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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  May 18, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT

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you can meet them. you can buy the book there from lip bar. the event is free, so if you're in the area, common out. that's all in for this evening. "the rachel maddow show" starts right now. >> thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. it's happened again. all set to do a very specific show to do a block b block c blocks all planned out scripts in. we know our rerting, we're ready. had it all planned out. new breaking news, throw everything out the window. this is the new schedule. this is how we work now. you'll find that something breaks and changes your plans. monday evening it was president trump passing on classified intelligence to the russians in the oval office. tuesday night it was the existence of a memory foam from fired fbi director james comey
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describing a conversation in which he says the president asked him to back off the fbi investigation of former national security adviser mike flynn. last night it was the appointment of a special downhill take the other trump russia investigation. now it's the fourth day of the week so now we have a new one. tonight eats scoop comes courtesy of michael schmidt at "the new york times." quote, president trump called the fbi director james comey weeks after he took office and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that mr. trump was not personally under fbi investigation. mr. comey told the president if he wanted to know details about the bureau's investigations he shouldn't not contact him directly but instead should follow proper procedures. at the time mr. comey was overseeing the fbi's
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investigations into links between mr. trump's associates and russia. these interactions included a dinner in whic associates and mr. comey say mr. trump asked him to pledge his loyalty and a meeting in the oval office, and he hoped mr. comey would shut down an investigation into mike flynn. the day after the flynn conversation, reince priebus asked mr. comey to help push back on reports in the news media that trump's associates have been in contact with russian intelligence officials during the campaign. mr. comey described his encounters between the president and the white house including the phone call from mr. trump in detailed memory foas at the tim. not just pressure from the president to the fbi director on the flynn karks but pressure from the president to the fbi director about investigations into the president himself, and then the white house chief of
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staff, prescribreince priebus, g up one of those apparently inappropriate conversations between the president and the director of the fbi overseeing those investigations. ever since we learned on tuesday night of the existence of the apparent comey memo about the conversation in which the president asked him to tank investigation into mike flynn, ever sthans bombshell report on tuesday, we have had subpoena mental reporting. the memos thing was for real, not only is it tradition and proper in the fbi to write down things as they happen to keep a detailed written log of event particularly kroeshls events, comey himself was a prolific wire of memos, particularly when he was involved in meetings or
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he was around events which might come into question later. we were told we should expect more of those memos to begin surfacing. now that he's been fired by donald trump. we started getting those warnings tuesday night, here we are thursday night and apparently we've now got a beat on the next memo. according to this new reporting from "the new york times," these newly reported modems describe what james comey perceived to be a pattern of unsettling behavior from the white house, people who have these memos are describing them to, among others, michael schmidt at "the new york times." this story he's just broken tonight that in addition to the alleged direct pressure by the president on director comey to kibosh the mike flynn trump russia investigation, apparently the president called the fbi director and pressured him to
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put out public word about trump not personally being under investigation, that was fold up by reince priebus also personally asking the fbi director to push back on reports in the news media that trump associates had been in contact with associates. mr. schmidt, i know we're getting you on short notice. thank you for being with us tonight. >> thanks for having me. >> first of all let me ask if i've nut tted up this part of t story. >> you have it right. the thing we were excited about this this story that we have one of mr. comey's friends on the record, ben wit advertise talking about a lunch he had with comey in march where he described all the frustrations that he had, but comey thought he had actually gotten the white house to a place where they understood the lanes of the road and he's sitting there at the end of march they may understand
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what they can and cannot do. >> why is mr. wittis coming toward now? it's phenomenal and welcome to have a source put his or her name on reporting related to this story because so much is anonymous these days, even when it is active government public officials serving as the contacts for reporters. do we know what motivated mr. wittis to describe his conversations with mr. comey, and do we know if mr. comey green lit him to do this? >> so withes is a friend of comey's. held have lunch with him every few months. and the fact that the loyalty dinner came out, and actually, he didn't know about the specific loyalty dinner. he knew there was a question whether comey was going to give his loyalty to trump and withes said these conversations with comey were supposed to be
