tv MSNBC Live With Velshi and Ruhle MSNBC February 8, 2019 10:00am-11:00am PST
congress. >> thanks to you and to joyce for our abbreviated program, but fascinating hearing. and as we continue right here on msnbc, follow me at mitchell reports. and here is stephanie ruhle for "velshi & ruhle." >> thanks so much, andrea. hello, everyone. i am stephanie ruhle. my partner ali velshi is off. it is friday, february 8. we begin with a remarkable day on capitol hill. the house democrats that lead the house judiciary committee quickly turned combative about questions of his oversight of the mueller investigation, his discussions with president trump and executive privilege. i want to play again perhaps the most stunning moment of the day. >> in your capacity as acting attorney general, have you ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the special counsel? >> mr. chairman, i see that your five minutes is up and so --
i'm -- i'm here voluntarily. we have agreed to five-minute rounds and -- >> i think that's a fine place to end the five-minute rule. >> the committee is on break right now. we're going to get back to it as soon as it resumes. joining me now, msnbc news capitol hill correspondent garrett haake. nbc news justice correspondent pete williams, former federal prosecutor in the southern district of new york, ariana berg and former special watergate prosecutor nick ackerman who is also a federal prosecutor in the southern district of new york. garrett, to you first. have you ever heard of a witness tell a member of congress, no less a committee member, that their time is up? >> yeah, stephanie, that was a new one for me. but it speaks to how different this hearing is to what would be normal oversight hearing of any kind . whitaker expects to be out the door by this time next week with bill barr being confirmed. so he's not playing this in a traditional way.
instead, he's doing, from where i sit, essentially everything he can to run out the clock, turning yes or no answers into 45-second apologies for not giving more direct answers and then giving the answer. the news so far can be relatively easily summarized. his comments that he's done nothing to approve or disapprove anything in the mueller investigation or to interfere with it in any way and his statements that he has not discussed the investigation with the president or people close to him. beyond that it's generated a lot more heat than light. there are a couple threads that i think will probably be continued to be pulled. one, and i just clarified it with the member who asked the question. ted deutsche's question just now mentioned from whitaker, he interviewed for another job at the white house. that might be something that gets explored when they reconvene. but so far a lot of delay tactics from the acting attorney general, almost like he's trying to drag this out until he's not even in that job any more, steph. >> oh, boy, pete. the other big headline of the day, whitaker's reaction to the mueller question. walk us through specifically
what he said. >> first of all, i'm sure he made himself a hero to anyone who has ever testified before congress by saying to the chairman "your time is up." it's a reflection, i think of the fact garrett says he's not going to be there long and he's never appeared before congress before. he had no confirmation in the senate, he didn't have a confirmation hearing when he was u.s. attorney in iowa. he did answer the question jerry nad letter asked there. he followed the special regulation s to a tee. no decision has required him to take any action, and that he has not interfered in any way with the special counsel investigation. said a little later that he hasn't denied any funds. i think what you may be referring to is he was asked repeatedly, is the special counsel investigation a witch-hunt? now, other members of the justice department and the fbi have answered that, no. chris wray, rod rosenstein when other officials have been asked
that question. he declined to answer it. he said it's an ongoing investigation, so it's inappropriate for him to talk about. obviously he's being very cautious here, perhaps inexperience in dealing with congress, perhaps, you know, no sense of where things are going. but that was a somewhat of a surprise. >> ariana, it seemed like whitaker came ready for a fight. that's no surprise. he knew what he was walking into. what was your biggest take away so far? >> my biggest take away, he's not -- he's not ready. he's not able to field these questions in a way that is becoming of the office he currently holds. there are sort of two rocks that he can hide behind as someone who is facing this congressional oversight hearing. one is to say it's an ongoing criminal investigation and, therefore, i can't comment on the topic. and the other is this spectre of executive privilege, which is
something that is a privilege that the president holds, but that he may say, well, those are confidential communications i've had with the president and, therefore, i can't -- i can't speak on those issues. he's sort of dodged -- tried to dodge behind these rocks during these proceedings without really a adroitly doing it. and that's a problem. i've heard people -- he's been asked several times about the witch-hunt comment, which was spoken about. he's also asked to comment on his thoughts on the mueller investigation, what he knows about it, and he sort of tried to hide behind those two different rocks in different ways, but not very adeptly. >> nick, walk me through this. what is the issue if whitaker talked to trump or the white house about the investigation? because here's the thing. he is the acting attorney general. >> right. >> one would think the president -- if there is anybody that the president could ask about this stuff, it's whitaker.
