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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  March 23, 2019 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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


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