Barr is preparing Mueller report for release. TRANSCRIPT: 3/29/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff is our guest. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,
Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Mr. Chairman, thank you for
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.
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
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.
SCHIFF: I think what we will have is a narrative –
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
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.
Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
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
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
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
KATYAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
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.
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
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
Good evening, Katy.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the