tv The 11th Hour With Brian Williams MSNBC May 1, 2019 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
>> i don't think the trump team is now or ever has been or ever will be worried about breaking the law. that's tonight's "last word." "the 11th hour with brian williams" starts now. tonight in a stunner of a day-long hearing, attorney general bill bar presents an unabashed defense of the president while seemingly trying to diminish the importance of his friend of 30 years, robert mueller. and now barr is refusing to show up tomorrow before house judiciary because the democrats in charge there want lawyers to question him and now that means it's possible the nation's top law enforcement officer could find himself in contempt. tonight, the calls for bill barr to resign are growing, and all eyes, again, turn to one robert mueller whose testimony becomes more critical by the hour as "the 11th hour" gets under way on this wednesday night.
well, good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. day 832 of the trump administration. a full day, an explosive day on capitol hill, as attorney general barr defended the man who appointed him, defended his handling of the mueller report, to members of the senate. we'll take you through the hearing in just a moment, but the latest news from today came tonight. it's about tomorrow. barr has decided he's one and done, where hearings are concerned. he turned down house judiciary tomorrow. he's not going to show. he didn't like the idea of getting questioned by the committee's appointed lawyers in addition to members of congress on the committee, something the committee chairman said tonight shouldn't be up to him. >> the attorney general has a nerve to try to dictate, and the administration has a nerve to dictate our procedures, simply
part of the administration's complete stonewalling of congress. he's trying to blackmail the committee into not following what we think is the most effective means of eliciting the information we need. >> tonight a spokesman at the department of justice tells nbc news that nadler's insistence on the staff question format is, quote, inappropriate. nadler also says justice refuses to hand over the full unredacted mueller report. his committee is now trying to get mueller, himself, to testify may 15th. and now back to the attorney general. he spent much of today before senate judiciary defending at every turn how he handled and released and summarized the mueller report. defending trump's assertions about the mueller report, even the mischaracterizations of mueller's findings. >> do you think the president's campaign in 2016 was thoroughly
looked at in terms of whether or not they colluded with the russians? >> yes. >> and the answer is no, according to bob mueller. >> that's right. >> in his report, mueller noted he was applying the framework of conspiracy law, not making a judgment about collusion which is not an entity in federal law. mueller also made plain the evidence that trump directed his ex-white house counsel don mcgahn to have mueller fired. trump also denied this and today barr seemed to as well. >> the president never directed him to fire and there is a distinction between saying to someone, go fire him, go fire mueller, and saying, have him removed based on conflict. >> in his report, mueller also detailed evidence indicating trump attempted to get rid of the special counsel with the corrupt intent of curtailing the investigation. trump has suggested he could have fired mueller because he
believed the investigation to be a witch hunt, which you may have heard. here is what barr told the committee today on that front. >> if the president is being falsely accused and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents, and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel. >> barr's appearance came just hours after we learned that mueller had, in fact, written the a.g. in late march, suggesting that barr misled the public with his four-page now-famous letter describing the report's conclusions in advance. earlier last month, barr under oath told a house committee that he was unaware that members of the mueller team were concerned about what he'd written in his summary. today, he was asked about that apparent discrepancy. >> why did you say you were not aware or concerned when weeks
before your testimony mr. mueller had expressed concerns to you. that's a fairly simple -- >> i answered the question and the question was relating to unidentified members who were expressing frustration over the accuracy relating to findings. i don't know what that refers to at all. i talked directly to bob mueller, not members of his team. >> would you concede that you had an opportunity to make this letter public on april 4th when representative crist asked you a very related question? >> i don't know what you mean by related question. seems to me it would be a very different question. >> i can't even follow that down the road. that -- i mean, boy, that's a masterful hair splitting. >> on several different occasions, barr seemed to diminish his friend of 30 years, robert mueller, calling him the equivalent of a u.s. attorney, which, indeed, mueller was years
ago, saying mueller wasn't a career prosecutor, and then hours into the hearing, here's how he characterized the letter that mueller had sent him. >> you know, the letter's a bit snitty and i think it was probably written by one of his staff people. >> another revealing moment today during withering questioning from former prosecutor turned democratic senator kamala harris who asked barr about his contact with the white house. >> has the president or anyone at the white house asked or suggested you open an investigation of anyone? >> i wouldn't -- i wouldn't -- >> yes or no? >> could you repeat that question? >> i will repeat it. has the president or anyone at the white house ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? yes or no, please, sir. >> the president or anybody else? >> seems you'd remember something like that. be able to tell us.
