White House tells McGahn to not cooperate. TRANSCRIPT: 5/8/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
ARAM ROSTON, JOURNALIST, REUTERS: We didn`t put any of that other material
in this story.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You just happened to report on them both. OK.
ROSTON: I did.
HAYES: Aram Roston, thank you so much for that reporting.
ROSTON: Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts now.
Good evening, Rachel. I don`t know – I literally do not know what to make
of that set of facts.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Can I just tell you as a viewer what that was?
MADDOW: Given my understanding of the story, that was looking at a
crossword grid and looking at all the clues in the crossword for what the
words are that you`re supposed to put in the crossword grid and then doing
it as a Sudoku. You know, I`m going to use this grid for a different
I mean, that story is so freakin` astounding, and the holes in the middle
of it are like screaming at us.
HAYES: Right, yes. I agree with all of that. All right.
MADDOW: It`s astonishing. Well done, my friend. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We have lots and lots
and lots to get to tonight. We`re just going jump right in.
I have to tell you, we are about to have a live interview with the chairman
of the house judiciary committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, who
is the man of the hour right now. Today, Chairman Nadler and his committee
voted to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt.
And while those kinds of confrontations between the legislative branch and
the executive branch are fairly rare in our system and they are fascinating
and there is all sorts of obscure and amazing case law and precedent that
comes into play for these types of fights, and honestly, learning the
history of how this might work out with Barr being held in contempt and
what that might mean in terms of his compliance with what they`re trying to
get him to do that the doesn`t want the do.
I mean, in order to really figure it out, you got to go back and look at
the history of, like, Harriet Miers as White House counsel, remember her?
Or Janet Reno being attorney general for Bill Clinton and the Eric Holder
contempt controversy in the Barack Obama presidency. I mean, you have to
go back to George Washington and the whole idea of executive privilege in
the first place.
I mean, it is the exact kind of rabbit hole that I fit perfectly inside. I
could live the rest of my life plumbing the depths of this kind of
political confrontation, right? If you are a Constitution nerd, if you are
a civics nerd, confrontations like this, votes like this today, this drama
around this in the House today, it`s like Christmas, birthday, first day of
school and first day of summer vacation all wrapped up into one.
It`s exciting. It`s exciting thing to cover. It`s an exciting thing to
unfold. There is so much uncertainty in terms of how it`s going to, you
know, proceed through all the various procedural stuff that has to happen
and all the precedent and the courts. In this case, though, this
confrontation between this judiciary committee and this attorney general,
William Barr, and what will soon be a full vote out the House of
Representatives, holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt.
In this case, however fun it may be to get into all the arcane detail of
what this contempt fight means and how it might interact with other
historical precedent, and how this might legally be – in this case, for
this fight, it is impossible to make sense of what is going on in this
particular fight without seeing it for how it fits into the larger and
much, much simpler clash that is happening now in Washington and that has
eclipsed everything else in D.C. politics. And that is the clash between
President Donald Trump and the Mueller investigation.
I mean, for all of the kinetic activity we can see, for all of the
different headlines we are seeing generated every 15 minutes, 24 hours a
day, seven days a week right now, that is it. That is the blunt force
collision that is happening here. All of this crazy stuff and historic
stuff that is happening so rapidly right now, and all these political and
legislative and legal fights, it is all about that one simple
confrontation. This is Trump versus the Mueller investigation. That`s the
And I mean, honestly, big picture, it`s roughly six weeks since Mueller
turned in his report about the findings of his investigation. At this
point, there is still lots of uncertainty as to how and why Mueller`s
investigation came to an end when it did and how it did. Since Mueller
turned in that report, William Barr has been publicly suggesting that in
his view, Mueller had no right to continue his investigation once he
notified Bill Barr and the Justice Department that he didn`t intend to
declare one way or the other whether President Trump should be charged with
The day after newly appointed Attorney General William Barr took over
control of Mueller`s investigation, the day after he officially took
oversight of Mueller`s investigation personally, he and Mueller discussed
the fact that Mueller wasn`t going to declare one way or the other if the
president should be charged. Barr now says the implication of that to him
is that Mueller therefore shouldn`t have been investigating at all. And
less than three weeks from that date, in fact, Mueller`s investigation was
suddenly over and his report was turned in.
