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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  March 22, 2019 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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well. jon meacham, always such a pleasure to have him as part of our broadcast, especially on a consequential friday night. that is our broadcast indeed for this friday and for this week. thank you for being here with us. have a good weekend. good night from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. a couple of hours ago, maybe even less than that, i was standing knee deep in a trout stream in tennessee. but now it's mueller time and so i'm in a studio in the great state of tennessee. the trout are basically just as safe as they were when i was flailing away at them ineffectually this afternoon. but now it is -- listen, it's -- this is history. this is a reason to stop fishing and go to work. our job tonight as a country sort of or at least what
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everybody in the country is going to be doing tonight is trying to figure out what it means that the report of special counsel robert mueller has finally been submitted. we've heard it said so many times that it was imminent, that it was done, maybe it was already done and we didn't know about it. finally it's happened. in terms of what that means and what mueller found, we know only the smallest little bits. this is the start of something apparently, not the end of something. the logistics of today we know something about. at 4:30 p.m. eastern time the staff of the house judiciary committee got a call from the justice department that somebody would be bringing a letter from the attorney general. i'm sure they all immediately guessed what that letter was. a justice department staffer or messenger of some kind, all we know she was wearing a north face jacket, she brought, in fact, two letters to the committee in two separate manila envelopes, that was just before 5:00 eastern time. our assumption is there were two
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separate envelopes because that was one letter for the democratic chairman of the committee and one for the republican ranking member of the committee. the chairman of the judiciary committee, democratic congressman jerry nadler, was at his new york office. he was not in d.c. so the committee staff quickly made a digital copy and got the letter to him that way. we know those details thanks to a judiciary committee spokesperson laying out that process. we know that is how the house judiciary committee was notified this evening that special counsel robert mueller had completed his investigation. we are assuming that a similar process or at least a process with the same effect also unfolded at the senate judiciary committee around the same time today but we don't have the same kind of readout about that process. so we know the logistics of how we got the notification that it ended and obviously, right now we have mostly just a ton of questions as to what mueller's report says, how complete it is, who gets to see it, who gets to decide who gets to see it and
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when. but after two years of almost entirely just questions about what mueller is doing, some answers will start to emerge now. we get actually quite a bit from the letter that attorney general bill barr did send to the chairs of those committees, to democratic congressman jerry nadler in the house and republican senator lindsey graham in the senate, those are the two judiciary chairs. the letter was addressed to the ranking members, to doug collins, the top republican and dianne feinstein, who's the top democrat on the committee in the senate. it's addressed to those four people. the letter is just one page. and it does actually give us kind of a lot. here's how it starts. "dear chairman graham, chairman nadler, ranking member feinstein and ranking member collins, i write to notify you pursuant to the special counsel regulation that's special counsel robert s. mueller iii has concluded his investigation of russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters." under the special counsel regulations, the attorney general is required to notify these specific people, the regulations spell out that the attorney general has to notify
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the chair and ranking members of the judiciary committees in the house and the senate, and those are the people that need to be notified and need to be notified of three things. number one, the appointment of the special counsel. that happened back in 2017. the removal of the special counsel, that never happened. and number three, the conclusion of a special counsel's investigation. so this is bill barr telling congress as he is required to do, okay, here is the third thing. the investigation is complete. that's the part of this special counsel experience that happened on my watch. i am notifying you. he then says quote, "in addition to this notification the special counsel regulations also require i provide you with quote a description and explanation of instances if any in which the attorney general or acting attorney general concluded that a proposed action by a special counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental practices that it
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should not be pursued. there were no such instances during the special counsel's investigation." so this alone is really important. this is a big deal. this has been the subject of lots and lots of speculation and lots of fighting, honestly. this is the attorney general informing congress. the attorney general has to inform congress if there is anything the special counsel wanted to do that the attorney general blocked him from doing. there had been worries and speculation that the confirmation of bill barr as attorney general, he was nominated and confirmed in the middle of the special counsel's investigation, he was nominated and confirmed after he had volunteered a big long sharply worded memorandum to the trump white house that criticized the special counsel because of the circumstances under which bill barr was brought on. right? his predecessor jeff sessions was fired as attorney general. the president said openly
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because sessions recused himself from overseeing the mueller investigation. well, here comes bill barr who has volunteered to the white house when he was in private practice, hey, i got tons of, you know, i got tons of criticism of the special counsel and i think he's doing tons of things wrong then bill barr gets nominated and confirmed as a.g. so there have been all these worries and speculation that the reason bill barr got that job, the reason he was seen by president trump as a suitable replacement for jeff sessions and therefore what might be expected of bill barr in that job is that once he got confirmed as attorney general he'd stick his foot out and trip the special counsel, right? he'd use his power as attorney general to block mueller from something that mueller was otherwise going to do. something that mueller was otherwise going to pursue, barr was going to block him. at least as far as this letter goes, from the attorney general bill barr tonight, barr says he never excised that power. he's notifying congress formally. there was never anything the
