Mueller submits report to DOJ. TRANSCRIPT: 3/22/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: On this big day for making time to come on by
here. That does it for us here at ALL IN this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starting with the one and only Rachel Maddow
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. How is your Friday going?
HAYES: It`s good. Not quite as eventful as yours has been but it`s been
MADDOW: Thank you very much. Giving it away, as always. Thank you, my
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
I will tell you what Chris is referring to is that a couple of hours ago,
maybe even less than that, I was standing knee-deep in a trout stream in
But now, it`s Mueller time and so I`m in a studio in the great state of
Tennessee. The trout are basically just as safe as they were when I was
flailing away at them ineffectually this afternoon. But now it is –
listen, it`s – this is history. This is a reason to stop fishing and go
Our job tonight as a country, sort of or at least what everybody in the
country is going to be doing tonight is trying to figure out what it means
that the report of special counsel Robert Mueller has finally been
submitted. We`ve heard it said so many times that it was imminent, that it
was done, maybe it was already done and we didn`t know about it. Finally,
In terms of what that means and what Mueller found, we know only the
smallest little bits. This is the start of something apparently, not the
end of something. I mean, the logistics of today we know something about.
At 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the staff of the House Judiciary Committee got a
call from the Justice Department that somebody would be bringing a letter
from the attorney general. I`m sure they all immediately guessed what that
A Justice Department staffer or messenger of some kind, all we know she was
wearing a North Face jacket, she brought, in fact, two letters to the
committee in two separate manila envelopes, that was just before 5:00
Eastern Time. Our assumption is there were two separate envelopes because
that was one letter for the Democratic chairman of the committee and one
for the Republican ranking member of the committee.
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Democratic Congressman Jerry
Nadler, was at his New York office. He was not in D.C. So the committee
staff quickly made a digital copy and got the letter to him that way.
We know those details thanks to a Judiciary Committee spokesperson laying
out that process. We know that is how the House Judiciary Committee was
notified this evening that special counsel Robert Mueller had completed his
investigation. We are assuming that a similar process or at least a
process with the same effect also unfolded at the Senate Judiciary
Committee around the same time today but we don`t have the same kind of
readout about that process.
So we know the logistics of how we got the notification that it ended and
obviously, right now we have mostly just a ton of questions as to what
Mueller`s report says, how complete it is, who gets to see it, who gets to
decide who gets to see it and when.
But after two years of almost entirely just questions about what Mueller is
doing, I mean, some answers will start to emerge now. We get actually
quite a bit from the letter that Attorney General Bill Barr did send to the
chairs of those committees, to Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler in the
House and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in the Senate, those are the
two judiciary chairs. The letter was also addressed to the ranking
members, to Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee in the House,
and Dianne Feinstein, who`s the top Democrat on the committee in the
So, it`s addressed to those four people. The letter is just one page. And
it does actually give us kind of a lot. Here`s how it starts.
Quote: Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein and
Ranking Member Collins, I write to notify you pursuant to the special
counsel regulation that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded
his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related
Under the special counsel regulations, the attorney general is required to
notify these specific people, the regulations spell out that the attorney
general has to notify the chair and ranking members of the Judiciary
Committees in the House and the Senate, and those are the people that need
to be notified and need to be notified of three things.
Number one, the appointment of the special counsel. That happened back in
2017. The removal of the special counsel, that never happened. And number
three, the conclusion of a special counsel`s investigation.
So, this is Bill Barr telling Congress as he is required to do, OK, here is
the third thing. The investigation is complete. That`s the part of this
special counsel experience that happened on my watch. I am notifying you.
He then says quote: In addition to this notification, the special counsel
regulations also require that I provide you with, quote, a description and
explanation of instances if any in which the attorney general or acting
attorney general concluded that a proposed action by a special counsel was
so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental practices
that it should not be pursued. There were no such instances during the
special counsel`s investigation.
So this alone is really important. This is a big deal. This has been the
subject of lots and lots of speculation and lots of fighting, honestly.
That this is the attorney general informing Congress. The attorney general
has to inform Congress if there is anything the special counsel wanted to
do that the attorney general blocked him from doing.
There had been worries and speculation that the confirmation of Bill Barr
as attorney general, he was nominated and confirmed in the middle of the
special counsel`s investigation, he was nominated and confirmed after he
had volunteered a big long sharply worded memorandum to the Trump White
House that criticized the special counsel because of the circumstances
under which Bill Barr was brought on, right? His predecessor Jeff Sessions
was fired as attorney general. The president said openly because Sessions
recused himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.
Well, here comes Bill Barr who has volunteered to the White House when he
was in private practice – hey, I got tons of, you know, I got tons of
criticism of the special counsel and I think he`s doing tons of things
wrong then Bill Barr gets nominated and confirmed as A.G. So there have
been all these worries and speculation that the reason Bill Barr got that
job, the reason he was seen by president Trump as a suitable replacement
for Jeff Sessions and therefore what might be expected of Bill Barr in that
job is that once he got confirmed as attorney general, he`d stick his foot
out and trip the special counsel, right? He`d use his power as attorney
general to block Mueller from something that Mueller was otherwise going to
do, something that Mueller was otherwise going to pursue, Barr was going to
Well, at least as far as this letter goes, from the Attorney General Bill
Barr tonight, Barr says he never excised that power. He`s notifying
Congress formally. There was never anything the special counsel sought to
do that Bill Barr stopped Mueller from doing.
And that`s fascinating. Of course, everybody would like to hear that from
Robert Mueller as well as from Bill Barr. But at this point it`s only Bill
Barr who is speaking on Mueller`s behalf. Robert Mueller is still at this
point publicly silent, as he has been from the very beginning, although
we`ll have more on that in a moment.
