Julian Assange indicted under espionage act. TRANSCRIPT: 5/23/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Jerry Nadler

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is “ALL IN” for this evening. 


“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. 


Good evening, Rachel. 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  That was a really, really, really important and

really good segment on that topic. 


HAYES:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  And having both of those guys here are exactly the right people to

hear from and that was super – I`m about to talk about this same story but

that was super edifying. 


HAYES:  I`m glad you are.  Yes, it`s a big one.  It`s a big one. 


MADDOW:  And I think – I share your four-alarm sense about this.  I think

– it`s interesting to me that this hasn`t taken over the news cycle all

day today.  I think it may. 


HAYES:  I think partly because of the weirdness of the first set of

indictments that was superseding.  If it led with this, it would have been

a bigger story out of the gate.  It`s a weird thing they did there.


MADDOW:  It is a weird thing.  I think it`s going to have some weird

consequences in the short order.  But I`ll get to that now.


Thank you, my friend.  Well done. 


HAYES:  I`ll go watch.  Thanks.


MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  I`m happy to have

you with us.


And as I mentioned to Chris, I am sort of surprised that this story is not

more wall-to-wall everywhere right now.  I do think in coming days as

people really absorb what this new indictment means, it may end up being as

big a story as it deserves to be. 


As you by now may have heard, the WikiLeaks guy, Julian Assange, has been

newly indicted.  Last month, he was taken out of that embassy in London

where he had been hiding for the past few years trying to avoid criminal

prosecution in multiple countries.  It looks like Sweden is pursuing rape

charges against him now, the U.K. has prosecuted him and now jailed him for

jumping bail. 


But when he was pulled out of that embassy last month, he was charged in

the United States with a computer hacking charge.  He was specifically

charged for helping a U.S. soldier, whose name is Chelsea Manning, helping

her try to break a password basically to cover up unauthorized access to

classified materials, which Manning was illegally downloading from a

Defense Department computer for the purpose of sending them to WikiLeaks to



Now, the U.S. laid that charge against Julian Assange.  They said they

wanted to bring Assange to trial on that charge here in the United States. 

But he is not here in the United States, he`s in the U.K.  And the U.K. has

to decide whether or not they are going to extradite, whether or not they

are going to ship him over here to face that criminal charge.  That was the

situation heading into today. 


Now today, apparently, the United States government has decided maybe they

don`t want the U.K. to extradite Julian Assange here to ever face trial. 

Or at least that would appear to be the intriguing, fascinating and very

worrying bottom line of this remarkable thing that the Justice Department

did today when they unsealed a new superseding indictment, so an additional

indictment against Assange.  Only this time it is not the same kind of

criminal allegation they made against him in the initial indictment.  It`s

not some hacking computer crime like they originally charged him with. 


Now as of today they are charging him with 17 counts under the Espionage

Act.  And these charges are not about stealing classified information or

outsmarting security systems in order to illegally obtain classified

information.  It`s not about that.  These new charges are trying to

prosecute Assange for publishing that stolen secret material, which was

obtained by somebody else. 


And that is a whole different kettle of fish than what he was initially

charged with.  There has never in this country been a successful

prosecution under the Espionage Act of some third party for publishing

something that somebody else stole or something that otherwise made its way

out of the government while the government was trying to keep it secret. 

We`ve never in this country successfully charged somebody for publishing

secret material. 


But by charging Assange for publishing that stuff that was taken by

Manning, by issuing these 17 charges today, the Justice Department has done

something you might have otherwise thought was impossible.  The Justice

Department today, the Trump administration today, just put every

journalistic institution in this country on Julian Assange`s side of the

ledger, on his side of the fight, which I know is unimaginable.  But that

is because the government is now trying to assert this brand new right to

criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff.  And newspapers

and magazines and investigative journalists and different entities publish

stuff all the time.  That is the bread and butter of what we do, right?


There is a reason, it`s called the First Amendment, that the U.S.

government has never successfully made that a crime before.  But here with

Assange, they are trying to do it.  And as a matter of law, this is not at

all about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks doing what they did in the 2016

election.  This is not related to them working with Russian intelligence

material in 2016 to try to help Trump win the election and to try to hurt

Hillary Clinton.  This is not about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange personally

strategizing with Trump campaign staffers about how to beat Hillary Clinton

as they were releasing all of that information stolen by the Russians. 