Now at this point, roughly six weeks out from Mueller`s report being turned
in under those circumstances, there is still serious just base level
uncertainty as to what actually Mueller looked into. I mean, there are no
signs in Mueller`s report that he carried out a counterintelligence
investigation into the potential national security consequences of Russia`s
interference in our election, the potential compromise of people around the
president or people involved in his campaign or head of the transition or
I mean, just as a concrete example, that means that while Mueller`s report
gives in detail a factual account of how the president and his businesses
pursued a huge real estate deal in Moscow throughout Trump`s presidential
campaign, a deal for which they would need help from the Kremlin and about
which they were in repeated contact with Kremlin officials during the
campaign while the president was publicly lying about it and denying any of
that was happening – I mean, those contacts in Mueller`s report are
factually described to a T.
But in Mueller`s report, there was no assessment whatsoever as to whether
or not that dangled real estate deal, that secret negotiation during the
campaign, prosecutors said it could have resulted in hundreds of millions
of dollars for Donald Trump and his business, but Mueller gives no
assessment whatsoever as to whether or not that deal or those negotiations
for that deal again conducted in secret during the campaign, Mueller makes
no assessment as to whether those might have been some sort of effort to
compromise Trump, or otherwise to pursue the Russian government`s
objectives when it came to his presidential campaign.
I mean, take the names off it, right? Here is a foreign government
actively secretly pursuing a huge business deal with a presidential
candidate during the presidential campaign while the candidate is lying
about it. Mueller is just silent on whether or not that might have any
implications for potential compromise of the candidate or for that foreign
government`s intentions toward us at a national security or intelligence
And, I mean, on that question there`s no – not only no assertion by
Mueller one way or the other as to what that meant, there is no reference
to the idea that even looked into it. Six weeks now after Mueller`s report
was submitted, there is still blunt base-level uncertainty as to whether he
looked at any of the president`s financial records or tax records as part
of any investigation into potential compromise or links either to the
Russian interference campaign or to other potentially compromising foreign
I mean, they don`t appear to have looked at any financial entanglement
stuff at all. I mean, those are just things off the top of my head, right?
There are all these really big things about Mueller`s inquiry and its scope
and its terms and what it looked at and what it didn`t that remain wide
open. It remains as wide open as questions today as those questions were
the day we first heard that his investigation had wrapped up.
I mean, you think that six weeks after we got that report, even some of
that base stuff, what did Mueller look at? Did he look at the money? Was
any of the Russian contact stuff dangerous?
I mean, we didn`t know any of that the day he turned in his report. Six
weeks later, we still don`t know any of that. And you sort of think that
would be where the national focus would be, right, on this investigation
and this scandal that has been such an object of focus for the entire time
this president has been in office.
Hey, what did the investigation actually look into? What did it actually
find? What should we know about how it was conducted?
You`d think that would be sort of what we`re talking about, but instead
it`s all the fight, right. Instead, the Trump administration for the
president personally through the actions of the White House counsel`s
office, through his newly appointed Attorney General William Barr, through
his press spokesperson, what they`ve done over these six weeks is erected
this incredibly aggressive, multi-front effort to try to freeze Mueller`s
investigation where it is, to try to block any further questions about what
Mueller found or what he did or did not look into.
And while it might seem now like there is all these disparate fights
breaking out all over Washington, all these different types of
confrontation that might indicate some, you know, harsh new tone of
partisanship between the parties, right, or between the White House and
congressional Democrats or blah, blah, blah, some other beltway milquetoast
both sides-ist nonsense about how, it`s so unpleasant these days in
Washington, I mean, you`re seeing all these fights that look like separate
battles, but they are all the same fight.
This is one big fight. This is Trump versus the Mueller investigation.
And that`s what all of these different battles are about. I mean, Don
McGahn, important witness in the Mueller investigation. He has just been
told by the White House to defy a congressional subpoena that ordered him
to hand over documents about the things he described to Robert Mueller as a
witness in that inquiry.
The president also threatening that that witness to the Mueller
investigation, Don McGahn, will be blocked from testifying to Congress
about what he told Mueller. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has now
threatened overtly that former White House counsel Don McGahn may also be
held in contempt, may also have to face the legal consequences for that if
he continues to defy the subpoenas, whether or not it is at the White
House`s request, right?
That`s about trying to block information about the Mueller inquiry from
coming to light through questioning of Don McGahn and the submission of
documents from him to a congressional committee following up on Mueller`s
Today, Attorney General William Barr voted by the Judiciary Committee to be
in contempt. He will soon be voted by the full house to be in contempt.
It`s not because they don`t like William Barr or they object to his recent
behavior in some generic sense. This is about Trump versus the Mueller
This contempt vote today is because Barr is defying a subpoena that the
Justice Department had issued to obtain the material that Barr redacted out
of Mueller`s report and to obtain the underlying evidence that supports
Mueller`s findings. This remarkable assertion today by the White House
that they are retroactively seeking as far as they`re concerned the whole
Mueller report should now be seen as covered by executive privilege.