>> and that was the big concern, because prior to him being made the acting attorney general and prior to him even being hired in the department of justice, he was on cnn talking about this mueller investigation being a witch-hunt, that they could stop the entire investigation by refusing to fund it. he came up with a whole series of things that made it very clear that he was either interviewing for a job with the white house or truly believed there was something wrong with this investigation. so, having said that, putting him in charge of the investigation would obviously lead someone to ask, you know, have you done anything to act upon what you were saying before you joined the department of justice? >> was he as forthcoming as he could have been? >> put it this way. if he said he didn't talk to donald trump -- so that takes care of that one. the question is whether or not he talked to anybody else in the
white house about this investigation is another matter. and that question i don't think was really answered. so that's something that's extremely important. i mean, was trump giving him signals or giving him information through other people? that's certainly something that the committee wants to know. and he's basically said he's taken no action with respect to the investigation, that it's gone as it went before. so i think what we have to do is rely on rod rosenstein to have been in charge during that period of time, relied on robert mueller to do the right thing, and both of those people to do the right thing. and if he's saying something that is different now, he's going to have at least two people that are going to be able to testify against him at some later point. >> ariana, the reality is whitaker is probably only going to serve for acting attorney general a few more days. this is bill barr's business and his nomination was approved by
the senate judiciary committee yesterday, and the full senate, they're probably going to approve of him next week. so is there any argument to be made that the republicans had a point saying that this is a waste of time? >> no, this is not a waste of time. this is a critical line of inquiry. and a critical constitutional duty that congress -- that the house right now is, is doing for a couple of reasons. first, there has been some reporting, some very disturbing reporting regarding the obstruction of justice prong that mueller's investigation is pursuing. has president trump president trump or those around them tried to obstruct justice with respect to this investigation? and with respect to any other investigation, any of the other tentacles of this investigation, such as -- >> ariana, i have to jump in. let's get back to the hearing. here's jerry nadler calling
everyone to attention as they get to their seats. >> the appearance of favoritism or partisanship by law enforcement agencies is absolutely deadly to a nation that's founded upon the principle of equal justice under law. if law enforcement agencies are perceived to be biased or partisan, i think faith in them can -- and in our system of justice can quickly collapse and i am concerned about many alarming developments and the conduct of the fbi and the department of justice that call its impartiality into question. i've been reading greg jarrett's book on the comey investigation into the clinton e-mails and the you're rain yum one deal and the mueller investigation into the trump campaign. and in it, mr. jarrett meticulously documents case after case of political bias by the fbi of illegal conduct at the highest levels of the department of justice, destruction of evidence, possible obstruction of justice by mr. comey himself, perjury by
top d.o.j. officials, pr prosecutorial misconduct and political bison throughout mueller's team. if the rest of the investigation was -- because of a patently false dossier, why aren't we seeing an equally aggressive investigation into these meticulously documented charges? >> congressman, as you mentioned at the beginning, we do conduct our investigations independent of political interference at the department of justice. >> that is not what -- >> let me finish -- >> the preponderance of evidence is telling me from sources such as this one. >> well, and specifically related to the document you just described, that is the subject of an inexpespector general's rw and investigation. together with the u.s. attorney from the district of utah that was appointed by general sessions to look into and review
certain matters that this committee had asked be reviewed. >> can we expect a full, complete and aggressive investigation of charges of wrongdoing by officials in the fbi and the department of justice on these matters? >> congressman, ischemic assure you that any allegation of misconduct by an employee of the department of justice will be looked into thoroughly. >> i think back to the lois learner scandal, and that never was addressed. why should i be more confident in your assurances now? >> congressman, i was a private citizen when the lois lerner situation occurred. it occurred mostly under the previous administration. i know that general sessions did a review of that matter before i was chief of staff, so i really don't have any visibility as i sit here today as acting attorney general as to what happened in that situation. >> let me talk about the
apparent double standard and disproportionate show of force in cases like the arrest of roger stone. as i understand it, stone's attorneys were in constant contact with the department of justice. he's 66 years old, doesn't own any firearms, and yet he was the subject of a pre-dawn raid by 29 combat armed officers. as mr. jordan pointed out, cnn was obviously tipped off to have cameras there and, in fact, they arrived to set up before the raid began. they were allowed to stay to film the entire spectacle despite the fact the public was kept out ostensibly because the fbi was so concerned of violence by the 66-year-old unarmed man in this pre-dawn raid. you compare that to cases like bob menendez who was allowed to quietly turn himself in. the obvious explanation is that this was a political act whose purpose was to terrify anyone thinking of working in the trump campaign in the future.
it hearkens back to the irs with the tea party and political views. what are you doing about did? >> congressman, this is a serious issue you raise. the fbi makes arrests in the safety of their agents and the person being arrested. >> how do you explain the discrepancy between the way roger stone was treated and the way bob menendez was treated? >> again, the arrest team has to consider numerous factors in making the judgment as to how -- >> do you at least understand the appearance of impropriety that projects to the country and undermines the faith that the american people have in their justice system and in its detachment from politics? >> congressman, i cannot provide the details in this open hearing without revealing what factors the anybody fib considers in those decisions, and obviously that information could be used to put other fbi agents conducting other operations in harms way.
