Barr to face Mueller report questions. TRANSCRIPT: 4/30/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Devlin Barrett, Letitia James
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is Ady Barkan.

 

And that is ALL IN for this evening. 

 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. 

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  That`s so incredibly powerful and amazing. 

Thank you for covering that, my friend.  And thank you for playing that

testimony.  That was incredible. 

 

HAYES:  Yes. 

 

MADDOW:  I also know you`ve been all over this breaking news tonight about

the conflict between Mueller and Attorney General Barr, about how Barr has

misrepresented Mueller`s findings and Mueller has apparently confronted him

about it.  We are going to be all over that story tonight, as well. 

 

We`ve got “The Washington Post” reporter who initially broke that story

coming up with us, actually, in just a second. 

 

But I have to tell you, before we go to that reporter, this is another one

of those days where we had, you know, a whole show planned.  And everything

has gone out the window, as we have followed stuff that came up that we

didn`t expect.  We are now, tonight, following two very dramatic and still-

developing stories that we really had no idea that we should be expecting -

- in one case, 24 hours ago, and in the other case, as recently as two

hours ago.  It`s just another one of those days. 

 

But I`ll tell you, the first story we are keeping an eye on tonight broke

open with a shock at dawn this morning, when Venezuelan opposition leader

Juan Guaido appeared in this video message at a Venezuelan air force base

just outside Venezuela`s capital city of Caracas.  In this video this

morning, Juan Guaido announced that the Venezuelan military was now siding

with him and the time had come for the Venezuelan people to rise up and

oust Nicolas Maduro from Venezuela`s presidential palace. 

 

And, of course, this standoff in Venezuela, whether or not you`ve been

following it closely, you are at least aware in am ambient sense that this

standoff have been brewing for months and the Venezuelan people have been

in extremis for months.  But part of the shock of what happened today is

that Guaido appeared alongside his mentor, a longtime charismatic

opposition leader in Venezuela, a Harvard and Princeton-trained economist

named Leopoldo Lopez, who has been imprisoned as a flat-out political

prisoner since 2014. 

 

Today, Guaido and Lopez explained that Lopez was out today, no longer in

prison, that he was able to stand there alongside Juan Guaido because he

was freed today by Venezuelan soldiers who had switched sides and who were

now aligning themselves with Guaido, with the opposition, and supporting

this effort to oust Maduro. 

 

So it was this shock announcement at dawn.  And it set off demonstrations

and violent clashes all day long today. 

 

And we have been following this all day today, trying to figure out the

fate of this country, right?  There have been, importantly, conflicting and

contested reports about the split allegiances of the country`s powerful

military.  Everybody sees that as the key, at least, a key dynamic as to

how this is ultimately going to resolve and when.  And when you`re trying

to track the divided loyalties of the military, yes, that is as scary as it

sounds and as dangerous as it sounds for the civilians who are caught up in

all of this. 

 

Internationally, Maduro is supported by very powerful allies, including

China and Russia, plus also Bolivia and Cuba.  On the other side, it`s the

government of the United States and Canada and many other Latin American

and European countries who don`t just oppose Maduro, they formally

recognized Guaido, the opposition leader, as the legitimate leader of that

country.  It`s that split in world opinion as to who is the official

president of Venezuela, that is why there`s been all of this energy exerted

today over whether or not you should call what happened in Venezuela today

a coup. 

 

I mean, etymologically speaking, you can`t launch a coup.  You can`t be

overthrowing a government if technically you are the person who is already

in charge of that government.  That`s why people are fighting over whether

or not to call this a coup. 

 

Honestly, it`s a semantic distinction that`s not worth the breath at this

point given the risk and the drama on the ground in Venezuela as this

actual fight for the control of the government and the military and the

country at large unfolds in a way that is just happening on the street, and

is totally unpredictable and scary, particularly for a country that has

been through so much pain in recent months. 

 

So, the news out of Venezuela, the visuals out of Venezuela have been

frightening and surreal all day.  A lot of news organizations today played

footage of what appeared to be national guard vehicles running down

protesters in the street.  I am not going to show that video. 

 

But it has been hard to watch and dramatic and scary and fascinating to

watch all day.  I will also tell you that that news took a dramatic and odd

turn quite late in the day, early evening, when U.S. Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo weighed in in a very specific way.  He cryptically announced in

a couple of interviews that the U.S. government has learned that Maduro was

about to flee his country in the face of this uprising and these

demonstrations by Guaido and the supporters of the opposition with some

unquantified amount of support from the military. 

 

Pompeo announced that the U.S. government had learned that Maduro was going

to go to the airport, get in a plane, and flee the country.  He was going

to fly to Cuba.  But according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the

Russians intervened and told him to stay put and not leave. 

 

Mike Pompeo then even more cryptically threatened that Maduro knew what the

United States would do if he, in fact, got on that plane and flew to Cuba. 

Pompeo told CNN, quote, Mr. Maduro understands what will happen if he gets

on that airplane.  He knows our expectations. 

 

He would not say what that is that will happen.  He would not explain what

those expectations are.  I mean, if the U.S. is supporting the opposition

leader who is leading the uprising and Maduro is trying to flee, presumably

the U.S. would want that, right?  Would want him to leave? 

 

So now the U.S. is threatening him, if he leaves?  And if he leaves,

something might happen?  And you know what it is. 

