tv MSNBC Live With Katy Tur MSNBC May 8, 2019 11:00am-12:00pm PDT
>> hi there, ali. good afternoon, we will be tracking that it's 11:00 a.m. out west and 2:00 p.m. right here in washington where it has already been a day of fast paced headlines. the house judiciary committee will vote this afternoon on whether to hold attorney general william barr in contempt of congress for delivering the full unredacted mueller report. the president asserted executive privilege over the report. 2 committee has requested. we will have much more coming up in a few minutes. with president trump's current attorney general in the spotlight, in about 20 minutes as we herd, we will take you live to the salt conference, where stephanie ruhle will be introducing jeff sessions along with former new jersey governor chris christie. we will bring you that as it's happening. first, the story that's dominating today's headlines, the "new york times" latest bombshell about the president's personal finances, the "time's"
gained access to irs transcripts. mr. trump spent a decade in the red. to quote the report. mr. trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by his self-spun narrative of business success and setbacks triup fantly overcome. he's attributed his first run bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. but ten years of tax information obtained by the "new york times" paints a different, and far bleeker picture. the picture painted of the president in the "new york times" is a far cry from the master deal maker mr. trump held himself out as. from the moment he's been in the public eye. and it is a far cry from the image mr. trump portrayed to his supporters from the day he announced his run for presidency. take a look at that. >> we need a truly great leader now. we need a leader that wrote the
"art of the deal." all of my life i've heard that a truly successful person, a really really successful person and even modestly successful cannot run for public office. just can't happen. i'm really rich. i'll share that. by the way, i'm not even saying that in a brag a -- that's the kind of mind set, thinking you need for this country. >> so the big question we are asking today is will voters care about president trump's newly exposed business failures come 2020? joining me now to kick off the conversation, axios national political reporter jonathan swan, washington post white house reporter and msnbc senior analyst ashley parker. former obama cabinet secretary and senior fellow at uva's miller center, chris liu and former republican congressman and msnbc political contributor david jolly. thank you all for being here.
we really appreciate it. let me start with you with the top line of the "new york times," by the time his master of the universe memoir, donald trump was in deep distress losing tens of millions of dollars in deals. what did we learn about this report from donald trump, the deal maker, the businessman and the politician? >> well, what we learned is this self-styled myth is just that. it's a myth. this is someone who when he was putting out his as you said "the art of the deal," when he was bragging to new york tabloids and anyone would listen how rich he was, how wealthy he was, he was on the top of the richest men people's list. he wasn't. every single year he was hemorrhaging money, not in small amounts, tremendous amounts. i believe the article reported the stunning figure at one point his losses basically accounted for 1% of all of the losses of
americans in general. which is just really hard to wrap your head around. and so it sort of cuts away at his core narrative. >> jonathan to that point $1.7 billion in losses over ten years according to "new york times". i was trying to get reaction from the white house overnight. guess what, president trump himself tweeted about it. so hef did his own communications on this he said real estate developers in the 1980s and '90s more than 30 years ago were entitled to massive writeoffs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and their losses in almost all cases. he goes on to report this, fake news hit job. he doesn't debris. what are your sources telling you about his reaction to all of this? >> reporter: well, the revealing thing about that tweet and this matches our reporting from talking to people who work for him currently and for him previously is that the thing that donald trump is worried
about is not the revelation, let's say all his taxes became public tomorrow. it's not the revelation that he paid very little and probably in some years zeroing in tax. he actually sees that as a sign of his own genius. the thing he is worried about is wunktureing the -- punctureing the myth ashley talked about, the billionaire up on the rich list. >> that exposure of net worth that is the thing that is far more sensitive than a revelation that he paid very little tax and used every -- can you imagine another president talking about a tax shelter in a positive way? a tax shelter as a sign of genius. this is sort of gives an insight into the mindset there. >> chris, pick up on that point. because the president boasted during the debates, yeah, i didn't pay any money in taxes. so what is your tack away there? i know you are looking at the gap we don't have in terms of
these. >> there are a couple troubling things about this. one it dispels 'myth about him. he ran on the fact he was a successful businessman. >> that he hired the best people. we now have basically popped that balloon on each of those fronts. it raises broader questions. maybe as a businessman avoiding taxes is smart. that's probably not the best message when you are the chief executive of a federal government. at the same time when you are giving tax breaks to more people like yourself and you are trying to push for domestic cuts on important programs. and then more broadly, it raises other questions, the reporting goes up to the mid-'90s. what happened after the mid-'90s? who was still willing to lend him money? how did he rebuild his fortune? there is a lot of questions. that's why we need to hear current returns. >> that's why you see them not letting up on those demands. david jolly, weigh in there if you would. i think we learned more information about a narrative
that a lot of people have had for quite some time about president trump. about president trump when he was a businessman. so how does this impact him politically? did his supporters care? do independents care about this? >> look, it's an interesting question. it's a shot into the profile. it appears the only person that made money in the trump family was his father. trump continued to lose his father's money throughout his career. i think if yesterday you thought trump is a liar and a cheat, today you think he is as well. this just reenforces that if are you on the other side you think she a smart businessman like we heard some colleagues in the media do mental gymnastics to paint this as incredible success of the president to pull off all this levered debt if you will, you probably will stick by him. chris, i think the opportunity for democrats too weigh ein on this and to figure out a
snowdrift indicat sophisticated and core message is the system has been rigged against you, when the reality is the greatest beneficiary of a rigged system has been president trump through the tax shelters he described on twitter today. the republican tax bill, you don't have as to pay any taxes. this is a president who continues to rig the system in favor of growing economic inequality. >> that is at the heart of where his swing voters really are. those obama-trump voters democrats have to get back. >> a lot of swing voters in florida. the president is going to head there later today. we are hoping we will get to ask him about this when he leaves. but from your vantage point, are florida voters going to care? when you think about a swing state, swing voters, it doesn't get much more swingier than florida. >> sure. i think it's safe to say. >> go ahead. >> his base, trump's base isn't going anywhere. but is there a coalition to get to 52, 55% for democrats?