Here is more from the letter, though.
The special counsel has submitted to me today a, quote, confidential report
explaining the prosecution or declination decisions he has reached, as
required by the regulations.
Quote: I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position
to advise you of the special counsel`s principal conclusions as soon as
So, this is the attorney general telling us he has Mueller`s report and he
is not handing the report over to Congress, right? This letter from Bill
Barr is not a cover letter with Mueller`s findings attached. But he says
he plans to give them I guess bullet points, something this weekend. He
said he will advise them, he will advise the chairs and the ranking members
of the Judiciary Committees of the special counsel`s principal conclusions.
I mean, I should qualify it. I am presuming that when he says he can
advise them as soon as this weekend of the special counsel`s principal
conclusions, I am presuming that means he`s planning on advising
specifically the people to whom this letter is addressed, just the top
Democrats and top Republicans on the judiciary committees in the House and
Now, once they are advised by Bill Barr as soon as this weekend of the
principal conclusions of Robert Mueller`s report, will those chairs and
ranking members of the Judiciary Committees then tell the public what Bill
Barr has told them?
And what counts as Mueller`s principal conclusions anyway? How much detail
is that? How much is the attorney general going to tell those two House
members and those two senators as soon as this weekend? We do not know.
But then here is the last substantive part of the letter and I think it`s
probably the most important part of the letter while also being the most
frustratingly vague. Again, this is Bill Barr`s letter.
Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
and Special Counsel Robert Mueller to determine what other information from
the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the
law including the special counsel regulations and the department`s long-
standing practices and policies.
Quote: I remain committed to as much transparency as possible and will keep
you informed to the status of my review. Sincerely, William P. Barr,
So a couple of important things here. Number one, obviously, Barr is
saying explicitly I did not block Robert Mueller from doing anything that
he wanted to do. There wasn`t anything he was trying to pursue where I
said no as attorney general I`m stepping in and blocking you from doing
that. Interesting. Again, I would like to know more about that, but
that`s the blunt assertion tonight from Attorney General William Barr.
Also, Barr is going to maybe as soon as this weekend brief Mueller`s
principal conclusions to the leadership of the judiciary committees. We
don`t know what principal conclusions are. We don`t know for sure that
it`s going to be this weekend and we don`t know how constrained the
leadership of those committees will be from sharing with other people
including us the public.
But three, separate and apart from that, Barr is thinking about what beyond
those principal conclusions can go to the Congress and to the public. And
you get the sense from the way he wrote this that he thinks of that as one
consideration, not two, right? You get the sense the way he wrote this
that he thinks anything that goes to Congress will almost instantly end up
given to the public because members of Congress, at least one member of
Congress will decide to leak it or release it properly.
But he`s thinking about that now. He`s thinking about what Congress can
see. He`s thinking about what the public can see. He says he`s consulting
on that matter with Mueller himself and with Rod Rosenstein, who is still
there as deputy attorney general.
Remember, Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller in the first place and
Rod Rosenstein has reportedly been Mueller`s principal supervisor/overseer
for the entire 22-month duration of the special counsel`s tenure.
Now, the decision about releasing stuff to the Congress and releasing stuff
to the public, Barr says that will be consistent with the law, consistent
with the regulations governing the special counsel and consistent with
long-standing practices and policies of the Justice Department. What does
that mean? We`ve never had a special counsel – I mean, we`ve had special
prosecutors in the past, right?
We`ve got other kinds of people convene to do this type of work but under
the special counsel regulation, we`ve never had this type of report at this
type of stage. We don`t know what long-standing practices and policies of
the Justice Department are when it comes to sharing with Congress and the
public the findings of a special counsel. There isn`t anything long-
standing because they never really dealt with this before.
But when Barr says he`ll decide what can go to the rest of Congress and
what can go to the public consistent with the law, consistent with the
special counsel regulations and consistent with Justice Department policies
and practices, that is the part that is going to determine whether we
figure this thing out as a country. Whether we the country are ever fully
told what Robert Mueller really figured out about Russia messing with our
election to try to elect Donald Trump president and whether Trump and his
campaign were in on that, right?
There has never before been a president – I mean, there`s been a high –
not since the 1700s has there been a high-ranking government official who
was investigated for potentially being in the thrall of a foreign power.
It certainly never happened to a president. Are we going to find out what
Robert Mueller found out when he investigated that core issue?
Well, it depends on what William Barr thinks about long-standing practices
and policies in the Justice Department and how those can be applied to this
question. But I think it`s also worth noting that Bill Barr says there is
some other information in the Mueller report. Remember all that the
special counsel regulations require is that Mueller provide the attorney
general with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or
declination decisions reached by the special counsel.
So in theory, that could have meant that Mueller`s final report would be as
bare bones as I prosecuted this list of people, here are all the
indictments that I`ve brought, because there was enough evidence to
prosecute them. I did not prosecute anybody else because there was not
enough evidence to prosecute anybody else. I mean, he could have just done
that, you know. One sentence and a list of all the indictments he filed.
A lot of people thought that is what Mueller would do in terms of filing
his final report. I mean, if he had done that, the bullet points briefing
that Bill Barr says he`ll provide to Congress as soon as this weekend, you
know, that would more or less be the whole report. He said he prosecuted
these people. That`s it.
Apparently, Mueller didn`t do something that bones, that bare bones. The
report is apparently more comprehensive than just that sort of de minimis
list. And now the attorney general is saying he`s reviewing it. He needs
to go through it to figure out what – first of all, to figure out how and
when he can release the principal conclusions and then beyond that, what
further can be released and what cannot.
