Sen. Blumenthal: “Congress deserves that full report.” TRANSCRIPT: 4/4/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Philip Lacovara, Carol Leonnig
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW

Date: April 4, 2019

Guest: Philip Lacovara, Carol Leonnig

 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  You can find that and all of our other episodes

wherever you get your podcasts. 

 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.

 

HAYES:  You bet.

 

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

 

One of the all-time great lines in Congress, one of the all-time great

lines in the modern history of Washington is the fake humble brag “I`m just

a country lawyer.”  It was Senator Sam Ervin, the guy who led the

investigative committee in the U.S. Senate that looked into Watergate.  He

was an experienced senator.  He was a Harvard-trained lawyer.  There was

nothing simple about him at all, but he would do this thing. 

 

He would turn on this folksy “country lawyer” humble thing as a prolog to

his most devastating to the point questions.  Now, I`m just a country

lawyer, but, like, walk me through this. 

 

Sam Ervin is the one who started that during Watergate.  You hear members

of Congress now use it all the time.  It is Sam Ervin that they`re

referencing, but usually it means they`re about to say something pretty

good. 

 

Today, it was Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal`s turn with the whole

“I`m just a country lawyer” trope. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Now, we have gotten

from the attorney general of the United States – we have been so fortunate

to receive a summary of the report.  You know who is beginning to say that

report is inaccurate and unfair?  The Mueller team is beginning to say you

didn`t do justice to our report, you didn`t provide the findings and

evidence. 

 

Now, I`m – I`m just a country lawyer from Connecticut.  But I can tell you

the law is pretty clear, there is no executive privilege.  Congress

deserves that full report and so do the American people.  You pay for it. 

You deserve it.  The full Mueller report, release the full Mueller report. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Senator Richard Blumenthal speaking in Washington today at one of

the several hundred protests that happened around the country today. 

 

This afternoon and this evening, protests calling for the release of the

Mueller report.  Thirteen days now since it was completed by Robert Mueller

and handed in to the office of Trump`s newly appointed attorney general,

and it hasn`t been seen since.  There were protests today in Washington,

D.C.  There were protests in New York City.  Good sized protests in New

York City.  There were protests in Chicago and Philadelphia and Raleigh,

North Carolina, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, protests from Denver to Boston

to St. Paul, Minnesota, to Langhorne, Pennsylvania. 

 

And it`s interesting, these are not policy protests.  This is not an

interest group that is fighting for more attention to its cause which is

sometimes what you see in coordinated nationwide protests, where people

protest at hundreds of different sites.  What these protests are about is a

real live active fight right now that is under way and we really don`t know

how it`s going to end. 

 

At the D.C. protest this afternoon, the one where Blumenthal spoke, the

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler also spoke and he said although we

are in the midst of this fight right now, of course, he`s the one really

leading it for the Democratic-controlled Congress.  Nadler turned on a bit

of the history professor thing today.  Blumenthal was the “I`m just a

country lawyer”.  Nadler turned on Professor Nadler who was your favorite

guy from U.S. history, right?  Junior year. 

 

He told this crowd outside the White House today that we as a country have

had this kind of a fight before, that presidents in trouble do this kind of

thing that president Trump is trying right now with the Mueller report.  We

should expect that they will try to get away with the sort of stuff they`re

trying to get away with now, but ultimately, history teaches us that

presidents in the end when they try this stuff, they lose. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  To do our job,

we need the Mueller report.  Not the attorney general`s summary or a

significantly redacted version of the report that the attorney general has

offered to give us without the underlying evidence collected by the special

counsel. 

 

You know, we have seen this before.  In 1973, the Nixon administration had

an idea.  They didn`t want to give up the tapes.  They didn`t want the

tapes to be public.  They didn`t want the special counsel to see the tapes,

or to hear the tapes. 

 

So they decided – or they proposed that we`ll let Senator Stennis – who

is famously hard of hearing, by the way – we`ll let Stennis listen to the

tapes and he`ll tell us what he thinks is suitable for Congress and the

public to know.  Special Counsel Cox rejected that recommendation.  And was

fired the next day because of that.  Special Counsel Cox knew that he need

access to the oval office tapes and the evidence of significant abuses of

power by the president. 

 

Today, the Department of Justice, the attorney general, seeks to limit our

access to the Mueller report.  As if we learned nothing from the Stennis

proposal of the Nixon administration.  But we have ample reason to suspect

the administration`s motives. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Jerry Nadler, the head of the Judiciary Committee,

today speaking at a protest outside the White House, calling for the

release of the Mueller report, saying we have ample reason to suspect the

administration`s motives, when it comes to trying to keep the Mueller

report under wraps. 

