tv MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin MSNBC May 1, 2019 8:00am-9:00am PDT
beyond a reasonable doubt. what makes this case very interesting is that when you take away the fact that there were no underlying criminal conduct, and you take away the fact there was no inherently maligned obstructive act, that is the president was carrying out his constitutional duties. the cessiquestion is what is th of taking away the underlying crime? and it's not -- the report suggests one impact is well, we have to find some other reason why the president would obstruct the investigation. but there's another impact, which is if the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, if -- and he knew they were false. he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his
political opponents and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel. so that's another reason that, you know, we would say that the government would have difficulty proving this beyond a reasonable doubt. >> my time is up. >> senator grassley. >> senator johnson and i wrote you about text messages between peter strzok and lisa page that appear to show the fbi may have tried to use counterintelligence briefings for the trump transition team, as intelligence gathering operations. i hope you'll commit to answering the letter in writing, but also providing committees the requests briefing. that's my question. >> yes, senator. >> have you already tasked any
staff to look into whether spying by the fbi on the trump campaign was properly predicated and can congress expect a former report on your findings? >> yes, i do have people in the department helping me review the activities over the summer of 2016. >> okay. i suppose it depends on what conclusions you come to, but is there any reason why congress wouldn't be briefed on your conclusions? >> it's a little early for me to commit completely, but i envision some kind of reporting at the end of this. >> the clinton campaign and the democrat national committee hired fusion gps to do opposition research against candidate trump. fusion gps then hired christopher steele, former british intelligence officer, to
agencies and the fbi. my question, mueller spent over two years, $30 million investigating russian interference in the election. in order for a full accounting of russian interference attempts, shouldn't the special counsel have considered on whether the steele dossier was part of a russian disinformation and interference campaign? >> i don't -- special counsel mueller has put out his report, and i have not yet had anyone go through the full scope of his investigation to determine whether he did address or look at all into those issues. one of the things i'm doing in my review is to try to assemble the existing information out there about it. not only from hill investigations and the oig, but also to see what the special counsel looked into. so i really couldn't say what he
actually looked into. >> but you think -- in other words if you had looked at all that information right now, you're telling me you could have said yes or no to my question? >> if i had looked at it. >> and you're going to attempt to find some of this information if it's available? >> yes. >> similarly, shouldn't the special counsel have looked into the origins of the fbi's investigation into alleged collusion between the trump campaign and russia? >> the origins of that narrative? >> yes. >> i don't know if he viewed his charter that broadly. i don't know whether he did or not. that's something that i am reviewing and, again, will look at whatever the special counsel has developed on that. >> yeah. in volume ii of the report, the special counsel declined to make a prosecutorial decision.
instead the special counsel laid out 200 or so pages relating to a potential obstruction analysis and then dumped that on your desk. in your press conference you said you asked the special counsel whether he would have made a charging decision or recommend charges on obstruction, but for the office of legal counsel's opinion on charging sitting presidents and that the special counsel made clear that was not the case. so mr. barr, is that an accurate description of your conversation with the special counsel? >> yes, he reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the olc opinion he would have found obstruction. >> if the special counsel found facts sufficient to constitute obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding? >> if he had found that, then i
think he would state it, yes. >> was it special counsel mueller's responsibility to make a charging recommendation? >> i think the deputy attorney general and i thought it was. but not just charging, but to determine whether or not conduct was criminal. the president would be charged -- could not be charged as long as he was in office. >> do you agree with the reasons he offered for not making a decision in volume ii of his report and why or why not? >> i'm not really sure of his reasoni reasoning. i really could not recapitulate his analysis, which is one of the reasons in my march 24th letter i stated the fact he did not reach a conclusion and didn't try to put words in his
mouth. i think that if he felt that he shouldn't go down the path of making a traditional prosecutive decision, then he shouldn't have investigated. that was the time to pull up. >> okay. there have been a number of leaks coming out of the justice department and fbi during high profile investigations. the inspector general found that during the department's investigation of hillary clinton for mishandling highly classified information, there was a culture of unauthorized media contacts. during the russian investigation, the leak continued. leaks undermine the ability of investigators to investigate. further leaks to the papers, while congress' questions to the department go unanswered is unacceptable. why -- what are you doing to investigate unauthorized media contacts by the department and fbi officials during the russian
investigation? >> we have multiple criminal leak investigations underway. >> thank you. >> senator leahy. >> thank you, attorney general. i'm somewhat troubled by your testimony here and in the other body. you appeared before the house appropriations on april 9th. you were asked about media reports that the special counsel's team is frustrated your march 24th letter didn't adequately portray the report's findings. i believe it was congressman crist asked if you knew the members of the special counsel's team was concerned about. you testified in response, no, i don't. you then said you merely suspected and would have preferred more information was released with a letter.