I mean, if you`re too close to that as a story, you might think oh, that`s
a whole new fight. Executive privilege declared retroactively over the
whole Mueller report, even after 90 percent of it has been made public.
No, it`s actually all the same fight, again, to try to block access to
Mueller`s findings, to try to give Barr some cover for denying Congress
access to the rest of the report`s findings and underlying evidence that
haven`t been released, to try to freeze the investigation where Barr landed
it, with nobody getting to find out anything more about what Mueller did or
what Mueller looked and at nobody getting to ask any follow-up questions.
It`s all the same fight.
I mean, just go back to that Trump tower Moscow example for just a second.
This week, Michael Cohen went to prison, in part for lying to Congress
about the extent and the timing of the Trump Organization`s negotiations
with the Russian government over a potential Trump Tower to be built in
Moscow. Michael Cohen went to prison for lying to Congress about that this
Today, Donald Trump Jr. was subpoenaed by the Intelligence Committee in the
Senate. One source telling “Bloomberg News” that the reason they sent him
a subpoena is because the committee wants Donald Trump Jr. to come back and
testify to them again about Trump Tower Moscow, and now Donald Trump Jr.
says, or excuse me, a source close to Donald Trump Jr. says that he`s going
to fight that subpoena to come back and testify to Senate Intelligence.
So, you know, you can add to this list of big confrontations that we`re
having. You can add to that list the president`s eldest son now saying he
too will defy a subpoena to come testify on this issue.
But if there was a problem with his testimony on the issue of Trump Tower
Moscow, I mean, I think there is an interesting question to be asked about
why the committee would be bringing him back in to testify on that matter
again. Michael Cohen lied about Trump Tower Moscow under oath to the
Intelligence Committees. They didn`t bring him back in to clear it up.
They gave it to the Justice Department, who charged them with a felony for
lying to them.
Sam Patten lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee as well. They didn`t
bring him back in to clarify the matter. They referred him to the Justice
Department for prosecution, and ultimately he had to admit in court as part
of his plea deal that he committed a felony when he lied in his testimony
to the intelligence committee.
Roger Stone is accused by the Justice Department right now of having lied
in his congressional testimony about matters related to Russian
interference in the Trump campaign. The committee did not bring Roger
Stone back into clarify his testimony. He`s going to trial on that as a
So, the Senate Intelligence Committee is led by Richard burr, Republican
senator from North Carolina. He has his own walk-on cameo role in the
Mueller report for taking information that he learned about the FBI`s
investigation from a classified Gang of Eight intelligence briefing on
Capitol Hill, he took that information up to the White House and told the
Trump White House what he had learned in that classified briefing.
And I know everybody praises Richard Burr and the Senate Intelligence
Committee for, you know, their lack of rancor and their bipartisan
proceedings. But if there was a problem with Donald Trump Jr.`s testimony
to that committee about Trump Tower Moscow or anything, why is it only the
president`s son who is getting called back in to readdress the matter when
everybody else who got nailed for lying to Congress on that subject and
others just got nailed in court for lying to Congress in this scandal. Why
are they bringing him back in to talk it over again?
So the Senate Intelligence Committee proceeded with that subpoena today for
the president`s eldest son. A source close to him says he will fight it.
We will see what happens there.
Meanwhile, the intelligence committee in the House today issued their own
subpoena to obtain Mueller`s fully unredacted report and its underlying
evidence. They issued that subpoena under a provision of federal law that
we actually discussed here last night on this show with noted First
Amendment attorney Ted Boutrous.
I mean, you`ve got all these different kinetic actions, all these different
confrontations, all these fights, the attorney general defying the
Judiciary Committee subpoena, the White House asserting executive privilege
over the Mueller report, the Judiciary Committee finding Barr in contempt
of Congress. Now, the House is going to find him in contempt of Congress,
and Don McGahn is defying the subpoena to come testify what he told
Mueller. He is potentially going to be held in contempt of Congress, too.
I mean, all of these things are happening all at once. They`re all
indicative of the same big confrontation. The House Intelligence subpoena
is part of that too. The House Intelligence Committee actually does have
the law on its side in this new effort they launched today to try to get
Mueller`s unredacted findings in his evidence.