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confidential but so much happened since then i think the public needs to know what was going through james comey's head in march because it's important pieces of the puzzle. this was withes's idea and i sat down with him last friday in his office and spoke to him a few times since then and he provided important texture and context to what comey was looking at. >> michael, in terms of the question that a lot of people are starting to ask about potential obstruction of justice or even in less legalistic terms, whether there have been efforts by the white house to either shape or sp the inquiries into polish collusion between the trump campaign and russia. it's very interesting you're able to report this piece about how comey felt like he was able to kind of teach the president what was appropriate or & what was inappropriate and was able to sort of correct him when the president inappropriately contacted him and pressured him
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about that investigation. you also describe the white house chief of staff, reince priebus, who's a political pro as having directly contacted the director and asked him to make essentially public or at least representations to reporters about the trump russia investigation outside of his lane as the fbi director. is that something the director put in the same category as an inappropriate communication or is that a totally separate matter? >> withes said comey was disgusted by approximate what priebus had done and saw it as part of the inappropriate contacts that were going on between the justice department, between the fbi and the white house. and i tell you, troubled him because he said there's no reason the white house -- the doj -- of you to go through doj. and priebus was directly appealing to comey who at the time was overseeing the russia
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investigation. so this was part of these things piling up for comey. but by ten of march he thought maybnow they've figured out what they can and cannot do. there's no coherent answer for why comey was fired. so the question is that did the white house realize by tend of march that they weren't going to win comey over? and is that when they realized comey wasn't going to be the person they wanted running the fbi. >> because implicit unless choice is that it was unacceptable and it was never going to happen they would leave the investigation alone and expect somebody who couldn't be pressured to continue with it. if they exerted the pressure, he resisted and then they fired him, the question is what their expectations were in terms of how much they could direct this investigation, and i guess that's still the unanswered question here. >> this all makes a lot of sense in hindsight.
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the idea we thought a relationship between james comey and donald trump was going to work is like we should have seen this coming a lot earlier. donald trump is someone who prizes loyalty. james comey is someone who prizes independents. the idea this was going to work with the backdrop of the russia investigation, in hindsight it doesn't look like it should have been a surprise to us at all. >> michael submit from the "new york times" having broken tonight's story, comey is said to have become unsettled by sbrerksz with trump. thank you for being with us tonight. >> thanks for having me. >> it helps to understand the importance of this what this adds to our understanding of what's happening and what might happen next. joining us is matt miller. mr. miller, i did not know we would be asking you back so soon but thank you for making time for us tonight appreciate it? >> of course. >> there's a lot that's of interest here especially that chael schmidt was talking
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about what we're coming to understand personally about some of the characters involved and how james comey felt about his interactions with the president, how his level of comfort or discomfort in terms of what kinds of communications he was getting from the president directly and from the white house. putting aside some of those personal considerations, the additions to the record we have tonight according to his reporting are that president trump asked the fbi director directly when he was going to put out word that trump was perm personally not under investigation. we are also told reince priebus, the white house chief of staff contacted the fbi director and essentially asked him to make public comments related to the trump russia investigation in terms of whether or not trump associates were in contact with russian intelligence. i'm a lehman. i'm not a lawyer. i never worked in the justice
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department. are those kinds of contacts materially inappropriate? are those legally actionable? >> they are violations of department of justice policies. the department of justice strictly prohibits any kind of contact between people of the fbi and the white house. the way the rules are laid out, those contacts can only happen from the attorney general or the deputy attorney general to the white house. i will say that's the format, but the substance of those contacts, you would never have in a well-run justice department that's properly independent from the white house, you would never answer these kinds of questions from the white house. you would never expect to get those questions. the justice dirngtd in, the white house never would have called us and asked us to stop an investigation or asked us the status of an investigation into the president's associates. if they asked those questions we would have told them they're absolutely inappropriate. >> in terms of the way director comey handled this, it seems
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like according to these reports, his soergts, people who say they've seen these memos or heard about these memos, the way he dealt with these violations of doj policy, inappropriate contacts from the white house, what appears to be inappropriate pressure from the white house to shut down or make inappropriate public comments about various investigations, the way he dealt with that was apparently by dmgt it, writing it all down and making sure other people knew this stuff was going on. should he have been going public with his concerns? should he have reported his concerns to the attorney general or deputy attorney general? is there something else he should have been doing at the time if he was so zushd by this inappropriate contact? >> he was trying to train the white house not to do this anymore. but i think, yes, he should have reported those contacts to the deputy attorney general or the attorney general. ybe he did.
