House Committees subpoena Deutsche Bank. TRANSCRIPT: 4/16/19. The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Ryan Goodman, Greg Farrell
Transcript:

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

 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy Tuesday. 

 

The Republican Party pulled off a rare electoral feat in 1988 when they

were able to elect a president from their own party after Ronald Reagan had

just served his two terms as well.  Usually voters are in the mood to turf

out the party in power after a president from one party has been in there

for a couple of terms. 

 

But in 1988, the Republicans beat those odds.  Republican President Ronald

Reagan had served for two terms.  He was succeeded in office by his

Republican vice president, by George H.W. Bush.  He was elected in 1988. 

He was sworn in in January 1989. 

 

And although both those presidents, both President bush and President

Reagan, will certainly have their place in the history books, the

transition wasn`t as easy as you might expect.  The elevation from Vice

President Bush to President Bush was a little bit rocky.  In his first

year, especially early on in his first year, he suffered in comparison with

President Reagan, in particular, when it came to his instincts around

public communication and his handling of the press. 

 

Take, for example, this moment just a few months after Poppy Bush became

president.  This was May 1989.  He`d been sworn in in January of that year. 

In May 1989, President George H.W. Bush decided to make a very

controversial, very provocative, very bold public statement on foreign

policy but he did it in the most awkward inexplicable way possible which is

exactly how the press reported it. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  His aides said the situation in Panama was relatively quiet

today and required no comments from the president, but Mr. Bush had a

nagging feeling that he had not made his views on Panama clear.  That the

Panamanian people did not realize how much he hopes they will rise up

against General Noriega.  So, on Air Force One, Bush spoke out. 

 

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT:  They should do everything they can

do to have the will of the people respected.  They ought to heed the

international calls.  They ought to just do everything they can to get Mr.

Noriega out of there. 

 

REPORTER:  Isn`t Bush worried that he might enflame the situation?  On

second thought when he urged the Panamanian people to be cautious.

 

BUSH:  No, I would add no word of caution.  The will of the people should

be implemented.  Not about to get into proposing a three-point action plan

for the people of Panama.  I do think it`s important that it not be the

United States, the colossus of the north coming down there to try to

dictate to the people of Panama. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Such a weird rollout of this position from the president, right? 

 

His aides tell the press, you know, nothing is going on.  There`s nothing

in particular that is driving this.  The president was just doing this

other thing, totally unrelated and he had a nagging feeling.  He had a

feeling that maybe people weren`t totally clear on how much he wants there

to be a coup in Panama. 

 

So, on Air Force One – he hopes there`s a coup.  He doesn`t want the

United States to be dictating what should happen, but he does want there to

be a coup, so he wants to summon all the reporters on Air Force One,

apropos if nothing for him to remind them how much he thinks that country

should overthrow its leadership. 

 

Not that he thinks the United States should be dictating what happens

there. 

 

Given that initially awkward rollout that day in May 1989, the new

president decided that he would give the whole thing another shot the

following day.  But, again, it was sort of one shot forward, two shots

back. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  The administration says the Panamanian defense force will follow

President Bush`s plea to rise up against Noriega.  At a political fund-

raiser last night in Kentucky, Mr. Bush said he`d act as much as possible

in concert with other countries. 

 

 

BUSH:  We do not want a return to the days of the imperialistic gringos of

the north. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  We`re not here to be the imperialistic gringos.  We don`t want to

be the colossus of the north.  We don`t want to tell any country what ought

to happen in their country, except in Panama, you guys need to have a coup. 

 

That was May 1989, the early awkward days of the George H.W. Bush

presidency.  By October of that same year, October 1989, though, in fact,

Panama had a coup.  At least they had an attempted coup.  It did not go

well. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TOM BROKAW, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR:  Panama`s General Noriega in control

then and still in control now. 

 

Good evening.  Panama`s General Manuel Noriega is alive and well tonight

still in power after rebel troops tried to overthrow him on a day of heavy

fighting.  The shrewd and durable military strongman appeared tonight on

Panamanian television and condemned the uprising.  In the capital, Panama

City, forces loyal to Noriega are in control. 

 

NBC`s Brian Ross has been following all this from Washington. 

 

And tonight, Brian, ultimately, it was Noriega`s forces who won the day. 

 

BRIAN ROSS, NBC REPORTER:  Yes, Tom, American authorities say Noriega is

much more powerful tonight after having so easily put down this morning`s

attack. 

 

REPORTER:  White House aides say they knew for a couple days there could be

an attempted coup but the president knew for certain only after gunfire

erupted in Panama City. 

 

President Bush learned of the fighting just before he welcomed Mexico`s

President Salinas.  During the ceremonies, Bush seemed distracted.  Not

only was Bush worried about the coup`s chances of success, he also worried

that Latin Americans would accuse the U.S. of throwing its weight around in

a tiny Latin country. 

 

Bush went out of his way to deny U.S. involvement. 

 

BUSH:  There were rumors this was some American operation.  I can tell you

that is not true. 

