AG has defended his conclusion on obstruction. TRANSCRIPT: 5/6/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
Where do you want to start today? I mean, the only like pleasure that I
take in a news day this packed is that we did see it coming, right? We
knew by Friday night that today and tomorrow and likely the rest of this
week were going to be pretty off the hook.
Even with that warning, though, it really still today felt like everything
was happening all at once all day long. I am here to tell you tonight that
tomorrow is going to be just the same. Actually think it might be helpful
to start with what it is that we are expecting for tomorrow.
So, let`s – we got a lot to get through. Let`s start there. This is Don
McGahn. He was White House counsel for the first two years of the Trump
One of the signal moments in the scandals and investigations that have
plagued this presidency from the start was the somewhat inexplicable
decision by President Trump to allow Don McGahn to give totally
unrestricted testimony to the investigators who were working for Robert
Mueller. “The New York Times” was first to report this last year.
Quote: Last fall – so meaning the fall of 2017 – Mr. Mueller`s office
asked to interview Don McGahn. To the surprise of the White House`s
counsel`s office, President Trump and his lawyers signaled that they had no
objection, without knowing the extent of what Mr. McGahn was going to tell
Mueller`s investigators. Mr. McGahn was stunned, as was his own attorney
William Burck, who McGahn had recently hired out of concern that he needed
help to stay out of legal jeopardy. Mr. Burck has explained to others that
he told White House advisers they didn`t appreciate the president`s legal
exposure. He says he also told them that it was, quote, insane that
President Trump did not fight a McGahn interview in court.
But for whatever reason, they didn`t fight it. They said, sure, Don, go
testify, whatever you want. We don`t even need to know what you`re going
to talk to them about. Don McGahn went on to testify to Robert Mueller and
Robert Mueller`s investigators for dozens of hours. He gave them untold
numbers of documents. His top deputies` notes became the libretto for the
whole drama of the Mueller report. McGahn himself was cited more than 150
times in the redacted version of the Mueller report that we`ve been able to
And now, most legal observers believe that there is no way that Trump could
try now to block Don McGahn from testifying to Congress, or even
conceivably testifying to a court about what he knows from his time in the
White House`s counsel`s office and what he saw working with President Trump
for nearly two years. Most legal observers say the president couldn`t try
to stop any further testimony from McGahn because the White House already
let him testify about all that stuff to Mueller. That means they
effectively conceded in that moment that what Don McGahn knew, what Don
McGahn had access to because of his White House job, that stuff is not
covered by any form of privilege. Had it been covered by privilege, he
wouldn`t have been able to talk to Robert Mueller about it. Since they let
him talk to Mueller, that means it`s not privileged.
That is how they screwed themselves over, by letting Don McGahn give
unrestricted testimony to Mueller`s investigators starting in the fall of
2017. Right. Think about that, right? He stayed on for another year plus
after that, the whole time in real-time concurrently giving testimony to
Mueller`s office about what was going on inside the Trump White House while
he was working as White House counsel? It`s crazy. It`s crazy that they
That said, Trump`s legal team told “The New York Times” that they had a
good explanation for why they screwed up so badly when it came to Don
McGahn. Their explanation to “The New York Times” was that, quote, Mueller
snookered Mr. Trump`s legal team.
They snookered us. Ye gads, tarnation!
Well, whether or not Mueller snookered President Trump and his lawyers in
the Trump White House into letting that happen, what started with that
snookering is now going to lead to tomorrow morning`s news. This is what
we`re going to be waiting on first thing tomorrow morning. You might
remember right after the redacted version of the Mueller report was
published with Don McGahn cited more than 150 times, with Don McGahn having
a key role as a key witness and a key player in the most pungent incident
of obstruction of justice on the part of the president that were laid out
in the report, right after the report came out, the Judiciary Committee in
the House issued this subpoena to Don McGahn.
And, you know, subpoenas are stark things, right? Subpoena by the
authority of the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United
States of America to Donald F. McGahn II. You are hereby commanded to be
and appear before the Committee of the Judiciary of the House – Committee
on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives of the United States at
the place, date and time specified below. They say the testimony will take
place in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on May 21st,
2019. Time of testimony: 10:00 a.m.
Now, since that subpoena was issued to Don McGahn to come testify about
what he told Mueller`s investigators and what he saw of the president`s
behavior that was described in such detail in Mueller`s report, since that
subpoena was made public right after Mueller`s report came out, the White
House has been full of bluster about it, right? The president himself
saying in an interview on Fox News that he would not let Don McGahn
testify. He would not let McGahn respond to that subpoena for his
Now, it is not up to the president whether or not some third party is
allowed to testify in response to a congressional subpoena. But the Trump
White House is making clear that they`re absolutely going to try to block
McGahn from testifying, subpoena or no.
