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tv   MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson  MSNBC  April 18, 2019 7:00am-8:00am PDT

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and walked away, he said mueller worked for me. he wrote this report for me. no, i'm sorry, sir, he wrote the report for the american people. >> neal katyal, as someone who had a say in how this process was supposed to work, what of that rang false to you? >> the process obviously is a problem, with this press conference before we even get to see the reports. >> there is that. >> it's a free spin. i've never heard of that. i think that we had a bunch of smart people at the justice department trying to anticipate every possibility. no one would anticipate something like that. but i think to me the bigger thing is going to be the substance. what does the mueller report say? how did barr reach the conclusions he reached. he was mixing a bunch of different things. he was saying first factually the president was frustrated so he didn't have corrupt intent for obstruction of justice. i'd like to know how the heck he knows since mueller didn't even interview president trump. that's one thing. the second is, it sounded like
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he was making a legal conclusion that there was no obstruction of justice because there was no underlying crime that was proved. now, that i think is a pretty dubious legal conclusion. i'd like to see the basis for that. it seems to me that's probably more of what was going on in this final barr determination and less about the facts just because barr didn't actually have the facts. >> there also is an underlying crime. it was robert mueller who sent the cohen cases to sdny where trump is in the hush money case. if you're the attorney general, you sit atop the highest department. if your special counsel found obstruction occurred, there is under investigation, under scrutiny and borne out an underlying crime of conspiracy to defraud the voters. >> that's a really important point. mueller's lane was limited to russia and obstruction relating to russia. we know that in the course of that he learned stuff about hush
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money, campaign finance and spun that off to the southern district of new york. we don't know and bar didn't tell us today whether the mueller report is going to get into anything about campaign finance or if that's an entirely separate thing that everything and all of the events and the velocity today, we're not going to know a thing about that, it's going to keep on going and we'll have to wait and see. >> for those just joining us, we have 58 minutes away from the moment that members of congress and their staffs are due to receive a compact disk, that is the version of this report they will get. at some point after that we, members of the public, will get to see what they're able to see. jeremy bash among those watching and listening a.g. barr with us. your findings? >> i thought the attorney general's presentation was very weakly argued. he said the internet research agency in russia engaged in
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social media manipulation and there were no trump campaign officials that actually assisted them with that social media manipulation. we already knew that. that's not actually the conduct we were looking for. he further said the trump campaign didn't engage in the hacking. we already knew that. we know the trump campaign wasn't doing the hacking. it was the russians doing the hacking. the question is whether or not the trump campaign and the candidate himself knew about the russian interference, whether they welcomed it, whether they alerted the fbi, whether they benefited from it and whether they rewarded it. none of those questions were answered by the attorney general's presentation today. one thing was interesting, brian, he said with respect to wikileaks and its dissemination of the hacked emails, he said under our law, you can't be guilty of an offense of disseminating hacked information if you didn't participate in the underlying hacking. we know the trump campaign didn't participate in the underlying hacking, and he left blank, and i think for our imagination to run about whether or not they participated in the
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dissemination. i think we can conclude that they did. the mueller report will tell us. if the trump campaign did participate in the knowing dissemination of the hacked emails that were part of the russian interference, then i think by any reasonable analysis, they knew of, benefited from and rewarded russian interference in the election. that's the underlying conduct we need to focus on. >> frank figlusi joining us. you've been involved in your fair share. this is the first time i can remember, this was almost a victim impact statement in advance talking about the feelings and emotions of the subject of the investigation. >> so i realize we're in unprecedented territory here. if your viewers are wondering whether this is normalcy, out in the field, in an average field
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office in the fbi, u.s. attorney's office or district out where they live, the answer is no. there are no standards for such a thing in terms of this kind of press conference. let me start with a positive observation because then it's going to go downhill. the positive observation is that we heard the a.g. open up with the russia issue. we heard and i heard close to what i needed to hear, that he acknowledges a foreign adversary meddled with our election. here is where it goes downhill. the agency was speaking with forked tongue today. he's been emphasizing the criminal standard. we found no crime, no criminal elements met here. then he says, he repeats the president's mantra, there was no collusion. well, which is it? there is no crime called collusion. if you're applying a criminal standard and saying you didn't find it, then you can't say there was no collusion. we go to the fundamental issue
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of whether the attorney general's role was to make a call that the special counsel chose not to make. there's going to be much legal debate about this. he says we're prosecutors, we're supposed to make calls. but the special counsel is not all about that, particularly where counterintelligence case is involved. the american people and congress need to make this call if the special counsel couldn't do it. so today we heard essentially a spin attempt in favor of the president. this issue of no americans being involved in any of the russian efforts doesn't ring true to me. we have manafort handing polling data to a russian individual known to have intelligence affiliations. we still have roger stone under investigation. we still have wikileaks and julian assange under investigation. we don't know the degree to which russia was involved with them and americans involved with wiki. we have a president who said, russia, if you have the emails, i hope you release them. we need to see this report. >> frank, thanks.