 

REPORTER:  Although Bush denied involvement, in the past, he has urged

Panamanians, especially the military, to rise up against Noriega. 

 

BUSH:  I`d love to see him get him out.  We`d of like to see him out of

there. 

 

REPORTER:  Bush`s aides do not believe today`s failure is George Bush`s Bay

of Pigs, the Cuban invasion fiasco that haunted John Kennedy.  The Bay of

Pigs was an American operation.  Today`s attempted coup was not, according

to Bush`s aides, say that although he urged to revolt, he never promised to

help. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Any time they`re saying, now, they don`t think this is his Bay of

Pigs, any time you have to reference that – those reports are from October

3rd.  That was the day of the failed attempted coup in Panama. 

 

Within a few days, this just continued to escalate and escalate and

escalate domestically here until it became a full-scale political disaster

for the relatively young George H.W. Bush White House. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BROKAW:  Good evening.  President Bush and his advisers are under fire

tonight charged with fumbling a chance to get rid of General Manuel Noriega

during Tuesday`s attempted coup. 

 

REPORTER:  President Bush took the unusual step of going to the Democratic

leader of the Senate`s office to assure George Mitchell that George Bush

did not wimp out in the middle of the coup attempt.  Later, NBC`s Andrea

Mitchell asked Bush if he got bad intelligence from his advisers. 

 

BUSH:  No, I do not think so at all.  I don`t think anybody up here thinks

so. 

 

REPORTER:  President Bush knew he was in trouble when he read his morning

newspapers.  Caught off guard.  Aides admit bad handling.  Tragedy. 

Inexperience helped doom coup.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  That is how that unfolded over the first week in October 1989. 

George H.W. Bush`s first year in office.  Here`s this new U.S. president

who had been encouraging a coup in his foreign country in Panama for

months, awkwardly encouraging it, having nagging doubts about whether he`s

been encouraging it enough, right, insisting on it at times but still

saying I don`t want to be telling you what to do except you should have a

coup. 

 

When the coup finally comes to pass, the coup fails.  The U.S. president

doesn`t seem to know what he was talking about when he was begging publicly

for that coup to happen, pledging there would be all this U.S. support that

never arrived.  Then a week later, it`s interesting, that whole story which

was very, very bad news for this new presidency, that whole story took a

turn.  It happened on Friday the 13th, October 13th, 1989, just exactly a

week after that day of terrible headlines for President George H.W. Bush

about him screwing up when it came to that coup in Panama. 

 

But October 13th, one week later, that was Black Friday, that was the day

the stock market had a huge crash in 1989, one of the biggest crashes of

the decade.  But even alongside that huge crash, the new twist in the

Panama crisis made news that night, too, in a huge big in way because of

this scoop on the front page of the “L.A. Times.”  “FBI gets OK for

overseas arrests. 

 

That`s the A1 headline in the “L.A. Times.”  This is the subhead: Justice

Department decision which allows U.S. law officers to act without the

consent of foreign states could apply to efforts to bring Panama`s Manuel

Noriega to trial in Florida. 

 

So, even with the huge devastating stock market crash that Black Friday,

October 13th, 1989, there`s also that weird scoop in the “L.A. Times” which

puts the disastrous Panama story back on the nightly news that same night

and, again, yet another sort of almost ridiculously inept comment from the

new president to punctuate it because every time something comes up in this

story, he just seems to stick his foot in it. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BROKAW:  The FBI tonight has broad new powers to arrest American fugitives

overseas.  The Justice Department says permission is not needed from

foreign countries.  However, Secretary of State James Baker said this new

procedure will not be used without a full discussion of the obvious foreign

policy implications. 

 

REPORTER:  Mr. President, the “L.A. Times” is reporting today, given the

FBI the go-ahead to arrest fugitives in foreign countries without the

foreign countries` consent.  Can you tell us what led up to this event and

perhaps –

 

BUSH:  Now, I`m –

 

REPORTER:  – the FBI can go into Panama now? 

 

BUSH:  I`m embarrassed to say I don`t know what it is – I`ll have to get

back to you with the answer to your question.  Marlon?  Can you take care

of that? 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m not sure –

 

BUSH:  I don`t know what it is – I`ve not seen the “L.A. Times” report, so

I just have to not comment until I do. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Marlon?  Marlon?  Do you know?  Do we get the “L.A. Times” here? 

What is this? 

 

I mean, here is this new president on shaky ground who`s had a really big

foreign policy national security crisis in his first six months in office,

right?  He has been ineffectually noncommittally saber rattling for months

about how he wants there to be a coup in Panama. 

 

He wants the leader to be overthrown.  The U.S. will be there.  If the

Panamanian people, Panamanian military just rise up and topple their

leader, the U.S. will be there for them.  After months after saying that

and then not following through, including when they tried it, this was a

shocking turn in that story, right? 

 

Here`s the president`s Justice Department saying, well, here`s a plan “B,”

if the whole coup thing doesn`t work out because we can`t quite get that

together, then here`s plan “B.”  Here`s something we believe we can do. 