 

That Stennis compromise that he was describing there was a real thing.  The

Nixon administration really did try to offer that instead of releasing the

White House tapes.  They would have an end immediate year, a mostly deaf,

very friendly intermediary listen to the tapes himself and he`d be the only

one who would get to listen to them, but then don`t worry, he would totally

tell everybody what they said. 

 

And that`s, you know, that would be good enough.  There is no reason

anybody should be dissatisfied with that as a substitute for actually

hearing the tapes themselves.  Nixon really did try to get away with what

that as one of his strategies for not releasing the White House tapes.  Did

not work, but nice try. 

 

Today, just since Robert Mueller`s report was submitted 13 days ago, we got

the first, second, third, no, the fourth statement, the fourth statement

today from Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department

attempting to describe some thing that he wants us to all know about the

Mueller report while still releasing absolutely none of the report itself. 

 

Trust me, just I will describe to you what you need to know about it.  Why

do you need to see the thing?  Aren`t I nice?  Don`t you like me?  I will

tell you about the thing.  Trust me. 

 

Today, the fourth statement from Barr`s office characterizing the Mueller

report, and this came in the wake of this really important new reporting

from “The New York Times,” which quickly followed by “The Washington Post,”

quickly followed by NBC News and then later into today by CNN.  All of

these news agencies now reporting that something apparently quiet serious

has gone wrong between the special counsel`s office and the attorney

general, between the time when Mueller handed in his report two weeks ago

tomorrow and the time when Barr started telling people what he wanted them

to know about what he says is in that report. 

 

This time last night on the show, we were just absorbing the breaking news

from the first story on the subject from “The New York Times.”  This,

again, was that “Times” headline.  Quote: Some on Mueller`s team say report

was more damaging than Barr revealed, the lead of that piece, quote, some

of Mueller`s investigators have told associates that Attorney General

William Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry,

and that those findings were more troubling for President Trump than Mr.

Barr indicated.

 

Quote: The special counsel`s investigators had already written multiple

summaries of the report and some team members believe that Barr should have

included more of their own material in the four-page letter he wrote on

March 24th, purportedly laying out their main conclusions.  Quote:

Government officials familiar with the matter and others interviewed

declined to flush out why some of the special counsel`s investigators

reviewed the finds as more intentionally damaging to the president than

Barr explained.  Quote: It was unclear how much discussion Mueller and his

investigators had with senior Justice Department officials about how their

findings would be made public. 

 

That`s the story that broke just before we got on the air last night.  It

was like, you know, for the first time in 22 months, we`re getting

reporting from Mueller`s team. 

 

Hours later, in the middle of the night, “The Washington Post” broke not

just their own version of the story, but actually another story on the same

subject that advanced the issue considerably and actually sort of seemed to

clear up some of the stuff that didn`t necessarily make sense in “The

Times” initial report.  Specifically what was going on with the summaries

that Mueller`s office wrote about their own findings, that stuff didn`t

make much sense in the initial reporting.  It makes more sense the way “The

Washington Post” has reported it out. 

 

There is this question of what it means that William Barr chose to ignore

the summaries written by Mueller`s team and instead produce his own. 

Mueller`s office apparently says that his representation of their findings

is not an accurate representation of what they really found.  Here is how

“The Washington Post” explains it. 

 

Quote: Members of special counsel`s Robert Mueller`s team have told

associates they`re frustrated with the limited information Attorney General

William Barr has provided about their nearly two-year investigation.  Barr

told lawmakers that he concluded the evidence wasn`t sufficient to prove

the president obstructed justice, but members of Mueller`s team have

complained to close associates that the evidence they gathered on

obstruction was alarming and significant. 

 

One person telling “The Post,” quote, it was much more acute than Barr

suggested.  Some members of the office were particularly disappointed that

Barr didn`t release summary information the special counsel team had

prepared. 

 

According to one U.S. official briefed on the matter, quote, there was

immediate displeasure from the team when they saw how the A.G. had

characterized their work.  The official said that the Mueller team prepared

its summaries for different sections of the report with the view that they

could be made public.  The official said the report was prepared, quote, so

that the front matter from each section could have been released

immediately or very quickly.  It was done in a way that minimum redactions,

if any, would have been necessary and the work would have spoken for

itself. 

 

Mueller`s team, in fact, assumed that information was going to be made

available to the public.  Quote: They prepared their summaries to be shared

in their own words and not in the attorney general`s summary of their work,

as turned out to be the case. 

