Senator Harris grills Barr. TRANSCRIPT: 5/3/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Vote for whoever you want to be president of the
United States. That`s what you should do America. It`s a crazy idea.
Danielle Moodie-Mills, Cornell Belcher, and Steve Kornacki, thank you all.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: A blunt and memorable instruction and one that
I`m wholeheartedly onboard with.
HAYES: A crazy hot take.
MADDOW: And it`s very partisan to tell people that they should vote for
who they want to be president. Pretty partisan.
HAYES: That`s what they should vote for.
MADDOW: Yes. Have a great weekend, my friend. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us. Happy Friday.
In July of last year, Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office
indicted a dozen Russian military intelligence officers for their role in
carrying out the Russian government`s attack on our 2016 election. And the
timing of when that indictment dropped seemed like maybe somebody was
making a point because three days later, Trump was set to meet with
Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
And they did go ahead with that summit. They had a public press
availability. They also ended up meeting behind the scenes, one of those
times when Trump insisted that no other Americans be allowed to listen in
on their conversation.
But this was right after that GRU indictment spelling out in painstaking
detail the literal key strokes of the Russian military intelligence
operation that hit our election, the specific GRU units that were involved,
the times of day that specific officers were active in the plot, the
specific named Russian officers and what each of them individually did.
That indictment was amazing in its detail.
That happens and then Trump not only doesn`t cancel his Helsinki Summit
with Putin which was scheduled for three days later, he goes much further
out on that shaky little limb than he`d even started on and he said in
Helsinki that he absolutely believed Vladimir Putin when Putin told him
that Russia didn`t do it. Never mind that indictment from three days
earlier, never mind what the U.S. government had to say about what Russia
did, he believed Russia. Not the United States.
Trump also praised at the Helsinki summit what he called an incredible
offer from Putin to embed some Kremlin guys in the U.S. investigation of
what Russia did. Wow, what an incredible offer. We can have some Russian
guys from your government embedded in our investigation? Whew, thank you,
we won`t have to hire temps.
He also spoke positively about another great idea from Vladimir Putin that
he, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government, should have handed over to
them certain Americans they had long wanted to get their hands on,
including former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.
Trump in Helsinki three days after Mueller indicted a dozen Russian
military intelligence officers and named the Russian government and
described their exact actions against the U.S. in that operation targeting
our election, Trump met with Putin and thought all of Putin`s ideas were
amazing, including him getting his hands on Americans that Trump would hand
over to him. That`s what happened last summer right after the GRU
Well, now, it`s a couple of weeks after we got Robert Mueller`s report
released and today we get word from the Kremlin, naturally, it`s always the
Kremlin that announces these things first. Today, we get word from the
Russian government that our president spent more than an hour on the phone
today with Vladimir Putin.
Now, Mueller`s report starts with more than 200 pages of detail of the
Russian government`s operation targeting our election, including Putin`s
personal role in it. Him personally directing overtures from Kremlin-
controlled Russian oligarchs to make overtures to Trump and people
connected to him. I mean, that just came out.
Then the president spent more than an hour on the phone with Putin today.
Did the president mention any of that to Vladimir Putin today? Was the
president prepared with any criticism whatsoever? Any challenge whatsoever
as to how Putin and his government interfered in our election, including
Putin`s personal involvement?
Is there any possibility America`s president might have told Putin to back
off our next election since FBI Director Chris Wray said this past week
that Russia is absolutely going great guns to hit the next election, too?
Was there any mention of that in more than an hour on the phone with Putin
today right after Mueller Mueller`s report came out?
Here`s the transcript from the informal press briefing today. Reporter:
Mr. President, did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?
President Trump: Excuse me, I`m talking. You`re very rude.
So, we had a good conversation about many different things. OK.
REPORTER: Did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?
TRUMP: We didn`t discuss that. Really, we didn`t discuss it.
And another reporter later on comes back to it and asks him again, did you
tell him not to meddle in the next election? Trump says: It didn`t come
He did, however, make clear today after this phone call that even though
the whole rest of his own administration spent all week saying Russia was
interfering in Venezuela, and propping up the dictator there, turns out
President Trump now says Putin isn`t doing that at all because Putin told
him so. You see the headline in “Bloomberg News” today: Trump says Putin
not involved in Venezuela despite U.S. claim.
So, Putin says he`s not doing it. And so, President Trump believes it.