We`re going to proclaim under the law we can do it. 

 

U.S. law enforcement personnel, U.S. FBI agents, we`re going to declare

that they legally can go into any other country anywhere in the world and

arrest the leader of that country if the U.S. wants to.  Therefore, you

won`t really need a coup.  We`ll just have the FBI do your coup for you,

anywhere.  That was the “L.A. Times`” scoop that October. 

 

Justice Department acting with unusual secrecy has given the FBI legal

authority to apprehend fugitives from U.S. law in foreign countries and

return them to the United States without first obtaining the foreign

state`s consent.  The rule could apply to such cases as the U.S. effort to

bring Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega to trial.

 

Quote: Department officials refused to discuss the broad new grant of

power, the legal grounds used to justify it, or even to acknowledge its

existence. 

 

“The Times” noted that the refusal by Justice Department officials to

discuss the ruling was puzzling at a legal level because the ruling wasn`t

classified.  It, quote, does not carry a security classification.  So, why

wouldn`t they discuss it?  Why wouldn`t they even admit that it existed? 

“The Times” knew it existed.  “The L.A. Times” was able to figure out both

the title of that memo and its author, its author, then-Assistant Attorney

General William P. Barr. 

 

Yes.  That guy.  The same William P. Barr who`s the newly appointed

attorney general of the United States under President Trump. 

 

When he was assistant attorney general under George H.W. Bush, when he was

running the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, he wrote and

then tried to keep secret a very controversial legal opinion on this very

controversial issue.  I mean, the brand-new Poppy Bush administration was

contending with wave after wave of controversy and drama over this whole

issue of Panama, this was one of the big ways in that controversy, a legal

opinion which came to light a week after this failed coup, right, a legal

opinion they were trying to keep secret, which seems to imply that the U.S.

now believes the FBI could send in its agents to remove a foreign leader

from power anywhere in the world on our own government`s own say-so without

consulting any foreign government about the fact they were going to do

this. 

 

I mean, it was one thing for the president to be, you know, calling for

uprisings in other countries, promising support for those uprisings and not

delivering.  It`s another thing for him to be saying the uprising from here

on out wouldn`t be needed because we`d just do it ourselves with our law

enforcement guys?

 

Congress unsurprisingly was concerned.  They convened a hearing that was

titled, “FBI authority to seize suspects abroad.”  William P. Barr, the

author of that reported memo, was summoned to testify.  He was asked by

Congress to hand over this legal memo that he`d authored which reportedly

justified this kind of radical action that nobody`s ever heard of before. 

William P. Barr did show up for his congressional testimony, but he refused

to hand over the opinion that he had written that led to him being summoned

to testify in the first place. 

 

This from the transcript of that hearing.  Mr. Barr, quote: Although the

content of the opinion like other advice rendered by the Office of Legal

Counsel must remain confidential, I`m happy to share with the committee our

legal reasoning and our conclusions.  Before turning to these legal issues,

I think it`s important that the committee understands – then he gets

interrupted. 

 

Congressman Don Edwards, the committee chairman, interrupts: Mr. Barr, may

I interrupt?  Why does the opinion have to remain confidential?  Is it a

change in policy?  We have a copy of other nonclassified opinions.  This is

not a classified document.

 

Mr. Barr says, excuse me, he says: Mr. Barr, why are you withholding it

from this committee?  Barr then insisted it was the policy of the Justice

Department that opinions like this must remain confidential.  It does not

appear at all to have been the broad-based policy of the Justice Department

that such documents would remain confidential, but nevertheless, the he

insisted that was a policy he was following. 

 

The committee chairman knew that he was asserting a confidentiality policy

that didn`t really exist and he pushed him on it.  Committee chairman

pushed him.  He said, quote: I understand that, Mr. Barr, but this is

public business, the subject of much discussion in the United States.  You

are going to have to tell the public and the Congress sometime why you

changed the rules on the arresting of fugitives overseas.

 

William Barr responds: That`s what we`re here doing.  We have no objection

to explaining our conclusions and our reasoning to the committee.  I`m just

not going to give you the document.  I`ll explain it to you.  I`ll describe

what`s in it. 

 

So, here`s Congress saying, this is a matter of intense public interest. 

This is the biggest scandal for this new president, right?  There is

reportedly a document within the Justice Department that is very relevant

to our understanding of the conduct of this administration.  It is directly

on point for a matter of huge public controversy and political importance

and geopolitical importance that directly affects the behavior of the

president of the United States which has not been stellar on this point. 

 

 

You have to show us this document that has been reported in the press. 

That has been described.  You`re now admitting that this document exists. 

Show us the document. 

 

William Barr says: I don`t want to show you the document.  But trust me, I

will describe it to you.  He actually says at the hearings, these are his

words at that hearing in 1989, he says that instead of handing over the

actual opinion itself, he will, quote, summarize the principal conclusions

of the opinion. 

 

Summarize its principal conclusions.  Where have I heard that before? 