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special counsel sought to do that bill barr stopped mueller from doing. and that's fascinating. of course, everybody would like to hear that from robert mueller as well as from bill barr but at this point it's only bill barr who is speaking on mueller's behalf. robert mueller is still at this point publicly silent, as he has been from the very beginning, although we'll have more on that in a moment. here is more from the letter, though. "the special counsel has submitted to me today a quote confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions he has reached, as required by the regulations." "i am reviewing the report and anticipate i may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend." so this is the attorney general telling us he has mueller's report and he is not handing the report over to congress. right? this letter from bill barr is not a cover letter with
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mueller's findings attached. but he says he plans to give them i guess bullet points, something this weekend. he said he will advise ranking members of the special counsel's principal conclusions. i should qualify it. i am presuming that when he says he can advise them as soon as this weekend of the special counsel's principal conclusions, i am presuming that means he's planning on advising specifically the people to whom this letter is addressed. just the top democrats and top republicans on the judiciary committees in the house and the senate. once they are advised by bill barr as soon as this weekend of the principal conclusions of robert mueller's report, will those chairs and ranking members of the judiciary committees then tell the public what bill barr has told them? and what counts as mueller's principal conclusions anyway? how much detail is that? how much is the attorney general going to tell those two house members and those two senators
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as soon as this weekend? we do not know. not yet. but then here is the last substantive part of the letter and i think it's probably the most important part of the letter while also being the most frustratingly vague. again, this is bill barr's letter. "separately i intend to consult with deputy attorney general rod rosenstein and special counsel robert mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to congress and the public consistent with the law including the special counsel regulations and the department's long-standing practices and policies." quote, "i remain committed to as much transparency as possible and will keep you informed to the status of my review. sincerely, william p. barr, attorney general." so a couple of important things here. number one, obviously, barr is saying explicitly i did not block robert mueller from doing anything that he wanted to do. there wasn't anything he was trying to pursue where i said no as attorney general i'm stepping
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in and blocking you from doing that. interesting. i would like to know more about that but that's the blunt assertion tonight from attorney general william barr. also, barr is going to maybe as soon as this weekend brief mueller's principal conclusions to the leadership of the judiciary committees. we don't know what principal conclusions are and don't know for sure it will be this weekend and don't know how constrained the leadership of those committees will be from sharing with other people including us the public. but three, separate and apart from that, barr is thinking about what beyond those principal conclusions can go to the congress and to the public. and you get the sense from the way he wrote this that he thinks of that as one consideration, not two. right? you get the sense the way he wrote this that he thinks anything that goes to congress will almost instantly end up given to the public because members of congress, at least one member of congress will decide to leak it or release it
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properly but he's thinking about that now. he's thinking about what congress can see. he's thinking about what the public can see. he says he's consulting on that matter with mueller himself and with rod rosenstein, who is still there as deputy attorney general. remember rod rosenstein appointed robert mueller in the first place and rod rosenstein has reportedly been mueller's principal supervisor/overseer for the entire 22-month duration of the special counsel's tenure. the decision about releasing stuff to the congress and releasing stuff to the public, barr says that will be consistent with the law, consistent with the regulations governing the special counsel and consistent with long-standing practices and policies of the justice department. what does that mean? we've never had a special counsel -- i mean, we've had special prosecutors in the past and other kinds of people convene to do this type of work but under the special counsel regulation, we've never had this type of report at this type of stage.
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we don't know what long-standing practices and policies of the justice department are when it comes to sharing with congress and the public the findings of a special counsel. there isn't anything long-standing because they never really dealt with this before. but when barr says he'll decide what can go to the rest of congress and what can go to the public consistent with the law, consistent with the special counsel regulations and justice department policies and practices, that is the part that is going to determine whether we figure this thing out as a country. whether we the country are ever fully told what robert mueller really figured out about russia messing with our election to try to elect donald trump president and whether trump and his campaign were in on that. there has never before been a president -- i mean, not since the 1700s has there been a high-ranking government official who was investigated for
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potentially being in the thrall of a foreign power. it certainly never happened to a president. are we going to find out what robert mueller found out when he investigated that core issue? well, depends on what william barr thinks about long-standing practices and policies in the justice department and how those can be applied to this question. but i think it's also worth noting that bill barr says there is some other information in the mueller report. remember all that the special counsel regulations require is that mueller provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the special kun counsel. so in theory, that could have meant that mueller's final report would be as bare bones as i prosecuted this list of people, here are all the indictments that i've brought, because there was enough evidence to prosecute them. i did not prosecute anybody else because there was not enough evidence to prosecute anybody else. he could have just done that, you know.
