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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  January 12, 2017 11:30pm-12:01am PST

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let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. like the historic conplikt in the middle east, we open war between president-elect donald trump and the intelligence agencies continues. he calls them nazis. they feel the need to share unsupported stories about him. the president-elect's dispute has driven a wedge between the u.s. intelligence community and the incoming trump administration. and yet, as trump indicated in his defiant press conference yesterday, he's still to the ready to call a truce. multiple times trump said intelligence officials were responsible for leaking information to the press and
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compared those leaks to nazi germany. >> they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows? but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that. a tremendous blot. i think it was disgraceful, disgraceful, that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. i think it's a disgrace. and i say that, and that's something that nazi germany would have done and did do. >> after a conversation with trump last night, director of national intelligence james clapper released a statement to deny responsibility of the leaks and note the undeniable veracity of that 35-page dossier. >> this morning, the
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president-elect appeared to contradict the latter saying clapper told him the document was not true. >> that was trump. a summary of those inflammatory allegations was included in an appendix and shared with members of congress known as the gang of eight. there they are, last week. i'm joined by leon panetta, former secretary of defense under president obama. mr. director, mr. secretary i should say as well, what do you think of the decision by the intelligence community, the cia and the others, to distribute to all eight members of the gang of eight, the ranking members, but also the political leadership of both sides of the aisle and both
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sides of the hill to distribute that widely, this two-page attachment which was not intelligence but was some kind of information gathered by a research operation about trump, was that wise to distribute it that widely? >> well, chris, i think the standard that usually is followed here is that based on the briefing that they gave the president of the united states, and then the briefing that they gave to the president-elect, the intelligence community is obligated to then present that briefing to the key leadership capitol hill, both republican and democrat. so it is -- it's a standard procedure to present whatever briefing was presented to the president and to the president-elect, to that group of leadership on capitol hill.
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>> but the actual intelligence they gave him in terms of the russian engagement in our campaign was the intelligence they gave him. and then they added this two-page attachment, which they said was not intelligence but in fact some of this information, i think it was even marked as disinformation. why didn't they just hand it to trump on the side or give it to his people rather than so widely distribute it, especially somebody in the republican party or the democrat party, was going to leak it to the press, which apparently is what happened. unless you believe the cia leaked it. your thoughts? somebody leaked it. >> no, that's right. as we know from our own experience, that kind of thing gets leaked, and you know, i don't know all the reasons that were involved in having that document accompany the full brief with regards to the russian hacking. i suspect that because it involves sensitive information, even though it was unverified and had not been substantiated, that because it was so sensitive, they felt they had an obligation to present that to
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both the president and the president-elect. normally, you do provide that kind of information. if you have an unsubstantiated report, even though it is unsubstantiated, if it is sensitive, and if it is information that you believe, you know, could very well ultimately be proven true, then usually even in intelligence briefings, that kind of information is provided with the condition that it is unsubstantiated and not verified. >> who do you think is the more likely suspect, the intelligence community, mr. clapper has deni it, including all the agencies involved, or the hill where do you think it would come from, the eight members on the hill or one of the officials at langley? >> we can always speculate. >> if you were trump, what would you think. who is your enemy?
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>> i've worked with two presidents in the oval office, and all of it hate it when anything is leaked. president clinton was that way, president obama was that way. things get leaked. and it's frustrating, it's angering, but it's also the reality of washington. as to who did it, you just don't know. i believe jim clapper that it wasn't in the intelligence community that did that. but when you're presenting those briefings, and if there are staff members that are present, then obviously it becomes vulnerable to some kind of leak. >> in his confirmation hearing, trump's pick for the cia took a hard line on putin and said he would pursue any lead regarding an untoward relationship between the trump campaign and russia. this is looking forward, mr. director. let's watch.
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>> there are unsubstantiated media reports that there were contacts between the trump campaign and the russians. if confirmed, will you commit to exploring those questions and if you find there is validity to those alletions, refer the information to the fbi? >> i promise i will pursue the facts wherever they take us. the central intelligence agency has that as one of its functions and that is my commitment to do that with respect to this issue and each and every other issue, as well. >> what is not clear is whether the cia is investigating connections between trump, his campaign and moscow. i guess that's a tricky question. i was just reading your book today. you talked about one of the reasons that the cia is out of the city, over in langley, virginia, to keep the spies away from washington and the political figures. is this going to be tricky to have the cia investigating the guy who is just about to be our president, continuing to investigate about his possible, you know, perhaps malicious
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involvement with the russians before his campaign was over. in other words, was there engagement by him with the russians in a way that helped his campaign. that's a fruitful area of investigation. but how do you do that while the president is in office? >> well, you do it very carefully. you know, the reality is that the fbi obviously would be one of those agencies to investigate those allegations and at least according to the director, it appears that they may very well have an investigation on that issue. obviously, the cia might very well conduct a similar investigation. you would hope those efforts would be coordinated. but the reality is, when it comes to investigating something that may involve a violation of law, the white house really does not have much authority to be
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able to shut those investigations down. normally it happens at the justice department. and while it can be frustrating for a president, the reality is that the justice department is free to conduct that kind of investigation along with other agencies. >> you've worked with agents, and i can tell you have a lot of feelings for those agents, the people that risk their lives. you used to get the medal of freedom for that. they go into frightening situations in these foreign countries that maybe hate us and like to kill us. what does that do to the morale of those being called nazis by trump? those were his words. >> i really regret that. it's not a good situation for our country, chris, to have the president of the united states and soon-to-be commander in chief having this kind of contentious relationship with
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the intelligence community. it's not good for our national security. it's not good for the country. it sends the wrong message to our enemies that we don't have our act together. you know, it really does impact the credibility of the information that they're going after. but more importantly, as you point out, it impacts the morale of those that are involved. look, these are not -- these are not republicans and democrats. these are good americans who are working hard to try to provide the best intelligence possible to the president. and as you said, ty have to put their life on the line. these are very risky operations when it involves these resources going out and trying to get intelligence in russia, in iran, in north korea, in isis, some very, very troubling areas. and they put their lives on the
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line, and if they believe that somehow the president of the united states doesn't trust what they're presenting, make no mistake about it, it's going to impact the quality of intelligence that we get. >> you're a great man. leon panetta, thanks for your service to our country. coming up, fbi chief james comey is facing an internal investigation over the way he handled that probe into hillary clinton's e-mails. democrats blame comey for clinton's election loss, and investigators want to know whether his decision to send that letter to congress just days before the election was politically motivated that's ahead. this is "hardball," where the action is.