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barrett berger, long-time federal prosecutor with both the southern and eastern districts of new york. you've been watching and listening. your initial reaction. >> one thing that really stood out to me was barr's comments about how the white house and president trump cooperated fully with this investigation and were so open and so transparent and tried to help this investigation as much as they could. to me that is absolutely untrue. not to mention the president never sat down for a face-to-face interview with the special counsel's office. we know that even his written answers were only on limited topics, especially when you consider the amount of vitriol that the president was pumping out about the special counsel's office on a daily basis, repeatedly calling it a witch hunt, questioning the motives of the prosecutors and the agents regularly. it is just baffling to me how you can call this complete and total cooperation with an
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investigation. this is not cooperation like anything i would have ever seen as a prosecutor, berit berger who is also along with us, awaiting the actual text of the report. let's not forget that is the focal point of today, also of counsel to our effort is ari melber who will be a key reader as this comes out, an interpreter of the legal text. ari, what have you got so far? >> good to see you, brian. i've been listening along with all your talented experts. i heard five important things from mr. barr here. number one, he concedes even in this glowing account that, quote, there were multiple disagreements with mueller on policy. he has his strategic reasons for conceding that now. i expect we'll see a lot more of what that might be in the report. so disagreements between barr and mumer. number two, as mentioned, mul r
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/* no mueller. number three, big headline, brian, they gave a redacted copy of this whole report to the white house early. they may have their reasons and policies for defending that, but that's a headline after mr. barr claimed he would be far more uniform, letting everyone basically see the same thing roughly at the same time. so congress still waiting, the country waiting. we hear from barr on his version of events. but the white house didn't have to wait. that's striking. number four, this anger defense doesn't really hold water, brian. the notion the president was, quote, angry and frustrated, and that proves he doesn't have intent. you don't have to be a lawyer to know a lot of people get angry, ang remember is not a defense at trial, certainly not a defense to what was your mindset. the real question is whether you were cooperating or not. finally, a reference to ten episodes of obstruction. i think what's significant is what barr didn't get to and didn't detail. he detailed things he thought
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were helpful to president trump, his boss. he didn't discuss any of what those ten episodes are we'll be watching the report, what is in the report about them. >> ari, that brings us to the relevant question of this morning, having taken one publicly for the team, buzz dar's influence fall off a cliff in the next hour? >> i think what we see here is the most high stakes political lawyering -- i don't like to refer to the attorney general as doing plightolitical lawyering. to your question, brian, mr. barr is daring the narrators, the press, a vibrant internet that can pick apart details to compare everything we've heard in these 20-plus days where he's tried to dominate a narrative about the report, and it will be stacked up against the redashted report and what else might be underneath those redactions.
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two big fights here. number one, what is the space as we get this report later today and understand what those disagreements were, what those ten episodes were, why mueller explains he did what he did. whether the emphasis on the russian government, part of this, quote, no collusion claim, is doing a lot of work. what else the trump campaign may have tried to do and then what comes after that, whether there's any impropriety or hiding or lack of transparency in these key redactions. >> let's show our audience what the leader of the free world has tweeted out in the past few minutes here, a piece of artwork. there you have it. no collusion, no obstruction for the haters and the radical left democrats game over. nicolle, that's your president. >> this is from fox news, chris wallace of fox news watching the same live event. chris wallace on fox news said
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this, quote, the attorney general seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president rather than the attorney general, talking about his motives, his emotions. really, as i say, making a case for the president. that's fox news ian analysis. i don't know how involved the president gets and the subtitles -- it looked like a copy right infringement. i'm not a "game of thrones" geek. i think the idea that they're going to try to bully the analyst is so trumpian. you go back to donald trump standing at a podium saying don't believe your eyes, don't believe your ears. you take the dystopian elements of the trump presidency and you wonder, am i nuts or is this really what i'm seeing? they don't want you to believe your eyes and ears. what just happened was plain as day. the country's attorney general is now in the words of fox news' chief political anchor chris
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wallace functioning as donald trump's defense attorney. >> it's not just not believing eyes and ears. there's a misdirection going on. any attorney general that i've ever known in the past, and they had the responsibility at a press conference, if you had a report that said the russians interfered with our election, don't you think you would have said something about what donald trump said about that, that it wasn't russia, it might have been a 400-pound guy. he also tweeted once the mueller probe should never have been started, there was no collusion, no crime. trump was wrong about those things. that's what the mueller report after 22 months said. the attorney general never said a word about that. >> neal, since when do we talk about the feelings and emotions of the subject of an investigation the day the report is issued? >> not just the day of. imagine a prosecutor, if a prosecutor said, oh, that defendant i'm investigating or fbi agent you're investigating,
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they seem frustrated, i don't think you should brung curveball charges. that would be ridiculous i can't think of anything more demoralizing than having the prosecutor make excuse after excuse of what happened. >> especially when robert mueller didn't get a chance to evaluate the president's state of mind. robert mueller never got to interview the president and the president didn't respond to written questions about the obstruction investigation. what did barr know about the president's state of mind that robert mueller never had access to and how did he know it? >> we have 45 more minutes before members of congress and of course the members of the public are allowed to see the cd rom of this report. >> i feel like it's just theater going on. there is no reason whatsoever why the report shouldn't have been given first before the barr press conference except so that barr could get out his talking points and try to influence the
