tv MSNBC Live With Stephanie Ruhle MSNBC April 18, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PDT
time or are already there. and i mean, this has happened before our eyes and the president yet still is trying to undermine the reality of what is going on. >> and by the way -- >> something to watch for. >> and when you hear somebody talk about witch hunt, the president's national security adviser charged with a felony. manafort, his campaign manager, in jail. the list goes on. i mean, but we'll let brian williams complete that list throughout his coverage. he's picking up msnbc's coverage of the release of the redacted mueller report right now. brian. and thank you to joe and mika. good morning and welcome as our special coverage of the mueller report now gets underway. i'm brian williams. 9:00 a.m. in the east. 30 minutes from now we're expecting to hear from u.s. attorney general william barr, the opening act in a day-long drama that's going to include
the unveiling of the long awaited redacted edited mueller report. the report will be released to congress and the public at some time after this morning's news conference. there's the now familiar auditorium at the department of justice. we're told it will run about 400 pages again with redactions. once it is out, we are expecting to get our most detailed look at the president's actions behind closed doors. and whether they support his repeated claims that there was no collusion, no obstruction. i am joined here in our studio by nicole wallace, a former white house communications director and the white house of bush 43. the host of deadline white house. she's joined by a former acting solicitor general during the obama administration. also happens to be a veteran of the justice department where he drafted the special counsel regulations under which mueller was appointed. we want to begin with julia angs
anxio ainsley. tell us what you can. >> in a half hour we'll hear from the deputy attorney general. they'll go over three things we should know or they think we should know before reading this report. that's their interactions with the white house over the contents of this report in the past few weeks. they will also go over the redaction process, how they chose what to leave out, and they will also go over the executive privilege, reasons why the president might allow or might call for certain pieces to be left out. this will give bar's own reasoning for leaving pieces out he think gets into executive privilege. what i asked, brian, will the attorney general be talking act his review of the originens of this investigation. that spying he brought up on the hill last week. i was told they would not respond to that at this time. that will be top of mind here as we try to seek whether or not
the attorney general wants to conflate how this was started and to try to appear as if there are questions over whether this probe should have begun in the first place. at the same time he's giving us this information. that would call into question his impartiality in the process. at 11:00 we expect this to go to the hill sometime between 11:00 and noon. congress will receive copies on cds. they'll put this into their cd rom drives and the public should be getting this on the special counsel website shortly after they're received. >> all right. julia at the department of justice. julia, thank you. nicole wallace, let's begin. you and i were both talking to different people yesterday, getting slightly different information. it was fun to see who else everyone was talking about and picking up the same talking points, watching the coverage during the evening. as of now, what is your best
guidance? >> so it's important to note that this plan for barr to brief came together very recently, and we're going to spend the day staring at the trees. this is going to be our first look at whatever they reveal of the mueller report. i think the forest is as big of a story today. the forest is that for the first time in trump's presidency he has an attorney general who is a capable, competent, and experienced tech nicrat and bureaucrat. one, the hard line immigration policies barr this week embracing and allowing for indefinite detention of asylum seekers. two, the message there was a complete exoneration on the collusion and obstruction. it's not clear that's what robert mueller concluded, and three, the spying. it will be covered with the same
degree of skepticism as the trump west wing. and one more point. it's not just the trump governing philosophy to embrace those. watch the trump campaign operation today. these are the three central messages of trump's reelection effort now articulated and in 30 minutes they'll be communicated by the country's attorney general. >> at the same time let me ask a followup. doesn't barr's influn begin to wane effective his last word at this news conference when we know the attention then shifts to the actual wording of one robert mueller? >> look, i think the question has to be one of a damage assessment. what damage is done? what damage is done by having the attorney general of the united states out hours before the mueller -- i mean, he has taken -- he has not passed up a single opportunity to spin a 22-month investigation by a revered individual. they have to know that all that was sacred was the actual
product of robert mueller's 22-month investigation. they've taken every opportunity to parse it, to spin it, to edit it, redact it and keep it from the public, and now they're going to spend two hours before it's released. they're going to go to the podium, an extraordinary step. i cannot imagine a single other example of an attorney general going and prespinning and don't believe me. donald trump is serving as his own tv promotion department using his twitter feed to point all viewers to the barr presser. >> you know, let's assume because reporters don't know what to ask about in this justice department auditorium, let's assume some of them ask does it bother you, general, that you gave air support to the president to go out and claim repeatedly that he's been completely exonerated without a peep in response from the justice department? valid question?
