Barr is preparing Mueller report for release. TRANSCRIPT: 3/29/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Adam Schiff
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Happy Friday.  Thanks for joining us this hour. 

 

Turns out the news rules of this era we`re all living through have not been

suspended.  It is Friday night, and therefore per unshakeable decree from

our generation`s news gods, things are, of course, a little bit nuts in

tonight`s news.  We`ve had a whole bunch of breaking and developing stories

over the course of this evening. 

 

Tonight, for example, we have new word that the Oversight Committee in

Congress is preparing to subpoena the White House personnel security

director, specifically to respond to ongoing questions about how this

administration has handled or mishandled security clearances.  That is a

question that started off as an acute one very early on in the Trump

administration, given the criminal charges that were brought against Trump

national security adviser Mike Flynn. 

 

Similar concerns have continued most recently through the reports that

presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was actually blocked from receiving a

top level clearance by career officials based on what they reviewed in his

background checks.  But for some reason those views of career officials,

that determination that he shouldn`t get a clearance was overridden by the

White House and he was given a clearance anyway. 

 

So, the White House personnel security director has been or is going to be

subpoenaed by the oversight committee.  And soon after, we got word of that

subpoena on the security clearance issue, tonight, we also got word that

that same Oversight Committee led by Congressman Elijah Cummings, they are

also now seeking to subpoena Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the new

Attorney General William Barr – subpoenas for both of those cabinet

officials over the huge legal controversy that has erupted over Wilbur Ross

intervening in the census to try to add a citizenship question to it. 

 

This is a matter on which federal courts have repeatedly squished Commerce

Secretary Wilbur Ross like a bug.  Now he is being subpoenaed by Congress,

along with the attorney general to answer to them on that issue as well. 

Again, both of those stories delivering tonight – developing tonight. 

Both of them breaking, you know, late on a Friday.  Naturally. 

 

And I think in part this is just our life now.  This is just the pace at

which things happen with this new era that we are in, but, really, it does

feel like it`s just specifically our way that we now celebrate Friday

nights, right?  What is it about Fridays? 

 

Last Friday, for example, you`ll remember that was when we got this letter

from newly appointed Attorney General Bill Barr announcing that the special

counsel Robert Mueller had completed his work.  Last Friday is when Bill

Barr told us that Mueller had completed his work and submitted a written

report about what his investigation has uncovered over this past year and

ten months. 

 

That announcement from the attorney general a week ago tonight, Friday,

just confirmed that Mueller had finished up.  It confirmed that Mueller`s

report existed.  It confirmed that Mueller was closing down the special

counsel`s office. 

 

But that notice from the attorney general last Friday night didn`t say

anything substantive about the content of Mueller`s findings.  For that we

had to wait two more days until on Sunday, we got another letter from

Attorney General Bill Barr, and this one announced what he called the

principal conclusions of Mueller`s report.  He delivered what he said were

Mueller`s principal conclusions and also one of his own. 

 

And I think because it was very exciting to have any official

characterization whatsoever of the results of Mueller`s investigation, I

think because of that excitement that there was some content being

described, the press, at least for a little while, basically uncritically

ran with what the attorney general asserted were Mueller`s findings.  But

within a few hours for some publications, certainly within a few days for

most, I think it started to dawn on everybody in the mainstream press and

everybody consuming news on this matter that, wait a minute, we don`t

actually have Mueller`s report at all.  Mueller`s report is done and we

know it`s done and we know it exists but we haven`t seen it.  All we`ve got

is what William Barr said about it. 

 

And that statement from William Barr on Sunday was in itself an odd thing. 

I mean, the attorney general – the way he`s written these letters and

notifications, they sort of sound official.  They sound like he is

fulfilling the duty that is expected of him as attorney general as we were

all expecting him to do. 

 

But the attorney general is not supposed to provide a description of a

report from a special counsel.  There is nothing in the special counsel

regulation that creates an expectation that an attorney general would take

on the role of interpreting and summarizing a special counsel`s report in

his own words, let alone announcing his own decision about whether or not

the special counsel`s findings should produce any new indictments.  But

nevertheless, that`s what Barr did on Sunday.  We still don`t know why

exactly he did that. 

 

It was – it was – I mean, it was kind of him freestyling, right?  This

was him making up his own dance moves, showing off what he could do now

that he had seen Mueller`s report and we hadn`t. 

 

That unexpected performance from Bill Barr last weekend, that sort of ad

lib riff from the attorney general as to how he thinks he`s supposed to

respond to Mueller`s report, that has given us this whole weird week that

we have just lived through in which the Mueller report is in fact finished. 

It`s being kept under wraps at the Department of Justice.  It hasn`t been

given to Congress, none of it.  Hasn`t been shown to the public, none of

it.  But the attorney general for reasons unknown took it upon himself to

describe what he said was in it and what he thinks the president should not

be charged about based on something that Mueller found that we`re not

allowed to know, that he`s not even describing in detail. 