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it's actually one of the things, the big unanswered questions, when you look at rod rosenstein's contact in writing that memo the excuse to fire james comey, if rod rosenstein knew about these contacts from the white house that were inappropriately pressuring james comey on the russia investigation, it is a big, big black mark on rod rosenstein's integrity. he knew that the president was concerned about comey's handling of the investigation and that was one of the reasons why he fired him. i think the question you ask is one of the core questions that needs to be asked off the deputy attorney general. >> matt miller, former department of justice spokesman had he asked understand the importance of this new reporting tonight. >> this late breaking story tonight, because it's always late breaking stories now from the "new york times" reporting from reporter michaelsome mitt that president trump asked the fbi director directly when federal authorities were going to put out word that trump
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himself was not personally under investigation. he also reported that reince priebus contact with russian intelligence. apparently there's more than one comey memo about what was an inappropriate contact from the white house pressuring the fbi on this investigion before comey was fired. much more ahead tonight. stay with us. i never miss an early morning market.
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loemsz was moscow, and the eyes and a coalition of countries decided to boycott those olympics. the soviets were furious they faced that international boycott but as the olympics got closer and closer they proved why the rest of the world didn't want any part of it. as the olympics got closer that summer, the innovative union ramped up their efforts to round up government opponents, dissidents, cultural figures who didn't fit with the program. one of the most famous dissidents they rounded up that summer was named vazle stus. he's not famous in the west, but he is famous where he's from still. he was a poet, human rights activist. they arrested him for anti-soviet activities and they put him on triumphant the fact they put him on trial makes it sound like a judicial
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proceeding. he was appointed lawyer who worked for the government. here's thousand "new york times" years later described how that worked out. quote, mr. stus exercising one of his stew rights as a dissident defendant tried to refuse representation by his lawyer. his state appointed lawyer insisted on speaking at the trial anyway. when the lawyer rose and spoke at the trial, he declared his client guilty and said he derved to be punished for everything he was charged with. and the court blindly. obliged. he was sentenced to ten years in prison n. 19 '5, halfway in his sentence he was nominated for the noble prize in literature but he died before the rewarding of the prize. he died in prison at the work camp at the ripe old age of 47.
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by the following year, they actually closed down that part of the gu lag because so many notable political prisoners and cultural dissidents has been in prison there and died there. it's interesting. even though they closed it down in 87, human rights lobbied that place should not be bulldozed they argued it should be kept as a museum so people could not forget what happened there. and stay with us is not a famous figure in the west, but he is famous though. there are lots of streets named after him in the ukraine. the other person linked to him who has remained very famous in
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that part of the world since that human rights atrocity he was involved in, is the guy who served as stay with us's purported lawyer at that trial, the guy assigned by the government to representim in court, stay with us knew him and he knew what that meantime, tried to refuse his services. held let the guy act as his lawyer, he stood up anyway to damn his supposed client saying he shouldn't be locked up and that's what the court did. that lawyer who played that scary role in that human rights atrocity is still alive, and he has also ended up very famous in that part of the world to this day. what he east most famts for is basically like vladimir putin's best friend, very close friend, closest known associate. we have a lot of pictures and video of them together where they seem very, very close. they definitely vacationed
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together. they definitely hosted each other at their various mansions. they definitely go see sporting events together. that we know vladimir putin is god father to victory me ved chuck's daughter. that's who putin is hoisting and hugging. whenever you hear about one of these guys who's very personally close to vladimir putin, the next sentence you always read about is how wealthy they are. madly wealthy. in victor's case, he's a life long policing. he's public servant but nevertheless he lives very well at any number of his lavish estates. who knows what his source of income is. he's described in recent news reports as essentially putin's political fixer, his emissary when it comes to difficult negotiations over things like eastern ukraine.
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he hand delivers putin's personal communications. victory med ved chuck, he's famous in his part of the world for his known closeness and close working relationship and close personal relationship with vladimir putin. and reuters now reports that victory med ved check also spent some of last year in high level communication with the donald trump for president campaign. there's been a lot of breaking news, but this reuters story actually tells us quite a lot we didn't already know. the reuters reporting is that federal investigators are reviewing 18 interactions between russian officials and others with kremlin ties and various advisers to donald trump's campaign. again, this is not further exploration of contacts that have been because ordered
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confirmed before. these are all new ones that have never been reported before now, 18 new contacts between trump associates, the trump campaign, and people close to the kremlin. on the trump campaign side, reuters says most of the names of the various trump campaign advisers, most of them are mavgd because they are u.s persons. they're not supposed to have their name revealed. michael flynn's name is the only trump-related name that is unmasked on the american side of these communications. but these calls and electronic messages involve other trump aides besides him. on the russian side, these are 18 different communications, 18 calls, e-mails, and text messages. six of them involve the russian ambassador, sergei kislyak. that leaves another 12.