>> absolutely. i mean, i think the idea that barr got the report on a friday and then by sunday cleared the president and saying there's no obstruction here when mueller couldn't resolve that in 22 months is a pretty damming thing, and then now the sequencing i think as nicole says, this is an extraordinary thing. the report is done. the redactions are done. why haven't we read it? we should have by now at 9:00 a.m., we should have read it. they want to sequence it to have a press conference first and then the report later so they can do the messaging. this isn't about the law. this is about something else. that i think is a thing that bothers me the most. attorney general barr came in with a very good reputation, and it's the department is a place in which attorneys general by and large act nonpolitically to uphold the rule of law, and this attorney general is really taking some actions which i think are in question with what his predecessors would have
done. >> anyone who spent time as a reporter in washington has been in this room and covered federal announcements. usually there's a press release. under that are the supporting documents. criminal complaint, indictments and you're there to hear it explained but it's announced first. this is way upside down. >> absolutely. and the only possible reason i can think of is it's a messaging campaign tactic. it's not actually on the up and up. >> nicole, this as we've accomplished, does change not only history but this changes procedure. in a dramatic way. again, the influence of the attorney general after our attention is now moved, so it later -- later today, that's going to be interesting. >> it's unbelievable. i mean, look, you have to give them credit for pulling off
something that was too audacious for someone like jeff sessions or rod rosenstein to i would propose even contemplated. who would have thought anyone would miss the sessions run doj. he's going to have standing next to him rod rosenstein. rod rosenstein's place in history will forever be appointing robert s. mueller. if he puts a toe in the conspiracy pool with rod rosenstein standing next to him who signed the reauthorizations for carter page who are the source of the conspiracy theories, it will be another human drama to what has already been. we are talking about barr today, not mueller. and mueller is the man who has done the work. mueller is the man with integrity and credibility. and mueller is the man who after 22 months explicitly did not
exonerate donald trump on the question of obstruction. what we should be talking about is why not. why not. a former national security official said to me today, if there is even a reference to the trump campaign unwittingly aiding the russian effort to interfere, that should be the banner headline, and we didn't spend enough time contemplating the narrowness of mueller's question. mueller's question around russian collusion wasn't whether or not it happened. it was whether or not donald trump wittingly participated in it. so we could be at the brink of two block buster headlines on the russia and obstruction front and we're all talking about barr's political messaging tactic. >> that's an important point. he has limited jurisdiction because special prosecutors over time have always been understood as having a circum stridescribet of responsibilities. mueller's responsibilities here are narrow. it's about russia and
wittingness and is there any obstruction of the russia investigation, not in general trump's predilections toward obstruction. whatever we see in this report today redacted, whenever it comes out, it's not going to cover a lot of the questions that the american people have and that congress has been asking. >> chuck todd is standing by to talk to us quickly. obviously our political director, moderator of meet the press. chuck, i was told by a senior democrat last night that it's going to be among political and legal types, quite obvious the absence of robert mueller, because the department of justice normally really strives for a team photo behind the ag. >> can i just tell you this? this is how we framed it this morning in first read. it's this. i think the country no matter which side you come down on the mueller investigation, the way this has been handled between the president, between frankly what bill barr has done the last couple weeks, and the country's
faith in the rule of law is it better than when mueller started or is it worse? and that's the sad chapter of all this. right now we enter in a situation where think about it this way. adam schiff and devin nunez both want to see the unredacted mueller report for different reasons. they don't trust people. and this is the situation we're in. politically the waters are beyond muddy. they've done all that. it is sad. we could be here in a situation had bill barr done the following, simply released a statement saying there were no criminal -- recommendations for criminal charges, period. didn't have to say anything else. he'll have the report out as soon as he can. if he had simply said i'm looking into everything regarding how this investigation started, the investigation itself, all of those things,
period. had he said all those things without using buzz words and using a press conference and without making a decision on his own and taking matters into his own hands, we'd be in a -- we'd have a different conversation right now. and we'd have a much different interpretation of bill barr as attorney general. i think that's why there's even more anxiety about the release today. >> yeah. though something tells me at least for the midday portion when we are going through discovering texts, assigning text sections to our folks, reading aloud what's in here, i think politics is going to be crushed under the weight of the content revealed to us that we're reading in realtime today. >> it is, but brian, i mean, look, the president and bill barr have successfully neutered the impact of the mueller report politically. that's the bottom line. >> chuck todd, our thanks.