What they`ve got on their side is a post-9/11 law that actually affords
them to access to Justice Department matters that involve foreign
intelligence or grave hostile acts of a foreign power. And so, under that
law, that post-9/11 law, they are under statute supposed to get access to
what they ask the Justice Department for. And so they`ve asked nicely for
it several times. No response from William Barr and the Justice
Department. So, now, it`s a subpoena.
Just as the White House and Attorney General William Barr tried to shut
down the judiciary committee`s path to access Mueller`s full findings and
evidence. Tonight here opened up another path as the Intelligence
Committee sends their subpoena as well. Right?
So all of these different fights, all of these different subpoena, all of
these different confrontations, they are the same thing. It is Trump
versus Mueller`s investigation. And the apex concern that the president
and the Trump White House and his helpers in this fight must have, the
prospect that they must feel lurking under the bed ready to reach out and
grab their ankles if they let a foot touch the floor, right, the gravest
boogieman worry they`ve got to have right now has to be that Robert Mueller
somehow, some way will be allowed to speak freely and for himself about his
own investigation and his own findings in his own terms.
Because this feels like we are going through this remarkable period in the
news, right? It has been a six-week festival of freak-out, trying to stop
Mueller from speaking in his own terms about his own work, and we will talk
with Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who is going to be joining us live in
just a moment. We will talk with him about that.
We`re going to be talking later on this hour with a legal expert who may be
able to give us the clearest possible view into how they can try to stop
Mueller from testifying forever. But given that all of these little fights
are really all the same confrontation, there is one other thing that has
happened tonight that hasn`t gotten a lot of pickup yet in the news at
least. You should know about it, I think, before we move on to that
question about Mueller himself.
And it is this document actually from the judiciary committee in the
Senate. You see there is a bunch of signatures there in blue. All the
Democrats on the judiciary committee signed on to this document. It`s
structured in the form of a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, who is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
And inform what the point is of this letter that the Democrats on this
committee would like Robert Mueller to please come testify to their
committee, because they have some questions for Mueller about his
investigation. But what is sort of amazing about what they have done here
tonight is that in making the case to Lindsey Graham about why they think
it might be important to have Mueller himself come sit down and answer some
questions, they have overtly laid out in detail some of the questions
they`d like Mueller to answer if they ever did get the chance to talk to
And as such in this letter, which I`m not sure many people have noticed
tonight, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Democrats on the committee
have kind of stepped up and provided what appears to me to be the first
public road map for what Congress might want to look into, for what
Congress actually might want to figure out now that Robert Mueller`s
investigation by whatever means has been brought to an end. And there are
60 questions here. Conservatively speaking, a lot of them are compound
questions, so I`d say it`s more than that.
Just as a sample, right, to what degree was the investigation able to
determine why Paul Manafort volunteered to work for the Trump campaign for
free and whether he discussed the possibility of joining the Trump campaign
team with foreign nationals?
To what degree was your investigation able to determine whether members of
the campaign other than Rick Gates were aware that internal campaign
strategy and polling data was being shared with Russian national Konstantin
Kilimnik? Good question.
To what degree was your investigation able to determine whether internal
Clinton campaign data analytics and voter turnout models that were stolen
as part of the Russian hacking operation were used by Russia or shared with
anyone working for or with the Trump campaign? To what degree did your
investigation examine the role of Cambridge Analytica, AggregateIQ or the
SCL Group in the 2016 election? Did your investigation examine the
possibility that U.S. election or Trump campaign information was shared
with Russia through these entities?
To what degree was your investigation able to determine the Trump
campaign`s and Russian government pursuing back channel communications,
including between Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak
which Kushner suggested should be arranged using secure facilities at the
Russian embassy? Also, between Sergey ahead of excuse me, between Kushner
and Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian government-owned bank? Also
between Rick Gerson, a friend of Kushner, and Kirill Dmitriev, the head of
Russia`s sovereign wealth fund who reports directly to Vladimir Putin.
Also, what about that back channel between Erik Prince, a trusted associate
of the Trump transition team and the same Kirill Dmitriev who reports
directly to Putin?
To what degree was your investigation able to determine the content of
these back channel communications between Trump campaign and Russian
It goes on and on, on and on and on. I mean, here, just finally, just this
one would be really good to know. Just this one. To what degree was your
investigation, Mr. Mueller, able to determine whether the Trump Tower
Moscow project was part of an effort to gain influence over Donald Trump?
Did you look at that?