But you know, that testimony, that subpoena for his testimony is – what`s
the date of it? May 21st, 10:00 a.m. in the morning. Even before we get
to that date, even before we get to the question of whether Don McGahn is
going to testify, you should look at the other part of the subpoena too,
because it`s not just for his testimony. This is the other part of the
subpoena to Donald F. McGahn II, you are hereby commanded not just to
testify but also, quote, to produce the things identified on the attached
schedule touching matters of inquiry to said committee.
Produce the things identified on the attached schedule. What`s on the
attached schedule? What are these things? Settle in. It`s a doozy.
Quote: In accordance with the attached definitions and instructions, you
are hereby required to produce all documents and communications in your
possession, custody or control referring or relating to, number one,
statements by Michael Flynn to the FBI regarding contacts with Russian
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Number two, the FBI and Justice Department`s
investigation of Michael Flynn. Number three, meeting with Justice
Department officials or employees relating to Flynn and underlying evidence
related to Flynn.
Number four, the resignation or termination of Michael Flynn. Number five,
Sean Spicer`s February 14th, 2017 public statements about Flynn`s
resignation. Number six, President Trump`s contacts with James Comey on
January 27th, February 14th, March 30th and April 11th, all in 2017.
I mean, I could read them all, but there are 36 of these different points.
Don McGahn is being told to hand over just for example any documents or
communications he has about Jeff Sessions being recused from the Russia
investigation and from any other matters arising from the presidential
campaign in 2016. Don McGahn is being directed to hand over any documents
and communications he has about any efforts to reverse or attempt to
reverse Jeff Sessions` recusal from such matters. Don McGahn is told to
hand over any documents and communications he has about the contemplated
termination of special counsel Robert Mueller. That`s point 13 of 36.
Point 28, he`s told to hand over any documents and communications he`s got
on the subject of prosecuting or investigating James Comey or Democratic
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He`s hold to hand over information
– point number 29 – about presidential pardons, whether possible or
actual for Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Roger
Stone, individuals associated with the Trump campaign or individuals
involved in matters before the U.S. attorney`s office for the southern
district of New York.
Speaking of SDNY, point 31, Don McGahn is also told to hand over
information he`s got reflecting any White House communications or
discussions or documents about investigations at SDNY. Hmm. And
specifically, the recusal of U.S. Attorney Jeff Berman from SDNY, from SDNY
And look at this last part. This is quite provocative. He`s told to hand
over any documents or communications he`s got about the reassignment or
potential reassignment of SDNY employees from SDNY investigations. Oh.
The White House trying to move specific prosecutors out of specific cases
at SDNY and Don McGahn is supposed to know about it?
So, again, there are three dozen discreet categories of information that
Don McGahn is supposed to produce documents about, everything from
sanctions on Russia to Paul Manafort`s cooperation with Mueller`s
prosecutors in the prosecution – that plea deal that blew up when he
started lying to them, the handling of Mike Flynn, including the warnings
they got from the Justice Department about Flynn being compromised by the
Russian government, hush money payments paid to women before the election,
right? Thirty-six different things.
And, you know, we have heard a whole bunch of noise from the president and
the White House about blocking Don McGahn from testifying in Congress. But
the other part of this subpoena to Don McGahn is this humongous 36-part
demand for documents from Don McGahn. And the deadline on that one is
tomorrow morning, Tuesday, May 7th, 10:00 a.m.
And, again, the White House is probably up a creek without a paddle here if
they are going to try to assert some claim of privilege to try to stop Don
McGahn from handing over these documents. Don McGahn already discussed
these matters and presumably handed over all these materials to Mueller`s
investigators. If it wasn`t privileged in that instance, it`s not
privileged for anybody else.
We also know from Mueller`s report that Don McGahn is a note-taker. We
know that in part because the president didn`t like that Don McGahn took so
many notes. Well, he`s the White House counsel. He took notes. We know
from Mueller`s report Don McGahn is a person who tended, as lawyers do,
tended to memorialize important and controversial events in ways that could
later be corroborated with other witness accounts and shown to
So as of right now, as of tonight, we believe that Don McGahn is compelled
to comply with the subpoena. Not just in terms of his testimony later on
this month, but in terms of these documents that are supposed to be handed
over by him to Congress by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. And if he does
comply with this subpoena, with this documents part of the subpoena, then
the Judiciary Committee in the House is about to have a very, very big
morning, probably with all of that a very busy rest of the year.