 

I mean, it`s been a weird week.  I mean, that`s the assertion that we got

from Attorney General William Barr, and based on that, the White House and

the conservative media and a good chunk of the mainstream media, too,

they`ve been celebrating all week long that everything`s done now and it

sure is a relief after that long investigation to know what Robert Mueller

found.  And what Robert Mueller found was absolutely nothing, everything`s

fine. 

 

And the reason we know that Mueller found that is because that`s what

William Barr told us.  He summarized Mueller`s report, right?  So that must

be the end. 

 

Well, now tonight, again, happy Friday.  Now tonight it appears that there

is a little bit of a panic in the disco because now William Barr has

released yet another unexpected, taken it upon himself ad lib figuring it

out as he goes along letter, which appears tonight to be an effort by the

attorney general to try to take back some of what he said last week, which

started this whole week of, you know, Trump is exonerated.  It`s all over

news coverage. 

 

The attorney general tonight sent this letter announcing that everybody

misinterpreted what he said last weekend in that letter.  What he did last

week is being talked about in a way that he didn`t expect.  That`s not at

all what he meant and we should all know better. 

 

Quote: I am aware of some media reports and other publications

mischaracterizing my March 24th supplemental notification as a summary of

the special counsel`s investigation and report.  For example, Chairman

Jerry Nadler`s March 25th letter refers to my supplemental notification as

a, quote, four-page summary of the special counsel`s review.  My March 24th

letter was not and did not purport to be an exhaustive recounting of the

special counsel`s investigation or report.  As my letter made clear, my

notification to Congress and the public provided pending release of the

report a summary of its principal conclusions, that is its bottom line. 

 

I do not believe it would be the public`s interest for me to attempt to

summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion.

 

And therefore, yes, every few days, I`m just going to keep sending you

another letter that says something about Robert Mueller and what he found

without actually giving you anything from Robert Mueller, but don`t say I`m

summarizing it because I`m definitely just describing it and only the parts

I want to describe, not actually giving you a summary.  It`s just bits of

it that I think some people might want to hear that I`m going to call the

bottom line, but it`s not a summary, it`s another thing, that nobody ever

asked me for, but that`s what I gave you and you should know that`s what it

is.  What?  How do we get to this place?

 

For all the ink and breath that`s been exhausted on the Russia

investigation, including my own, right, trying to figure out the contours

of the Mueller investigation, trying to anticipate and game out not only

what he might find but how it would be handled when he ultimately submitted

his findings – I don`t think anybody is going to win the kitty for having

bet that the way this would have been handle is the attorney general would

get the report and ad lib his entire response.  That the attorney general

would start randomly releasing his own assertions about the report and

little half sentence quotes from it and he would invent an evolving series

of rules and categories for choosing which pieces of the report he might

want to keep to himself and not show anybody else. 

 

But he does appear to just be dancing here.  He`s just been, you know,

making it up as he goes along, which is odd in particular because the

regulations that the attorney general is operating under here are clear and

short and easy to read.  I mean, there are regulations that spell out what

he is supposed to be doing here. 

 

He is supposed to notify Congress upon the appointment of a special

counsel.  Well, he wasn`t there when Mueller was appointed.  Secondly, he`s

supposed to notify Congress upon removing any special counsel.  Well,

Robert Mueller was not removed, so he didn`t need to tell them anything

about that. 

 

Thirdly and lastly, he is supposed to notify Congress upon conclusion of

the special counsel`s investigation.  He`s supposed to tell Congress that

the special counsel`s investigation has concluded and consistent with

applicable law, there is one other thing he`s supposed to tell them.  He`s

supposed to tell them quote – supposed to give them, quote, a description

and explanation of instances, if any, in which the 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.

 

So, that`s the – that`s the only other thing he`s supposed to formally

notify Congress of.  He`s supposed to tell them, A, Mueller`s done, and, B,

did Mueller want to do anything that you blocked him from doing?  If so,

you have to tell Congress.  That`s what the regulation spell out.  There`s

no provision here that William Barr is supposed to provide his own four-

page summary, don`t call it a summary, about what he thinks is important

about Mueller`s findings. 

 

But nevertheless, that is what he did last week.  Now, he says you

shouldn`t call it a summary.  He didn`t mean for it to be called a summary. 

It was meant to be instead a summary of the report`s principal conclusions. 

That is its bottom line. 

 

I mean, he`s freelancing that, too.  Nowhere in his remit is he assigned to

pick out the bottom line.  Nowhere is he assigned to describe the principal

conclusions of anything to anyone. 

 

There`s nothing that the attorney general is supposed to give us about the

report in his own words because we somehow are not able to discern the

meaning of the report itself.  We the public or the Congress. 

