Segments in this Video

First Briefing (06:16)


In January 2017, president-elect Donald Trump met with States Intelligence Community officials, informing him of Russian government interference in the 2016 election. FBI Director Jim Comey privately disclosed a dossier containing comprising materials about his conduct.

Reaction to Information (03:14)

Trump viewed the meeting with intelligence officials as a shakedown and their findings a threat to the legitimacy of his presidency. He comes out publicly against their agencies and attacks news organizations for asking him questions about the briefing.

Learning Combative Strategies (05:05)

Roy Cohn was famous for McCarthyism and using aggressive, reverse tactics to expose potential communists during the fifties. After being sued for racial discrimination, Trump hired him as his lawyer; he taught him to be on the offensive and claim victory no matter the outcome.

Offensive Tactics (03:28)

After entering the White House, Trump focused on disrupting established powers and determining loyalties. He issued executive orders and Tweeted policy. He tried to curry favor with Comey, who viewed the efforts as damaging to his and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s reputation.

"Saint James" Comey (03:17)

Comey was named Deputy Attorney General by George Bush, but openly revolted against the administration’s wire-tapping program. Barack Obama named him FBI Director; he investigated Hillary Clinton’s emails. He was known for his intense convictions regarding law and order.

National Security Advisor (10:18)

Comey led the probe into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, investigating Michael Flynn, who lied about meetings with Sergey Kislyak. Trump requested the director's loyalty, wanting him to cease inquiries; he refused and resigned.

Attempting Influence (05:30)

After a February 2017 meeting with Jeff Sessions and Comey, Trump spoke with the FBI Director privately, asking him to let the investigation into Flynn go. The Attorney General failed to prevent the President from interfering with the probe.

Attorney General Improprieties (03:58)

At his confirmation hearing, Sessions claimed he did not meet with Russian officials, and then denied "The Washington Post" evidence of his meetings with Kislyak. Trump did not want him to recuse himself from the Russian investigation, but he did.

Threatening Legitimacy (02:58)

Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee, publicly confirming the Bureau's investigations into Trump campaign officials coordinating with the Russian government. The press continued to uncover more meetings between the parties.

Furious President (04:51)

Jared Kushner was found to have met with the Russian ambassador and a banker. The investigation reached Trump's family and businesses; he drafted Comey's termination letter; McGahn prevented its delivery by brokering a meeting with Rod Rosenstein and Sessions to rationalize the firing.

Unprecedented Termination Procedures (06:55)

Rosenstein was dedicated to law; the member of the Federalist Society was made United States Attorney by Bush and Obama. He believed Comey was too vocal about the Clinton emails investigation; Trump asked him to build a case against the Director, using it to justify firing him.

Admitting to Obstruction (03:28)

The morning after Comey's termination, President Trump met privately with Russian officials to celebrate. Receiving negative feedback from all parties, he granted Lester Holt an interview; he confirmed he intended to fire the director before meeting with Rosenstein.

Defending Integrity (02:33)

Comey leaked the conversation wherein the President attempted to influence his investigation. He convinced the Justice Department to appoint Special Council; they named discrete and experienced Robert Mueller to lead the Russian probe.

Attacking Allies (02:11)

Trump became angered with Sessions after Rosenstein informed them of Mueller's appointment, berating him for recusing himself from the investigation. The humiliated Attorney General resigned, but persuaded to stay by Reince Priebus, Mike Pence, and Steven Bannon.

Special Counsel (03:36)

Mueller served in Vietnam, prosecuted homicides in Washington D.C., and ran the Federal Bureau of Investigations for Bush and Obama. He put an elite team of attorneys together to investigate Trump campaign collusion and obstruction of justice; he was given Comey's evidence.

Returning to Cohn Strategies (02:00)

Under attack, Trump attempted to undermine the Mueller investigation, calling it a "witch hunt." Conservative media mirrored his language and offensive tactics, striking out at Democrats and special counsel, and gaining the President's favor.

Conflicting Comments (05:08)

"The New York Times" discovered that Donald Trump Jr. hosted a meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, Kushner, and Paul Manafort. President Trump and Hope Hicks wrote a statement for him, claiming the event was regarding adoptions; email evidence indicated it was about collusion.

Refocusing Blame (04:01)

Mueller investigated Trump Jr.'s meeting and the statement regarding it; White House advisers feared Trump added to the obstruction case. The President attacked Sessions, but realized he could not fire him; key Republicans supported the Attorney General.

Trying to Get Along (04:45)

Trump hired lawyers familiar with D.C. and Mueller; they cooperated with investigators and attempted to prevent presidential Tweeting. They predicted the probe would end quickly, but several staff members were charged. A subpoena directed at Trump Organization triggered John Dowd's resignation.

A Good Man and Disgrace (05:52)

Mueller recommended the FBI's raid of Michael Cohen's office. Trump's lawyer's job was to get him out of trouble; his investigation was seen as a personal attack on the President, who condemned the special counsel's actions.

Divide and Conquer (03:46)

Trump hired Rudy Giuliani as his personal attorney; he initiated attacks on Mueller's investigation. They undermined public confidence in the Justice Department and Intelligence Agencies. Citizen consensus is needed for impeachment.

Delegitimizing Intelligence (04:19)

House Republicans rallied behind Trump during the mid-term elections, targeting Peter Strzok, a former agent on Mueller's team. They wanted to prove the Federal Bureau of Investigations bias against the President, but found no evidence at his hearing.

Proof of Foreign Meddling (03:30)

While Trump visited the Queen of England, Rosenstein announced charges against 12 Russian officers with conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election. Their indictment offered detailed, irrefutable evidence of their crimes.

Helsinki Catastrophe (04:29)

Intelligence agencies asserted Vladimir Putin ordered 2016 election interference. Trump met with him and claimed to believe his denials, defending him to the press; he ended the conference with negative commentary on Strzok's testimony. Republicans declared the event as disastrous and treasonous.

In Crazytown (04:00)

Manafort and Cohen were found guilty and Trump implicated in campaign finance violations; McGahn cooperated with Mueller's team. Senior White House officials questioned the President's intelligence and sanity; aides worried about his impulsiveness.

Credits: Trump's Showdown (01:01)

Credits: Trump's Showdown

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Trump's Showdown

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FRONTLINE goes inside President Trump’s fight against federal investigators looking into his campaign and whether he obstructed justice. The documentary methodically reveals how an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has grown to threaten Donald Trump’s presidency.

Length: 114 minutes

Item#: BVL191943

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

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