But that`s just looking ahead to tomorrow. I mean, this, already today,
has been a remarkable day. Nancy Pelosi did an interview with “The New
York Times” this weekend in which she expressed publicly I think for the
first time that she had been worried in the run-up to the midterm
elections, in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, she had been
worried if the Democrats won control of the House but only narrowly, she
believed Trump would try to block the transfer of power from Paul Ryan to
her. She believed Trump would try to block the transfer of power in
Congress from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.
This is from “The New York Times” this weekend. Quote: Few people outside
Pelosi`s inner circle were aware of how worried she was that Trump would
try to stop the opposition party from taking control of the House unless
the Democrats` victory was emphatic enough to be indisputable. Pelosi said
she recalled thinking of the run-up to the election, quote, if we win by
four seats by a thousand votes each, he is not going respect the election.
Quote: He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the
races. He would say you cannot seat these people.
Pelosi said, quote, we had to win. Quote, as we go forward, we have to
have the same approach.
Quote: In recent weeks, Pelosi has told associates that she does not
automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election
short of an overwhelming defeat. Pelosi going on to tell “The New York
Times” that the Democratic Party`s plan for 2020 has to be to beat Trump by
such an overwhelming margin in the presidential race in 2020 that, quote,
he cannot challenge the legitimacy of the Democrats` victory.
Pelosi telling “The Times”, quote, we have to inoculate against that. We
have to be prepared for that.
And for somebody as pragmatic and non-hyperbolic as Nancy Pelosi is, it is
sobering to hear her articulate that. They hear her laid it out, right,
that not only does she worry about that for 2020, but she was worried than
for 2018 as well. And she believes the only reason they escaped that fate
in 2018 was their victory was so overwhelming. The most number of seats
picked up, right, since the post-Watergate era.
What she warned about, though, in that interview with “The Times” this
weekend, if it does sound familiar from recent events, it`s because you`re
remembering the closing statement that Trump`s long-time attorney Michael
Cohen gave to Congress on that day in late February when he testified all
day long about his long history with Trump. Now, that testimony from Cohen
itself has given rise to multiple criminal congressional and civil
investigations, right? But in a somewhat unusual closing statement for his
testimony that day, you might remember Michael Cohen whacked this
particular tuning fork in a way that still resonates all this time later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: My loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me
everything – my family`s happiness, friendships, my law license, my
company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation, and soon my freedom. And
I will not sit back, say nothing, and allow him to do the same to the
country. Indeed, given my experience working with Mr. Trump, I fear that
if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful
transition of power. And that is why I agreed to appear before you today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Michael Cohen testifying before Congress two and a half months
ago. Today, Michael Cohen reported to federal prison to start serving
three years behind bars, and right on cue, just as Mr. Cohen was getting
ready to head upstate to start his sentence, President Trump started
tweeting about how by rights, another two years ought to be added to his
first term in office since his first two years were stolen from him by the
terrible Mueller investigation in this horrible witch hunt. It means he
ought to have an extended term in office, ought to get another two years
just added on. His first two years were taken from him unfairly.
Michael Cohen is going to jail, starting his prison sentence today for a
whole bunch of felonies, including at least three felony counts for which
he really derived no benefit himself. At least three of the felonies that
Michael Cohen is going to prison for as of today were things that he did
solely to benefit President Trump and not himself. And in the case of all
three of those felonies, either Cohen himself or the prosecutors involved
in this case contend that president Trump was actually involved in
committing those crimes too.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York told the federal judge in
Cohen`s case that President Trump directed Cohen to commit two campaign
finance felonies involving illegal payments to two women ahead of the
presidential election. Cohen is going to prison for those. Trump is
individual 1 who prosecutors told a judge directed the commission of those
Cohen himself says he was encouraged by Trump to lie to Congress about the
extent of the Trump Tower Moscow deal. We still don`t know why President
Trump lied repeatedly for months, ultimately for years about this huge real
estate deal he was trying to pull off with the help of the Russian
government during the time he was running for president. But one of the
things Michael Cohen went to prison for today is lying to Congress in order
to keep secret the extent and the timing and the seriousness of those
Russian negotiations and specifically the extent to which they involved the
It is – I mean, it is remarkable that President Trump has still never had
to explain why he lied to the public so many times, so blatantly for so
long about the Trump Tower Moscow project. But now somebody else is
starting his prison time for helping maintain that lie. And it comes on a
day when there is a hot new spotlight on the prospect of the president ever
being charged for his involvement in these crimes or the prospect of him
being charged for any of the criminal behavior that is described in
Today, the list is now up to more than 500 former prosecutors and former
Justice Department officials who have signed on to a blistering letter that
says – I mean, I`m not a lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt. But
basically, as far as I can tell, this says that Trump`s newly appointed
Attorney General William Barr was definitely smoking something when he said
that the evidence laid out in the Mueller report was insufficient to bring
criminal charges against the president for obstruction of justice, even if
you didn`t take into account this Justice Department policy that says don`t
indict a sitting president.