>> yeah, but i'm trying to grapple with the word, "suggest." i mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they've not asked me to open an investigation, but -- >> perhaps they've suggested? >> i don't know. i wouldn't say suggest. >> hinted? >> i don't know. >> inferred? you don't know? okay. >> because elections have consequences, time for civics. republicans run the senate, and lindsey graham, who years ago was a withering trump critic, is now a close trump ally. he set the tone for the other republicans on the panel. >> after all this time and all this money, mr. mueller and his team concluded there was no collusion. but when the mueller report is put to bed and it soon will be, this committee is going to look long and hard at how this all started. we're going to look at the fisa warrant process. >> what are you doing to investigate unauthorized media
contacts by the department and fbi officials during the russian investigation? >> we have multiple criminal leak investigations under way. >> the obama administration justice department and fbi decided to place their bets on hillary clinton and focus their efforts on investigating the trump campaign. >> starting with strzok and page and everybody else leading up before the investigation, i hope they're being investigated. >> which brings us to our leadoff discussion on this consequential wednesday night. berit berger, former assistant u.s. attorney with both the eastern district of new york and southern district of new york. matthew miller, former chief spokesman for the justice department. jeremy bash, former chief of staff at cia and the pentagon. former chief counsel to the house intel committee. and ken vogel, veteran politico reporter for "the new york times." good evening, and welcome to all
of you. i know it's been a long day. jeremy, if i might, i want to begin with you. you were here when the broadcast started over two years ago. among our first guests. you've been along for the ride ever since. what did you make of today's hearing? >> today was a sad display, brian. i think the attorney general advanced weak and shallow arguments. he's gone full trump. basically he mischaracterized bob mueller's report, badly mischaracterized it. bob mueller called him on it. but for the media reports the last 24 hours, the attorney general would have appeared before the senate this morning, repeated the lie, repeated the mischaracterizations. in addition, brian, as i think we're going to get into, his analysis of the obstruction volume of the mueller report is way off base, essentially saying, no, the president didn't order that mueller be fired, he just ordered he be removed as if we're all too stupid to know the difference. >> berit berger, knowing you for
five minutes means learning you love the justice department. having established that, what did you make of today, what did you make of william barr? >> i think it's painful any time you watch a witness testifying and having to sort of twist themselves into a pretzel to answer really basic questions. it's even more painful when that witness is the attorney general who in my opinion needs to be held to a higher standard. to see somebody like bill barr quibbling over the word of "suggest," it's painful. this is the nation's top prosecutor. this is somebody who should be able to answer questions clearly and honestly and i don't know that the public can have much confidence in him after the performance today. >> you've got friends, former colleagues, of course, still on the inside. this is their leader. their boss. >> right. many of whom have investigations that were referred from the special counsel's office team. this is the person that continues to oversee all of those investigations. look, i think this testimony today answered some questions.
i think it raised a lot more questions. specifically, about, you know, where the attorney general's loyalties are here, who is he really serving in this role? >> matt miller also a loyal former doj employee, come from the calm side of the street. did we see a communications strategy today? the democrats charge that, yes, this was the period at the end of the sentence that obfuscated and fuzzed up the mueller report writ large. >> yeah, i think it was a simple communications strategy by the attorney general. that was to defend the president at all costs. it's kind of stunning when you look at what he was there to testify about. he was there to testify about the mueller report. which in its entirety is a pretty scathing account of the president's behavior. it all but accuses the president of committing a crime of obstruction of justice. it lays out a number of very troubling patterns of campaign. conduct. doesn't accuse him of crime but lays out things the americans should be concerned about.