what i can assure you, congressman, is that the fbi is prepared to brief this matter on the decisions that were made in that particular arrest in a closed session of this committee. >> >> -- >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. whitaker, the d.o.j. was created in 1957 under the civil rights act, correct? >> congressman -- >> i believe it was. >> grant signed the -- >> no, no, no, it was. we're not going to do all this delay stuff. it was created to protect against race, color, disability, religion, familial status and national origin. wouldn't you agree? >> are you talking about civil rights -- >> d.o.j. >> you know what, never mind. let's keep going. you were chief of staff when jeff sessions testified in this
committee in 2017, correct? november? >> i was. in fact, i sat right behind him. >> right. that's exactly where i'm going. because do you remember me asking him a question about diversity in leadership at d.o.j. and the fact that they had no african-americans in leadership at d.o.j. do you have any african americans at the top leadership in the department of justice? >> if the senate confirms my friend don washington to be head of the u.s. marshals, which i believe he is pending on the floor of the senate currently, then the answer to that question would be yes. as we sit here today, i do not believe. would you consider the leadership of the department of justice? >> the hierarchy with people responding to them, head of a division, deputy attorney generals. if you look at the flow chart echelon. think about the image to me, d.o.j. created to protect civil rights and advocate for alma, we've had the last two attorney generals come here, not one of
them thought they could find or did find an african-american at d.o.j. to bring with them. and you're charged with enforcing civil rights and making people feel that you're fighting for equality. you mentioned charlottesville and charging the person with 30 counts and i applaud you for that. do you believe that in charlottesville there were good people on both sides? >> um, congressman, i think the act, while -- you know, again, part of an ongoing prosecution -- >> let me say this. >> the act was charged as a hate crime. >> i agree with you and i applaud you for that. but that's one individual. i'm asking you in general, do you believe that there were good people that were protesting and there were good people that were anti-protesters? so i'm talking about the people marching with light -- i mean,
the tiki torches and the chants. do you think that some of them were good people is the short question? >> congressman, there is no place in a civil society for hate, for white supremacy or white nationalism. >> thank you. also out of the 115,000 employees that you have at d.o.j., are any of them transgender? >> congressman, as i sit here today, i don't know the answer to that question. ischem i can imagine generally based on that generally, i'd be happy to get back to you if they identify that way. >> would you have a problem with a transgender person being from a clerk to a agent in the field for any of your law enforcement agencies? >> no. >> thank you. you mentioned also that voter
fraud is of a serious concern. how many voter fraud cases have you all initiated? >> congressman, as i mentioned in the previous questioning, i'm happy to get those specific details back to you. as i sit here today, i don't know off the top of my head. >> is it a lot? is it a few? i mean, we're talking about a serious concern in the united states of america. i would think we're talking over 100. are we talking less than 25? but if you don't know a ballpark, i'm fine with that. what about north carolina, because that is the only congressional seat that has not been determined because of widespread voter suppression in that race. does the d.o.j. -- have they opened an investigation into that? and if they have, i guess you can't talk about it. are you looking at that? >> congressman, while i can't talk about open investigations -- and i appreciate your acknowledging there might be open investigations -- i am very aware of what is happening in north carolina. we have previously done voting rights cases in north carolina
and we're watching that situation very carefully. >> well, i don't want to go over my time and i guess in the last 12 seconds, i will just implore you to implore which will now be the third attorney general during this term, that after two years we should be doing better with diversity in the department of justice, and i'm talking more specifically black and brown people and women. i applaud you for having one woman with you, but the d.o.j. should look like the country. and you all have been here twice and it is not a fair representation of what makes this country great. with that, i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank the gentleman. mr. klein. i'm sorry, ms. lesko. >> thank you. you know, i have to say that i'm very disappointed in this hearing.
you know, i ran for congress to get things done. and at the beginning of this, you know, we were told that this is about asking about d.o.j. oversight and some legitimate questions. and here we are, it's nothing but character assassination, harassment of our witness, and it's really disappointing. at first i was mad. i have to tell you, when this thing started hours ago, i went outside and the reporter asked me, what do you think of the hearing? and i said, it's a joke. but now i'm just sad. i'm sad because we were on the floor just a little while ago talking about how we were honoring our late representative dingell and talking about bipartisan ship and how we need to get things done, and yet here we are with the blatant
political show that doesn't help anything. i imagine if american people are watching this right now, they'd be shaking their heads, like what are you doing there? we need to work together to get things done. and so that's my statement. but i do have a question for, for mr. whitaker about d.o.j. oversight. following the new york governor cuomo support of abortion up to the moment of birth and governor northam of virginia's comments supporting an action which, in my opinion, relates to infanta cide, are you concerned about the actions of late that indicate the federal partial birth abortion act that criminalizes gruesome procedures? i'm getting really concerned this is violating the law and has d.o.j. looked into this?
