Sen. Blumenthal: “Congress deserves that full report.” TRANSCRIPT: 4/4/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
(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
(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,
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.
(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
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
(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
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
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
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.
MADDOW: For 22 months, we got crickets from special counsel Robert
Mueller`s team. No updates, no documents, no leaks, no comment, never,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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-
By early February, SDNY had served the Trump inaugural committee with
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.
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
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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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