 

Law Professor Ryan Goodman is a former special counsel of the Defense

Department wrote up this historical account this week, now that this same

William Barr, this exact same guy, is handling the report from special

counsel Robert Mueller in exactly the same way.  Refusing to hand over the

document, itself, and instead, he`s providing what he described with

exactly the same words, his summary of principal conclusions, right? 

 

That summary of principal conclusions is all we`ve got thus far from Barr. 

It`s going to be followed Thursday morning this week by some sort of

redacted censored version of Mueller`s report.  It`s been 25 days since

Mueller handed his report in to William Barr, a matter of intense public

interest, intense investigatory interest when it comes to this president

and his administration and his campaign. 

 

We still only have William Barr`s so-called summary of that document`s

principal conclusions.  We still don`t know what we`re going to get in

terms of a redacted version of Mueller`s report from Barr on Thursday

morning.  But you know, thanks to history, we do know what happened the

last time William Barr asked the country and asked Congress to trust him,

to trust his summary of principal conclusions while he simultaneously

refused to release the underlying document, itself. 

 

That is what he is doing with the Mueller report right now.  That is

exactly the same thing he did using exactly the same language in 1989 with

his super controversial legal opinion that said the FBI could go into any

country in the world and arrest any foreign leader and bring them back to

the United States.  It took a while for it finally to come out, but within

a couple of years of that stonewalling testimony from William Barr at the

height of the Panama controversy in 1989, within a couple of years, the

underlying document that gave rise to all that scandal that he said

couldn`t be released, within a couple years, that document did finally get

released in full. 

 

Congress subpoenaed it.  “The Washington Post” reporter Michael Isikoff got

his hands on it.  Ultimately in the early years of the Clinton

administration, the legal opinion that Barr had refused to release, said

he`d only describe it, it was just finally publicly printed in unredacted

form.  Because of that, because we can now see that, we now know for the

sake of informing our good judgment today and this week when it comes to

William Barr, we now know that the last time he tried to get away with

something like this in 1989, William Barr`s summary of that document`s

principal conclusion bore no relation at all to what was actually in the

underlying document. 

 

As Ryan Goodman puts it this week, quote: When the opinion, the real

opinion was finally made public, it was clear that Barr`s summary had

failed to disclose the opinion`s principal conclusions.

 

Barr`s so-called summary, quote: omitted some of the most consequential and

incendiary conclusions from the actual opinion and there was evidently no

justifiable reason for having withheld those parts from Congress or the

public.

 

Just as an example, as an example, the distance between what Barr said in

his summary and what was actually in this document that he was purportedly

summarizing, what he assured Congress in his summary was that the actual

opinion, this controversial document that the “L.A. Times” had scooped him

on, right, they learned existed, he said that the opinion was, quote,

strictly a legal analysis of the FBI`s authority as a matter of domestic

law to conduct extraterritorial arrests.” 

 

It`s strictly about domestic law.  Trust me.  Not going to show you the

opinion.  I decided I cannot show you this opinion.  But this is my summary

of what`s in it, I`m telling you it`s strictly an analysis as a matter of

domestic law.  Strictly. 

 

Then, ultimately, we get the underlying document that he was refusing to

release.  Just, I mean, you don`t want to go through all of it, look at the

subheadings in it. 

 

The effect of customary international law on the FBI`s extraterritorial

powers.  Also, the president`s constitutional power to authorize actions

inconsistent with customary international law.  Also, the status of the

U.N. charter and other unexecuted treaties and treaty provisions.  My

favorite, subsection F, international and foreign law and the fourth

amendment. 

 

I mean, whether or not it`s a good thing or bad thing that the Justice

Department held that the FBI could go arrest foreign leaders anywhere in

the world, when it came time for William P. Barr to explain that to

Congress, to explain to Congress and the public what was in that document,

he said, strictly on domestic – this was strictly on domestic law.  This

is analysis strictly only about U.S. law.  The whole thing actually turned

out to be about international law. 

 

At least all of the controversial and incendiary and inflammatory parts of

it were but he left all of those out in his summary.  That`s the last time

William P. Barr tried to issue a summary of principal conclusions to

Congress and the public instead of handing over an actual document.  And

that previous experience in U.S. history with William P. Barr is part of

the reason there are so many red flags flying everywhere about him refusing

to release the Mueller report in full to Congress, about him writing his

own summaries of what he says is in the Mueller report.  Instead of

releasing the summaries that Mueller`s team wrote, themselves, about their

own report. 

 

It`s also the reason I think why there are just generally low expectations

for whatever it is that`s going to be released from Barr`s office Thursday

morning this week as he has been involved in supervising this vague and

ever-shifting redaction process that he appears to have invented on the

spot once he received the Mueller report and got a look at what was in it. 

 

So, we`re going to speak with Ryan Goodman in just a moment about the

implications of William P. Barr`s past behavior here and what that tells us

about what we`re about to experience.  But the fact that there are such low

expectations for what`s going to be released on Thursday morning I think

also puts the spotlight on two other prospects here which may yet be

influencing how Attorney General William Barr is heading into what he`s

going to do in two days. 