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the names of the other russians besides ambassador kislyak who are kbhukt trump campaign last year, those names are all apparently being with held. he's also his political emissary for all sorts of political matters. he's also somebody who has a personal history in terms of human rights that will curl your hair. what is that guy doing talking last year to members of the trump campaign? during the russian attack on the presidential election? sifrsd this works from reuters's reporting i think we can surmise this med ved check contact was not between him and mike flynn. i think we can surmise fm
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reuters that he was speaking to somebody other than mike flynn o's also associated with trump. i'm reading between the lines but we'll check that. we have reuters' lead reporter here. we have now got a named russian contact, an oligarch with close ties to putin who's apparently in direct contact with the trump campaign which is when russia was attacking the u.s. presidential election. we previously knew about a lot of people with people having contacts with the russian ambassador and a few other russian possibilities after the election but in terms of during the election while the attack was happening, who were they talking to in russia? this is a new name. and he's kind of a big deal. the other implication of this new reporting is that apparently the trump folks still have not told us about what their
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contacts were with russia last year. how is it we are this far into this scandal and all of a sudden there's another 18 previously unclosed contacts that they never thought to mention before now. and we're only finding out from this new reuters reporting. that has been a consistent problem for the president in dealing with this story and this scandal. they keep denying things. that then turn out to be true. they keep saying we know everythi there is to be known and then more comes out. they start off by denying contacts between anybody in the campaign and any russian official. >> i'm asking you a direct question. was there contact in any way between trump and his associates and the kremlin or cutouts they had? >> i joined this campaign in the summer and i can tell you that
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all the contact by the trump campaign and associates was with the american people. >> circumstances i'm just trying to get an answer? >> of course not. >> did any desires or anybody in the trump campaign have any contact with the russians who were trying to meddle in the election? >> of course not. >> of course not. that was scoldy faced soon to be vice president mike pence speaking on january 15th denying of course not of course not that there had been any contact whatsoever between the trump campaign and the russians while the russians were attacking the presidential election to benefit the trump campaign. mike pence was blunt in his response to those questions. he looked very earnest, even scolding, disgusted by the question whepg those answers. but those answers were not true. when he said there was no contact, there were multiple contacts between trump campaign and russian officials why russians were attacking the u.s. presidential election. we know that from bombshell fre
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press reporting like "the new york times" on february 14th when they reported that phone records and incepted calls showed they had repeated contacts in the year before the election. american law enforcent and intellence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence russia was i'm trying to disrupt the election. following day cnn added its own reporting saying high level advisers were in constant communication with russian officials. menace flat out denied there had been any contacts. the administration initially tried to quash those reports. we're learning tonight they even asked the fbi director to help quash those reports, but those reports have been borne out over and over and over again by subsequent reporting and the white house itself has ultimately had to admit that, yes, there were multiple contacts between russian officials and not just people on the campaign, but people who
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eventually ended up serving in high level positions, people like jared kushner, attorney general jeff sessions, people like national security adviser michael flynn. they admitted there were all those contacts after they said there were no contacts. the white house has never explained -- mike pence never explained why they so bluntly asserted there were no contacts between the trump campaign and russian officials when they later had to admit there were and kind of a lot of them. they never made that right. and now that's getting worse. not just because we're learning about even to this day another 18 contacts with russian officials that we hadn't had disclosed before reuters reported it in the last 24 hours. now it's getting worse because when it comes to mike flynn they have absolutely no way to account for their false public statements specifically about him. this is not about whether or not mike flynn tells the truth. this is about the white house. this is about the vice president and his pick up statements that
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are clearly not true in this matter and they have not yet either cleaned them up or explained why they were false in the first place. >> michael flynn has filed with the department of justice as a foreign agent for making more than $500,000 as a lobbyist for turkey. your reaction to that, doesn't that mean mr. vice president even if he didn't lie you to about what the russian ambassador a said or didn't say that you would have had to fire him anyway? >> let me say hearing that story today was the first i heard fortunate. and i fully the decision that president trump made asking for his resignation. >> you're disappointed by the story? >> the first i heard of it. >> that was march 9th. he had never before that day heard anything about mike flynn having done any lobbying work for turkey. he is blindsided by this nurksz