>> yes, as an american citizen i am very concerned. >> and can you also tell me -- i read recently a "wall street journal" opinion piece. it was from 2018. and in that it said new york city -- in new york city, thousands of more black babies are aborted than born alive each year. and my grand kids are african-american. and so, you know, if there was a crime occurring in this country that exceeded the number of deaths from cancer, heart disease, aids, accidents combined, which abortions do, is that something that the d.o.j. would get involved in and be concerned about and tried to stop? >> congresswoman, every life is valuable. while i can't wade into the political issue that you raise, the members of this committee have a lot of power as to how we
value life and how we enforce the laws of the department of justice. and this is an issue that i know there are -- there is a lot of passion about, and i appreciate your passion and it's something that we actually share together. and if you look at my statements previous to joining the department of justice, especially during the 2014 campaign for the united states senate, i was very outspoken in this regard. but as i sit here as acting attorney general, i think it would be inappropriate for me to comment more foal somely on this issue. we're going to enforce the laws congress passes and we're going to hold those accountable that violate the law. >> thank you. i yield back my time. >> thank you. mr. jeffries. >> mr. whitaker, thank you for your presence here today. this hearing is important because there are many americans throughout the country who are confused. i'm confused. i really am.
we're all trying to figure out who are you? where did you come from? and how the heck did you become the head of the department of justice? so hopefully you can help me work through this confusion. >> all right, well, i mean, congressman -- >> mr. whitaker, that was a statement, not a question. i assume you know the difference. the investigation into possible trump/russia collusion in the 2016 election has resulted in 37 indictments, is that correct? >> i believe that number is correct, but most of those folks were russian citizens. >> 34 individuals have been indicted, true? >> while i haven't counted those as i prepared for my hearing preparation, i believe those are consistent with the numbers as i know them. >> three corporate entities have been indicted, correct? >> i believe so, correct. >> the investigation has identified 199 different criminal acts, true?
>> i haven't counted every indictment, but that sounds consistent with what i understand. >> there have been seven guilty pleas, correct? >> yes, there have been seven guilty pleas. >> four people have already been sentenced to prison, true? >> i believe so, but again, i do not have this information in frob front of me. so to the extent that i disagree with you, it's because these are facts -- >> understood, thank you. trump's best friend roger stone was recently indicted for lying to congress in connection with his possible involvement with wikileaks and russian interference with the 2016 election, correct? >> yes, and i mentioned mr. stone's indictment and arrest. >> trump's campaign chairman paul manafort pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the united states, true? >> mr. manafort did plead guilty, yes. >> trump's deputy campaign manager rick gates has pled guilty to lying to the fbi, correct? >> well, i don't have the indictment in front of me, i have no reason to disagree with you. >> trump's former national
security advisor, michael flynn, has pled guilty to lying to the fbi, correct? >> that is a true fact, yes. >> trump's long-time personal attorney and concigliary testified to lying about the trump moscow project. is that true? >> i believe that was one of the bases for his plea agreement. there were several other reasons that mr. cohen pled guilty. >> trump's campaign foreign policy advisor george papadopoulos, has pled guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with russian agents during the 2016 campaign, true? >> while i'm sure there are many that would disagree with the title you put on mr. papadopoulos, it is true he has pled guilty, yes. >> so despite all of the evidence of criminal wrongdoing that has been uncovered, do you still believe that the mueller
investigation is a lynch mob? >> congressman, can you tell me specifically where i said that? >> i'd be happy to. so, in a tweet that you issued on august 6 of 2017, you made reference to a note to trump's lawyer, do not cooperate with mueller's lynch mob. do you recall that? >> i recall that i said that i retweeted an article that was titled that. i did not necessarily agree with that position, but my point was that it was an interesting read for those that want to understand the situation. >> reclaiming my time. manafort, gates, flynn, cohen, papadopoulos and stone are all in deep trouble. one by one, all of the president's men are going down in flames. it is often said where there is smoke, there's fire. there's a lot of smoke emanating from 1600 pennsylvania avenue
right now. yet you decided not to recuse yourself. is that right? >> congressman, the decision to recuse was my decision to make. i looked at all of the information. i consulted with many people that i've discussed today, and i determined that it was not necessary for me to recuse. >> donald trump considered sessions' betrayal to be a betrayal, right? >> as i sit here today i have no idea what the president believes about sessions' recusal. >> the investigation into russia's attack on our democracy is not a witch-hunt. it's not a fishing expedition. it's not a hoax. it's not a lynch mob. it's a national security imperative. the fact that people suggest otherwise comes dangerously close to providing aid and comfort to the enemy. in your final week, keep your hands off the mueller
investigation. i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. i now recognize the gentleman from virginia, mr. klein. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. acting attorney general. i was hopeful that we would get into some oversight over the array of areas of the department of justice that are so critical and so important to addressing the problems that are facing my community, drugs, crime, all of these issues are of top concern to my constituents. and one of the most important things that i hear about when i get back to my district is, are you going to keep the government operating? can you reach an agreement on immigration issues? so when we talk about
immigration, i can ask you a couple of questions that would probably help get to an immigration agreement. the backlog of pending cases in immigration courts nationwide have been growing exponentially since 2008 from fewer than 200,000 cases in 2008 to more than 800,000. and border patrol is currently apprehending almost 50,000 aliens each month. a certain percentage of which ends up in the pending case backlog. in the face of the backlog, what steps is d.o.j. to make sure its immigration judges can efficiently adjudicate cases and reduce the backlog of pending cases in a fair and efficient manner? >> thank you, congressman. this is an important issue to the department of justice and our immigration judges work hard every day to adjudicate those cases. quite frankly, the number of immigration judges we have has been overwhelmed by the number of asylum seekers. over 80% and really over 90% of