And so, hey, John Bolton, hey, Mike Pompeo, are you guys enjoying your jobs
You each thought your job this week was to name and shame and threaten and
counter Russian government involvement in Venezuela while saber-rattling
about how everybody else better get out of the way because the U.S. is
really mad about it. Guys, turns out your actual job is figuring out how
and why you work for a president that says whatever Vladimir Putin tells
I mean – I mean, just to be clear here, I mean, how do you come to work
anymore if you`re John Bolton? Right, regardless of what you thought about
John Bolton before this, or his whole career, and his track record, I mean,
just think of John Bolton as a human being.
This is what John Bolton, human being, thought his job was this week.
Again, whether or not – whether you like what he`s saying here or not,
this is what they`ve had him out there saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration has also made the claim
that Russia is very much involved in propping up the Maduro regime.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told my colleague Wolf Blitzer yesterday
that there was a plane waiting to take Maduro to Cuba but the Russians
talked him out of it. What exactly is the Russian role here?
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Look, the Russians like nothing
better than putting a thumb in our eye. They`re using the Cubans as
surrogates. They`d love to get effective control of a country in this
hemisphere. We made it clear to Russians in a lot of conversations at a
lot of different levels, some of which are going to continue today, why we
think this behavior is unacceptable to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, you thought that was your job. But it turns out not at all,
not after Vladimir Putin gets done with President Trump today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is not looking at all to
get involved in Venezuela, other than he`d like to see something positive
happen for Venezuela.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Putin doing anything in Venezuela? Who said Putin`s doing
anything bad in Venezuela? Who have you been listening to? I`m with him.
He says he`s not.
I mean, John Bolton, God bless you, good look delicately and carefully
shaving around that impressive mustache when you have to look at yourself
in the mirror in comes days, Mr. National Security Adviser. I mean, this
is who you`re working for.
You thought your job was to push Russia back because of what they`re doing
in Venezuela. The president spent on hour on the phone with Vladimir Putin
today. Putin told him he`s not in Venezuela, so now the new position of
the U.S. government is Putin is not in Venezuela. What`s your job?
I mean, wow. Today was nutty on a lot of levels, but I think it is worth
preparing ourselves for the fact that this weekend might be even a little
bit nuttier. And that`s because for all the weirdness that we`ve just been
through, we are heading right into a whole bunch of stacked up deadlines
that I think are really going to put whipped cream and cherries and extra
nuts on top of the nut sundae we have already been enjoying.
First of all, Monday morning is when the president`s longtime personal
attorney, his longtime employee at his business, the Trump Organization,
Michael Cohen, is due Monday morning to report to federal prison to start
serving his three-year prison sentence for, among other things, a felony
campaign finance scheme to pay two different women about a quarter of a
million dollars in hush money right before the presidential election so
they wouldn`t publicly make claims about having had affairs with President
Trump so his campaign would not be adversely affected by any attendant
Now, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have been explicit in
saying that President Trump, himself, was also not only a participant in
those felonies, he directed the commission of those felonies. He was the
sole beneficiary of those felonies. But it`s Michael Cohen who`s going to
prison for them and the president`s not. The president got out of it was a
cute little nickname, individual 1.
And I mention this thing about Monday morning not just to keep track of
what`s going on in Michael Cohen`s life and in that case, but I think it`s
sort of prudent to be on the lookout overnight tonight and through this
weekend to see if Michael Cohen may have one more rabbit he wants to pull
out of a hat in order to potentially give prosecutors something new and
valuable they could use in a case against somebody else, that could
potentially cause them to intervene, to cut down or delay him serving his
sentence. I mean, it`s also possible that we may hear from Cohen in a way
that isn`t designed directly to reduce his sentence, but it could be
designed just to try to equal the cosmic score a little bit between he, who
is going to prison, and the guy who directed him to commit those felonies
who is not going to prison.
So, again, Michael Cohen`s prison report date is Monday morning. This last
weekend is his last weekend of freedom before he`s in the federal prison
system. And that is going to loom large, I think, in the news over this
weekend until he is locked up.
Monday is also, coincidentally, the deadline that Treasury Secretary Steve
Mnuchin, I`m sorry, Steven, he prefers to be called Steven, not Steve,
Monday is the deadline that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin set for
himself as the date by which he will respond to the House Ways and Means
Committee, whose chairman has demanded copies of six years of Trump`s
business and personal tax returns.