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direction of the country first and get out ahead of the story. i suspect what's going on now is a long twiddling of thumbs. it's not like they're redacting now. they're done. >> i think that's too cerebral. i think the presidepresident vi presidency as a tv show. when you bomb in the view of chris wallace on fox news, when you go so far that, as the president is watching all this on fox news gets a negative review, that's how the president processes every event of his presidency, how fox news and the immediacies it. i think the president had to have loved, loved what he saw out of a.g. barr. i imagine the president is frustrated that even fox news wasn't buying all that spin. >> after a long career in the law, the attorney general would have to reconcile himself to the fact that this will be how his reputation is set in legal history again at the age of 68. he made clear in his
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confirmation hearing he was looking forward to life of leisure and a life of retirement and he wasn't looking to get back in the game, did not seek this job. others have disagreed with that with the unsolicited memo he submitted on the scope of presidential power. we're looking forward to talking to our two folks who were inside that news conference and that's pete williams and julia ainsley to get some of the flavor of that event. you'll know hardly every question was answered, especially some of the more negative questions the a.g. blushed past. our own carol lee continues to watch and listen. carol? >> brian, look, i think there's no other way to say it. the attorney general went in, made a conscious decision that he was not going to let this report speak for itself. i think nicolle makes a really important point. there is a question of whether he went too far. if everything he said is true,
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then would it have been more beneficial for him to let the report come out and then say what he had to say? if you look at the things he said, he said more than a dozen times in one way or another that there was no collusion. he went through and defended the president in ways that i'm guessing the white house probably didn't think he would go so far to defend him, particularly on the obstruction piece of things. and he didn't leave a lot of wiggle room in terms of things -- for things that we may come to learn. he almost sort of presented it as a fait accompli that there wasn't going to be anything worth digging through in this report. yet there's one thing, and jeremy bash touched on this a little earlier, that he did leave this bread crumb out here, that i'll be curious to see what the report actually says and that's when it comes to the wikileaks information and whether or not there was any
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efforts by the trump -- individuals in the trump orbit to work with them on the dissemination of that information. he said there was no one who illegally participated, and that seemed to be the only part of everything that he said that left open the possibility that we will read this report and see something in there that perhaps isn't seen as an entire vindication of the president's team in terms of know collusion. but he specifically said there was nothing illegally happening there. >> carol lee, thank you. chuck rosenberg, former u.s. attorney, former senior fbi official is among the folks we'll be able to talk to today. chuck, you recognized attack tick at work here today. >> i did brian. that's a good word for it. the tactic is something we call as prosecutors drawing the sting. and we use that in opening statements to a jury during trial.
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prosecutors go first because we have the burden of proof. so we tell the jury the weaknesses in our case. we also tell them the strengths of course, but we tell them the weaknesses so they hear it from us and not from the defense attorney when she goes next. what struck me as odd here today is that the attorney general drew the sting. he talked about things favorable to the president, but he didn't add that second piece. we know there's information in that report damaging to the president, particularly on obstruction. there are ten episodes we're told, yet the attorney general only talked about stuff favorable to the president, and that struck me as odd and it did strike me as a tactic. it means we have to read the book. book reviews may be informative, but the book is where it's add. we need to see what muleer said, not the characterization of what mueller said by the attorney general. that was a tactic.
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he did employ it. it's disappointing to me, but not terribly surprising. >> i was just going to say are you surprised at this. let me take another swing at this. are you surprised given his body of work and his life in the law and what heretofore was his reputation? >> i am. i mentioned this on nicolle's show the other day. i started off believing that bill barr was a principled institutionalist. over the past several weeks i've seen data coming over the transom tho suggest he's not wht i thought him to be. i think there's still hope, a chance, maybe perhaps that he is the bill barr we knew from the department of justice 30 years ago. but what he seems to be doing -- and this was particularly troublesome when he talked about the, quote, unquote, spying by the fbi which is just a ludicrous term to use to
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describe court-authorized surveillance, that barr has gone too far into the tank for the president of the united states. so i am disappointed, i am shah glyned and i frankly, like i am many times in my life may be flat out wrong about bill barr being a principled institutionalist. >> chuck, we had that conversation and your words have haunted me ever since. we are now in a position of covering the two big stories, the evolution or devolution of william barr as our country's attorney general. for the very first time we're about to see ten instances of what robert mueller examined as obstruction of justice. they talked about seeing evidence on both sides. do you deduce from what you've heard at this point that they build their obstruction case and it will be in the obstruction report? can you imagine any case law being cited. do you imagine they argued for or tried to bring an obstruction
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case? what do you think we'll see? >> i imagine we'll see a pretty compelling pattern of obstructive conduct. if mueller looked at ten episodes and if it includes stuff we don't know about -- and the stuff we already do know about is fairly compelling, i imagine there's a strong case for obstruction. i will say this and we've been hinting at it, in order to determine that the president had a sincere belief, nicolle, you're spot on. in order to determine that the president had a sincere belief that his presidency was was frustrated and angry, wouldn't you need to talk to him? to characterize it that way to me is troubling. i would love to see the mueller report, the actual book and not the book review to make that determination for myself. >> what do you think we'll see, chuck, in terms of explaining the non-conclusion? no mention from william barr about the way the obstruction investigation ended.