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one sentence and a list of all the indictments he filed. boom. done. a lot of people thought that is what mueller would do in terms of filing his final report. i mean, if he had done that, the bullet points briefing that bill barr says he'll provide to congress as soon as this weekend would more or less be the whole report. he said he prosecuted these people. that's it. apparently, mueller didn't do something that bones, that bare bones. the report is apparently more comprehensive than just that sort of de minimis list. and now the attorney general is saying he's reviewing it. he needs to go through it to figure out what -- first of all to figure out how and when he can release the principal conclusions and then beyond that, what further can be released and what cannot. so i mean, just the fact that information exists to be decided upon, that is something we now know about the mueller report tonight that we didn't know before he turned it in. attorney general barr saying in
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his letter that he's committed to as much transparency as possible. again, that is a subjective thing but he says he'll try. on that point for what it's worth, i'll note that bill barr has actually already made his first decision on transparency with the mueller report with this letter tonight. the special counsel regulations require that the attorney general make this notification, this notification to the judiciary committee, to the chairs and ranking members of the judiciary committees. the attorney general was not required to release this letter publicly. that's a choice left up to him by the regulations but he writes in this letter to the judiciary committee chairs and ranking members tonight, "the special counsel regulations provide that the attorney general may determine public release of the notification would be in the public interest i have so determined." he says "i will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you." so that was bill barr's first judgment call on whether to make something public, he decided yes, he would make it public. but it's early days yet, early
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hours even. i should tell you that multiple news outlets including nbc news reporting tonight that according to senior justice department officials there will be no further mueller indictments. we don't know if there are any sealed indictments in other jurisdictions. there is no indication there are. there's also no indication one way or the other about whether other justice department prosecutors for instance u.s. attorney's offices like the southern district of new york or the eastern district of virginia or anybody else, we don't know if any u.s. attorney's offices or prosecutors in justice might bring further indictments based on material the special counsel's office passed on to them but nbc reports that no new indictments will come from mueller's team itself. which makes sense that we've started to see the mueller team essentially start to disband and those prosecutors take other gigs elsewhere in the government or even outside of government. i'll also tell you that although this notification means the special counsel investigation, the special counsel's office is
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closing its part of the investigation, according to the justice department, robert mueller for now remains the special counsel. he's not gone. he and a small staff are remaining in place to close up the office and handle any dangling threads and they have been there almost two years. somebody has to tidy that place up, right? one watchdog group tonight has announced already that they have already filed freedom of information act requests to obtain the full version of mueller's report. the chairman of the intelligence committee in the house democratic congressman adam schiff says tonight -- and this is an interesting curveball tonight. he's saying separate and apart from any findings from the special counsel that pertain to the criminal law he's saying if there are counterintelligence findings from mueller's investigation, counterintelligence findings about, say, foreign intelligence operations targeting or compromising u.s. persons and national politics in government, those counterintelligence findings by law according to
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adam schiff must be briefed to the intelligence committees in the house even if barr doesn't want to release the rest of the stuff to the rest of the congress. here is the statement tonight from adam schiff. quote, "today the attorney general informed the congress and the public that the special counsel has concluded the investigation and submitted a report of findings. that report needs to be released to the public." quote, "pursuant to the special counsel regulation, mueller's report is likely to focus on the prosecution decisions and may not shed necessarily light on counterintelligence findings of profound significance to our committee and the nation, whether the president or others around him have been compromised by a foreign power. the mueller investigation like our probe began as a counterintelligence inquiry into whether individuals associated with the trump campaign were compromised by a hostile foreign nation. by law, the evidence mueller has uncovered on all counterintelligence matters must now be shared with the house intelligence committee whether it resulted in indictment or not."
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this is him saying barr, you do not have that much leeway when it comes to deciding what is disclosed to congress. any intelligence matters must be disclosed to us. "we will insist the justice department meet its statutory obligations and be transparent with our committee and the public. anything less would be negligent in the service of our national security." so that's the intelligence committee chairman saying i hear you mr. attorney general when you say you're deciding what information in the report can be released to congress but any counterintelligence investigation into the report must by law be released to the intelligence committee, which is again not at all the way attorney general william barr is talking about he'll do with the information but the intelligence committee chairman may have a point there in terms of them having the law on their side for being able to access this information sort of despite attorney general william barr's discretion. and now tonight there is this statement from chairman jerry
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nadler, the democratic chairman of judiciary in the house. >> the important thing to say now is that the mueller report which was handed to the attorney general must be made public in its entirety. the american people deserve to know what was going on and the evidence against people or lack of evidence against people and we are going to insist that the attorney general make public the entire report and give to the relevant committees the underlying evidence. the precedents are there to do this. 880,000 pages of evidence, of internal evidence from the fbi was given by the justice department just last year to the judiciary committee when the judiciary committee was run by republicans. they set the precedent. if the justice department doesn't release the whole report or keeps part secret, we will certainly subpoena the parts of
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the report and we will reserve the right to call mueller or to testify before the committee or subpoena him as several other committees might do but we'll only do that if necessary. the important thing is that the entire report be made public and the evidence behind it be given to the relevant committees so the american people can be informed. >> tonight is a landmark moment. i would still be fishing otherwise. but we still have no idea as to what robert mueller has found. you heard the chairman of the judiciary committee there talking about the need to disclose this information and plans to get it. we don't know what robert mueller found out in his investigation and honestly, we don't know how his investigation proceeded and whether it was impeded by any sort of pressure or interference by anyone at any time. now the fight to find out all of that stuff starts in earnest and this is truly uncharted territory. we've never had a special counsel reporting to congress in the way that -- reporting to the
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attorney general who's then reporting to congress in the way that has just started tonight with this report from robert mueller. we don't have precedent as a country to see how this will go and a long way toward the way this will be figured out will be based on the integrity of the leaders involved here, the public servants involved here, and on the clamor and pressure from the public that this stuff should become known. joining us now is senator amy klobuchar of minnesota. she is in the running to be the democratic nominee for president of the united states. and serves on the judiciary committee. i know this is a very busy time for you. thanks for taking the time to get to a studio. really appreciate it. >> well, thanks. i want to know if you got a trout before you found out the report had come in? >> well, you know, i've learned two things in life, never ever ask a woman if she's pregnant and never ever -- never ever ask a person who has just completed a day of fishing if they caught a fish.