 

What are you threatening with?  You`re going to give him 50 bucks because

he`s left and that`s what he wanted?  I mean, I don`t mean to point out the

obvious here, but while we are watching this absolutely history-making

eventuality today in that country, it really felt like the U.S. government

had no idea what it was talking about, and had no plan for what was going

on here, which is maybe something they should have cooked up when they

decided to clear that this opposition leader would be the new president of

that country. 

 

I mean, in any previous administration, good ones, bad ones, hawkish ones,

dovish ones, any previous U.S. administration, a U.S. secretary of state

making an announcement like that, the Russians blocked him from leaving,

and he knows what will happen when it comes to us, if he does leave.  I

mean, that would be a momentous and shocking moment, right?  A U.S.

secretary of state saying that, that would signal some sort of serious

potential international conflict involving potentially some of the world`s

great nuclear-armed powers. 

 

In this administration, though, yes, it was Mike Pompeo and who really

knows what any of it meant.  It has just been a chaotic response from the

U.S. government all day today, including lots of statements released by

various U.S. government officials today, supposedly intended directly for

the Venezuelan people, but apparently it never occurred to anyone in the

Trump administration that any of those statements should be in Spanish. 

Let alone they should be delivered by any means of communication that the

Venezuelan people should actually have any access to after the Maduro

regime has cut everything off. 

 

So I know there`s a lot going on, but this is a very serious, very fluid,

very much still-developing situation in Venezuela today.  We`re going to

have more on that ahead later on this hour and we`re watching this as

developments proceed, because, as I say, this is international history in

the making. 

 

Whether or not you have been paying any attention to the drama and tragedy

in Venezuela over the past year, this, tonight, as we speak, in some ways,

it really feels like it may be the pivotal moment when either the Maduro

regime is going to end, somehow, or the Maduro regime is going to survive,

in which case, the opposition is going to be in the most perilous,

literally, the most physically perilous place they have yet been in.  And

that involves untold numbers of civilians and who knows what split of the

military. 

 

So, the whole world really is watching this, and for us Americans watching

at home, one of the sideshows we are watching here is our own government`s

inexplicable, self-defeating, bungling hash of a response. 

 

And, you know, it doesn`t matter if you like this particular U.S.

government or not, whether you like this particular presidential

administration or not, every American in – every American has an

interesting in seeing our own government at least handle something like

this responsibly, right?  At least handle it with basic competence, with a

basic ability to speak in ways that make sense, to be understood and to act

rationally.  Instead, we`ve got these guys.  Just – it`s just been a

remarkable spectacle. 

 

But as we are keeping an eye on that tonight, “The Washington Post” just

broke a shocking – I guess it`s shocking.  A shocking new story about

Robert Mueller and the Mueller report and what apparently Robert Mueller

believes was the botched handling of his findings and his report on his

investigation by Trump administration Attorney General William Barr. 

 

Now, I say this is shocking.  That said, we had seen some rumblings along

these lines soon after Mueller turned in his report at the end of March,

right?  Newly appointed Trump Attorney General William Barr then started

serially releasing multiple statements of his own, that he characterized as

summaries of Mueller`s findings, peppered with his own fulsome musings on

the fundamental innocence and good character of president Trump, right? 

 

But on April 3rd, you might remember that there was some inklings that

something like this might be going on behind the scenes.  On April 3rd,

“The Washington Post” and “The New York Times” both reported that some

personnel from the special counsel`s office were known to be, were

expressing shock and anger at the way Barr was presenting Mueller`s

findings.  And the way he was substituting his own assertions about

Mueller`s investigation for the actual findings and the actual language

produced by Mueller`s team. 

 

I mean, you`ll remember those stories from that first week in April, right? 

Members of special counsel Robert Mueller`s team have told associates

they`re frustrated with the limited information Attorney General Barr has

provided about their nearly two-year investigation.  Members of Mueller`s

team have complained to close associates that the evidence that they

gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant. 

 

Quote: It was much more acute than Barr suggested. 

 

At one time, one U.S. official briefed on the matter told reporters for

“The Washington Post,” quote, there was immediate displeasure from

Mueller`s team when they saw how the attorney general had characterized

their work, instead of him just releasing Mueller`s own written summaries,

which he had prepared about his own findings, which were prepared for

public release. 

 

Since that reporting in the first week of April, we have been able to see

the redacted version of Mueller`s report that Barr allowed to be released. 

One of the striking things that a lot of people noticed immediately upon

receiving that report was that there was a narrative, detailed, easy-to-

read, thoroughly damning executive summary at the start of each section of

the report.  And despite the fact that there were myriad redactions

throughout the rest of Mueller`s report, those executive summaries had

almost nothing redacted.  Even under whatever redaction scheme Barr

insisted on, those executive summaries, they were like 99 percent cleared

to go to the public with nothing redacted at all. 

 

So, why did Attorney General William Barr give his, you know, speeches and

hold his press conferences and make his no collusion, no collusion

announcements and write his own summaries that he said shouldn`t be called

summaries?  Why did he make all of these different efforts to characterize

the Mueller report when we quickly learned they were mischaracterizations,

right?  The things that he said about Mueller`s report were very quickly

exposed as, I mean, the charitable word would be misleading

characterizations of what Mueller actually found. 

 

Well, now, there is this new report, pretty stunning report from “The

Washington Post” tonight.  “The New York Times” has a version of this

story, as well.  The NBC News has also followed up on some of this

reporting since “The Post`s” initial story.  But “The Post” was first. 