So, I mean, just the fact that information exists to be decided upon, that
is something we now know about the Mueller report tonight that we didn`t
know before he turned it in. Attorney General Barr saying in his letter
that he`s committed to as much transparency as possible. Again, that is a
subjective thing but he says he`ll try.
On that point for what it`s worth, I`ll note that Bill Barr has actually
already made his first decision on transparency with the Mueller report
with this letter tonight. The special counsel regulations require that the
attorney general make this notification, this notification to the judiciary
committee, to the chairs and ranking members of the judiciary committees.
The attorney general was not required to release this letter publicly.
That`s a choice left up to him by the regulations.
But he writes in this letter to the Judiciary Committee chairs and ranking
members tonight, quote: The special counsel regulations provide that the
attorney general may determine public release of the notification would be
in the public interest I have so determined. He says, I will disclose this
letter to the public after delivering it to you. So that was Bill Barr`s
first judgment call on whether to make something public, he decided yes, he
would make it public.
But it`s early days yet, early hours even. I should tell you that multiple
news outlets, including NBC News reporting tonight that according to senior
Justice Department officials there will be no further Mueller indictments.
We don`t know if there are any sealed indictments in other jurisdictions.
There is no indication there are.
There`s also no indication one way or the other about whether other Justice
Department prosecutors for instance U.S. attorney`s offices like the
Southern District of New York or the Eastern District of Virginia or
anybody else, we don`t know if any U.S. attorney`s offices or prosecutors
in justice might bring further indictments based on material the special
counsel`s office passed on to them. But NBC reports that no new
indictments will come from Mueller`s team itself, which makes sense that
we`ve started to see the Mueller team essentially start to disband and
those prosecutors take other gigs elsewhere in the government or even
outside of government.
I`ll also tell you that although this notification means the special
counsel investigation, the special counsel`s office is closing its part of
the investigation, according to the Justice Department, Robert Mueller for
now remains the special counsel. He`s not gone. He and a small staff are
remaining in place to close up the office and handle any dangling threads
and they have been there almost two years. Somebody has to tidy that place
One watchdog group tonight has announced already that they have already
filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the full version of
Mueller`s report. The chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House,
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff says tonight – and this is an
interesting curveball tonight. He`s saying separate and apart from any
findings from the special counsel that pertain to the criminal law, he`s
saying if there are counterintelligence findings from Mueller`s
investigation, counterintelligence findings about, say, foreign
intelligence operations targeting or compromising U.S. persons and national
politics in government, those counterintelligence findings by law according
to Adam Schiff must be briefed to the Intelligence Committees in the House
even if Barr doesn`t want to release the rest of the stuff to the rest of
Here is the statement tonight from Adam Schiff. Quote: Today, the attorney
general informed the Congress and the public that the special counsel has
concluded the investigation and submitted a report of findings. That
report needs to be released to the public.
Quote: Pursuant to the special counsel regulation, Mueller`s report is
likely to focus on his prosecutorial decisions and may not shed necessarily
light on counterintelligence findings of profound significance to our
committee and the nation, whether the president or others around him have
been compromised by a foreign power. The Mueller investigation like our
probe began as a counterintelligence inquiry into whether individuals
associated with the Trump campaign were compromised by a hostile foreign
nation. By law, the evidence Mueller has uncovered on all
counterintelligence matters must now be shared with the House Intelligence
Committee whether it resulted in indictment or not.
This is him saying, Barr, you do not have that much leeway when it comes to
deciding what is disclosed to Congress. Any intelligence matters must be
disclosed to us. Quote: We will insist that the Justice Department meet
its statutory obligations and be transparent with our committee and the
public. Anything less would be negligent in the service of our national
So that`s the Intelligence Committee chairman saying, I hear you, Mr.
Attorney General when you say you`re deciding what information in the
report can be released to Congress, but any counterintelligence
investigation into the report must by law be released to the Intelligence
Committee, which is again not at all the way Attorney General William Barr
is talking about he`ll do with the information, but the Intelligence
Committee chairman may have a point there in terms of them having the law
on their side for being able to access this information sort of despite
Attorney General William Barr`s discretion.
And now tonight there is this statement from Chairman Jerry Nadler, the
Democratic chairman of Judiciary in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The
important thing to say now is that the Mueller report which was handed to
the attorney general must be made public in its entirety. The American
people deserve to know what was going on and the evidence against people or
lack of evidence against people, and we are going to insist that the
attorney general make public the entire report and give to the relevant
committees the underlying evidence.
The precedents are there to do this: 880,000 pages of evidence, of internal
evidence from the FBI was given by the Justice Department just last year to
the Judiciary Committee when the Judiciary Committee was run by
Republicans. They set the precedent. If the Justice Department doesn`t
release the whole report or keeps part secret, we will certainly subpoena
the parts of the report and we will reserve the right to call Mueller or to
testify before the committee or subpoena him as several other committees
might do but we`ll only do that if necessary obviously.
But the important thing is that the entire report be made public and the
evidence behind it be given to the relevant committees so the American
people can be informed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tonight is a landmark moment. I would still be fishing otherwise.
But we still have no idea as to what Robert Mueller has found.
You heard the chairman of the Judiciary Committee there talking about the
need to disclose this information and plans to get it. We don`t know what
Robert Mueller found out in this investigation and honestly, we don`t know
how his investigation proceeded and whether it was impeded by any sort of
pressure or interference by anyone at any time.
Now, the fight to find out all of that stuff starts in earnest and this is
truly uncharted territory. We never had a special counsel reporting to
Congress in the way that special – reporting to the attorney general who`s
then reporting to Congress in the way that has just started tonight with
this report from Robert Mueller. We don`t have president as a country to
see how this is going to go and a long way toward the way this is going to
be figured out is going to be based on the integrity of the leaders
involved here, the public servants involved here, and on the clamor and
pressure from the public that this stuff should become known.
Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, she`s in the running
to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. Senator
Klobuchar also serves on the Judiciary Committee.
Senator, I know this is a very busy time for you. Thank you for taking the
break and getting the studio so you can be with us tonight. Really
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, thanks. I want
to know if you got a trout before you found out the report had come in?
MADDOW: No – well, you know, I`ve learned two things in life. Never ever
ask a woman if she`s pregnant and never ever –
MADDOW: Never ever ask a person who has just completed a day of fishing if
they caught a fish.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Never again.
KLOBUCHAR: Anyway. I`m glad you`re back.
MADDOW: In other words, the answer is no. Thank you very much.
But let me ask you.
KLOBUCHAR: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: Obviously, you got the same information that we got, but this
letter tonight is directed to the chair and ranking member of a committee
on which you serve. Can you tell us what you are expecting to happen in
term of next steps here?
KLOBUCHAR: This report must be released. This isn`t just about politics.
It`s about our democracy, Rachel.
And while he has offered to brief the leaders of the committee, I think
even the leaders of the committees would tell you what the most important
thing is that we get this report out there publicly. Ninety percent of
Americans say they want to see this report, 420 members of the House of
Representatives voted to make it public.
And when you look at those special counsel rules as you have pointed out,
they say that it should be released if it`s in the public interest. When
you look at the scope of the investigation, which from the beginning was
very specific, I mean, it said any links and/or coordination between
Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of
President Donald Trump. So that is a broad mission and to me, the public
as we head into the 2020 elections, they have a right to know what`s
So, briefings, fine. I would prefer to have it after it`s public so we can
ask follow-up questions. Certainly, want to see the underlying data, and
we must be able to see this report. It`s not – can`t just be behind
closed door marked up thing that no one gets to see. It`s got to be time
for a full disclosure and not mincing words and not hiding pages.
MADDOW: If Attorney General William Barr decides that he doesn`t want to
do that, if he decides in his judgment for whatever reason or however he
reads the law, the regulations or whatever he thinks is relevant Justice
Department precedent for some unprecedented thing like this, if he decides,
no, I`m going to brief the principal conclusions which is who got indicted,
and beyond that, I think none of this should be shared with Congress and
you just have to trust us that`s this – that this is fine, if he decides
that people calling for it to be released doesn`t persuade him, are there
any – are there any levers of power that could be used here in order to
pry this thing into the public if Barr doesn`t want it to be?
KLOBUCHAR: Sure and you`ve heard this from Speaker Pelosi. You`ve heard
it from Adam Schiff. The House – I don`t think you`re going to see it
happening with the Republican-led Senate – but the House has an ability to
try to subpoena this information. If he doesn`t release the underlying
documents to try to get those documents with the argument that this was an
invasion of our country`s democracy and then, of course, unrelated to this
special counsel, you have ongoing prosecutions in the Southern and Eastern
Districts of New York, as well as the New York attorney general`s office.
MADDOW: Senator Klobuchar, I know you have been obviously still carrying
out the duties of being a senator in Minnesota but also you`ve been out
campaigning all around the country talking to voters. I wonder if people
are interested in the Mueller investigation, if people are – have been
anxious about the – this impending report. What you`re hearing from
people as you`re campaigning in terms of how important this is – Mueller`s
findings but also the treatment of Mueller`s information going forward?
KLOBUCHAR: I don`t think I`ve been anywhere, whether it`s Chicago or
California or Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia where people haven`t asked
about this, especially in states where you`ve seen suppression of the vote
or you`ve seen votes that haven`t been counted. They see this as really
part of our democracy that we need to know what happened here. How else
are we going to prepare ourselves?
Now, I will say, you know, here in New Hampshire, today, Senators Shaheen
and Hassan and Congressman Pappas, they led an effort to say – and this is
something you should follow up on – the list of projects that could be
affected by the president wanting to pay for his wall came out, and one of
them was a shipyard in Portsmouth. So, I`m going to be talking about that
tomorrow when I`m in Rye.
But you can just see that people are still focused on these bread and
butter issues that affect their jobs and affect livelihood, but people can
step back and say, none of this is going to work if we don`t have a working
democracy. And that is really why I think we keep getting asked about it
and people are going to be just – I cannot imagine what will happen if he
doesn`t release this report and, of course, there is bad signs based on
his19-page memo that he did before he had his hearing to the White House in
which he showed this broad view of executive privilege.
So, all of these things make me concerned. I`m glad he released the letter
today and we hope there is more to come because the American people have a
right to know.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of the great state of Minnesota, 2020
Democratic presidential contender, member of the Judiciary Committee –
again, thanks for jumping off the trail and taking time to join us tonight,
Senator. It`s great to see you.
KLOBUCHAR: It`s great and I`m looking forward to hearing the next fish
MADDOW: Hopefully, it will have a happier ending. All right. Thank you,
MADDOW: All right. Bringing into the conversation now, Josh Gerstein,
senior legal affairs contributor at Politico.com, who`s helped us through
every step of this process from the beginning.
Josh, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s nice to have you here.
JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICO.COM: Hey,
Rachel, great to be back with you.
MADDOW: So, Attorney General Barr says he`s going to – he may be able to
advise lawmakers on the judiciary committees of Mueller`s principal
conclusions as soon as this weekend. He says he`s reviewing the material
that Mueller has given him and maybe he`ll be able to do that.
I know nobody – as far as I can tell, nobody has been able to figure out
exactly what volume of material Mueller has given to Barr, how much of an
investment of time and energy it might take to actually review it. Do you
have sense or any educated guesses as to what Barr is looking at and what
might count as a principal conclusion?