 

So this is a – this is a big development in this – in this whole scandal,

right?  And this is a brand-new thing that is just being reported for the

first time in the last 24 hours.  This remarkable piece of news in this

whole two-year scandal, in this whole investigation and what now appears to

be this epic effort by the administration to submarine the report of the

investigation while the investigators fight for it to become public. 

 

I mean, what we are learning here is that Mueller`s team didn`t just write

a 400-page narrative report plus tables and appendices.  They also

specifically wrote short summaries for each section of their report, which

they, according to “The Post”, specifically prepared for public consumption

so you and I could read it.  They wrote those summaries that way because

they believed those summaries would be publicly consumed.  They thought

they would be released, that`s why they wrote them and that`s why they

wrote them the way they did. 

 

Well, now, we assume based on the attorney general`s statements and based

on every other big presidential investigation that is anything remotely

like this that we`ve ever seen before, we assume that there must be some

things that were important in Mueller`s investigation and maybe even

described as part of his report on his findings, some things that at least

on the surface the public can`t see in an unfiltered form, right, that`s

not a controversial assertion.  Maybe there is classified information. 

Maybe there is stuff that if it was exposed, it would screw up a pending

investigation or an investigation that`s still important and still open and

hasn`t yet led to indictments or some other counterintelligence conclusion,

right?  There is reason to expect that there may be stuff in there that`s

not supposed to be presented to the public in an unfiltered form. 

 

There is also a longstanding sacred rule in American jurisprudence that

information obtained by a grand jury only has one legitimate public outlet,

which is that it gets used in an indictment if an indictment is warranted. 

And then it gets used to prove a case against a defendant.  I mean, other

than that, any stuff that`s up in a grand jury is supposed to stay within

the grand jury proceedings, supposed to be keep secret.  Unless – the one

exception to that, unless there is an order from a judge, a court order

from a federal judge that specifically allows grand jury information to be

made public or provided to Congress or provided to some other entity for

some good reason that persuades the judge within the law, right? 

 

Grand jury information is secret and can`t be conveyed outside the grand

jury unless a judge says so.  Well, if there is grand jury information in

Mueller`s report, Barr says there is, how is that being handled?  If that

information is key to understanding what the president did and its

importance and what the country should do about it, how do you deal with

that grand jury information? 

 

Well, there`s two ways it can be handled.  One, you can ask a judge to

issue a court order that would allow that grand jury information to be made

public or be conveyed to Congress or whatever he thinks should be done with

it.  We`ll come back to that option in just a moment. 

 

In the absence of a court order that clears that information to be

released, well, according to Attorney General William Barr, the entity that

is going through Mueller`s report, combing through it, determining what

counts as grand jury information in Mueller`s report and therefore has to

be redacted in the absence of a court order saying it can be released,

Attorney General William Barr says there is an entity going through

Mueller`s report cutting out all the grand jury information, and he says

that entity is Mueller.  Barr says it`s the special counsel`s office that

is identifying grand jury material in its own report, so that material can

be handled with the necessary sensitivities and legal restrictions. 

 

According to Barr, Mueller is the one that`s doing that.  The special

counsel`s office is the entity that is charged with finding any grand jury

information that exists in their report, so in the absence of a court

order, it can be redacted from anything that is handed over.  Well, if

that`s what`s going on, tell me how it makes sense that Mueller`s own

summaries, which he and his team wrote specifically for public consumption,

that those summaries now are not being released for public consumption,

supposedly because they contain grand jury material?  That makes no sense

at all. 

 

I mean, if Mueller`s the one polices what counts as grand jury material and

Mueller`s the one who wrote the summaries specifically so they could go to

the public, then how could those being withheld on that basis?  I mean,

that would be like me putting my dog in charge of what we`re having for

dinner.  And then the dog gets really mad at me because it turns out he`s

decided we should have, like, lettuce and kale for dinner and my dog hates

all leafy greens, right?  It makes no sense. 

 

If you`re deciding what happens here, why would you decide against

yourself?  And then be mad about it?  I mean, nothing against lettuce, my

dog doesn`t like it.  My dog wouldn`t pick that for dinner, right? 

 

Why would Mueller write summaries for the public and then rule himself that

those summaries definitely can`t go to the public?  I mean, that makes

absolutely no sense.  And that reporting as of last night about the

existence of these summaries and how the Department of Justice was trying

to purvey this sort of nonsense anonymously sourced explanations for what

happened to those summaries and why nobody`s seen them, that nonsense is

what led to this second, third, oh, fourth notification from the attorney

general`s office today, which I almost can`t believe, but it`s my job so I

have to try to do it. 