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>> okay. never again. anyway. i'm glad you're back. >> in other words, the answer is no. thank you very much. let me ask you. >> you're welcome. >> you got the same information we've got. but this letter tonight is directed to the chair and ranking member of a committee on which you serve. can you just tell us what you are expecting to happen in terms of next steps here? >> this report must be released. this isn't just about politics. it's about our democracy, rachel. while he has offered to brief the leaders of the committee, i think even the leaders of the committees would tell you what the most important thing is that we get this report out there publicly. 90% of americans say they want to see this report. 420 members of the house of representatives voted to make it public. when you look at those special counsel rules as you have pointed out, they say that it should be released if it's not public interest. when you look at the scope of
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the investigation which from the beginning was very specific. i mean, it said any links and/or coordination between russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of president donald trump. so that is a broad mission and to me, the public as we head into the 2020 elections, they have a right to know what's public. so briefings, fine. i would prefer to have it after it's public so we can ask follow-up questions. certainly i want to see the underlying data. and we must be able to see this report. it's not -- can't just be behind closed door marked up thing that no one gets to see. it's got to be time for a full disclosure and not mincing words and not hiding pages. >> if attorney general william barr decides he doesn't want to do that, if he decides in his judgment for whatever reason or however he reads the law, the regulations or whatever he thinks is relevant justice department precedent for some unprecedented thing like this,
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if he decides no, i'm going to brief the principal conclusions, which is who got indicted, and beyond that i think none of this should be shared with congress and you just have to trust us that this is fine, if he decides that people calling for it to be released doesn't persuade him, are there any levers of power that could be used here in order to pry this thing into the public if barr doesn't want it to be? >> sure. and you've heard this from speaker pelosi. you've heard it from adam schiff. the house, i don't think you'll see it happening with the republican-led senate but the house has ability to try to subpoena this information. if he doesn't release the underlying documents to try to get those documents with the argument that this was an invasion of our country's democracy and then, of course, unrelated to this special counsel, you have ongoing prosecutions in the southern and eastern districts of new york as well as the new york attorney general's office. >> senator klobuchar, i know you have been obviously still
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carrying out the duties of being a senator in minnesota but also you've been out campaigning all around the country talking to voters. i wonder if people are interested in the mueller investigation, if people are -- have been anxious about the -- this impending report. what you're hearing from people as you're campaigning in terms of how important this is, mueller's findings but also the treatment of mueller's information going forward. >> i don't think i've been anywhere, whether it's chicago or california or iowa, south carolina, georgia, where people haven't asked about this, especially in states where you've seen suppression of the vote or you've seen votes that haven't been counted. they see this as really part of our democracy, that we need to know what happened here. how else will we prepare ourselves? i will say here in new hampshire today senator shaheen and hassan and congressman pappas they led an effort to say, and this is
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something you should follow up on, the list of projects that could be imperiled by the president wanting to pay for his wall came out, and one of them was a shipyard in portsmouth. so i'm going to be talking about that tomorrow when i'm in rye. but you can just see that people are still focused on these bread and butter issues that affect their jobs and affect their livelihood. but people can step back a bit and say none of this is going to work if we don't have a working democracy. and that is really why i think we keep getting asked about it and people are going to be just -- i cannot even imagine what will happen if he doesn't release this report. of course there's bad signs based on his 19-page memo that he did before he had his hearing to the white house in which he showed this broad view of executive privilege. all of these things make me concerned. i am glad he released the letter today and we hope there is more to come because the american people have a right to know. >> senator amy klobuchar of the great state of minnesota, 2020
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democratic presidential contender, member of the judiciary committee. again, thanks for jumping off the trail and taking time to join us tonight, senator. it's great to see you. >> it's great. and i'm looking forward to hearing the next fish story. >> hopefully it will have a happier ending. thank you, senator. >> yes. >> bringing into the conversation now josh gerstein, senior political editor at -- who's helped us through every step of this process from the beginning. josh, thanks for your time tonight. >> hey, rachel, great to be back with you. >> so attorney general barr says he's going to -- he may be able to advise lawmakers on the judiciary committees of mueller's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. he says he's reviewing the material that mueller has given him and maybe he'll be able to do that. i know nobody as far as i can tell nobody can tell the volume of material to barr and how much of an investment of time and
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energy it might take to actually review it. do you have sense or educated guesses as to what barr is looking at and what might count as a principal conclusion? >> rachel, i came over directly from the justice department a few minutes ago and what we were told over there is it's a comprehensive report. i'm taking from that that it's pretty substantial. i imagine it extends to hundreds of pages. there were a lot of individuals involved and a lot of allegations involved and i do think that barr will be sending this initial report in a written form to capitol hill maybe as soon as tomorrow afternoon. as you say, it may just be bullet points but one of the things i'll be looking for there is it's easy to say we'll send up the key findings from mueller's investigation on the matters that were assigned to him but as you know, rachel, we don't know what was assigned to robert mueller. we know trump russia broadly and an issue related to paul manafort but remember from a few