Now, this tax returns thing is not a friendly request from Congress to get
President Trump`s tax returns. It is a legally binding demand. There is
clear black-letter law that has been in place since the Warren G. Harding
Teapot Dome Scandal, which says the chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee in Congress shall be given any tax return that he or she
requests. The IRS legally must comply with such a request from the
chairman of that committee. So far, they have not, and now, the treasury
secretary, himself, has gotten involved to try to block the IRS from
handing over these tax returns.
He says that by Monday, this upcoming Monday, he`s going to have some
further assertion about what he and the IRS are going to do on this issue,.
Honestly, it`s really not their call. They do not have any legal wiggle
room here as every previous secretary who`s commented on this matter has
attested to. But on Monday, we`re going to find out what exactly are
they`re going to try to do.
Monday is also the response deadline on the subpoena that was sent to
Capital One Bank and Deutsche Bank requiring those two financial entities
to hand over voluminous information about their financial dealings with
President Trump and the Trump business.
Those documents are due to be handed over on Monday to the House
Intelligence Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. Now,
the deadline on that subpoena for them to hand over that over, it was –
it`s Monday, May 6th. But it came about through an unusual process and
it`s sort of since been shifted.
David Enrich, the financial editor of “The New York Times” wrote about this
this week. He says, quote: Lawyers for Deutsche Bank have spent months
cooperating with investigators from two Democratic controlled congressional
committees. Once the requests from the committees reached a certain point,
the banks asked and the committees issued what one lawmaker calls a
friendly subpoena. That was a couple weeks ago in mid-April.
So the banks were already preparing to hand over lots of information.
Everything the committees were asking for. Couple of weeks ago the banks
asked, please may we have a subpoena? It`s not that we`re not cooperating,
but they wanted a subpoena basically to cover their butts so legally it
would be clear they had no choice but to hand over these document. That`s
why they got this friendly subpoena with a deadline of Monday, this
upcoming Monday, to hand everything over.
Enrich at “The Times” got incredible detail about what exactly the banks
have been preparing, have been putting together, to hand over to Adam
Schiff and Maxine Waters, the two chairmen of the committees that have
requested these informations, this information.
Quote: The rich trove of records held by Deutsche Bank includes internal
corporate documents, descriptions of the value of Mr. Trump`s assets and
portions of his personal and business tax returns. The subpoena casts a
wide net for documents are related to Trump`s business and other entities
including family trusts.
Quote: The subpoena demands Deutsche Bank hand over materials related to
the Trump family`s companies, including parents, subsidiaries, affiliates,
branches, divisions, partnerships, properties, groups, special service
entities, joint ventures, predecessors, successors, or any other entity in
which they have or had a controlling interest. Did we miss anything?
In terms of the character of the materials that the banks plan to hand
over, quote: Bank officials have piled reams of material to hand over.
Included in those dew points are multiple pages from each of Trump`s annual
federal tax returns.
Now, again, Deutsche Bank and Capital One are cooperating with the
committees on this. They have been working with the committees for months
on how to prepare these materials to be handed over to Congress. They
asked, please, may we have a subpoena. Congress said, yes, you may, here,
you go. The friendly subpoena says these documents have to be handed over
by Monday, this upcoming Monday, May 6th.
They`re all poised to go. It`s all ready. And then President Trump sued
the banks to stop them from replying to the subpoena.
Now, it`s interesting. The Democratic-controlled committees have decided
they`re basically going to go along with that lawsuit. They`re not
insisting that the subpoena stands and its deadlines stand. They`re not
insisting these banks still have to hand these materials over by Monday.
The Democratic-controlled committees have allowed for a delay until this
can be adjudicated in court.
The bank-related subpoena to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, that will have
its day in court on May 22nd. After the court rules on that subpoena and
whether or not the banks have to comply, the banks say they will comply
with the court`s order.
That is the same basic dynamic that happened with the other congressional
subpoena targeted at the president`s accounting firm, Mazars. That
subpoena went out from the oversight committee a few weeks earlier before
the bank ones. The deadline on that one from Mazars to hand over financial
materials related to President Trump and his businesses, their deadline for
handing stuff over was April 29th.
But again, Trump sued to stop Mazars from handing over material in response
to that subpoena. Again, the Democratic-controlled committees decided to
respect that lawsuit. They`ve agreed to delay the production date on that
subpoena, on that one involving the accounting firm, Mazars. They`ve got
themselves a court date on May 14th. And, again, the court will rule and
Mazars will comply with whatever the court order is.
Now, honestly, I have not talked to a single legal expert or even a single
well-informed reporter who believes that the Trump lawsuits to stop those
subpoenas are going to succeed in the long run. But they have succeeded in
the short run, right? They`ve already caused delay.
