On Sunday, President Trump tweeted a quote from Rush Limbaugh, which inferred that those behind the Mueller probe ought to be in jail and dubbed it “one of the greatest political hoaxes ever perpetrated on the people of this Country.”
Not surprisingly, the topic came up on Monday’s MSNBC Live With Velshi and Ruhle where terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance cited the tweet as evidence that Limbaugh and other conservative media figures are “giving Donald Trump his ideas that he should become a fascist dictator.”
Host Ali Velshi described Limbaugh as a member of Trump’s “shadow cabinet” and Nance responded by saying “you are watching a fundamental attack on the Constitution of the United States” by “these people on the far right, Rush Limbaugh, the Ann Coulters, (and) the Sean Hannities," accusing them of “giving Donald Trump his ideas that he should become a fascist dictator, that he should become King George IV...and that he should...just start acting like a third world potentate.”
Nance added that “these people do not represent what the values of this nation are; they are literally asking him to destroy the fabric of the United States.” After his tirade on conservative media figures, Nance described the Mueller probe as “the single-most serious investigation in the history of the United States.”
Earlier in the segment, Nance and the rest of the panel had reacted to former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s interview on 60 Minutes.
Former Democratic Congresswoman Liz Holtzman seemed to justify McCabe’s inclination to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office, arguing that “we’ve never had a President before (that) had to be investigated for possible treason or a conspiracy with a foreign country, or being the puppet of a foreign country.”
Holtzman continued with her “uncharted territory” argument: “On the one hand… this is a democracy. We can’t have law enforcement taking down the President…but in a democracy, the President can’t be above the law.”
Later, Nance proceeded to go a step further when recalling a conversation he had with Trump ally Boris Epstheyn prior to the 2016 Presidential Election, focusing on “all the activities we were seeing between Donald Trump and the Russians.” According to Nance, Epstheyn asked “are you accusing Donald Trump of being a traitor?” Nance admitted that President Trump’s behavior “technically” does not amount to treason but still concluded that “the President of the United States may have committed treason.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of the February 18 MSNBC Live With Ali Velshi is below. Click “expand” to read more.
MSNBC Live With Velshi and Ruhle
01:05 p.m. Eastern
ALI VELSHI: Joining me now, former FBI Special Agent Manny Gomez, former New York Democratic Congresswoman who voted to impeach President Nixon, Liz Holtzman; she’s also the author of The Case for Impeaching Trump, and NBC News Terrorism Analyst Malcolm Nance, he’s the author of The Plot to Destroy Democracy. Thanks to all three of you for being here. Liz, let me start with you. McCabe says that it was the President’s actions that led them to investigate. This is tricky, including possibly invoking the 25th Amendment because Rosenstein and McCabe would have known at the time that the minute this gets out to the media, the minute it gets out in the public, it’s going to feed into President Trump’s narrative of a deep state and, and an FBI that’s crooked. So they, they thought about this a lot before having some of these discussions. What do you make of the fact that the FBI was actually looking into whether the President of the United States was quite possibly a traitor?
LIZ HOLTZMAN: Well, we’ve never been there before. We’ve been in a situation before where the FBI was investigating people close to the President of the United States; when that happened with Nixon. We’ve never had a President before had to be investigated for possible treason or a conspiracy with a foreign country, or being the puppet of a foreign country. These are extremely dangerous situations. That’s not… there’s no blueprint for that. I’m sure in the FBI headquarters you can answer that…
VELSHI: Yeah, I mean…
HOLTZMAN: There’s no, there’s no manual that says, ooh, the President may have committed treason, this is what you do. So they’re on uncharted grounds and it’s scary and it’s dangerous. On the one hand, they obviously are sensitive to some of the points that were raised. You know, this is a democracy. We can’t have law enforcement taking down the President.
HOLTZMAN: But in a democracy, the President can’t be above the law. So how to do it?
VELSHI: What Liz says, Malcolm, is, is really the, the heart of the question. Right? You can’t have law enforcement or the military or anybody else taking down an elected President. At the same time, the FBI thought it had a problem on its hands and, and these guys, at least, thought they were doing the right thing.
MALCOLM NANCE: Well, these phrases, taking down an elected President, a bureaucratic coup, this is Donald Trump’s characterization of what the patriots at the FBI and the Department of Justice who were defending the Constitution of the United States, using their sworn positions to identify a threat to the United States and who were confronted by the fact that we had a candidate for President of the United States, now President of the United States, who may, in fact, have been an asset or an agent of a foreign power. You know, I had a discussion with Boris Epstheyn in September of 2016; where I was talking about all the activities we were seeing between Donald Trump and the Russians. And he said, are you, are you accusing Donald Trump of being a traitor? That word is now being used publicly, openly, and the phrase treason, which technically it’s not, but rhetorically, the President of the United States cannot go around tweeting about people who are investigating his activities as being treasonous because we may have that as a fact at the end of this. The President of the United States may have committed treason.
VELSHI: Manny, part of the issue here is that Donald Trump asked James Comey for loyalty, or so that’s the reporting. And that sort of becomes an issue. Just like we don’t, we’re in uncharted territory when we’re talking about treason and collusion and things like that with the President of the United States. We’re also not in a world where we ask our, our FBI for loyalty when it comes to things that they’re supposed to be investigating.