 

Rather than release any of the Mueller report in the nearly two weeks that

they`ve had it, this latest fourth statement from the Justice Department

about the Mueller – about Mueller`s report gives us this new

characterization of what`s in it.  Quote: Every page of the confidential

report provided to Attorney General Barr on March 22nd was marked “may

contain material protected under the federal rules of criminal procedure,

Rule 6, Section E, a law that protects confidential grand jury information. 

Oh. 

 

Every page says it may contain grand jury information, like as a

disclaimer.  As of today, that`s the Justice Department`s latest

explanation for why they can`t release the Mueller report.  Nobody`s seen

any of it.  Turns out every page has a legal disclaimer on it, like a

header or something, and so that`s why every page of Mueller`s report must

be held back and not released, even the parts that Mueller wrote

specifically to release to the public without redactions.  And even though

Mueller is deciding what exactly counts as grand jury information that has

to be protected in his report. 

 

I mean, this latest assertion from the Justice Department literally states

they can`t release anything from the report because every page has the same

legal disclaimer on it.  This has led to a new letter from the judiciary

chairman, Jerry Nadler, back to the Justice Department, telling them

basically, you guys, this is getting ridiculous. 

 

Quote: Dear Attorney General Barr, I write to you regarding troubling press

resource related to your handle of special counsel Mueller`s report and to

urge you to immediately release to the public any summaries obtained in the

report by the special counsel.  “The New York Times” and “Washington Post”

both report that some in the special counsel`s office have raised concerns

or about your March 24th letter summarizing the results of the special

counsel`s investigation.  These reports suggest that the special counsel

prepared his own summaries intended for public consumption, which you chose

to withhold in favor of your own. 

 

In your March 29th letter to the chairman of the Senate and House Judiciary

Committees, you stated that the special counsel is assisting you in the

process of make appropriate redactions before the report is released

publicly.  If these recent reports are accurate and the special counsel`s

office prepared summaries in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would

have been necessary, then those summaries should be publicly released as

soon as possible. 

 

This is the best part.  This next part here.  Quote: It is notable that the

department`s press statement this morning does not deny the existence of

these summaries.  The department merely indicated that every page of the

confidential report was marked “may contain material protected under Rule

6-E.” 

 

If these summaries were in fact produced for public consumption by

experienced prosecutors, then a precautionary marking should not be an

impediment to public consumption in a very short period of time.  Finally

in our phone conversation, you indicated you`d inform me when the special

counsel`s office has completed its review of the report for materials

covered by Rule 6E of the federal rules of criminal procedure, meaning the

grand jury information. 

 

I ask that you inform the committee whether that has occurred and if not to

report when that review is complete. 

 

In other words, here`s Nadler reminding Barr about what he told him on the

phone and now telling all of us what Barr told him on the phone, which is

that Mueller is the one who`s supposedly scrubbing his own report for grand

jury material.  Now, Barr is trying to cite grand jury material is the

reason why he can`t be allowed to release any of the report, even the parts

that Mueller specifically wrote to be made public, that were written

specifically for that purpose. 

 

Barr`s handling of this started off weird.  It is now absurd.  And he`s

obviously freelancing.  He`s obviously making this up as he goes along.  I

don`t know where this is going. 

 

I mean, now that people involved in Mueller`s investigation are speaking to

the press for the first time in 22 months or at least speaking to other

people who are being allowed to speak to the press about what they said,

now that this is happening, I imagine it`s going to be much harder to make

stuff up about Mueller`s investigation or its findings or to continue to

try to disappear Mueller`s work while pretending that Mueller`s okay with

it. 

 

But as Jerry Nadler said today at that protest, when he was in history

professor mode, in some ways as unprecedented all this seems right now –

in some ways even though this feels like something we would have never been

through and never imagined, in some ways we have been here before as a

country.  Presidents have tried to get away with stuff like this in the

past, and they`ve lost.  And that`s turning out to be the best help we`ve

got from anywhere in terms of understanding what happens next year. 

 

Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

PHILIP LACOVARA:  We are taking the position that the grand jury`s

determination is conclusive on the court on two issues.  A, that a

conspiracy existed, and B, that President Nixon was a member of the

conspiracy. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Watergate special prosecutors office argued before the Supreme

Court in 1974 that Nixon had no good excuse not to hand over the Oval

Office tapes from the White House recording systems.  Those tapes had to be

released.  They won big.  They got a unanimous verdict at the Supreme Court

in their favor, and the tapes were released. 

 

That case, the oral arguments in that case were argued by the special

prosecutor himself, by Leon Jaworski, along with a young lawyer on his

team, a Republican who described himself as a Nixon loyalist, in fact.  A

man named Philip Lacovara. 