GERSTEIN: Well, Rachel, I came over directly from the Justice Department a
few minutes ago and what we were told over there is it`s a comprehensive
I`m taking from that that it`s pretty substantial. I imagine it extends to
hundreds of pages. There were a lot of individuals involved and a lot of
allegations involved and I do think that Barr will be sending this initial
report in a written form to Capitol Hill, maybe as soon as tomorrow
As you say, it may just be bullet points but one of the things I`ll be
looking for there is it`s easy to say we`re going to send up the key
findings from Mueller`s investigation on the matters that were assigned to
him but as you know, Rachel, we don`t actually know what was assigned to
Robert Mueller. We know Trump-Russia broadly and an issue related to Paul
Manafort. But remember from a few months ago, there`s this blacked-out
portion of the memo that designated the scope of Mueller`s investigation.
And the public really has never seen that blacked-out information about
what Mueller was assigned, at least at one point to investigate. Nor do we
know definitively all the matters that were cast off to various U.S.
attorneys` offices. So, it`s difficult to say at this point who is or
isn`t out of the woods in terms of the matters that have come across
Mueller`s desk over the past two years.
MADDOW: And that`s a really good point, Josh. In terms of that sort of
scoping memo and what Mueller was actually tasked to work on, would you
anticipate that that ultimately is something that would become, that would
become publicly available or at least briefed to Congress in someway,
presumably any ongoing criminal investigation that was referred to in those
large redactions in that scoping memo. Eventually those criminal cases get
finished. Eventually, those things get done. If it`s an intelligence
matter and not a criminal matter does Adam Schiff on the intelligence
committee tonight have a when he says regardless of criminal cases,
regardless of prosecution decisions, we on the Intelligence Committee get
to know everything that has intelligence consequences and that`s a
requirement by law.
GERSTEIN: I think he does and there is precedent, there`s a D.C. Circuit
precedent from the Watergate era that applies to that House Judiciary
Committee, more than the Intelligence Committee, that says if they send a
subpoena or even if they simply ask for the information as part of their
investigation, they should be able to get it. Even grand jury information,
intelligence information. There are certain channels that that can flow
So, I do think members of Congress will seen that eventually. Whether the
public sees every bit of that I`m not totally sure if there were bit
players here that maybe came across Mueller`s scope at one point. They
might have a privacy argument. But if you`re a senior White House
official, certainly as we saw in Hillary Clinton`s case with her aides,
those privacy concerns were deemed to not be sufficient to withhold that
kind of information from Congress, and I assume that the Justice Department
would have to make the same judgments.
I do think that Barr looks at that 420-0 vote on releasing the report that
we got from the House of Representatives the other day, and he may not be
the most political guy around but he does know when a freight train is
coming and when to step out of the way, and I suspect he`s going to lean in
are pretty hard in terms of getting information up to the Hill.
MADDOW: Josh Gerstein, senior legal affairs contributor at Politico.com –
Josh, thank you for your time this evening. It`s an exciting night and
still super frustrating because we don`t know. But thanks for helping us
understand the extent of the reporting thus far. Much appreciated.
GERSTEIN: Sure, Rachel. Take care.
MADDOW: All right. Joining us now is Devlin Barrett. He`s a national
security reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Mr. Barrett, very nice to have you back with us again tonight, again on
what is a very exciting evening.
I first want to ask just – we`ve been on the air for about half an hour
talking about what we think we know. Let me ask if anything we`ve
discussed thus far or I`ve discussed thus far doesn`t comport with how you
understand things are going right now, if we`ve gotten anything wrong or if
you understand things differently, or if you can add anything in terms of
what we know about what`s been handed up.
DEVLIN BARRETT, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think
what I would add is that when you talk about the principal conclusions,
look, we know what the big questions here are, the biggest questions are,
right? Did any Trump associates conspire with the Kremlin to interfere
with the election? Did the president – is there enough evidence to show
or prove that the president attempted to obstruct justice?
I cannot imagine that Mueller has drafted principal conclusions that don`t
answer those questions. So I think those principal conclusions, even if
they are bullet points, I think will be very substantive and very
meaningful to public understanding of what`s happening.
The other thing I would just point out is so much of what Barr is doing to
me seems to be informed by how the Clinton e-mail case went down and how
people in the Justice Department are trying not to repeat some of what they
reviewed as the bad practices that happened in that case. And so, I think
a lot of what they`re trying to do is bulletproof themselves against
similar accusations this time around.
MADDOW: In terms of obviously the big implication there and everybody who
was rooting for Hillary Clinton to win the election has this still on the
tip of their tongue, obviously the big problem there was the derogatory
information about somebody who was not being charged that was spread by FBI
Director James Comey at the time. Are there other implications besides
that, besides that key question of whether or not you say bad things about
people who aren`t charged that is also guiding what they are doing now?
BARRETT: I think the other dynamic and Josh got to this a little bit, is
that if you have a government official who has come up in the course of
this investigation, who has been looked at in some fashion in the course of
the investigation, I think we`re more likely to see more answers from
Mueller and Barr on those sorts of individuals than we will on private
citizens who end up not being charged with anything. So I think what I`m
geared towards and thinking about is to the degree that Mueller looked at
people who work for the government, we will probably know more about what
Mueller found or didn`t find regarding those people. Then we will end up
knowing at least in the first take about folks who sort of moved in Trump`s
world let`s say but never went into the government.
MADDOW: Devlin, one last question for you. I was struck by the references
to Robert Mueller in the letter from A.G. Barr tonight. Specifically when
he said I am now reviewing this material and considering what can be
disclosed to Congress and the public and I am consulting with Deputy
Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on that and with Robert Mueller on that.