those that are encountered at the border and detained and arrested claim some form of asylum. ultimately that causes those folks to be put into the immigration court system and then requires that a hearing be held by an immigration judge. and meanwhile, most of these folks, those 800,000 that are pending, are not part of the detained docket. they are part of the released docket. and those cases take longer. the ones that are not detained, the nondetained docket, and they have caused since 2008 that number to go dramatically up. what we have done about that situation is general sessions and i have, have issued attorney general orders, changing some of the specifics as to how those cases are adjudicated. and in addition, we have together with the help of
congress, which you have authorized and funded more immigration judges, we have put a dramatic number of more judges especially to the areas where it's needed, which is oftentimes at the border. >> so we have also put in place an additional performance metric to gauge the performance of judges working to complete case ands reduce the backlog. are those working? and you've gotten push back from groups who are concerned that they amount to case quotas. and if they are working, are you aware of any organization in which productivity of its workers isn't assessed as one part of the multi dimensional performance review? >> yes, in fact, government wide where there are administrative law judges similar to our immigration judges, there are typically performance metrics that are in place to not only evaluate their productivity, but also to budget and manage that work for. >> and what are you doing to ensure that continuances in
immigration cases are not abused and are granted solely for good cause? >> we issued an attorney general order which set the standard, which had been different based on what the immigration appeals court, which is an internal -- the board of immigration appeals which is an internal d.o.j. body that the attorney general sits over. we passed rules and regulations in a new standard for issuing those continuances for good cause, as you mention. >> thank you. i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. i now yield to the gentleman from rhode island for the purpose of unanimous consent request. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i would ask unanimous consent that the following articles be placed in the record. the first is an article entitled exclusive trump loyalist, matthew whitaker was counseling the white house on investigating clinton. the second article, sessions replacement, matthew whitaker called mueller's appointment ridiculous and a little fishy.
third article, all the time robert mueller's new boss railed against the russia probe. trump's pick to replace jeff sessions said once mueller risk becoming a witch-hunt. and finally an article entitled trump's new acting attorney general once mused about defending robert mueller. >> without objection, these documents will be placed in the record. and i recognize the gentleman for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. whitaker, i'm going to be really straight with you up front. i'm going to cut you off if you make long speeches. we have very limited time. you do not need to thank me for asking the question or compliment me that it's a good question. i'm assuming they're all good questions and you're grateful. one, were you briefed by the special counsel. you acknowledged that. did you share that information with any members of your staff, the information learned in the briefing from the special counselor his team? >> congressman, as i previously testified, there was one other individual in that briefing -- >> and who was that individual? >> it is the u.s. attorney from the eastern district of california who i have brought
on -- >> what is the name of the individual, mr. whitaker? >> his name is greg scott. >> so that's -- did you communicate any information you learned in those briefing to other members of your staff? >> i don't believe so, no. >> do you know whether any information that you learned in those briefings were communicated to anyone at the white house? >> as i mentioned previously, congressman, we have kept a very close -- >> mr. whitaker, it's a yes or a no. do you know if it was communicate today anybody at the white house? >> as i sit here today, i don't -- i don't know whether it was communicated, i do not believe -- >> did you put into place any restrictions or limitations or instructions to your staff not to share this information with anyone at the white house or the president's legal team? >> yes, together with the general standard that investigative information and materials are need to know and law enforcement -- >> thank you, mr. whitaker. did the president lash out at you after michael cohen's guilty plea for lying to congress about
a trump organization project to build a tower in moscow? >> the president specifically tweeted that he had not lashed out. >> i'm asking you, mr. whitaker. did the president lash out at you? i'm not asking what he tweeted. i don't have a lot of confidence in the veracity of his tweets. i'm asking you under oath. >> congressman, that is based on an unsubstantiated -- >> sir, answer the question yesser no. did the president lash out to you about mr. cohen's guilty plea? >> no, he did not. >> and did anyone from the white house or anyone on the president's behalf lash out at you? >> no. >> mr. whitaker, did the president lash out to you on or about december 8th, 2018, to discuss a case before the southern district of new york where he was identified as individual one? >> no, congressman. >> did anyone on the president's behalf either inside the white house or outside the white house contact you to lash out or
express dissafrgs? >> did they contact me to lash out? >> yes. did they reach out to you in some way to express dissatisfaction? >> no. >> okay. did you share the questions that mr. nadler forwarded to you prior to this hearing with anyone at the white house? or the president's legal counsel? >> congressman, i did not. >> so, when you claimed earlier that you were going to invoke a prilk, you are invoking privilege about questions the president hasn't seen. >> congressman, i'm not invoke being any privilege. >> you said earlier in your written testimony you would not answer questions about your conversations with the president, did you not? >> yes, i did. >> so you are not sitting here today saying the president has instructed you not to answer a question, correct? >> i am not sitting here today saying that the president has instruct the me -- >> then you're prepared to answer all these questions? >> congressman, i think i was pretty explicit in my opening statement -- >> have you spoken to the president, mr. whitaker, about the mueller investigation? >> congressman, as i have