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i know there are many opinions expressed by people not part of the investigation, including people in the government. but none of that mattered to us. opinions are irrelevant, and they were all uninformed, because we did our investigation the right way. >> that was fbi director james comey back in july, announcing his decision not to prosecute secretary hillary clinton at that time. the director came under intense scrutiny for that and his surprise decision to release just 11 days before the election a letter to congress announcing that the agency's decision to review e-mails related to clinton's case continued. today, the inspector general at the justice department announced he's launching a prod review how the fbi handled that investigation of hillary's e-mails. he wrote --
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>> director comey has refused to comment on this, but just yesterday briefing a senate panel on russian hacking, he had this exchange with senator king of maine. >> in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation. >> the irony of you making that statement here i cannot avoid, but i'll move on. >> for more on this developing story, i'm joined by josh gernstein and victoria, reporter for the boston globe.
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this is a fascinating story and the fact that the ig is able to say, you know what? i'm looking at the way that whole thing is handled and we're going to look at this. but how do you answer the question, what was the motive of james comey, how do you discern it was political without recordings i'm doing this to screhillary or help trump? >> i think it's going to be very difficult to prove he had a political motive, but there were policies in place that he departed from. i don't want to say -- >> were they written policies?
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>> yeah, written policies saying you're not supposed to take investigative steps that will draw attention in a political campaign, unless somebody is in danger of getting hurt or something along those lines, and you're not generally supposed to speak at the end of an investigation if you decide not to bring charges. so he went counter to those policies. he says there's sort of an exception here for cases of national import or ex-people public interest. other people disagree. the best argument against what he did is there's a slippery slope that once you start talking about your rational and you go up to the hill and give testimony and say here's why i did this, here's why i didn't do that, then there's some factual development, you have to say oh, i need to correct the record and it goes on and on and on. >> this is like the russian connection for trump. it's very embarrassing and undermines his legitimacy. if it comes out comey was in
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cahoots, and nobody is saying this, but if he was in ka hoots with the trump operation, this brings in all kinds of things into question. >> even the announcement of the investigation by the i.g. is sort of adding to this cloud that's hanging over the new administration. we're less than a week from inauguration. he has historically low poll numbers for an incoming president. that doesn't make his job any easier in terms of unifying the -- or healing the wounds that this campaign opened. >> to make your point, i was talking to david of "the washington post" and he tells me that investigation by the intelligence agencies about a possible relationship about russia's involvement helping trump, that's still open. so now we have two vying probes. one looking at his sections to russia, the other looking at the comey operation. most objective people say may well have taken hillary out of the running. >> we're still talking about hillary's e-mails and russian
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hacking months after the election day. >> one thing we know, trump is sensitive about his legitimacy. >> that's the one part of him that's not weird. >> he seems to be reliving the election every single day. >> thank you both. when we return, let me finish with joe biden, who president obama today awarded the presidential medal of freedom with distinction. you're watching "hardball."
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let me finish tonight with joe biden, whom president obama today awarded the presidential medal of freedom with distinction. >> for the final time as president, i am pleased to award our nation's highest civilian
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honor, the presidential medal of freedom. [ applause ] for the first and only time in my presidency, i will bestow this medal with an additional level of veneration. an honor only reserved for three others, pope john paul ii, president ronald reagan, and colin powell. ladies and gentlemen, i am proud to honor this medal to my brother, joseph robinette biden, jr. [ applause ]
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>> it's been a warm, affectionate eight years between the two. joe biden acts less like a big shot than the public figures with immensely less achievement under their belts. in 2008, when he stood on that stage in springfield, illinois, the home of lincoln and accepted the vice presidential nomination, i was struck emotionally at seeing a regular guy, someone who grew up like most of us in this country, recognize this extraordinary honor. since we've watched him serve in one of the most difficult positions with loyalty and dignity. standards that is uniquely difficult to combine. but biden did it. like so many of us, i loved president obama's farewell. it echoed the excitement and
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hope of his campaign, one i truly loved to cover. today, a salute to his white house brother was just as moving. i thought from the beginning that this cool president was smart to pick a warm guy like joe biden to be his buddy in the foxhole. cool to pick an irish american from scranton, pennsylvania, and that irish guy from coal country returned the honor. he made a very cool president, a guy who we could see day after day hanging out with a guy like us. he will remain the regular irish american guy who put the apostrophe in obama. that's "hardball." join me tomorrow night at 7:00 eastern. see you then.
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tonight on "all in" --" >> does president putin like what he sees so far? >> i have no doubt that yes. >> new reporting, new denials, and so many more questions about the president-elect, the intelligence community and russia. tonight what we know and what we don't. then, investigating comey. breaking news on a justice department investigation into the handling of the clinton e-mail probe. plus, bernie sanders on the overnight vote to repeal obamacare. a time elizabeth warren and ben carson faced off at a confirmation hearing. >> dr. carson, i'm trying to ask a more pointed question.