tv The 11th Hour With Brian Williams MSNBC March 23, 2019 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
really did do during that election campaign. we're going to have to leave it there. michael beschloss and david corn, thank you very much for joining us on our special coverage tonight. that is tonight's last word. the "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. >> the breaking news tonight, robert mueller's work is done. the findings of his russia investigation have been handed over to the attorney general. bill barr has notified congress he may share some of the most basic details as early as this weekend. tonight we'll take on the flood of questions now, including what this means for the 45th president who is watching it all from florida. what does it mean for the other investigations now that this one is over? and what about the central question mueller was hired to find out about, russia's role in our 2016 presidential election? all of it, as "the 11th hour" gets underway this friday night. well, good evening once again from our nbc news
headquarters here in new york, day 792 of the trump administration. and as of 5:00 p.m. eastern time today, the mueller investigation is over. that's when official word arrived that special counsel robert mueller had transmitted his report to attorney general bill barr after 675 days of work. according to a senior justice department official, mueller, for his part, is not recommending any further indictments. earlier tonight, the justice department said the attorney general was still reading through the report. it's now up to him to decide how much of this much anticipated report will become public. we do know both mueller and rod rosenstein will be assisting him during the process of going through the report. we learned that in a letter barr sent to leaders of both the house and senate judiciary committees today, informing them that he had received mueller's
report. the attorney general wrote, quote, i am reviewing the report and anticipate that i may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. separately, i intend to consult with deputy attorney general rosenstein and special counsel 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. i remain committed to as much transparency as possible. well, so far there hasn't been much reaction from the white house on the mueller report. the president is spending the weekend at his resort in florida. press secretary sarah huckabee sanders did post this statement, quote, the next steps are up to attorney general barr and we look forward to the process taking its course. the white house has not received or been briefed on the special counsel's report. here is a brief recap of what
mueller has accomplished in his nearly two-year long investigation. he has secured seven guilty pleas for individuals, including michael flynn, his former campaign chairman paul manafort. on top of that, another 27 people have been indicted including dozens of russians, 37 indictments in all. without delay, let's bring in our lead off panel on a momentous friday night starting with attorney neal katyal, former soliciting general during the obama administration. he happens to be a veteran of the justice department where he drafted the special counsel regs under which mueller was appointed. we are happy to say he will be of counsel to us around here as our newest msnbc legal analyst. nicolle wallace visits the night shift, veteran of the busch iv 3 white house, and most importantly host of "deadline white house" 4:00 p.m. eastern time each day on this network. and robert costa, national political reporter for the washington post, moderator of
washington week on pbs. welcome to you all. neil, i'd like to begin with you, the lawyer and journalist ben witess wrote, what is ending here is not the investigation, merely the portion of the investigation mueller chose to retain for himself. neil, do you agree with that assessment? >> 100%. today what happened is the end of the beginning of the investigation, not the beginning of the end. so there's a lot that's left. the way to think about this, think about mueller writing a relay race. he's got the baton. his baton is limited to russia. in the course of that investigation and is running, he learns about campaign finance violations and all sorts of other things. instead of doing that himself, he's now passing that baton on to other people, the southern district federal prosecutors in new york, the state attorney general of new york, as well as members of congress and their
own committees investigating a whole variety of things. so what happens today is the close of one chapter of a much larger story. >> it seems to me, based on my reading today, and you're the expert because you wrote the regs, what could bog this down is the attorney general going through this and trying to decide especially not to expose sources and methods and secrets, trying to decide what can be made public, to which audience, and when. is there any chance mueller would send either two versions or a pre-scrubbed versions with kind of exhibits over to the side to speed this process? >> sure. sometimes that happens. and, look, nobody will deny the fact that if there are sources and methods in either version of the mueller report, some classified material, that isn't something the american public should see, but that's a really narrow limited exception. federal government is very good at using redactions and other things to accomplish that purpose.