he has tweeted about ten time so far this morning, the president. let's bring in jeremy bash, former chief of staff at cia and the pentagon. former chief counsel to house intel. jeremy, your preview. >> what i'm looking for is what does this report tell us about the broad questions of national interest. i agree. the political imaginations of 24 hour news cycle will be interesting. from the broadest lens in the sweep of history i think there are three question we're looking for answers to. number one, did the president allow his campaign to be assisted by the russian federation? did he know about it? did he accept it? number two is did the president allow his national security adviser in the days after the election to open a secret channel to russia, to do some secret diplomacy and undermine the outgoing administration in a a -- third, did the president abuse his powers by covering up those activities, by obstructing
the administration and misleading the public about it? i think those are the broadest most important questions i think the mueller report is going to give us fresh detail and perspective. >> neil and nicole, i'm going to take the rare opportunity to push back at chuck todd this notion that the report has been somehow neutered before birth. i do think once we get into the content of this, and knowing that the mueller team has had at least one representative around doj watching the redactions, defending their work product, i think when we get into the heart of this, it's going to read substantial. >> yeah. look, i'm just a mere lawyer. chuck's the political expert. from where i sit, i expect the report to have some damaging conclusions about donald trump. otherwise we wouldn't be acting in this bizarre way he has been ever since he claimed total exoneration. yes, i think the white house has tried in all sorts of ways to
neuter the effect of the mueller report. but we're going to see at least a part of it today, and i suspect before long the american public will see the entire report. if it does contain the types of things that one i think surmises about the president's disrespect for the rule of law, how can the american people not care at the end of the day? >> rachel maddow likes to say watch what they do, not what they say. watch what they do. the trump white house doesn't think the politics have been neutered or they'd be in the middle of the country touring a manufacturing plant today, not sitting there live tweeting the cable news coverage. watch what they do. they created a rebuttal report. what do you rebut if it's a total and complete exoneration. their lawyers have huddled every day this week to figure out how
to respond to the 400-page redacted version that will be preand post spun by their hand picked attorney general who wrote a memo about obstruction. watch what they do. they are going to enact revenge. >> the white house and the justice department on criminal investigations. it's done for an important reason t. if you give the president the prosecution power, he can prosecutor his enemies. and protect his friends. that's why you have a really calculated system. it's rare to get any information about any sort of criminal
investigation of the white house, and here the president's a subject of it? and he's getting all this information? that's a very bizarre thing. >> and the people who told the stories are not journalists or democrats. they're hand picked appointees who agreed to go and talk to mueller about the conduct of the president in office. those are the people they're whipped up about. not the coverage. they're terrified by the mirrors that were held up to reflect donald trump's own conduct around known flash points in the obstruction investigation. >> let me ask you one more thing. barr was here to fore considered a solid steady bush era republican. i witnessed a debate last night on cable as to whether and maggie haberman was involved on this, whether he has as a le
leadooit, not caught up with press coverage these days or whether he has by dent of wat watching fox news become a genuine trump partisan. >> i think that we are agrand to invoke rachel's mauntra. watch what they do, not what they say. the reassurances from our friends like chuck rosenberg and joyce vance that he was an institutionalist gave him more credit than he deserved. on the three three reelection strategies, hard line immigration policies, the central conspiracy theory that animates donald trump's entire presidency that he was spied on and the cd that there was a complete and total exoneration from robert mueller which in the few words we've seen from robert mueller, there was not. robert mueller wrote, we do not
exonerate trump on obstruction. barr has embraced all three. he is a lot more dangerous if you don't like the way donald trump seems to trample on the rule of law and a lot more of a booster if you're a trump backer. >> i was going to say we covered the barr hearings together, brian, and i think the signs were there'ven at that time. first barr had written this 19-page memo last summer which made silly legal claims to try to protect donald trump saying he couldn't obstruct justice. and back when he was attorney general for president bush, he did the famously the iran contra pardons announced on the eve of the holiday and the like. it's not surprising that we testifies last week and says while the fbi may have engaged in unlawful spying. an extraordinary thing for him to say about his own people. >> i have heard we may hear the