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almost dumbfounded by hearing it. where is this coming from? after the election there had been multiple press reports saying he was doing paid work for turkey. >> november 18th, congress shent to the ahead of the trump transition a letter about what appeared to be mike flynn's paid work for the government of turkey. it had previously been reported in march, not once, but twice during the transition. he had been doing paid lobbying work for the government of turkey. now in today's "new york times" that story got considerably worse with reporting that not only was mike flynn work if she turkey the subject of lots of press reports and subject of a congressional note, something his lawyers told to the transition. the transition wasn't just notified that he was doing paid lobbying work for turkey, they
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were notified twice that he was under federal investigationor doing paid lobbying work for the government of turkey. and at the time all those notifications about mike flynn were going into the transition, the head of the transition was mike pence. but weeks and months later he was still trying to say golly, i never heard any of that. >> you're disappointed by the story? >> the first i heard of it. >> first i heard of it. vice president menace has made a number of blunt, direct, false statements related to the trump-russia investigation both during the transition and since she's been vice president. when controversy started to swirl around mike flynn, mike pence said he had not applied for a security clearance for mike flynn's son. they had, actually applied for a security clearance for his son. after the president fired the
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fbi director, mike pence bluntly asserted the decision to fire james comey was based on a recommendation from the deputy attorney general. the president himself and reportedly the deputy attorney general himself now today have both made clear that that was not the reason james comey was fired. mike pence has also bluntly asserted that james comey was not fired for anything having anything to do with the trump-russia investigation, the president himself now admits that what he was thinking when he made the decision to fire james comey he was thinking about how much he hated that trump-russia investigation. mike pence had bluntly asserted there were no trump campaign contacts with the russian government. that is not true. he has bluntly asserted he had no idea that mike flynn had a paid relationship with any foreign countries' government. that would seem to be impossible given his role in the transition and the number of times and the number of ways that transition was formally notified including in writing of those ties. of course, mike pence has the
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starring role in the big unandersen answered question about mike flynn's time in the white house which is why they let him stay on for 18 days after the justice department came to the white house and told them mike flynn was compromised by the russians and vulnerable to blackmail. why did he stay on for another 18 days thereafter? the white house story is that, well, actually there is no story for that. in the end they said he had to go because he had lied to mike pence. but why does a lie to mike pence take 18 days to flower before it has any consequences for something as serious as a foreign government having its tentcles that far up the top of the u.s. government? mike pence apparently formed a political action committee this week. maybe he's looking at his boss's
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troubles and imagining himse becoming president. mike pence has his own troubles when it comes to this scandal. reuters keep turning up 18 new previously undisclosed russian contacts during the campaign. seems like those problems are going to get bigger, not smaller, over time. alright, and before that? you mean after that? no, i'm talking before that. do you have things you want to do before you retire? oh yeah sure... ok, like what? but i thought we were supposed to be talking about investing for retirement? we're absolutely doing that. but there's no law you can't make the most of today. what do you want to do? i'd really like to run with the bulls. wow. yea. hope you're fast. i am. get a portfolio that works for you now and as your needs change. investment management services from td ameritrade. (vo)rpness in dogs (vo)rpness in dogsalertness and 7 and older. (ray) the difference has been incredible. she is much more aware. she wants to learn things.
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we're talking to be the
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about the reuters reporting on 18 new previously undisclosed contacts during the presidential campaign between the kremlin and the trump campaign. 18 calls, texts, e-mails, all previously undisclosed did i fwi campaign or the white house. but all now loitered being reviewed by federal investigators. reuters found this story and the lead reporter is john lan day. thank you for being here tonight? >> my pleasure. >> these are 18 calls, texts, e-mails that have been intercepted somehow. what can you tell us about the people who are involved on either side. >> what we know are there were trump sades and associates who were in touch with right there russian officials or people with ties to the kremlin, the names
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of those individuals as you pointed out on all sides are mostly been masked, aren't obtainable by us. but we have an understanding one of the people involved on the trump campaign side was retired general mike flynn, the former national security adviser. on the other side as you also pointed out was victor med ve chuck. although he denied being in touch with anyone on the campaign. as you pointed out, mr. med ved check close to mr. putin. mr. putin is the god father of one of his daughters. >> in terms of his denial, he's an interesting kancht he's obviously not a famous name in this country, but in terms of what we know he's a highly ranked policing. she was chief of staff of the ukranian president.
