hunt >> ...and put an end to the political witch hunt against president trump. >> narrator: at the "new york times," they had a lead on what woulbecome the biggest story yet. they had discovered anotherth meeting betweetrump
4:28 am
campaign and the russians. >> my coeagues and i had been doing some reporting on this, the idea that there was another russian meeting that we didn't totally understand that had been undisclosed during the campaign. >> narrator: they learned donald trump, jr., had hosted the meeting with a russian lawyer, natalia veselnitskaya. also in the room: trump's son-in-law jared kushner and campaign chairman paul manafort. m the "tes" wanted a comment from the president, who was traveling on air force one. >> my one rings, and it's the air force one operator, you know, "can you please hold?" and it's, "i know we were supposed to have a call, i, i know we're, we're late. can you just give us a little more time? we're working on this." atd of course we now know at the front of air force one, hope hicks and president trump are kind of working on this statement. >> narrator: the president had taken charge of writing the response.
4:29 am
>> he is at the center of it and driving it. you have the presidentph ically dictating a message that he's going to put in the name ohis son, donald trump, jr. >> the lawyers for the president are losing their minds. they are not on air force one, but they are heari secondhand that a statement is about to be issued to the "n york times." am to write a statement, just... i mean, that's juseur hour. but in fairness to these m lawyers,n, i... they couldn't control their client. they still can't control their client. >> the white house response to a report ithe "new york times" that claims donald trump, jr., 'st with a russian... >> narrator: trutatement-- written for his son-- said the meeting was about adoption of russian orphans. >> it was a short introductory meeting. i asked jared and paul tstop by. we primarily discussed a program about the adoption of russian children. >> narrator: but there was a
4:30 am
t ason for the meeting that the president's statemd not mention. >> last night, the "new york times" published details about a meeting during the campaign involving a kremlin-linked lawyer... >> narrator: as the president returned to washington, it didn't take long for the truth to come out. >> the explosive news about president trump and russia. it involves donald trump, . breaking in the last... >> it only takes about 24 hours for that statement to complete blow up. >> ...potential bombshell from the president's own son, donald trump, jr.... >> narrator: in the days that followed, the "new york times" discovered a series of emails setting up the meeting. >> another day, another installment in the russian election... >> the next day we reported that what had actually happened is that do. had been iaomised dirt on hillary clinton by this rulawyer. >> the crown prosecutor ofed russia offo provide the trump campaign with some official documents andio informthat would incriminate hillary and her dealings with russia, and would be very useful to your father. >> in the email setting up the meeting, don jr. was told that
4:31 am
this meeting was part of the russian government's efforts to support now-president trump. >> this is obviously very high-level and sensitive information, but is part of russia and its government'str support for mrp. >> i mean, i remember saying, "oh, my god. it says it, it says it in an email? 'this is parof the russian government's efforts to support donald trump'?" >> and what does don jr. write back in an email? "if it's what you say, i love it." >> i love it, especially later in the summer. >> coming on top of erything else that had come out about all these russian contacts with e campaign, the trump tower email trail was incredibly damning. >> narrator: for his part, the president would downplay the importance of the meeting. >> nothing happened from the meeting, zero happened from the meeting. and honestly, i think the press made a very big deal over
4:32 am
something that realla lot of people would do. >> now we've got another email >> narrator: but special counsel robert mueller was paying closet atn. >> the laws in this country are very clear. it is absolutely forbidden from a foreign, for a foreign government or a foreign person for taking part in a domestic campaign. so i can understand entirely why the mueller team is focused on that meeting. >> we've now learned there could have been at least eight people in the room. >> narrator: another questions for mueller'am -was there anything illegal about the president's sleading statement? >> the president's lawyers,th 're intensely concerned that the president has essentially now added to an obstruction case. >> narrator: mueller would look into the writing of that statement on air force one. >> if the president's up there, and he's deliberately crafting a lie to cover the purpose of the meeting, is that another step in, in the obstruction investigation?