It`s interesting structurally that the special counsel himself would be
consulted about what of his findings can be given to Congress and to the
public. I wonder if that was expected as far as you`re concerned or if
that struck you the way it struck me?
BARRETT: I think it is striking but I think it`s striking because
throughout this process, Mueller and his reputation have been sort of the
800-pound gorilla inside the Justice Department. No one has – one of the
things we learned in this letter, for example, is no one objected to any
major investigative move that Mueller wanted to make. And I think Barr has
as best we can tell so far continued the tradition of as much as possible,
deferring to Mueller`s judgment on a lot of things.
And I think the letter is another example of that because at the end of the
day, everyone knows that Mueller could be called up to the Hill at some
point and he`s going to be asked did anyone stand in your way, did anyone
mess with you? And I think a lot of people understand that if he ever
answers yes to that question, there could be hell to pay.
MADDOW: Devlin Barrett, “Washington Post” national security reporter.
Excellent. Thanks for being with us tonight. Appreciate it.
BARRETT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: We`ll have much more to come including a question that has been –
yes, I know there`s all this reporting all the time no matter who the
president is. The president left the south – by the south lawn and he has
arrived at such and such dinner. The president is on – we could all just
like minute by minute step by step reporting about where the president is.
I never pay attention to any of that. I`m like why do I need know where
the president is having lunch? Today, I`ve been obsessed with where Donald
Trump has been all day. The president for the record went to Mar-a-Lago
today but don`t you want to know what the regulations say, what past
policies and practice say, what maybe the law even says and certainly
what`s right and wrong about whether or not the White House can see the
Mueller report at this point?
I mean, Bob Barr – excuse me, Bill Barr has it at the Justice Department.
He`s reviewing it to decide what he`s going to pass on to members of
Congress. What if the White House calls him and says hey, we`d like to see
the whole thing? What happens then?
Hold that thought. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Tonight, we got a joint statement from the six Democratic
committee chairs in the House who have equities in this fight, from
Intelligence, Judiciary, Oversight, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Ways and
Means. Quote: The Justice Department must now release to the public the
entire report submitted by special counsel Mueller to the attorney general,
to ensure Congress can general to ensure Congress can discharge its
constitutional responsibilities, we also expect the underlying evidence
uncovered during the course of the special counsel`s investigation will be
turned over to the relevant committees of Congress upon request. The
To be clear, if the special counsel has reason to believe that the
president has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct, then the
Justice Department has an obligation not to conceal such information.
Because the Justice Department maintains that a sitting president cannot be
indicted to then with hold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because a
sitting president cannot be charged is to convert Justice Department policy
into the means for a cover-up. Anything less than full transparency would
raise serious questions about whether the department of justice policy is
being used as a pretext for a cover-up of misconduct.
Strong words from those six Democratic committee chairs tonight, demanding
not only the report itself but underlying evidence to be handed over to the
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence
Committee in the House. Sir, it is great to have you with us tonight.
Thank you for being here.
I just have to ask you top line what you make of this development today.
Attorney General Barr`s letter, what he has explained and what it suggests
to you about the process.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What I make of
it is this is the logical conclusion of the special counsel`s work, that
other aspects of the investigation will be farmed out to either main
justice or the southern district or other elements of the Justice
Department. But he`s finished his core responsibility and now he`s made a
fulsome report, and that report needs to be made public. The attorney
general committed to making as much of it public as was consistent with law
or policy. If he`s true to that that means the entire thing.
And we`re going to insist upon it. And as the letter that you quoted
points out, of perhaps even greater importance, the Congress is going to
need the underlying evidence because some of that evidence may go to the
compromise of the president or people around him that poses a real threat
to our national security and we need to know it if that`s the case.
MADDOW: As the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, you in particular
as chair but you and all of your colleagues on that committee, deal with
very sensitive information all the time and there are protocols for those,
for that committee that there aren`t for any other part of Congress because
of the sensitivity of material that you`re entrusted – with which you`re
entrusted. Given that, given your training in that matter, given your
experience with that, given how seriously you take that, I wonder if
there`s anything you can imagine might be in this report that really can`t
go broadly to Congress, that can`t go especially to the public, if there`s
anything with intelligence matters – that relates to intelligence matters
that you would be sympathetic to keeping under wraps, either just being
briefed to your committee or just being held within the Justice Department.
SCHIFF: There may very well be things in the report that would require
minor redactions that might go to a source of information gathered by an
intel agency. I wouldn`t be surprised frankly if Bob Mueller left those
specific source references out of the report. They wouldn`t be necessary
to the report.
But those redactions could be made. It`s also fair to point out that the
Justice Department has declassified information when it felt it was in the
public interest, and indeed declassified FISA application material in the
current Mueller investigation even while that investigation was on going.
So, yes, there could be very small things.
But I think the most important point is this investigation began as a
counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation. It went
to look at the question of whether people were acting as agents of a
foreign power. That information needs to be made public and if we need to
do by redacting information that we do that, if we can declassify
information in the interest of transparency and not sacrifice methods, then
we should do that, too.
MADDOW: What are you going to do if Barr says no? I mean, if William Barr
says this report has been submitted to me, I have the one copy of this
report. I believe that the principal conclusion should be briefed and as
far as I`m concerned, the principle conclusions are these are the people
indicted and other than that, there is no Justice Department responsibility
to pass anything else on. I don`t care about public clamor, I don`t care
about statements about what I must do from anybody, I`m just going to sit
on all of the rest of it.