When he says it doesn`t matter that we have that policy, no prosecutor
would have brought charges based on this evidence anyway, these 500-plus
former prosecutors and Justice Department officials say no. They all
signed on to this statement today saying the conduct described in Mueller`s
report, the evidence described in Mueller`s report absolutely could add up
to criminal charges in federal court for anybody who wasn`t serving as
president of the United States. And they say it`s not a close question.
Quote: We are former federal prosecutors. We served under both Republican
and Democratic administrations at different levels of the federal system,
as line attorneys, supervisors, special prosecutors and senior officials at
the Department of Justice. Each of us believes that the conduct of
President Trump described in the special counsel Robert Mueller`s report
would result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice in the
case of any other person not covered by the Justice Department policy
against indicting a sitting president.
We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment. Of
course, there are potential defenses or arguments that could be raised in
response to an indictment. In our system, every accused person is presumed
innocent, and it is always the government`s burden to prove its case beyond
a reasonable doubt.
But to look at these facts and say a prosecutor could not probably sustain
a conviction for obstruction of justice which is the standard set thought
the principles of federal prosecution, that runs counter to logic and our
experience. We believe strongly that but for the OLC memo that prohibits
the indictment of a president, the overwhelming weight of professional
judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined
in Mueller`s report.
Again, more than 500 former prosecutors and former Justice Department
officials are signed on to that as of right now. Which puts this sort of
new anvil worth of pressure on to Attorney General William Barr as he tries
to maintain this increasingly insupportable mediating role which Mueller
says he is not carrying out honestly, this mediating role between the
Mueller investigation, between Mueller`s findings and what anybody is
allowed to know about it. Barr is trying to keep up that.
But when you get 500 former Justice Department officials saying that you
are blowing it, that you are trying to pull the wool over people`s eyes and
their Justice Department officials and they`re calling bullpucky on what
you`re trying to explain to the American people, that might not matter to
you or me, but for somebody who`s doing his second stint as attorney
general, who`s high points in his career are all based on his time serving
in the Justice Department, to have the justice department turn on you
roundly and say no, you are trying to get away with something that you
should not be able to get away with here. That`s designed to pressure
Attorney General William Barr in a way that should matter to him.
And so, you know, all this stuff is happening fast now. The Congress does
not want to see just Bill Barr`s redacted version of the Mueller report.
They want to see the full report, including, you know, all the stuff
pertaining to ongoing investigations, all the grand jury material,
They say they have the capability and the facilities and the track record
to handle sensitive information. They want to see the whole thing. They
want to see the underlying evidence as well.
When Ken Starr finished his report about Bill Clinton, he brought the
report to Congress, and 18 boxes of underlying evidence to go with each
copy of the report. Congress now wants the same thing when it comes to the
Mueller report. We want the report unredacted. We want the underlying
evidence too. They have asked for that.
The Justice Department said no. Judiciary Committee in the House then
subpoenaed that information. The Justice Department blew through the
subpoena deadline this morning.
Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee responded by scheduling a
vote for the day after tomorrow 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning to hold
Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to
comply with that subpoena to hand over the unredacted report and the
underlying evidence. The Justice Department today responded with a
somewhat mealy mouthed letter expressing disappointment in that scheduled
vote for Wednesday morning and offering instead that everybody could get
together and meet at their place on Wednesday afternoon for a little chat
and chew this over. Let`s just talk it out.
Jerry Nadler tonight announced that that will not be happening. Instead,
his staff will meet with the Justice Department tomorrow, tomorrow,
Tuesday. That means the contempt vote is still on for Wednesday morning,
depending on how things go with that little chat and chew tomorrow.
Meanwhile, as far as we know, when it comes to grand jury material being
redacted from Mueller`s report, as far as we know, there still has to be a
court order in order to release any of that information to Congress. We
believe that the Judiciary Committee in the House will soon ask a federal
court to allow for the release of that grand jury material to congress.