4:33 am
is it also another step in terms of the conspiracy/collusion investigation?sh >> is that the trump team was willing to engage with the russians... >> what is it that special counsel robert mueller knows? or >> narrator: and blong, mueller's investigation started to produce results. 's this new reporting from the "wall street journal," reporting that special counsel robert mueller... >> that special counsel robert mueller has issued subpoenas... >> this moing, unsealing a guilty plea... >> narrator: trump campaign foreign policy aide george papadopoulos pled guilty to lying about russian contacts. >> ...former trump aide george papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to making false statements . >> narrator: trump's campaign chairman, paul manafort, and his deputy, rick gates, were indicted on numerous charges ranging from conspiracy to money laundering. >> ...manafort and his former business associate rick gates were told to surrender to federal authorities this morning. >> narrator: michael flynn pled guilty to that charge of lying t tohe fbi. >> white house national curity adviser michael flynn has pleaded guilty to lying... >> narrator: and then the fbi dramatically escalated the
4:34 am
showdown. >> breaking news tonight, and it's a bombshell. the fbi raids the office of president trump's personal lawyer, michael cohen. >> narrator: the president, as he watched the raid on television, was furious. >> trump erupted-- he was very upset. he was consumed by this news all day. uh, it was very troubling for him and scary for him. >> ...fbi raiding his office, his home, and a hotel room...dv >> white houseers are saying, "can we turn off the televisions?" all the president is doing, they say, is getting himself agitated. click over to fox... >> this is a foxews alert. there's some breaking news today... >> he watches cnn. >> as the fbi raids the office of president trump's personal lawyer... >> he'll go to msnbc. >> "new york times" breaking the news in the last few minutes that the fbi has raide >> he'll go back to cnn. >> ...also seized emails, tax documents, and business records... >> and he'll just keep seeing those two words on the chyron, "micha cohen." and it sends him into a rage. >> the no-knock raids by fbi agents were the result of a referral by special counsel
4:35 am
rort mueller... >> narrator: to the president, it was a personal assault, from the fbi, the department of justice, and robert mueller. >> a lawyer is just like a priest, a doctor, and a wife, in terms of privilege. so i don't blame president trump for being a little upset that somebody was looking into what he may have told his lawyers. >> narrator: the cohen raid was a ign trump's personal life new york was colliding with his presidency in washington >> cohen brings it right back to trump tower, to how trump really operated for decades, having someone like michael coh-- not just a lawyer, but a fixer-- at his side. >> narrator: cohen was infamous for his role in the stormy daniels story: orchestrating ash oney payment to the adult film star who threatened to reveal a sexual encounter with ump. >> he cleans up messes. and an accusation about an affair, a demand for some kindom
4:36 am
ofnsation to keep quiet, that's exactly the kind of problem that cohen would like to try to solve for donald trump. >> michael is very good at killing stories. lhe's gotten trump out of of issues, i would, i would say. t d that was his job, and he's done a good job of it. >> narrator: now cohen was the wrget of a federal investigation, och could expose the work he did for the prident. >> there is a ton that he could tell prosecutors. >> a very real possibility that he's gng to cooperate. >> ...reportedly is connected to ..the stormy daniels story >> if he overstepped the line... >> narrator: the day of the cohen id, the white house insisted it was business as usua they invited the press into ana onal security meeting. but trump wanted to go on the attack. >> come on in, fol, come, come in. so i just heard that they brokeo he office of one of my personal attorneys-- good man. and it's a disgraceful situation. it's a total witch hunt. the president is so enraged
4:37 am
and obsessed with what's just happened that he can't keep himself from talking about it. at a public briefing, he repeatedly uses the words, "disgrace," "a disgrace." >> and it's a disgrace. a it's, frankleal disgrace. it's a... an attack on our country, in a true s >> something clearly happens with the president after michael rohen comes under scrutiny the department of justice. the president views that veryth much as at to him. >> these people have the biggest conflicts of interest i've ever seen. and i have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. >> the investigation of michael cohen has to feel, to the president, like an arrow pointed directly at his chest. it has to feel that this is aimed precisely at uncovering the president's own history, both before he took office and since he took office, in ways
4:38 am
that perhaps might be the most aneply sensitive to him. >> this is a pursimple witch hunt. thank you very much, thank you. (reporters clamoring) >> it's a whole other avenue of potential exposure, criminal exposure, to the president. >> thank you all very much. >> this was clearly someone who was a very close adviser and attorney to the president. and he was especially involved in what might be seen as the president's shady business. (reporters clamoring) >> narrator: the raid on cohen;l mur's continuing investigation; there was en talk esident was determined to escalate he brought in a new lawyer. >> the president has done nothing ong. read my lips, nothing wrong. >> he hires rudy giuliani, a he really hires a pit bull. he hires someone who is really going to be launching an offense strategy. >> there's been too much government misconduct. the crimes now have all been t committed by the governmd
4:39 am
their agents. >> trump wants to be in warrior mode; giuliani agrees. it goes from a private negotiatn to a public war. and that's a turning point. >> narrator: trump and giuliani initan unfettered attack against mueller's investigation and any move toward impeachment. >> rudy giuliani was going t change the strategy. he said, "let's really makthis into a political confrontation. let's make it into a blue-red, uh, debate and, and conflict." >> so our jury is, as it should be, is the american people. and the american people, yes, are-- republicans, largely, independents, pretty substantlly, and even some democrats now question the legitimacy of it. >> what giuliani is saying i "impeachment will never get off the ground unless the public is behind it." >> this is a fox news alert. president trump is getting set to leave the white house... >>arrator: in order to pro himself... >> strategy to take his message to the voters... >> narrator:...the president worked to undermine public confidence in the justice department and the fbi.