in terms of today's visit, the president is walking on thin ice, there is a disaster bill for one of the worst cases in florida unfunded as a result of an impasse between this president and this congress. the president is going into the storm ravaged community without the funding he will deliver. he will say the right things and blame democrats. he will take a political victory lap over the mueller report. he will do so among storm victims who soon have not recovered. it is one more tone deaf move by the president that can hurt him in the state of florida. >> i don't know this necessarily hurts him, it's a part of a broader message. it's interesting this is happening on the same date we might be holding his attorney general in contempt of congress, he is withholding the entire mueller report. the idea of secrecy, not willing to show the american people, what's in the mueller report and his tax returns. if it so completely exonerates, why wouldn't you want to show it? if he's a successful
businessman, why wouldn't you want to show your tax returns? it's a broader narrative the people will use against him. >> jonathan, let's go back to the future. you wrote this on april 21st, as of february 27th, 2017, legislators in 18 states, connecticut, hawaii, illinois, iowa have introduced bills to require future presidential candidates to disclose future tax returns in order to be placed on the general election ballot. talk about how that plays into all of this. >> reporter: it's a really interesting story that's not getting enough attention in my view. illinois actually passed it through i think the senate so basically there is a bunch of blue states that are making it a condition on the presidential ballot you reveal your tax returns. i spoke to some people who are close to the president and it was quite revealing when they were gaming up this scenario, again this is not from having discussed this issue with the president, they expect if he was
faced between a binary point not appearing on the bat lol in illinois, he'd choose the former. such is his determination is his documents to be public. this may not be an academic discussion. it may actually become a real choice that he has to make. >> i think you are right. it's clearly something that democrats are not backing down on, in fact, in new york state, that i just passed a measure that essentially allows congress to get the president's tax returns, but actually, the treasury secretary is saying, no way, i'm digging in on this. >> reporter: he sure is. it's a part of two-fold. one is that the president especially one of the issues that cuts to his core is anything having to do with his businesses and his finances. >> that is why he does not want these tax returns turned over. so the treasury secretary is being loyal to the president if that way. more broadly, it's a part of his general decision and push by the
white house to just yield absolutely nothing to democrats in congress. >> that includes the president's tax returns, but it applies to any other subpoenas, request for witness testimony involving the mueller report. they believe that they can just say no, they may or may not win in the course of some of these issues, if it comes to that. but they think it is a political winner for them to sort of make the democrats look over zealous, this is a president who likes to fight, lies an opponent he gave a decision he is not giving an inch. that's what we are seeing. >> chris, where do you see this tax battle going? >> it's clear. i think secretary mnuchin will be held in content of congress as well as the attorney general. >> the optics are stunning. >> the optic. it will eventually go to courts. the house and ways may get it through the new york state tax folks, through the president's accountants, they'll find a way to get ahold of this. >> david, where is this going?