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it didn't end the way barr says it ended. he changed the ending like an unsuccessful pilot. it did not end in exoneration, in a declination letter, it read in a special counsel version of a hung jury ri. >> which seems unfilling. i always thought the reason they didn't reach a conclusion is because policy precludes charging a sitting president and for good reason i think, any sitting president would be unnecessarily, perhaps improperly burdened with a stigma that attaches to criminal charges and would have difficulty defending themself while in office. politically it would become untenable. i'm not saying that because i particularly favor mr. trump. that just strikes me as sound policy. if that's the policy, maybe it's also stigmatizing and burdensome to recommend charging a sitting president. that's always been my working theory about why the mueller team came up a step short in its recommendation.
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i am very anxious to read that part of the report. >> chuck, we did hear the attorney general say that he thought it would be fine if mueller testified. did mueller need his approval at all? we were kind of operating under the assumption that mueller would go ahead and appear before, among others, house judiciary. >> generally speaking -- by the way, i'm sure mueller is just thrilled that bill barr offered him up. nothing he'd rather do i'm certain. but generally speaking, brian, sub bored nats within the department of justice and everybody is subordinate to the attorney general testifies essentially with the permission of the attorney general. there's an expectation that senior officials that run agencies like fbi, atf, dea, will testify on behalf of their agencies. mueller is a subordinate official. it's appropriate for bill barr to make that call.
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i'm glad to hear he's going to permit it. mueller is the straightest straight shooter i've met in my decades of the department of justice. and i'd like to hear what he has to say about the mueller report. >> presumably we'll find out if mr. mueller found these four mentions of no collusion in today's statement to be excessive. neal. >> it might look like a good thing that barr did, and it is good, saying he has no objection to mueller testifying is really low-hanging fruit. chuck, one slight tweak on what chuck said, mueller is a special counsel. he's from outside the justice department and indeed will be a non-justice department employee very soon. that was done when we wrote the regulations for a very important reason, the kind of fail-safe break glass thing is if the attorney general is preventing the special counsel from providing the truth to the american people. we went and picked someone from outside the department to be the special counsel for exactly that
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reason, so that they're outside the chain of command and could testify. so barr knows that. barr knows there is no way to stop mueller from testifying because he won't be a justice department employee. so he gave that up, but he's not giving up very much. >> to chuck's point, we know how much mueller loves public appearances. >> exactly. >> joyce vance is watching along with us, as she has for these prior 22 months, former u.s. attorney, these days a professor at the university of alabama law school. joyce, we have yet to get you on the record what we just witnessed at the department of justice. >> it was a very sobering press conference for people who have watched attorney generals talk about serious cases. this felt a lot like what we heard president trump's defense lawyer explaining mueller's case to us. it did not feel like a sitting attorney general. as i wrote notes, made notes of what barr was saying, i reached a point where i just wrote barr
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continues to shill for the president. it felt like that is exactly what was going on. he talked about how well, how fluidly the white house had cooperated with mueller and he listed documents and the vabltd of senior witnesses without ever commenting on the fact that the president of the united states refused to present himself for an interview with the special counsel despite repeated requests. that's not cooperation. that's just spin from barr, and at the end of the press conference in response to a question, barr got a little indignant when he was asked about the report and made the point that mueller wrote the report for him, and that's just not true. mueller is there, is in place because of conflicts inside of doj which works for the president at the end of the day. this entire notion that bar is somehow supplanting mueller's independent role i think characterizes what we saw this morning perfectly. >> joyce, it's already been
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mentioned around here, it would harken back to a conflict decades ago, we would not be surprised if some headline writer came up somewhere bagdad bill barr for what we saw today. i'll read you four different quotes. put another way, the special counsel found no collusion by any americans. quote two, in other words, there was no evidence of trump campaign collusion with the russian government hacking. quote three, after finding no underlying collusion with russia, the special counsel's report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the president could amount to obstruction. quote four, yet as he, donald trump, said from the beginning there was, in fact, no collusion. you and others have pointed out this word collusion is not a term in the law. >> it's not a term in the law, but it's clear that as the attorney general bill barr knows how to speak the president's
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language and is speaking to an audience larger than an audience of one. but this certainly resonates with the president. it's very difficult to see an attorney general doing this. so many of us had hoped that once bill barr returned to that building on pennsylvania avenue he would feel gravitational pull inside doj and do the right thing. during the confirmation process, a wrote a piece for slate and pointed out that, because he had written this 19-page audition letter to get the president to hire him, the people of the united states would probably lack confidence in his outcome. and that seemed to be disqualifying for him as an attorney general. i think that's even more true today instead of bringing this episode to a close, barr's participation will in many ways make people less certain about this out come and it is a sad day for all of us. >> it's been said before, the questions are out there whether or not he views the president as his client or the people of the
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united states of america. joyce, thank you. ari melber was among those highlighting this, the portion of barr's presentation about obstruction, the natural question is how can you prove or disprove obstruction if you didn't have an in-person interview with the president? here, nonetheless, is that portion. >> after finding no underlying collusion with russia, the special counsel's report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the president could amount to obstruction of the special counsel's investigation. as i addressed in my march 24th letter, the special counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. instead the report recounts ten episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting those activities to the elements of an obstruction offense.