I mean, presumably subpoenaing the report, subpoenaing Mr. Mueller himself,
subpoenaing other people involved in the investigation, ultimately those
subpoenas get enforced through the Justice Department, don`t they? I mean,
if William Barr decided he would dig in his heels and let none of this out,
it`s hard to figure out what leverage could be used against him.
SCHIFF: Well, the Congress has considerable leverage and certainly we
would begin by requesting the voluntary production of information and move
to subpoenas that and move to court enforcement and think about other means
of pressuring the department to be transparent. But it will be
unsustainable for the Justice Department to take that position.
In the last Congress, Rachel, the Justice Department provided over 880,000
pages of discovery of evidence to the Republican Congress in the answer to
subpoenas that in an investigation that the Clinton e-mail investigation in
which no one was indicted. Information about Hillary Clinton, about Bruce
Ohr, about Andy McCabe, about Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.
So, for the department to maintain they never provide information in cases
that doesn`t result in an indictment is simply not true and 880,000 pages
demonstrate that. They did so because there was an intense public interest
and need to know and because Congress insisted. And the case for public
disclosure here with allegations that are far more serious is much more
In the case of Hillary Clinton who did not win the election, she was not in
a position to cover up through the Justice Department any evidence of
wrongdoing. This president is and this president there is I think all too
much evidence has tried to interfere, has tried to obstruct and for that
reason, it is all the more incumbent on the Justice Department to be even
more transparent. So, if we go to court, the Justice Department losses.
But more than that, if they fight this, they damage the department`s
reputation and I think the same way that the Supreme Court when it decided
Bush v. Gore and threw out decades of precedent caused the public to view
the Supreme Court as potentially just another partisan institution. Should
Barr adopt the double standard here, it would likewise damage the
reputation of the department and ultimately be unsuccessful.
MADDOW: Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff – sir, I know this is
an incredibly busy time and a fraught time for you with all these different
things to consider in terms of how you`re moving forward. Thank you for
taking time to walk us through tonight. Really appreciate you being here,
sir. Good luck.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: I want to bring in to the conversation now, our friend Chuck
Rosenberg. He`s a former U.S. attorney from the Eastern District of
Virginia. He`s also former FBI – senior FBI and senior Justice Department
Chuck, thank you so much for being here. I haven`t had a chance to be in
touch with you about this at all since we got this letter from the attorney
general, since we got this characterization about how the Mueller probe is
coming to an end. I want to hear your top line reaction to how this has
gone down tonight so far.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, top line reaction, Rachel –
by the way, thanks for having me one. Fascinating issues, interesting day.
Top line reaction is that now you can see why the relationship historically
between the White House and the Justice Department has been so carefully
guarded, why we don`t normally communicate the results of investigations to
the White House, particularly where it involves, you know, senior White
There`s this tension of course because Mueller and Rosenstein and Bill
Barr, the attorney general, are all parts of the executive branch and the
president of course is the head of the executive branch. And so, if the
president demanded the report, it`s entirely plausible that Bill Barr would
give it to him. Perhaps after telling him what a bad idea it would be to
But, Barr ultimately works for the president. And so, this is a fraught
relationship. And that is specifically why we`ve been so careful in the
past about passing information between the White House and the Justice
MADDOW: And, Chuck, in terms of the news that we got from NBC tonight that
the special counsel`s office will not make any more indictments, that I
think is being greeted in some quarters as a sign that there will be no
more indictments, period, that anybody who hasn`t been – who hasn`t been
charged yet in any relation to this investigation or anything that has
derived from it is now home free. We`ve seen actually at least one person
tonight who had been offered a plea agreement at some point, who – Jerome
Corsi who seemed to potentially have an indictment on its way. Somebody
saying this shows he`s been vindicated, it`s won, it`s all over.
I wonder if you think more indictments aren`t coming from the special
counsel`s office necessarily means that other indictments might not be
coming from other U.S. attorneys or main justice.
ROSENBERG: I think it`s way too early for Mr. Corsi and others to be
dancing in the end zone, Rachel. Here`s why. It seems to me that a lot of
these cases, whether it`s Corsi or Carter Page, right? Or Randy Credico or
the Trump kids or folks associated with the inaugural committee or the
Trump Organization can be charged and prosecuted elsewhere. They don`t
have to be charged and prosecuted by Bob Mueller.
So, Mueller may not be indicting anyone else, but I fully expect other
indictments in what I am broadly calling this case. Mueller`s remit was
always rather narrow. I disagree with the congressman in one respect. He
was asked to look – he Mueller was asked to look at Russian interference
in the 2016 election. Nobody asked Mueller to rummage through Trump`s
And so we know the Southern District of New York investigation continues.
We know that the president, for instance, was identified in public court
filings as having directed illegal campaign finance payments. We know
other people were involved in that.
We know that Cohen and Flynn and Gates and others continue to cooperate.
We see large amounts of redacted portions in recent public court filings.
Stuff is still happening.
Even if the Mueller team doesn`t indict and prosecute anyone else, I`m
still quite certain, like I said earlier, that others should not be
celebrating just yet.
MADDOW: Chuck, let me ask you about something that was raised earlier this
hour. Josh Gerstein raised a really good point, which is when we`re
talking about what exactly Mueller was asked to look into – I mean, we
know what was in the order creating this special counsel. We know – or
appointing the special counsel. We know some of what was in a subsequent
sort of scoping memo that laid out what he was authorized to investigate.
But big portions of that were redacted. What would have to transpire, what
would have to be sort of cleared up for us to ever be able to see behind
those redactions? Now that the special counsel`s investigation is done,
would you expect that we`ll get to know the full terms of exactly what he
was scoped to look into?