>> reporter: i think the republicans had a good three or four weeks with the tight narrative no occlusion, no obstruction. i think it's getting a i what i from them. the american people will see this as stonewalling, i think the answer, give the congress what they want. if the congress can't get it, i think you have to impeach. you cannot play on the playing field that trump is laying out for you. you got to set your own field if you are the united states congress. >> and democratic leadership very measured in how it is talking about impeachment, saying it's too soon, fantastic conversation to kick off the show. i really appreciate you all. the house judiciary committee as we were just talking about will vote this afternoon on whether to hold attorney general of the united states william barr in contempt of congress. that's escalating the fight between congressional democrats and the department of justice, which began with various white house officials refusing to comply with congress am oversight n. retaliation, attorney general barr has
formally requested the president declare executive privilege on the mueller report, making good his threat to judiciary chairman nadler yesterday, nadler says is tantament to checks and balances, listen to this fiery language. >> the administration announced loud and clear it does photorecognize congress as oversight authority and will continue to wage this campaign of obstruction. when the administration says it will oppose all suspense, presumably regardless of its merits, it is saying it does not recognize congress having a constitutional oversight authority over the executive branch. >> but nadler's republican counterpart and the senate judiciary chairman lindsey graham struck a very different tone saying executive privilege was necessary to preserve the autonomy of the department of justice. >> yeah, i think special
counsels in the future need to do their work without political interference. once they issue the report, i don't think it's appropriate for congress to go retry the case. i don't think it's appropriate for congress to get the work product of the special counsel, re-enter view witnesses for a political reason. i guess they're looking at impeachment. >> joining me now, daily beast politics reporter, msnbc contributor betsy wood krif ari. and ben, legal consultant. you have some democrats saying this is headed to a constitutional crisis. is that overstated or could we actually see that happen in the case? >> when you have two equal co-branches of government that will not play nicely with one another, they feel unconstrained by the rules of procedure, protocol, the rules of law. >> that is sort of moving us towards a constitutional crisis. so, you know, there -- it sounds
overblown sometimes. but it does seem like when congress is issuing lawful subpoenas, sort of pursuant to their oversight responsibility and the president doesn't say, i will evaluate them one at a time individually to see if any privilege trumps this, he's just saying, no, i'm going to disobey all of them. i do think we have a real problem. >> let me push you a little bit. the trump administration says, look, the democrats are getting to the suspense way too quickly, they're blowing past a series of other steps? do they have a point? are the democrats ramping up this fight faster and with more intensity than they have to? >> they have a point. but the executive branch doesn't get to dictate to the congress, a co-equal branch how they go about doing their business. how they fulfill their constitutional responsibility of oversight of the executive branch. so in that sort of rhetorical
battle, congress wins and the executive branch loses. >> what's the strategy here, betsy, on the part of the white house? what are they hoping to achieve here? >> the white house has one goal they are banking on, is slowing down the process. when they say they believe congress is moving too fast. that's a legal argument they will be able to look in court. since judges look at whether or not the accommodation process is played out when deciding whether or not to step in from that third branch of the government and force one side or the other to change their activity. on the flipside of that coin, obviously, the longer this process takes, the better it is for the white house hands the trump administration, because it burns through the clock. we're seeing a parallel version of that, where trump's personal lawyer versus sued two banks, capital one and deutsche bank to block them with complying with a congressional subpoena. that was viewed in many corners, it's a little legally shaky also is a smart what i to burn through the clock.
>> betsy, it's strikes me -- there is a political strategy when you three of running out the clock, parts of it will be the president on the campaign trail to supporters, look howell battled i am, i am takinging in from all of these different angles. >> it lets him draw contrast. the other thing for the democrats from a political perspective, it's hard to run for president. it's hard to make the case for your party based on these complex legal arguments about the constitution and professional issues. many, many people care deeply about that conversation without question. when you look at polling that data, those are bread and butter table topics like healthcare hands the economy. >> this is what was written in the post, essentially making the case for impeaching the attorney general, she writes having utterly failed to uphold his oath and chosen to become president trump's personal defense counsel, barr has damaged his own reputation and
undermined his department's reputation and it won a fitting capstone to a career defined by barr's rabid partisanship and disdain for the constitution. do you think, glenn, that's something on the table? >> you know i don't know if it's on the table. i think it's a conversation we need to have. from the moment ag barr mischaracterized bob mueller's findings and conclusions as bob mueller very pointedly and forcefully pointed out in an unprecedented letter he wrote rebuking ag barr, once ag barr did that i think he showed himself to be a defender of the president rather than an honest broker of the institution of the department of justice, so i do think we have to have that, sadly, we have to have that conversation. >> betsy, you and i spend most of our time talking to our sources how they feel about impeaching potentially the president. this is another side of this argument. is there any real buzz about
this on capitol hill? >> i think it's a few steps down the road, the question of impeaching barr. of course, it would have the same structural problem of impeaching the president, it is impossible to imagine a scenario whether a republican controlled senate would play ball to get barr removed. what congressional democrats are asking themselves is, is it worth it to do this burly in a symbolic way? is it worth the political capital to bring this vote up, to potentially put vulnerable democrats in purple to red districts on the record on this controversial move? is it worth it or does it make it a fine item that they have? >> glen, finally. you made the point the white house has waived their right to executive privilege, talk about how that fits into this debate right now. >> i think it exposes the white house for playing games rather than genuinely being concerned about a legal doctrine of
protecting information,, the first thing we do when i was a prosecutor, one we see is there a legally cog cognizable privilege. if there is, the next question we ask, has it been waived? kristen, here it's been waived several times over. once the white house let mcgahn speak openly to special counsel. >> for 30 hours. >> you can't put the information back in the bottle. the sort of genie back in the bottle. it's out. it's been waived. you can't pull it back n. this is a stall tactic not a viable legal claim. >> glen hits on a good point. it's not the documents. it's don mcgahn and democrats want to hear from don mcgahn and mueller. >> this is something the white house will forcely dispute. i was with a senior white house official about this issue.