We would otherwise be expecting reams of Trump financial documents
including pages from each of his federal tax returns to be handed over to
Congress on Monday. That has temporarily been paused while they fight this
out in court, but that delay is only going to last so long. Nobody thinks
those lawsuits are going to succeed in the end. They`re going to succeed
in delaying it until they fail, but the delay, itself, is maybe what
And then Tuesday is the deadline for Don McGahn, the president`s former
White House counsel, who did dozens of hours of interviews with special
counsel Robert Mueller, Don McGahn is cited more than 150 times in
Mueller`s report, including as a key witness and a key character in many of
the most memorable descriptions of the president`s alleged obstruction of
justice. Immediately after the redacted Mueller report was made public,
the judiciary committee announced the first witness from the Mueller report
who they wanted to appear before them was Don McGahn.
They issued a subpoena to compel Don McGahn to hand over documents and for
him to testify in person. Well, the deadline for him to hand over
documents comes first, and that`s Tuesday next week. Now the White House
has insisted that they will fight the Don McGahn subpoena. They don`t want
him to testify. They insist they have the means to stop him from handing
over documents and from testifying. Nobody has seen those means in action
at this point.
Don McGahn and his attorney have not commented directly on their plans in
terms of responding to this subpoena. We asked Mr. McGahn`s lawyer tonight
if he intends to comply with the portion of that subpoena that requires
McGahn to hand over documents to Congress by Tuesday. So far, we have not
heard back. We`ll let you know if we do.
But you can see why we`re in this sort of unsettled moment, right? This
uncertain moment, where all these deadlines are coming up and the president
says he`s going to block all of this. Somehow. Right? Forget that black-
letter statute about handing over anybody`s tax returns.
The Ways and Means Committee just can`t see his taxes. We`ll tell you more
on Monday, right? Forget that subpoena.
Those companies can`t hand over those financial records either from
President Trump`s banks or from his accounting firm. Forget those
subpoenas. They`re just not going to – forget that other subpoena to the
White House counsel. He can`t hand over documents. He can`t testify.
In fact, the White House now asserts and the president now asserts nobody
can testify. Nobody can hand over documents. The president said this past
week, we are fighting all the subpoenas.
And that is a little nutty, right? That is a little crazy. But that is
also what it was like at this moment exactly 45 years ago, in May 1974.
NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss was tweeting about this today,
because he`s the kind of presidential historian who gives you a little
constructive giblet every single day that helps you understand the current
But you see the headline there from “The New York Times”, May 1974. Nixon
rejects subpoenas, tells Rodino he will get no more Watergate data. Rodino
in this case is Peter Rodino, who`s the chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee. He had the job then that Jerry Nadler has today, right? But
there`s Nixon saying that Rodino will get no more Watergate data.
Oh, how far, we haven`t come, right? And looking back on what Nixon was
trying to do back then, looking back now, with the advantage of hindsight,
we, of course, know that Nixon was doomed to fail in that hard-line stance.
But back in May 1974, Americans didn`t know how that was going to end up.
Congress didn`t know how that was going to end up. It was a time of
uncertainty and frustration and, honestly, some fear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. President Nixon today laid down one of
the strongest challenges any president has ever put to any Congress. He
told the impeachment investigators in the House of Representatives that he
will not comply with the judiciary committee`s latest subpoena for 11 White
House tapes and the president added he will decline to comply with any
future subpoenas. He told the committee he had given it all the Watergate
material it needs, as he has said before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Nixon used familiar White House arguments and
firm language in refusing to answer the Judiciary Committee`s subpoenas.
He wrote chairman Rodino, quote: The committee has the full story of
Watergate insofar as it relates to presidential knowledge and presidential
actions. Productions of these additional conversations would merely
prolong the inquiry without yielding significant evidence.
The Constitution does not spell out an easy solution to this kind of
confrontation. Congress could vote to cite the president for contempt, but
that would not produce the evidence and Mr. Nixon and his lawyer are
confident that a contempt of Congress citation would not be an impeachable
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That the judiciary committee where the challenge from
the White House was received today, there was strong reaction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No members of the judiciary committee appeared
surprised at the president`s refusal, but they were disturbed and unhappy
about it, Republicans and Democrats alike. Chairman Rodino pronounced it a
grave matter. Other members had this response.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he does hurt his cause before the committee by
his failure to comply with what I think is a reasonable request for
information which the committee ought to have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s very difficult to determine what their man of
action is over there. Certainly, it is to delay and obstruct and make our
job as difficult as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, there`s nothing new under the sun. I mean, the president now
is literally saying Congress shouldn`t be looking anymore, this all, it`s
done. He said he will not allow White House counsel Don McGahn to testify.