 

Number one, there`s the question of Mueller.  There`s the question of

whether or not Robert Mueller, himself, will be allowed to testify to

Congress about what his findings were.  I mean, separate and apart from

whatever written document is released to Congress and the public, will

Mueller be allowed to testify, to explain what his findings were? 

 

It`s very interesting, over these last couple of weeks, unexpected

development, House Republicans, surprisingly, have been on the same side as

House Democrats on the issue of Mueller testifying.  Both the top

Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, and the top

Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins, they have both said

since Mueller submitted his report 25 days ago that Mueller, himself,

should be called to testify in Congress about the results of his

investigation and his findings. 

 

So that will mean both the Democratic chairman and the Republican ranking

members of both of those key committees have said they want Mueller

testifying in Congress.  Could that help? 

 

If this goes badly on Thursday morning, which I think everybody is

expecting it to in terms of what is cut out of Mueller`s findings, could

testimony from Mueller meaningfully fix that?  Could it meaningfully

assuage concerns in the country about what Barr has cut out of Mueller`s

written findings?  If Mueller`s allowed to testify on his own terms as to

what he found?  That`s one. 

 

Then there`s also the judicial process and this has not had nearly as much

attention, but we know that the Judiciary Committee is going to subpoena

the full document after they see what`s been redacted out of it.  But

there`s another way that judicial proceedings matter here.  Not just in

terms of what Congress might be able to get through the courts using the

subpoena process.  There`s another way in which the judiciary here might

matter. 

 

Today, there was a hearing on a FOIA lawsuit, Freedom of Information Act

lawsuit by “BuzzFeed News”.  A number of media entities and First Amendment

entities are seeking to release the full unredacted report.  Today in a

hearing and one of these FOIA motions, a federal judge, George W. Bush

appointee named Judge Reggie Walton, he suggested in open court today that

whatever William Barr redacts from Mueller`s report, that may be subject to

his review as a judge who`s considering these FOIA requests. 

 

That judge today suggested in court that he personally may need to look at

the entire unredacted Mueller report, himself, to decide if Barr`s

redactions from that report are proper under the Freedom of Information

Act, or if those things that Barr is redacting from that report ought to be

released to the public, too.  That`s important, right?  That`s important

not only for what might happen down the line, in terms of those FOIA

lawsuits, it`s important in terms of what William Barr might do next

because the bottom line here is that William Barr got caught once before,

not telling the truth about an underlying document that he said couldn`t be

released.  He purported to summarize it.  He put out a purported summary

that did not at all match that document that he tried to keep secret. 

 

Well, the Mueller report may never be kept secret in the long run, either. 

There are multiple paths by which the full, unredacted Mueller report may

ultimately see the light of day – some of them controlled by Congress,

some of them controlled by the judiciary, some controlled by unforeseen

factors that we don`t know how U.S. history is going to wrap around in the

future.  But if Barr is going to try this week to get away with selling

some version of Mueller`s findings, that is not a truthful representation

of what Mueller actually found, he will likely be caught for that, just

like he was before.  That is what history tells us and that has to loom,

that has to loom over what he is planning on shoveling to us on Thursday

morning. 

 

We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  After being handed the report on the investigation by special

counsel Robert Mueller 25 days ago, newly appointed Attorney General Bill

Barr told the country while he really, really wanted to be as transparent

as possible, he could not possibly release Mueller`s report to the public

or to Congress, nor could he release even the summaries of Mueller`s

findings that Mueller`s team reportedly wrote themselves specifically so

they could be released to the public. 

 

No, he couldn`t release those at all.  William Barr could not let any of

that see the light of day.  Instead, he`d be more than happy to release his

own summary of the principal conclusions of Mueller`s investigation.  Those

principal conclusions we now know amounted to everything`s fine, the

president is very cool, everybody go home. 

 

We`re now learning that this is not the first time William Barr has

resorted to that trick.  In 1989, he drafted a really, really, really

controversial memo when he was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at

the Justice Department.  When word leaked about that document and Congress

demanded to see it, Barr said, no, he insisted that even though the

document wasn`t classified, it was just very important that they not see

that document.  Instead, he offered to, you guessed it, summarize the

principal conclusions of the document.  Trust him, you don`t need to see

the real thing, he`ll just tell you what`s in. 

 

As law professor and former Defense Department special counsel Ryan Goodman

writes this week at Just Security, quote: When the OLC opinion was finally

made public long after Barr left office, it was clear that Barr`s summary

had failed to fully disclose the opinion`s principal conclusions.  It

omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the

opinion.  There was no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts

from Congress or the public.

 

Joining us now is NYU law professor Ryan Goodman.  He did serve as special

counsel to the Defense Department during the Obama administration.  He`s

now co-editor in chief at Just Security. 

 

Professor Goodman, thanks for being here. 