previously testified, i had -- did not talk to the president about the mueller investigation. >> have you ever spoken to the president or parts of his legal team about information that you've learned in your capacity as acting attorney general related to the mueller investigation or any other criminal investigation involving the president? >> congressman, while i have specifically been saying that i'm not going to comment about my conversations with the president or his senior staff, i have also been very clear that the president has not instructed me to do anything -- >> that wasn't my question. my question is have you had conversations about what you learned? that's a yes or a no. >> congressman, i have -- i spend all day every day talking -- >> mr. whitaker, my question is very specific. have you spoken to the president or his legal team about what you've learned in the mueller investigation or with the related criminal investigations that may involve the president, yes or no? >> congressman, as i specifically answered earlier to a question -- >> you are clearly not going to answer the question so i'm going
to move on. do you know professor john barrett, correct? anyway, this is a law school professor who tweeted you told him in june of 2017 that he was flying -- that you were flying out from iowa to new york city to be on cnn regularly because you were hoping to be noticed as a trump defender and get a position back in iowa. you then went on to describe the mueller appointment of the special counsel as ridiculous and a little fishy. that mueller investigating trump's finances would be going too far. there was no criminal justice to be had against trump. any candidate would have taken the same meeting with the russian lawyer. and a replacement for sessions could reduce the budget so low it could grind it to a halt. you said all those things. it's all in print. it answers mr. deutsche's question. the american people wondered just how is it that mr. whitaker becomes the acting attorney general of the united states in
violation of existing statutes, was he put there for a particular purpose. that wasn't a question. it's a statement. i yield back. >> i observed that. the time of the gentleman is expired. who is next? mr. -- is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you, mr. whitaker, for being here today. i just want to quickly reference the letter that was sent to you from the chair on january 9th. in this letter in the chairman's own words, it said this committee was here to, quote-unquote, conduct oversight of the department. in this letter it is also important other topics to be discussed here today like immigration, gun violence, the violence against women's act, obamacare, national security. that is not even the complete list. i know you read the letter. i was excited to be here. i thought these were critically important issues that affect the constituents of my district and millions of americans. in fact, a lot of these issues are life and death so i'm really
confused as i height here today in this hearing with my democratic colleagues focused on one topic and that's the mueller investigation. i hope my friends across the aisle would have used this opportunity for more bipartisanship and less show manship. but clearly i was wrong. with that said i want to get to some of the important topics we were supposed to focus on today. one of those is sanctuary cities. in my home state of pennsylvania, the civil philadelphia has released at least three child moletteers back onto the streets. and everyone knows the tragic story of 32-year-old kate steinle who was murdered by an immigrant who was convicted of seven felonies and deported five times. now, those child molesters in philadelphia, the murder of kate steinle, they were all released because some city wanted to score cheap political points. that's why i'm focused on ending sanctuary cities. mr. whitaker, what steps is the d.o.j. taking to end the
practice of sanctuary cities? >> first of all, we're ending taxpayer funded grants to sanctuary cities. jag grants will increase information sharing between federal, state and local law enforcement to ensure public safety. i don't know if the congressman knows this, but one of the challenges we have is in a sanctuary jurisdiction. jails will release convicted criminals back into the community instead of informing immigration customs enforcement the person is available to be picked up at the jail. it is incredibly dangerous situation to make an i.c.e. officer go into a community to try to arrest somebody that is here illegally and has been convicted of a crime, oftentimes crimes like you mention. and i cannot imagine a situation where a mayor or city council or county executive or otherwise would put law enforcement officers in harms way. it is quite frankly bad policy and we are going to work very
hard to end it and one of the ways we're ending it is by taking away the resources to those jurisdictions that have that policy. >> thank you, mr. whitaker. mr. whitaker, i have one more question regarding the opioid crisis. this crisis is striking our country hard, particularly southwestern pennsylvania. data from 2017 shows that it is more likely now that someone is going to die of a drug overdose than a car crash. my district has been hit really hard, in particular, faye et county saw an 88% increase in overdose deaths from 2015 to 2017. what steps has the d.o.j. taken to address this shift and do you think a lot of the problems we're seeing in these stats come from porous southern border? >> to answer your second question first, i do believe most illegal opioids, nonprescription like fentanyl,
hear heroin and derivatives are imported through the southern border. some, not a majority, are via direct mail. for example, an order off the dark net. i went through a list of things that the department of justice is doing to combat this opioid epidemic. i hope that this committee, while it is something i was prepared and wanted to talk about and i appreciate the question, will look at other ways we can put resources into the opioid crisis. 70,000 people as you mention have died of drug overdoses. a majority of those are from some form of opioids. and we also, i mentioned my trip to china last august. we have to work with the chinese government to reduce the flow of fentanyl and we also have to -- we have emergency schedule right now the fentanyl analogs, but we need an act of congress, and i
hope we can get that to make that permanent. that these fentanyl derivatives and creative chemists that change the chemical makeup of fentanyl do not try to continue to evolve their drug to avoid our regulation. >> thank you, mr. whitaker. i yield back my time. >> -- >> thank you. mr. whitaker, does your watch dog organization ever receive contributions from foreign donors? mr. chair, point of order. i'd ask -- >> will suspend, the gentleman will explain his point of order. >> the majority does not care, but outside the scope of his hearing. this is not while he was employed here. whether he outside had donors while he was employed making the connection is not the scope of this committee.