We know he`s now suing in court to stop the handing over of any documents
related to him and his campaign and his White House.
The presidents have tried this before. I mean, look again at that
headline. “Nixon tells judiciary chairman he will get no more Watergate
data. That was the unsettled place this country was in May 1974, 45 years
ago this month. And now, of course, we look back on that headline from May
of 1974, and we know how that worked out in the end. We know now that was
a nice try by Nixon, brave face forward and all that.
But no, I mean, by July of that year, Nixon was told he must surrender.
Nixon pledges full compliance. Look at the subhead there: President bows.
Look at the subhead under that look at the subhead under that one, too.
But his lawyer indicates there may yet be a delay in yielding the data.
They`re still trying to slow it down even when they had lost that
Yes, this feels like a very unsettled time. You are right to feel that
way, right? With what we`ve been through over the past couple weeks. I
mean, with what we went through just today with the other world president
who is the subject of Robert Mueller`s report sticking his hand up the back
of our president`s suit jacket and moving our president`s mouth. It`s OK
to feel unsettled by that.
I mean, with these deadlines bearing down on us, just in the next couple of
days, as the White House and the president and the president`s lawyers and
his attorney general all seem firmly set on the course of massive
confrontation, of blowing through the guardrails, of getting what they want
at any cost.
But they are not the only players on the field. And honestly, no matter
what anybody tells you and how it might sometimes feel, it`s not like we
are a country that hasn`t dealt with this sort of thing before. We`ve
dealt with exactly this kind of thing before. And we know how it worked
One of the leading Democratic presidential candidates today demanded that
the Justice Department`s inspector general open an inquiry into whether
President Trump has been telling his Justice Department to start criminal
investigations into his political enemies. It`s the scariest possible
allegation, right? But we faced allegations like that before, too. And
when people have fought back against that in history, the people fighting
back against it have won.
These fights, they`re not unprecedented, but these fights are now the
fights of our generation, too. And Senator Kamala Harris is going to join
us live here on set, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Attorney General Barr,
has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that
you open an investigation of anyone?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn`t – I wouldn`t –
HARRIS: Yes or no?
BARR: Could you repeat that question?
HARRIS: I will repeat it. Has the president or anyone at the White House
ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or
no, please, sir?
BARR: The president or anybody else –
HARRIS: Seems you`d remember something like that and be able to tell us.
BARR: Yes, but I`m trying to grapple with the word, “suggest.” I mean,
there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked
me to open an investigation, but –
HARRIS: Perhaps they`ve suggested?
BARR: I don`t know. I wouldn`t say suggest.
BARR: I don`t know.
You don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Attorney General William Barr never answered that question from
California Senator Kamala Harris.
But today, Senator Harris followed up in a letter to the inspector general
at the Department of Justice.
Dear Inspector General Horowitz, I write to express grave concern about the
independence of the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney
General William Barr. On May 1st, Attorney General Barr appeared before
the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the conclusion of Special Counsel
Robert Mueller`s investigation. In response to my questions during the
hearing, Attorney General Barr proved unable or unwilling to state whether
he`d been directed to open investigations at the request or suggestion of
the president or other White House officials – an alarming response that
strikes at the very heart of the rule of law and threatens to undermine the
longstanding independence of the Justice Department.
In light of the disturbing conduct documented in the special counsel`s
report as well as Attorney General Barr`s failure to demonstrate his own
independence from the president on such matters, I urge the Office of
Inspector General to investigate whether the A.G. has received or acted
upon requests, suggestions, whether implied or explicit, to investigate the
president`s perceived enemies.
Sincerely, Senator Kamala Harris.
Joining us now for “The Interview” is Senator Kamala Harris. She`s a
California senator. She`s a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
Senator Harris, thank you for being here.
HARRIS: Of course, of course. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good to see you.
So, that moment from the hearing has be seen as the sort of crystallization
about not only Attorney General Barr having trouble facing tough questions
MADDOW: – but also some of the sort of can of worms that has opened here.
The Mueller report was only in some very small and specific ways about the
prospect that the president is ordering criminal investigations of his
MADDOW: Was the attorney general`s response to you actually a surprise to
you? I wondered when you were asking that if you expected him to be able
to give you a clean no?