every question the attorney general was asked he excused the conduct, dismissed the behavior of bob mueller and his team. at times he attacked the leadership of the fbi and justice department. he seemed skeptical of this entire investigation in the first place. it was a very disappointing performance for the attorney general who should have been there defending the department's work, instead went up there and questioned it kind of from the beginning. >> ken vogel, by one theory what we saw today was two hearings under republican questioning and under democratic questioning. watching cable news tonight, i saw two hearings. one as covered by this network, another as covered by another. what will shine through, in your view, tomorrow? >> well, i think republicans definitely did provide fodder for barr to present this alternative story line. he did talk about spying. he echoed the president. the president's claim continuing -- he didn't back down from the claim that he previously made which echoed the
president's claim that trump's campaign was spied on which a lot of career intelligence and law enforcement folks took issue with that term. he didn't back down from it. he also took the bait, not just took the bait, he talked at some depth about the investigations that he has launched at the department of justice into the origins of the russia investigation. into possible fisa abuse and we've heard a little bit from rudy giuliani and even from the president, himself, that they would like an investigation by barr of ukrainian meddling on behalf of the clinton campaign. so these are the types of things that republicans prefer to talk about and they found a willing sort of response from barr on those issues. >> jeremy bash, you were chief of staff, out of all places, spy headquarters in langley, virginia, and he did invoke the word today. went further than that. let's listen to some of that.
talk about it on the other side. >> i don't think the word, "spying," has any pejorative connotation at all. >> you recognize -- >> to me the question is always whether or not it's authorized and adequately predicated, spying. i think spying is a good english wood that, in fact, doesn't have synonyms because it's the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collections. >> of course, jeremy, politically, spying is the preferred word of the trump right. no collusion, no obstruction, is the preferred phraseology of the trump right. all your time at cia, was it known or ever referred to as spying if someone was put under surveillance and all the traps were run that have to be run? >> it's spying if it's done against foreign adversaries, brian, to collect foreign intelligence, but when you're talking about undertaking surveillance, electronic surveillance, or investigative surveillance, on u.s. soil against u.s. persons, no, you
don't call it spying. to call it spying is basically to say there is no predication, there is no judicial oversight, and that's contrary to the 4th amendment and our constitutional order. and our attorney general knows exactly that. he knows better. in fact, he told me so when he was general counsel of verizon and he was lobbying congress for an exception from liability for the telecommunications companies under then-president bush's surveillance program. >> and berit berger, i have one for you. here is senator klobuchar also a former prosecutor talking about potential witness intimidation at the hands of the president. >> the report found that michael cohen's testimony to the house before it, that the president repeatedly implied that cohen's family members had committed crimes. do you consider that evidence to be an attempt to convince a witness to change testimony? >> no. i don't think that that could --
could pass muster. >> the report found that after manafort was convicted, the president, himself, called him a brave man for refusing to break. >> yes. and that is not -- and that is not obstruction. >> berit, in your view, does that reasoning hold up? >> well, whether or not it's obstruction, it's certainly not appropriate for the president of the united states to be congratulating a witness on not breaking. in the department of justice -- >> i've seen it in movies. >> fair enough. the department of justice, we had gang cases, organized crime cases where we would bring additional obstruction charges against defendants for doing just these kind of actions for, you know, potentially threatening witnesses or, you know, making sort of these veiled threats against family members so whether or not it reaches a criminal threshold is sort of beyond the point here. you have the attorney general
sort of acting like he sees nothing wrong with that, which to me is just baffling. >> matt, neal katyal, frequent guest of ours, former solicitor general for this country, our lead lawyer before the supreme court, a guy who co-authored the regs that allowed mueller to do his work has written this and this is kind of an instruction manual for mueller/request list going forward. this is interesting. "mr. mueller needs to testify and tell us whether he disagrees with mr. barr's analysis and conclusions about obstruction of evidence, what he thinks about the attorney general's reaching his decision without reviewing any of the underlying evidence, what mr. mueller thought of mr. barr's characterization of their reported disagreements, whether there were other disagreements that have not been reported, and whether mr. mueller's knowledge of what mr. barr has done leads him to conclude that the attorney general must recuse himself from the continuing
trump investigations." it's a long list, matt. obviously, valid questions. one problem, bob mueller is an employee of the department of justice. his boss is bill barr, the attorney general, unless and until such time he's allowed to testify or is no longer an employee. >> yeah, bill barr said today as he said previously he had no objection to the special counsel testifying. however, for some reason he can't -- the justice department can't seem to find a date to make him available to the house judiciary committee which said very much it wants to have him come testify. i think those are very good questions that neal laid out. i think before this week, i always thought mueller's testimony would be a bit of a disappointment, come in and talk and testify the way he did when he was the fbi director which would be reticent to say anything beyond what was in that report. after finding out last night he was so upset with the way barr handled himself in his first letter that he sent two letters to the special -- to the attorney general complaining and in the second one arguing that