 

Presidents try to keep evidence against them under wraps.  Presidents try

to keep stuff secret.  When people and investigators find out stuff about

presidents that presidents don`t want people to know, they do whatever they

can to try and make that stuff go away, to make sure it doesn`t see the

light of day to make sure it can`t be used against them. 

 

Part of the lesson of Watergate and Nixon administration is presidents who

try this stuff, it shouldn`t surprise us that they`re trying it, but we

should also expect them to lose these fights. 

 

I should mention, though, that that young lawyer who argued U.S. v. Nixon

before the Supreme Court alongside Leon Jaworski, that lawyer who got those

White House tapes released which was such an important moment in Watergate,

that lawyer, Philip Lacovara, he`s actually right in the center of the

exact historical precedent that we`ve got for this moment that we`re in

right now when it comes to president Trump. 

 

Besides the White House case, besides the White House tapes case, besides

U.S. v. Nixon, this thing that the Justice Department is trying to pull

right now about how there`s a notation on every page of the Mueller report

which says as generic disclaimer it might contain grand jury material and

that disclaimer in the header of every page of the Mueller report has meant

that they`ve not been able to release any page of the report, this thing

that we`re going through right now, Attorney General Barr`s office has made

a mess about their public statements and their statements to Congress about

how they`re handling grand jury information in Mueller`s report.

 

I mean, despite Barr`s earlier statements to the contrary, it is not at all

clear whether the special counsel`s office itself is in fact in charge of

identifying grand jury material in their report or whether maybe Barr is

doing that himself and somehow culling all the stuff Mueller himself

cleared for release.  We don`t know what`s going on there as to how they`re

handling grand jury material or alleged grand jury material in that report. 

And grand jury material is apparently the bulk of what we`re talking about

in terms of what the Trump administration is trying to cut out of the

report before they allow to be handed to Congress or to the public. 

 

There is a very clear way to resolve this, though, regardless of whatever

has been going on in Barr`s office or the Justice Department.  I mean, as a

matter of course, grand jury material doesn`t get released outside the

confines of the grand jury.  But a federal judge can rule grand jury

information should be released.  That`s what`s happened in every similar

presidential investigation that has handled this kind of material,

including Watergate.

 

Watergate wasn`t just a fight over whether the White House tapes would be

release.  There was also a fight, a big court fight over whether Congress

would get to see the grand jury information that implicated Nixon in

potential crimes, specifically obstruction of justice.  And it`s

interesting, it was that same lawyer in the Supreme Court case over the

tapes, that same lawyer, Philip Lacovara, who was in court arguing for the

special prosecutor`s office that a court should give the go ahead and hand

the grand jury material over to Congress. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The United States court of appeals in Washington is

still hearing arguments on a secret grand jury report that Judge Sirica

ordered turned over to the House Judiciary Committee.  The committee wants

the secret report which focuses on President Nixon. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A historic argument before six judges unexpectedly shed

new light on what is inside the secret grand jury report.  Philip Lacovara

who did the arguing for special prosecutor Jaworski said the report

contains an index of incidents involving the president that might be

important to an impeachment inquiry. 

 

Chief Judge David Bazelon asked if the special prosecutors were aware of

the risks of indictments against many of the Watergate defendants might

have to be dismissed if prejudicial matters were made public by the House. 

Lacovara replied the grand jury which has much interest as anyone in this

country and the survival of the indictments has considered the priorities

and decided the report should go to the House. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Philip Lacovara arguing for the Watergate special prosecutor in

1974 that any grand jury material relevant to President Nixon`s potential

criminal acts should be handed over to congress, the court should order

that stuff should be handed over to Congress.  Arguing that the risks to

prejudicing future trials could be mitigated, that the tradition of grand

jury secrecy had exceptions to it for good reason, and that this was one of

those exceptions, it was of the utmost importance that Congress be allowed

to see the information that had turned up in that investigation about the

president`s potentially illegal behavior. 

 

Philip Lacovara, 1974, won that case.  And Congress got all the grand jury

information on Nixon, and that led to the impeachment articles against

Nixon and that, and the tapes being released and another case won by Philip

Lacovara led to Nixon`s resignation. 

 

Philip Lacovara is how the interest of transparency won in court, and how

Nixon`s attempted cover-up of the evidence was defeated 45 years ago in

1974.  And that part of the fight is exactly what is about to happen in

this scandal with this administration with this president. 

 

And Philip Lacovara is our guest next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The decision to pardon Richard Nixon has helped to

produce another departure from government, Philip Lacovara, the third

ranking member of the special Watergate prosecution force, announced his

resignation today, saying recent developments have made it appropriate for

him to leave sooner than he had planned. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Recent developments had made it appropriate for him to leave. 