what i think will not stand, brian, is if barr says, i'm not turning over the mueller report to congress and to the american people because that is -- the questions of this report go to the central questions of our democracy in whether or not our most powerful leaders are compromised. mueller has already found the inner circle of trump in the campaign was plagued with people who were in cahoots with russia or lying or foreign lobbyists and not disclosing it. his inner circle outside of the campaign, people like michael cohen, his personal fixer, or his national security advisor, michael flynn, all going to prison and admitting that they've committed felonies. so given all of that, if this is hid from the american people, all of these facts, i think that that would be a real, almost a crime against the american people. >> nicolle wallace, you've been through this 675-day-long looking glass. you covered it each day yourself. what stands out at you as we look back on it through the
rearview mirror tonight? >> you know, as it ends, i can't stop thinking about how it began. so i have spent the day thinking about that nine-day period that led to mueller's appointment in the first place. it was after jim comey was fired. we learned when andrew mccabe's book came out, actually a little bit before that from reporting in "the new york times," that that firing wasn't what we thought it was. through so much of our coverage of the mueller investigation, it wasn't just perhaps an effort to obstruct the investigation. it wasn't just about the president's peak, about the russia probe, thinking it was a hoax as he said to our colleague lester holt. it was viewed in that moment andrew mccabe decided to open a full field counter intelligence investigation into the president. so what robert mueller absorbed in that mayhem that ensued in the nine days between the firing of jim comey and the appointment of robert mueller by rod rosenstein as special counsel wasn't just a question about whether the president was
obstructing justice. it wasn't just that looming question about russian meddling. it wasn't just whether the trump campaign was in cahoots, whether they were colluding. as a matter of sort of correcting the record that's already coming out, he did prove that there was contact and coordination at the highest levels of the trump campaign between its chairman paul manafort and a putin aligned agent in konstantin kilimnik. it was this question about who donald trump was loyal to, whether he was wittingly or unwittingly work on behalf of the russians. the counter intelligence investigations run by the fbi don't end in criminal prosecutions, so it would sort of make sense that there aren't any more indictments in the mueller probe. but i think those questions are at the heart of these sort of probing inquiries into what we will see, and it will be perhaps the most sensitive part of that investigation, but on a national security front perhaps its most important. >> robert costa, the president tonight is inside the warm bath
of approval known as mar-a-lago. we've already seen headlines on fox news tonight, one in the last hour read d.o.j., no additional mueller indictments. absolutely correct, but neil kind of pointed out what there could be. what are you hearing from republicans around the president, robert? >> there may be a celebration in florida tonight, but in call after call with my top republican sources, an err of apprehension pervades this republican party. uncertainty about what's coming next. they know there may not be indictments on the horizon, but they are not fully in control. house demtz have subpoena power, will pressure the justice department to release this report to the public. they also are uncertain about the president's conduct. what about possible obstruction of justice will be detailed? the president loves to say, no collusion. but republicans feel vulnerable
tonight about what obstruction of justice, if any, is detailed in this report, and what that could mean to the party and its agenda as it moves forward. >> neal katyal, join us in listening to what donald trump said about the dismissal of mr. comey. >> you had made the decision before they came in the room? >> i was going to fire comey. there's no good time to do it, by the way. they -- >> because in your letter you said, i accepted their recommendation, so you had already made the decision? >> oh, i was going to fire regardless of recommendation. he made a recommendation, he's highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. the democrats like him. the republicans like him. he made a recommendation. but regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. and, in fact, when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by
the democrats for having lost an election that they should have won. >> neal, the mueller team never had an opportunity to sit across from that man and ask questions. he got the take home test version instead. would this case have been adjudicated differently? would it have ended differently tonight if he had had the opportunity to be questioned one on one? >> well, it might be. we don't know how it's ending because we don't know the report. the one thing we do know, costa just said republicans are apprehensive about what the report's going to say about president trump. and if you want to know why, that tape is a perfect illustration of it because even the most die hard republicans know this is a president who bends the truth at every turn and has no respect for the rule of law. nicolle and i had the privilege of working for two different presidents, obama and george w. bush. but i think nobody would ever think -- it would be
ridiculously unfathomable that anyone could accuse these two men of being in cahoots with russia or having their campaign aides in cahoots. when president obama walked in, everyone stood up a little taller and he inspired us to be better. and i know that's true about george w. bush, too. that's not true about this president which is why there is so much apprehension about this report and why i think there will be attempts to tries and suppress it from the american people. >> robert costa? >> there is a possible political war on the horizon. talking to top republicans like mayor giuliani today, he was chuckling in a phone interview saying, waiting for the mueller report is almost like waiting for a baby to be born. but then his tone changed. he had sharp words for the justice department. he said a counter report is ready on the trump legal team side of things to prepare to go after each and every point this report may have. and so that's what the president, who has been trying to erode trust in the justice department for over a year in tweet after tweet, statement after statement, that war is only beginning.