s-word this morning and we may see an attempt to focus -- refocus attention on one christopher steele. for now carol lee is our national political reporter. she's been among our team of journalists looking at and talking about the white house staff and anxieties that they have that they may find themselves open to scrutiny, exposed in what we're going to read this afternoon. >> reporter: that's right. there's a lot of anxiety among those who cooperated in the investigation at the direction of the white house, and the president's initial legal team who said, you know, we're going to fully cooperate. everybody should go in and talk to the special counsel's office if they're asked. on the flip side we now have this report coming out and a number of those officials who are worried about what the president is going to do if he looks at this report and can see how much they cooperated with the special counsel's office, the kinds of information that
they may have provided that could be damaging to the president. i think that none of them are probably feeling any better this morning when they see the president having shifted already from the position he was stating after the barr summary where he was much kinder about the investigation now we're seeing him shift back to the prebarr summary position where -- that this is the witch hunt. that does not bode well for these people who are worried that he's going to lash out at them. criticize them, that his allies are going to attack and undermine them. so i think that there's not a -- nothing has happened so far that makes them feel any better. if anything, i think that the fact that barr has been communicating with the white house's legal team about this and gives the impression that the white house has the inside track on this and is able to better prepare for how to push back on it suggests that it could be far more aggressive than people even initially thought. >> we are down, thank you,
carol, to within about eight minutes of the posted start time in the auditorium at the justice department. frank, former fbi assistant director for counterintelligence who will be of counsel to us all day just as he has informed our coverage over these past 22 months. frank, get us back to where this began. get us back to what you're looking for and reading for where the russian effort is concerned, where the counterintelligence investigation is concerned. >> so while many of us will be flipping to the obstruction portion of the report, brian, i can't help the fact that i'm a counterintelligence officer. i'll be looking straight to the russian section. i'll be looking at the degree to which not only russia was directed to do this from the highest levels of the kremlin, namely vladimir putin, but, of course, the degree to which the
president's people and the president himself may have known exactly what russia was doing. may have encouraged it or at least not diskurned it. not reported it to the fbi. that's how this whole thing started, as a russian counterintelligence investigation. and the best thing that the attorney general could do today in this unnecessary press conference is lead off by saying we were attacked by an adversary and as the chief law enforcement officer of this nation, i'm pledging to do something about it. if i don't hear that today during this press conference, i'm moving on from the concept that this attorney general is neutral and objective. >> what you just said, isn't that the prospect of the major loss from today? speaking of keeping our eye on the ball, russia a major adversary remains with their hand inside our democracy in ways because we haven't kept our eye on the ball that all of us aren't aware of.
the greatest contribution of the mueller inquiry thus far, but in any mind, is to wake us up to the fact that we were attacked by an adversary directly toward our electoral process. we're entering another election cycle for our presidency, and we have yet to adequately address the threat and risk, and t not just russia. it's going to be other countries trying to mess with how we pick a president. and that was the greatest contribution that mueller gave us and direct evidence in the form of over two dozen russians indicted. >> and nicole, as you and i have said so many times, this used to be the no-brainer lock cinch republican political issue. what are we doing to harden our systems against russian interference in our democracy? and yet, you and i and others have witnessed the kind of soft
normalization of russia being someone we look to our sides and suddenly see as part of our system. >> jim comey made a great parallel to reframe this. imagine if he were the fbi director and then president obama were having contacts with the iranian mullahs and there was no notes and no note takers. imagine if they didn't investigate. what's never been explained and what i hope we find an answer to is so there was no criminal conspiracy, a witting criminal conspiracy, why did everyone lie? why did a campaign who had as the cover story we were too incompetent to collude with our press conference, then how did mike lynn,papadopoulos, manafort, how did everybody tell the same lie about the same foreign adversary?
no one was caught lying with contacts about saudi arabia or venezuela or -- they all lied about their contacts and their conversations with russia. and i'm not sure we'll learn much new about the mike flynn case because he's -- they've articulated what they have to say in his charging and sentencing documents, same with the manafort case. if we find out any new detail, any new sort of texture to what that relationship is like, and we know it wasn't a criminal conspiracy with the russians, but then what was it? because robert mueller spent 22 months looking at it. if there was nothing, i'm sure it wouldn't have taken 22 months to say nothing. >> and any time you have a meeting in trump tower for which you need a russian interpreter present, that should trigger a bunch of catches in the system. we're within two and a half minutes of the posted time at justice. let's go over right quick to the white house and peter alexander.