they have been consistent making this legal argument that many folks included, it's quite a head scratcher, which is even though mcgahn was allowed to talk to mueller, they say the executive privilege covers the executive branch, the pushback is we got a bunch of mcgahn quotes in the report publicly available. >> that said, despite that counterargument, this is something we will see the white house argue pretty, in a very clear way in the coming weeks. >> i think you make an important point as we start to consider whether or not we are going to hear fromcounsel. the democrats indicate they are nailing down a date. we don't have that date set. betsy, do you anticipate we will, in fact, hear from robert mueller or is this a sign the president will drop it? i asked president trump last friday, would you like to see mueller testify? he said that's up to the attorney general. a day later he said he's opposed
to that happening. >> i think it's a good question, i think you court embarrassment. >> that said, there is two possible circumstance under which he can testify, one if he is still a doj official. two, if he's in private life. peter carr, the spokesperson for mueller who now is back at doj headquarters, said recently mueller already leaving the department of justice quote/unquote in the coming days. my understanding as of the last time i checked he still technically works for the doj, while he is a doj official. if the president tells barr and barr tells mueller not to testify, i think it's unlikely he will. once he is out, his calculation could be different. the other question is what is the president's tweet, does he use that as a presidential directive or weigh in without actually handing down an order? >> all right. betsy, glen, thank you for helping us understand this complicated issue.
really appreciate it. now we want to take you to the salt conference in las vegas. an annual event bringing together wall street and washington, d.c., hosted by former director of the white house anthony scaramucci. our stephanie ruhle is starting an important conversation. >> here in vegas, we are protected in a bubble. but back home in new york, in washington, across the country, people are talking about the news of the day. we may have a constitutional crisis on our hands, the president and his attorney general, we've got congress, at this very moment, congress is preparing to possibly hold your successor if contempt of court. the white house is possibly using executive privilege to now protect the entire mueller report, a report the president has said exonerates him. what is your take on this? >> well, it is an exciting team. >> yeah. >> i think we're not in a
constitutional crisis yet and i don't think very close to it. there has been squabbles between congress and the department of justice and cabinet agencies for years over all kind of discovery questions, documents and that sort of thing. >> is this just a squabble? >> well, that's what it amounts to, really. one of the differences i saw this morning was that the chairman nadler wanted three staff people in the meeting and the entire committee to see the documents and the department of justice was saying two staffers and only the top 12 people in congress see the information. so, maybe it can be worked out. usually those things are worked out. they're co-equal branches. the attorney general represents the executive branch and the congress speaks for the congress and so there needs to be some respect between them and we were able to most of the time reach
an accord. >> come on now. >> let's not get breathless about this eric holder was held in contempt of congress over fast and furious. and what happened from that? absolutely nothing. because the prosecution for contempt of congress is then referred to the justice department and eric holder said, yeah, i prefer not to be prosecuted. that was the end of that and no u.s. attorneys working for that attorney general were going to prosecute him for contempt of congress. so this is not unprecedented. in fact, it's not unprecedented in the last decade. so if that wasn't the constitutional crisis, this certainly is not a constitutional crisis. eric holder refused under executive privilege to turn over certain information to congress about a law enforcement activity. the congress held him in contempt and it went away. because it's a standsoff. so i don't see us at that point at all. i think, quite frankly, everyone is taking their position and ultimately the courts will decide this. if the congress is serious about
either wanting to get the unredacted mueller report and/or wanting to get testimony from don mcgahn, well, then they're going to have to go to court to get it. because i tell you this, if i were mcgahn, i wouldn't go. >> why, because he's already participated? >> well, in part. there is a bigger issue. he is a lawyer who has attorney/client privilege world trade center client this president and the white house. they're saying we don't want you to testify. if you are a lawyer you can't just say, i've decide your privilege claim isn't good, so i'm going to go and talk anyway and tell them everything. >> but he already spoke to robert mueller for hours and hours. >> he had permission from the president to do that. the president is saying you don't have permission to do this. now there may be some people that say that inconsistency eliminates the privilege. don mcgahn is not going to decide that. if the congress is serious about doing this, not just playing political games, go to court. make a motion to enforce the subpoena on mcgahn, on the
report. and let a series of courts, which i'm sure we will see this from the district court to the circuit court and maybe the supreme court make that decision. if you are mcgahn, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube if you do go and do it. they say you had privilege. he can wind up getting disbarred. if i were don mcgahn, i can't do it. my client doesn't want me to do it. if a judge ordered me to do it. he's going to follow his client's wishes. >> general, you say these squabbles have gone on for years, three separate parts of government. help he understand this, when you were a senior ranking member of judiciary, you would ask for documents, maybe they didn't like handing them over but you got them during the obama administration. then when you ran the department of justice and the house judiciary asked for stuff, they were run by republicans, you provided it. now you are on observer a and
the house judiciary is asking for documents a and the department of justice is saying, eh, eh. >> well, we didn't get everything when i was on judiciary committee that we asked of the holder. >> not everything. but you got a lot. >> when i was up for confirmation, senator grassley, the chairman of the committee said are you going to be asking these records and you have been asking for, your name is on these letters, too, sessions. so we got. we did that. and i think the department owes the congress great respect. it should provide the documents that it should provide and i committed to do that and i think we did a good job of it. we went as far as we could go and made historic advances in giving documents. but i would say that it's not certain -- 92% of the mueller report has been made public. they've given the committee