 

So how and why did the attorney general decide to do what he`s been doing

now for a week with the Mueller report?  He`s written up these multiple

documents about it now, including what appears to be half of a sentence

about the president not being prosecuted for conspiring with Russia.  The

attorney general has decided we`re not allowed to see the other half of

that sentence. 

 

We`ve also got the attorney general`s own declaration that he thinks there

shouldn`t be any prosecutions here on obstruction of justice.  That`s

nothing he was asked for, nothing he is expected to provide, certainly

nothing he is required to provide, but this is what he`s doing, he`s

keeping the Mueller report to himself and making these sequential

announcements about it. 

 

And after he went out on that limb a week ago tonight, saying that there

shouldn`t be obstruction prosecutions, and here`s what you get to know

about the president and Russia and its half a sentence and it says

everything`s fine, after going out on that limb Sunday, now tonight we`ve

got this letter where he basically tries to crawl back up the limb and hug

the trunk.  Tonight, quote: I in no way intended to summarize what Mueller

has reported.  Quote: My March letter was not and did not purport to be an

exhaustive recounting of the special counsel`s investigation or report.

 

When I told you I was going to convey hi principal conclusions, how dare

you conclude that was me saying, hey, here`s what Mueller said.  I mean,

it`s just weird stuff from the attorney general.  This feels like a panicky

communication from the attorney general tonight.  I mean, all of this could

be very easily cleared up if we just did know what Mueller did say, if we

could just see what is in his report. 

 

After a week of the president declaring that Mueller`s report totally

exonerates him.  I will say my impression of what`s going on here inside

the Justice Department is that I – as I read this, I think the Attorney

General William Barr is trying to change public expectations about what

anybody is ultimately going to see from Mueller`s findings.  I mean, last

weekend, he announced there would be two categories of information that

would be cut out of Mueller`s report before it would be handed even to

congress, let alone the public. 

 

The first type of information he said would be cut out was information from

the grand jury.  Stick a pin in that.  We`ll come back to that in a second. 

 

The second type of information he said would be cut out was any information

related to any ongoing matters, meaning investigations or open case that

derived from Mueller`s inquiry.  Now, why it would take Attorney General

William Barr weeks to cut that kind of information out of Mueller`s report? 

That`s a strange assertion in its own right, right? 

 

I mean, if we`ve seen nothing else, we have seen that as a matter of course

in hundreds of court filings over the entire duration of the Mueller

investigation, Mueller`s team made redactions specifically for that

purpose, specifically to not compromise ongoing investigations and ongoing

criminal cases all the time.  Almost every single document any of us in the

public reviewed over the course of this whole gigantic investigation had

stuffed blocked out or blacked out by Mueller`s team specifically because

it related to other investigations and other open cases.  This is something

that Mueller`s team does in his sleep. 

 

It`s hard to believe they`d leave the newly appointed 68-year-old Attorney

General William Barr to personally pick through the report to try to figure

out what mentions in this 400-page report might pertain to open cases. 

They wouldn`t leave that to Barr to do that.  Mueller would have done that. 

 

Mueller`s team would have done that as part of producing anything that they

handed over outside their own offices.  They`ve done that with every other

document they have produced in the course of this investigation.  You`d

assume they`d be able to do that for this document, too.  But William

Barr`s saying it`s taken him a really long time because he`s having to do

that himself. 

 

Now, tonight, in this new surprise letter from William Barr, Barr is

identifying two additional categories of information that he now says he

also wants to cut out of the Mueller report, even though he didn`t mention

them last week.  He now says in addition to what he talked about last week

he now also wants to cut out, quote, material the intelligence community

identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods, and

he says he wants to cut out, quote, information that would unduly infringe

on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third

parties. 

 

So, let`s just take those in turn.  On the intelligence stuff, I mean, it

may be that what he`s trying to say there is that he needs to cut out any

classified information that`s in the report.  Well, yes, you know, duh,

right?  But, again, you don`t release classified material to the public,

right? 

 

I mean, Mueller and his team know how to deal with that.  If there is

classified material in the report, Mueller and his team would have treated

classified information as such, in any report that they provided to him or

to anyone else.  I mean, if there is classified material in what Mueller

has found and reported, that would presumably be, you know, sequestered in

a classified annex to the report.  So, only people with necessary

clearances could review that material in appropriate settings.  That`s how

you handle material like that. 

 

Again, they wouldn`t leave it personally to old William Barr to like put on

his readers and go through it line by line and see if he could figure out

what in here should be classified.  Hmm.  Who might need a clearance to see

this stuff?  I better – I got to buckle down with this report.  Close the

door.  Hold my calls, right? 

 

And then on top of that, what is this random new category that he says has

to be put out of the Mueller report before even Congress can see it? 

Information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and

reputational interests of peripheral third parties.  What? 