HARRIS: I hoped he would give a clean no, but I think that we also know
something about this attorney general which is he is smart enough to know
the words that he speaks and to speak them in a way that he can actually
read them on a transcript as he`s speaking them and he`s smart enough to
know that if he speaks certain words, he will perjure himself and face
criminal charges, himself. And so, I think he was buying time for himself
by asking that the question be repeated and he was parsing his language,
knowing that if he answered explicitly the question asked and with a yes or
a no, either he opened up a can of worms if the answer is yes, or if the
answer is no, he would have perjured himself. So, he didn`t answer.
MADDOW: Do you believe that it`s possible he has been getting direction
from the White House or from the president about opening investigations
into the president`s perceived enemies? Do you think that is what`s
HARRIS: Based on his non-response, I am now suspicious.
MADDOW: That`s –
HARRIS: Which is why I`ve asked the office of the inspector general to
actually investigate this because, of course, the attorney general is
supposed to act on behalf of the people and not act as the president`s
henchman. And if, in fact, there`s been any influence by the president
over the attorney general, we should know that and that`s something that
should be investigated and disclosed and discovered, obviously.
MADDOW: Is there any other way to get at that? I say that as a member of
the judiciary committee. Obviously, the judiciary committee has a lot of
high-profile roles, including interrogating witnesses the way that you did
so ably this week, but also you have oversight. Is that something the
committee should be investigating directly in addition to asking the I.G. -
HARRIS: I do believe that we should be. I don`t know that we will.
HARRIS: You know, the chairman of the committee has said even when we
requested Bob Mueller come to give us direct information about the – about
his investigation in the report, the chairman of the committee has rejected
So, I don`t know if it will actually happen. It should happen, Rachel. It
absolutely should happen.
I mean, part of the issue that is really at play is the integrity of our
system of justice, literally. This is the top law enforcement and top law
official of the United States Department of Justice, who through his
testimony and then all of the weeks leading up to him testifying before us,
has called into question his integrity, has called into question his
ability to be unbiased, to do the work of justice, to do the work of
pursuit of truth, pursuit of fact. This has now been called into question.
And, Rachel, the way I think about it also is every day in America, there
are people walking into courthouses around our country – state
courthouses, federal courthouses – and they`re going to walk into is those
courthouses skeptical of whether justice actually occurs in those places.
And that is real.
That is a real consequence when we see the kinds of behaviors we`ve been
seeing out of this administration, which is it is undermining people`s
confidence in our democracy and that is not an overstatement. Not to
mention what communicating to our friends and foes around the world.
One of the greatest strengths of who we are, it`s almost intangible, but it
is very real, one of our greatest strengths as a nation is that we have a
system of democracy. That we will fight for that. We will die for. And
one of the most significant pillars in that system is our justice system.
Now, we know it isn`t perfect and we know it is deeply flawed in many ways,
but when the highest official in the land presents himself to the world the
way we`ve just witnessed, I think it calls into question the integrity of
the system overall.
MADDOW: I want to play you one more little piece of sound from the
hearing. You guys, this is – in the control room, this is sound number 1.
This was – Senator Graham was actually asking – chairman of the
committee, Republican, was asking the attorney general some fairly low-key
questions and they ended up veering in a way that I certainly don`t think
Senator Graham expected. I certainly didn`t expect it watching it.
They veered pretty quickly into the attorney general explaining why he
thought it was legal and it was not obstruction of justice for the
president to fire – for any president – to fire any prosecutor
investigating him or her if the president didn`t think the investigation
was a good one. It was a short construct, but this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: If it was based on false allegations, the president does not have to
sit there, constitutionally, and allow it to run its course. The president
could terminate that proceeding and it would not be a corrupt intent
because he was being falsely accused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If the president believes that he or she is falsely accused, then
he or she is legally and constitutionally empowered to fire anybody who is
investigating that president.
That was right at the beginning o of the hearing, and I sort of felt like,
well, let`s all go home now.
What was your take on that – what happens after he asserted that?
HARRIS: Right. So, let`s also point out the flaw in his logic is that he
is then reinforcing the idea that justice is a subjective concept.
Depending on how you perceive the treatment that you receive, you can make
decisions about how the system works.
MADDOW: Everybody knows that people who know they are good people don`t
get arrested, right?
MADDOW: That`s clear, right? I know I`m a good person, therefore, I`m
immune to arrest.