peter, other than i assume, feeling fortunate they got an ample heads up from the justice department on what to expect in this report today, what do we expect from the white house? >> well, brian, the first we heard from the president was this press conference would be happening. it wasn't the department of justice that announced it. it was president trump himself who said it in the course of an interview. i spoke to a senior former white house official overnight who said the white house recognizes that it is in for in their words, a world of hurt. this will not be pleasant today. that's why they cast this messaging strategy of muddying the waters. why william barr will get out early before the report is released today. why the president has tweeted nearly a dozen times today. why the president suggested he may hold a news conference later today to try to cast more doubt in the conference over the course of the day. and why rudy giuliani and the president's outside lawyers have prepared a counterreport.
unclear whether they will present it. they say it depends on the findings. it's an effort going into the easter holiday weekend, they say, to try to muddy this up. they hope it will be a slow burn in the words of one former official through the weekend. and that american will have moved on by next week. of course, as evidence, brian, by the democrats, schumer and pelosi already calling for robert mueller to receitestify. they say it's critical to restore public trust. >> all right. peter alexander in front of the white house there. let's go back to the room at the department of justice. the reporter's so-called hard pass holders who cover doj for a living know this room well. it can be about the hottest interior space in washington d.c. you see the lights, the ceilings are low. the attention is focussed at the front of the room. we expect to see the attorney general at the lectern and behind him part of the framing
of the backdrop, we expect to see one rod rosenstein. as nicole and others pointed out, he appointed one robert mueller not shown here. >> someone asked me this morning about whether the white house is always give an heads up when there's an investigation, a special counsel investigation. i was involved in the -- i was the white house communications director when pat fitzgerald concluded his special counsel investigation into the leaking of a covert cia agent. not only were we not give an heads up to the final result. we learned nothing ahead of the public. so the idea and "the new york times" has great reporting on this. the idea that they've been talking to the white house for weeks or for days that william barr wouldn't say they weren't in front of congress when he testified, that we now have confirmed that they have been, is such a departure from norms. i worked in that white house that. i was prepared for all scenarios. for being indicted or not.
we had no idea, and we were prepared. i was prepared adds white house communications director to respond on behalf of the president and vice president. we knew nothing. >> that's the standard way that justice department interactions with the white house are. and the fact that they had to depart from that, it's not just a departure of norms. it makes the president look guilty. why would you do that? >> it taints barr from this point forward. it's clear that barr didn't want his credibility. didn't think he needed his credibility. and it's worth going back and asking why he wrote that memo. did he just happen to write that or did someone ask him to? >> and is there any illegality involved? a lot of viewers want to know this. if you're the ag giving white house counsel a heads up, let's give them the benefit of the doubt. on just the broad strokes of what's in this report. >> yeah. i don't think that's a criminal violation. it's an astounding breach of norms and taints the
credibility, but the remedy is likely to be more on the impeachment side than in any sort of criminal process. >> and we have watched all along rudy giuliani. we've gone from 30 pages to 40 pages. they have a rebuttal report prepared. tough to write under normal circumstances when you don't know the contents of what's coming at you. >> yeah. i've written a lot of reply briefs. when your opponent writes a brief and you write a reply. i've never written a reply before i've seen the brief. my gut is when they say we're trying to decide whether to release this or not, they know what they're going to do because they know what's in the report. that's what the new york times and other organizations have been reporting for days. i don't think there's any mystery here. and i do expect some sort of counterreport ultimately to come out. >> one of the few things official washington chairs with the national football league is something called the two-minute warning. i've been told we're within the
two-minute warning. two minutes or less until we see the start of this news conference. again, it will be interesting from the get-go to see who comes in as part of the walking party with the attorney general, and who will be standing behind attorney general barr. it will be interesting to see the attorney general's opening statement. be listening closely. be on the lookout of any mention of spying. the word that came up at his news conference. again, the other term for it is a fisa surveillance warrant within the confines and strictures of the process of our federal courts, and prosecution, but again, last night's warnings, especially from senior democrats, look out for a revival of the spying conversation. look out for a revival of the name christopher steele.