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after carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report and in consultation with the office of legal counsel and other department lawyers, the deputy attorney general and i concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of just dissolve offense. although we disagreed on the legal theories and felt some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that on making that decision. >> again, so notable there that there was disagreement, if you look at rosenstein and barr as team a, disagreement with the legal theories settled upon by robert mueller. andrea mitchell, watching and listening with us. andrea? >> i was so struck by that
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because what the attorney general seems to be saying and going out of his way is to say there was no intent. how do we know there was no intent without an interview? it seems to me the white house lawyers, personal lawyers of the president were brilliant in one regard in particular, in demanding that there be no interview and they only submit written answers to questions, because there's no way that mueller could follow up and try to determine the intent. to say that there was no intent based on what the attorney general says were extraordinary unprecedented circumstances, the context, and then to go out of his way, as though he was a defense lawyer, to explain the pressure that the president was under coming into office with all of the allegations against him regarding russia and alleged conspiracy or collusion, if you will, that is not his role. if you even compare it to what james comey did in that highly criticized presentation against hillary clinton, he did not talk about her state of mind, he did
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not talk about her intend. he just said she was extraordinarily careless and he decided there was no basis to prosecute. here the attorney general is going well beyond that even in clearing the president. i think this is, as chuck rosenberg said, going to be a real black mark on his long and previously distinguished career, because he has gone way outside the bounds of what the attorney general should have been presenting, even if you concede that he should have pre butted or preempted the reported before having this news conference which i think was extraordinary and really objectionable. already you see demands for robert mueller to testify. nadler has made that demand from the house side. amy klobuchar, one of the candidates and a key member of the judiciary committee, said you won't hear that from the senate republican chairman, but certainly from chuck schumer and other members of the democrats in the senate, that mueller is going to have to be front and center.
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you did hear barr say he has no objection to mueller but he wouldn't be able to object because mueller after today is no longer a member of the department of justice or an employee. >> frank figluzi, considering the communication or lack of it between mueller and bar. >> i think we're seeing evidence of a fundamental dysfunction between the special counsel's office and the attorney general. here is why. ari melber mentioned earlier the absence of mueller at this press conference. i think that's ill luis straive of an absence of mueller in a.g. barr's decision making. in response to a reporter's question this morning, the attorney general said he never even talked to mueller about mueller's possible intent to let this decision go to congress. that to me is a major issue. imagine having read a book that
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fascinates you. you have many, many questions about this book. you find out that the author lives down the street, he's available to answer your questions and you say no, i'll interpret the book all by myself, never mind. that's essentially what barr has done here. this notion that barr saying mueller failed to make a traditional prosecutorial decision, well, guess what? we're not in any kind of traditional prosecutorial mode here. we're talking about a special counsel inquirquiry that has ma other aspects to it than just finding crime. i'm seeing a fundamental disconnect between what the attorney general thinks this is about and what the special counsel was supposed to do. >> frank, thanks. nicolle wallace, the news media love to find associations and play them up. i am convinced we overdid it on
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the extent of the mentor-mentee friend ship between mueller and comey. it is also clear we overdid it on the extent of the friendship for three decades between mueller and barr, they having been guesting at each other's children's weddings. you'd think they'd talk. >> friends can disagree. i think what frank is getting at is key. the what is abundantly clear. the what is attorney general william barr and source close to the attorney told me -- i said why is he doing all this? this was around the policy announcement around asylum, where he backed a policy of indefinite jail time. i said why? he said he's deeply invested in donald trump's success. a normal president, we would all be deeply invested in his success. this was an investigation at its core about donald trump's daily, sometimes hourly assault on the rule of law in this country.