that is not the call of this committee. i'm outdone over here, i don't have any votes. there are plenty of things to do -- >> will the gentleman yield? >> you can go sit down there, but you're not his lawyer. >> gentleman will suspend. >> neither are you. >> asking questions instead of running for president we can get this done. >> both gentlemen will suspend. gentleman has stated a point of order. the chair will rule the point of order is not well taken. the scope of people's questioning, we afford a wide latitude. i don't even know where it's going at this point. the gentleman -- so the gentleman's point of order is not well taken. the gentleman will resume. >> overruling the chair. >> the gentleman appealed the ruling of the chair. the gentle lady moved to table. move to table is not debatable. the clerk will call the roll and the motion to table. >> mr. chairman --
>> call the roll. all in favor of tabling the resolution -- i'm sorry. all in favor of appealing the ruling of the chair say aye. >> aye. >> nay? >> no. >> the ayes have it. the appeal -- the motion is tabled. gentleman will continue. >> mr. whitaker, does your organization have foreign contributions? >> just to be clear, are you -- >> yes or no? >> what do you mean by my organization? >> you led an organization called fact. did it receive foreign contributions while you were there? >> i don't actually know the answer to that. i do not believe as i sit here today that it did, but our main donor was a group that was a u.s. entity. >> when you -- did you interview with don mcgahn in july 2017 to have the job that ty cobb would ultimately get? >> i did not meet with mr. mcgahn. >> did you talk tonight phone? >> we didn't talk on the phone
either. >> with who did you talk to on his staff? >> i talked to annie donaldson. >> when you talked to the chief of staff did you express your prior views about the mueller investigation? >> no, i did not. >> was it brought up by the chief of staff? >> in fact, at the time, congressman, everyone at the white house did not want to talk about the special counsel's investigation. >> but you were interviewing for a job that would respond to the special counsel's investigation, is that right? >> at the time i was interviewing for the position that was ultimately occupied by ty cobb. >> i want to understand how you could interview to a job about the special investigation, but you were not to talk at all about the special investigation. how would they know -- >> i didn't say we didn't talk about it. they did not want to talk about the investigation because the folks were dealing with that investigation and that's why they wanted to bring in someone that had been unrelated to the investigation and the camp -- >> did they talk to you about your prior opinions about the mueller investigation is >> no, we did not discuss it. it was about my background as a
united states attorney and my legal practice. >> has there been discussion at the department about keeping the mueller report from going to congress? >> no. we, in fact, we are continuing to follow the special counsel regulations as it relates to the report. we haven't received the report -- >> has there been a draft opinion about keeping it from going to congress? >> you know, congressman, i'm not going to talk about the ongoing investigation that is the special counsel. i will share with you -- >> mr. whitaker, did donald trump ask you if you would recuse before you became acting attorney general, if that question came up, did he ask you what you would do? >> congressman, i already answered that question in my opening statement. >> do you believe attorney general sessions should have recused? >> as i mentioned in my answers previously, the recusal decision -- >> no, do you believe yes or no that he should have recused? >> actually as i sit here today i do not have an opinion. i believe he determined it was the right decision for him to make and so i agree that he made
the right decision for him. >> have there been any discussions at the department about pardons for paul manafort, roger stone, michael flynn, or michael cohen? >> congressman, for flynn and m cohen? that is there been discussions of pardons of individuals that you are aware of. >> congressman, i have not been involved in any discussions of any pardons including the one that you discussed. >> you made the publication last week that the investigation is nearly complete. is that your characterization or bob mueller's? >> that position i mentioned in a press conference was aking aking -- acting attorney general. >> would bob mueller going to agree with you? >> mueller is going to finish this investigation when he wants to finish with this
investigation. >> is mr. mueller honest? >> i have been on the record of his ability to conduct this investigation. >> do you believe he's honest or no? >> yes, i do believe he's honest. >> do you believe he's conflicted? >> congressman, as i mention regarding recusal for the individual lawyer to make once a matter before them. i am sure whether it is bob mueller or rosenstein. >> do you believe that mr. mueller is conflicted? >> as acting attorney general, i follow regular order at the department of justice. i expected that the lawyers and the staff that work for me follow regular orders. as i sit here today, i don't have any reason to believe that. >> you believe he's honest and you don't believe he's conflicted. can you say mr. president, bob