I mean, that`s just some of it. That doesn`t even get to fully half of
their questions are about the obstruction stuff, including multiple
questions about whether efforts to obstruct the investigation materially
affected Mueller`s ability to get to the bottom of things. When witnesses
didn`t cooperate with the investigation after they were encouraged not to
cooperate with the investigation by President Donald Trump, did it affect
Mueller`s ability to figure out what was going on? Meaning, did the
obstruction Mr. Mueller to block you from figuring out the important stuff
you were trying to figure out? That`d be good to know, right?
We have had six weeks now of escalating and I think now increasing frantic
efforts by the president, the White House, the newly appointed attorney
general, in some cases Republicans in Congress, trying to basically screw
the lead down unto Robert Mueller`s head, to keep that jar sealed up, to
make sure that none of these questions get pursued by anybody who might be
able to figure them out, and certainly none of them get asked of the man
who might be able to explain both what he found and what he did and didn`t
look for and why.
House Democrats are going to start reading Mueller`s report into the
congressional record live on the House floor tomorrow night. Elizabeth
Warren started that yesterday on the floor of the Senate.
But I will just say, in the middle of what has been already a truly
remarkable week in the news, don`t get overwhelmed by what feels like a
thousand different process fights, all seemingly breaking out all at once
or in quick succession, all over different parts of Washington involving
different characters, different sources of authority, different areas of
the law, it feels like a million different fights, it`s one fight. This is
the fight to try to make the Mueller investigation go poof. And the most
intriguing part of this fight today is how hard the Democrats are now
fighting on the other side to stop that from happening.
And Chairman Jerry Nadler joins us next, live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): They have decided to oppose the role of Congress
as a coordinate branch of government representing the American people.
They are stonewalling the American people from all information, and this
cannot be. We cannot have a government where all the information is in the
executive branch, where the American people and the Congress are
stonewalled this information that they need to make decisions and to know
what`s going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On a signal day in the history of this presidency, and a signal
day in the long and storied career of Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler,
joining us now for the interview tonight is Congressman Nadler, who is the
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Today, of course, his committee
voted to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt.
Sir, thank you very much for making time to be here tonight. Much
NADLER: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: This is serious act that your committee voted on today. This
confrontation with the attorney general is something that I know you did
not rush into, and that you didn`t relish. Can you just tell us a little
bit about your thought process in terms of what brought you to this – what
brought you to this sort of extreme point today?
NADLER: Well, we certainly didn`t relish this. We don`t need this kind of
fight with the administration. But what brought us here is that we have to
defend our constitutional form of government.
This is a lawless administration. It is denying the American people the
information they need by defying all subpoenas. It`s the first
administration you`ve ever seen where they say we`ll deny all subpoenas
from Congress, whether it`s on the Mueller investigation or on security
clearances or in anything else.
They defy the law. The law very clearly says that upon requests by the
Ways and Means Committee, the IRS should turn over anybody`s taxes.
They`re simply ignoring that. So, they`re ignoring the law, and they`re
stonewalling and hoping that they can get away with it.
We cannot have a situation where the president becomes a king or a
dictator. I mean, the American people understand that nobody, not the
president, nobody may be above the law. And we have to enforce that.
MADDOW: My sense of their strategy here is not that they have great faith
in any of the specific subpoenas that they are defying in any of the
specific stones they are putting up in this stonewall, as you describe it.
My sense of their strategy here is that they`re going to say no to
everything, try to block everything, simply to try to buy themselves as
much time as possible.
They`re hoping to bog down you in particular and congressional Democrats
more broadly in each of these individual fights so that these fights become
your full-time job and you can`t do what – you can`t pursue what you want
I wonder if you see it that way, and if so, what`s your strategy for
NADLER: Well, I certainly think trying to bog down things as long as
possible, not to keep us from other things, I think, but to evade
accountability, to evade the information getting out, to evade the American
people having the information they need to judge the administration and to
support or oppose whatever it`s doing.
We will – that`s why we can`t – we can`t abide this, obviously. We have
to maintain a Democratic form of government, which means the people have to
decide ultimately, and they can`t do that without the requisite
information, which the administration is trying to deny them. So that is
why we issued subpoenas.
That`s why we went to – we cited the attorney general for contempt today.
It will be voted on the house floor in the next couple of weeks, and that
will go into court to enforce the subpoena. We`re going to ask the court
to expedite the matter as fast as possible. We have some strategies for
that. And that`s really what we have to do to thwart the administration`s
desire to run a lawless administration.