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as the country's chief executive he sat in his pajamas watching "fox & friends" maligning the fbi, maligning robert mueller, maligning rod rosenstein. bill barr didn't walk into that room with the scale at zero. rule of law had a deficit because donald trump had been kicking it in the teeth for 22 months. what the country's attorney general did was walk in there and back up the guy doing the kicking. the question for me now turns to why? why? it also goes -- >> do you have an answer for that? >> i don't. it goes back to the obstruction memo. did they happen to pick a guy who happened to have so much free time that he just happened to write a 19-page memo saying a president couldn't obstruct justice and b robert mueller who you described i'm sure accurately as his friend, should never, ever be able to query the president on the topic of obstruction? there will be a strong wave of trying to bully the press saying
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it's over, it's over, no collusion, no obstruction. really? then why did all that happen today? why have we heard from barr five times if the mueller report is so awesome for donald trump? we have now heard from someone who is a human shield of mueller's findings five times. if mueller exonerated trump on collusion, if there's nothing ugly in there, why have we heard from barr five times? >> that's all about to fall away in a little more than 20 minutes. neal katyal, i'm thinking there was an attorney general named robert kennedy who was greatly invested in the success of the president. how and why is this different? >> i think even when we wrote the special counsel regulations, we thought a lot about bobby kennedy. obviously the brother of the president -- >> hadn't tried a case in court. >> no. but goes down as legendary attorney general in part because he generally did his job and responsible for all sorts of good things, civil rights and
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the like. but one of the points for having the special counsel is because we knew sometimes you can have an attorney general who is just compromised for one reason or another. here i think nicole is absolutely right to say this attorney general, the way he's been acting, it's not like he showed up on day one and was surprised donald trump is a train wreck for the presidency. he ran to that nuisance, wrote the 19-page memo. trump had been burning the rule of law in all sorts of way. one thing we haven't talked about, our dear friend rod rosenstein. this is a guy who appointed mueller, tried to, it looks like from all outward accounts, tried to steer the ship in a good way, he sat today right behind barr in a press conference, a press conference that violated his own key tenet. what he said in his memo about firing comey is this, quote, the goal of a federal criminal investigation is not to announce
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our thoughts at a press conference. i'm sorry, that's just what happened. >> that's just what happened. >> that's just what happened. rod rosenstein, we all know in reporting in multiple news organizations was angry that his memo about comey's conduct was used as the justification for firing comey. that was the act, that was the presidential act that put in motion nine days of bayhem. for rod rosenstein to stand behind william barr who just uttered the president was frugs streeted that there was never any collusion. rod didn't think so or why would he have appointed the special counsel in the first place? so many whys as the smoke from the production starts to fade. >> jeremy bash who also happens to be a harvard educated lawyer has a contribution to this conversation. >> i thought where the attorney general was the weakest is when he defended the president's conduct of obstructive action
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where he said the president believed his political agenda coming into office would be compromised. the same could be said about erdogan, putin, kim jong-un. they believe their political standing, their position atop the government is threatened, so they lash out, sometimes in unlawful, illegal, unethical and shakeful ways. the fact that the president sincerely believed he was under fire, doesn't mean his obstructive actions were legal. i think the attorney general's spin on that was extraordinarily weakly argued. i also think, brian, it's important to note that essentially the attorney general conceded that the trump campaign did conspire with wikileaks to dissame nate the hacked information. he simply said because they didn't participate in the underlying hacking, therefore, it's not an underlying crime. the fundment question is did the trump campaign know about russia's interference and weld come it. we know of course they did. >> nicolle, i'm getting the word
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contemptible performance. >> it was remarkable. jeremy is right. the country's top law enforcement officials should have underscored the headline that jeremy just did. the reason we're getting to it an hour in is because the trump campaign did collude with wikileaks on the dissemination. no crime was committed. we should all celebrate that, that our president and his campaign didn't commit a crime. the reason it's an hour afterward that we're getting to these rev late tory things is because the attorney general said six times trump didn't collude, trump didn't collude, trump didn't collude. >> jeremy, your analysis with wikileaks and dissemination is spot on. what's the protection for our country to make sure the trump
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campaign but some other campaign doesn't do the same thing? >> it's a critically important point. the department of justice is part of the apparatus of our government along with the intelligence community, department of homeland security and other agencies that's supposed to defend the country, not just the political standing of the president. we need a department of justice, an attorney general who will be resolute in that defense, one who understands this was a threat to our country, that the presidential campaign, the candidate himself and the incoming president did enable that threat, did welcome it, did benefit in it, did reward it. if the attorney general can't say that, can't defend us, he's not the attorney general. he's just the attorney for donald trump. >> just to our audience, i was just listening to something from the control room. we expect the president to speak in some form here shortly. we expect it to be just as much a prebuttal as what we just heard from the attorney general. this is at a military event
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previously scheduled as you just saw there in the restroom. here is what we're going to do. we're going to listen, we're going to watch, as we continue our conversation and coverage, we're within about 15 minutes of this thing dropping on capitol hill. we'll show you anything that we all -- we've deemed we must see and hear. nicolle go ahead. >> our friend george conway says it's hard to comprehend what barr is doing here. if the report is helpful to trump, the most effective thing to do would be to let the report speak for itself. if it's not helpful to trump, presenting it in a one-sided fashion does not help trump but makes him feel more culpable and undermines pub luck confidence in the leadership of the department of justice. it's helped no one, not trump and least of all not the country. he sent that note to neal and me. i think it's important to sort of monitor conservative types