he misled the american people, and what's happened since then? the attorney general doubled down on that at a press conference and then tripled down on it today and continued to mislead the american public about what the special counsel had found. i wonder now if bob mueller, if he was mad enough on march 27th to send this kind of extraordinary letter to the attorney general, if he's even more upset now that he might come in when he eventually testifies, maybe after he's left the department and really lay his disagreements out for everyone to see. >> hey, ken, democrats as of tonight have been presented with a moment. there will be no barr at tomorrow's hearing. they are capable of playing it correctly and whatever, whoever's view that is or
tends to result in more pointiant questions and better answers, or at least more confrontational on point questions. but we saw today that there were several democratic senators who were able to elicit very revealing responses from bill barr during the testimony, including senators harris and blumenthal. we talked a little bit about, showed clips of very on point questions. you would think the democrats on the house judiciary committee might be able to do the same thing but at this point the sides are kind of dug into their corners and i don't expect that either will give. >> figuring they've all been up all day anyway all of our guests have agreed to stay with us just this next break. and when we come back we'll look at how much senate directs were able to get on their own. one strategist called barr
a business owner always goes beyond what people expect. that's why we built the nation's largest gig-speed network along with complete reliability. then went beyond. beyond clumsy dials-in's and pins. to one-touch conference calls. beyond traditional tv. to tv on any device. beyond low-res surveillance video. to crystal clear hd video monitoring from anywhere. gig-fueled apps that exceed expectations.
comcast business. beyond fast. that handles anything. that protects what's important. and reaches everywhere. this is beyond wifi. this is xfi. simple, easy, awesome. bob mueller is equivalent of a u.s. attorney. he was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. his work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. at that point, it was my baby, and i was making a decision as to whether or not to make it public. >> during his testimony today, the attorney general spoke about a conversation he had with robert mueller after he received
that critical letter from mueller of barr's march 24th summary to congress. >> i said, bob, what's with the letter, you know? why don't you just pick up the phone and call me if there's an issue. and he said that they were concerned about the way the media was playing this and felt that it was important to get out the summaries which they felt would put their work in proper context and avoid some of the confusion that was emerging and i asked him if he felt that my letter was misleading and inaccurate. he said no, he thought the press coverage was and it was -- and that a completer, a more
complete picture of his thoughts and the context and so forth would deal with that. >> but there's nothing in robert mueller's letter to you about the press. his complaint to you is about your characterization of the report. correct? >> well, the letter speaks for itself. >> after that exchange, the judiciary chairman, lindsey graham, said he would reach out to robert mueller to ask him if he disagreed with barr's characterization of that conversation. he was then asked about calling mueller to testify. this was in the hallway after the hearing. >> why not call for mueller to testify? >> because i'm not going to do any more. enough already. it's over. if there's any dispute about a conversation, then he'll come, but i'm not going to retry the case. i'm not calling mcgahn. it is over. >> what is -- >> the chairman disappeared
after that. still with us, berit berger, matt miller, jeremy bash, and ken vogel. berit, the question is, and i know you're not a political person, did the democrats do the damage to this witness they wanted to do? one of the headlines tonight, because i'm from new jersey, the record shows he took the blows for his boss. donald trump did not get pummeled today. barr did. >> yeah. i think the democrats landed a lot of really strategic punches in this hearing. they were able to ask effective questions. i think they really poked holes in a lot of what barr had to say. i mean, i think the ultimate question at the end of this is, like, so what? how does this actually help congress in what is their ultimate decision, which is do they actually use the information in the mueller report to begin any kind of impeachment proceedings? did this advance the ball for them on that field? i think it did. i think it definitely gave them
some more fodder for bringing in additional witnesses, such as mueller, such as mcgahn, but i don't know that -- i don't know that we have a, you know, full picture of what went into the unrolling of the mueller report. i think there's definitely still room for more inquiry on this. >> matt miller, barr says with a straight face that trump fully cooperated but we know trump didn't sit down for testimony. >> yeah, that was one of the remarkable things he said that he's said for a while now that the president fully cooperated when he only gave written answers to half the report. he wouldn't sit down at all. i think it goes to this point that he was really acting kind of as the president's defense attorney. and so to the question you asked berit, democrats succeeded in dinging his credibility, dirtying up his credibility. at the same time, he's not playing the same game, he's not worried i don't think about his credibility with the mainstream press or people in middle america. he's aiming for that fox viewer, the fox audience, who just needs to hear a different narrative. need to hear no collusion, no obstruction and this was a witch
hunt from the beginning and there needs to be an investigation into the investigation. that's what he was trying to do. and so for democrats going forward, you know, look, he's not coming to testify before the house committee tomorrow chaired by democrats. i don't think that's actually a bad thing for democrats. they don't need to hear any more from the president's chief defender who can sit there and explain why in his view the president didn't commit a crime. they need to hear from the witnesses that bob mueller put in his report. don mcgahn, don mcgahn's chief of staff, corey lewandowski, start hearing from those folks so the focus is not on bill barr but on donald trump. >> jeremy bash, if your chief concern is the fact that our next presidential election is vulnerable to the russians again, did you hear anything today that would satisfy you? >> no. in fact, i think the attorney general is downplaying the whole notion that the russians posed a threat. i mean, there was some back and forth with some republican senators about it but the whole approach by the department of justice and the attorney general in this case is there's not much to see here, don't worry about it. you know, i agree with matt.
