tv MSNBC Live With David Gura MSNBC June 2, 2018 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT
executive power can exempt the president from being subpoenaed. quote, in a brash assertion of presidential power, the 20-page letter sent to robert mueller contends the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into russia's election meddling because the constitution empowers him to. according to the "new york times," this letter hand delivered to the special counsel's office in january by two of president trump's lawyers at the time, johnson dowd and jay sekulow. with me now is michael schmidt from the "new york times," on
the investigative team there. help us distill this 20-page memo. the up shot is these lawyers believe president trump cannot be compelled to testify, he cannot be subpoenaed. >> it's a strong view of presidential power that essentially says that because the president is the head of the executive branch, he controls everything that goes on inside of it. he can end an investigation, he can pardon whom ever, his powers are essentially absolute. and this is made in the context of whether he should sit for an interview. the lawyers are arguing that mueller had no need to talk to the president because this investigation, there is nothing to it and he had already been provided with the answers to the questions he wanted to talk to the president about. >> michael, help me stand here how much this conversation has changed. we've heard from the president's
legal team. rudy giuliani wielding an upper hand, talking about leverage, especially when it comes to the role of this informant. how much has that conversation changed? i guess what i'm asking you is how dated might this letter be when you look at the legal theory the president's legal team is trying to apply here? >> we went back and looked at whether things had changed from this. this is essentially the intellectual underpinings of which is the president's lawyers think he doesn't have to sit for an interview. giuliani believes that the question of what happens to trump will be decided by the american people, essentially, if they try to impeach the president, the house of representatives has to vote. giuliani believes it will be decided by public opinion. but these are the legal arguments about why there's nothing to the investigation and that the president should not have to sit for an interview. it's sort of a separate part of it. giuliani's out there just
throwing as many things at the wall and saying things. this is what the lawyers are saying to mueller about an interview. >> so michael, i want to read the president's recent tweet about the russia investigation that you can read with a different context now that your piece has been published. "there was no kol conclusicollu russia, except with the democrats. when will this witch hunt hoax ever end? so bad for our country. should be looking at dems corruption instead. that tweet hitting twitter at 1 -- 1:43, shortly before your piece is published. >>y spoke y -- we spoke to gi the piece and he spoke to the president and he tried to
preempt that and getting our source and pinning it on that. i guess that's what the president is going to do if he wants to get out in front of something that he's concerned about. i was not surprised to see. >> interesting for me to read it having read it 45 minutes or so before the story broke. i want to ask you what we've learned about the contours of the special investigation. we've learned a lot about the president's lawyers think and then there's the special counsel. here looking at this 20-page memo from a few months ago, you have these 16 items. you have sekulow and john dowd
referring to those items saying this is what the special counsel was interested in. help me understand how that advances the story. that opens up another world for us, doesn't it? >> the letter relates to the 16 areas that they've understood from their conversation with the special counsel that they're investigating. they're all things that are fairly familiar to us. it's the firing of comey, the firing of mike flynn and how the white house dealt with that, the question about whether trump asked comey to end the investigation into flynn in a one-on-one encounter in the oval office, questions about sessions and sessions' recusal and how the president deathlt with that information. i found interesting is that the president's lawyer take on the lester holt interview. they say clips of the lester holt interview, the interview that the president gave to lester holt in which the
president talks about russia was on his mind when he fired comey. they say that has been taken out of context and that the president was not saying what people believed he was, and he was saying he knew there was nothing to the russia investigation and that he could fire comey because it wouldn't impact the investigation because there was nothing to be found. it's an acknowledgement by the president's lawyer of the problematic nature of that interview and how mueller sees the president's statements there as an indication of what his true motivations were for firing comey. the other thing that's interesting in the letter is about how the white house dealt with mike flan, the national security adviser. the justice departme the letter says that the white house had been told by flynn two times that the fbi had told him that the investigation into him was concluded, that there was no investigation. and this is important in larger
story, although it sounds a little inside baseball, because the president's lawyers argue how could he ask comey to end an investigation into flynn when the white house believed at the time that there was no investigation. >> you highlight -- there's an annotated version of this memo and you highlight a memo from don mcgahn. the fbi told him they were closing it out. why is that so novel here? you highlight this as being pivotal. >> yeah, we're in the weeds but it's a central question of the mueller investigation is about the president's obstruction and whether by the president asking comey to end the investigation, was he committed obstruction. and what the memo is arguing, they're saying the white house did not think there was an investigation because the fbi told them they were done, that they had concluded their investigation. so they're saying how could the
president have gone to comey in february of 2017 and asked him to end an investigation that the white house did not think existed? >> how much does this have to do about optics? i look at the memo and the arguments they make about him testify. "having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world." you have one about optics. i'm not sure how grounded that is in the law but how much does this argument rest on that, the notty of having a president testifies in this way, perhaps, of how it might look, michael. >> the president's lawyer is trying to throw everything at the wall of why the investigation should not happen. they're saying, look, this has bogged down the country and the president and it will continue to further bog down the nation. you need to think twice about this. this is something that would require the president to prepare for, that would be lengthy.