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who have an affection and passion for what the justice department is supposed to be. it's knost just the president's critics unsettled by that performance. obviously george is a critic of this president, but it's lifelong conservatives who feel gutted as the contamination of trumpism at the highest levels of the justice department. it's more ironic to see bar do it than it was to see whitacre incompetently do and jeff sessions recused, ran this justice department in a way that was less unsettling. >> i think it's not just the media commentators and people like that, it's also people in the justice department itself. a lot of people at the justice department are very strong republicans, but i've heard time and again, including this morning, from people saying what is our attorney general doing? this is not the department i stood up for. i dedicated my career to the
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rule of law. what is happening? >> would it be revolutionary neal if at 5:00 p.m. today, after we've done all our reading and pulling apart and talking, robert mueller, bill barr stood at that same lectern and said to the press corps, we'll take your questions to the best of our ability? what would be wrong with that for a democratic society? >> i don't think anybody would be wrong with that. the public paid for this investigation, the president obviously didn't want to have it. he said we shouldn't do it. we got the investigation and now we should get to learn all the fruits of the investigation. >> maya wiley standing by to join us. she'll be joining our conversation all day. of course, a former assistant u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york now with the new school in new york. high yeah, we've yet to haer you weigh in on what we've witnessed thus far. >> i agree with so much of what's been said. i would backtrack to the
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question about what the mueller report tells us about the amount of evidence related to conspiracy. it's clear there was enough evidence to institute a special counsel's investigation in the first place. so much of what we have seen that is in the public already indicates evidence. the question is how much evidence. one of the things that william barr said that established him as a defense attorney as opposed to an independent attorney general for the united states is no crime versus crime. in this instance it's really about there may not be sufficient evidence to establish a crime. the question for our democracy and that congress must answer is how much of a concern should we have about our national security and how much evidence is there of whether it's incompetence or whether it's actual criminal to
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use foreign government essentially for a campaign's own ends. remember when he talks about obstruction of justice and when he talks about the fact that we lad a president who is deeply frustrated and under scrutiny, there are two things happening in how william barr said out that conversation. one is he talked about the fact that his theory on obstruction included the fact that the trump administration cooperated, except that there's so much of a public record about all the ways in which they did not cooperate starting with the fact that he was extremely angry at jeff sessions for complying with department of justice regulations by recusing himself from the investigation and failing to protect the presid t
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president. on the topic of the scrutiny he was under, remember there were 102 members of the trump team in conversation with foreign nationals, particularly russians, 28 meetings between the campaign. when barr says dissemination is not a crime. well, aiding and abetting is. we have campaign finance crimes. there's a lot of question we should have about the possibility of criminal activity that he simply papered over. that's why congress has to see the full report. >> that's why we'll spend the remainder of the daylight hours today when we finally get our hands on this language, pouring over it with friends and of counsel colleagues like maya wiley. maya, thank you. neal katya, i noticed michael beschloss on twitter asking the
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simple question, where is robert mueller? we weren't crazy to ask that question. >> absolutely. in an ordinary justice department investigation, the investigators will be right behind behind the attorney general. it is a little -- more than a little unusual to have this. but i at least like the fact that barr said that he'll let mueller ultimately testify. this is a drip, drip strategy. two weeks ago we hear bill barr's conclusions then we have to wait a couple weeks. then we hear the press conference and have to wait a few hours for the redacted report. then there will be a fight over the unredacted report which will take weeks or months as well. this is being stretched out to try and then say from the white house perspective oh, this is gone on too long. it's gone on too long in part because of these different delays they've imposed. >> we'll see people come and go quickly around here today because we are sharing our
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experts. it's uncommon to have with us in the studio the author of the regs that form the superstructure we'll be talking about all day. we'll be sharing our experts with other of our networks, so they're going to come and go. neil will leave us briefly but he'll be back when we have text in hand to help us. nicole and i are not attorneys, if you can believe that. thank you, we'll see you in a few minutes. ari thankfully is a cornell educated attorney. we've got, what, nine minutes until members of congress get this in some form or fashion. i imagine the public is minutes away from learning what's in this text. >> that's exactly right. so we turn from the press conference, which is a presentation to the underlying material if they happen to match really well, that might resuscitate some of what the
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attorney general has done. looking so much more like rudy guiliani than like an independent ag. if they depart we dig into that and the facts. we are now over an hour away from that unusual press conference. i want to make a point, we dealt with what was in it and did some fact checking. i want to make a point for you and the viewers about what wasn't in it that is so suspicious about mr. barr's presentation. he discussed the indictments of russian naemtionals and organizations. he discussed his view that was sympathetic to the president. he can do that. do you know what he didn't discuss? he didn't ever mention the many americans who were indicted by bob mueller or handed off to other prosecutors and were indicted. some of whom served at the most senior positions in our government, like the national security advisor. manafort and gates. others accused of obstruction
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crimes and lying about these underlying issues like mr. pop dopilo -- papadopoulos and stone. if the american public can tick off those gamnames, if some of those names were the origin of the probe -- because it began before donald trump was elected. and before bob mueller was appointed. it began scrutinizing people around donald trump, including paul manafort. if all those people were the start of the probe and the probe ends, and mueller racked up those convictions, it's more than odd -- i say this carefully in my role as a journalist. it's suspicious the attorney general, when speaking to the nation to wrap the probe, didn't mention any of those americans and those convictions. which are part of the productive record of mr. mueller. i'll add one more point.