 

And they`ve actually got a lot more detail about what they`re reporting

here tonight.  Which is that Mueller himself has apparently gone on the

record in writing, mad as heck, about what William Barr did with his

findings, about what William Barr did with the results and the written

report prepared by Mueller and his team about their investigation. 

 

“The Washington Post” reporting tonight that they have obtained the letter

sent by Mueller to Attorney General William Barr on March 27th.  So in

terms of the timeline here, that`s, obviously, after Mueller submitted his

report and it`s after, just after, Barr publicly released his four-page

letter, explaining that Mueller`s report totally exonerated the president,

but we couldn`t see the report yet, he`d be working on redacting it from

here on out. 

 

Obviously, this letter from Mueller was in response to how Barr had

characterized Mueller`s findings.  It was before Mueller`s redacted report

was released to the public.  “The Washington Post” says it has obtained

this letter.  They haven`t published the letter itself.  But they do

describe it here and they quote from it pretty extensively. 

 

Quote: At the time the letter was sent, on March 27th, Barr had announced

that Mueller had not found a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and

Russian officials seeking to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. 

Barr also said Mueller had not reached a conclusion about whether Trump had

tried to obstruct justice, but Barr reviewed the evidence and found it

insufficient to support such a charge. 

 

Days after that announcement from Barr, Robert Mueller himself wrote a

previously unknown private letter to the Justice Department, which revealed

a degree of dissatisfaction with the public discussion of Mueller`s work, a

degree of public – a degree of dissatisfaction that shocked senior Justice

Department officials. 

 

And then “The Washington Post” quotes from that letter that Robert Mueller

sent.  Quote: The summary letter the department sent to Congress and

released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24th did not fully

capture the context, nature, and substance of this office`s work and

conclusions. 

 

Quote: There is now public confusion about criminal aspects of the results

of our investigation.  This threatens to undermine a central purpose for

which the department appointed a special counsel, which is to assure the

full public confidence, which is – excuse me, which is to assure full

public confidence in the outcome of the investigations. 

 

Mueller`s letter then made a key request, that Barr release the report`s

introductions and executive summaries.  Mueller`s letter also made some

initial suggested redactions for doing so.  In his letter, Mueller wrote

that the redaction process, which was then underway, quote, need not delay

release of the enclosed materials.  Release at this time would alleviate

the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and

public questions about the nature and the outcome of our investigation,

right? 

 

And, so, I mean, Mueller is saying there, to Barr – and that`s a quote

from Mueller`s letter, according to the “Washington Post.” saying there

that Congress and the public have been misled as to what his investigation

found.  And the summary materials that were included in part of his report

were intended for release for the purposes of informing the public and the

Congress what the special counsel`s investigation found.  According to the

way this letter is phrased, according to these quotes from “The Washington

Post,” it appears that Mueller prepared minor redactions to those

summaries, such that they could be released immediately. 

 

I mean, we know, of course, by the way this unfolded that Barr, you know,

sent out his “the president is exonerated letter” on march 24th.  March

27th, Mueller sends this letter, hair on fire, saying, what are you doing,

that`s not what our findings say at all.  Here, I`ve done the redaction in

the executive summaries.  Here, you can release these.  The public and

Congress should see these.  These are our real findings, not what you`re

saying. 

 

We know from what happened then in real life that Barr did no such thing. 

The Justice Department gave “The Washington Post” a statement in response

to this reporting tonight saying, Attorney General Barr ultimately

determined it would not be productive to release the report in piecemeal

fashion.  So, Barr refuses to release the introductions in the executive

summaries, which Mueller has requested that he has done, which Mueller has

prepared specially redacted versions of, so they can be released to the

public and to congress. 

 

Barr says, no, I`m not going to release those, and instead lets his own

introductions and executive summaries and feelings about the report, which

completely misrepresented Mueller`s findings linger out there for weeks. 

And again, this first reported tonight by “The Washington Post.” reporters

Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky.  NBC`s Pete Williams has subsequently

able to confirm the story reporting that Mueller conveyed to Barr and both

the letter and the subsequent phone call, that Barr`s description of what

he called the report`s principle conclusions didn`t actually capture the

substance of what Mueller found. 

 

Barr, of course, is scheduled to testify tomorrow in the Republican-led

Senate judiciary committee, where Chairman Lindsey Graham has already said

he considers the Mueller report to be over, done, he`s never going to touch

it again.  Barr, right now, is still fighting an effort to appear the

following day on Thursday, before the Judiciary Committee, in the House,

where the Democratic-led committee there intends to have some of the

questioning of Barr led by staff counsel, by professional attorneys, who

work for the question, rather than only having him questioned by members of

Congress.  William Barr apparently does not want to subject himself to

that.  Starting to get a sense of why that might seem like an unfun way to

spend a Thursday if you`re William Barr. 

 

I will say this news tonight from “The Washington Post” also puts a much

hotter spotlight on the request by a dozen Democratic senators today that

the inspector general at the Justice Department should investigate William

Barr and the way he handled Mueller`s findings, including whether his

letter purporting to summarize Mueller`s findings and his ridiculous press

conference ahead of releasing Mueller`s report were, quote, misleading, and

whether they were consistent with Justice Department policies and

practices. 