MADDOW: You say you have strategies in terms of asking the court to
expedite these matters. A lot of commentators looking at the fights say,
well, the president will succeed here in delaying this, certainly for
weeks, definitely for months, hopefully in his view for years simply by
getting this thing into court, he`ll delay it until after the 2020
election. It sounds like you have a different view of the timeline on
which you think will be resolved, even if it is resolved through the court
NADLER: Well, it has to be resolved through the court system. We do think
that it can be done much more quickly than that. It may take months, but
it has to be resolved, and this administration has to be called to account.
MADDOW: In terms of the work flow that you`ve got in mind here, I take
note of the fact that Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, who is
such an important witness in Mueller`s written report was the first Mueller
witness essentially you`d asked to come and ultimately subpoena to testify
to your committee, first to provide documents and then to testify. He has
defied the documents subpoena.
You have written a letter now suggesting that he may ultimately find
himself in contempt if he proceeds on this route. Do you intend to call
all the Mueller witnesses? I mean, he`s number one, and you`re having this
fight with him already. Are you planning on calling –
NADLER: Well, he is number two. Mr. Mueller is number one.
NADLER: But we plan to call everybody necessary. And it may be a lot of
the Mueller witnesses. I doubt it will be all of them, but it could be a
lot of the Mueller witnesses to elucidate what was going on. And there are
many – I mean, we have an attorney general who is not only acting as a
personal attorney for the president rather than the attorney general of the
United States but is really turning the Justice Department into a vehicle
for evading the law – for evading the law.
Now, we have to get all the information, and we may have to get a lot of
people besides those who are interviewed by Mueller. A lot of questions
besides that, but we have to get the information for the American people so
that we can take appropriate action.
MADDOW: Mr. Chairman, you mentioned witness number 1 there. I have a
question for you about him, if you don`t mind sticking with us.
NADLER: Sure, sure, sure.
MADDOW: I have to take a quick break.
Chairman Jerry Nadler, he heads the Judiciary Committee in the House today.
They voted to hold the attorney general in contempt. The chairman is back
with us right after this.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, you said that the president has ordered Mueller
not to testify. Are you referring to his tweet last week saying that
Mueller should not testify?
REPORTER: How does that made that harder? Has Mueller specifically told
you that, that he doesn`t feel like testifying?
NADLER: No, but it obviously puts a lot of pressure on Mueller, and the
discussions are ongoing.
REPORTER: And how are the discussions, are they –
NADLER: They`re ongoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re back now with Congressman Jerry Nadler, who is the chairman
of the Judiciary Committee.
Sir, thank you for sticking around. Much appreciated.
On that same topic that we just had that tape from you taking questions
from reporters, at one point you had said that May 15th, next Wednesday, a
week from today might be a target date for getting Mr. Mueller in to
testify about his investigation.
Can you give us any sort of update?
NADLER: Well, no. May 15th was the date we were trying to do it. An
agreement had not been reached on a given date. But we certainly want
Mueller and McGahn before the end – during the month, during the month of
And, again, the order by the administration to Mueller and to McGahn not to
testify is a lawless order. There is no possible interpretation of
executive privilege which would justify telling someone who has already
given information out publicly either to the Mueller investigation or to
his own attorney that that is privileged information. This is just the
Trump administration being lawless, trying to deny Congress and the
American people all information and putting pressure on Mueller and McGahn
not to testify. Of course, we have a lot of questions for Mueller and
And remember that Barr began this whole process by misrepresenting what was
in the Mueller report twice and by making his own judgment of what the
Mueller report clearly intended to be Congress` judgment, and then attempts
to silence Mueller and make sure he doesn`t appear before Congress or now
MADDOW: Because we`ve seen what I believe is a real escalation, a sort of
steady escalation over these past six weeks from the president, from the
White House, increasingly from the administration about trying to lock down
as much as possible around the Mueller investigation, stepping up their
ability – or stepping up their efforts to try to keep more of the report
under wraps, now exerting executive privilege over all of it, now saying
they`re going to block all witnesses, all requests for documents, it seems
to me like they`re probably getting more aggressive in their stance whether
or not they`re going to try to prevent Mueller from testifying. It makes
me wonder what the process has been like thus far between your committee
and Mueller and trying to get him there.
Has it been the Justice Department who has been negotiating on his behalf?
Are you in communication with him directly? Is the White House trying to
assert his schedule?
NADLER: Well, first of all, it leads you to wonder what they`re afraid of.
Remember, the attorney general has told us repeatedly, and all the
Republicans, Senator McConnell and others have told us that the finding of
the Mueller report was no collusion, no obstruction. If that`s true, why
are they trying to hide it?
It`s obviously not true.
But secondly, we were negotiating first with the Justice Department for a
date for Mueller, and then with Mueller himself.