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months ago there's this blacked-out portion of the memo that designated the scope of mueller's investigation and the public really has never seen that blacked-out information about what mueller was assigned, at least at one point to investigate. nor do we know definitively all the matters cast off to various u.s. attorneys' offices. it's difficult to say at this point who is or isn't out of the woods in terms of the matters that have come across mueller's desk over the past two years. >> and that's a really good point, josh. in terms of that sort of scoping memo and what mueller was actually tasked to work on, would you anticipate that that ultimately is something that would become, that would become publicly available or at least briefed to congress in someway, presumably any ongoing criminal investigation that was referred to in those large redactions in
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that scoping memo. eventually those criminal cases get finished. eventually those things get done. if it's an intelligence matter and not a criminal matter does adam schiff tonight have a when he says regardless of prosecution we on the intelligence committee get to know everything that has consequences and that's a requirement by law. >> i think he does and there is precedent, there's a d.c. circuit precedent from the watergate era that say if they send a subpoena ask for the information, they should be able to get it. even grand jury information, intelligence information. there are certain channels that that can flow through. i do think members of congress will seen that eventually. whether the public sees every bit of that i'm not totally sure if there were bit players here that maybe came across mueller's scope at one point. they might have a privacy
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argument but if you're a senior white house official, certainly as we saw in hillary clinton's case with her aides, those privacy concerns were deemed to not be sufficient to withhold that kind of information from congress and i assume that the justice department would have to make the same judgements. i think that barr looks at that 420-0 vote on releasing the report that we got from the house of representatives the other day and he may not be the most political guy around but he does know when a freight train is coming and when to step out of the way and i suspect he's going to lean in are pretty hard in terms of getting information up to the hill. >> josh gerstein, senior legal affairs contributor at josh, thank you for your time this evening. it's an exciting night and still super frustrating because we don't know. but thanks for helping us understand the extent of the reporting thus far. much appreciated. >> sure, rachel. take care. >> joining us now is devlin barrett. national security reporter for the "washington post."
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mr. barrett, very nice to have you back with us again tonight on what is a very exciting evening. i first want to ask just -- we've been on the air for about half an hour talking about what we think we know. let me ask if anything we've discussed thus far or i've discussed thus far doesn't comport with how you understand things are going right now, if we've gotten anything wrong or if you understand things differently or if you can add anything in terms of what we know about what's been handed up. >> i think what i would add is that when you talk about the principal conclusions, look, we know what the big questions here are, the biggest questions. did any trump associates conspire with the kremlin to interfere with the election? did the president -- is there enough evidence to show or prove that the president attempted to obstruct justice? i cannot imagine that mueller has drafted principal conclusions that don't answer those questions. so i think those principal conclusions, even if they are bullet points, i think will be very substantive and very meaningful to public understanding of what's happening. the other thing i would just point out is so much of what
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barr is doing to me seems to be informed by how the clinton e-mail case went down and how people in the justice department are trying not to repeat some of what they reviewed as the bad practices that happened in that case. and so i think a lot of what they're trying to do is bulletproof themselves against similar accusations this time around. >> in terms of obviously the big implication there and everybody who was rooting for hillary clinton to win the election has this still on the tip of their tongue, obviously the big problem there was the derogatory information about somebody who was not being charged that was spread by fbi director james comey at the time. are there other implications besides that key question of whether or not you say bad things about people who aren't charged that is also guiding what they are doing now? >> i think the other dynamic and josh got to this a little bit, is that if you have a government official who has come up in the course of this investigation, who has been looked at in some fashion in the course of the investigation, i think we're
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more likely to see more answers from mueller and barr on those individuals than we will on private citizens who end up not being charged with anything. so i think what i'm geared towards and thinking about is to the degree that mueller looked at people who work for the government, we will probably know more about what mueller found or didn't find regarding those people. then we will end up knowing at least in the first take about folks who sort of moved in trump's world let's say but never went into the government. >> devlin, one last question for you. i was struck by the references to robert mueller in the letter from a.g. barr tonight. specifically when he said i am now reviewing this material and considering what can be disclosed to congress and the public and i am consulting with deputy attorney general rod rosenstein on that and with robert mueller on that." it's interesting structurally that the special counsel himself would be consulted about what of his findings can be given to congress and to the public.