another 6% or so, up to 98.5% has been provided. but there is a specific criminal statute that says, you cannot provide 6e material, grand jury material. and that's what i understand it the attorney general is saying he's not able to give. >> so let's say 92% is out and today the president is calling the investigation and the report still to this day a treasonous hoax. when you go inside this report, we know the president has set his eyes on a large business transaction in russia. we know that the trump campaign was eager to possibly work with russia to get information on hillary clinton. and we know that at the very least, he was aware of wikileaks and during the investigation, he attempted to block his own team from assisting with the investigation. so the president who i know you have spoken to a number of times unofficially advising, for him
to call this a treasonous hoax, what do you make of that? >> of course, you know. i was in the mueller report. i know. the president says lots of things. there are things the president says i wish he wouldn't say. i told him all along he shouldn't criticize bob mueller. i think he's going to wind up exonerating you out of most things and you will be kicking the crap out of him and you will want to say good things about him. >> he is kicking the crap out of him today. >> it's fine. it's just another day. it's just another day. and the fact of the matter is, that i don't understand why people are surprised by any of this. i have known donald trump for 17 years. he is no different today than the day i met him in may of 2002. this is the way he speaks. this is the way he acts. and by the way, this is the way he's spoken during the campaign. >> so are you saying he's a liar and a bully and that's what you get? you don't get upset. >> you are using those
adjectives. did not. he uses these words. he is salesman at core a salesman who uses hyperbole to try to convince people of his position. >> sir, those are lies. >> well, that's what you say, stephanie. >> they're not? >> i watch your, listen, that's his opinion. an opinion can't be a lie. that's his opinion. i happen to disagree with liss opinion. i told him adisagree with his opinion. he's entitled to his opinion and say it out loud to tweet it out loud and tweet it in capital letters through exclaimation points which we've all seen. >> so the word hoax is not an adjective, it's a noun. >> i understand, i took english too, steph my. i understand, i understand what the ward is. you don't have to educate me on that, it is his opinion. it's his opinion. you, listen, i watch you. you disagree with liss opinions every day, you are welcome to. you are a member of the media and more importantly you are an american citizen. have you the right to think and agree or disagree we your
president in anyway you watch him the same way i do. he also has the right to have the opinion he has, to express the opinion he has and you know what will happen stephanie, in 2020 the american people will decide in the context of everything else, they'll decide about donald trump's use of language and all the other things you raise in the context of an exploding complained in the context of lower regulation in the context of judges and a more peaceful world. they'll decide who they want to elect. >> i think hoax -- [ applause ] -- is a strong word in one sense to say this is bonus, i'm innocent. i have been put in a lawless effort instead of saying it's not true, i didn't do anything wrong. he says it's a hoax. that's his language and we have gotten used to it. >> kind of. >> another word is spying. your successor, bill barr, referred to the fbi's activity as it related to the campaign as
spying. yesterday, christopher wray of the fbi says words matter and that is not what he would characterize what happened. what would you sa i? >> i think chris wray is one way of saying it. he wouldn't have said it that way. i think spying is a perfectly good word. then they had this lady apparently that was sent in to pop top l papadopoulos, is that a spy in i don't know. i think it takes more facts to come out. i think that's a mountad auto o omole hill. >> there is legal spy or spying, both are spying, if you do so because you are authorized by the fisa court to do electronic under surveillance, with i the subject doesn't know is happening, that's spying. now, it's authorized spying by a court. and i think what needs to be determined here is not the argument over the word but the
modifyer of the word. since we're going into english. >> we're going english. >> we're going high scale english. is it legal or unauthorized spying. if the basis of those fisa warrants were deficiency and the court was misled, then it's unauthorized spying and then the obama justice department has a problem. if, in fact, we look at all this and the bafrls for those fisa warrants were -- basis of those nice have a warrants were legal constitutionally and statutorily. no one likes to be spied on. but if the court authorized it with a legal, sounds legal and factual basis, that's the way it goes. spying, we're arguing over a word. listen, i know chris wray, that sounded like the chrisas many as wray i know. >> when people from new jersey go high scale english you're in for a treat. >> could i say just on that, i
was a young nixon supporter in law school and i remember the watergate and being mortified by all that, watching it closely. one of the main lessons was you do not use your intelligence agencies, the fbi, the irs, the cia to target your enemies. and we've gone through a number of these things over the years. and i suspect the attorney general is correct that this matter overall before it's finally concluded, we have to company this predicate question, because empirical people want to be confident about the federal agencies having aed objectively. >> let's stay on the fbi, because, you, obviously, recuse yourself from the mueller investigation. it was the recommendation of the department of justice and you complied. james comey has said on the record that the fbi knew immediately when president trump nominated you that you would
need to recuse yourself. why is that? >> i don't remember him saying they knew when i was nominated. certainly nobody conveyed that to me. and i certainly didn't consider it that way. but after i got there we discussed it as a spec regulation in the department of justice that no department attorney can investigate a political campaign that they were a part of. and i had a role in the campaign. eventually there were charges that i had something to do with russia, which was dismissed. but at the time that was still out there. so i had to, i felt i had to recuse myself and i felt very comfortable that that was the right thing. >> you then underwent the wrath of the president for a long time for two years because you recuse yourself. what was that like and why did you stay on during all of that? >> well, i think it was clear
that the president was very upset. he had been told that a special counsel is so disruptive to everything that you do, it turned out to be just about as disruptive as people had told him it would be. he was worried about that. blaming the recusal on all of the things that happened afterwards. i would just say this, i was prepared to submit my resignation any time he asked for it. when he asked for it, i submitted it. every attorney general, every cabinet person serves at the pleasure of the president of the united states who is the chief executive officer constitutionally in there and so we're all -- and he can't be held responsible for the executive branch if he doesn't have control over who operates it under him. >> but you still felt like you had the choice whether or not to recuse yourself, because bill barr had the choice.