MADDOW: And is Mr. Mueller willing to come in and testify?
NADLER: I think he will be. The last – the last communication we had
with him as far as I know just before the president suddenly said this.
But I think he will be. And he will no longer be an employee of the
Justice Department in a couple of weeks, at which point they can`t tell him
what to do at all.
But again, even private citizens or employees of the Justice Department
must testify for a congressional or a court subpoena. It`s not optional,
unless they have a legal reason not to. And the so-called executive
privilege is nonsense, period.
And the American people have a right to that information, including
information such as some of the questions you were raising. Did Mueller –
was Mueller`s investigation stopped by Barr? Was he told to stop? Was he
told not to mention certain subjects in his report?
Those are certainly questions we`ll ask him.
MADDOW: One last question for you on this same front, Mr. Chairman. It
occurs to me when I think about the questions that I have based on reading
Mueller`s report, the things that still seem like open questions and things
I can tell they looked at it but didn`t seem to state what they thought
were the implications of what they found, I imagine that I would get the
most out of hearing from Robert Mueller and from his investigators, from
the people who were on his team, either from the FBI side or the Justice
Department side who were carrying out this investigation with him. Do you
expect to be bringing in Mueller and his team or Mueller alone?
NADLER: Well, Mueller alone initially, and then McGahn, and presumably
others from his team, and other witnesses. There are a lot of questions we
have to ask a lot of people and find out what`s really going on, and to
elucidate for the American people what is really going on.
Because the bottom line in this is not a fight between Mueller and the
Trump administration or Mueller and Barr. The bottom line is, does the
American people have the right to information with which they can make
decisions in governing this as a democratic country? If you can vote but
you have no information, if the information is guarded by the
administration and you don`t know what the administration is doing, you
don`t know what crimes they`re committing, you don`t know anything, then
the vote becomes very hollow.
That`s why this is such a crisis for our democracy, and we have to – we
have to prevail here. We have never had a president who instructed people
to ignore all subpoenas. And when you ignore a subpoena, you`re ignoring a
subpoena not just from Congress, but for information for the American
people. And we`ve never had that before.
And we have to vindicate the right of the American people to this
information. We have to vindicate the fact that the president is not above
the law and that he can – that people can tell – can testify against him
if they have something to testify about.
MADDOW: Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee in the House –
sir, you`re in a very, very, very important job always, but particularly in
this kind confrontational moment. Thanks for helping us understand
tonight. I appreciate your time.
NADLER: Thank you.
All right. I have other things to say and request. I`ll be right back.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. So House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler just a moment ago
right here said that President Trump`s effort to stop Robert Mueller from
testifying in Congress about his investigation is a lawless order. He just
said that here on TV.
He also said he believes that Robert Mueller wants to testify. He said
that the committee is negotiating with Mueller directly.
He also said that Mueller will not be a Justice Department employee any
more within a couple of weeks, suggesting that that may have an impact on
whether the president can try to block Mueller`s testimony.
I have a whole bunch of questions about this. I feel like most of them
should be answerable.
I mean, Robert Mueller is the special counsel. Is anything in the special
counsel regulations speak to this in terms of whether or not he is allowed
to testify or the president can block him? Did the regulations anticipate
this kind of thing? Did they give us any indication of how this might be
Does it in fact matter whether Mueller is still a Justice Department
employee? If he quits the Justice Department or gets fired from the
Justice Department, would a private citizen Robert Mueller be more free to
do whatever he pleases, including testify to Congress about his
Does the White House now asserting executive privilege over Mueller`s work
product, his report? Does that affect whether or not Mueller might be able
to testify or what he could say if he does testify?
I mean, I don`t know if we have reason to be hopeful or not as to whether
or not Mueller is going to testify, but these negotiations are clearly
ongoing. Chairman Nadler said this morning he is as of today less
confident now that Mueller testify than he previously was. The president
is overtly saying that Mueller shouldn`t be allowed to testify.
But what do the rules say about who decides? What is the structure for how
this gets decided? Do we have anything written down in the rules here that
helps us figure this out?
Joining us now is Neal Katyal, the author of the special counsel
regulations, former acting solicitor general.
Neal, really appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you so much.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.
MADDOW: So let me ask you first of all about what you`ve heard tonight,
including what you just heard from Chairman Nadler about the prospects for
Mueller testifying. Let me just get your reaction to that and how you see
it at this point.
KATYAL: Well, first, let me start with what you said at the outset of the
show, which I think is a huge public service, Rachel, because I think your
listeners are seeing ten different things going on – McGahn, Mueller
report, this and that.