last night in prime time on conservative media we had a couple mentions of how the real investigation investigating the investigators, one of the president's twitter talking points is going to come back. >> if they're down to christopher steele, they didn't find any malfeasance in the process. that's desperate. >> here's the attorney general. >> good morning, everybody, and thanks for being here this morning. as you know on march 22nd special counsel robert mueller concluded his investigation into matters related to russian attempts to interfere in our 2016 presidential election. and he submitted his confidential report to me
pursuant to department regulations. as i said during my senate confirmation hearing and since, i am committed to ensuring the greatest degree possible of transparency concerning the special counsel's investigation consistent with the law. at 11:00 this morning i'm going to transmit copies of the public version of the special counsel's report to the chairman and ranking members of the senate and house judiciary committees. the department of justice will also make the report available to the american people by posting it on the department's website after it has been delivered to congress. i'd like to make a few comments today on the report. before i do that, i want to thank deputy attorney general rod rosenstein for joining me here today. and for his assistance and counsel throughout this process. rod, as you know, as served as
the department for nearly 30 years with dedication and distinction, and it's been a great privilege and pleasure for me to work with him since my confirmation. he had well-deserved plans to step back from public service that were interrupted by my asking him to help in my transition. rod has been an invaluable partner and i am grateful that he is willing to help me. and has been able to see the special counsel's investigation through to it conclusion. thanks, rod. >> thank you. >> yep. i'd also like to thank special counsel robert mueller for his service, and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of russia's attempt to interview in our electoral process. as you know, one of the primary purposes of the special counsel's investigation was to determine whether president
trump's campaign or any individual associated with it conspired or coordinated with a russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. volume one of the special counsel's report describes the result of that investigation. as you will see the special counsel's report states that his, quote, investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in its election interference activities. i am sure that all americans share my concern about the efforts of the russian government to interfere in our presidential election. as the special counsel report makes clear, the russian government sought to interfere in our election process. but thanks to the special counsel's thorough investigation, we now know that the russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did
not have the cooperation of president trump or the trump campaign or the knowing assistance of any other american for that matter. that is something that all americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed. the special counsel report outlines two main efforts by the russian government to influence the 2016 election. first, the report details efforts by the internet research agency, a russian company with close ties to the russian government to sew social discord among american voters through disinformation and social media operations. following a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign, the special counsel brought charges in federal court against sever russian nationals and entities for their respective roles in this scheme. those charge remain pending and
the individual defendants remain at large. but the special counsel found no evidence that any american including anyone associated with the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government or the ira in this illegal scheme. indeed, as the report state, quote, the investigation did not identify evidence that any u.s. person knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the ira ease interference operation, unquote. put another way, the special counsel found no collusion by any americans in ira's illegal activities. second, the report details efforts by the russian military officials associated with the gru, the russian military intelligence organization to hack into computers and steal documents and e-mails from individuals associated with the democratic party and hillary
clinton's campaign for the purpose of eventually publicizing the documents. obtaining such several russian military officers for their respective roles in these illegal hacking operations. those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large. but again, the special counsel's report did not find any evidence that members of the trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in these hacking operations. in other words, there was no evidence of the trump campaign collusion with the russian government's hacking. the special counsel's investigation also examined russian efforts to publish stolen e-mails and documents on
the internet. the special counsel found that after the gru disseminated some of the stolen documents to entities that it controlled, d.c. leaks and gucifer two, the gru transferred some of it to wikileaks. wikileaks made a series of document dumps. the special counsel also invest dpat -- investigated whether any member of the trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in the dissemination efforts. under applicable law, publication of these types of material would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. here to the special counsel's report did not find that any person associated with the trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the
materials. finally the special counsel investigated a number of links or contacts between the trump campaign officials and individuals connected with the russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign. after reviewing these contacts, the special counsel did not find any conspiracy to violate u.s. law involving russian-linked persons and any persons associated with the trump campaign. so that's the bottom line. after nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the russian government sponsored efforts to illegal interfere with the 2016 presidential election. but did not find that the trump campaign or other americans colluded in those efforts. after finding no underlying collusion with russia, the
special counsel's report goes onto consider whether certain actions of the president could amount to obstruction of the special counsel's investigation. as i addressed in my march 24th letter, the special counsel did not make a traditional prosecutor judgment regarding this allegation. instead the report recounts ten episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting those activities to the elements of an obstruction offense. after carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the office of legal counsel, and other department lawyers, the department attorney general and i concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense. although the deputy attorney general and i disagreed with some of the special counsel's legal theories and felt that