That was Philip Lacovara`s polite official reason for quitting the

government.  The reason he resigned is because Ford pardoned Nixon for all

his crimes. 

 

Lacovara told the D.C. bar years later, quote, when President Ford pardoned

Nixon, I resigned in protest.

 

Philip Lacovara had argued before the United States Supreme Court in U.S.

v. Nixon that the Oval Office tapes had to be handed over.  It couldn`t be

shielded by executive privilege in part because it isn`t a privileged

conversation, Mr. President, if what you`re conversing about is the

criminal conspiracy that you`re part of. 

 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

 

LACOVARA:  This president is not in a position to claim this public

privilege for the reason that a prima facie showing can be made that these

conversations were not in pursuance of legitimate governmental processes,

or the lawful deliberation of the public`s business.  These conversations

as we showed in our 49-page appendix and as the grand jury alleged were in

furtherance of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States and

obstruct justice. 

 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Basically four months or so before those Supreme Court arguments

over the Oval Office tapes, that same lawyer, Philip Lacovara, had argued

in D.C. appeals court that Congress should see what the grand jury had

found about the president`s participation in that criminal conduct.  The

grand jury itself had asked the judge to release the material they had

collected to Congress.  Philip Lacovara argued that side of the case on

behalf of the Watergate special prosecutors.  The court agreed with

Lacovara, Congress was given that grand jury material by court order and of

course ultimately not long thereafter, Nixon ended up giving up the

presidency. 

 

That courtroom work formed every pivot point in that crucial time in

American history.  Looking back at it, looking back at those decisions by

those courts and that evidence, it feels inevitable in the distance.  In

the moment, it was not at all sure how it was going to work out.  The way

that it worked out in those courtrooms is the way our history was

determined as a country. 

 

And that experience, what Philip Lacovara was involved in, that looks a lot

like the fight that I think we`re about to have in this scandal next. 

 

Joining us now is Philip Lacovara.  He was counsel to the Watergate special

prosecutor.  He`s also former president of the D.C. bar. 

 

Mr. Lacovara, I`m sorry I`ve said your name so many times on TV.  I imagine

this is an uncomfortable making experience. 

 

LACOVARA:  Well, all of the clips you showed brought back a lot of

memories, so I`m happy to discuss those events and how they relate to the

Trump administration, the Mueller report and Bill Barr`s handling of it. 

 

MADDOW:  Well, let me ask you about how you perceive things thus far.  Writ

large, it`s been – it`ll be two weeks tomorrow since Robert Mueller has

submitted his report.  Barr has released none of it.  Barr in my estimation

appears to be freelancing a little bit, feeling his way in terms of how

he`s handling the material in the report. 

 

Overall, what`s your take on how this is being handled thus far? 

 

LACOVARA:  I`d say the primary characterization is that it`s being handled

in a very clumsy way.  I think the attorney general`s office has not

distinguished itself in the way they`ve immediately served up what seems to

be a highly contentious version or summary of a 400-page report.  And now I

think they`re simply complicating matters by the way they`re trying to back

and fill in describing the reasons why they`ve reached conclusions as they

did and why they`re not yet in a position to release any of the details of

the report. 

 

And I think one of the most significant pieces of information that`s come

to light in the last day or so is that Mueller`s staff, not surprisingly

had done their own summaries of the major chapters of the report and that

these summaries were done with an eye toward release to the public without

delay.  So, it`s just puzzling to me why the attorney general could not

have released those much more promptly than he`s apparently prepared to

release any portion of the report itself. 

 

MADDOW:  According to the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, he

said when he spoke to Attorney General William Barr about the handling of

the report, Barr suggested to him that the redactions Barr was planning on

making to the report that pertain to grand jury information, those

redactions would be substantial.  He was planning on taking a lot out of

the report on the grounds that it was grand jury information. 

 

When you were fighting in the D.C. district court and the D.C. circuit

court in 1974 to get the grand jury information from the Watergate grand

jury released to the judiciary committee, it`s sort of hard to tell looking

back on it now, but was that sort of pushing on an open door?  Was the

court very receptive to that, or was that a fight to get the information

released by court order that was harder than it looks now from this

distance? 

 

LACOVARA:  Well, Judge Sirica was certainly open to allowing us to

cooperate with the House Impeachment Committee, the equivalent of the

committee that Jerrold Nadler now has, the Judiciary Committee of the

House.  The Court of Appeals was a bit more skeptical because as you have

said a number of times during the show, there is a policy of keeping grand

jury material secret. 