as much as the mueller report is only beginning its journey, perhaps to congress, to the public. so, too, are the political battles. >> and so, nicolle, on the political side of things, that just goes right to the base and everybody stays in their partisan bubbles. >> we'll see. this is a republican party led by men who were front and center with very strong words and very strong opinions about obstruction of justice when the president in question was bill clinton. it took me three minutes to put together five minutes of those men screaming at the top of their lungs about what bill clinton's actions that made up part of his impeachment proceedings meant. to see all those men eat their words for breakfast, lunch and dinner will be amusing to me as someone who bemoans the death of the modern republican party. on the obstruction question, none of us knows what's in the mueller report. neither does rudy giuliani. neither does this white house. but we do know that the president intended to, attempted to obstruct justice and we do
know that robert mueller investigated all those actions. the attempted firing of robert mueller. the efforts to get jeff sessions to unrecuse. chuck rosenberg, our colleague, said that's not even a thing, unrecusal. all of the tweets -- we know that robert mueller assembled and tried to put together the tweets, the public statements. donald trump went to the rose garden and attacked jeff sessions for recusing. i mean, there is such a vast body of this intent to obstruct this investigation. i think when you see republicans saying, well, robert mueller finished, that, in my understanding -- and neal would know this better than me -- that is not an exoneration from the crime of obstruction. there are also open questions about whether there is some exposure around witness tampering. this republican party is going to have to decide if they still care about criminal conduct. >> and, neal, is it possible that mueller could come to some of the few things nicolle just listed and wall them off and say something akin to, in this area
i thought it best adjudicated by congress? >> absolutely. i mean, i think that's often what happens in impeachment, and that's 9 way o that's the way our system works and it works well. some of this conduct isn't criminal. some like obstruction of justice can be. but other things like mueller basically proved that trump lied to the american people before the 2016 election by saying, i have no business dealings with russia. we now know that not to be true because of the investigation. that's not a crime, but, boy, that is something that is a real betrayal of the american people's trust. so, impeachment often is the right remedy constitutionally speaking when you have allegations like that. >> and, counselor, just one more to put a finer point on this. so, it is possible -- it remains possible for all the people who have come in from the day, they've seen a headline or two on their devices that there are going to be no further indictments?
that refers to the mueller piece of this, the southern district of new york, the justice department of new york, the eastern district of virginia could drop what they want and what they have at any time? >> exactly. so i think the way to think about it is much more like the internet now, this mueller investigation, with multiple different nodes and each one having a certain amount of autonomy, that's particularly true for the state prosecutors, which the president and the attorney general can't stop, and congress which is a coordinate branch of government. when you get to the southern district of new york or the eastern district of virginia, those are federal prosecutors, and it is possible to envision donald trump or attorney general barr saying, oh, no, you can't investigate any further. don't touch my man. >> the folks watching this network know that the news hit at the end of nicolle wallace's broadcast and at the start of chuck todd's "meet the press" daily. they happened to be seated side by side in our washington
studio. we watched that unfold live. cnn had its own breaking news coverage. nicolle, i wanted to show you, because you were otherwise busy, how the moment transpired on fox news this afternoon. we'll talk about it on the other side. >> we have just been told that the mueller report has been delivered to the attorney general william barr, but we don't know any details as yet and we don't know when we'll know any of the details, whether it will be a matter of hours, a matter of days, weeks, months, we just don't know. jesse, where are you? >> well, mueller took too long. he lost all his momentum. it's kind of like the guy at the barbecue, you invite everybody at 5:00, at 7:00, no one is eating yet. then he burns the meet. i waited two years for this? this is terrible. i hahn left i don't think the rest of the country outside of the swamp and the partisans really care about the mueller report. they care about the brackets for the ncaa. they care about spring vacation, and they care about what's on
netflix. >> nicolle wallace? >> i learned at the very beginning of my dreer in politics never treat voters like they're stupid. i don't know who that guy was and i don't watch a lot of fox news any more. to treat viewers and voters and citizens like they're so stupid they don't care about anything other than sports is really cynical. i think it probably works for a segment of the population donald trump has already got locked and loaded, but this isn't about them. and i really -- we have to be careful not to lay over too much politics. we don't know what he found. there are really serious questions and we should give vo voters and viewers credit for whether or not their president -- he could have unwittingly, he could have unwittingly been acting as a russian agent. every voter -- whether it changes their political persuasion, whether or not it changes how they vote in the next election, i don't know. but i think we should give our viewers and our voters credit for wanting to know the answers to those kinds of questions.