Although to be honest, in order to understand whether and when that next
step might happen, frankly, we need to figure out why they haven`t done
that already. Why they haven`t already petitioned the court and started
that those proceedings. We`re going to try and get at that later on this
We`re also seeing now a seemingly sort of panicky at least inelegant flip-
flop from the White House and the president in the past day or so as to
whether or not there is an objection to Robert Mueller himself testifying
to Congress about the findings of his investigation. As recently as
Friday, the president expressed no opposition to Mueller testifying about
his own investigation, his own findings. The attorney general has
repeatedly said, including under oath, that he would be fine with Mueller
testifying as well.
But Democratic Congressman David Cicilline went on Fox News on Sunday
morning and announced that, in fact, there was a target date for Mueller`s
testimony and it`s next week. It`s next Wednesday, the 15th.
That apparently sparked the president`s newest freak-out on this subject
and his reversal as to whether or not Mueller testifying would be OK, and
now it has led to what has been a day-long scramble for the president and
his allies to explain how exactly the White House thinks they could block
Mueller from testifying if in fact they`re going to try to block him.
So like I said, everything is happening all at once all day long. And we
know that it`s going to continue at least through tomorrow morning. My
expectation it will probably be that way all through the rest of this week.
Congressman David Cicilline joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ED CASE (D-HI): Are you intending to go to court to ask for guidance
and/or direction and/or an order where you are uncertain whether you can in
fact release or should in fact release materials?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I mean, the chairman of the Judiciary
Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions
CASE: The right is yours to ask for these exceptions.
BARR: Well, why do you say the right is mine?
CASE: Because you are the exercising authority under 6-E.
BARR: Yes, but I think if the chairman believes he is entitled to receive
it, he can move the court for it.
CASE: Well, I`ll come back to this. It`s your right to ask. So, I`m
asking, what is your intention?
BARR: My intention is not to ask for it at this stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: My intention is not to ask for it. Why would I ask for it?
6-E material, not to be confused with sexy material. 6-E material is stuff
that was obtained by a grand jury. Categorically under U.S. law, grand
jury material is kept secret, unless a court orders that it can be shown to
someone else, like in this case a congressional committee, say.
Now at this point in time, nobody has asked a federal court to issue such
an order to release the redacted grand jury material that`s in the Mueller
report so that members of Congress can see it, so the Judiciary Committee
can see it. Why is that? Why has nobody asked that yet? There has been
lots of requests to William Barr that he join in a request to a court to
release this grand jury material. He keeps just saying no.
So why are they still waiting? I think he is just going to keep saying no.
Why doesn`t the judiciary committee just go to a court and ask for it
themselves? I don`t know.
Tonight, the Justice Department released a new version of the Mueller
report, though. As part of its response to a lawsuit by “BuzzFeed News”,
“BuzzFeed” says the Mueller report is covered by the Freedom of Information
Act, and under that law they say it should be released to the public in the
unredacted form. Well, the version of the report released by the Justice
Department as part of this lawsuit tonight, it still has all the same stuff
redacted compared to the original version of the report that was put out by
the justice department, but the redactions are labeled differently.
They`re coded differently to accord with the FOIA statute.
What that means is we now get more specific information about why certain
things are blacked out. So instead of just being told that something has
to be blacked out because it would cause harm to an ongoing matter, that`s
what it said in the original report, now we get told what specific stuff is
being held back because it would disclose techniques and procedures for law
enforcement investigations and certain other things are redacted we now
know because they would otherwise deprive a person of a right to a fair
trial or an impartial adjudication.
So, do we get access to any new stuff from Robert Mueller in the new
version of the Mueller report with the redactions labeled differently? Not
directly, no. We do get better explanations of why we can`t see certain
stuff. That`s blacked out in the report.
If you`re Congress, though, if you`re on the Judiciary Committee, getting a
better and more specific explanation for the redactions is nowhere near
good enough. What the judiciary committee wants is the whole thing. They
just want to see the report, full stop, and the evidence that underlies it.
The Attorney General William Barr today defied a subpoena to hand that
report and the underlying evidence over to the Judiciary Committee. We are
told tonight that staff from the Judiciary Committee will meet with the
Justice Department tomorrow to try to work something out. But then
Wednesday morning they have a plan to hold a vote in Congress, to hold
William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying the subpoena to hand over
the full report.
And I think bottom line what this means is that we are likely going to end
up in court on this fight at some point. My question tonight is, why
aren`t we already there?
Joining us now is Congressman David Cicilline. He is a Democrat of Rhode
Island, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Sir, thank you so much for being here tonight. I really appreciate your
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): My pleasure. God to be with you.