And you`re absolutely right to say this is all one big battle, and you
called it Trump versus Mueller. I might call it Trump versus the truth.
It`s basically Trump who is afraid of all of this stuff coming out to the
American public and to – and to Congress. He is acting kind of like a
vampire afraid of sunlight.
And so, I am very concerned about whether Mueller will testify. You know,
I took the Attorney General Barr at his word over the last few weeks when
he`s been saying he wants Mueller to testify, he has no objections to it.
But now, the president has, to use Congressman Nadler`s word adopted a
stonewall strategy across the board on everything, from tax returns to
witnesses and everything else. It`s not going to work, and we can talk
about that, but it may delay things.
MADDOW: In terms of Mueller specifically, was this ever – this scenario
were every anticipated in the special counsel regulations? Was there
anything in terms of the way the special counsel system was set that speaks
at all to whether or not the special counsel himself or somebody working on
that investigation can be called by Congress to explain the results of what
KATYAL: A hundred percent. We really hoped it would never happen, but we
called it the “break glass in case of emergency” option, and what we did
was said the special counsel should be picked from outside the Justice
Department and someone of sufficient stature that they could leave their
job and not have to worry about future employment. And, obviously, Mueller
more than satisfies both of those.
So if an attorney general were to squelch a special counsel or president
from – the president would squelch a special counsel from testifying, the
result could be the special counsel would resign and then testify. And
from Chairman Nadler`s comment as few moments ago, it sounds like he
expects Mueller to do exactly that.
Now, that`s not going to solve everything, because a president is going, it
looks like, claim executive privilege over everything, including anything
Mueller could say. That`s a palpably ridiculous claim, but they`ve made it
today in writing. You know, the idea that everything in the Mueller report
is now executive privilege, I mean, I can go on Amazon and order the thing
or download it on my phone and, yes, it`s not the whole thing, but it`s
about 93 percent of it, and the president yet today asserted executive
privilege over even that.
That is such a broad claim, Rachel, that even this gentleman we`ve talked
about before, John Yoo, who teaches at University of California, President
Bush`s very strong executive power person, John Yoo called it a novel and
dangerous theory. He said, quote, Trump is treating Congress like they`re
the Chinese or a local labor union working on a Trump building.
And, I mean, you know, when you lose John Yoo in a debate over executive
power, you know, that tells you how strong these arguments are.
MADDOW: Whatever the merits of that claim, and that`s a striking
assessment of the merits of that claim, will that assertion of privilege
serve to delay any potential testimony by Mueller? I mean, will that have
to be resolved in the courts or by some other negotiation or some other
means before he would even try to testify on these matters?
KATYAL: So, two things. One is Congress does have tools available to it.
For example, they can cult the attorney general`s funding, the funding of
the office, the funding of the Justice Department or any programs it
After the November election, the Democratic House now controls the purse
strings. So, they do have some weapons available. But if it goes to
court, I think President Trump is betting on a long fight in court and I
don`t think that`s true.
I mean, when we had the last big fight over this, the Nixon tapes case, the
timeline was this. Basically, the subpoena was issued for Nixon`s stuff,
his tapes in April of 1974. By May of 1974, the court ordered the subpoena
to be enforced and then it went to the U.S. Supreme Court and held a
special session on July 8th and within three weeks, that court unanimously
ruled against President Nixon.
And I know there`s a lot of viewers out there who say, well, this Supreme
Court may be controlled by interests that are favorable to President Trump
or something, I don`t buy that for a second, and people said that about the
Nixon court, and Nixon actually had three of his appointees hear the Nixon
tapes case, they all ruled against him. And this case is even stronger
against the president than the Nixon tapes one.
MADDOW: Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general, author of the
special counsel regulations – Neal, thank you. And thanks for what you
said about that argument at the top of the show. I do feel like this is a
moment for sort of disambiguating what`s going on and recognizing the big
fight for what it is. Really appreciate you saying that, my friend. Thank
KATYAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Quick update for you on a story we brought to you last night about
a potential end run outside Washington for congressional investigators to
access the president`s taxes. Today, the state senate in New York passed a
bill that would authorize the state to release to Congress Donald Trump`s
state tax returns, if they are requested by Congress for a legitimate
legislative purpose. That passed today in the Senate, it will now go to
the New York assembly. Enough Democrats have pledged to support it to get
the thing passed once it comes up.
This is a fight not in Washington, this is an Albany fight, but it could
have a huge Washington impact.
So, keep your eyes on this one. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. We will see you tomorrow.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with the great Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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