>> neal katyal, you're nodding. someone at d.o.j. in the press room said what they did know was that the mueller report was comprehensive. d.o.j. knows from comprehensive this could be a very, very voluminous document. >> yeah, so first, i just want to echo what nicolle said. it brings pride to my eyes to hear someone say that because i do think that is our fundamental responsibility, which is to try and give viewers and the american public an education about what's in this report and what's likely to come. now, we are hearing that this report is comprehensive. i don't know what comprehensive means. it means different things to different people, but it does sound like there is going to be a substantial amount of detail in the report, and that is, i think, fitting for a report of this nature, and equally fitting for the american public to see that report for the reasons nicolle was talking about earlier. >> and, robert costa, your job is the world between and including law and politics.
and to nicolle's comments, it would be a good time for everybody to try to keep their powder dry. >> so far the mueller investigation has had its ups and downs. in alexandria's court with judge ellis, we've seen him be critical of the mueller probe. what matters now is the facts. what are the facts with the president's conduct? the american people, reporters, everyone just wants to know the truth and the facts. everyone from knox news to other commentators, they will have their opinions about this. but at the end of the day, if you're a reporter or a citizen, you want to know what happened, what was the intent, was it corrupt or not, and know the time line and know the context. that's what matters. that's why this investigation is so important. >> and, bob, a serious question about a not always serious medium, can the president continue to show discipline on social media tonight? we have not heard comment one from him. he had dinner with his family, we're told. he stopped by a gop fund-raiser
as well. nothing on twitter. >> based on my conversations tonight with white house officials and trump advisors, they're bracing for that political war. they expect nothing in terms of discipline or control with the president's tweets. the acting chief of staff mick mulvaney, the lawyer, mr. giuliani, none are prepared to rein the president in. they expect the president, whatever this report says, to be fighting day in, day out. this is going to overhaul the congressional front. this is going to change the rest of 2019 and the 2020 presidential race. a pivot point in the trump presidency tonight. >> and we underscore this news about the mueller report is six hours and 21 minutes old. that is also evidence it's been a long day. so our thanks to neal katyal, to nicolle wallace and robert costa. we appreciate you starting off our broadcast. with mueller's job now done, we have more with where it will all go from here. and later, the national security
risks that prompted the russia investigation in the first place, and the threats that still exist. "the 11th hour" just getting started on a critical friday night. that's what 24/7 means, sugar. kind of like how you get 24/7 access to licensed agents with geico. hmm? yeah, you just go online, or give them a call anytime. you don't say. yep. now what will it take to get 24/7 access to that lemon meringue pie? pie! pie's coming! that's what it takes, baby. geico®. great service from licensed agents, 24/7.
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we're back 25 after the hour. now that the mueller investigation is over, the focus will soon shift to the other open investigations, as we've been talking about, and to congress. the first priority on the hill is to make sure the report is released to the public as evidenced by the flurry of calls late today for transparency. there is a small sampling. there are four separate house and senate committee investigations into this president and his dealings currently underway. the chairs of two of those committees hinted tonight at what is next. >> the attorney general
committed to making as much of it public as was consistent with law or policy. if he's true to that, it means the entire thing -- 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. >> the mueller report concerns only crimes that may have been committed. our constitutional mandate is to look at -- is to maintain the rule of law, which means examining not only crimes, but other abuses of power and obstructions of justice. >> again, there are active investigations in the southern district of new york and the new york attorney general and the u.s. attorneys in the district of columbia and the commonwealth of virginia. with us to talk about all of it, jeremy bash, former chief of staff at y.i.a., former pentagon house intel. former u.s. attorney joyce vance who spent 25 years as a federal
prosecutor. and frank frank figliuzzi, former fbi assistant director for counter intelligence. gang, i'm going to ask you all the same questions. so fair warning, this is a big day for law so we're going to be fair here, too. what was the biggest moment or revelation? and do any of you have a lingering question from today that you would like answered? and home field advantage being what it is, counselor, joyce, you go first. >> i think the most significant thing we learned today came in attorney general barr's letter that was sent to congressional leaders. in that first paragraph, the first thing he told them was that there had been no request from bob mueller that was denied. so no request to indict or perhaps to subpoena a president that was denied. that was important for the attorney general to say. but with that said, there are an enormous number of lingering questions. so many loose ends for this investigation, both those that involve russia and those that