 

Those dozen senators are also asking the Justice Department inspector

general to look at whether Barr`s handling of the Mueller report has been

so improper that Barr should no longer be allowed to oversee any

prosecutions that spring from that report.  They want the I.G. to look at

whether Barr has, quote, demonstrated sufficient impartiality to continue

overseeing the ongoing matters related to the special counsel`s

investigation, that were referenced in appendix “D” of the special

counsel`s report.  You remember appendix “D,” right?  That`s where we got

those 14 matters that are ongoing criminal cases, that have derived from

Mueller`s findings, 12 of which are still redacted from public view. 

 

If Mueller, as “The Washington Post” is reporting tonight, has told William

Barr that Barr has misrepresented his findings, mishandled the findings of

this investigation, given Congress and the public an inaccurate summary, an

inaccurate characterization of what it is that Mueller found and the

results of that inquiry, should Barr really be overseeing all of the

prosecutions that derive from that inquiry, that are still open criminal

matters? 

 

And if this is, in fact, what happened, if Mueller called Barr and wrote

Barr a letter right after Barr put out his supposed summary of what Mueller

found and said, hey, you are getting it wrong, that is not what we found at

all.  If we can`t trust you to accurately summarize our materials, then put

out our own materials.  Here`s the summary.  They`re redacted for public

view.  Send these out. 

 

If that conversation happened, both in writing and then on the phone

between Mueller and Barr, on or about the 27th of March, why is it that a

few weeks later, April 10th, Barr testified under oath in the U.S. Senate

that he had no idea whether or not Mueller had any problem whatsoever,

whether he had any objections whatsoever with how Barr had handled his

findings? 

 

Joining us now is Devlin Barrett from “The Washington Post.”  He was first

to report tonight on this confrontation by special counsel Mueller,

directed at the attorney general over how Barr handled this. 

 

Devlin, congratulations on this scoop.  Thanks for joining us. 

 

DEVLIN BARRETT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Thanks for having me, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me ask if I summarized your – I didn`t summarize every aspect

of what you found tonight, but let me ask if I was accurate in the nature

of how I described this communication from Mueller towards Barr. 

 

BARRETT:  Yes, I think that`s right.  There was a letter that was obviously

fairly harshly worded and caught senior justice Department officials by

surprise.  And there was a follow-up phone call, which has been described

to me as not quite as confrontational, but still an area where these two

guys really significantly disagreed. 

 

MADDOW:  I know that you have reported that you have seen this letter from

Mueller to Barr.  And obviously, you quote from it extensively tonight in

your piece in “The Post.”  Are you going to publish the full letter?  Is it

your understanding that it could be published? 

 

BARRETT:  Yes, that`s the one thing I would correct in what you said.  I

don`t have a copy of the letter.  I have read the letter and obviously I

quote extensively from it.  So, I`ll publish it as soon as I have a hard

copy, but I don`t have a hard copy yet. 

 

And frankly, look, I think given the context in which this comes out, that

there`s a hearing tomorrow, I think we`ll see this letter tomorrow. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.  I know that we`re going to hear from Barr tomorrow in the

Senate.  One of the other things that immediately becomes much more

pressing, given your reporting tonight, is the question of whether or not

Congress is also going to hear from Robert Mueller.  We know that the

Judiciary Committee in the House that has explicitly recommended or of

explicitly requested that Mueller himself come testify, and come testify

before a deadline of May 23rd.  We haven`t had any further clarity as to

whether or not that`s actually going to happen.  Barr is on record saying

that he would not object to such testimony. 

 

Do you have any reporting or any further understanding as to whether or not

Mueller will be ever speaking for himself on this matter? 

 

BARRETT:  I don`t have a definitive answer.  I will say my sense before all

of this was that there`s almost no way in which Mueller does not get called

to testify at some point.  I would say after this letter, there`s no way

that Mueller does not get called to testify.  I just don`t think the

politics of it are remotely practical for Mueller to try not to testify or

for DOJ to try to prevent from testifying, even if they wanted to do that,

which they say they don`t. 

 

MADDOW:  We have known from previous reporting from “The Post”,” among

others, that there were people in the special counsel`s office, people on

the special counsel`s team who were upset with the way Attorney General

Barr was handling that report.  We had these descriptions about members of

the special counsel`s team speaking to associates or known to be upset

about the way he was handling it. 

 

At the time those reports came out in the first week of April, that would

have been after this report went from Mueller to Barr.  And after Barr had

been informed directly in writing by Mueller and in a phone call from

Mueller about how upset he was about how Barr was handling it.  What

changed so that this letter from Mueller, which wasn`t previously reported,

is now in some circulation?  You were able to describe it and quote from it

tonight.  What changed? 

 

BARRETT:  Honestly, I think the pressure of, you know, a congressional

hearing, in which these questions are going to come up.  You know, part of

how this all happens is because, as a reporter heading toward this hearing,

we`re asking all of these questions.  And we`re trying to figure out, you

know, what are you going to say when they ask, was there a disagreement

about this?  Because obviously, we`ve reported, there was something of a

disagreement here. 

 

So I think the writing was on the wall in some sense, as far as the hearing

goes.  And, you know, hearings have a way of, you know, shaking things out. 

 

MADDOW:  One last question for you, Devlin, is one of the quotes that you

have from the letter tonight landed kind of with a lot of weight for me. 

You quote from Robert Mueller`s letter, there is now public confusion about

critical aspects of the results of our investigation.  This threatens to

undermine a central purpose for which the Department of Justice appointed

the special counsel, which is to assure full public confidence in the

outcome of the investigations. 