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i wonder if that was expected as far as you're concerned or if that struck you the way it struck me? >> i think it is striking but i think it's striking because throughout this process mueller and his reputation have been sort of the 800-pound gorilla inside the justice department. no one has -- one of the things we learned in this letter, for example, is no one objected to any major investigative move that mueller wanted to make. and i think barr has as best we can tell so far continued the tradition of as much as possible deferring to mueller's judgment on a lot of things. and i think the letter is another example of that because at the end of the day everyone knows that mueller could be called up to the hill at some point and he's going to be asked did anyone stand in your way, did anyone mess with you? and i think a lot of people understand that if he ever answers yes to that question there could be hell to pay. >> devlin barrett, "washington post" national security reporter. excellent. thanks for being with us tonight. appreciate it. >> thanks for having me. >> we'll have much more to come including a question that has
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been, yeah, i know there's all this reporting all the time no matter who the president is. the president left the south -- by the south lawn and arrived at such and such dinner. the president is on -- we could all just like minute by minute step by step reporting about where the president is. i never pay attention to any of that. i'm like why do i need know where the president is having lunch? today i've been obsessed with where donald trump has been all day. the president for the record went to mar-a-lago today but don't you want to know what the regulations say, what past policies and practice say, what maybe the law even says and certainly what's right and wrong about whether or not the white house can see the mueller report at this point? i mean, bob barr -- excuse me, bill barr has it at the justice department. he's reviewing it to decide what he's going to pass on to members of congress. what if the white house calls him and says hey, we'd like to see the whole thing? what happens then? hold that thought. we'll be right back.
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discharge its constitutional responsibilities, we expect the underlying evidence uncovered during the special investigation will be turned over to the relevant committees upon request." the underlying evidence. "to be clear if the special counsel has reason to believe that the president has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct, then the justice department has an obligation not to conceal such information. because the justice department maintains that a sitting president cannot be indicted to then with hold evidence of wrongdoing from congress because a sitting president cannot be charged is to convert justice department policy into the means for a coverup. anything less than full transparency would raise serious questions about whether the department of justice policy is being used as a pretext for a coverup of misconduct." strong words from those six democratic committee chairs tonight demanding not only the report itself but underlying evidence to be handed over to the relevant committees. joining us now is congressman adam schiff, the chairman of the intelligence committee in the house. sir, it is great to have you with us tonight. thank you for being here.
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i just have to ask you top line what you make of this development today. attorney general barr's letter what he has explained and what it suggests to you about the process. >> what i make of it is this is the logical conclusion of the special counsel's work. that other aspects of the investigation will be farmed out to either main justice or the southern district or other elements of the justice department. but he's finished his core responsibility and now he's made a fulsome report, and that report needs to be made public. the attorney general committed to making as much of it public as was consistent with law or policy. if he's true to that that means the entire thing. and we're going to insist upon it. and as the letter that you quoted points out, of perhaps even greater importance, the congress is going to need the underlying evidence because some of that evidence may go to the compromise of the president or people around him that poses a real threat to our national security and we need to know it if that's the case. >> as the chairman of the
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intelligence committee, you in particular as chair but you and all of your colleagues on that committee, deal with very sensitive information all the time and there are protocols for those, for that committee that there aren't for any other part of congress because of the sensitivity of material that you're entrusted -- with which you're entrusted. given that, given your training in that matter, given your experience with that, given how seriously you take that, i wonder if there's anything you can imagine might be in this report that really can't go broadly to congress, that can't go especially to the public, if there's anything with intelligence matters -- that relates to intelligence matters that you would be sympathetic to keeping under wraps, either just being briefed to your committee or just being held within the justice department. >> there may very well be things in the report that would require minor redactions that might go to a source of information gathered by an intel agency.
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i wouldn't be surprised frankly if bob mueller left those specific source references out of the report. they wouldn't be necessary to the report. but those redactions could be made. it's also fair to point out that the justice department has declassified information when it application material in the current mueller investigation even while that investigation was on going. so yes, there could be very small things but i think the most important point is this investigation began as a counter intelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation. it went to look at the question of whether people were acting as agents of a foreign power. that information needs to be made public and if we need to do declassified information in the interest of transparency and not sacrifice methods, we should do that, too. >> what are you going to do if barr says no? if william barr says this report has been submitted to me, i have the one copy of this report.