involve the other cases. this is unlike any other special counsel, or independent counsel case. there are lingering investigations, as you say, all over the country and on the hill. and more questions left to ask than have been answered. >> jeremy bash, same question. >> i think what was significant to me, brian, was that there is a report, that there is detail in bob mueller's findings, that he's presented that to the attorney general. and now it's up to i think the attorney general to disclose all of the entirety of that report to congress and to the american people. it is going to be an unsatisfactory situation. frankly a constitutional crisis if the attorney general, who is a presidential appointee, hand picked by donald trump, tries to shield these findings from congress and the american people. >> frank, same question. >> yeah, so, the mystery is not yet solved. the biggest revelation is noer indictments as has been reported. but the mystery that remains, the gap in our knowledge, simply
where we go from here with seeming loose ends that have not yet wrapped up. >> and, frank, we'll start a different vein here, and that is that mueller, in all various forms, found a way to -- we learned the term speaking indictment, thanks to all of our friends on this broadcast, over the last 675 days of covering this. he found a way, and his prosecutors, of telling a story as it rolled on in real time. much of what we know is thanks to the court papers that came out. ken, that still exists in this report and we're poking around in the dark without having seen anything. >> yeah, there is conjecture today running amuck. let me add to it. so, the phrase speaking indictments applies here because we've heard the story told as segments and a season on netflix as to what's happening. he's talked through detailed
indictments. now the question is what if he employs that same strategy in his report, but has what i would call speaking declinations. what if he explains why he did not ask to indict the president, but rather says, i have found all of this stuff -- it's damning, it's bordering on criminal conspiracy. i think he's compromised. here's all of it. and the purpose of it really is to begin impeachment proceedings. is that what the congress will take away and say, okay, you've told us you didn't indict, you couldn't indict, but now we have this evidence to move forward with possible impeachment. >> joyce, is that in the realm of the possible -- after all, think of how much they have hoovered up into this investigation. is it possible he and his folks would say at the end of the day they didn't think they had the proper resolution or the proper tools, that this was better handled by congress, but here's what we found? >> you know, i think it's
unlikely that mueller will get into congress's lane and tell congress what to do, but i think it's very reasonable to believe that he'll give us some form of speaking declinations, as frank says, and explain why he didn't think the evidence warranted a criminal indictment. we know at the end of the clinton investigation for prudential reasons starr declined to indict president clinton over perjury, potential perjury charges. we might hear something like that from mueller, and then he's developed this great body of evidence that the congress can use for whatever purpose they think is appropriate. >> jeremy barb, hesh, help me underscore. this report could be absolutely sprawling, and it kwcould be monumental and it could contain language that will surprise all of us tonight who will look back at this broadcast, 11:32 p.m. eastern time on friday when we got the report, and we'll marvel on how little we knew.
>> that's right. i think what bob mueller is going to piece together for us is the extent to which our president, our presidency, and ultimately american foreign policy is under the influence of the foreign adversary nation, and is compromised. and how a presidential candidate, campaign allowed itself to be under the leverage, political leverage and financial leverage of an adversary. i think it's important to point out, brian, that that activity may not violate the criminal laws of the united states. and to the extent that was bob mueller's writ, which was to understand whether or not criminal luz were violated, he is now able to submit his findings to the attorney general. of course, the broader question from a perspective of national interest is what foreign policy has been come ploe mized by the actions of the presidential campaign, by the candidate and by the president himself. >> frank figliuzzi, we had a little fun last night with the pictures proving that robert mueller owns a baseball cap and a valid driver's license and, in fact, drove a car to work this week. our own julia ainsley walked
into a restaurant in washington tonight, sat at the booth that had just been vacated by one robert mueller, a guy who has been a kind of public ghost-like figure with those of us repeating those same pictures of him over and over again. so we know he's going to be available to barr to talk him through the report he authored. is there any other work that they might have to sweep up that, even though the special counsel's work is done, that could still require more hours and work from mueller as he's trying to get a foot out the door? >> yeah, i think there are -- the last couple days he's feeling more relaxed, as you said, with his activity in public. but yes, i think one of those things left to do, brian, is i still adamantly believe that because this started as a counter intelligence investigation, he owes the senate and house intelligence committees a briefing. and i think he's waiting for permission to do that, as i used
to do as assistant of counter intelligence. you don't run to the hill without a phone call to d.o.j. saying i'm going to the hill for a briefering. he needs to get that green light. and then i think he owes them an explanation, highly classified on the counter intelligence findings that he's had. >> joyce, we just ran through everything that's still open, all the various field offices of the justice department. we use these titles, southern district of new york, for people who don't think of new york in terms of a north or south entity. it's the justice department's new york's field office, really, in manhattan. is that the most consequential of what's still open, or are you not willing to label any of the still-open investigations by priority? >> what we've seen publicly of what we've seen, southern district of new york appears to have some of the most important cases. they have the look into the inauguration. they have the look into the president's privately owned businesses.