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he has visible ties to president and prime minister. do you believe that his denial is incredible or does it seem clear to you that he does appear in these communications is he may have been involved in this somehow? >> i have to go with what he told us in an e-mail that he totally denied having any contacts. the only thing you can point out is that obviously he's ukranian and there were very senior people in the trump campaign including paul manafort who served as mr. trump's campaign manager for a period of time who have ties to ukraine. that's about all i can say in terms of this denial. >> one of the things we've been sort of trying to track over time is whether or not the white house explanation and story for what happened here makes sense
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given the other corroborateble facts we know in the world. the vice president obviously denied at one point there were any contacts between the trump campaign and russia. he denied that he had any knowledge of mike flynn having contacts with foreign governments. lied to mike pence about mike flynn's discussion of sanctions with the russian ambassador was the purr reported reason why mike flynn was fired when he was fired. is there any reason that to think that either vice president pence or president trump knew about any of these communications? >> we've heard nothing that there was any evidence within the contacts that we reported on, any evidence of either collusion or that president trump was aware of these kagts authorized these contacts, knew of the contents.
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i have to leave it there. but it's interesting. the 18 that we've been focused on all took place according to our sources between april of 2016 and election day. but we also report, and they included six telephone calls with the russian ambassador to the united states. we know that one of the people on the trump side was michael flynn. but we also reported that there were contacts after the election between the russian ambassador, mr. kislyak and michael flynn after the election. these dealt with the setting up of a possible direct channel between russian president vladimir putin and president-elect trump, and that this channel could have bypassed the u.s. national security bureaucracy because both sides viewed it as hostile. let's not forget tt the
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department of defense and the u.s. intelligence community were extremely opposed to the exploration by then secretary of state john kerry with cooperation with russia in syria against the islamic state. russians are going to homicide to the national security bureaucracy. none of this suggests wrong doing, but as you have done, you put it against the backdrop of what's been going on, that the white house initially denied any contacts. then they had though admit to four. this is all taking place against the backdrop of what the u.s. intelligence community says is this russian influence campaign of hacking, false news, propaganda that was designed to influence the election in a way that favored president trump and over his democratic challenger
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hillary clinton. >> jonathan lan day from reuters. appreciate your time with us, sir? >> my pleasure. >> we were not faking the lightning behind jonathan lan day's head for dramatic purposes. i didn't fake that lightning. that was god. we'll be right back. baa baa black sheep, have you any wool? no sir, no sir, some nincompoop stole all my wool sweaters,
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attorney general jeff session cleared out all the u.s. attorneys, all the federal prosecutors with no warning. with just a couple exceptions, he canned them all, all at once. the deputy to acting attorney general sally yates later explained that that mass firing of the u.s. attorneys with no warning, that had not been the original plan. he says, quote, the transition team recommended to the incoming administration that they not get rid of all the u.s. attorneys all at one time. and that recommendation was adopted. it's not clear what changed that led the administration to get rid of everyone all at once. mystery, right? why did the administration suddenly decide to can all the federal prosecutors with zero notice, effective immediately after deciding and saying they definitely wouldn't do it that way. why did they do that u-turn? we have been trying to figure that out. we started with matthew axelrod's claim after he left doj about what he saw during the transition. we have found the record on this matter absolutely backs him up.
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three days before the inauguration, a justice department spokesperson said that the u.s. attorneys had just been told that they should expect to stay in place for the time being. senator dianne feinstein says she was told by the white house counsel in january that the transition to u.s. attorneys would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity. she asked if they were going to be fired all at once and she was then told no. they were then fired all at once. u.s. attorney barbara mcquade the eastern district of michigan, she tel us she remembers a january conference call with the justice department in which the u.s. attorneys were all asked overtly to please hold over in their jobs to ensure an orderly transition. another u.s. attorney tells us that he too remembers that call. paul fishman, new jersey says the call was run by the director of the executive office of the department of justice. he says it was the week of the inauguration. he says the message was basically please stay put while we figure out who to replace you. it all lines with what we have
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heard from the obama side of the transition. and with the reporting about the trump side of the transition. we also queried three different members of the transportation siran team of the trump and neither would talk to us but neither dispute mr. axelrod's claim that that had been the trump administration's plan, before they u-turned for some reason. so we have sort of nailed this part down. the administration overtly deliberately planned to keep the u.s. attorneys on and not fire them all at once. and then they fired them all at once. what remains unexplained, now that we have nailed down what the administration's definite intention was that they expressed in multiple times in multiple ways, in multiple segments, what remains to be figured out is what changed? what cause them to no, we're not going to do that anymore. get them all out and get them out now? there has been no explanation for that whatsoever. but we're getting closer to that. hold that thought.