some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision. instead we accepted the special counsel's legal framework for purposes of our analysis, and evaluated the evidence as presented by the special counsel in reaching our conclusions. in assessing the president's actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. president trump faced an unprecedented situation as he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after off some of his associates. at the same time there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president's personal culpability. yet as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion. and as the special counsel's report acknowledges, there is
substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fuelled by illegal leaks. nonetheless, the white house fully cooperated with the special counsel's investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and white house documents, directing senior aides to testify freely and asserting no privilege claims. and at the same time the president took no act that, in fact, deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses yes, sir to complete his investigation. apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of noncorrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegations that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation. before i take questions, i want to address a few aspects of the
process for producing the public report that i am releasing today. as i said several times the report contains limited redactions related to four categories of information. to ensure as much transparency as possible those redactions have been clearly labeled so that the leaders can tell -- reader can tell which redactions correspond to which categories. now, as i -- to recall those categories are grand jury material, information that the ic believes could disclose sources and methods, information that would impair the investigation and prosecution of other cases that are underway. and finally information that implicates the privacy and reputation interests of
peripheral third parties. as you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing on ongoing investigations and criminal cases such as the ira case and the roger stone case. these redactions were applied by department of justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the special counsel's office as well as the intelligence community, and prosecutors are handling the ongoing cases. the redactions are their work product. no redactions done by anybody outside this group. there were no redactions done by anybody outside this group. no one outside this group proposed any redactions, and no one outside the department has seen the unredacted report with
the exception of certain sections that were made available to ic, the intelligence community for their advice on protecting intelligence sources and methods. consistent with long-standing executive branch practice, the decision whether to assert executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the president of the united states. because the white house had voluntarily cooperated with the special counsel significant portions of the report contain material over which the president could have asserted privilege. and he would have been well within his rights to do so. following my march 29th letter, the office of the white house counsel requested the opportunity to review the redacted version of the report in order to advise the president on the potential invocation of privilege which is consistent with long-standing practice. following that review the president confirmed that in the
interest of transparency and full disclosure to the american people he would not assert privilege over the special counsel's report. accordingly the public report i am releasing today contains redactions only for the four categories that i prooe sli outlined and no material has been redacted based on executive privilege. in addition earlier this week the president's personal counsel requested and was given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released. that request was consistent with the practice followed under the ethics and government act which permitted vngs named in a report prepared by an independent counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication. the president's personal lawyers were not permitted to make and did not request any redactions. in addition to making the redacted report public, we are also working with congress to
accommodate their legitimate oversight interest with respect to the special counsel's investigation. we have been consultanting with chairman graham and chairman nadler through the process and we will continue to do to do s. given the limited nature of the redactions, i believe the publicly released report will allow every american to understand the results of the special counsel's investigation. nevertheless, in an effort to accommodate congressional requests, we will make available subject to appropriate safeguards to a bipartisan group of leaders from several congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand jury information. thus these members of congress will be able to see all of the he da redacted material for themselves with a limited exception of that which by law cannot be shared. i believe this accommodation together with my upcoming
testimony before the senate and house judiciary committees will satisfy any need congress has for information regarding the special counsel's investigation. once again, i'd like to thank you for being here and i will now have a few questions. >> mr. attorney general, we don't have the report in hand. so could you explain for us the special counsel's articulated reason for not reaching a decision on obstruction of justice, and if it had anything to do with the department's longstanding guidance on not indicting a sitting president and you say you disagree with some of his legal theories. what did you disagree with him on? >> i'd leave it to his description in the report, the special counsel's own articulation of why he did not want to make a determination as to whether or not there was an obstruction offense. but i will say that when we met
with him, deputy attorney general rosenstein and i met with him, along with ed o'callaghan, the principal associate deputy, on march 5th, we specifically asked him about the olc opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the olc opinion, and he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. he was not saying that, but for the olc opinion, he would have found a crime. he made it clear he had not made the determination that there was a crime. >> what did you disagree with him on? >> given that, why did you and mr. rosenstein feel you had to take it to the next step to conclude there was no crime, especially given that doj policy? >> the very prosecutorial function and all our powers as