i don't think the democrats gain much by having the attorney general there tomorrow. although i have to say, i've been along for many congressional testimonies of cabinet secretaries, agency heads, where they usually do this senate then the house, house then the senate, back to back. tomorrow, page 1 of the print edition, if you can summarize what folks will hopefully later read, it involves this man, joe biden. there's even a cameo by rudolph giuliani. >> yeah, it's almost two separate stories. we have joe biden as vice president having intervened to sort of force the firing of a ukrainian prosecutor who happened to have an open case looking into a company, ukrainian gas company, that was employing joe biden's son.
joe biden's son, hunter biden, was on the board of. potential conflict of interest i think joe biden will have to answer for, particularly as he's casting himself as a statesman. and then on the other side you have rudy giuliani and allies of the president actually soliciting information from ukrainians that could be damaging to joe biden and also could be used to undermine the origins of parts of the special counsel, what became the special counsel investigation, so you have rudy giuliani really trying to capitalize on this in a way that could redound to donald trump's benefit. >> to our viewers, the request remains the same. look for ken vogel's byline as always, especially tonight. to ken vogel, our thanks, along with berit berger, matt miller, jeremy bash. our foursome taking on this big day. our thanks. coming up, what donald trump had to say about what he saw today, when we come back. - hey, mike.
and try the new turkey bistro with warm turkey and smokehouse bacon. or the new hot club chicken dijon with black forest ham. the new hot pretzels, only at togos. how far would you go for a togo? i heard that the attorney general was really, really, solid and did a great job today. >> not all -- not all the reviews were quite like that. the "washington post" headline tonight is this. "with mueller silent, barr interprets the special counsel's report -- to the advantage of trump." and there is no question the president is pleased. here he was on "fox business" tonight. >> he did a fantastic job today.
i'm told. i got to see some of it. he did a fantastic job. and it's all a big hoax. he's an outstanding man. he's an outstanding legal mind and i heard he was really -- he performed incredibly well today. and -- >> you have the -- kamala harris. uh-huh. >> well, she was probably very nasty. >> that was about kamala harris. i had not heard the president call it a hoax before, however. with us to talk about it town, john heilemann. veteran journalist. national affairs -- co-author -- thank you, thank you, jonathan -- of "game change." co-host, co-creator of "the circus" on showtime. and jonathan lemire, white house reporter for the associated press. jonathan lemire, we begin with you and your beat because you have fresh reporting on how today as a broadcast live television event went over in the west wing and portions of the residence. >> it went over very well. there are a number of televisions in the west wing scattered throughout the offices there including one just off the
oval office in the president's private kitchen, dining area. that was tuned to the hearings today. people i talked to who have spoken to the president since, others in the west wing, white house officials, said the president kept a careful eye on this both in the residence before coming down to the oval office and again between meetings once he got to work for the day and that he told people privately more or less what he said publicly adding a few details, that he, yes, thought the attorney general did a good job. he defended him appropriately. he really -- he told a couple people that he thought that he was very combative with democratic senators and liked that, liked that sort of fighting spirit. this continues, what has really become, you know, the president didn't have much of a relationship with bill barr before he took this post. but since that summary, the four-page summary a month or so back, was released of the mueller report, the president has been telling people really