 

RYAN GOODMAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW PROFESSOR:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  So, I`m working off your work here.  I didn`t know this story

about this OLC memo until you wrote about it, but it was fascinating to get

back into that history.  Let me first ask you if I screwed any of that up

in telling that story. 

 

GOODMAN:  No.  I think you laid the political context out extremely well,

too. 

 

MADDOW:  So one of the things that we learned from you resurfacing this

story from recent history is that William Barr has been doing this for a

long time and that he is – we knew he was an experienced Washington

official.  This tells us something specifically about his experience.

 

But it also raises the question as to whether or not he might ultimately

feel constrained in putting out a summarized or redacted version of a

document if he knows that the ultimate document, the original document, is

ultimately going to come out.  How did you come I away feeling about that

looking at this issue? 

 

GOODMAN:  So, I think that`s one of the most important insights from

history, is that when he is withholding from Congress, first, he tries to

withhold the opinion, then he says I`ll give you my summary of it.  He must

know that eventually it will come out. 

 

So what`s most worrisome is that he must know that it will tarnish his

reputation when the opinion finally does see the light of day, but I think

he has a mission and the mission is to protect the White House and protect

the president, so he knows by the time that this opinion might come out and

he guessed right or he strategized correctly, three years later.  The whole

political issue has changed and it`s a new administration.  So –

 

MADDOW:  And he`s moved on out of that job, he`s moved on to other jobs and

small enough issue in history that it doesn`t end up tarring him for life. 

 

GOODMAN:  If anything, it proves himself, it proves himself to another

administration, Trump administration, this could be your guy.  Like he can

do this kind of work for you because he`s willing to put himself on the

line and it`s pretty artful what he did.  It`s strategic deception.  And I

would think that if they knew about this history, there`s every reason to

think they might have in digging up his history and understanding him, this

would be the person for them.

 

MADDOW:  Does it – how does it factor into that sort of calculus, that

sort of strategic deception, the prospect that Robert Mueller might

testify? 

 

It`s getting a lot of attention, but I`ve been surprised over the last

couple weeks to see the top Republicans on key committees, including

Intelligence and Judiciary come out and say they, too, want Robert Mueller

to testify about his findings.  Not just Barr testifying about Mueller`s

findings but Mueller, himself.  I wonder just big picture if you think that

Mueller`s testimony might be a way of correcting for any distorting

redactions or overambitious redactions that Barr tries to get away with it. 

 

GOODMAN:  I do think so.  I think there are a couple of checks this time

around that won`t repeat history.  There`s Mueller in the background, and

maybe he testifies.  There`s also the Mueller team.  So, we already know

from “The New York Times” reporting and “Washington Post” reporting that

the Mueller team was very dissatisfied with –

 

MADDOW:  They went to the press for the first time. 

 

GOODMAN:  Yes, for the first time in all of this period, they`ve been

incredibly quiet.  So, that`s another check they might go to the press as

whistle-blowers essentially, if Barr misrepresents their work which he

seems to have already done and he does it even worse on Thursday, that`s a

second check and the third check is the House Judiciary Committee has

already authorized the chair to subpoena the full report.

 

And back in 1989, believe it or not, it takes Congress 21 months before

they subpoena the full report.  So this time around, I think Barr, if he

thinks about the calculation, he might actually think this report could

become public within a matter of months. 

 

MADDOW:  Exactly.  Even though it took a long time in `89 for Congress to

issue that subpoena, once they did, they got it quickly.  In this case, he

knows Congress is going to issue the subpoena right away, maybe on

Thursday, and so it may happen fast. 

 

GOODMAN:  Exactly.  One week in 1989 after they finally issued the

subpoena. 

 

MADDOW:  Thank you for digging up the history.  It was hiding in plain

sight once you went to go look for it.  I never would have known about this

point in Barr`s history and it does feel like an incredibly uncannily spot-

on precedent for what we`re going through.  Thanks.

 

GOODMAN:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  It`s really good to have you here. 

 

Ryan Goodman is the co-editor in chief at justsecurity.org, which is where

you can read this piece he`s written about the bizarre Noriega memo.  He

was also former special counsel of the Defense Department during the Obama

administration. 

 

We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  There was the time he got mad about the size of his rally.  Not

the reported size of his rally but the size of his rally. 

 

There was the time he told the attorney general that he was an idiot. 

 

There was the time he cursed out the Senate majority leader over the phone,

the berating with a profane shouting match reporting. 

 

There was the time he erupted at Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.  That one

happened on live TV and gave rise to some amazing photos. 

 

It is a feature, a regular feature, of this presidency that the president

gets so mad.  It is such a thing that the president has literally had to

say, quote, I don`t have temper tantrums.  He said that in the many middle

of a big public rant about his border wall which kind of seemed like a

tantrum even if that moment. 

 

Here`s another one, though.  In December 2017, there were multiple reports

that the president`s biggest lender, Deutsche Bank, had received a subpoena

from Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.  Deutsche Bank, of course,

has loaned President Trump billions of dollars over the years when other

financial institutions wouldn`t loan him so much as their pocket lint. 