now, we know that contrary to what you said april 9th that on march 27th, robert mueller wrote to you expressing specific concerns that your march 24th letter -- remember you were testifying on april 9th. that your march 24th letter failed to capture the, to quote mr. mueller, the context, nature and substance, closed quote, of his report. and what really struck me mr. mueller wrote your letter threatened to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel. assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigation. why did you testify on april 9th that you didn't know the concerns being expressed by mueller's team, when, in fact, you had heard those concerns from mr. mueller two weeks before. >> well, as i said, i talked
directly to bob mueller about his letter to me and specifically asked him what exactly are your concerns. are you saying that march 24th letter was misleading or inaccurate or what? he indicated it was not. he was not saying that and that what -- >> that wasn't my question. >> well, i'm getting to the question, which is the question from crist was reports have emerged recently, press reports, that members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your march 24th letter in that they don't adequately or accurately portray the report's findings. i don't know what members he's talking about. and i certainly am not aware of any challenge to the accuracy of the findings. >> mr. barr, you seem to have
learned the filibuster rules better than senators do. my question was, why did you say you were not aware of concerns when weeks before your testimony mr. mueller had expressed concerns to you. that's fairly simple -- >> i answered the question. and the question was relating to unidentified members who were expressing frustration over the accuracy relating to findings. i don't know what that refers to at all. i talked directly to bob mueller, not members of his team. and even though i did not know what was being referred to, and had -- and mueller had never told me that the expression of the findings was inaccurate. but i did then volunteer that i thought they were talking about the desire to have more information put out. but it wasn't my purpose to put out more information. >> mr. barr, you, i feel, your
answer was purposefully misleading. i think others do, too. let me ask you another one. you said the president is fully cooperating with the investigation. but his attorney had told a defendant he'd be taken care of here a conflict in that?ith the >> could you repeat that? >> mr. manafort and mr. cohen were told they would be taken care of if they did not cooperate. you said that the president was fully cooperating. is there a conflict there? yes or no. >> no. >> do you think it's fully cooperating to instruct a former aide to tell the attorney general to unrecuse himself, shut down the investigation and declare the president did
nothing wrong. >> i don't think -- well, obviously since i didn't find it was obstruction, the evidence -- >> i'm asking if that's fully cooperating. >> he full cooperated. >> by instructing a former aide to tell himsethe attorney gener close down the -- >> where is that in the report? >> that is on volume ii page 5 on june 18th, 2017, the president dictated a message for lewandowski that sessions should announce his recusal from the investigation. the president had done nothing wrong. >> right. >> is that cooperating? >> firstly, asking sessions to unrecuse himself, we do not think is obstruction. >> i'm not asking if it's
obstruction. is it cooperating? >> i don't know if that declares the president did nothing wrong, although the president, in terms of collusion did nothing right, is that not correct? >> correct is not a crime, it's obstructing. is that fully cooperating to say that? >> well, i don't see any conflict between that and fully cooperating with the investigation. >> the president, of course, declared many times publicly in tweets and at campaign rallies that he would testify, but he never did testify, correct? >> as far as i know. >> i think you know whether -- >> as far as i know he didn't testify. >> and mr. mueller found the written answers to be inadequate, is that correct? >> i think he wanted additional, but he never sought it. >> the president -- >> he never pushed it.