 

Attorney general in other words is going through this report before it`s

released to Congress to take out anything that some people might find

embarrassing.  I mean, where did that standard come from?  Who counts as a

third party?  Who counts as peripheral? 

 

Why is it the attorney general`s job to protect the reputational interests

of people who he decides deserve that, you know, based on his own review

before Congress gets to see any of this information?  Even in a classified

setting.  I mean, where is this in the regulations? 

 

I mean, the bottom line here is, you know, if as Barr says Mueller`s report

is two parts, the Russia attack and obstruction, we know very little about

what`s in the Russia part of the report, right?  According to Barr, he says

there is a lengthy discussion of what Russia did when they attacked us, how

they did it.  When it comes to any Americans being caught up in that attack

in any way, we don`t know. 

 

We have a sentence fragment for not charging Trump or his campaign for

participating in the Russian government attack on the election.  But that`s

all we`ve got.  OK.  There`s half the report. 

 

On obstruction, we also really have no idea what`s in that report given

that the one sentence that Barr quotes from it says that the president is,

among other things, not exonerated of crimes related to obstruction of

justice.  Now, on Mueller`s findings in this part of the report on

obstruction, I think it`s fair to surmise that Mueller probably didn`t

write a report about all the times the president definitely didn`t obstruct

justice, right?  I mean, presumably some of what we`ve got there in the

obstruction part of the report is a catalog of problematic and in some

cases potentially criminal behavior when it comes to obstruction of

justice. 

 

So what`s going to happen with that information?  The president says the

report exonerates him totally and he`s been saying that for a week, based

on what William Barr said publicly last weekend.  Now, Barr`s been sitting

on it for a few more days realizing this expectation is really starting to

take hold and they`re really starting to run with this on the right and the

conservative media and the Republicans in Congress. 

 

I mean, this thing now kicking around for a week, those expectations out

there, the attorney general having released three different evolving

statements about what he`s doing with the report and what he means when he

describes the report and how he`s going to from here on out handle the

information in the report, it just feels like this is turning into a bit of

a scramble inside the Justice Department. 

 

In response to the attorney general`s newest letter tonight, the Judiciary

Committee chairman in the House, Jerry Nadler, released this.  Quote: as I

informed the attorney general earlier this week, Congress requires the full

and complete Mueller report without redactions, as well as access to the

underlying evidence by April 2nd, which is does.  That deadline still

stands.

 

As I also informed him, rather than expend valuable resources to keep

certain portions of this report from Congress, he should work with us to

request a court order to release any and all grand jury information to the

House Judiciary Committee, as has occurred in every similar investigation

in the past.  There is ample precedent for all the Department of Justice

sharing all the information that the attorney general proposes to redact to

the appropriate congressional committees.  Again, Congress must see the

full report.

 

On that issue of grand jury material and the attorney general announcing

that he`s going to cut all grand jury material out of Mueller`s report and

he`s not even going to allow Congress to see that material, Chairman Nadler

is right that there is ample precedent for exactly that kind of material,

for grand jury material being released to Congress in exactly this kind of

investigation.  I mean, grand jury information doesn`t get released to the

public.  I mean, if it does get released to the public, it`s decades down

the line, right? 

 

But historically, it frequently does get released to Congress.  You require

a judge`s permission in order to do that.  You got to get a court order not

in order to convey that kind of information to Congress, but that`s what

happens.  In the past, in the Ken Starr investigation, into the Whitewater

real estate deal and the president`s affair with a White House intern,

right, in the Leon Jaworski investigation into Watergate, prosecutors made

that request to a federal judge so a judge would issue a court order

allowing them to convey grand jury information to Congress. 

 

And in those instances, the judge said yes and the information went to

Congress.  Here Jerry Nadler is asking for Attorney General William Barr to

work with him, to make that request to the judge now.  So the grand jury

information in this report can also go to Congress, like it has in all

previous reports like this.  Jerry Nadler is sort of reiterating that point

tonight, raising the question of whether or not Attorney General William

Barr is refusing to do that, whether he is refusing to ask a court to

release grand jury information to Congress in the same way that it`s been

released in all previous reports like this. 

 

If he is refusing to make that request of a court, why is he refusing?  If

he is refusing to make that request to release the jury material to

Congress, if he`s refusing to do it, well, Robert Mueller right now is

still on the job.  Can Robert Mueller make that request of the court? 

Would William Barr as attorney general stop Robert Mueller from making that

request to release that grand jury material to the – to the Congress? 

 

I mean, I – I ask at that level of detail because the attorney general

does appear to be making this all up as he goes along.  As of tonight, he

appears to be trying to clean up some of what he`s already done in the past

week since he first got Mueller`s report.  I mean, what actually governs

what Attorney General William Barr is doing here?  Why did he release what

he`s calling these principal conclusions that he now says definitely should

not be taken as a summary of what Mueller said? 