MANNY GOMEZ: That’s absolutely correct. The Director of the FBI has a ten, is given a ten-year term. Reason being, it’s supposed to be an apolitical appointment.
GOMEZ: And you’re not working directly for the President of the United States. You’re working for Department of Justice, and ultimately for the American people. That being said, for the President to ask on a one on one for loyalty from the Director of the FBI, especially given the circumstances in which already at that time period there was talk about possible collusion or there was smoke. His son had been in a meeting with Russians. That was already a fact, et cetera, that was totally…at the very minimum, it’s inappropriate. And it smacks of impropriety and, yes, the FBI is charged with doing counterintelligence investigations. And where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And the American people deserve to have an investigation done.
VELSHI: So, Liz, you were not just a member of Congress, but you were a prosecutor, you were a district attorney. Criminals, particularly big criminals like to often say this person’s got it in for me, the investigators have it in for me. They were trying to do that. Republicans, some Republicans in Congress, like Lindsey Graham, now want to investigate McCabe and see whether he had it in…had it out for President Trump. It’s coming in the way of an investigation because it’s very quickly politicized.
HOLTZMAN: Look, the Republicans unfortunately failed to do a proper investigation before. They didn’t turn over transcripts of people who may have lied to Congress. I mean, it’s very serious what the Republicans did and they’re continuing that. That’s very shameful. The thing that’s really important to keep an eye on here is that despite all the brainstorming that went on in this uncharted territory, the FBI knew that the CIA had determined, the intelligence agencies had determined that Russia had intervened on behalf of Donald Trump. That’s very serious and what ultimately happened…
VELSHI: And that part’s true. Whether or not…
VELSHI: …anybody’s proven that Donald Trump had anything to do with it, the fact is we know they interfered…
VELSHI: …and we know the goal was to get Donald Trump elected.
HOLTZMAN: And what that led to was perfectly appropriate, and that was the appointment of a Special Counsel, someone independent of the President, independent of his people to do an independent study; an independent research, independent investigation. And what do we have as a result of Mueller’s investigation? We have one after another of the top people around President Trump indicted, indicted, indicted, plus untold numbers of Russians. The fact is the Republicans…and it’s very sad because I was on the House Judiciary Committee. Republicans worked with Democrats to try to find the truth. They worked with Democrats on the Senate Watergate Committee to try to find the truth. That’s what we should be finding. Whether it leads to the President or not, not to try to vilify another party, not to try to vilify those people who are looking for the truth. These were, these were people, McCabe, Comey, and others, they were doing their job and they were doing their jobs when they had no manual telling them…
VELSHI: Yeah, the vilification of the FBI is interesting, Malcolm. Rush Limbaugh, who seems to be a member of the President’s shadow cabinet these days. The President, he retweeted something that Rush Limbaugh said, saying, “these guys, the investigators, ought to be in jail.” I think that’s kind of remarkable. The President of the United States retweeting somebody who says, investigators, FBI investigating what most people had thought was a legitimate line of inquiry, should be in jail for doing the things that they thought they were doing in the interest of protecting the United States.
NANCE: You are watching a fundamental attack on the Constitution of the United States. These people on the, on the far-right, Rush Limbaugh, the Ann Coulters, the Sean Hannities, everyone that is giving Donald Trump his ideas that he should become a fascist dictator, that he should become King George IV, you know, and that he should declare, you know, separation from the American experiment and just start acting like a third world potentate, these people do not represent what the values of this nation are. They are literally asking him to destroy the fabric of the United States. This…Donald Trump can’t handle the truth, to paraphrase a movie. None of the Republicans appear to be able to want to find the truth because the truth will be so damaging…listen, Ali, simply put, this is the single-most serious investigation in the history of the United States and it could either rip the fabric of this country apart. But to do it, we’re going to have to take a good long look down, you know, to find out where the facts lie.
VELSHI: Manny, the FBI which, you know, keeps people safe in ways they don’t even know, has been vilified since, since this President was running for office. What does this do to the FBI?
GOMEZ: It demoralizes them. I won’t say it paralyzes them because the men and women of the FBI are still doing the good work that they have been and will continue doing so. But just the, the fact that there’s a counterintelligence investigation and these investigations are super sensitive…
GOMEZ: …super classified. Just the fact that we’re talking about it and that it’s out in public that there’s a counterintelligence investigation against the President of the United States and his inner circle is really, really disturbing to me because that’s not the way it’s supposed to work and that’s not the way it has worked. The leaks are continuous. They are coming from sources that are vilifying the good work that the FBI is doing. And, listen, this is very easy. If there’s no collusion, then there’s no collusion. But if there is, there is. The FBI is objective. It’s apolitical. Yes, I’m sure there are people there that have their own views towards the President of the United States, et cetera, that they get a right to vote and they get a right to say that privately but it should, it should not and it does not affect the good work that they do day in and day out to conduct these very sensitive highly classified investigations. And it certainly shouldn’t be put out in the media each time that something new comes out and try to get a public opinion as to which way the investigation should go.
VELSHI: Manny, thank you. Liz Holtzman, thank you as well. Malcolm Nance, thanks all three of you for working through this with us.