 

Why have they done that?  I mean, the bank was also involved in a

multibillion dollar Russian money laundering scheme.  Are those things

connected? 

 

It was not a total surprise that Robert Mueller might want a peek inside

the Trump files at Deutsche Bank.  Nevertheless, months later, we learned

that those published reports that Deutsche Bank had received subpoenas from

Mueller`s investigation, we learned that those reports sent President Trump

into one of his more over the top destructive impressive freak-outs. 

 

The president was reportedly so hopping mad over the nerve of Robert

Mueller to subpoena Deutsche Bank that he reacted to that news by trying to

fire special counsel Robert Mueller.  That was the reporting.  Quote: Angry

president sought to fire Mueller over Deutsche Bank subpoenas.

 

Now, weirdly at the time, it was not totally clear that Mueller actually

had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank.  The president`s personal lawyer said he

checked it out with the bank and found that no such subpoenas existed.  OK. 

We don`t know.  Sort of an open question given the reporting. 

 

Maybe that was right.  I mean, maybe it was a false alarm for the

president.  The House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has repeatedly

publicly questioned whether the special counsel`s investigation ever peeked

into the president`s finances at all, suggesting, in fact, that they

haven`t. 

 

I don`t know why Adam Schiff is saying that but he`s been saying that for

months.  He`s probably in a position to know as the chairman of the

Intelligence Committee. 

 

I mean, we also don`t know for sure what happened to the subpoenas that

Deutsche Bank reportedly got that made the president so mad?  Did they

definitely get them?  What happened to them once day were issued?  Why did

the president react the way he did – I mean, maybe we`ll find out on

Thursday when the attorney general releases some redacted version of Robert

Mueller`s report. 

 

But two days before that report comes out, we do know, as of today, that

Deutsche Bank definitely has been subpoenaed now for sure.  Late yesterday,

Democrats in the House issued friendly but formal subpoenas to Deutsche

Bank demanding the president`s financial records.  Exactly the same

territory of those reported subpoenas that drove the president to rage out

and try to fire Robert Mueller a long time ago. 

 

“The New York Times” is reporting that Democrats have not just subpoenaed

Deutsche Bank, they also asked for documents from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of

America, and also Citigroup, documents regarding, quote, possible money

laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.  These new subpoenas by

Democrats in Congress follow financial records that were sent to the

president`s accounting firm and the House Ways and Means Committee

directing the IRS to hand over the president`s tax returns in accordance

with the law which says the IRS has to hand them over. 

 

The president has now fired a brand-new phalanx of lawyers whose only job

seems to be to keep the president`s tax returns and financial records away

from scrutiny.  To keep them secret from everybody who has a right to see

them.  The president`s business, Trump Organization, is also reportedly

considering ways to try to block Deutsche Bank from complying with the

subpoenas and forking over Trump`s files. 

 

So, the president`s bank, the president`s accounting firm, the president`s

taxes, it`s all happening at once.  I know the Mueller report Thursday

morning, but all of this stuff separate and apart from Mueller`s

investigation, it`s all now happening.  Congress wants all of those records

now and is acting to get them. 

 

The last time we got anywhere close to this, the president got so mad he

tried to fire Robert Mueller.  With no Robert Mueller left to fire anymore,

what is the president going to do to stop this now? 

 

Hold that thought. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Greg Farrell, investigative reporter for

“Bloomberg News.”

 

Mr. Farrell, it`s great to have you with us tonight.  Thanks for coming in.

 

GREG FARRELL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  So the last time we spoke, the president was reportedly freaking

out over the special counsel reportedly having issued a subpoena to

Deutsche Bank about their relationship with President Trump.  We then

learned months later that the president considered that to be a red line. 

He blew his top.  It led him to try to fire the special counsel. 

 

Now, after all of that experience, now, we`re in a situation where

undisputedly, there are definitely subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and a bunch

of other banks. 

 

FARRELL:  Yes. 

 

MADDOW:  So, I have a couple of questions for you just as an experienced

reporter in these matters.  First of all, a subpoena from Congress, does it

have any less force or any more force for these banks than a grand jury

subpoena would? 

 

FARRELL:  No.  It has the full force and banks want this.  You mentioned

friendly subpoenas before.  Friendly insofar as this makes it easy for

Deutsche Bank to respond. 

 

It was difficult when Congresswoman Maxine Waters asked for it two years

ago, she did have subpoena power.  So, there might have been public

interest in it but the Bank Secrecy Act prevented Deutsche Bank from doing

anything along those lines. 

 

MADDOW:  Right. 

 

FARRELL:  So, subpoena power, you know, gives Congresswoman Waters, Adam

Schiff, you know, the chance to – the power to command this and Deutsche

Bank has full defense that, you know, they`re allowed to turn this over. 

So, I don`t think the president`s lawyers are going to have much of a

chance if they`re going to try to fight this. 

 

MADDOW:  So, Alan Garten, who`s a lawyer at the Trump Organization,

president`s business, said he`s exploring options to try to block Deutsche

Bank from responding to the subpoena.  Are there any options?  It sort of

seems like this is a cul-de-sac. 