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i believe that the principle conclusion should be briefed and as far as i'm concerned, the principle conclusions are these are the people indicted and there is no justice department responsibility to pass anything else on. i don't care about public clamber or statements about what i must do from anybody, i'm just going to sit on all of the rest of it. i mean, presumably subpoenaing the report and subpoenaing mr. mueller himself, subpoenaing other people involved in the investigation, ultimately those get enforced through the justice department. if william bar decided he would dig in his heels and let none of this out, it's hard to figure out what leverage could be used against him. >> well, the congress has considerable leverage and certainly we would begin by requesting information and move to subpoenas that and court enforcement and think about other means of pressuring the department to be transparent but
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it will be unsustainable for the justice department to take that position. in the last congress, rachel, the justice department provided over 880,000 pages of discovery of evidence to the republican congress in the answer to subpoenas that in an investigation that the clinton e-mail investigation in which no one was indicted. information about hillary clinton, about bruce orr and andy mccabe and lisa page and peter strzok. for the department to maintain they never provide information in cases that doesn't result in an indictment is simply not true and 880,000 pages demonstrate that. they did so because there was an intense public interest and need to know and because congress insisted and the case for public disclosure here with allegations that are far more serious is much more compelling. in the case of hillary clinton who did not win the election, she was not in a position to cover up through the justice
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department any evidence of wrongdoing. this president is and this president there is i think all too much evidence has tried to interfere, has tried to obstruct and for that reason it is all the more income want transparent. if they fight this they damage the department's reputation and i think the same way that the supreme court when it decided bush and gore and threw out decades of president caused the public to view them as an institution. should barr adopt the double standard, i would damage the reputation of the department and ultimately be unsuccessful. >> intelligence committee chairman adam schiff, sir, i know this is an incredibly busy time with the different things to consider in terms of how you're moving forward. thank you for taking time to walk us forward.
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appreciate you being here. good luck. >> thank you. i want to bring in chuck rosenburg, a former u.s. attorney from the eastern district of virginia and former senior fbi and justice department official. chuck, thank you so much for being here. i haven't had a chance to be in touch with you about this at all since we got this letter from the attorney general since we got this characterization about how the mueller probe is coming to an end. i want to hear your top line reaction how this has gone down tonight so far. >> top line reaction. by the way, rachel, thanks for having me day. top line reaction is that now you can see why the relationship historically between the white house and the justice department has been so carefully guarded, why we don't normally communicate the results of investigations to the white house, particularly where it involves senior white house officials. there's this tension of course
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because mueller and rosenstein and bill barr, the attorney general, are all parts of the executive branch and the president of course is the head of the executive branch. so if the president demanded the report, it's entirely plausible that bill barr would give it to him. perhaps after telling him what a bad idea it would be to receive it. but barr ultimately works for the president. and so this is a fraught relationship. and that is specifically why we've been so careful in the past about passing information between the white house and the justice department. >> and chuck, in terms of the news we got from nbc tonight that the special counsel's office will not make any more indictments, that i think is being greeted in some quarters as a sign that there will be no more indictments, period, that anybody who hasn't been -- who hasn't been charged yet in any relation to this investigation or anything that has derived from it is now home free. we've seen actually at least one person tonight who had been
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offered a plea agreement at some point, who -- jerome corsi who seemed to potentially have an indictment on its way. somebody saying this shows he's been vindicated, it's won, it's all over. i wonder if you think more indictments aren't coming from the special counsel's office necessarily means that other indictments might not be coming from other u.s. attorneys or main justice. >> you i think it's way too early for mr. corsi and others to be dance in the end zone, rachel. here's why. it seems to me that a lot of these cases, whether it's corsi or carter page, right? or randy credico or the trump kids or folks associated with the inaugural committee or the trump organization can be charged and prosecuted elsewhere. they don't have to be charged and prosecuted by bob mueller. so mueller may not be indicting anyone else, but i fully expect other indictments in what i am broadly calling this case. mueller's remit was always
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rather narrow. i disagree with the congressman in one respect. he was asked to look -- he mueller was asked to look at russian interference in the 2016 election. nobody asked mueller to rummage through trump's attic. and so we know the southern district of new york investigation continues. we know that the president, for instance, was identified in public court filings as having directed illegal campaign finance payments. we know other people were involved in that. we know that cohen and flynn and gates and others continue to cooperate. we see large amounts of redacted portions in recent public court filings. stuff is still happening. even if the mueller team doesn't indict and prosecute anyone else, i'm still quite certain, like i said earlier, that others should not be celebrating just yet. >> chuck, let me ask you about something that was raised earlier this hour. josh gerstein raised a really good point, which is when we're talking about what exactly
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mueller was asked to look into, i mean, we know what was in the order creating this special counsel. we know -- or appointing the special counsel. we know some of what was in a subsequent sort of scoping memo that laid out what he was authorized to investigate. but big portions of that were redacted. what would have to transpire, what would have to be sort of cleared up for us to ever be able to see behind those redactions? now that the special counsel's investigation is done, would you expect that we'll get to know the full terms of exactly what he was scoped to look into? >> i imagine we will one day. i'm not sure it's going to happen as quickly as we all might like. there's a bunch of things that i can imagine are in the scoping memo or even in the mueller report, which i presume will be quite thorough and quite voluminous, that we really can't see yet. congressman schiff spoke about classified information. sure, it can be redacted. sure, it can be declassified.