it was recommended that he should recuse. he chose not to. >> i thought my situation was very clear and because i didn't feel that as an attorney general of the united states and rod rosenstein and i talked about it at some strength. we need to restore regular order. we need to create a department of justice that people knew was non-political and effective and did its duty and then the regulation they sent our own department says you can't do it if you are a part of a campaign that's being investigated. so i thought if i'm going to have any integrity and respect within the department, i would have to recuse myself. >> then governor, can you compare the two for me? i know you have been complimentary in the past and said it was a good idea for attorney general sessions to recuse himself. but in the same vain, bill barr did not recuse himself and we know before he took the job he had weighed in on the investigation, wrote a letter to
the president. what itself the difference between the two? >> it's a significant difference, there is a regulation on point that general sessions talked about regarding the idea of overseeing an investigation to a campaign you are a part of. bill barr expressed a legal opinion about some of the stuff being looked at, specifically in the obstruction area. and how that compared to presidential powers. and so submitted that to the justice department for their consideration. the bottom line is that you know he has the absolute right to his opinion and he said during his confirmation hearings that what if he were confirmed and became attorney general, he would look at the facts that had been gathered and he would decide what he thought was appropriate or not. i don't think they're analogous situations, there is not a direct regulation on point to deal with what attorney general barr was dealing with. there was one with attorney general sessions. and so i think that that's the real crux of the difference between the two situations. but in the end, everywhere, the issue of recusal comes down in
most instances, that lawyer's view of whether or not they should be recusing or not and as there are all different kind of lawyers, there will be all different kind of decisions in that regard. >> and it was discussed during his confirmation process, it was very public and so i think he didn't find that or anything. >> you think he's been unbiased since taking the job? >> i think bill barr has done his best to do the right thing. he was a great attorney. he was chief counsel at verizon, a great lawyer and had the legal position, office of legal counsel in the department. a lawyer and so, yes, i think he is going to do the right thing and even if the press is critical or not, he knows what's right and he'll do what's right
as he's able i believe. >> let's talk about rod rosenstein for a moment. i want to stand on recusal itself. he was a witness in the obstruction probe. he was reported said at some point he might be willing to wear a wire. he was a participant along with attorney general sessions in the firing of jim comey. why wouldn't he have had to recuse himself? >> i don't think he had to recuse himself. the point, first of all, there is a lot of things in your question that are presumed because they have been reported i don't know if it's very factual. first of all, i don't think rod's ever confirmed he asked somebody to wear a wire. i think what i recall rod saying about that was that he was being sarcastic and he was joking. but andy mccabe, who is a proven liar said he didn't think it was a joke. i know rod rosenstein now for a dozen years, if i have to judge between someone's credibility on that issue, rod or andy mccabe's, given the inspector
general found andy mccabe lied in the course of his conduct as deputy director with the fbi, illegally leaked information and lied about it. i don't think anything necessarily andy mccabe should be given a whole deal of credit. >> how come andy mccabe can be a proven liar and president trump could be a great salesman? >> well, you know, that's an interesting msnbc point. what i tell you is -- >> no, you know what, get out of town with that. seriously. seriously. >> no, andy mccabe, andy mccabe has been found by the independent inspector general of the justice department appointed by president obama to have lied in the course of his job. the american people will decide whether they believe donald trump has been truthful or untruthful in the course of his job. they're held to two different standards, stephanie. i know a lot of people down like
this. he was elected president of the united states by the american people. they are the ultimate deciders on his truthfulness or untruthfulness, unless he's brought before an impeachment hearing in the house of representatives and a trial in the united states senate. which the democrats like to kind of skirt around, but because they know it's politically stupid to do, they just want to get around the edges of it and imply it but not do it. because by the way if they want to go back to the done mcgaughan issue, open an impeachment hearing. don mcgahn would have no basis to come and testify. they don't want to do that, they're afraid it would rebound on them the same way it rebound on republicans when they did it to bill clinton. andy mccabe and donald trump are knoll analogous figures in the american political system. >> i'm not talking about the american political system. i'm talking about who human beings. >> someone else hold's andy mmccabe to account. he is held to account by the people in the department of justice and what happens found
to have leaked information and lied by the inspector general. the president of the united states is held to account which two separate entities, the congress of the united states, which has the ability to impeach if they feel as if that's appropriate and to remove if the senate votes for it and the american people who decide who the president of the united states is. they'll make that determination. remain calm. get that determination in 2020. or earlier if the democrats want to open an impeachment hearing. i'm not going to sit here and allow anybody to analogize andy mccabe to the president of the united states, whether that president is donald trump or barack obama by the way, they both are absolutely held to a different standard and held to that standard by a different group of people. >> you could also be elected to be president in the united states and be a liar. >> oh, i'm sure that's happened a number of times with the 44 presidents we've had. >> it doesn't mean whether or not he's a liar only on the day we vote. >> stephanie you have decided. you can decide.