 

That`s worded in a very specific and sort of legalistic way, sort of tight

wording there.  But the implication of that is heavy.  The implication of

that, as I read it, is that the public shouldn`t have full public –

shouldn`t have full confidence in the outcome of the investigations.  That

Barr had so mishandled this matter, that the public shouldn`t trust the way

the government was coping with the findings of this investigation. 

 

I mean, I don`t want to put more weight on it than you think was intended

by the way that Mueller put that, so I just wanted to let you know my

impression there and see how that strikes you. 

 

BARRETT:  So I think there`s some truth to that.  But I think one of the

things you have to keep in mind, when he talks about the full public

confidence, that`s always been central impasse point for Bob Mueller, as he

goes through this.  He`s always felt that this work only matters if the

public believes the work was done well.  And I think that`s why he writes

the letter.  And I think as I read the letter, what he`s saying is, I am

worried that this public discussion of the obstruction of justice issue,

because this is really about the obstruction part, this public discussion,

he thinks, is getting off the rails and he wants Barr to help him in his

mind to get it back on the rails. 

 

Now, obviously, Barr and he disagree about a lot of key issues here, so

it`s a tension point that doesn`t really ultimately get resolved.  But I

think what Mueller is trying to say here is, we don`t want to let this

things get out of our control and leave the public with an understanding of

this that ultimately doesn`t ring true to what we did. 

 

MADDOW:  I said –that was my last question, I lied.  I also have to ask

you, there`s a reference to the redaction process in here.  Are you getting

a sense there was conflict between the special counsel and the attorney

general`s office over the redactions and what was cut out of the report? 

 

BARRETT:  Yes, I think there was, but maybe not in the sense you mean.  So,

what I have been told is that Justice Department officials, when they were

waiting for the report, they expected they would get, if not like suggested

redactions, then some sort of, you know, trail map that would help them

work on the redaction process.  They say they didn`t get anything like

that.  And that was frustrating and it meant that they had 448 pages to

suddenly, you know, cycle through with every page marked, you know, this

could require redactions. 

 

However, as the process goes forward, what you see in the Mueller letter is

Mueller sends with the letter, and I think this is a really important part,

Mueller sends with the letter the executive summaries and the

introductions, with some proposed redactions.  And Mueller is, I think,

very clearly trying to like egg this process forward, saying, look, you can

put out these parts now and here are some of the things you should keep

out. 

 

Now, from the DOJ senior leadership point of view, they had a little bit of

concern about that, because to them, these aren`t – those suggested

redactions, while slight, weren`t every category of redaction.  And they

felt they still had significant more work to do if they were going to

release those. 

 

Obviously, again, another significant issue of disagreement and it matters

a great deal, obviously, in terms of the consequences. 

 

MADDOW:  Right, and it matters in terms of what we, the public, are

ultimately going towns about this, particularly because special counsel

staff were involved in the redaction process, at least according to the way

that Barr described it. 

 

And so, if Justice Department officials, either anonymously or not, are

trying to characterize that process in a way that people from the special

counsel`s office are going to contest, it`s starting to feel more and more

like we`ll ultimately learn their side of the story, too.  At least if the

kind of reporting that you did tonight is any prologue. 

 

Devlin Barrett, congratulations on this scoop tonight.  Thank you for being

here talk about it.  I really appreciate it.

 

BARRETT:  Thanks for having me.

 

MADDOW:  Devlin is a national security reporter at “The Washington Post.” 

Again, he and Matt Zapotosky, first to report tonight on this apparently

angry confrontation by special counsel Robert Mueller directed at Attorney

General William Barr over the way he handled the Mueller report.  Again, a

letter being sent from Mueller to Attorney General Barr basically saying,

release these parts of my report rather than to continue to mischaracterize

my findings. 

 

I should note, one of the things that we can add to this reporting tonight

is that as of today, as of tonight, Robert Mueller is still an employee of

the Department of Justice, which is an interesting thing.  Peter Carr, the

spokesman for the special counsel told us tonight, we called him after this

– or we contacted him after this reporting broke tonight.  We called him

to find out whether or not Mueller is still a DOJ employee. 

 

He told us tonight that Mueller remains a Justice Department employee for

now, but that Mueller, quote, will be concluding his service within the

coming days.  That`s something that they told us right around the time that

the report came out.  They said that advice is still operative, but to the

extent it matters who`s actually Robert Mueller`s employer at this point,

if this confrontation is getting this heated and this direct, he still

belongs to DOJ. 

 

Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Here`s something worth pondering.  On April 10th, 20 days ago,

Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate and he was asked

if special counsel Robert Mueller agreed with his conclusion summarizing

the results of Robert Mueller`s investigation. 

 

Here is what William Barr said when he was asked that question before the

Senate, under oath. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  It was the conclusion of a number of

people, including me, and I, obviously, am the attorney general.  It was

also the inclusion of the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. 

 

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD):  I understand.  I`ve read your letters

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

BARR:  I will discuss that decision after – 

 

VAN HOLLEN:  Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion? 

 

BARR:  I don`t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  I don`t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.  That is

what Attorney General Bill Barr testified to on April 10th. 

 

We now know that just two weeks earlier, on March 27th, Robert Mueller had

sent a letter to Bill Barr, expressing serious frustration and concern with

the way Barr was mischaracterizing his report.  That discussion happened

both in a letter and in a follow-up phone call.  So when the attorney

general said he doesn`t know how Mueller felt about his conclusion and he

says that under oath, is that a problem? 