4:40 am
>> in a campaign-style rally, an depresident trump... >> when you look at what was going on at the top of the fbi, it is a disgrace, and everybody in this room understands it. >> one thing we know about this president, he doesn't care about collateral damage. and he doesn't care about collateral damage on hisci ases. and he doesn't care about collateral damage on american institutions. and so the stakes could not be higher. >> it would seem very hard to obstruct justiceor a crime that never happened! witch hunt! (tweet sends) i have the absolute right to pardon myself. (tweet sends) >> look at what's happened. look at how these politicians have fallen for this junk. russiacollusion. give me a break. >> as long as the country isde sort of di and he has his defenders, he can undermine ose who are attacking hi >> take a look at the intelligence agencies. honestly, folks, let me tell you, let me tell you, it's a disgrace. we got to get back down to business.
4:41 am
it's a disgrace. >> it's basically a kind of divide-and-conquer kind of strategy. of we can stay in this ki divided state, there will never be enough consensus behind the idea of impeachment to actually drive it forward." >> top story we're watching this morning, fbi agent peter strzok set to testify about... . will defend himself against allegations of bias in a public hearing... >> narrator: on capitol hill,re housblicans rallied behind the president and joined in his attack strategy. >> ...the house oversight and tojudiciary hearing about begin with the senior fbi agent... >> narrator: the republicans' target: top fbi agent peter strzok. l ...testimony that you are about to give sh the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god?>> arrator: months before, mueller had removed strzok from his team. >> pete strzok is the embodiment of the president's defenders' case that the fbi and the justice department are biased against donald trump and theop surrounding him. and this whole investigation is tainted. >> narrator: the hearing focused
4:42 am
on text messages critical of the future president between strzok and an fbi attorney with whom ad was having an affair. >> you want me to his? >> yes, please. >> yes, sir: "omg, he's an idiot." >> july 19, 2016. >> "hi. how is trump other than a douche? melania?" >> july 21, 2016. >> "trump is a disaster. i have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be." >> ms. page said, "not ever going to become president, right? right?!" >> uh, "no, no, he's not. we'll stop it." >> repeat that again. >> "no, no, he's not. we'll stop it." >> peter strzok did and said things that gave them ammunition to say, "well, you musbe biased, therefore, the whole investigation is biased, therefore the whole thing is, uh, discredited." >> narrator: strzok said his personal opinions didn affect his work. and a d.o.j. inspector general's report found no evidence that it had. >> and you have come in here and said, "i have no bias."
4:43 am
and you do it with a straight face. and i watched you in the, in the prive testimony you gave. and i told some of the other guys, "he is really good. he's lying. he knows we know he's lying. and could probably pass a polygraph." it's amazing... >> mr. chairman. >> no, this is my time. >> mr. chairman, i'm sorry,.. oint of order. >> it was an outcry of the republican base, fed up wibl the eshment. a government was at war with itself in that moment, and louie gohmert was the congressman who personified that battle. >> it's my time. >> that's a disgrace. >> the gentleman from rhode island will suspend. >> no, the disgrace is what this man has done. >> the gentleman from texas will suspend for a moment. >> there is the disgrace. and it won't be recaptured anytime soon, because of thee damage youne to the justice system. and i can't help but wonder when i see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your
4:44 am
wife's eye and lie to her about lisa page... >> mr. chairman, this is outrageous. t credibility of a witness is always an issue and you... >> mr. chairman, please. have you no decency? >> this is intolerable harassment of the witness. >> what is wrong with that?yo u need your medication? >> peter strzok becomes a f perfect exempl them. you know, the symbol of all thaa they cach to this, uh, you know, cabal at the top of the fbi. >> president trump is kickings off eklong trip to europe. >> narrator: the day after the strzok hearing, donald tmp was on his first presidential visit to the united kingdom. >> ...also meeting with the queen of england. >> as the highlight of any president's visit to the united ngdom. >> narrator: just then, reporters at the justice department were told a surprise announcement was coming. >> we were sitng in the seventh floor of the justice department waiting for this news conference to begin. the mood in that room was very tense. there was a lot of excitement, people werwondering what would happen.