>> the president never testified. does the fact that mr. mueller found the trump campaign was receptive to some of the offers of assistance from russia, or the fact that the trump campaign never reported any of this to the fbi, does that trouble you? >> what would they report to the fbi? >> that they were receptive to offers of assistance from russia. >> what do you mean by receptive? i think the report says, you know, obviously -- >> well -- >> obviously they were expecting to benefit from whatever the russians -- >> the volume 1 report says in sum, the investigations have multiple links between trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the russian government. those links included russian operative assistance in the campaign. in some instances the campaign was receptive to the other,
whereas others were not. that doesn't bother you at all? >> i have to understand what that refers to. what communications that referred to. >> you have the report, i just gave you the page for the report. i know my time is up. i'm making the chairman nervous. >> very well done. senator cornen. >> the chairman has pointed out that after the hillary clinton e-mail investigation there were a number -- at mr. comey's press conference, july 5th, 2016, there were a number of prominent democratic members of the senate who said that comey should resign. or be fired. i believe you said that you've clu concluded as a matter of law that the president is the head of the executive government has the right to fire executive
branch employees. >> that's correct. >> the president was relying at least in part by a recommendation by rod rosenstein, aarising out of his critique of mr. comey's conduct in holding that press conference, releasing derogatory information about secretary clinton but announcing no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges against her, is that right? >> that's right. >> you started your career, i believe, in the intelligence community and then moved on, of course, to the department of justice. thank you for agreeing to serve again as attorney general and help restore the department's reputation as an impartial arbiter of the law and not as a political arm of any administration. i think that's very important that you and director wray
continue your efforts in that regard. i thank you for that. i do believe we need to ask the question, why didn't the obama administration do more as early as 2014 in investigating russian efforts to prepare to undermine and sow dissension in the 2016 election. mr. mueller's report does document that the russian government through the intelligence agencies and their internet research, i.r.a. i think it's called, began as early -- >> again, our intention is to bring as much of this uninterrupted to you as possible. dick durkin is coming up after senator cornen of texas. so much has been said here and plac placed on the record by attorney general. we want to correct some of the record against of all things what it says in the mueller report.
>> so i'm not going to dance around this. he's lying. he's lying about what the mueller report finds around one of the critical flashpoints in the obstruction investigation. one of the incidents that was investigated by robert mueller and his obstruction investigators was the attempted firing of the special counsel. it was one of the incidents that was under investigation into days before mueller wrapped up. he's quibbling with whether removing mueller and firing him is the same thing. here's how donald trump talked about removing/firing special counsel. this is from chris christie's testimony. one of five witnesses cited in the footnotes, about donald trump's efforts to fire robert mueller. he recalled a telephone conversation with the president in which the president asked what christie thought about the president firing, not removing, the special counsel. christie advised against doing so because there was no basis
and the president would lose support from republicans in congress. i'm going to disagree with his testimony. here's mcgahn. again, from the footnote in the obstruction report. although mcgahn recalled receiving multiple calls from the president on the same day, he was not specific about the dates but he was confident he had two phone conversations with the president in which the president directed him to call the acting attorney general and have the special counsel removed. it's also the colorful reporting from this report where don mcgahn says to reince priebus the president asked me to do some crazy shit. i'm sorry to swell. but i think we've got an attorney general lying about what the mueller report around what was the most investigated flashpoints in the obstruction investigation. my question, again, is why.