you have the right to do that. the same way you have your right to express your opinions on television and off television. it matters only so much as one person and every one of the people in this audience makes a decision on a whole variety of issues regarding the president come 2020. they may have decided already. but they don't have the authority to do anything about it until 2020. the only people that thofrt before 2020 is the congress of the united states. if they do it, game on. they want to do it, go ahead and do it. but stop skirth around the edges and acting -- skirting around the edges and acting leak you may do it or not do it. do it or don't. otherwise, let's have an election in 2020 and people can decide to choose then. andy mccabe isn't elected. he's in he's a hired appointed position. he was found by the inspector general to have lied and leaked information. he was appropriately fired. the attorney general i believe and that what should have happened and i can't live with
an aronson between the fbi anybody, donald trump, or anybody else, [ lost audio ] >> that was to say --. [ applause ] >> it's one thing for political [ lost audio ] they asked about a specific inspector general he was fought told he lied. it was sent to the fbi that has a special committee to evaluate it. they referred it to the attorney general under the rules of the department, recommending his termination and i agreed with that and that's how he was terminated. >> robert mueller was not comfortable with how do i phrase it context. of the summary in which bill barr wrote about robert
mueller's 400 page report. former federal prosecutors have signed on to a lever that said, if donald trump was not the sitting president, he would be charged. would you sign on to that, to that letter? >> under the rules, there is a regulation of the appointment of special counsel. he is empowered and directed to make a report to the attorney general and the attorney general is to make the final decision. he concluded that there had not been a russia collusion, which is what the whole thing was about. >> i'm asking you -- >> i'm getting there, the second part was the obstruction charge and it falls to the attorney general of the united states to make the decision. bob mueller, what did barr say? he's 68-years-old, says it's my
baby. i had to make the call. he made his call. and i respect the attorney general. >> without a doubt. but what i'm asking is these former federal prosecutors, some of which worked with both of you have signed on to this letter to make the point -- >> they've studied all of this. >> he would be charged with obstruction. i'm asking you, do you agree with them? >> i can't agree -- first of all i haven't studied it sufficiently to make an opinion. >> plrt. >> and i don't think they probably have either. what do you think, chris? you think -- >> you think former -- eight political prosecutors? >> stop, eight political prosecutors. let me just say, i ran an officer in new jersey for seven years. every one of the prosecutors who worked, they had an opinion, excuse me, they voted in elections. they are not apolitical and they're not required by the way
to be apolitical. those -- >> everybody that signs has a political agenda? >> i didn't say, don't change the words, stephanie. i said opinion, not agenda. don't say they're apolitical. they're not apolitical. they're american citizens. human beings go to the polls, probably the greater percentage than a lot of other professions that vote and expression their opinions. they do the best they can every day to be objective about the way they evaluate facts. but they're not apolitical. the fact is they all have political opinions and those political opinions likely affect all of us in this audience, affect judgment at times as well. now, i wouldn't sum sign on to that letter. because i don't believe there is a crime of attempted obstruction. now, i've read the mueller report. i don't profess to be an expert in it. i've read through it once. i can tell you, that, you know, there were a lot of good people that got next to me being next
to me being one of them, who when the president decided to pop off and say some things that he shouldn't have been saying or implement the thing that the president o'there are good people around you so that if are you having a bad day, if you are suggesting something that maybe isn't a smart idea. forget about a legal or illegal idea, even a smart idea, you have people who are strong enough that can take that. later go, yeah, i don't think so, not a great idea. i think the attorney general is one of those people that did that during the time he served. rod rose him stein is an example of one of those people. don mcgahn and a number of others cited in the mueller
report. some people said this somehow displays a weakness of the president. i don't believe so. i think this is the normal interactions that goes on with administrations where there are significant arguing and especially a high level, high pressured situation like this so i wouldn't sign onto it because no one obstructed bob mueller. you know who said no one obstructed bob mueller? bob mueller. he said anything he was asked to, he was permitted. anything he was asked for, he was given. >> bob mueller was? >> he was never denied a subpoena of anyone he asked for, never denied a search warrant, in terms of being authorized by the justice department to do it so it seems to me in bob mueller. has said there was nothing that came out of the executive branch that stops me from doing anything i wanted to do. >> but he didn't say in the report that there was a number of information that was delete, that was unavailable, the president didn't sit down with him. he didn't speak to bob mueller
directly. so there was certainly more. >> bob mueller never served a subpoena on the president. that was his choice. he could have subpoenaed the president. when the president said i'll only answer questions in writing. he could have suspended the president. he didn't. >> so what did you make of bob mueller writing the letter to bill barr, given that bob bob mueller is such a chain of command guy? >> i think bob mueller is a great guy. he is in the chain of command. >> why would he write that letter? >> he's in the chain of command. he didn't go public and have a press conference. he didn't pull a jim comey. what he did was he wrote a letter to the attorney general of the united states expressing his concern. >> that is schan of command. >> that is doings it the way it's supposed to be done. i think bob deserves great credit for having expressed himself that way. if he gets an opportunity to
testify before congress he will do the same thing. >> that is chain of command. he didn't go and give you an interview or hold a gag him. >> he pressed off a letter. >> that's fine, that's ultimately the justice department's determination to give a letter. >> i want to ask about the tax returns. as much as the president would like the tax issue to go away. it's not. now we're seeing steve mnuchin under a lot of criticism and pressure to release the president's taxes what is your position on what he should do or should be done? general. >> i don't know. i haven't researched that issue. i don't think it would be weeks ago for me to opine on it? >> why not? >> the law requires all candidates file a financial disclosure report. it does not require a filing ofing in tax returns. so the president says he's fought doing it and being the fighter that he is, he's fought doing it until somebody makes him do it.