These new charges have nothing to do with that.  These new charges also

frankly have nothing to do with the nature of the material that WikiLeaks

published from the Chelsea Manning documents in 2010.  What this is, is now

a novel legal effort to punch a huge hole in the First Amendment by

labeling it spying, labeling it criminal espionage to publish secret stuff,

in a country where we have a long, proud journalistic history of

journalistic entities publishing secret stuff. 


And, of course, this comes conveniently at a time when this administration,

this president personally, is calling the press the enemy of the people. 

The president this week gleefully saying that his new attorney general is

looking at bringing criminal charges, bringing criminal investigations

against the president`s personal enemies.  The president expressing glee

about that this week at a political rally that he likes his new attorney

general for doing that. 


And I am sure this president would love to establish a new legal doctrine,

a whole new legal lane for the U.S. government that`s never existed before,

where anyone who publishes stuff the government doesn`t want published gets

prosecuted by the Justice Department under the most serious statutes

imaginable, facing long prison terms for doing it.  I`m sure this president

would want that.  I`m sure he is absolutely stupefied that he doesn`t

already have that power. 


But he doesn`t have that power.  He`s never had it before.  No president

has.  And this is the president who`s saying that the FBI is committing

treason.  And the press is the enemy of the people. 


I`m sure he`d be happy to say that the press is committing treason too and

espionage and all the rest of it. 


But what`s going to happen next year is going to be fascinating, because in

order to pursue this prosecution, the United States will have to persuade

Great Britain, our great ally, that they should extradite Julian Assange

here to face these new charges.  And from the U.K.`s perspective, I mean,

obviously the U.K. and the U.S. have an incredibly important and close

relationship that extends absolutely to having close and cooperative

relationships on all sorts of law enforcement and intelligence matters. 


But I think there may be reason to not expect automatic British deference

on something like this.  I mean, for one thing, however special the

relationship is between the U.S. and the U.K., it may have become

considerably less special once we inaugurated a new president that heads a

new White House where they literally can`t even spell the name Theresa May,

who was prime minister of the U.K.  It`s not like it was a tough name. 

They really can`t manage it, ever. 


Theresa May right now, frankly, has bigger fish to fry.  Her role as prime

minister is uncertain.  The future of her government is very uncertain. 

British politics has not teetered like this in a very long time but it

teeters right now more precipitously than ever thanks to the Brexit

disaster.  That incidentally our own president has loudly supported and

tried to link to his own presidential campaign. 


And honestly even if the U.S./U.K. relationship were as strong as ever, the

Brits really do have an unequivocally independent judiciary and legal

system that was always going to consider this critically because it was

always going to be controversial.  It was controversial even when it was

just the one computer hacking crime, right?  Now that it`s espionage?  I

mean, it will not help the American case to extradite Julian Assange that

the U.S. is trying something totally novel on him, right?  The U.S. has

never successfully brought these kinds of charges ever before. 


I mean – I`m going to tell you the bottom line here is stay tuned on this,

but I think these 17 espionage charges against the WikiLeaks guy are a huge

deal and very dark development.  Chris Hayes this evening called it a four-

alarm development.  I absolutely share that. 


And you know, I know you.  Given everything else that we know about the

WikiLeaks guy, I can feel through the television right now your mixed

feelings about what I am saying, right? 


I can feel what may be perhaps a certain lack of concern about Julian

Assange`s ultimate fate, right, given his own gleeful and extensive

personal role in trying to help a hostile foreign government interfere in

our election in order to install their chosen president with WikiLeaks`

help, right?  I know.  I feel you.  I got it. 


But it is a recurring theme in history.  Heck, it is a recurring theme in

the Bible that they always pick the least sympathetic figures to try this

stuff on first.  Despite anybody`s feelings about this spectacularly

unsympathetic character at the center of this now international drama, you

are going to see every journalistic institution in this country, every

First Amendment supporter in this country, left, right and center swallow

their feelings about this particular human and denounce what the Trump

administration is trying to do here, because it would fundamentally change

the United States of America.  It would fundamentally change the balance of

power between the people and our government. 