 

The argument that we made on behalf of the grand jury was that the grand

jury itself recognized that the overriding public interest was in having

the House of Representatives given full access to the information we have

developed, much of it, through the grand jury process in order to determine

whether the House should exercise its primary constitutional responsibility

to decide whether a president should be charged with high crimes and

misdemeanors that might warrant his removal from office.  We ultimately

convinced even the Court of Appeals that this is the dominant

constitutional interest and that it overrode interests, the normal

interests of grand jury secrecy. 

 

But I do want to make one more point that`s suggested by your comment about

Barr`s assertion that he`s going to reduce a lot of – redact a lot of

material.  Exactly how much should be excluded or redacted as grand jury

material is up to the discretion of the person who`s wielding the scalpel,

because the rule only prohibits disclosure of matters occurring before the

grand jury.  That could be viewed properly as limited just to quotations of

testimony, for example.  It doesn`t necessarily require redacting

characterizations of evidence that happen to be derived from the

information that was developed during grand jury proceedings. 

 

So I think it`s a troublesome development that Attorney General Barr says

that he`s planning to use the most comprehensive view of grand jury

material in deciding what he`s going to excise. 

 

MADDOW:  Mr. Lacovara, one last question for you, which is probably obvious

to lawyers but has always been a puzzle to me.  In that fight that you were

a part of about releasing the grand jury information to Congress so that

they could review it when it came to President Nixon, the request to the

judge when I go back and look at it, looks like it came from the grand jury

themself, that the foreman of the grand jury is the person who signed to

request to the judge, so they were the origin of that request.  It wasn`t

you making the request on behalf of the special prosecutor, although you

joined and made arguments on their behalf. 

 

I know the Congress, the committee wrote a letter to the judge expressing

their support with the idea they should get the information, but it was the

grand jury themself. 

 

Could the grand jury that`s been hearing Mueller`s evidence thus far now

act on their own to do something similar? 

 

LACOVARA:  Yes, theoretically they could.  Although it`s fair to say we the

United States through the special prosecutor was representing the grand

jury.  We worked with the grand jury and drafted the report after

consultations with the grand jurors who decided that rather than indict

President Nixon at that time, and they`re very explicit in the report, that

they were deferring indictment of President Nixon, and preferred to submit

the evidence that had been developed before the grand jury to the House,

and they authorized the special prosecutor`s office to present their

application and their report, which we helped them draft to Judge Sirica

with the request it be submitted to the House Judiciary Committee. 

 

MADDOW:  Philip Lacovara – 

 

LACOVARA:   And that could be done today. 

 

MADDOW:  Philip Lacovara, who served as counsel to Watergate special

prosecutors, the former president of the D.C. bar – Mr. Lacovara, I have

been reading about you and thinking about you for a very long time.  It is

honestly a real honor to have you here to get a chance to talk with you

face to face.  Thank you so much.

 

LACOVARA:  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more to get to tonight.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  For 22 months, we got crickets from special counsel Robert

Mueller`s team.  No updates, no documents, no leaks, no comment, never,

nothing. 

 

That phase has apparently ended.  A few hours after “The New York Times”

reported last night on Mueller`s investigators being frustrated with

Attorney General Barr`s summary of their findings, saying their report is

actually more damaging that the attorney general has made it sound.  On the

heels of that news, “The Washington Post” had a significant advance in the

story. 

 

Among their revelations, quote: members of Mueller`s team have complained

to close associates that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was

alarming and significant.  Quote: It was much more acute that Barr

suggested.

 

Joining us now is Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative

reporter at “The Post”, part of the reporting team behind that scoop.

 

Carol, it`s great to have you here.  Thank you so much for making time. 

 

CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Of course.  It`s

great to be here on your graduate seminar on how to handle special

prosecutions and what to do with evidence that is gathered about a

president. 

 

MADDOW:  Do you believe we got Philip Lacovara to come on TV and talk about

it?  This is like very extreme.

 

LEONNIG:  Nerd alert, I was right there with you watching with rapt

attention. 

 

MADDOW:  Thank you for saying so.  I`m glad that you`re with me.

 

Carol, let me just ask you kind of a big picture question here.  I have

been asserting that it`s unusual that we`re now having reporting that is

attributing comments and feelings to members of Mueller`s team, which it`s

been so long that we`ve all been reporting on what Mueller`s doing and what

Mueller is investigating and who Mueller`s talking to, and what we think

he`s up to.  There – it seems to me this is something new, to actually

have reporting that ascribes feelings and statements to people who were

actually involved in that investigation. 

 

Does it feel that way to you, too? 