>> why did the president -- the republicans seem to be relitigating the presidency of hillary clinton? >> well, what's interesting to me about that is it's not like that's not under control. there's an inspector general that has looked at the conduct of fbi agents, pete strzok and lisa page. i heard lindsey graham drop the f-bomb to make the highlight reel of fox news. but the real mystery -- i don't know if it's much of a mystery anymore -- is why is he doing the thing that robert mueller wrote two letters accusing him of doing, which is distorting the contents of the mueller probe. >> it makes it interesting when bob mueller testifies. if there was and if they're good at questions, they'll have these precise comments by the attorney general highlighted for mueller. they're going to ask him true or false. >> here's the other thing, this
news organization, "the washington post," "the new york times," every news organization that wrote stories about the investigation flipped through this report the day it came out to see if they were found wrong. i was told by a senior justice department official on marc march 25th, the day after one of mueller's letters was sent. i said what does it look like? it's in chronological order and the difference between the news accounts and the mueller report is that mueller found those incidents did happen and provides the evidence. the justice department was not saying privately or publicly that any of the reporting around obstruction was wrong before it came out. this is the first time that a justice department official is quibbling with the press coverage and mueller himself cites many news organizations in the actual obstruction report. >> indeed, people will be taken aback to hear barr say in effect if not exactly, if the president wasn't going too be prosecuted e
shouldn't have been investigation investigated. >> it's an inexplicable statement to make. i think nicole said it best, she said we're hearing not the attorney general of the united states, we're hearing the president's defense lawyer. because it sounds like attorney general barr is refuting the mueller report on the president's behalf here. >> again, we do this reluctantly, but sometimes in the back and forth and verbiage and word salad we hear, it's helpful to know what it is we're hearing, in this case from the attorney general of the united states. chief law enforcement officer for the people of the united states. and not to echo nicole's argument, the defense counsel for the president of the united states. we're going to go back in the room, finish up with senator cornen of texas and then we'll
go to dick bourbdurbin, democra illinois. >> senator durbin. >> thanks mr. chairman. it appears my colleagues are going to work together on the lock her up defense what about travel gate, whitewater. there's a lot of material we should be going through according to their response to this that is totally unresponsive to the reality of what the american people want to know. they paid a lot of money, $25 million for this report. i want m i respect mr. mueller. i find some of the things you be engaged in leave me wondering what you believe your role as attorney general is when it
comes to something like this. listen to what -- since its put in the record, let me read it. listen to what you received in a letter on march 27th from bob mueller. march 24th, did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of the office's work and conclusions. we communicated that concern to the department on the morning of march 25th. there is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. this threatens to undermine a central purpose are for which the department appointed the special counsel to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations. i cannot imagine that you received that letter on march 24th and could not answer congressman crist directly when he asked you whether there were concerns about representations being made on these findings by the people working for bob mueller. you said no, i don't know after receiving this letter. what am i missing? >> as i explained to senator
leahy. i talked directly to bob and bob told me he did not have objections to the accuracy -- >> attorneys don't put things in writing unless they're pretty serious about them. there's an old rule in politics, a good politician doesn't write a letter and doesn't throw one away. if he puts it in his writing, his concerns of your representations, you couldn't recall that when congressman crist asked you that question a few days later? >> no, i'm saying that this was -- the march 24th letter stated that bob mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction. it had language in there about not exonerating the president. my view of events was there was a lot of criticism of the special counsel for the ensuing few days. on thursday i got this letter.
when i talked to the special counsel about the letter, my understanding was his concern was not the accuracy of the statement of the findings in my letter, but that he wanted more out there to provide additional context to explain his reasoning on why he didn't reach a decision on obstruction. >> i'll just say this, mr. barr. if you received a letter from bob mueller a few days after your march 24th letter, it was clear he had genuine concerns about what you had said and done. can we move to -- >> his concerns was he wanted more. i would analogize it to this. you know, after a months long trial, if i wanted to get out to the public what the verdict was, pending preparation of the full transcript -- i'm out there saying here's the verdict and
the prosecutor comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says the verdict doesn't fully capture all my work, how about that great cross-examination i did, or how about that third day of trial where i did that. this doesn't capture everything. i'm trying to state the verdict. >> you used the word summarize in your letter. >> summarized the principle conclusions. >> which most people would view as a summary. let me move to another topic if i can for a minute. the office of legal counsel's decision as to whether or not you can prosecute a sitting president, you had pretty strong feelings. they were reflected in your volunteered memo to the trump defense team, your 19 page memo. >> did i discuss that? >> you certainly discussed whether or not a president should cooperate with an investigation. you said at one point in summarizing the findings of mueller that the white house fully cooperated. we know for a fact -- you stated already -- the president never submitted himself to what was characterized as a vital
interview, an actual sit down interview under oath. not once. and that his questions that were answered, some 30 times his memory failed him. so to say the white house fully cooperated i think is a generous c conclusion. on the office of legal counsel, i would refer you to volume ii of the mueller report. on page 1 he talks about the whole issue of whether or not he was in any way restricted in what he could conclude because of the outstanding office of legal department. you said that had nothing to do with it. how do you explain on the first page of volume ii that says it had a lot to do with it. it's a reason he couldn't reach a binary conclusion of obstruction of justice. >> one of the backdrop factors he cited as influencing his
prudential judgment he should not reach a conclusion, rather than saying but for the -- >> i'm going to stand by what he's written. i ask others to read it as well. the last point i want to make is about don mcgahn. if you read the section here, 113 to 120 on don mcgahn's experience, the president wanted him to state publicly that the "new york times" article was untrue. that he had not asked mcgahn to fire the special counsel. mcgahn refused. and there's some speculation as to whether he risks being dismissed or resigning over this issue. for you to suggest this was some sort of a kabuki dance with rod rosenstein, i think the president's intent was very clear. he wanted this to end. he told lester holt, going back to the issue that was raised by the chairman, the reason to get rid of comey is because of the
russia investigation. over and over again this president was explicit. it certainly is very expository in a style. let me ask you this, my time is up, do you have any objections, can you think of an obstruction of why don mcgahn shouldn't testify about this experience? >> yes, i mean, i think that he's a close advisor to the president. >> never exerted executive privilege. >> we haven't waived privilege. >> what about bob mueller, should he be allowed -- >> i already said publicly i have no objection. >> don mcgahn, should he be allowed today testi testify. >> it's a call for the president to make. i assume he's be testifying about privileged matters. >> i would hope we could get to the bottom of this with actual witnesses after we take a closer look at hillary clinton's e-mails. thank you.