and the lawyers argue that it needs time to run the country. and this is a distraction from that. and this continues this fake witch hunt of an investigation that there's nothing to and there's no reason for you guys to go to such extreme lengths to talk to the president. >> talking with michael schmidt. michael, let me ask you before i let you go, we have a federal prosecutor here standing by. we're going to dig into some of these legal issues in just a moment. it goes without saying that precedent is incredibly important to an attorney. how focused are these attorneys for president on when this has come up in american history? you think about the clinton investigation, the nixon investigation. how much are they wading into
those waters in this 20-page memo? >> well, there's not a lot of references to nixon or clinton in the memo. it's not really bogged down by that. if you recall, clinton actually was subpoenaed and sat down for an interview as part of the investigation into him. i'm not sure they want to wade into that territory. what we do know is that thee questions can be compelled to do and what his powers are about investigation, how he can interfere in an investigation are ones that rarely come up. the questions are largely unsetted and untested. that allows lawyers to make all sorts of different arguments about them. the president is usually not under investigation. >> last question here, michael. you kwok jack goldsmith, who have now the professor at harvard law school. let me read a quote from him.
"we don't know what the law is on the intersection between the obstruction statutes and the president embassier sizing his constitutional power to supervise an investigation in the justice department. this is the sweet spot we have been at forsome time here, isn't it, michael, when you look at the way that the, the power he thinks he should wield over his attorney general. help us understand how untested this legal territory is. >> i mean, we all have to put our lawyer hats on and the chief issue here is that the president does have the fire to fire, the president does have the power to end an investigation. the question is, is did the president have corrupt intent when he did those things. that's why this investigation is so difficult. mueller's trying to figure out why the president took the actions that he did. did he do that simply because he
thought he needed a new fbi dregtor. >> a piece here by i think you could say the beatles of "the new york times." names we all know well breaking this big story just moments ago, centering on a 20-page memo, the two attorneys sent to the special counsel several months ago. michael, thank you very much for joining me to talk about the piece. we're going to pick it up here with glen kirshner who is a former federal prosecutor joining me on set. what do you make of the existence of this memo? how rich a vein is this memo going to be for you, for others following this investigation and who want to know what robert mueller and his team are thinking at this point? >> david, thanks for having me. i think it depends on who the
audience is. and i just was skimming it as i was walking up here. this really seems to be more of a public relations piece than a legal document. and you asked michael just a few questions ago, you know, this doesn't seem to have a lot of law in it. and i would suggest there's probably a good reason for that. one, there is not any controlling case law on the question i -- i think the larger question that really has to be answered, which is can a sitting president be indicted? because if the answer to that question is yes, then some of these lesser questions, for example, an assertion that the president cannot obstruct by exercising his constitutional authority to terminate the fbi director, those eevaporate on the question of whether a sitting president can be indicted. if you look at the legal authority that is out there that is at least instructive on the
iss issue, i suggest the answer is likely yes, he can. going out on a limb, if the supreme court were asked to directly answer that question, i think the decision in united states versus clinton and the united states versus jones, i think the answer would be, yes, a sitting president can indicted. let me go back to something else that mike e we've seen a strengthening of the american presidency. it's something we saw in the george bush administration when it came to executive orders. we've seen the continuation of that drurg the obama administration well how outside the norm is this interpretation of presidential power, as you see. how tough an argument to you think this is going to be for
the when he said you cannot acquire my tapes by virtue of a criminal subpoena. that was the administration's position. what did the supreme court say? wrong. you are subject to a criminal subpoena, hand over the tapes. and when we saw what was in those tapes, i think we're all heartened that the the administration tried it again with clinton v. jones, the administration asserted because the president needs to have this unfettered ability to run the country without being dragged into court as a respondent, because that was a civil case. i am not subject to being hauled into court in a civil case. the supreme court said wrong. but then their fallback position was even if i as the chief executive can be hauled in to court in a civil case, it can't be while i'm sitting.