 

I mean, what`s the basis for these whole new categories of redactions that

he says must be made to the Mueller report before anybody`s allowed to see

it?  In part because he needs to protect third parties` reputational

interests.  I mean, if he`s refusing to ask the courts to release grand

jury information to Congress – I mean, can Mueller do that if Barr will

not?  If Barr won`t let Mueller do it either, what`s going to happen when

the committee in Congress inevitability goes to the court directly

themselves?  Goes around the Justice Department to do so, when they ask a

judge to clear them to obtain that grand jury material. 

 

And what do you do if you`re the chairman of the intelligence committee in

all of this, right?  I mean, intelligence committees get access to

classified information.  Even very sensitive sources and methods type

material gets briefed to the intelligence committee or at least to the

Intelligence Committee leadership on the so-called Gang of Eight for

particularly sensitive matters.  I mean, nothing gets redacted from you if

you run the intelligence committee.  Not if it`s intelligence-related

information. 

 

So if you`re the intelligence chairman, what do you do with this letter

tonight?  Right?  Upon being informed that as of tonight all the sensitive

intelligence stuff is also going to be cut out of Mueller`s report before

even you are allowed to see it.  That wasn`t true as of last weekend, but

apparently that true as of tonight. 

 

That is not how this works.  None of this is how this is supposed to work. 

Chairman of the Intelligence Committee joins us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  After the new letter from Attorney General William Barr tonight

saying he intends to release some version, some redacted version of the

Mueller report in mid-April, if not sooner, we got this response from

Chairman Adam Schiff, who is the head of the House Intelligence Committee. 

He says tonight, quote: Congress has asked for the entire Mueller report

and underlying evidence by April 2nd.  That deadline stands. 

 

In the meantime, Barr should seek court approval just like in Watergate to

allow the release of grand jury material.  Redactions are unacceptable. 

Release the report.

 

Joining us now for the interview tonight is Congressman Adam Schiff of

California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.  Mr. Chairman,

it`s good to have you here tonight. 

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Thank

you. 

 

MADDOW:  I know you`ve had a heck of a week being pilloried by the

president and your Republican colleagues in the House.  Has this been a

tough week for you? 

 

SCHIFF:  You know, it started out as a tough week, but the encouragement

around the country has been much more than I ever expected, so it ended

much better than it started. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I got to ask about this notice from the attorney general

tonight.  I asked you to come on the show tonight and be here tonight

because I knew you were going to be in New York and I wanted to talk to

about you about what happened over the course of this we`ve.  I didn`t know

we were going to get this notice from the attorney general. 

 

I want to ask you about the unexpected nature of how he is handling this. 

It strikes me that the attorney general is sort of freestyling, sort of ad

libbing what he`s trying to portray of what`s expected of him in this

moment. 

 

Do you know of anything that sort of governs or dictates the way the

attorney general is supposed to behave here that might explain his

behavior? 

 

SCHIFF:  No, I don`t, and almost none of what he is doing is required by

law or by the regulations.  He certainly didn`t need to provide that

summary/non-summary.  Presumably in a 400-page report by the special

counsel, the special counsel wrote his own summary, and there would have

been nothing to preclude Bill Barr if he wanted to give a forecast of what

was to come in releasing the summary.  I have to think that Bob Mueller

wrote his report knowing because he could hear it all around him that the

public was going to demand to see it.  So I think it likely, as you

suggested, that there is a classified annex. 

 

When we introduce the intelligence bill every year, we have a classified

annex and we have a part that we know is going to be made public, so

nothing that Barr is doing is required, except for the most minimal

notification, and I thought the most problematic part of this summary/non-

summary by Bill Barr was the suggestion that because Bob Mueller chose not

to make a decision on indictment on obstruction of justice that somehow he

was compelled to.  That was the flimsiest part of that memo because, of

course, he wasn`t required to opine on that at all.  And presumably if bob

Mueller thought that should have been done, he would have done it himself. 

 

I think far more likely he expected that to go to Congress.  That he didn`t

want to put his hand on the scale because if he said notwithstanding

Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president, that this

president if it weren`t for that policy, I would say indict him, he would

basically be saying, Congress, you need to impeach. 

 

MADDOW:  Mmm-hmm. 

 

SCHIFF:  I think he decided, no, that Congress, like in Watergate, should

go to the Congress.  Bill Barr decided, no, that question should not go to

Congress without my opinion.  And I`ll add this.  It is even less likely

that Bob Mueller knowing that Bill Barr applied for the job by sending this

unsolicited memo talking about how Bob Mueller`s obstruction theory was

bogus, what are the odds that bob Mueller would say, yeah, let`s let that

guy decide about my two years of work product? 