>> we might do that. >> in his classic descent in morrison v oleson, justice scalia remarked that nothing is so politically effective as the ability to charge that one's opponent and his associates are not merely wrong headed, naive and ineffective but in all probability crooks. nothing so effectively gives an appearance of validity to such charges as a justice department investigation. that observation has been borne out time and time again over the past two years. time and time again the president's political adversaries have exploited the mueller report to superintend baseless innuendo in an effort to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election and the effectiveness of this administration. for example, on january 25th,
2019, speaker nancy pelosi asked what does putin have on the president politically, personally or financially? mr. attorney general, is there any evidence to suggest that vladmir putin, quote unquote, has something on president trump? >> none that i'm aware of. >> on february 20th, 2019, former fbi deputy director, andrew mccabe said on national television to the entire nation that he thinks it's possible that donald trump is a russian agent. mr. attorney general, is there any evidence that you're aware of that suggests even remotely that president trump is a russian agent? >> none that i'm aware of. >> representative eric swalwell has said that president trump acts on russia's behalf. is there anything you're aware of that backs that up? >> none that i'm aware of.
>> basically we've heard over and over again on national tv, in committee hearings, on the house and senate floor, and in the media, we've heard about the president's alleged collusion with russia. but what we have heard is as baseless as any conspiracy theory that we've seen in politics. any that i can think of. the only difference here is that the purveyors of this conspiracy were in many cases prominent members of the opposition party. that's concerning. now, from the beginning, there were some indications that the russia investigation was perhaps not always conducted with the absolute impartiality the american people should expect and have come to hope to find in existence within the department of justice. especially given that the track record of excellence the u.s. department of justice has shown.
according to the mueller report itself, the investigation into the trump campaign began on july 3rd july 31, 2016, after a foreign government contacted the fbi about comments made by george pop d papadopoulos. is that accurate or were there other precipitating events that led to this? >> that's the account that's been given in the past. >> you said it's possible that the federal bureau of investigation improperly spied on the trump campaign. i assume that's a reference to the fisa warrant for carter page. is that you have in mind? or are there other circumstancesio ahave in mind. >> there are people -- many people seem to assume that the only intelligence collection that occurred was a single confidential informant.
and a fisa warrant. i'd like to find out whether that is, in fact, true. it strikes me as a fairly anemic effort if that was the counterintelligence effort designed to stop the threat as it's being represented. >> was carter page under surveillance during his time working for the trump campaign, which was roughly january 2016 to september 2016? >> i don't know. >> was any other trump campaign official under surveillance during that time period to your knowledge? >> these are the things i need to look at. as i've said before, the extent there was any overreach, i believe it was a few people in the upper echelons of the bureau and perhaps the department. those people are no longer there. i'm working closely with chris wray, who i think has done a
superb job at the bureau. we're working together on trying to reconstruct what went down. one thing people should know is the bureau has been handicapped in looking back because of the pending mueller investigation and the oig investigation. >> as we know the fisa warrant for carter page was based largely on the so-called steele das y dossier. first according to the warrant, page had a secret meeting with the president of rosnev. has the mueller report confirmed that meeting? >> met with who? >> with igor -- >> i don't remember that. i want to stay away from getting too deeply into the fisa issue.
