NBC Accuses DOJ of Lying About Comey Firing: ‘It’s About Russia’

Appearing on NBC’s Today Wednesday morning, left-wing MSNBC legal correspondent Ari Melber hurled an accusation, without evidence, that the Department of Justice was lying about the reasoning behind the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Starting off a panel discussion, co-host Savannah Guthrie wondered: “...on the bombshell meter, where does this rate?” Melber proclaimed: “This is huge. The letter doesn’t sound true from the DOJ because it’s not true.”

Melber was referring to a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein providing a detailed, point-by-point recommendation on why Comey should be removed. The NBC analyst dismissed the letter, providing this juvenile summary of its contents: “...the letter, though, from this DOJ under Donald Trump says the main problem was that the approach by Director Comey was essentially too mean to Hillary Clinton. That is at odds with everything the candidate said.”

He made that declaration in response to Guthrie actually pressing him on the topic: “Why is it not a reasonable rationale that he is unhappy with the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, something that many career prosecutors and many Democrats also found fault with?” In fact, just six months ago, all three networks were slamming Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

Fellow co-host Matt Lauer then read from President Trump’s letter informing Comey that he had been fired: “Here’s the paragraph: ‘While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I'm not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you’re not able to effectively lead the Bureau.’ What does that paragraph mean?”

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

Political analyst and newly-named MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace was in full panic mode as she ranted against Trump’s decision:

It means that no one has successfully reigned in Donald Trump from his impulses to carry on as though he were still the anchor of The Apprentice. I mean, this penchant for firing people who defy his will....When people refuse to sort of fall into line, and this is what should send a chill and this is what should wake up every Republican who thinks that it’s okay to go along.

As supposed proof of the seriousness of development, she argued: “The fact that Democrats are James Comey's defenders this morning, most Democrats believe that we have a President trump because of James Comey’s handling of the e-mails.” It was completely lost on her that Democrats were engaging in rank hypocrisy by suddenly rushing to Comey’s defense after blasting him mere months ago.

Seizing on Trump’s letter to Comey, Guthrie proclaimed: “...on the one hand the White House is saying, ‘This is all about the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.’ And Trump’s own letter betrays the fact that it is, in fact, about Russia. That that is at top of mind.”

Suggesting the administration was trying to cover up the Russia investigation, Wallace promised the media focus would intensify: “...the fact that they thought that they could turn the page on Russia by removing the head of the FBI while the FBI is investigating Russia simply guarantees that was once a cleg light focus will now be a burning focus.”

Melber chimed back in by wildly speculating that the President had opened himself up to “criminal liability”: “...the President has made an admission of a stunning level in that letter....the DOJ is trying to create neutral reasons that have nothing to do with Russia. And Donald Trump, in writing that sentence that he clearly couldn’t hold back on, is raising his own potential criminal liability.” He never bothered to explain what “crime” Trump was supposed to have committed.

Wallace demanded: “If you care about getting to the bottom of the questions about Russian meddling in 2016....And if you care about having a truly nonpolitical FBI director, you must now have an FBI director that promises to get to the bottom of that investigation between Trump’s orbit and Russia.”

Lauer concluded: “And you must now have a special pros – an independent counsel.” Wallace agreed: “I don’t know how you avoid it.”

Here is a full transcript of the completely one-sided panel discussion on May 10:

7:10 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let’s bring in Nicolle Wallace and Ari Melber. Guys, good morning. I mean, just the first – a quickie on the bombshell meter, where does this rate?

ARI MELBER: This is huge. The letter doesn’t sound true from the DOJ because it’s not true.

GUTHRIE: Well, let’s be – let’s be the devil’s advocate here. Because I think a lot of people will want to give the President the benefit of the doubt. Why is it not a reasonable rationale that he is unhappy with the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, something that many career prosecutors and many Democrats also found fault with? What’s the rationale?

MELBER: There were procedural problems with the way Director Comey handled the investigation, the letter, though, from this DOJ under Donald Trump says the main problem was that the approach by Director Comey was essentially too mean to Hillary Clinton. That is at odds with everything the candidate said. It’s also at odds with what now Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the time.

LAUER: And by the way, Nicolle, if you want to fire James Comey over the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, you could do it on day one as president. You don’t have to wait five months. Let me read you, though, a portion of the letter that President Trump wrote to Director Comey. Here’s the paragraph: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I'm not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you’re not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” What does that paragraph mean?

NICOLLE WALLACE: It means that no one has successfully reigned in Donald Trump from his impulses to carry on as though he were still the anchor of The Apprentice. I mean, this penchant for firing people who defy his will. You saw this play out at the beginning of the week, where Sally Yates was ostensibly fired for refusing to enforce the Muslim ban. Nobody believes that’s actually all that was going on, to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump. When people refuse to sort of fall into line, and this is what should send a chill and this is what should wake up every Republican who thinks that it’s okay to go along. The fact that Democrats are James Comey's defenders this morning, most Democrats believe that we have a President trump because of James Comey’s handling of the e-mails.

GUTHRIE: It’s so interesting, though, to see the part that Matt just read. Because on the one hand the White House is saying, “This is all about the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.” And Trump’s own letter betrays the fact that it is, in fact, about Russia. That that is at top of mind.

WALLACE: We can give them the benefit of the doubt, we should always play the devil’s advocate, but the fact that they thought that they could turn the page on Russia by removing the head of the FBI while the FBI is investigating Russia simply guarantees that was once a cleg light focus will now be a burning focus.

MELBER: And just briefly, the President has made an admission of a stunning level in that letter that you’re both pointing to. Because the DOJ is trying to create neutral reasons that have nothing to do with Russia. And Donald Trump, in writing that sentence that he clearly couldn’t hold back on, is raising his own potential criminal liability. He essentially inserted himself and Russia into what they claim was a neutral policy decision.

GUTHRIE: From a communications perspective – and I think you just laid it out – I mean, if you wanted to draw attention to Russia, this seems like exactly what you would do, fire the guy investigating you for Russia.

WALLACE: What they have done is now everyone has to choose. If you care about getting to the bottom of the questions about Russian meddling in 2016, which we know Lindsey Graham and John McCain have said they care about. And if you care about having a truly nonpolitical FBI director, you must now have an FBI director that promises to get to the bottom of that investigation between Trump’s orbit and Russia.

LAUER: And you must now have a special pros – an independent counsel.

WALLACE: I don’t know how you avoid it.

LAUER: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: Ari, Nicolle, interesting. Nicolle, you’re going to have more on this. Good time to have a new show, which you do. It’s called Deadline White House, it’s on MSNBC. Catch it weekdays at 4 p.m. Eastern.

And by the way, we’re going to hear directly from President Trump on this dismissal and a lot more tomorrow, as he will be sitting down with NBC’s Lester Holt. An exclusive interview. This is his first since this firing. It starts airing tomorrow on Nightly News. Of course Friday morning right here on Today.  

CyberAlerts Russia Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats NBC Today Video James Comey FBI Ari Melber Savannah Guthrie Matt Lauer Nicolle Wallace Donald Trump