4:45 am
and on the screen was cnn footage. >> let me just stop you there. the deputy attorney general is speaki in washington. fascinating, let's listen in. 1 >> the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in theel tion. >> rod rosenstein came out and said, "we have identified russian g.r.u. officers, down to the offices where they sat and their exact names." >> according to the allegation.. >> it was a remarkable moment. >> ...the defendants work for two units of the main intelligence directorate of the russian general staff, known as the g.r.u. >> it is by far the most extensive evidence laid out publicly, , that almost makes it irrefutable that russia did do this. ic >> narrator: the ients were the work of special counsel robert mueller. >> after a year of listening to trump say, "this is all a witch
4:46 am
nt, this is all fake news, nothing is real, there was noco usion," here's mueller's answer: "oh, really? look at this. look what we have." >> when we confront foreign interference in american elections, it's important for us to avoid thinking politically as republicans or democra and instead to think patriotically as americans. >> rosenstein, i'm quite sure, enjoyed going out there with an affirmation of justice department independence, to be able to announce these indictments about something that trump says is a witch hunt. he's been trashing this investigation for over a year. what a statement of ndence. >> well, well, you've been listening to the deputy attorney general with a news conference timed literally as the u.s. president and his wife were walking into windsor castle for tea. >> it was a dramatic scene.
4:47 am
and for president trump, yet again, the cloud, as he calls it, hangs over his entire presidency. that he doesn't really understand where it's going, or what's coming next, and if it's coming for him. ♪ >> with tensions between the u.s. and russia at the highest level nce the cold war... >> president trump's helsinki summit with president vladimir putin expected... n rator: three days later, in his first one-on-one summit with vladimir putin, president trump showed little concern about the indictment of the russian officers. >> president trump is standing next to the person who intelligence agencies say ordered the hacking and the meddling of our electi s. >> i have just concluded a meeting with president putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. >> the staff has no hat's going to happen, obviously. this is a president who doesn't stick to the script, so you never know for sure what, what he's going to say. >> mr. president, you tweeted m thning that it's u.s.
4:48 am
foolishness, stupidity, and the mueller probe that is responsible for thdecline in u.s. relations with russia. >> i do, i hold both countries responsible. i think that the united states has been foolish. i .ink we've all been fooli >> he launches into a monologue, um, a rampage, about, "we're, we're to blame. the russians might be to blame, t we're also to blame." >> i think that the, the probe tris a disaster for our co i think it's kept us apart, it's kept us separated.s there collusion at all. everybody knows it. >>ngresident putin denied ha anything to do with the election interference in 2016. every u.s. intelligeency has concluded that russia did. smy first question for yo, is, who do you believe? >> "who do you believe?" that's the starkest possible way to put that question, question to the president. >> my people came to me, dan coats, came to me, and some others. they said they think it's
4:49 am
russia. i have president putin. he just said it's not russia. i will say this, don't see any reason why it would be. >> this was somebody who, only days after an indictment against russian military officials, appeared to be siding with a foreign country as opposed to the conclusions of u.s. intelligence and u.s. law enforcement. >> i wl tell you that president putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. >> but if you listen to his words, he's saying, "well,y intelligence chief dan coats comes to me and says this. but putin has told me very strongly tt he didn't do it." when trump uses the words "very strongly," he's using an adjective, to him, that means almost more than anything. >> narrator: just before the hepresident left the stagead one final statement to make. >> and, and i have to y, if anybody watched peter strzok testify over the last couple of
4:50 am
days, and i was in brussels watching it, it was a disgracehe tobi, it was a disgrace to our country. and yowould say, "that was a total witch hunt." thank you very much, everybody. thank you. >> the president of the united states cannot let go tha someone is challenging his legitimacy... >> disgraceful play by the president... >> eraordinary moment in american history, something i thought i would never see... >> there was an immediate sense that that had gone about as bad as it possibly could. that all of their efforts to corr him, prepare him for th moment, had failed to protect the administration, to protect the president from his own worst impulses. >> narrator: in the months that followed... b >> we've gaking news on the mueller report... >> narrator: ...robert mueller finally completed his investigatn. >> ...the mueller report has been delivered... >> narrator: over 400 pages... >> ...the investigat now over. >> narrator: ...the report did ngt charge trump with conspi with russia.