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but there's also good reasons in some cases not to do that, or at least not to do that yet. the other types of information, rachel, that we may not see, at least not immediately, are information related to ongoing investigations. again, all of those redactions and public filings speak to the fact that other stuff is going on and that prosecutors and agents are continuing their work. we eventually get to see almost everything. it took 40 years to see some of mr. jaworski's work in the watergate investigation. i don't think we'll have to wait that long. but again, i don't think it's going to be as quickly as we might like because of, a, the sensitive classified nature of some of the stuff and, b, the fact that we clearly have ongoing investigations in other districts including in manhattan. >> chuck rosenberg, former u.s. attorney in the eastern district of virginia, former senior fbi and justice department official. chuck, as always, it's great to have you here, particularly tonight.
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>> thank you for having me, rachel. >> i want to bring into the conversation now neal katyal, who wrote the department of justice regulations defining the office of special counsel, which is the document that allowed for mueller to be appointed last year. mr. katyal served as acting solicitor general in the obama administration, and as of tonight i should tell you he is an msnbc and nbc news contributor, which makes us all even more proud than we usually are to come to work. neal, thank you for joining us tonight. it's great to have you here. and congratulations on joining us in this formal way. >> thanks. >> i want to ask you a couple of technical things and a couple of big picture things. big picture i'd like to ask you first if this is the way you thought this part of the process would unfold, if william barr submitting this letter to congress tonight, describing the way he's going to proceed, is the way it was envisioned when the special counsel's regulations were envisioned in the first place. >> the answer to that is yes. i think barr did exactly the right thing today in transmitting the document and so
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on. and so so far the process has worked. i think basically as we anticipated, the one thing i think we didn't anticipate is the president if he were the target of a special counsel or subject of a special counsel investigation being on a relentless attack, calling it witch hunt a bazillion times and all the things that the president has done. but in terms of the process today, it played out as we thought. >> on the issue of the president and the way the president has pressured this investigation and the way he's behaved toward it from the beginning, if the president tonight is on the phone from mar-a-lago to william barr saying i want that report right now, i want all of it, send it over, what are mr. barr's options and what would you expect him to do? >> well, i think that under the constitution, and this is why the special counsel regulations were written, the president has full power over prosecution. everything. so he could demand to see the mueller report. he could have demanded to see the draft of the mueller report last week.
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and maybe the one act of restraint donald trump has had is not doing that yet. if he does that now, i think everyone will know what's up and i think barr's choice will be to resign at that point because if it's done for nefarious reasons, if he wants to sneak peek at the report in order to, you know, try and discredit it in some way, that's a real problem. it also would be a problem if barr on his own decided not to release the full mueller report. i mean, we're dealing with, as your guests have shown tonight, some of the most sensitive questions american democracy faces, you know, is our leader under an influence of a foreign power, things like that. and if the president or the barr says the mueller report shouldn't be provided to the american people, that is a declaration of war on the america -- on american democracy and i think all of us should fight it, republican and democrat alike have just as much to lose if the public doesn't have this information in front
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of it. >> it was striking in the first paragraph of the attorney general's letter tonight that he said explicitly there were no instances in which the special counsel was blocked from pursuing something because the attorney general decided that it was too out of line. that was sort of -- it felt good to see that in terms of the process being respected. >> right. >> it did make me think, though, and maybe i just have a suspicious mind, that as the speshs counsel's wrapping up, as nbc news and other outlets have reported, that there will be no more special counsel indictments, there are a lot of criminal cases that are being pursued by u.s. attorney's offices. there may yet be further indictments related to this investigation from other u.s. attorney's offices. if william barr wanted to block any of those prosecutions, he wouldn't have to say anything about it to congress or anyone, would he? >> right. those aren't governed by the special counsel regulations. mueller had one mandate, which was russia. and he closed at least part of that today. but you know, you could imagine taking that baton and then passing it it to a bunch of
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different people because he's always tried to stay in his line. so there's now a new lane about campaign finance. that's the southern district investigation. there's stuff about the trump organization. and that's handling via state prosecutors. and there's all these different investigations going on in congress. barr has the ability to stop at least the southern district investigation. but he cannot stop the state and he cannot stop a coordinate branch of government, congress. and so those investigations will continue and indeed must continue because mueller's mandate was so limited. just focusing on russia, not on the broader set of questions. >> neal katyal, former acting solicitor general of the united states. neal, it's an honor to have you in the nbc and msnbc family and a real pleasure to have you here tonight. thank you. >> thank you. >> all right. i want to thank everybody for being with us tonight. we will see you again the next time something like this happens, which could be any minute. i will say, this is a historic -- this is a historic landmark
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moment in the mueller investigation. at this point what now will happen is a whole new fight and a whole new waiting game in terms figuring out what exactly mueller determined. but to have the investigation come to a close, to have there be a document produced that says what happened now puts us on a totally different front in terms of what we are as citizens able to know about what we've just been through as a democracy. just a remarkable time to be working in the news business. it is an honor to be here. now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. and it is an honor to be here, even though both of us planned not to be here tonight. i know -- i heard on tv tonight that you were actually in a river fishing when you got the word that -- >> yes. >> -- got to get to work. i woke up in a boat thousands of miles southeast of miami. a couple of airplanes get me to miami tonight just in time for this.