MADDOW: So, I know this is a story that is still developing over the
course of today and into this evening. Let me just ask what your latest
understanding is of where we are with the subpoena, a potential vote to
hold the attorney general in contempt on Wednesday morning.
CICILLINE: Well, you described it accurately, Rachel. The Department of
Justice officials are going to meet with the staff of the Judiciary
Committee tomorrow in one final effort to reach some sort of resolution of
this disagreement. But the contempt citation has been set for Wednesday.
The committee if an agreement is not reached tomorrow will move forward to
judge the attorney general in contempt for his failure to comply with a
lawfully issued subpoena.
MADDOW: What would be the material impact of him being held in contempt?
Obviously, it`s something that is only rarely ever happened. The
Republicans did that against Eric Holder in the Fast and Furious
controversy back in 2012.
What – how would it materially affect Bill Barr`s life to be held in
contempt if that`s how the vote goes?
CICILLINE : Well, if the vote is approved in the Judiciary Committee, it
would go to the House floor and it would authorize a finding of contempt
and authorize an action, a court action to enforce the subpoena. So it
would then take the matter into the court where we would seek enforcement
of the subpoena.
MADDOW: Speaking of court, your committee keeps asking William Barr if he
will help you out in asking a federal judge for an order that would allow
the release of the grand jury information from Mueller`s report that`s
currently redacted. Obviously, we all know that a judge has to issue a
court order for that material to be released. You have to ask in order for
the judge to do that. He keeps saying no, as he has been repeatedly asked
My question, and I`m not a lawyer and I`m not a member of Congress, so,
forgive me is f this is a dumb question – why aren`t you guys just going
to court yourselves? I don`t think he is ever going to help you with that
no matter how many times you ask him.
CICILLINE: No, it`s not a dumb question. Look, I think there has been a
hope throughout these negotiations that the attorney general would reach
some accommodation and furnish the committee with the unredacted report and
work with us to seek authorization for the release of the grand jury
As you mentioned earlier in the show, you know, in the Starr investigation,
when the report was done, the entire report was delivered to Congress with
18 boxes of documents, including the grand jury proceedings because Ken
Starr went to court to seek authorization to release them to Congress
before Congress even asked for it. That`s the practice we should be
You know, I think the chairman of the committee continues to hope that
there will be a resolution in which case Mr. Barr will do it with Congress.
The truth is courts look much more favorably on requests for the release of
grand jury testimony when it comes from the government, from the attorney
general. So, it would enhance our chances of success.
But I think the committee is fully prepared in the absence of Mr. Barr
doing this on his own or with us, to do it on our own. But I think we can
try to reach an accommodation to get the materials we need as quickly as we
can to continue to do our oversight work.
MADDOW: Congressman, can I also ask in terms of the documents and
materials and testimony that you`re not only seeking, but in the case of
Don McGahn, you`ve issued a subpoena for. Don McGahn was subpoenaed to
testify later this month. He is also directed by that subpoena to hand
over a whole bunch of documentation by tomorrow morning.
Do you expect that he`ll meet that deadline?
CICILLINE: Yes. The document requests are returnable tomorrow. He`s
expected to testify on May 21st. Those are a lawfully issued subpoena. We
expect Mr. McGahn to comply with that subpoena and produce the documents
tomorrow and appear before the committee to testify on the 21st.
MADDOW: You said this weekend that Robert Mueller himself – there is a
target date for his testimony which would be next Wednesday, the 15th. Any
update for us on those negotiations or what the sticking point might be in
terms of nailing that down?
CICILLINE: No. I mean, the chairman of the committee, Chairman Nadler,
set the 15th of May to make the committees available for Mr. Mueller`s
testimony. I know there are ongoing discussions. It`s critical in my view
that Mr. Mueller come before the committee and walk the American people
through the finding in his report, answer questions about the judgments he
made, the decisions he`s made, the context of those things.
And, of course, the president said – at first he said that`s up to Mr.
Barr whether the special counsel will be permitted to testify. Mr. Barr
has said he had no objection to it. He said that under oath.
Now, of course, as this conversation continues, the president has now
changed his mind and says he doesn`t think Mr. Mueller should testify,
which is sort of curious, because if in fact this report completely
exonerated the president, not only would be the president want him to
testify, you think the president might offer him a ride to the committee so
he could be quickly heard and exonerate him. I think it`s further evidence
that the president is gravely concerned about the testimony of the special
counsel and what he will tell the American people as he walks them through
the findings in the Mueller report.