it has to away the con -- when the president's lawyers have asserted this broad, sweeping, unfettered power, the supreme court it really comes down to a balancing test. on the one hand of the calculus, you have the office of legal council memos. there were two of them. one published in 1973 and one published in 2000. they say essentially the same thing. they say that we strike the balance in favor of not dragging the president into court, whereas when the supreme court engages in that same balancing test and in the absence of legal authority, balancing test are the main stay of the law. when the supreme court is asked to pass on that same question, perhaps not surprisingly, they find in favor of the judiciary's need to fairly and fully
administer the laws of the country. so how do we think the supreme court is going to respond to this yes kwe? and just summarizing again the times reporting on this inthere was a question about whether or not bob mueller needs president trump to answer questions based on what he's collected. we don't know all that bob mueller has collected and what roads he's gone down and what he's found. mao pivotal do you think it is that we have i always would love the opportunity to get somebody under oath or even get them in an interview where, you know,
they're having to lay it all on the tieb i suspect not given everything else that we've seen reported. would they look to we saw it as recently as today where president trump on the one hand says this is a great letter and then on the other hand says i haven't read the letter yet. and i think this is an tempt by his lawyers to it. >> fmr, a federal prosecutor, added to his title there only yesterday afternoon. . congratulations. >> thank you, sir. >> much more after this short break. uncompromising protection...
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gura. "the new york times" releasing a report just moments ago in a confidential memo to robert mueller president trump's lawyer claim the president's presidential power can exempt him from being called to testify. you've been talking to rudy giuliani, trying to get some sense of the thinking that the president's legal team has vis-a-vis this interview, this sitdown with the robert mueller team. let me get your reaction to what the times has put up, all 20 pages with annotations. what's your reaction to it? >> we've seen for months the actions they've taken to discredit mueller, even today tweeting this is a costly
pursuit, even as the mueller investigation racks up indictments and gives no suggestion it's going to wind down any time soon. but what this letter is in black and white provides the legal underpinnings of what the trump legal team has been telling us for months, that the president could not illegally obstruct any investigation, let alone the russia investigation, because the constitution gives him wide powers to shut down, if he wishes, any inquiry. so this is really a way that the trump legal team is trying to limb the t limit a potential interview because they're concerned about the prospect of perjury. this was hand delivered by jay sekulow and john dowd. dowd felt that the president wasn't really taking all of his advice into account. there is one particular thing that stood out to me as i'm
working my way through the letter. remember there were questions the special counsel had about just how intimately involved was president was and how involved he was with the trump jr. meeting he had and other russian advocates. this con seeds mr. trump dictated what they call a short but accurate statement. the white house gave multiple accounts for who was responsible tore that statement, suggesting at one point that hope hicks, the former communications director, had a hand in it. now we know that the president himself dictated that statement, which at the time you'll remember was all about that obscure russian adoption policy, even though we know that it was all about the hillary investigation. >> stands out to are the 16 action items or things the special counsel is, according to
the president's attorneys, past and president, interested in honing in on. what caught your eye from the memo itself? >> the two things that caught my eye are how they're trying to paint this as the president being so open and cooperative and voluntarily handing over all the information. they're really making a public relations argument as to why the president doesn't even need an interview, why mueller doesn't need to actually have this kind of meeting with the president. they're saying look at the records. we've provided it all. to me that is much more of a public relations argument than a legal argument. >> chime in here. it is intellectual underpinnings, more so than the legal underpinings. >> absolutely. and the fact that this is out there is also indicative of what
you were just talking about. it is really interesting that you've heard so many people in the legal community say that it would be completely unwise for the president to actually sit down with robert mueller because this issue of perjury is a real concern among everybody who's been involved in this and following this. and we saw that just yesterday when the president was talking about north korea. very simple things like i read the letter and the letter's great and it turned out that he hadn't actually read the letter. can you imagine him sitting down in this meeting with mueller and completely extending the scope of the investigation just by virtue of him sitting down with him. >> my producers have pulled a number of quotes. the second quote i want to read here is to ensure the office remains sacred and above the fray of political whimsmanship.