HARRIS: Right. Therefore.
And so when we`re talking about people who are in a position to make
decisions about the lives, the liberty of other people, such as the
attorney general of the United States, the president of the United States,
we need to have integrity in that system and the suggestion by this
attorney general that the president of the United States could shut down an
investigation because he perceives it to be unfair is ridiculous. I mean,
there are legal terms, but it`s actually just ridiculous.
And it further – that statement further reinforces the point which is that
this attorney general does not think of himself as being an objective,
neutral player on this issue, but then we know because he actually
submitted a 19-page resume for the job. And then only two days after
receiving the Mueller report, which was a report based on two years of you
can believe around-the-clock investigation by top lawyers in the justice
system ever, in two days, he submits a summary clearly designed, his so-
called summary, to influence the public`s perception of the nature and the
findings of that investigation. He clearly waited a long period of time
before then sharing that report with the public.
Remember part of his testimony, he talked about the fact that, oh, you
know, barely 10 percent of the report has been redacted. Well, why did it
take you so darn long to redact the thing? You could summarize the thing
in two days and it takes you that long to redact it?
It – so the logic does not hold. And when he then makes a statement to
say that the president can shut down an investigation because he doesn`t
like the way it`s working, is absolutely ludicrous.
MADDOW: And the question, of course, is whether it`s controlling precedent
now that he`s articulated that as attorney general.
We`re going to take a quick break. We`ll be right back with Senator Kamala
Harris of California right after this. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of
California and leading 2020 presidential contender.
Senator, thank you again for being here.
HARRIS: It`s great to be with you.
MADDOW: One of the things that is now feels very much like an open
question is what Robert Mueller is going to be able to say for himself.
MADDOW: Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of your committee in the
Senate today, sent Robert Mueller a letter inviting him to testimony on a
very narrow ground, something that specifically came up in terms of
Attorney General Barr. We have had it reported at NBC News although not
confirmed by more than one source that the House Judiciary Committee is
negotiating directly with Robert Mueller to get his testimony. Attorney
general said that he doesn`t object.
Let`s say we do get testimony from him.
MADDOW: Attorney General Barr has been saying ever since the Mueller
report was submitted that Robert Mueller screwed up by deciding not to make
a charging decision about obstruction of justice when it came to the
president, that that was wrong, it was a failure of Mueller, he doesn`t
understand why he didn`t do it.
It seems to me like he is inviting Robert Mueller now to make his charging
decision, to proclaim, based on what he found, whether or not the president
should be charged with obstruction of justice. He`s holding him to account
for not having done that in his report.
Should Mueller be asked that charging question out loud in testimony before
HARRIS: I think if he testifies, he will be asked that question.
HARRIS: But I think there`s another issue that is also at play, which is
that the attorney general is underemphasizing, de-emphasizing, the
significance of the Office of Legal Counsel`s opinion that a sitting
president cannot be indicted.
HARRIS: And we cannot overlook that, and that`s what I would really be
interested to hear from Mueller, whether is that the reason you didn`t
return charges? And did you decide, instead – and he says explicitly it
is within Congress` ability – I don`t know that he says duty. I don`t
have the exact words in front of me. But it is within Congress`
jurisdiction to take this forward and to act.
HARRIS: And I think what he was signaling, I don`t know, but what I think
he was signaling is the office of legal counsel opinion on the ability to
indict a sitting president might have been in the way, but there`s enough
here that Congress can take the next step.
HARRIS: And carry the ball from here.
And I think that – you know, thank God for Jerry Nadler and what they`re
doing over in the house. I think they will take the ball and do the next
thing, in pursuit of justice.
MADDOW: And do you think they should open – I know you have allergies I`m
HARRIS: I do. It`s just like a piece of pollen right in my throat.
MADDOW: You know, I tried to evict that pollen before you got here. I`m
very sorry it made it past my incredible security.
But I was just going to say just to follow up there, you have said you
think the House Judiciary Committee should open impeachment proceedings.
HARRIS: I think they should begin the process. I do think they should
begin the process.
MADDOW: Let me ask you as you`re running for president right now, you`re
running a very active campaign. You`re one of the leading contenders. How
does this ongoing presidential scandal, including this testimony this week,
you got a lot of attention for the way you interacted with Attorney General
Barr this week. How does this overall scandal involving the president
factor into your campaign?
Obviously, you`re talking to people about all sorts of different issues.