4:51 am
>> it was a complete and total exoneration. >> narrator: but on obstruction of justice, mueller laid out extensive idence that trump tried to influence the investigation... >> ...the president engaged in public attacks on then. investigat >> narrator: ...from those conflicts with fbi director comey... >> ...substantial evidence corroborates comey's account of the dinner... >> narrator: that struggle with attorney general. sessions.. >> the president became angry and lambasted the attorney general for his desion to recuse. >> narrator: ...establishing a pattern of obstruction... >> ...the president engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation... >> narrator: but mueller stopped short of indicting the esident. >> ...a sitting president is entitled to immunity from indictment... s>> attorney general barr expected to release his first summary of the repor >> narrator: despite mueller's evidence, trump's new attorney generaquickly cleared the president. >> the evidence developed by the ecial counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an
4:52 am
obstruction of justice offense. >> ...barrccused of trying to put his own spin... >> lawmakers accused barr of protecting the president... >> narrator: but in congress, as democrats read mueller's evidence-- outrage... >> democrats are not happy with the way the attorney general handled this...ra >> ntor: ...escalating the conflict. w >> democratst to see everything. >>..issued a subpoena demanding the full report... >> narrator: as he had all along, the president fought back. >> the white house was taking another step to stymie democratic-led investigation...p sident trump invoking executive privilege to block demands for full access... >> narrator: mueller's investigation has put the vernment on the verge of a constitutional crisis... >> president trump appears to be heading toward constitutional crisis with house democrats. >> more than 700 former federal prosecutors saying trump would be hit with felony charges if he was not president. >> narrator:..testing the powers of the presidency... >> ...crucial house judiciary l mmittee has voted to hold contempt of oenaed to answer moreas beensu questions about russian interference. >> narrator: ...and american
4:53 am
democracy. >> top democrats in congress arn rathe possibility of impeachment proceedings against the president. >> some lawmakers argue e mueller report laid out a road map for impeachment... ♪ >> i will nominate judge brett kava ugh... >> narrator: a supreme court face-off... 30 years in the making. ha>> you will see a system has become toxic. >> when bork got taken down, they promised never to forgive.o >> it was raw litics and it was war. m >> mitchcconnell is a tactical genius. >> we're not giving a lifetime appointment to this president on the way out the door. >> unprecedented. >> democrats are outraged.e' >> 're living in the era of the mcconnell court now. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, commitd
4:54 am
to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at the ford foundation:rk g with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide.or additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, coitted to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicated to heightening publicc awareness tical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other "frontline" programs, visit ourp website .org/frontline.
4:55 am
♪ to order "the mueller investigation" on dvd visit shoppbs,1- or cal0-play-pbs. ♪ >> you're watching pbs. ♪ ♪ hold, hold
4:56 am
hold on to me ♪ 'cause i'm a little unsteady ♪ >> what's the situation there? >> how do you explain that? >> are you ready for this world that we are facing today? ♪ ♪ ♪ -you've said you'd favor middle-class tax cuts. -the front line is just up here. that's where the river... -she t wk me out to thoseetlands. -i thinktae're off to a great s. ♪
4:57 am
4:58 am
4:59 am
5:00 am
♪ ooh h ♪ ooh ♪ ooh ♪ ooh -no one is going to tell me to go away from this place because of who i am. i am what i am, and thbody is going to tak away from me. and that's what i want to see the leitis embrace. ♪ -in the pacific, 1,000 miles north of new zealand, are the islands of tonga. p in the royace, a long succession of kings and queens have ruled over the friendly islands -- tonga, the smallest kingdom in the world,