that's currently under investigation by the oig. impor the warrant also says that page met with and discussed camp romat about hillary clinton. does that confirm that? >> i don't think so. >> does it confirm that page discussed ramp romat on hillary clinton? >> not that i recall. >> the warrant has been discussed by the mueller report, which is the gold standard of what we're discussing here. i'm glad that you're looking into it. i encourage you to look into why the fbi relied on this false information. and i hope you'll share the results. the public obviously has a right to know what happened here. the u.s. department of justice and the federal bureau of
investigation have a long history and a long history of success that has been been based on respect. they deserve to understand there's not so much power concentrated in that agency. the outcome of an investigation can depend on the whims who might be assigned to it. they have a right not to believe that a particular investigation might be strzok and page. might not be tarmaced. might not be influenced by an improper consideration, politically or otherwise. thank you, mr. attorney general. >> senator whiteple house -- we'll do senator whitehouse and why don't we just come back an hour later. we'll break for an hour and do the votes and have lunch. >> thank you, chairman. attorney general, you had a conversation with chairman graham earlier this morning which you described the
importance of hardening our electoral infrastructure against foreign election interference. i ask you, is anonymous election funding an avenue for possible foreign election influence. and interference. >> yes. >> let's turn to the march 27th letter which you received and read march 28th, the mueller letter. >> uh-huh. >> correct? >> yes. >> when did you have the conversation with bob mueller about that letter that you've referenced? >> i think it was on the 28th. >> same day you read it? when did you first learn of the "new york times" and washington post stories that would make the existence of this letter public, the ones that came out last night?
>> i think it could have been yesterday, but i'm not sure. >> when they contacted you to ask for any comment? >> they didn't contact me. >> contacted doj to ask for any comment? >> i can't remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it. >> at some point you knew that the mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday? >> i think so. >> okay. >> when did you decide to make that letter available to us in congress? >> this morning. >> would you concede you had an opportunity to make this letter public on april 4th when representative crist asked you a very related question? >> i don't know what you mean by related question. it seems to me to be a very different question. >> i can't even follow that down the road. boy. that's masterful hair splitting.
the letter reverences enclosed documents and materials, right? are those the same things as what you called the executive summaries that mueller provided you? >> with this letter? >> yes. >> yes. >> it's all the same document? >> i'm sorry. >> when you talk about the executive summaries that mueller provided you, they're the documents that were -- the enclosed documents with that letter which we have not been provided? >> i think they were. >> the -- >> we provided them. they're in the report. the summariesry's in the report. >> it's the language of the report in the report, there's nothing else he provided you? >> i think that's what he provided. >> okay. if there is anything else, will you provide it to us if it's different. it's odd to be given a letter -- >> i think they were redacted versions of the -- >> can we get that -- >> the summaries are embedded in
the report. >> can we get that just to be sure? >> sure. >> great, thank you. >> you agree none of that was grand jury or presented a risk to intelligence sources and methods or would interfere or -- >> i think -- >> or were affected by executive privilege. >> there were redactions made in the executive summaries. but as i said i wasn't interested in putting out summaries -- >> this is another hair splitting exercise. because bob mueller described your letter as a summary. you can say it wasn't a summary, but mueller said it was a summary. >> i wasn't interested in summarizing the whole report. i was stating the bottom line conclusions of the report. >> your letter itself says it's intended to describe -- i quote your words -- >> describe the report -- >> four pages and it's a 400 page report, i don't know why you're -- >> because i state in the letter i'm stating the principle
conclusions. bob mueller is the equivalent of a u.s. attorney. he was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. he's part of the department of justice. his work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. at that point, it was my baby. and i was making a decision as to whether or not to make it public. i effectively overrode the regulations, used discretion to lean as far forward as i could to make that public. and it was my decision how and when to make it public, not bob mueller's. >> with respect to the olc opinion that informed bob mueller's decision as he describes in the report, do you agree that that's a executive opinion and under our constitution the decision as to what the law is made by the judicial branch of the united states government? >> i'm sorry. >> with respect to the olc opinion, that informed mueller's
decision not to make a recommendation on obstruction, as he said in his report, do you concede that is an executive opinion and that under our constitutional system what the law is gets decided by the judicial branch of government? >> yes. >> is there any way for the olc's opinion to be tested by the judicial branch of government to see if it's correct or not? >> none that comes to mind. >> it could be wrong, could it not? >> i guess hypothetically it could be wrong. >> legal minds that disagree with it, correct? >> excuse me? >> there are many respected legal commentators and professors and lawyers who disagree with it? >> it's very hard to find lawyers that agree on anything. >> so the interesting thing to me is that it goes on to say that because of the olc opinion, we have to give the president an extra benefit of the doubt because he is denied his day in court where he could exonerate
himself. that seems like a fallacy to me. if you're the president of the united states, you can either waive or override the opinion and say i'm ready to go to trial. i want to exonerate myself. let's go. could you not? >> how is this relevant to my decisions? >> it's relevant -- >> i assume that there was no olc opinion. >> well, we have a report in front of us that says that this influenced the outcome. and in particular, it says it influenced the outcome because it deprived the president of his ability to have his day in court. my point to you is that the president could easily have his day in court by waiving or overriding this opinion that has no judicial basis.