but we've also seen a couple of moves by the new york attorney general which issued subpoenas to deutsche bank a couple of weeks ago, and it's entirely possible we'll see complimentary state action along with the work being done in the southern district of new york. there is a lot left there. >> jeremy, was anyone cleared tonight? mr. corsi was quoted on social media as having given a quote about, you know, i'm done, this clears me. i'm paraphrasing. but was anyone cleared? do people whose names we've been discussing still have reason to worry? >> i think they will do. no one was cleared. i think the hand offs were to other prosecutorial offices at the federal and state level. but i think most fundamentally, we've now entered the broader phase, the phase in which the constitutional questions are presented. the phase in which the national security questions are presented, and the phase in which the abuse of power questions are presented. and those are really questions for congress and ultimately the american people. can we trust this president to
carry out american foreign policy? that's not something that bob mueller could have told us. it's something we have to rely on our congressional representatives and ultimately the american people to decide. >> i think this is a good time to sneak in a commercial break. all of our guests are going to stay with us. when we come back, with all the noise about this and all of our discussion tonight, it is sometimes difficult to recall what got us here in the first place. we're going to talk about the national security threats that started it all that gave mueller his original charge. that and more when we come back. (client's voice) remember that degree you got in taxation? (danny) of course you don't because you didn't! your job isn't understanding tax code... it's understanding why that... will get him a body like that... move! ...that. your job isn't doing hard work... here. ...it's making her do hard work... ...and getting paid for it. (vo) snap and sort your expenses to save over $4,600 at tax time. (danny) jody... ...it's time to get yours!
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my people came to me, dan coates came to me and others, they said, they think it's russia. i have president putin. he just said it's not russia. i will say this. i don't see any reason why it would be. >> it's a tough moment for a lot of people to watch. russian meddling was at the crux of mueller's initial mandate, let's not forget, which called for, quote, a full and thorough investigation of the russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. now one year, ten months, six days later, the investigation has netted 37 indictments, including three russian companies and dozens of russian intel officers, and russian nationals. seven people have pleaded
guilty. we've learned at least 16 trump associates have had contact with russians along the way. back with us, jeremy bash, joyce vance and frank figliuzzi. jeremy, it's an odd question to ask, but you have repeatedly said this is the most important national security investigation of the modern era. are we better off -- even if no reforms come of it, are we better off for the fact that mueller's folks, the feds were digging into it? and we have these indictments and now the troll and bot farms half a world away know we're at least onto them. >> yeah, i think so. i think the indictments of the russian intelligence officers from last year sent a shot across the bough. but what's truly trouble, kongs institutionally troubling at this hour, brian, usually in a national security investigation after you conduct your findings, you would brief the commander in
chief, the president. what do you do if you suspect the president himself is the national security threat? we don't have a play book for that. we don't have a play book for when the national security investigation target is the president. so here, again, this is going to have to go to congress and congress is going to have to evaluate fundamentally the evidence that robert mutter has put together and all the other things they can to investigate, how do you deal in a constitutional crisis we have now before us as a nation. >> you may have just made the point. evening. i would add to that a discussion you and i have had on a rolling basis on this broadcast, and that is your assumption that your fellow professionals in the intel community have put heads down and have kept doing the job they were trained to do, even if orders looking like that haven't come from the top. >> that's right. i think they had spoken truth to power, which is their tradition and their training. they have done their work and they have called out russian
interference and russian meddling, even as the president has refused to. >> frank figliuzzi, how much ground, in your view, have we lost in what should be the central fight our disbelief that another country reached into our country and affected our presidential election to a degree we have yet to decide and agree on, but how much have we lost in what should be a daily fight against them? >> so, the definition of intelligence that most people use is inactionable information. so as jeremy said, perhaps the greatest finding so far in the mueller case has been the fact that russia clearly meddled and attempted to meddle with our election. it's great intel, it's great information. it doesn't become great intel until it's actioned and we have a chief executive who appears not to be actioning that information. so the question is, if you have all of this great findings -- the question is what are we doing about it?