 

Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg.  He`s a former senior official at the

FBI, former U.S. attorney. 

 

I have never been more glad for the chance to talk to you here in person

tonight, Chuck.  Thank you for being here. 

 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  My pleasure, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me just ask your reaction, first of all, your response to this

reporting from “The Washington Post” tonight, that the special counsel

expressed both in writing and by phone to William Barr that the attorney

general was mischaracterizing the Mueller findings. 

 

ROSENBERG:  Bob Mueller must have been pretty upset.  You know, what`s so

interesting to me, we always disagree about stuff at the Department of

Justice, but we don`t always write letters about it.  We have a phrase

called going to paper.  You don`t go to paper lightly, because you don`t

want to box them in or show them up. 

 

You go to paper when you want to make a record for the history books.  If

turns thing out really bad, right, if things don`t work out the way you

wanted them to, you go to paper to make that record, to paper the trail. 

So, for Bob to do this, he must have been quite upset. 

 

The other reaction I have is that the letter that Devlin Barrett read is

probably the second letter, because you write the first one when you`re

really angry, put it in your desk drawer, you sleep on it and come back the

next day and take out some adjectives and then you send the second one. 

And I`ve done that myself. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, see, I`m the one who always sends the first letter. 

 

ROSENBERG:  You send the first –

 

MADDOW:  This is why I don`t even the even keel reputation that you have. 

 

The other thing that Barrett and his colleagues at “The Post” are reporting

is that in addition to that letter, there was an enclosure.  Mueller had

prepared a suggested redactions for the executive summaries and

introductions for each volume of the report that he wanted Barr to release

right away, basically to correct the record against what Barr had

previously asserted were the bottom line conclusions of Mueller`s findings. 

 

We now know Barr rejected that and didn`t do it.  I know that Barr was

probably under no obligation to do that, but that strikes me as quite an

acute confrontation. 

 

ROSENBERG:  Right, you`re absolutely right, he was under no obligation,

other than perhaps moral, to make sure that the public`s understanding of

the report roughly coincided with the report.  And it didn`t, because the

first version has dictated how we talk about it and how we think about it. 

You actually have to read the darned thing to understand what Mueller

really did.  And it takes a lot of time to do that and it`s complicated. 

It`s also fascinating, by the way. 

 

But that`s what`s so disappointing.  There was a window for people to

understand what Mueller found and it closed when Bill Barr rendered his

principle conclusions.  And no letter – no phone call would undo that

damage. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of what happens next here, you described papering the

trail. 

 

ROSENBERG:  Yes. 

 

MADDOW:  Creating a written record when there`s a serious concern, and that

– you sort of have to cross a threshold of seriousness or anger before you

do that.  The judiciary chairman, Jerry Nadler, still doesn`t know whether

or not he`ll have William Barr before his committee on Thursday.  It seems

like that`s still in dispute.  But he is demanding a copy of that letter by

10:00 a.m. tomorrow. 

 

Would you expect that the Justice Department would hand it over? 

 

ROSENBERG:  I think it`s hard for them not to hand it over.  I don`t blame

him for wanting it.  I would like to see it, too, and I think it`s really

hard to withhold that document now given the fact that it`s really mostly

out.  It`s been shown to a reporter.  It`s not really a leap to provide it

to Congress in my view. 

 

Now, that said, this administration seems to fight everything, the time of

day, right, the month of the year.  There doesn`t seem to be a battle that

they won`t join.  So, not clear, but it should be provided. 

 

MADDOW:  Somebody has shown it to reporters, tonight.  So somebody has

access to it that wants it to be known.  So that would suggest that there`s

at least an implicit threat that if the Justice Department tries to block

it, it will see the light of day anyway.  Big pieces of it are already in

public. 

 

ROSENBERG:  I think that`s right.  So, it`s definitely better for the

department to just produce it, so they can say, we`ve made it available,

than for it to get out anyway, which as you point out, it inevitably will. 

 

MADDOW:  One of the other things that`s going on right now, is that

investigative committees in Congress and the House, in the Democratically

controlled House are stepping up the different types of oversight they`re

trying to do when it comes to the administration and the president in

particular.  Led by Adam Schiff on the Intelligence Committee and Maxine

Waters on financial services, those two committee chairs have asserted that

they don`t believe Robert Mueller did a long money trail investigation

here.  That he didn`t look in depth at the president`s finances, as part of

his investigation for whatever reason. 

 

And they have stepped up their efforts to obtain financial information

about the president that they think may have important implications on

counterintelligence and other matters.  We`ve seen it from oversight, from

intel, from financial services. 

 

The president is fighting those requests.  The president has filed lawsuits

to try to block those subpoenas.  We got some very interesting news today

from Betsy Woodruff at “The Daily Beast” who reports that the intelligence

committee has now hired the former head of the financial crimes division at

FBI, who is somebody who you – Patrick Fallon, somebody you coincided with

during your time as FBI chief of staff. 

 

ROSENBERG:  Well, actually, I go back further with Pat.  I knew him when I

was an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia and when I was U.S. attorney in

Virginia.  He`s a terrific agent.  He`s also a wonderful human being.  He`s

a great hire. 

 

MADDOW:  Would you expect the Democrats, the House Intelligence Committee

taking him on as a staffer, will meaningfully affect the ability for them

to make sense of any financial documents they`re able to get from the

president? 

 

ROSENBERG:  He`s a great financial crimes investigator. 