raving about his selection saying it was a great choice for him, in particular, this was heightened again today, because he feels like bill barr was loyal to him. that's what he wanted. he as we all know complained about length, previous attorney general, jeff sessions was not after sessions recused himself from the russia probe and feels like barr here is sort of protecting him, protecting the president. as we know, this president feels like the attorney general job is about that, much more so than, perhaps, being the nation's top law enforcement officer. >> all the evidence shows he's got his man in that job now. john heilemann, i have this for you. here is how sean hannity started his broadcast tonight. >> all right. buckle up. welcome to "hannity." let me give you a quick headline. the details will follow. nobody else will report. the mueller witch hunt is completely over. it is done. nobody listened to the attorney general, and, yeah, the attorney general admitted today everything we've reported the last two years, full criminal investigations, are now just beginning. imagine that. a talk show host is right and so
many in the fake news industry are wrong. >> john, have we gotten it wrong these past two-plus years? >> i just am -- you first of all bring me in here and the first thing you serve me up is a big fat steaming plate of hannity, so thanks for that. >> on the house. >> it's been a long day. >> on the house. >> you just brought it out here. >> happy to do it. >> there's a phrase, people talk about a pig in, you know, that's sean right now. he's happy as a pig in -- >> uh-huh. >> -- you know. have we all got it wrong? i mean, many people would say that the news, not so much the barr news, not the barr performance today, which as my friend mr. lemire says, you know, predictably, what was, how barr has been behaving for the last two months. certainly for the last -- since the events in question have really unfolded. as a political apparatchik for the president. the president is happy. for once a president who has now lied 10,000 times in office seems to be telling the truth and saying he was pleased with
performance, in fact, he seems to be pleased with performance and for good reason. the news really the last 24 hours is nothing that happened in the hearing today. the news is the mueller letter that we know mueller wrote to barr and can fairly characterize the special counsel as having been furious. >> yeah. >> apoplectic. willing to write multiple letters. trying to beat down the door of the attorney general's office to say you're lying about my report. that's a pretty big piece of news and it suggests that, perhaps, there's an alternative reading of reality here that's not what sean hannity wants us to think. >> both of these gentlemen have agreed against their better judgment to stay with us over this break. when we come back, what was on the president's mind before mr. barr sat in that witness chair this morning?
we are back and we have established the media attention was on the attorney general today. the president's attention this morning seemed squarely focused on one joe biden. bordering on obsession. donald trump fired off roughly 60 tweets and retweets within a 20-minute span. what got him -- what got to him, specifically, today, the national firefighters union support for biden's presidential bid. still with us, john heilemann, jonathan lemire. so, mr. heilemann, you saw the trump republican party operating as one today from chairman of the committee, to attorney general, what they couldn't do was effect the head guy who's got to say what he's got to say. >> yeah. the president has his -- there's -- it's -- this republican party -- rarely operates in quite so much concert in terms of its message strategy. it often acts in concert in terms of what its aims are in terms of protecting the president, falling if line
behind him, but rarely is the message quite so well orchestrated as this today, of course, the president is not part of that. the president has his own wants and own impulses and right now it's clear not just from today but really since joe biden got in the race that the former vice president is a burr under the presidential saddle right now. everyone -- what everyone makes of joe biden's prospects in the democratic nomination fight, there are varying views about that, he's clearly right now the real front-runner. at this moment joe biden is the front-runner and anybody right now who thinks joe biden is a paper front-runner, they're not in sync with donald trump. donald trump is clearly bothered by joe biden, worried about joe biden, obsessed with joe biden. he's a man who is the fear that he has, the nervousness he has about the prospect of running against joe biden is evident in his social media and other utterances. >> but political wisdom would teach you, jonathan lemire, you don't want to be the front-runner now.