>> i don't want to characterize how bob's thought process was on this. >> i'm not asking you to characterize it. it's in his report. >> i'm not sure what he means by that in the report. >> with respect to the word -- can i have a minute? i want to nail down, you used the word spying. >> uh-huh. >> about authorized doj investigative activities. >> are you talking about my testimony before the house appropriations? >> yes. >> okay. >> in the entirety of your previous career in the department of justice, including as attorney general, have you
ever referred to authorized department investigative activities officially or publicly as spying? i'm not asking for private conversations. >> i'm not going to abjure the use of the word spying. i think, you know, my first job was in the cia. i don't think the word spying has any pumajorative connotation at all. to me the question is always whether or not it's authorized and adequately predicated, spying. i think spying is a good english word that doesn't have synonyms because it's the broadest word incorporating all forms of covert intelligence collection. i'm not going to back off the word spying except i will say -- >> when you decide -- >> i use it frequently, as do the media. >> when did you decide to use it, was it off the cuff that day, or did you go -- >> it was off the cuff, to tell you the truth. and when senator -- the senator -- i mean --
>> congressman probably. >> from hawaii? >> whoever it was, go ahead. >> when he challenged me and said do you want to change thin the issue. i don't consider it's a pup unt the full out rage a couple of weeks ago, it's commonly used in the press to refer to authorized activity. >> it's not commonly used by the department. >> what? >> it's not commonly used by the department. my time is up. >> commonly used by me. >> thank you very much. we'll come back at ten till 1:00. thank you. >> obviously, what we just saw was an attempt by shelldon white house to nail down this attorney general on schilling for the
president who appointed him. spying being a word preferred by the trump right hand side of the media to describe authorized surveillance techniques by the government of the united states. nicole wallace is with us. >> i'm going to start at the end. why? why? why? why? trump's not been charged with a crime of obstruction. why did his attorney general twice ignore a written letters which are extraordinary and of themselves from robert s. mueller who pleaded with him, seemed to plead with him in phone calls and letters to stop mischaracterizing his 22 month long investigation.