 

MADDOW:  And you`ve worked in the Justice Department yourself.  You were a

former assistant U.S. attorney.  You were a former federal prosecutor. 

 

Does it – I mean, my understanding in the way things work here, just as an

observer and a person who reads the news is that it never works in the way

where a prosecutor leading an investigation considering potential criminal

charges against somebody assembles all the evidence and then punts, and

then the attorney general decides without any recommendation from the

prosecutor whether or not those charges will be brought.  I mean, is that -

-

 

SCHIFF:  You know, it is – I think maybe not that simple because in a

normal circumstance where you have let`s say a U.S. attorney or assistant

U.S. attorney with a high-profile case in some part of the country, they`re

not conflicted.  They weren`t chosen because the attorney general had a

conflict or some other reason.  So, if it`s of national significance, you

might go to Main Justice and they might weigh in in terms of how it might

reflect. 

 

Like if you were going to prosecute a journalist for not disclosing their

sources, that decision is not likely to be made in a field office.  It

might go to Main Justice. 

 

MADDOW:  With a recommendation? 

 

SCHIFF:  With a recommendation, yes. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

 

SCHIFF:  But here where the acting attorney general had opined bias and the

ethics lawyers said you should recuse yourself and Bill Barr would likely

get the same advice from the ethics lawyers because he showed a bias.  And

the whole point is to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  He should

not be the one putting his hand on the scale. 

 

MADDOW:  Mmm-hmm. 

 

SCHIFF:  That report, that Mueller report should have already been produced

to the Congress without his commentary.  But clearly, you know, Bill Barr

views his role in the unitary executive theory as being the hand of the

president, the president`s Roy Cohn, there to do the president`s bidding

and his will.  And he`s doing it just as expected. 

 

So he was a brilliant hire for the White House, but the long-term

consequence of this is that in the future, any president under

investigation if he doesn`t like what the attorney general is doing will

fire him and find another that`s more suitable to his liking because that`s

the precedent here.  And as much as I blame Bill Barr for not recusing

himself, I hold the Senate more responsible for confirming him without

getting a commitment of recusal. 

 

MADDOW:  Is that precedent less dark if Congress figures out some way to

release this report, even despite his efforts to apparently keep it in his

drawer? 

 

SCHIFF:  We`re going to compel the release of this report.  This report is

all going to come out and it`s just going to reflect more poorly on the

attorney general if when it does come out and we look at the difference

between what he redacted and what was under those redactions, it shows an

effort to cover up or conceal either evidence of impropriety or evidence of

a lack of morals or ethics or judgment and – that is shy of criminality,

or in the case of obstruction of justice is criminality. 

 

So we`re going to – we`re going to compel this.  This is a fight that is

worth going to the mat on.  Bill Barr in his confirmation said I will be as

transparent as possible, as much as the law or policy would allow.  If he

was true to those words, as Jerry Nadler said, he wouldn`t be saying I`m

cutting all the grand jury material, he would be saying, Congress, I`m

going to the court tomorrow to seek their permission to send it all to you. 

 

And I`ll tell you this, the other areas that he wants to redact,

information about – classified information, we get that all the time. 

 

MADDOW:  Mmm-hmm. 

 

SCHIFF:  Information about pending investigative matters.  They go – gave

hundreds of thousands of pages that were both open investigation and

investigatory material that reflected on the privacy of third parties.  And

if you don`t think so, ask Peter Strzok or Lisa Page how they feel about

that. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of the attorney general saying that the he wants to

redact intelligence information specifically out of this, as the

intelligence chairman, I have some specific questions for you on that.  Can

you stick with us? 

 

SCHIFF:  Sure. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff is our guest.  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  We`re back with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,

Congressman Adam Schiff of California.  Mr. Chairman, thank you for

sticking around. 

 

Let me just ask you about a few things that I really have no idea whether

we`re going to get these are not.  The scoping memo that described what

Mueller was allowed to investigate.  Part of the Manafort investigation. 

We got like big long redactions and then you can look at whether Manafort

did this bad thing and then big long redactions. 

 

Will we ever get documents like that unredacted so we can see what Mueller

was asked to investigate? 

 

SCHIFF:  We should.  I would think that that would very well be part of his

report.  The introduction says this is the charge we were given, we were

supposed to look at this, but not this, we therefore didn`t consider, you

know, these other issues.  It may innumerate them or it may not. 

 

But it looks like – again, reading the summary/non-summary, the social

media operation the Russians were running, the hacking and dumping

operation the Russians were running, those two areas squarely within the

special council`s counsel`s jurisdictions.  

 

Other things like Moscow Trump Tower, which don`t fit in either bucket, may

only have been viewed from the perspective of does it tell us something

about the obstruction case?  Because the president`s lawyer lied to the

Congress about it.  But that Moscow Trump Tower, which holds the potential

of dangling money in front of Donald Trump, could be far more compromising

than some of these other issues, which is part of the reason why we in

Congress need to get the report on the counterintelligence part of the

investigation, not just the criminal part. 