 

FARRELL:  I don`t think so. 

 

MADDOW:  There`s not any –

 

FARRELL:  They`re very creative.  I`m sure he`s going to try to find

something that might pose an impediment, but I don`t see how they can avoid

this at this point. 

 

MADDOW:   Given the earlier reporting that the president really did lose

his mind about this and that it led him to try to fire the special counsel,

even though he knew what the implications of that would likely be, what do

you – how are you viewing this in terms of the seriousness of these

subpoenas, in terms of the potential response from the White House, in

terms of the limited legal options they have for blocking this? 

 

I mean, as I said, there is no Robert Mueller to fire here.  He can`t fire

Maxine Waters or Adam Schiff.  How do you think about this in terms of what

kind of a clash this is and how serious this might be? 

 

FARRELL:  Well, first of all, for most people, you know, the – going into

defensive mode and trying to prevent information like this getting out

would be a sign that there is something that is being hidden. 

 

MADDOW:  Mmm-hmm. 

 

FARRELL:  Something that the president`s hiding. 

 

However, I think we`ve seen after a couple of years this is almost a

reflexive mode, anything having to do with Russia.  One of the reasons the

Russia inquiry became, like, so powerful and had so much momentum because

there were denials and lies and attempts at covering up.  Most people only

cover up when there is something to be covered up.

 

But, you know, to some extent, it`s just a default mode, it seems like in

the White House, to prevent information from coming out, even if, you know,

everything was on the up and up.  So, you know, I don`t think that helps in

this case.  You know, we will find out, but that kind of reaction suggests

that there is something wrong. 

 

So, you know, I`m not sure that`s the case, but, you know, the president`s

different that way. 

 

MADDOW:  Do you think this will unfold in fairly short order?  Is this

something that is going to stretch on for years in terms of this fight? 

 

FARRELL:  No, I think this will be fairly short order.  I think – I`m not

sure it`s a coincidence that the subpoenas come now after Bob Mueller`s

finally wound down.  So his inquiry is over and now it`s a chance for

Congress to go forward.  They`ve had five months to put a game plan

together.  I`m sure on November 10th, they were planning on what they were

going to do, but this is the first move.  So, you know, now is their chance

to get something.  I don`t think it will take long. 

 

MADDOW:  Greg Farrell, investigative reporter for “Bloomberg News” –

thanks for helping us understand this, sir.  Great to see you.

 

FARRELL:  Thank you. 

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Tonight was the second one ever.  The first one happened last

month.  Congress had voted to basically undo the president trying to

declare an emergency so he could build his wall between us and Mexico, even

though Congress said no to that.  He declared the emergency.  Congress

said, oh, no, you don`t. 

 

Trump then issued his first ever veto.  He vetoed the “oh, no, you don`t”

from Congress so that he could still build his wall.  That was the first

time he ever issued a veto. 

 

Now, tonight, he has issued his second ever veto.  Congress this year took

the very rare step of challenging a president on war.  They voted to end

U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen.  Tonight, President Trump called that

measure that Congress sent him, quote, an unnecessary dangerous attempt to

weaken my constitutional authorities, and then he put his veto sharpie to

it. 

 

We have a president who is now governing in a way he didn`t used to govern

because Congress has not openly challenged him much.  He has not governed

by veto much, but now two vetoes in two months.  Presumably more to come? 

 

Watch this space. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  I have an unusual sound for you.  Can you name this?  If you`ve

ever spent time in New England, you`ll have a leg up on everybody else

here, but are you ready? 

 

All right.  Hit it. 

 

I know that sounds like bad news, but it`s not.  That is not the sound of a

dying animal or an animal in distress.  That is the sound of a happy fisher

cat. 

 

The fisher cat is not actually a cat.  It`s in the weasel family.  It`s a

large, carnivorous, arboreal tree-dwelling weasel. 

 

They`re one of the only things rascally enough to know how to eat a

porcupine.  Part of the answer is carefully.  Despite its screaming

acuteness, fishers are known to be pretty ferocious. 

 

If you want to talk more about the fisher cat, you should ask former two-

time governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld.  Yesterday, Bill Weld announced

he was challenge President Trump in the Republican presidential primary in

2020.  He also went out of his way to announce that the fisher cat will be

his mascot, his guiding spirit in this endeavor?

 

He told “The Boston Globe,” quote: people are usually like, what`s a fisher

cat?  But they don`t realize how ferocious they can be.  Sort of like me

and this campaign.”

 

The last time a sitting president faced a primary challenge was 1992.  The

last time Bill Weld ran for office was 2016 as Gary Johnson`s vice

presidential candidate on the libertarian ticket.  This should be

interesting. 

 

I also want you to know that Bill Weld is standing by to talk to my friend

Lawrence O`Donnell this hour.  So don`t go anywhere. 

 

We`ll see you again tomorrow. 

 

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

 

Good evening, Lawrence. 

 

 

END

 

                                                                                                               

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