why did william barr double down on the use of the word spying. three cia former officials says spying has the exact opposite con notation and why did he lie about what's in the mueller robert. when he said the press accounts were wrong, robert mueller spent 22 months investigating the ob struckive account and in the entire second volume does not refute a single press account about the president's obstructi obstruction. he cites in and adds interviews with the witnesses. on the one he called out, we read a couple of them. there are five witnesses to the president's effort to fire robert mueller. in the moment it was agitation. in the end it's despair. what do we have as our attorney general? it's not clear today. >> the attorney general keeps saying the president fully cooperated. that's patently untrue. he did not testify. he had the take home test and
delivered answwritten answers. >> he had half the take home test. he didn't answer any questions about the obstruction effort. he agreed to answer questions about the russian interference of the investigation. there, that is sometimes happens, his recollection was imperfect and he said i don't recall or some variant of that 30 some odd times. that said, mueller makes it pretty clear that they wanted to talk to the president and they couldn't talk to the president and we also know that if the president wanted to talk to bob mueller, he could have. that's not that hard. it's perilous but not that hard. characterizing the president's conduct has fully cooperative is not true. >> i noted on social media you said something very interesting about mr. barr and this word we've all come to know from the law, recusal because there are so many investigations that
remain out there and swirling around. >> there are. we know there's been cases from the mueller investigation because mueller tells us that. sitting in southern district of new york, likely in the eastern district of new york. probably in washington, d.c. and the eastern district of virginia ooze well. this attorney general, t very painful to say this, having spent so many years in doj but he has cast his objectivity into doubt. his ability to continue to lead those investigations is very much tarnished and he needed to be recused from all of that. he made so many remarkable statements today. chuck, you talk about the questions that the president submitted and couldn't fully respond to. barr, seems to put the blame for that situation on mueller saying he could have subpoenaed him. he could have pressed but he chose not to. that should not be on bob mueller. that should be squarely on the
president of the united states who could have answered questions like every other president in that situation has. >> mueller isn't the only one he pushes back on. in that exchange where he defends the president. he does something that really only sarah huckabee sanders does. i don't think she's done in about 70 days. what he does, what he did was to impugn the credibility of people who have been subpoenaed. he impugned the credibility of don mcgahn. mueller takes the steps of explaining why he found mcgahn credible. he explains how mcgahn didn't come in willingly. we know from press accounts that mcgahn advocate ed not cooperating. because he refused the fire mueller, the president who is petty all the time sided with ty cobb and john dowd. this whole thing is this toxic, dysfunctional mess. what barr did call into question
of testimony of don mcgahn who has been subpoenaed who is deciding whether to go testify or be held in contempt. his lawyers said either option appeals too much too him. the sitting attorney general impugn the credibility of the former white house counsel who mueller spent 22 months investigating his sworn testimony. mueller had 22 months to decide whether mcgahn was krecredible goes to step of attesting credibility. he had a chief of staff who took a whole lot of notes. we know how donald trump feels about notes. he doesn't like them. >> some of the great lawyers take note. >> it's not just don mcgahn's testimony given reluctantly but truthfully, according to mueller but also the notes that were provided to mueller by don
mcgahn's chief of staff. he called into question all of their credibility to lie about this one flash point, at least, about donald trump's willingness or enthusiasm or i would say order to have mueller fired and for barr to question that, whether that actually happened, is to question the sworn testimony sponsored in the mueller report by at least, i counted five, just sitting here s , witnesses. >> maya, what substantiatands o? >> i agree with everything that's been said so far. all i can say is i think rod rosenstein was the co-pilot on the plane that was getting landed for donald trump and we're now looking at the pilot. william barr, two things i want to really emphasize here is
william barr, remember when he stands up and does his press conference, his mischaracterized the mueller report in some substantial ways that he still is not owning. he says literally that mueller looked at all sides of the issues of obstruction of justice and the law in his report when he stood up. no he didn't. he also is avoiding what mueller explicitly says in his report that it is in congress's court to look at whether this president acted corruptly in the use of his office. that's virtually a quote from the mueller report. it's really happening here that william bar is tr is trying to is that robert mueller understood himself to be kicking this to congress to examine whether there was an abuse of
power by donald trump. what we're seeing is an attorney general trying to interfere, in essence, with congress being able to take up that question. the other thing he did here before we went to the break and tried to create cover for donald trump's team to keep mcgahn from testifying by saying that privilege wasn't waived. i think that will be a very hard one to live up to and to win if it ever went to court. i think that's why nicole is right. there had to be some undermining of the credibility of witnesses but i do not think they have a lawful right to keep out of testifying before congress. >> maya, i'm not only a layperson, i have less than average law but isn't the
agreement to testify for 30 plus hours before mueller's investigators waiving of privilege? >> brian, there's nothing naive about you. mcgahn has already testified. there's no executive privilege to something that's already in the public sphere. mcgahn said there's not attorney-client privilege. >> all right. thank you. we also have the specter to the point maya just raise and and reminds us about. we never seen a client attorney general choosing to use the verbiage preferred by the white house. it mean a great deal. spying and collusion. he worked in carefully,