 

MADDOW:  Do you think that would be a separate report or do you think that

would already have been – that would have been part of what was already

given to Barr? 

 

SCHIFF:  I don`t know, but I suspect that it is really not in this report. 

 

MADDOW:  Hmm. 

 

SCHIFF:  And I think that the report was designed to be about these are the

prosecutorial decisions we made to prosecute these folks, not to prosecute

these folks, here`s the reason why.  It`s a prosecutorial memo. 

 

It isn`t really this is what we found, these are the risks of compromise,

this is what the Russians were trying to do.  Now, some of that`s going to

be relevant to the criminal case, but a great portion of it may not. 

 

MADDOW:  If there were findings by Mueller that were of the type you

described there, money being dangled, somebody taking action that is

beneficial to Russia because they were hoping to get something from the

Russian government, if that`s in the in the Mueller report, how are you

ultimately going to get briefed on that?  How will the American people find

out about it? 

 

SCHIFF:  By statute, the National Security Act, the Intelligence Committee

is required to brief Congress on any significant intelligence or

counterintelligence activity, so there has been no more significant

counterintelligence investigation, that is an investigation into what a

foreign power may be doing covertly to influence Americans.  There`s been

no more significant counterintelligence investigation than this one in my

lifetime, and so we will be briefed on it because they`re required to be. 

 

What format will take, we don`t know.  We`ve already begun outreach to the

intelligence community and the FBI to find out.  But that has always been

really front and center of the intelligence committee.  We don`t have a

criminal charge. 

 

Our investigation from the beginning to present has always been

predominately concerned with is a foreign power exerting influence over the

president, people around him, in such a way that it would warp U.S. policy

in a way that was not in our national interest? 

 

MADDOW:  Do you think that we`ll also get a list of the people who talked

to Mueller?  Will we get the witness list? 

 

SCHIFF:  I don`t think he will give us a witness list.  And, again, this is

obviously guess work at this point. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

 

SCHIFF:  I think what we will have is a narrative –

 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

 

SCHIFF:  – about different parts of the investigation and who the players

were.  If there are people that they brought before the grand jury or

interviewed who really didn`t have something all that valuable to share, I

don`t think their name is going to appear just to have a comprehensive

list, but I would imagine a 400-page report has exhibits far more than 400

pages.  Whether one of those exhibits is a list of everyone they talked to,

every search warrant they executed, every subpoena they issued, I suppose

it`s possible. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House

Intelligence Committee, I would keep you here for longer but I know you

have to go because you have to travel.  Please come back and talk to us

and, and I congratulate you on having more nicknames from the president

than anybody else.  None of them are sticking thus far, but I think if you

stay in this job, ultimately you might hit the record. 

 

SCHIFF:  It`s a badge of honor. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, thank you, sir. 

 

SCHIFF:  Thanks. 

 

MADDOW:  Thanks. 

 

Lots more to come tonight.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  In his new letter just released tonight, Attorney General Bill

Barr says everybody misinterpreted his previous letter to Congress.  He

says that letter was never meant to be a summary of Robert Mueller`s

report.  He says instead, it`s supposed to be a summary of the report`s

principal conclusions.  Oh. 

 

Nowhere in the special counsel regulation does it say the attorney general

is supposed to report on the principal conclusions of anything.  All he`s

supposed to do under the regulations, at least as far as I can tell, is

he`s supposed to tell Congress the investigation`s over.  He`s not really

supposed to do anything else. 

 

Nevertheless, Attorney General Barr`s letter today also gives us a newly

expanded list of what he says he plans to redact from Mueller`s report

before Congress can see it.  On Sunday, the list was comprise of just two

things, grand jury material and information that could impact ongoing

investigations, but tonight, he`s added two more categories of information

he`s planning on cutting, intelligence information, as we were just

discussing with Congressman Adam Schiff, and also this odd duck, quote,

information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and

reputational interests of peripheral third parties.  Otherwise known as

embarrassing stuff about people I don`t want to name. 

 

I mean, I am not a lawyer, but I can Control-F my way through the special

counsel regulations and I just don`t see anything like that that`s guiding

what the attorney general is doing here, and what the attorney general is

doing here is apparently going to determine what we the public or allowed

to know about this most serious investigation.  The grounds on which the

attorney general is acting here just appears to be dislocated from what we

thought was the legal basis of this part of this whole investigation. 

 

Joining us now is a man who knows.  Neal Katyal wrote the DOJ regulations

defining the Office of Special Counsel.  He`s also acting solicitor general

in the Obama administration.  Mr. Katyal, thank you so much for joining us

on a Friday night. 