prosecutors, including the power to convene grand juries and compulsory process that's involved there is for one purpose and one purpose only. it's to determine yes or no, was alleged conduct criminal or not crimin criminal. that is our responsibility and that's why we have the tools we have. and we don't go through this process just to collect information and throw it out to the public. we collect the information and use that compulsory process for the purpose of making that decision. and because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the department had to, and that was a decision by me and the deputy attorney general. >> mr. barr, did the special counsel indicate he wanted you to make the decision or that it should left for congress? also, how do you respond to criticism you're receiving from congressional democrats that you're acting more as an
attorney for the president rather than as the chief law enforcement officer? >> special counsel muleer delle didn't indicate his decision was to leave the decision to congress. i hope that's not the case. we don't conduct criminal investigations and convene grand juries for that purpose. i didn't talk to him directly about the fact that we were making the decision, but i am told his reaction to that was that it was my prerogative as attorney general to make that decision. >> attorney general barr, is there anything you can share today about your review of the genesis of the russia investigation and whether assets have been provided to investigate? >> no. today i'm really focused just on the process of releasing this report. >> -- asked for robert mueller himself to testify. he remains a justice department employee as of this moment. will you permit him to testify
publicly to congress? >> i have no objection to bob mueller personally testifying. >> mr. attorney general, democrats have questioned some of the process, a republican appointed judge said you have, quote, created an environment that has caused a significant part of the american public to be concerned about these redactions, you cleared the president on obstruction, the president is fund-raising off your comments about spying, here you have comments quite positive for the president including his feelings and emotions. what do you say to people on both sides of the aisle who are concerned you're trying to protect the president. >> actually the statements about his sincere beliefs are recognized in the report that there was substantial evidence for that. i'm not sure what your basis is for saying i'm being generous to the president. >> you face an unprecedented situation -- to go out of your way to acknowledge -- >> is there another precedent for it? >> no. >> so unprecedented is an accurate transcription, isn't
it? >> what do you say to people who are concerned you're trying to protect the president? >> eric? >> there's a lot of -- this is his report that you're talking about, why is he not here? >> no, it's not. it's a report he did for me as the attorney general. he's required under the regulation to provide me with a confidential report. i'm here to discuss my response to that report and my decision, entirely discretionary to make it public, since these reports are not supposed to be made public. that's what i'm here to talk. >> -- impropriety to come out and what appears to be spinning the report before the public has a chance to read it. >> thank you very much. >> that was extraordinary. we are joined here by nicolle wallace and neil catial.
i think a conservative reading is that at the age of 68, bill barr has decided his legacy, he's fine with his legacy being the agency who took one for the team. >> it also explains why we haven't seen sarah sanders in a while. the administration has a mu messenger, one with a lot more stature. he's the attorney general. the most extraordinary piece of that statement was twofold, one around collusion. he said half a dozen times no collusion, no collusion. no lawyer, no legal presentation presents its conclusion six times. a political messenger, and i know a little bit about that, having been a political messenger all of my career, underscores the message, particularly if it's on shaky ground multiple times, to use that room, to use that podium to underscore donald trump's refrain on his twitter feed of no collusion. the second is on obstruction. it's like as a parent if you say, yeah, my kid vandalized the
school but he was frustrated by having a hard time in math. he came out and said, yes, donald trump may been obstructionee, but he was frustrated. from the minute he came into office, they were bugging him about mike flynn lying, bugging him about all the contacts with russia. it was an extraordinary excuse around what is clearly going to be revealed when we finally see robert mueller's report. it's also the fifth presentation from bob barr about a report we still haven't seen. >> neil? >> i agree with you. the rhetoric was extraordinary. it sounded like a spokesman, not an attorney general. the word collusion -- ta lawyer doesn't use that term. there is no crime of collusion. only trump uses that term. you have the attorney general parroting that. we know there's one sentence in the mueller report which says do not -- this does not exonerate
trump. did we hear a word of that in the summary? there's nothing i heard about that. that leads me to wonder is this an up-and-up determination description. >> how do we know this is true. barr said, as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion. well, rod rosenstein didn't know that or he would not have spent all the money or gone through all the trouble of reappointing robert mueller as special counsel. the two people behind barr were rod rosenstein and ed oh cannon. his signature was on the applications. rod rosenstein was viewed as a protector of the mueller probe. to be a part of the shilling of the result, to have stood behind him for the fifth presentation by barr who admittedly -- at the end that was also telling. before he closed his notebook
and walked away, he said mueller worked for me. he wrote this report for me. no, i'm sorry, sir, he wrote the report for the american people. >> neal katyal, as someone who had a say in how this process was supposed to work, what of that rang false to you? >> the process obviously is a problem, with this press conference before we even get to see the reports. >> there is that. >> it's a free spin. i've never heard of that. i think that we had a bunch of smart people at the justice department trying to anticipate every possibility. no one would anticipate something like that. but i think to me the bigger thing is going to be the substance. what does the mueller report say? how did barr reach the conclusions he reached. he was mixing a bunch of different things. he was saying first factually the president was frustrated so he didn't have corrupt intent for obstruction of justice. i'd like to know how the heck he knows since mueller didn't even interview pnt