But as I said, in the first instance, it will be interesting to see what

happens in Britain, because they`re going to have first crack at this.  My

guess is that these radical new charges, this novel new effort by the

Justice Department to turn pushing secret material into violation of the

Espionage Act for the first time ever, I think there`s a good chance that

will be viewed as controversial enough by U.K. authorities that it may

preclude them from ever sending him over here to stand trial.  I mean, they

have rules of their own that preclude them from sending somebody to, for

example, face a political prosecution.  I don`t know if that`s how they

will define this sort of thing, but they should recognize that what Assange

is being charged with, regardless of how you feel about Assange, it is a

fundamentally novel and radical thick that the Trump administration is

trying to do. 


And that will matter to them when they make their extradition decision,

what wasn`t a sure thing anyway.  And while that is happening, literally

today, Britain is boiling its own totally different kettle of fish that

will have profound implications for Theresa May, for the British

government, and for that country`s relationship with us and every other

country on earth.  Today was the first day of voting in the U.K. and in the

Netherlands, in the European elections that are happening over the next

four days. 


U.K. and the Netherlands vote today.  Tomorrow, it`s Ireland and the Czech

Republic.  On Saturday, it`s Latvia, Malta and Slovakia.  And on Sunday,

it`s the other 21 European – other 21 countries in the European Union. 


Now, these elections happen once every five years.  These are elections to

fill seats in the European parliament, which has 751 seats.  There`s going

to be hundreds of millions of people voting over these four days.  It looks

like what we are likely to see as results from this voting is a whole bunch

of far right anti-immigrant and fundamentally anti-European parties doing

very well in these elections, which ironically will fill the European

parliament.  Their idea is that they will hopefully destroy it from within. 


You may remember back in 2016 how the Brexit referendum in the U.K.

happened just a few months before our presidential election that year, that

shocking result of that referendum where British voters defied the polls

and narrowly voted to pull up all the drawbridges and saw Britain off from

Europe, even though they had absolutely no idea what that would mean and

how they would do it.  That Brexit vote in the summer of 2016 was a global



At the time for us as Americans, it was shocking.  In retrospect, I think

we now look back at that vote from the summer of 2016 and recognize that

when just a few months later in that same year, November of that same year

when our own polls proved wrong, when Donald Trump was all of a sudden

elected president, of all people, I think now looking back with the

advantage of both hindsight and a wide-angle lens, it seems at least

plausible that that Brexit vote in the summer of 2016 was a little bit of a

harbinger for what was coming our way just a few months later in the fall

of 2016. 


Well, now here we are again with these European elections starting today. 

And we are seeing that dynamic that we saw at work in the Brexit election

in 2016 and the Trump election that fall, we are seeing that dynamic not

only not reversed, we`re seeing it accelerated in some ways, even as it is

still being ham-handedly supported by some of the same external forces

whose nefarious aims are quite clear and easy to see. 


I mean, in the U.K. specifically, they literally just formed a party called

the Brexit Party.  And in these European parliament elections where Brits

voted today, the Brexit Party is considered likely to win the most votes. 

And again, these votes are for the European parliament, not for the British

parliament.  But ultimately after today, if it`s the Brexit Party

representing the U.K. in Europe, the already teetering Theresa May

government back in London that already can`t hands the Brexit process,

either to stop it or go through with it or find some half measure middle

way through it, that Brexit party election to the European parliament is

going to give Theresa May`s government in London a really hard shove. 


It`s worth watching what`s about to happen in Britain.  It`s also worth

watching overall over these next few days, particularly because we

Americans are still living through our own ongoing drama from 2016.  I

mean, just look at what we`re going through this week.  Look at what we`re

going through these last couple of months. 


We have had 63 straight days in Washington of what amounts to total

breakdown, total stonewall, total all-out brawling in Washington since

Mueller`s investigation was ended 63 days ago, since Mueller`s report on

what happened in our 2016 election and what happened with that Russian

interference effort was submitted to the Trump administration and then

submarined and we`ve never heard from Robert Mueller since.


I mean, we are still right now day-to-day living through our own drama of

our own bizarre 2016 election right now.  And what happened with those

external factors to influence it.  Well, this European election that`s

happening right now as we speak is a variation on the theme of what we went

through.  This is the same patterns, the same dynamic at work. 