there are reports already, brian, that russian bots are already on social media trying to get us thinking in a certain direction toward the 2020 election. what have we done to shore up resources and security around our next election? what are states doing about it? is anybody listening? and until we have a chief executive who says this can't happen again, we're still in a national security risk. >> joyce vance, i have to say that with this new vocabulary we all have, it was the speaking indictments that laid out the story of the extent of the russian attempt to ram up against our defenses electronically. turns out we opened the door for them and they came right in. that was kind of an extraordinary early part of the story we all got to read. >> it was. and i think people should go back and reread those indictments, both the troll farm indictment and the hacking
indictment. they do tell a narrative story and it's a very important one. the real problem, and i think jeremy and frank both hit the nail right on the head, is we know that russia tried to interfere with our elections, and this president -- because either he was compromised or he felt like maybe the result of the election was called into question -- was unable to acknowledge russian meddling, russian interference, and has taken no steps to shore up the safety of our elections, which are really managed at local government levels, at county levels. and yet nothing is being done to assist those units of government in conducting elections with integrity from further russian interference. >> jeremy bash, i have a hunch that proper names like wikileaks and assange are going to come back into the national conversation right quick. how should, in your view, americans think of those two proper names? >> well, i think they should think of them as agents of the russian federation, wigs how hiw
our intelligence community thinks of them. there are points the russian d federation went to the trump campaign. they said we have dirt on hillary clinton. the russian government went to the trump tower and had the meeting. a russian intelligence officer met with paul manafort and talked about polling and proprietary data. and, of course, roger stone served as a conduit for the trump campaign and the russian federation's intelligence assets. so you have multiple points of contact. again, i think the prudent question here for the congress as we move into this new phase of the investigation is, okay, maybe no laws were broken with respect to those relationships, but was there an abuse of power? was there a compromise of american foreign policy? because that ultimately goes to whether or not the president remains fit for office. >> frank, is it something else entirely to try to bring assange or wikileaks to any american style or american notion of justice? >> oh, i don't think people are
giving up on that in washington or inside the fbi or inside the department of justice. i think it's quite possible. i was part of early discussions on how to handle wikileaks and assange, and i can tell you those agents, those prosecutors are still working -- there is clearly something very significant going on in the eastern district of virginia involving wikileaks and/or assange. perhaps he's already been indicted. and i think the key gap in our knowledge, brian, is tying him to a plot to release the russian-hacked e-mails with a deliberate intent to mess with the election. did they understand they were an agent of russia? did they understand they were going to damage the electoral process in the united states? my gut tells me yes, they did. the question is how to prove that. and if that can be proven, every attempt will be made to get assange back here for justice. >> joyce vance, i watched
between 12 and 14 hours of cable news coverage, it occurs to me, just today. and i don't like to brag. i did hear it theorized that when we woke up this morning, the most important american alive was robert mueller. by tonight, it's william barr, the attorney general, a man who has had that job before. do you concur? >> i'm not sure if i agree. i think what's really important -- and i'm going to just say this at the risk of sounding silly and patriotic. >> oh, please do. i do it all the time. >> the most important person in america tonight is the average american citizen who should be paying attention, who should be reading the indictments, who should be watching what william barr does, who should be a student of bob mueller's work because in 2020, we're going all have the most important decision of our lives to make in the ballot when we vote in the election. whether congress acts, no matter what their conclusions or bob mueller's were, each of us has an obligation as an american citizen to determine whether
this president is fit for office. >> sometimes it's a matter of knowing which quote to end a conversation on. and i think we just heard it. jeremy bash, joyce vance, frank figliuzzi. a long day's journey, and tonight, much obliged to your help on our broadcast tonight. thank you, the three of you. coming up on this consequential friday night, a pulitzer prize winner who is pretty good with words himself is here to h us put everything into perspective when we continue.