"having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world." jeff, i want to get your perspective on this covering the white house day in and day out. this is giving us insight no how the white house staffers see the white house. >> rudy giuliani said as much, saying it would have to wait until after the north korea summit. giuliani suggesting that he didn't want the president's focus diverted from north korea on the special counsel issue. this is a fairly broad interpretation of the president's executive authority. one that could potentially be tested in court and i think what the trump legal team here is doing is gambling that robert mueller is not going to want to sort of forge new legal ground here and try to bring a grand jury subpoena against a sitting president into a criminal proceeding. so as we pore over this 20-page
letter, i think that's the thing that i keep coming away with is the arguments they're trying to make to cut mueller off at the pass here. >> i want to ask you about what you've learned about the focus of the investigation, the 16 points of inquiry. what does it tell what you about mueller and his teams are most interested? >> they're clearly looking at trump, russia and the president and this branching out into the president's business dealings and other people, you know, michael cohen is also a very big subject, not directly for this investigation but he also has his own legal troubles, he is a long-time confidante and fixer of the president. i think they're afraid of the president walking into the room and saying anything, and giving robert mueller ammunition to go and look for other areas. >> what's your sense of how much this conversation has changed? it's a letter from several months ago as jeff pointed out just a moment ago, the
configuration of the president's legal team has changed a lot since january of this year. what's your sense of how complementary the thinking is between that legal team and where they are now. >> the president wanted a more aggressive legal strategy and public legal strategy. we've seen the president over the course of this investigation consistently working to undermine it entirely. and we've also seen that start to have a real impact, not only among republicans, who when you look at polls the number of republicans saying that this investigation shoulding ov be o increasing, but you're also seeing a slight dip from the general public and you're hearing from democrats real concern that the public isn't learning what has come of this investigation. there is interesting polling that democrats put out a couple weeks ago that said nearly 60%
of the people didn't know that there were anyone crimes uncovered bip thy this investig. there have been nearly two dozen indictments from this. the president is pushing forward this kind of thing serves that in a broader sense. >> you can have a show here, donald trump behind the tweets. as you look at what he's been tweeting about recently in the context of this piece. >> he's trying to wear down the public. a 20-page letter rather than a five-page letter. the idea that the public is going to wear down. if the public doesn't understand that there have been indictments that, there have been crimes, that there has been a lot of headway already, the president wins a moral victory and that makes it easier for members of congress up for reelection, look at all that noise that's happening in washington, let's focus on more serious things.
>> do you see that erosion happening here? when i read that tweet before this piece was published, there was a line that stood out to me about the lawyer leaking this letter, et cetera, et cetera. it is in many senses the same tweet we've read five and ten times now. >> every step and piece of this investigation, it is very difficult to think back to the origins of what this was all about in the first place. thankfully we have such great reporting at every step. but if you are kind of looking at this in the broader sense, i think that democrats have even acknowledged that while this is an issue that they don't want to necessarily focus on, they want to keep talking about jobs and the economy, they have to have a response to it because we are seeing and polling that there are a lot of questions the public has as to what this is about in the first place.