MADDOW: Congressman David Cicilline, Democrat in House Judiciary Committee
– sir, thank you for your time tonight. I know this is going to move fast
this week. Keep us apprised.
CICILLINE: I absolutely will.
All right. Much more to come. Trust me, a lot more to come. Stay with
MADDOW: When you go to prison, however you get there, really, you go in
alone. This morning, Michael Cohen, the president`s personal lawyer, got
out of the passenger seat of a black SUV. He turned his back on the car
and he walked into federal prison. He will serve three years for, among
other things, carrying out a felony campaign finance hush money scheme
during the 2016 presidential campaign designed to silence two women what
say they had an affair with Donald Trump.
And, so, yes, maybe somebody walks you to the prison door, but don`t expect
them to share the umbrella. You`re on your own.
Michael Cohen carried out the felonies that finally landed him in prison
today. He did have some company in court filings. Prosecutors say Cohen
was personally directed to commit those felonies by Individual-1, a person
who has a side job working for the federal government.
Michael Cohen also pled guilty to lying to Congress about Individual-1`s
pursuit of a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen says he was
encouraged by the president to lie about that pursuit continuing deep boo
the campaign. The president himself repeatedly denied he had any business
dealings in Russia at any point during the campaign. Now, as of today,
Michael Cohen is in prison for having repeated that same lie to Congress,
he says at the urging of the president.
If you think about that, that benefits Michael Cohen in no way at all. It
benefits only Individual-1, but Cohen is the one doing time.
Since Cohen plead guilty, he has done everything he could think of to try
to get a break on the time he is about to serve. He offered up what he
says is incriminating information about the president and the president`s
businesses. Both the federal prosecutors and congressional committees,
Cohen has given explosive public testimony in the House and lots of closed
door testimony as well. He`s turned over multiple rounds of documents,
including financial documents he says point to wrongdoing by the president
and his businesses.
Congress is actively chasing down those leads, issuing subpoenas for the
president`s banking and accounting records. The New York attorney general
is also actively following those leads. And yet, the break that Michael
Cohen had been hoping for for himself hasn`t materialized. Day one of his
three-year sentence began today. He left home saying he looks forward to
revealing yet more, to saying yet more of what he knows.
Does any of this add up to a break for Michael Cohen? What would it mean
for the investigation if it did? We will talk with somebody who spent some
of the last time that Michael Cohen spent as a free man this weekend with
him, coming up next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Emily Jane Fox, national correspondent for
“Vanity Fair”. She spoke with Michael Cohen right before he went to
prison. She has new reporting tonight about his last few days of freedom,
including this, quote, Michael Cohen spent many of his last remaining hours
of freedom weeding through documents related to his case and talking with
members of the House Judiciary Committee.
Well, I mean, romantically, we would all want to do that immediately before
going to prison for years.
EMILY JANE FOX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: Sure.
MADDOW: Emily, thank you so much for being here. Much appreciated.
FOX: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: What was he talking to the judiciary committee about in the last
moments of freedom that he had?
FOX: So, it was not exactly the last moments of freedom. Today he was
spending the morning with his family. Yesterday, there was sort of a
revolving door of people who were close to him coming and saying goodbye.
But he has spent a significant amount of time in the last months and weeks
since he appeared publicly in Congress and behind closed doors on Capitol
Hill continuing to talk to investigators from various committees. He had
gotten back sort of this treasure trove from a hard drive that his former
attorney had taken, I guess, after the raid on his apartment, hotel room,
and office. And federal prosecutors had given them back 20 boxes of
documents that he hadn`t received.
So before he went to Congress, he had those nine boxes in storage, and
that`s where he found something that reminded him he had the checks that
the president has signed in office to reimburse him for the Stormy Daniels
payment. So, he got 20 more boxes back.
MADDOW: After his testimony, another 20 boxes?
FOX: Another 20 boxes. So he`d been weeding through those and then this
hard drive that had something like 14 million files on it. The majority of
the files I do not believe were relevant. I don`t know if he got through
all of the files on the hard drive. He certainly went through all 20
MADDOW: And that`s – to be clear, that`s all stuff federal prosecutors
had access to because they took it during the raid.
FOX: Correct, correct. But they also had access to the nine boxes that
had evidence of the checks. So, these are things that prosecutors were
aware of. But if someone doesn`t have a road map and someone to point them
through the road map like Cohen, they may not know what is significant.
That is what Cohen was arguing.