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i think it's relatively obvious. you've been leading an informed discussion about what obstruction is and isn't. several were obstructive crimes by some of president trump's inner most advisors and aides. the fact that his lawyer has confessed to lying to congress about russian related matters could go into the analysis of the president's alleged obstructed in those incidents we'll be reading in moments. >> keep all those thoughts fresh as we get the report. ari melber, thanks. occupying the seat here in our studio is matt miller, former doj spokesman. this is your old realm. even the briefing room we're talking about today, this is what you did for a living. and doj is famous for following procedure and tradition.
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today had nothing to do with procedure and tradition. >> no, i've never seen a press conference like that from an attorney general. deputy attorney general. u.s. attorney, any prosecutor at the justice department. there were a few things that you've talked about that really astonished me. one was the way that he opened his remarks by clearing the president. i've never been seen any prosecutor come out and say we proved a crime didn't happen. you can't prove a negative. investigators will say we closed the investigation without bringing charges. the other thing that really surprised me was for him to make excuses for the president's attacks on the justice department. it would be one thing to come out and say we have concluded, i have concluded the deputy attorney general has concluded the president didn't obstruct justice. that's what he said in his letter. i'm not sure that was the right thing for him to do. let's say he wants to make the conclusion. for him to say that the president was facing an unprecedented situation really excuses the president firing jim
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comey. the president asking for a investigation to be shut down. all his attacks on the department of justice and gives the president license to keep doing it. this wasn't the only investigation into the president. he's now just gotten the green light to keep attacking the justice department. i thought that was an abdication of an attorney general's job to protect the department, its independence and stand up for the men and women who work there. >> which is really important if you're a career member of this government. >> it's really important. it's a great reminder. "the new york times" had sort of an obstruction opus at the beginning of the year. donald trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation are not the only attempts at obstruction. they reported that donald trump had explored through matt whittaker getting his appointed u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york to
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unrecuse. unrecusal a trumpian thing to get someone who has recused himself from overseeing an investigation to get back involved, to stick their hands back into the soup if you will. he wanted his u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york to unrecuse from the cohen spin off cases. trump's instinct is what it's always been. i talked to a close trump ally after the first or second barr letter came out and i said where does it go from here? donald trump, he won't change. what will remain unchanged is trump's affinity for obstructing investigations. trump's attacks on the judiciary go all the way back to the campaign where he maligned judge curiel regarding his bogus university, whatever that was. donald trump is hardwired to malign law enforcement. and the fact that he got an enabler, a cheerleader and an
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apologist in the attorney general is as big of a story today as what we're about to learn from the 22 month long mueller investigation. >> part of the way he excused it was by saying the president was under a lot of pressure because a number of his associates was under investigation. a number of those associates are criminals. they have now at the end of the investigati investigation, some of them pled guilty and been convicted. for the attorney general to say it's okay for him to go and ask for the end of investigations into his criminal associates is really an astonishing thing for an attorney general to do. >> we're coming up on one minute away from 11:00 a.m. a witching hour in that electronically and/or otherwise this is going to get transmitted to members of congress. and then subsequently to us news media and through us to the public. just to show you what we're watching, there's a white house event starting now.
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the president is being introduced. we're going to monitor that. if we get any other than pr -- this is a veteran's event, so it may be unusual to hear comments about politics or the law. today nothing happens randomly. nothing happens by accident. it's by design that at 11:00 a.m. at the drop point of this report, all the attention is focused over on the white house at the president. again, we'll monitor that. we're watching capitol hill and we presume we'll hear directly from some members of congress when people have had the opportunity, which the white house has had, to read this and digest this. we anticipate several subsections. we anticipate the fact that we'll be act to read now some of the summary material that mueller apparently intended for
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all of us to read as his summary that it was ready for public dissemination. >> that's right. "the new york times" and the washington post reported that summaries were prepared by mueller's investigators. these stories came out around the same time they reported that some of the folks involved in the mueller investigation were unhappy with how their 22 month probe was being represented by barr and others. these were summaries that were ready weeks ago when barr first made his first run through pulling i think just 44 words or sentence fragments. we have never seen a complete sentence as crafted by robert mueller's team. it's been 22 months of an investigation and now i think more than three weeks of barr's spin on that investigation without a single complete sentence. as you said, there were summaries ready to go. there's also -- i'm told to look for around the known flashpoints in


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