ROSENBERG: I imagine we will one day. I`m not sure it`s going to happen
as quickly as we all might like. There`s a bunch of things that I can
imagine are in the scoping memo or even in the Mueller report, which I
presume will be quite thorough and quite voluminous, that we really can`t
You know, Congressman Schiff spoke about classified information. Sure, it
can be redacted. Sure, it can be declassified. But there`s also good
reasons in some cases not to do that, or at least not to do that yet.
The other types of information, Rachel, that we may not see, at least not
immediately, are information related to ongoing investigations. Again, all
of those redactions and public filings speak to the fact that other stuff
is going on and that prosecutors and agents are continuing their work.
So, you know, we eventually get to see almost everything. It took 40 years
to see some of Mr. Jaworski`s work in the Watergate investigation. I don`t
think we`ll have to wait that long. But again, I don`t think it`s going to
be as quickly as we might like because of, A, the sensitive classified
nature of some of the stuff and, B, the fact that we clearly have ongoing
investigations in other districts including in Manhattan.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of
Virginia, former senior FBI and Justice Department official. Chuck, as
always, it`s great to have you here, particularly tonight. Thanks, Chuck.
Really appreciate it.
ROSENBERG: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: I want to bring into the conversation now Neal Katyal, who wrote
the Department of Justice regulations defining the office of special
counsel, which is the document that allowed for Mueller to be appointed
last year. Mr. Katyal served as acting solicitor general in the Obama
administration, and as of tonight, I should tell you he is an MSNBC and NBC
News contributor, which makes us all even more proud than we usually are to
come to work.
Neal, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s really great to
have you here and congratulations on joining us in this formal way.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Thanks.
MADDOW: I want to ask you a couple of technical things and a couple of big
picture things. Big picture I`d like to ask you first if this is the way
you thought this part of the process would unfold, if William Barr
submitting this letter to Congress tonight, describing the way he`s going
to proceed, is the way it was envisioned when the special counsel`s
regulations were envisioned in the first place.
KATYAL: Yes, the answer to that is yes. I think Barr did exactly the
right thing today in transmitting the document and so on. And so, so far,
the process has worked.
I think basically as we anticipated, the one thing I think we didn`t
anticipate is the president if he were the target of a special counsel or
subject of a special counsel investigation being on a relentless attack,
calling it witch hunt a bazillion times and all the things that the
president has done. But in terms of the process today, it played out as we
MADDOW: On the issue of the president and the way the president has
pressured this investigation and the way he`s behaved toward it from the
beginning, if the president tonight is on the phone from Mar-a-Lago to
William Barr saying, I want that report right now, I want all of it, send
it over, what are Mr. Barr`s options and what would you expect him to do?
KATYAL: Well, I think that under the Constitution, and this is why the
special counsel regulations were written, the president has full power over
So he could demand to see the Mueller report. He could have demanded to
see the draft of the Mueller report last week. And maybe the one act of
restraint Donald Trump has had is not doing that yet.
If he does that now, I think everyone will know what`s up and I think
Barr`s choice will be to resign at that point because if it`s done for
nefarious reasons, if he wants to sneak peek at the report in order to, you
know, try and discredit it in some way, that`s a real problem.
It also would be a problem if Barr on his own decided not to release the
full Mueller report. I mean, we`re dealing with, as your guests have shown
tonight, some of the most sensitive questions American democracy faces, you
know, is our leader under an influence of a foreign power, things like
that. And if the president or the Barr says the Mueller report shouldn`t
be provided to the American people, that is a declaration of war on the
America – on American democracy and I think all of us should fight it,
Republican and Democrat alike have just as much to lose if the public
doesn`t have this information in front of it.
MADDOW: Wow. It was striking in the first paragraph of the attorney
general`s letter tonight that he said explicitly there were no instances in
which the special counsel was blocked from pursuing something because the
attorney general decided that it was too out of line. That was sort of –
it felt good to see that in terms of the process being respected.
MADDOW: It did make me think, though, and maybe I just have a suspicious
mind, that as the special counsel`s wrapping up, as NBC News and other
outlets have reported, that there will be no more special counsel
indictments, there are a lot of criminal cases that are being pursued by
U.S. attorney`s offices. There may yet be further indictments related to
this investigation from other U.S. attorney`s offices.
If William Barr wanted to block any of those prosecutions, he wouldn`t have
to say anything about it to Congress or anyone, would he?
KATYAL: Right. Those aren`t governed by the special counsel regulations.
Mueller had one mandate, which was Russia. And he closed at least part of
that today. But you know, you could imagine taking that baton and then
passing it to a bunch of different people because he`s always tried to stay
in his line.
So, there`s now a new lane about campaign finance. That`s the southern
district investigation. There`s stuff about the Trump Organization. And
that`s handling via state prosecutors. And there`s all these different
investigations going on in Congress.
Barr has the ability to stop at least the Southern District investigation.
But he cannot stop the state and he cannot stop a coordinate branch of
government, Congress. And so, those investigations will continue and
indeed must continue because Mueller`s mandate was so limited, just
focusing on Russia, not on the broader set of questions.
MADDOW: Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general of the United States
– Neal, it`s an honor to have you in the NBC and MSNBC family and a real
pleasure to have you here tonight. Thank you.
KATYAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. I want to thank everybody for being with us tonight.
We will see you again the next time something like this happens, which
could be any minute. I will say, this is a historic – this is a historic
landmark moment in the Mueller investigation. At this point, what now will
happen is a whole new fight and a whole new waiting game in terms figuring
out what exactly Mueller determined.
But to have the investigation come to a close, to have there be a document
produced that says what happened now puts us on a totally different front
in terms of what we are as citizens able to know about what we`ve just been
through as a democracy.
Just a remarkable time to be working in the news business. It is an honor
to be here.
All right. Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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