 

But I disagree with one premise, slightly.  I`m confident, reasonably

confident, that the Mueller team looked at financial records.  I mean, we

saw the manifestation of that, right, in the Manafort trial – tax records

and bank records and all sorts of financial documents. 

 

So there`s a difference between investigating financial crimes and charging

financial crimes.  You would investigate financial crimes, I think, to

inform your counterintelligence investigation.  But because it wasn`t

within Mueller`s remit, which was relatively narrow, you might not charge

it. 

 

MADDOW:  Right.  And we haven`t seen anything in terms of the

counterintelligence remit.  We haven`t seen his findings on that, at all. 

 

ROSENBERG:  But for instance, on your tax return, it asked whether or not

you had control over a foreign bank account.  Do you have interest or

control over a foreign bank account?  A counterintelligence investigator

would want to know how you answered that question.  But they may not charge

you with tax evasion for lying in response. 

 

MADDOW:  Chuck Rosenberg, former senior official at the FBI, former U.S.

attorney and the host of the newest MSNBC podcast, “The Oath with Chuck

Rosenberg” which debuted tonight, interviews with a couple of guys you

might have heard with, James Comey and Preet Bharara. 

 

I have not yet listened, I read every word of the transcript of your James

Comey discussion and I am floored. 

 

Congratulations on “The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg.”  I`m super excited that

you`re doing this.

 

ROSENBERG:  I`m really humbled that you would mention it.  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, absolutely.  Great to see you.  Thank you.

 

All right.  We have much more.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  As we continue to cover this breaking news tonight, first led by

“The Washington Post” that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has

contacted Attorney General William Barr, both in writing and by phone, to

complain that Barr was misrepresenting the findings of Mueller`s

investigation and his report, Mueller going so far as to submit to Barr

redacted versions of his executive summaries and introductions to both

volumes of his report, so Barr could release those publicly rather than

allowing his own assertions about Mueller`s findings to stand on their own. 

 

Since that was reported tonight, again, first by “The Washington Post,”

we`ve been watching things fall into place thereafter.  Judiciary Chairman

Jerry Nadler has put out a statement demanding that he receive a copy of

this letter from Mueller to Barr by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.  He`s also

reiterating his demand that Robert Mueller himself be allowed to testify. 

That Mueller himself, not Barr, Mueller come to Congress and talk about his

findings, rather than continually having this mediating influence of

William Barr and his office. 

 

Well, at “The Daily Beast” tonight, Erin Banco and Sam Stein are reporting

that House Democrats have been told that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is

willing to testify, but the Justice Department has been unwilling to set a

date for him to testify.  According to multiple sources, DOJ hasn`t agreed

to a date, citing Mueller`s continued status as a Justice Department

employee.  Two sources say the Judiciary Committee has been in regular

contact with the Justice Department about trying to set a date for

Mueller`s testimony, but Justice Department will not do it.  Well, that

won`t last.

 

Stay with us.  We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Not much going on around here.  Super sleepy news night around

these parts.  Nothing doing, really. 

 

In addition to the breaking news we have been covering tonight that Special

Counsel Robert Mueller gave Attorney General Bill Barr a piece of his mind

for publicly misrepresenting Mueller`s findings in his report, just in the

past 24 hours, the president and his three adult children and the Trump

family business all sued two banks that they`ve done business with,

including Deutsche Bank, to try to block these banks from handing over

Trump-related financial information in response to congressional subpoenas. 

 

This follows a week after Trump also sued his own accounting firm trying to

stop them from replying to congressional subpoenas and handing over

information about Trump`s financial dealings and taxes. 

 

Here`s one question that arises out of that fight.  If Mr. Trump and his

family and his business are concerned to the point of hyperventilating in a

paper bag at the prospect of anybody getting a look at their finances and

taxes, why are they not also suing the New York state attorney general? 

 

New York Attorney General Letitia James is chasing a lot of this same stuff

or at least along these same lines.  It has been reported that she has

subpoenaed Deutsche Bank about its relationship with Donald Trump.  CNN is

reporting she`s already received some of that material in response to that

subpoena.  “The Washington Post” tonight reports the attorney general`s

office is also investigating serious alleged labor violations at Trump`s

golf club in Westchester, New York. 

 

She`s also launched an investigation into the NRA, which apparently led the

NRA to fire its lead lawyer and led to the NRA`s lead outside counsel

warning that organization`s entire board of directors that he believes

Letitia James may dissolve the NRA, dissolve them. 

 

She also brought a suit against the Trump administration over her efforts

to put a citizenship question on the next census, which will lead to an

undercount of Hispanics and immigrants.  She fought them aggressively on

the gag rule on abortion rights.  I mean, I can understand why the

president has begun to tweet angrily about the New York Attorney General

Letitia James.  So far, I`m interested to see how this fight evolves from

both sides. 

 

Joining us now for the interview tonight is Letitia James, attorney general

of the great state of New York. 

 

Madam Attorney General, thank you so much for being here. 

 

LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Thank you for having me.  I

really appreciate it. 

 

MADDOW:  I know some of the stuff I`ve talked about here, ongoing

investigations, you`re not necessarily at liberty to talk about them.  I

hope you will forgive me asking anyway. 

 

JAMES:  Mmm-hmm. 

 

MADDOW:  But I wanted to get your reaction tonight just as a law

enforcement official in relation to this breaking news that we`re covering

about the special counsel`s report and this reporting that the special

counsel himself has expressed anger to the attorney general about the

mischaracterization of his findings. 