You`re building your campaign around the issues you most care about. Do
you feel it`s a sort of parallel lane or parallel universe, or is it more
central to what you`re doing on a day-to-day basis?
HARRIS: It is central in this way, Rachel. What I talk about everywhere
is this is an inflection moment in the history of our country. It`s a
moment in time that is requiring us to look in the mirror and ask a
question, that question being, who are we as a nation? I think the answer
to that question includes that we are better than this.
So I think of this, all that we are talking about right now, what we`ve
been seeing in the course of last couple years, as in that context, which
is these are moments and these are issues that are being raised that really
do present a question about whether this is reflective of our values, is it
reflective of the ideals that were part of the foundation of our country?
Is it reflective of who we are and who we think of ourselves to be? And
so, I think of it in that context.
I also think of it in another context, which is there are a lot of people
who are rightly feeling a great sense of distrust in our government, its
institutions, and leaders, and when we see displays like what we have seen
just this week, it reinforces that distrust.
So the way I think of it then in the context of my campaign, and what I
hope to offer the American people, is to vow to work on restoring that
trust and restoring the importance of justice in our country and the
concept of justice and that means speaking truth, which is one of the
foundational elements of any relationship based on trust, we must speak
truth, and we must fight for the truth and we must fight for justice.
So, I look at this in that context as well because I do strongly and deeply
believe we are better than this. I think this is a low point. As someone
who has, you know, done the work of being an attorney general, I ran the
second largest Department of Justice in the United States, the California
Department of Justice, second only to the United States Department of
And the people who work in these offices are charged with an incredible and
awesome duty and responsibility which is to do their work on behalf of the
people. That`s not what we`ve seen.
MADDOW: I have one last question for you. We`re going to take a quick
break. I promise I will refill that water.
HARRIS: OK, yes.
MADDOW: Senator Kamala Harris who is braving tree pollen allergies to be
here. We`ll be right back after this. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Back with us again is Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of
California, leading Democratic candidate for president.
Thank you again, Senator.
HARRIS: Of course.
MADDOW: When I saw the president – when I learned from the Kremlin today
that President Trump had had more than an hour-long conversation with
Putin, he got off that call and said that Putin had told him that Russia is
not meddling in Venezuela, and so, he wanted to convey that to the American
people, it got me actually wondering about the Senate intelligence report.
Obviously, we got the Mueller report out.
But in the Intelligence Committee –
MADDOW: – we`re still awaiting your committee`s report, including on
potential difficulties in the relationship between Trump and Russia. Is
that full steam ahead? Should we have high expectations for that report?
HARRIS: Well, expect that the report will be published. And I cannot and
do not want to set your expectations what it will be.
HARRIS: But expect that it is something that is definitely a work in
MADDOW: Can you tell me if the Intelligence Committee is still
interviewing witnesses? Is it still a live inquiry? Or is it –
HARRIS: It is still a live inquiry.
MADDOW: Are you confident in the leadership of that committee? There was
an allegation in the Mueller report about Senator Burr seeming to – it was
implied that he shared information from a Gang of Eight briefing with the
White House on an investigation into the White House. Is that a problem on
your committee given his chairmanship?
HARRIS: I will say this. I serve on many committees – Homeland Security,
Intelligence, Budget, Judiciary. Of all of the committees on which I
serve, the Senate Intelligence Committee at least as of today has been
probably the most bipartisan, and frankly, at times nonpartisan thankfully.
I think that the issue of national security should not ever be a partisan
issue. And when we are talking about a foreign government, an adversary
who has interfered in the election of the president of the United States, I
hope and trust that we all understand this is not a partisan issue. This
is a national security issue. And we should approach it that way.
MADDOW: Senator Kamala Harris, I know you are even more busy than usual at
this moment, thank you so much for making time tonight.
HARRIS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: It`s really good to see you. Thank you.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right. Busy Friday, busy week, busy weekend ahead. Keep in
mind that Monday is not only the day that Michael Cohen reports to the
prison, it is the deadline set by the Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler for
the Justice Department to hand over the unredacted Mueller report, and 9:00
a.m. Monday is the deadline.
Today, Nadler said the committee will move to contempt proceedings if the
Justice Department doesn`t comply. Monday is also the treasury secretary`s
deadline for telling the Congress whether he`s going to give them
presidential tax returns or not.
There`s a lot going on right now. There`s a lot to worry about over the
weekend. But Monday and Tuesday will be a little bit nuts, as well. So,
stay on your toes.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Joy Reid filling in for Lawrence
Good evening, Joy.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the