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ongoing feud with george conway, husband of his counselor kellyanne conway. conway questioned the president's mental capacity. the president fired back, called him a wack job and then some. trump continues his attacks on the late republican senator john mccain. he blames him for the steele dossier, complaining that he was never thanked for approving mccain's funeral, among other things. finally, this is just today, trump undercut his own administration by rolling back new sanctions on north korea. his spokeswoman explained it's because he likes chairman kim. and he said again today that democrats are anti-jewish. so while this may be the kind of week we've become accustomed to around here, it may well be known as the week before the mueller report versus after the mueller report.
and so on a night like this we are so pleased to have our friend jon meacham here with us in new york. pulitzer prize-winning author and historian. latest work is "the soul of america: the battle for our better angels." welcome. >> thank you, sir. >> what will we remember march 22nd for? and for how long? is this -- are we living a moment of true consequence within a moment of true consequence? >> yes. my mind immediately went to july 16th, 1973, alexander butterfield reveals that the white house has a taping system. then it went to november 25th -- 26th. iran contra is revealed. reagan comes in the briefing room, ed meese is there. he says not only did we sell arms but we diverted the money to the contras. >> a genuine moment.
>> and so what we don't know, and this is with a nod to secretary rumsfeld, is a known unknown. we don't know exactly what it's going to look like. but what is in this report i believe will shape at least the next six years of political history because if he hasn't got him, let's just speak bluntly, if he hasn't got him trump will spin that into a strong position in two years' time. he'll say the deep state tried, they spent all this money, it didn't happen. if they've got him, we may or may not have a witting asset of a foreign government in the oval office. and so to me the most -- i know this. this i do know. attorney general barr is not streaming netflix tonight. he is reading something that will shape who we are for at least two years, six years, and like watergate, like iran contra it will have significant implications going forward. >> unlike those periods we have a president whose use of fascinating, wherever you want to begin, but talks about "our
people." his base. not of the collective, the kind of steward of all of us. he talks about his people and used a phrase in the last 24 hours, "people wouldn't stand for that." and everyone knows exactly what he's talking about. >> exactly. will there be a maga pitchfork rebellion? and that's going to be one of the great questions here, is will this inevitably go into the tribal cuisinart? and 50% of the country are going to think he's guilty, 49%'s going to think he's not. but the 49% is louder and more motivated. to me in an interesting way it's the most fascinating citizenship question because will fact actually continue to be a
governing principle in our political affairs or is it going to be what people want to believe, not what's on the page? >> well, who has the moral authority? who can speak with enough lumber to move those numbers, those percentages you just listed? >> i think that director mueller himself, interestingly, has become that figure. i don't think we're in a position where -- we all talk about the goldwater moment where hugh scott and john ryans went down. but that was so late. it was the 6th of august and nixon left on the 8th and 9th of august. i think it's going to be -- joyce was just saying this. i think it's going to be all of us. it's a stress test for citizenship. and are we -- are republicans, the party that gets a lion's share it seems to me for victory
in the cold war, which will upset democrats, but i think that republican presidents and ultimately reagan and bush were so essential there. started by truman and conducted by all of them. but republicans built a significant presidential governing coalition on projecting power against the soviet union. and standing against totalitarianism. they have to recover that tradition and think about what the facts tell them. you know, reagan used to say -- i think that first speech in 1964 for barry goldwater, right before the election, now just known as the speech. he said the problem with liberals is not that they don't know but just so much they think they know that isn't so. that's what has to be applied now i think to people who are inclined to believe the president at all costs. >> i have about 20 seconds. when carl bernstein says, as he says to this day, republicans were the heroes of watergate, is that too easy or do you concur with that writ large? >> they were very late. at the very end of the day they jumped in front of the train. i think in a weird way it transcends those quick -- the standard partisan dimensions
here. there's about 20% of the country that actually does make up their mind based on facts, and i think it's on those folks who are not already assigned to one team or the other. and they need to be the umpires. >> i'm amazed you didn't just call them better angels. thank you very much. you transcend your fair share as 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. i'm coming to you live from washington with a big show tonight. we're more than 24 hours away
from when bob mueller first submitted his formal report to the justice department ending his russia probe. bill barr and rod rosenstein at the doj working today and the idea they would be releasing, as soon as this weekend, a set of principal conclusions from at least who was indicted and not indicted in the mueller probe. so everyone now expecting to see the findings as soon as tomorrow. could be the same time the public would get them, as members of congress. and some here on team trump are starting to say they get to celebrate. we believe mueller has not recommended any further indictments for anyone in president trump's orbit. the democrats say this is far from over. >> the whole report right away is what we will be demanding. and potentially using subpoenas to obtain. we're at the beginning of potentially another battle. a new phase. >> what happened today is the close