we've seen that with special counsels in the past. >> great speaking to you. thanks to my colleague geoff bennett who joint me from the white house as well. much more on this breaking news after this short break. ♪ most people come to la with big dreams. ♪ we came with big appetites. with expedia, you could book a flight, hotel, car, and activity all in one place. ♪ every baby can have the freedom to move their way in pampers cruisers with three-way fit. they adapt at the waist, legs and bottom
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through a report by a report published by "the new york times" centered around a confidential memo from the president's attorneys to robert mueller several months ago, taking point by point areas of inquiry from the pospecial counsel. with me is an adviser to hillary clinton when she was secretary of state and on her 2016 presidential campaign. great to have you with me. i just want to get your rear ambassador to this. i was talking to one of the reporters who broke this a few moments ago, the degree to which this colors in some blanks that we had about the special counsel's thinking, about the president's legal team's thinking. what's your reaction to what we're learning about what the president's personal attorneys are saying? >> i think you're seeing the classic trump republican white
house playbook. first they work the refs, which anyone knows from watching professional sports, if you don't work the refs, if you allow the other team to do so, you're leaving a vacuum and every call is going to go their way. when you're talking about can the president be compelled, can't he, is it a legal issue, you have someone providing a 20-page document that has the a patina of validity to it that it can't be done. the second part is they take that thing and wave it around and say, see, it says exactly what we want. they don't even need the thing. they just need something to wave. we've seen that multiple times over the last few months, first with the nunes memo and the i.g. report that led to mccabe's termination and then another i.t. report that led to the discipline and ultimate leaving of fbi agents strock and paige.
this is a rerun of what they've done and a preview of what hair going -- they're going to do going forward, including the i.g. report coming up. >> looking at the way the federal government investigated hillary clinton's e-mail, we're expecting it to be many hundreds of pages in length. what are you going to be looking for there? how seismic do you think this will be as we wade into the 2016 waters again at the behest here of the i.g.? >> as a clinton supporter, obviously i'm going to want to read about the original intention of the report, which is to see what they found about the propriety of jim comey's word and actions in 2016. obviously we believe that what he did on july 5th, 2016 in terms of making a public statement about how he was not going to pursue charges against
her was wholly inappropriate and against d.o.j. -- yon the other hand they're going to use this to say he was 100% right in firing james comey and he did so based on the rod rosenstein memo that said he mishandled the hillary clinton investigation. he's going to say i didn't do anything because of russia. there's no russia, there's no collusion, there's no obstruction. that gives larger republican alt-right echo chamber talking points, whether it's nunes or it's fox news or rudy giuliani, which you just noted they're doing more and more damage to mueller and they're making some headway. it gives them something to handle. now, the something usually is pretty thin but it doesn't
matter. >> great to speak with you as always. >> up next in the wake of roseanne barr's hit sitcom being cancelled for her racial tweet, a new poll on racial relations in this country. ard. ard. an entire support system. whether visiting the airport lounge to catch up on what's really important. or even using those hard-earned points to squeeze in a little family time. no one has your back like american express. so no matter where you're going... we're right there with you. the powerful backing of american express. don't do business without it. don't live life without it. allow you to take advantage of growth opportunities... with a level of protection in down markets. so you can be less concerned about your retirement savings. talk with your advisor about shield annuities from brighthouse financial- established by metlife.
welcome back. i'm david gura. i want to turn to that singapore summit set to take place ten days from now. president trump announced yesterday it is back on shortly after meeting a a north korean official in the office officer, a meeting during which the president was presented with letter from kim jong un. >> reporter: here in singapore in china's back yard or at least in their neighborhood you heard remarkably strong words from defense secretary jim mattis accusing china of intimidation and coerce. it was a saturday morning speech. he's here at this annual defense forum and he really called china out for what he said is
militarization of man-made islands in the south china sea. last weekend the chinese flew a bomber to woody island. they disinvited china from these bi-annual military exercises, big naval exercises here in the western pacific. what mattis said today is that was only an initial step. he warned there could be more punitive action towards china. the interesting this evening about this is the context of the singapore summit where the china precious north korea to come to the table and cut a deal. mattis is being critical and challenging the chinese. one other note, mattis did say they would continue to play a role in negotiating from a
position of strength. >> up next, the scandal surrounded roseanne barr's sitcom being cancelled because of her racist tweet. i was really surprised that i wasn't finding all of these germans in my tree. i decided to have my dna tested through ancestry dna. the big surprise was we're not german at all. 52% of my dna comes from scotland and ireland. so, i traded in my lederhosen for a kilt. ancestry has many paths to discovering your story. get started for free at ancestry.com.