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whether you're after supreme performance... ♪ advanced intelligence... or breathtaking style... there's a c-class just for you. decisions, decisions, decisions. lease the c300 sedan for $399 a month at your local mercedes-benz dealer. mercedes-benz. the best or nothing. joining us now is paul fishman. he is the former u.s. attorney from new jersey. he is now a law professor at seton hall. thanks for your time tonight. >> thanks for having me. >> so i am trying to figure out a thing. what did the trump transition and the early trump administration tell you about your fate as a u.s. attorney or the fate of u.s. attorneys generally in the new administration? >> well, we never spoke directly to the new administration. but we were -- we knew those conversations were taking place. we had heard that the transition team was recommending that we be
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permitted to stay in place to assure an orderly transition. and then as you just said before you went to commercial on the tuesday before the inauguration, a conference call was convened with all the united states attorneys to let us know that we would not in fact be asked to eleave precipitously. we would ask that we would be permitted to stay until of course we wanted to leave on our other own or until some succession plan was put into effect. >> they told you that on the 17th. was there any subsequent direction that that advice or that plan had changed? >> no, nothing at all. and obviously, before that time, some number of my colleagues had left on their own. some continued to go. i myself was planning to leave probably about now, the end of the spring. but in fact on the two days before we were fired, on march 8th i think it was, attorney general sessions convened a conference call with all the united states attorneys to talk about a new emphasis he was going to place on violent crime enforcement. no indication at all in that call that any of us were about to go. >> you were on a call the day
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before you were fired? >> two days. on wednesday, march 8th. >> with the attorney general himself where he is talking about the next thing, the way he wants you to change your prosecutorial approach. >> to basically revamp our approach to violent crime and to change the way we were looking at it, which lots of people were doing already because it was smart crime enforcement, that we had been practicing in our districts, focusing on the worst of the worst. but he did have that call. no indication at all on that call that we were about to go. >> when you were told that you were being fired, were you given any option in terms of the terms under which you would leave or how quickly you would leave? >> no, not at all. i was on a plane speaking at a white collar conference in florida. i got on the plane in miami at 2:00 on friday. and when i land id hat texts and e-mails from my friends saying are you okay? it is true? i didn't know what they were talking about until i saw the links that were attached. and then when i check mid phone,
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i had a voice mail from dayton that bente who was a the acting attorney general. >> was there any provision made for winding things down in an orderly fashion? for assuring continuity. i don't know this stuff. but preservation of documents and files? >> there are procedures for that for preserving things in everybody's offices there are records rules about what we keep and where we keep it. and a lot of what we have is in electronic format. but there are two pieces to this. every office has a lot of investigations that are going on at a particular moment in time. and some number of people know about certain things and other people don't. so it's always better if the u.s. attorney when he or she is leaving has a really detailed conversation with the first assistant and the criminal chief about each of those cases. but there is also a very big external component t the job o u.s. attorney. i spent a lotf my time over the last seven and a halfears dealing with police groups, the naacp, lgbt groups, immigrant groups, the arab muslim
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community, hispanic groups, trying to build relationships. because as the chief federal law enforcement officer in new jersey, it was my responsibility to makes sure that all of those people understood what the federal government did, that we had great working relationships with our law enforcement partner, and that all of those other groups i was talking about understood that our job was to protect them and to make sure that they understood what their relationships with law enforcement could and should be. those relationships did not transition the way i would have liked. >> paul fishman, former u.s. attorney from new jersey, now law professor at seton hall. can i put you on the spot and ask you to please come back and talk to me more about the process. i know you're not going to talk about any of the investigation you were involved in. >> no. >> but this process to me is a real question mark. and i'd love to talk to you more than. >> i'm happy to do that or to talk about special counsel or some other topic of the day. >> thanks a lot. former u.s. attorney in new jersey. that does it for us tonight. we'll see you tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, lawrence. >> i think we basically have open invitations to federal prosecutors and anybody who