 

LEONNIG:  Absolutely.  It is not a shock to me at the moment, but it is

absolutely a major development.  I want to be clear that very soon after

Attorney General Barr`s summary was released, we began to hear that there

were concerns among allies that weren`t necessarily speaking for the team,

but there were significant concerns about Barr`s summary, specifically the

element that had to do with concluding there was not sufficient evidence to

accuse the president of obstruction. 

 

And there were people, even Comey came out publicly, former FBI Director

Jim Comey came out and said he had some serious questions.  Then we heard

more rumblings and then “The Times,” and then we broke stories about those

concerns. 

 

I would also add one little nerd element, which is several of these team

members have been leaving the team.  And once you leave a team, you`re not

going to release grand jury material.  You`re never going to violate that

oath. 

 

But I think there`s a little bit more of two things going on.  One, how in

the world could the summary that Barr gave be so different from what we

believe happened in our investigation and second, we`re done here now.  And

we`re no longer under a gag order, so to speak.  And we don`t want this

shaped in a way that we think is misleading. 

 

MADDOW:  Carol, NBC News followed your reporting, as well and cited one

source saying that some on Mueller`s team in addition to the concerns about

how the obstruction evidence was described, also had concerns about how the

Russia part of the results were described.  According to NBC, Mueller`s

team say their findings painted a picture of a campaign whose members were

manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation.  NBC

reporting there was some frustration among Mueller`s team that wasn`t

reflected in anything Barr said about the report. 

 

I wonder if your reporting touched on that part of Mueller`s report and

anything from his team in terms of how they feel that was represented? 

 

LEONNIG:  Well, I won`t be surprised.  I can`t independently confirm that

tonight for you.  I won`t be shocked if that`s the case. 

 

However, the part that I know the most about is the concern about the

obstruction and how Barr couched that.  I will also add that one of the

biggest concerns I`ve heard is that this conclusion that Barr reached so

quickly, Barr is now feeling a little heat about whether or not he really

offered a summary.  But one of the biggest concerns is, did he reject

evidence that they view, that the team views as very sufficient because of

Barr`s expansive view of a president`s powers, and the near certainty that

he could not be accused of obstruction. 

 

MADDOW:  Carol Leonnig, investigative reporter with “The Washington Post” -

- it`s great to have you here.  Congratulations on this scoop.  Keep as

apprised, Carol.  Thank you. 

 

LEONNIG:  Will do. 

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Here`s something to put on your Perry Matheson (ph) corkboard. 

This one appears to be getting bigger and sprawlier.  You need more tasks

and more yarn. 

 

In December, “The Wall Street Journal” was first to report that federal

prosecutors in the southern district of New York were investigating

President Trump`s inaugural committee.  That SDNY investigation into the

inaugural was, quote, in its early stages.  That was reported in mid-

December. 

 

By early February, SDNY had served the Trump inaugural committee with

subpoenas. 

 

Then in short order, in addition to that news that the inaugural was being

investigated by SDNY, we learned the Trump inaugural was also under

investigation by the New Jersey attorney general`s office, and also the

D.C. attorney general`s office.  And then also the U.S. attorney`s office

in Brooklyn, not SDNY but EDNY. 

 

Also the U.S. attorney`s office in Los Angeles?  Really?  Oh, and then

Congress, the judiciary committee requesting documents from the inaugural

committee and its top leaders. 

 

And now we have a new one.  “Wall Street Journal” reporting the

Intelligence Committee is seeking interviews with and documents from a

former adviser to the first lady who served as a producer and vendor for

the inauguration.  By our count, that makes seven open separate

investigations into the inaugural committee all of whom seem to think there

is something to see in the Trump inauguration. 

 

Seven investigations all of one thing? 

 

Watch this space.  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  That`s basically it for us tonight.  I do want to mention one

thing to look for in tomorrow`s news early in the day.  I just mentioned a

moment ago that we think there are seven different open law enforcement

investigations right now into the Trump inaugural, seven different ones. 

We don`t know what all of are about.  We don`t know what any of them are

about. 

 

But there`s a man named Sam Patton who pled guilty to something having to

do with the Trump inauguration, using straw man purchasers as a way of

donating illegal foreign money to the Trump inaugural.  He pled guilty and

he has been cooperating with prosecutors ever since. 

 

Well, one thing to watch for tomorrow`s news is that tomorrow, prosecutors

are due to tell a federal court how good a cooperator he`s been and what he

has been helping them with all of these months that he has been trying to

reduce his sentence and get favor from the court in favor of him being a

good guy to the prosecutors who are working on other open investigations. 

So, we may get some sun light into those investigations tomorrow with that

Sam Patton filing.  We shall see. 

 

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”. 

 

Good evening, Lawrence. 

 

                                                                                               

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