so that's how -- but i don't know what the legal standing from mr. mnuchin used to define the question. i don't. >> chris, what is the reason is for transparency. so we can understand the sitting president doesn't have personal or business interests that will compromise him in anyway? >> listen, i released seven years of my tax returns before i ran for governor and i released my tax returns every year i was governor. and so, listen, but i was never required to do it. it was my choice. i made the choice to say, you want to see it, see it. now, i will have to say, with great humility that my tax returns were not nearly as complex or as full ofing in or losses as donald trump's was. so they're a lot easier to understand. but that -- >> it's not about understanding taxes. >> i'm saying that mine are a lot -- it was very easy for me to do it. i did it because i felt it was
the right thing to do. my wife and i made the decision. we did it. the president is welcome to his opinion. i remember at the time when he didn't rae lease them and i was running against at the time that all of us were kind of like, oh, he's dead after this. not releasing his tax returns, he's finished. we'd sit around the debate stage, that was one of 30 decisions, discussions we had when he did something he was done. you know, it just never happens, you know, whether its, the competent was about john mccain or the speech he gave when he entered the race. there were a whole list of them, the tax returns was one of them. in the end i have to say the same thing the attorney general said, i'm not schooled in what steve mnuchin you know legal responsibilities are what the around the, so i can't give a lure's opinion. i'll give a politician's opinion. i released my tax returns, i thought that was the best way for me to let people know about
me and my wife and our financial background. president president made another decision. that's another way people in this room and outside this room can judge him as a candidate for election, the first time and re-election the second time unless there is a legal standard that i'm unaware of. if he is held to it, i assume he'll have to comply. >> as a voteder, do you want to see them? we know one of the reasons michael cohen is in jamie because he lied to congress about a potential trump tower moscow deal. >> listen, i didn't have his tax returns and i votesed for him, so i guess that's the proof in the pudding. it was not a determinant issue for me. >> all right then, let's talk about what you are doing next. it was less than three years ago, you were running for president and you did vote for president trump. what are your next political ambitions. you could run again. >> sure, i'm not running now. and so the next time -- and i've said i have no interest in being in the legislative body, no
offense to the former senator. i think he's gotten to know me over time and would agree maybe my personality isn't the best suited out of 100. >> he has an executive personality. >> and so you know i don't know, stephanie. i would never preclude running for president again. but that's 2024. so, you know, who knows? >> 2020? >> definitely saying i a him not running in 2020. no, no, no, no, no no. >> how about you, general, are you done with politics? you obviously gave up your seat in the senate. it's being held by a democrat. what itself your plan? >> i haven't made a formal announcement about the senate race. i'm interested in the issues. to me the reason i thought trump was such a unusual potential candidate was he was breaking with orthodoxy on trade and he's been honest about that. he's still fighting for that right now. i think that's correct.
the american people are right. a lot of the establishment was not. i think he thought that there were too many, with were in too many wars and they haven't worked very well and we've lost a lot from that. i came to that agreement that view, the american people seemed to agree with it. on immigration he believes we should have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest and i agreed with that. so i'd love to see us bring more intellectual heft behind those positions. i think it exists, maybe i can contribute some in that. >> then you seem like you still very much support the president. had you not recuse yourself, maybe you'd still be back in that job? would you like to be? >> i had a great run. i was honored to serve. you only see part of the department of justice. >> that itself the big news in washington. but we led a complete
revitalization of the law enforcement community. about 90%, 85, 90% of the department of justice is crime. fbi. dea. atf, marshall service, prison system. all the united states attorneys in 94 districts throughout the country. we rallied those. the morale is up. they work with local law enforcement. crimes, homicide jumped 12% -- >> you are listening to steph new ruehl at the salt conference interviewing former attorney general jeff sessions and new jersey governor chris christie. i will keep an eye on it. we will bring you a little more of it as it happens, we will get stephanie to talk about that remarkable decision. i want to move on to itseother , neither the attorney general or president trump will comply, before declaring to make a protective assertion of executive privilege. moments before the house