 

JAMES:  It truly was a mischaracterization.  He misled the public and he

misled Congress, and it`s really critically important that unfortunately he

stepped outside of his boundary.  And he should not have interpreted the

Mueller report.  He should have just issued it to the Congress and its

executive summaries and that was it. 

 

Instead, he went a bit further and he basically attempted to exonerate

President Trump, and as a result of that, he should be held responsible and

he should go before Congress.  I hope not only tomorrow but also on

Thursday and present himself and answer those questions in. 

 

In addition to that, I would hope that Mr. Mueller also testify before

Congress as well.  It`s really critically important that we hear from him. 

I understand that he`s very angry and this letter obviously really speaks

to the fact that Mr. Barr was serving as the president`s counsel and not

the people`s counsel. 

 

MADDOW:  You are in a unique position as the top law enforcement official

in New York state, given the jurisdiction of your office and the powers of

your office.  We have seen congressional committees pursue things related

to the president`s finances and taxes in the wake of Mueller`s report and

the revelation that it does not seem that Mueller made that a central

element of his investigation.  You have been reported to also have pursued

some of these lines of inquiry, particularly after Michael Cohen, the

president`s longtime lawyer, suggested in sworn testimony that the

president had inflated his assets for the purpose of obtaining bank loans

or trying to obtain bank loans. 

 

Can you tell us anything about your office and its investigation along

those lines? 

 

JAMES:  So what I can tell you, Rachel, and obviously we do not want to

jeopardize any investigation.  I can tell you we have commenced an

investigation into the Trumps` finances and it`s based on the testimony of

Mr. Michael Cohen.  And as a result of that, we have issued subpoenas to

certain banks and we are in the process of discovery.  And that is about

all that I can tell you without jeopardizing that investigation. 

 

MADDOW:  I understand if you can`t answer this, but can you tell me if

Michael Cohen has cooperated with your office or with other New York state

law enforcement?  And can you tell me if the banks are cooperating with the

subpoenas? 

 

JAMES:  So I can tell you this.  The media has reported that Mr. Cohen has

been to our office and I can also report to you that we have received some

information from some of the entities that have been previously mentioned. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.  The president is suing Deutsche Bank and his accounting firm

Mazars, as well as other entities to try to stop them from obtaining –

from replying to congressional subpoenas.  Have you had those same kinds of

fights in terms of your investigation? 

 

JAMES:  Unfortunately, as of right now, they are not seeking to squash our

subpoenas. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.  The NRA investigation, which you have publicly confirmed.  On

Friday you announced that that – your office is investigating the NRA in

terms of its incorporation under New York law and alleged financial

mismanagement of that – of that organization, its assets and its

donations. 

 

The NRA appears to be quite afraid of what you are capable of doing as New

York`s top law enforcement official.  As I mentioned, they fired their lead

lawyer.  Their outside counsel is reported to have warned the board that

you have the power to dissolve them as an organization if your

investigation merits that. 

 

Is he right to believe that`s within your powers? 

 

JAMES:  So let me just say – I can`t speak to the remedies we are seeking. 

At this point in time, as you know, we have commenced an investigation into

the NRA.  We have issued letters basically requiring certain entities to

retain documents and communication.  And some of those entities have

received subpoenas. 

 

It`s really critically important that the NRA follow the law just like any

other charitable organization in the state of New York.  And until such

time as we review the information that we received, we cannot lay out our

case and we cannot speak to the remedies that we are seeking. 

 

MADDOW:  This would be – this is being pursued as a civil matter or as a

criminal matter? 

 

JAMES:  It`s a civil matter. 

 

MADDOW:  It`s a civil matter.  At this point, we`ve – again, public

reporting that the department of financial services in New York, another

law enforcement entity in New York, has also pursued the president`s

insurance broker. 

 

Again, in response to Michael Cohen`s testimony saying that there may have

been – he alleged that there may have been asset inflation in order to

basically affect insurance rates, which would be insurance fraud.  Is that

also being pursued as a civil matter?  Is that something that could

potentially be referred to you as a criminal matter if the department of

financial services finds evidence of wrongdoing there? 

 

JAMES:  Yes, we`ve not received a referral as of yet, but our

investigations for the most part are civil in nature. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.  Letitia James, attorney general of New York.  You have a lot

on your plate. 

 

JAMES:  I do. 

 

MADDOW:  I hope you`ll come back again and keep us apprised.  I know a lot

of these things as they`re ongoing you can`t give us details, but I think

it`s important the country know the implications of what you`re working on. 

 

JAMES:  I also think it`s important for you to remain in our homes every

night.  It`s critically important we have a free press, an independent

press and it`s really critically important that I as the attorney general

of the state of New York stand up for your right and oppose any effort to

suppress your First Amendment right. 

 

MADDOW:  Madam Attorney General, thank you very much for being here. 

 

JAMES:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  Hope you`ll come back soon. 

 

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  This has been one of those days and the news is continuing to

develop over the course of this hour, and I have a feeling it`s going to

continue to develop into the late night tonight.  I will just tell you

before we go that you shouldn`t forget, tomorrow night right here, Hillary

Clinton is going to be here live in studio, in person for the interview. 

Tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.  I`m not going to sleep

between now and then because I`m already working on it. 

 

I`ll see you then. 

 

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

 

Good evening, Lawrence. 

 

                                                                                                               

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