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high-profile incidents involving minorities, many see racism as the biggest issue our nation faces. 64% of americans say racism remains a major problem. almost half of those surveyed say racism is getting worse and not enough attention is being paid to racial issues. we certainly saw it on display this week. joining me is michael eric dyson, the author of "what truth sounds like." and roxanne gay is with me as well, contributor to the "new york times" and author of "not that bad." roxanne, you wrote this week about the cancellation of roseanne's show in round two. you said it was the kind of thing roseanne barr has been doing online for years and then this time it was cancelled. what made this time different,
when you look at her body of work i guess you can call it on twitter, what do you think was different this time around? >> i think this time she was back in the public eye so people were paying more attention to the kinds of things that she's saying andattention. abc simply couldn't enjoy the painful truth they had long known about and had to do so. >> i want you to react as well. you saw the stir it created ant the action taken. it makes one wonder about the longevity of something like that. there was in that flash a conversation about what she wrote in the tweet. how does it continue? >> first of all, i think, as roxanne said, the archive alpossibility of twitter, instagram, nofacebook and the le is pretty extraordinary. bill cosby did a lot over the years but one thing from a comedian.
intensity of her disrespect and racism galvanized communities of color and others. you can get rid of roseanne, but can you get rid of racial any mouse that motivated it. what about the indifference toward people of color and others transpeople gay, muslims and mexicans. let's be honest. it starts from the top. we have a bigot in chief. as a result of that, we see what we have going on with roseanne and others. >> rox anne i want you to chime in. some of president trump's most vocal smoeupporters -- how the climate for this has changed in the last 18 months. >> absolutely. i think since trump's election, we've seen a lot of people
emboldened by the president's attitude towards people of color and other marginalized populations and the more emboldened, the more open they are. that's why we've seen people for example calling the police on people of color in public spaces who are minding their own business because white people now feel like they can take a stand, whatever that stand may be, and try and encroach on the rights of people of color, and the president certainly enkourngs it in his policies and his demeanor. it's troubling, but, as michael pointed out, roseanne is just a symptom of a much larger problem we have to deal with. >> you had valerie responding to this and i'll turn to you first. she said this is a teachable moment. there is a fatigue that sets in when i hear that time and time again. you see very little teaching or learning happening as a result of this. what do you think needs to happen zwult of what we've seen
play out over the course of the week? >> i think we have to continue to see material consequences for people who are publicly racist and those consequences have to stick. it's interesting that tmz reported they're already thinking about a way to salvage roseanne by focusing on darlene or focusing on sara gilbert's character. i don't think the lesson was learn. people don't try to rehabilitate or save things that shouldn't be saved. >> the change that rox anne describes, you describe this. bobby kennedy meeting with many prominent african members of the black community in new york. it was a contentious meeting. i want to read one quote. 55 years after jame baldwin met
we're in dire need of more pro detecti duckative conflict. i emphasize productive conflict. how do i get to that? >> we've got to navigate past, the extremes on either side. there's not a false efif lensy between sides. there are racists and bigots on one side. >> he sees them equally. and i think that's a problem here. it's not on the other hand and on the one hand. if you are against big got tree and racism, you are by nature opposed to those who would compromise on that. it's just a microaggression. they are bite size bigotries that pollute the air for everybody.
when bobby kennedy went into that meeting he thought they should be grateful for him and his brother. they lit him up. james bal james -- they said no. there was a young man there who was a freedom rider. we're tired of what you're doing. bobby kennedy got so mad, he went and allowed the fbi to sur veil most of the people. he got his brother to deliver a speech saying race is not simply a political problem. it's a moral problem and wednesday on for the rest of his life to commit himself to see that racism, the erase ure of it. forging communities. >> thank you very much. what truth sounds like. thanks for your time as well. that is it for me. you can join me again tomorrow
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confidential 20-page memo sent by trump attorneys in january of this year to special council robert mil er. this article just being posted about an hour, hour and a half ago. it contends the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation because the constitution empowers him to. if he wished to terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon. joining me now is one of the journalists with a biline who wrote this for us. charl charlie savage. what stood out? sh where do we start with this? >> this is a really remarkable document to see in real-time, as the fight between the president's lawyers and special counsel or whether mr. trump will talk to the investigators
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