I have all of these new files, and I can guide you through all of them and
tell you what is relevant, what may be damaging to the president, what may
be relevant to your investigations. And that is why you need me to stick
Now, he had asked congressional investigators for a letter of support
saying we need this guy to stick around. He had asked the Southern
District for that kind of support as well, and no one rose their hand and
said we want you to stay.
MADDOW: It`s amazing. Obviously, prosecutors in any U.S. attorney`s
office never explain their thinking on these sort of things, right? But
they obviously were very dissatisfied with Michael Cohen compared to how
the special counsel`s office felt about him, right?
We saw in his sentencing document. The special counsel`s office saying he
was great, helped us with a ton of stuff. In SDNY, they were excoriating
and really went after him hard and said he should have the book thrown at
him, which the judge promptly did.
When Cohen went back to SDNY, did he have reason to believe they would be
more interested in him? Does he know why they decided they didn`t want to
take material from him?
FOX: It is a great mystery to him and I think to a lot of people why they
didn`t take great interest in him. He was showing them things that he
believed to be relevant to various investigations from this new treasure
trove of documents they had, and they kind of brushed him aside.
They didn`t even want to meet with him. They met with his attorneys. The
attorneys showed sample documents and didn`t want to meet with him.
Now, it possible they just squeezed all of the juice out of the lemon, that
they had been surveilling Cohen long before they went into the apartment
and took millions of documents from him and then they had those millions of
documents. So, it`s possible they just didn`t need him. It`s also
possible that Cohen pled guilty to one count of lying to Congress so he
wasn`t the most trustworthy witness in their opinion.
MADDOW: And they felt they therefore couldn`t use him in any criminal
MADDOW: I have one more thing I need to ask you about.
Emily Jane Fox is our guest. She`s national correspondent for “Vanity
Fair”. She spent some time with Michael Cohen as he headed to federal
prison today. We`ll be back with Emily Jane right after this.
MADDOW: Back with us is Emily Jane Fox, national correspondent for “Vanity
Fair”. She spoke with Michael Cohen right before he reported to federal
Emily, I just want to ask you about the fact that Michael Cohen is going to
prison for three years. When three of the felonies that he`s pled to that
have resulted in this sentence today are things in which he plainly took no
benefit, they were things that he did for the benefit of Donald Trump
alone, one of them lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal and
how much it involved the Kremlin and how long it went for.
He says he was encouraged to tell those lies by President Trump. The other
two campaign finance felonies, they say President Trump personally directed
him to commit the felonies.
Cohen is one of the only people getting substantial prison time. Do you –
have you talked to him about that aspect of this and whether or not that
the driving his continued efforts to cooperate, to provide information?
How that`s driving now?
FOX: I think what you just articulated is what Cohen has been articulating
in private for – since he`s been charged with these things.
FOX: These are things he got no benefit from. These were things – lying
to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow, I can`t see a single benefit for him
personally, he didn`t get rich from it. He didn`t get notoriety from it.
He just got prison time for it.
And so, these are things that in no way materially benefitted him and to
watch President Trump today in the Rose Garden entertaining Tiger Woods as
Cohen went off to prison is something that I don`t think was lost on him,
wasn`t lost on his family. I think the only person in Trump`s orbit who
has been charged and sentenced to more time is Paul Manafort and basically
just barely. Everyone else was given immunity or credit for their
Now, Cohen spent 70 hours with the special counsel`s office. He met with
them eight times. He spent time in Southern District of New York with the
New York attorney general. He spent 30 hours on Capitol Hill testifying
publicly, privately. He continued to do that after.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York were not willing to be
lenient based off his cooperation. Now, I don`t know if they didn`t feel
it was substantial or if there is another reason that is still unknown but
they weren`t willing to give him credit.
MADDOW: Very briefly, last question. You described the nine boxes of
documents you got before congressional testimony that was blockbuster
stuff. Twenty more boxes of documents and a hard drive with this on it.
What`s happening to that all stuff while he`s in jail?
FOX: Well, I know that the boxes were in his storage unit in his Trump
apartment building, that happened to be apartment building where Jared and
Ivanka keep an apartment here, too, because this is the world we live in.
MADDOW: That stuff is still on storage right now?
FOX: I don`t know. I don`t have eyes on it. I can`t say for sure. But I
know that that`s where it was before today.
MADDOW: Emily Jane Fox, national correspondent for “Vanity Fair”, to the
extent that what`s on those boxes is of relevance to congressional
investigations, I am hoping they are not in that storage unit in a Trump
building right now.
Emily Jane, thank you so much. It`s been quite a saga.
FOX: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I am five seconds late. That does it for me. We`ll see you again
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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