>> no. >> it's eight months before our first primary. the entire party is going the opposite way of joe biden. he's in many ways on outlier along with bernie to a lesser degree. what is it about this guy? >> biden is having a moment, he's the front runner now. the polls have been very good. surprisingly good to many here. in the 2016 campaign went behind the barn and having a fight. donald trump certainly recovered. but biden has an appeal to a particular graphic that the president prides himself on, the blue collar voter, upper midwest residents, it's really been his focus this time around, firefighter, resembles that character pretty carefully, being on the trail in 2016 a lot
of firefighter types supported the president. that time they set it out, this time they're giving their endorsement, this is something these retweets today were almost all firefighters saying they're not voting for biden, they're going to vote for trump. the president wants them to stay on board. >> it's been a long day for all of us. thank you both for coming on. and coming up after yet another unprecedented day from the trump administration, and by the way for our country, pulitzer prize winning historian jon meacham is with us to talk about all of it after this.
the new hot pretzels, only at togos. how far would you go for a togo? - i own you, doug. the critics who pounced on the attorney general today said he acted like his client is the president and not the american people, as our chief law enforcement officer. james comey, whose firing started it all, posted a piece in "the new york times" just as the hearing got under way.
he offered a theory on how the president co-ops people like bill barr. he wrote, "trump's outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. along with republican members of congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now. of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. you use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values and then, you are lost. he has eaten your soul." back with us again tonight, pulitzer prize winning author and presidential historian, jon meacham. jon, i want to know where we are tonight as a country, and before you compare this to hearings in the past, i watched the coverage tonight on two different cable networks, here's a hint one of them employs us both, and they apparently covered two different hearings today.
so, that's something new for american society, relatively. >> well, we do live on separate political planets and hopefully we occasionally have diplomatic relations between the two. i'm going to use a fictional analogy, if i may, but based on history. i thought where we were today was in a reality tv version of "a man for all seasons," where thomas moore is betrayed by richard rich, in exchange for wales, he's granted a title in wales, and thomas moore says as he's being carried off, but for wales, richard, for wales? put in the word trump, and change the name to bill and you have where we are. bill barr has decided that for whatever reason, his historical fate is in safer and better hands with donald trump than with the rule of law. and, or with robert mueller.
and so, and i guess in the this analogy mueller becomes thomas moore, which may be a beat too far, but we watched someone today, basically, historically, decide that they would like the rest of the american republic to look back and use this man as a case study in how to obfuscate and cherry pick in defense of a particular client, as opposed to the broad nation as a whole, and this really isn't even a partisan point. it's clear, i mean, i was watching it, thinking, i hope this guy goes back into private practice soon, because i might need to hire him at some point. he'd be a good defense lawyer. you'd want him on your side. he has that laconic, almost cheney-esque jowly cynicism that tends to try to appear, he tries to make the questioner appear to be the outrageous one.
when what the questioners are doing is exercising their rights under a constitution that was based on divided sovereignty. and right now, it seems to me, we have an attorney general who has decided that he's a defense lawyer, he's not our lawyer. >> to thine own self be true. does robert mueller's reputation remain where it was? is he just about to a lot of people the most important living american at this point in time? >> you know, three weeks ago, four weeks ago, i thought, you know, the great mueller moment had probably passed, that our sense that he was our fortinbras, that he was the heroic figure that he was going to come down, that his decision to follow the olc opinion as opposed to trying to litigate or adjudicate a sitting president, seemed to me as a layman he has ducked on the issue. bill barr has reelevated robert
mueller. to almost sanctified status. perhaps after director mueller testifies, if that ever happens, perhaps he falls back off that pedestal, but compared to what the attorney general's been doing, director mueller, you know, looks like maybe thomas moore's not a bad example. >> and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why our guest tonight has a pulitzer prize and i have a valid driver's license. jon, always a pleasure. please come back. thank you, sir, for joining us on this, as we say consequential wednesday night. more of "the 11th hour" when we come right back. termites.
did you personally review all of the underlying evidence? >> ah, no. we took -- and -- >> did -- did mr. rosenstein? >> no. we accepted the statements in the report as factual record. >> did anyone in your executive office review the evidence supporting the report? >> no. >> no. yet you represented to the american public that the evidence was not, quote, sufficient to support an obstruction of justice offense. >> the evidence presented in the report. >> democratic senator and former prosecutor kamala harris of california made headway for her side of the hearing room late in the day during her questioning of the attorney general. she will be a guest tomorrow morning on "morning joe." with thanks to nicolle wallace and all of our legal experts and former feds who were with us all day long for every moment of the coverage today, that is our
broadcast for this busy wednesday night. thank you so much for being here with us. good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. know. >> bill barr responds to robert mueller's stinging rebuke. >> i said bob, what's with the letter.t' >> nur concerns about white house interference in ongoing cases. >> i don't recall, no. >> you don't recall?'t >> the growing calls for barr to resign. >> he's going to have to answer for testifying untruthfully.