 

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION:  Thank

you so much, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  So, obviously, you know these regulations better than anybody.  My

sense is that Attorney General William Barr is freelancing here a little

bit and is finding his own and is responding to his receipt of the Mueller

report in a way that isn`t necessarily prescribed by these regulations.  Is

that fair? 

 

KATYAL:  Absolutely.  You said before that the way it`s working now is not

the way it`s supposed to work.  That`s exactly right.  That started last

week with all of the celebrations by the Trump folks when the Barr letter

was released saying total exoneration and things like that, and, you know,

I said at that point I felt it was very premature.  I felt this is a bunch

of Dartmouth students looking for a party and trying to find an excuse or

something like that.  That`s really, you know, I think what we`re starting

to see the seeds of after one week. 

 

We learned today it`s a 400-page Mueller report that Barr purported to have

the top line conclusions of in his four-page memo.  We knew last week that

Barr took it on himself to decide and issue that Mueller wouldn`t decide

whether the president had obstructed justice.  All in a matter of 48 hours

and in a four-page memo.  You know, this is looking increasingly

problematic, and as you said earlier, this looks panicky today. 

 

MADDOW:  He has suggested that there is a number of categories of

information that he is going to excise from the report, not only before

it`s released to the public, but before it`s released to Congress.  The one

– one of those categories is grand jury information.  And obviously grand

jury information is secret.  We the public never expect that stuff to be

released to us under the normal course of events, but what do you make of

the way he`s treating that, particularly if that`s the major quantity of

information that he`s trying to cut out of this and deny access, even for

Congress? 

 

KATYAL:  I mean, two things.  One is grand jury information – you can go

to a court and get it released, as you said earlier.  That`s exactly what

happened in Nixon. 

 

It`s been seven days now since the Mueller report was delivered to Barr. 

He hasn`t even bothered to go to court to try and do that.  He could do

that right now and say, court, release this information to Congress. 

That`s what happened in past investigations. 

 

The fact that he won`t do it is really suspicious and tells me at least

there is information in the Mueller report that Barr doesn`t want to come

out and I don`t think it`s for up and up reasons, I think it`s because it

is embarrassing to the president. 

 

And that leads me to my second point, which is as you said, they started

with – Barr started with two categories of information that he would

redact.  We`re now up to four.  Next week I suppose it`s eight and the week

after that 16 or something, you know, in one of those ones today is privacy

interests of third parties. 

 

I don`t know what that means.  I don`t know if he thinks Trump is a third

party or Trump Jr. or Jared or the like, but I do know this, you know, the

taxpayers paid for this report that Mueller wrote and it goes to some of

the most sensitive, you know, important things that every member of the

American public should know about, and there is no excuse whatsoever for it

being hidden from the Congress and the American people. 

 

MADDOW:  Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general in the Obama

administration.  Again, the man who drafted the special counsel

regulations.  Thanks for your clarity on this, Neal.  It`s great to have

you here. 

 

KATYAL:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BRESAK)

 

MADDOW:  Stand by.  Stand by for Big Ben.  Stand by.  OK, go. 

 

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

 

MADDOW:  That is Big Ben, the iconic British landmark that sits atop a

clock tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster in

London.  Big Ben has been ringing since 1859 when it became, quote, the

biggest, most accurate, four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. 

Take that.  Big Ben survived the blitz during World War II.  It went dark

but it never went silent. 

 

Big Ben can be heard on the radio before British newscasts.  Those chimes

are also used, of course, to mark holidays.  Big Ben, resilient,

consistent, it is a big, solid sure thing in the whole wide world. 

 

It is also now unexpectedly prophetic and that is our final story tonight. 

That`s next.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Two years ago, British Prime Minister Theresa may set today as the

date for the U.K. to leave the E.U.  Her spokesman said at the time the

deadline for the deal would be today, March 29th, 2019, quote: When Big Ben

bongs midnight.

 

He said that two years ago today and you know what happened next?  They

closed Big Ben for repairs.  No bongs at all for four years until 2021, and

now, no Brexit. 

 

As of tonight the U.K. was supposed to be leaving the European Union, but

Brexit is a mess and a disaster.  Tens of thousands of Brits swarmed the

streets near parliament in protest today after lawmakers shot down Theresa

May`s Brexit plan yet another time.  This vote brings Britain closer to

crashing out of the European Union without any sort of net. 

 

The clock is ticking.  The E.U. has given Britain a new deadline now of

April 12th to leave or figure something else out.  Parliament is going to

meet again on Monday to see if they can agree on any plan at all.  Whatever

they decide, though, Big Ben will not help.  It will not be celebrated with

a bing-bong at all, but with some sort of whimper and probably more

protests in the streets. 

 

We will see you again on Monday.  I hope you have an excellent week. 

 

Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Katy Tur, filling in for Lawrence

tonight. 

 

Good evening, Katy.

 

                                                                                                               

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