mueller is not conflicted. >> i am not in public to repeat what you said. >> are you able to say it? >> i have answered your question of what i believe of the special counsel. >> can you say it to the president though? >> i don't think man, i am not here to repeat term and words that you want me to say. >> can you say that to the president? >> he did not answer that question. >> the time for the gentleman is expired. >> i don't have anything to further add, i think i have answered the congressman's questions. >> the gentleman from north dakota, mr. armstrong. >> mr. whitaker, you are are currently acting attorney general. i want to commend all the staff,
this is a tremendous shift not just for democrats or republicans, it is the way government is supposed to work. also working towards a smarter way to deliver criminal justice particularly with addiction related crimes. my only hope because it is called the first step, there will be a second step. if you ever -- unfortunately, i have other questions for you. any time on your way out if you have any advice on something that congress can do to continue this momentum, i would be appreciativ appreciative. >> i was involved in the first step act, i want to commend everyone in the committee to work on that and getting the first step act. one of this things we can use
your help is make sure you fund it. we continue to implement the first step act and consistent with the law that you pass. last night we sent guidance about how to implement the act. >> i would hope to work towards having a federal level of pretrial release program to be available to every state and county courthouse across the country. one of the great ironies i thought was found about your pre-travel release program that it is incredibly effective and you did a ten-year minimum. the release program at the department of justice is across the country andphenomenonal. >> i understand how pretrials work.
we would be interested in your proposal and we'll look at that and work with you to carefully try to implement something like that. >> in our role as over sight, i do have a question about something that has come up in the past and that given the nature of the testimony today, very possibly could come up in the future. i think often when we have names like clinton and rosenstein and trump and russia. we forget that the law is the law. you testified to representative jordan that we prosecute crimes and not people. often across the country, we think the law applies differently from the people pretending -- one of the areas that came up, it was something that concerns me when i was involved in this, when we start to talk a difference between gross and intelligence.
gross negligence has the same definition approximately anywhere in the criminal case, right? >> yes, generally correct. if gross negligence would be vague under one particular statue in the criminal code then we should be concerned that it is vague other section of the criminal code? >> that's correct. there will be instructions as to how to evaluate gross intelligence. >> assuming that it was not political in nature as to why gross negligence was not looked forward in any particular case. under the doj, has anyone reviewed this or looked at it or made any proposal to congress whether or not we need to
tighten up growth negligence language? >> as i sit here right now, i don't know the answer to your question but i would be happy to get back to you on that. >> i would appreciate that. >> under normal course of order, i am assuming it works the same, fbi agents investigate crimes and it goes up to the u.s. attorney office. >> you need predication to open up an ian vision. there is many steps along the way. first, you have to predicate the investigation and investigate it by special agents and crimes and typically nausa works with them to get search warrants in the light and ultimately a case is developed and presented to what is charged. >> and then again there is some
discover process. it is very well warm and go back to something you mentioned earlier, congressman. all of that is done with a form of justice without interference. >> i am just concerned moving forward, everybody knows it. obviously this is hyper tension and hyper critical. i am really concerned that everybody knows the rules of the game and the law applies in way that it should. this is continuing to go on with this hearing today its noticeable of that. on your way out, maybe it is the best time to deal with some of those things. sometimes that's when we have the courage to do it. this could come up again in the future. >> time for the gentleman has expired. the committee will stand for recess for two-minutes. i ask that the members remain
here if they ca coming up at 2: here on east coast. i am chris jansing, you have been watching the ongoing and c contentious hearing. the he's not going to be there long but while he has been on the stand, it has been really interesting. some key points to talk about today, we have a great group of folks to talk about i with you. first, let's go back. i want to give you a little sense of where we are because it starts a minute or two in and has not led up for any point of time. here is a couple of highlights. >> this is ng more than a
character. >> in your capacity as an attorney general, have you asked to request of any action taken boo i the special counsel. >> mr. chairman, i see that your five minutes is up. >> mr. attorney general, we are not joking here. you are humor is not acceptable. i need to have my time restored so you can behave appropriately. i will behave appropriately as a member of the judiciary committee. >> joining me now chuck ros rosenburg, also an msnbc contributor, you and i have been watching this from the very start. what have we learn of substance here? >> the word you used a moment ago, chris, is so well described. we learned a few things. we learned that the acting