Sometimes I think it`s even easier to see that pattern when it happens to

another country instead of your own.  And it`s sometimes easier to see when

it`s freaking dramatic.  You got a sense of how dramatic this was going to

be when we saw how this week of this big vote kicked off this week in



I know this is a little bit weird, but can we just talk about Austria for a

second?  Whether or not you think you care with Austria, just trust me. 

This is – it`s worth learning what just happened in Austria because once

you learn it, you are going to want to tell somebody else this story, like

in a bar this weekend or at the water cooler at work or over a campfire on

a long elevator ride.  Like you`re going to want to tell this story, but it

really happened, and it`s just happened in the past few days. 


All right.  So Austria is in the European Union.  They`re one of the

countries that are voting on Sundays I think is their vote.  Their

chancellor is this guy who, yes, looks like it`s take your baby chancellor

to work day. 


He is 32 years old.  He won in 2017 the top job in the Austrian government

when his center right government got the most votes in the election that

year.  But although his party got the most votes, they didn`t get enough

votes to form a government on their own and so the young chancellor had to

decide what other entity in the Austrian government he would go into

coalition with in order to form a majority that would then run that



And the young chancellor from the center right party decided that he would

look around and pick who he would form a coalition with.  He decided to

pick the party that was founded by the ex-Nazis. 


Now, I do not mean that as an insult.  That is not like some ad hominem

hyperbolic attack.  I mean, we`re talking about Austria here.  This is a

party that was – this is a party that was actually founded by actual ex-

Nazis, real Nazis, just speaking factually. 


The party founded by the ex-Nazis.  It`s called the Freedom Party.  And

it`s interesting, the government of Russia, Vladimir Putin and his

political party in Russia have taken a keen interest in supporting the

Freedom Party in Austria.  The year before the Freedom Party, this group

founded by ex-Nazis, the year before they were invited to join Austria`s

coalition government and help form the government in that nation, the top

official of Austria`s Freedom Party was invited to Moscow to sign a

cooperation agreement with Putin`s party, with United Russia, which is

Putin`s party. 


Then the following year was when that Freedom Party official got into the

Austrian government, he became the vice chancellor of Austria, the number

two guy in the whole government.  That raised questions as to what the

impact would be of that party taking power in Austria while having a formal

cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin`s party in Moscow. 


I mean, as part of the coalition deal, that center right young chancellor

joined with the Freedom Party in order to form a majority together.  The

Freedom Party got half the cabinet agencies, including the foreign minister

and the defense minister.  They got control of the nation`s intelligence



Western intelligence agencies were so freaked out by that, they stopped

sharing intelligence with the Austrian intelligence agencies because they

just assumed once the Freedom Party guys got ahold of anything sensitive

that might be of interest to Moscow, these Austrian guys would ship it

straight to Putin.  They stopped sharing intel with the Austrian



Now, all along, the young chancellor in Austria who decided to partner with

these guys, he has had to defend the fact that he went into coalition with

these guys, you know, he`s had to defend them every time they come out with

some new racist statement, some new anti-Semitic trope.  He`s had to defend

them shutting down all the law enforcement agencies against the neo-Nazis

in Austria, which is what happens when you put the ex-Nazis in front of –

in charge of the agencies that were supposed to be doing these things. 


I mean, the young chancellor has gone out of his way, particularly when

talking to the international press, to say that he doesn`t worry at all

about the links between the Freedom Party and Russia.  He`s gone out of his

way to say the links between the freedom party, his governing partners in

Russia, that`s all overblown. 


Well, on Friday, this past week, two news organizations published this

video.  There we go.  Which shows the vice chancellor of Austria, the

number two guy in that government, the head guy of the freedom party. 

That`s him on the right side of your screen with the wide neck shirt and

the creepy wristband thing. 


The other guy on the left side of the screen standing up is another Freedom

Party official.  In this video he functions as the translator here because

he speaks sort of elementary school level Russian.  And the blonde lady

whose face is pixilated, she is posing in this interaction as the niece of

a Russian oligarch who would like to support the Freedom Party.  That`s who

these Freedom Party guys think she is.


She`s visiting from Russia with a whole bunch of money to spend to help

them out.  And in this video which stretches for seven hours, the vice

chancellor of Austria, the guy in front of the screen here, head of the

Freedom Party, this guy from this group founded by ex-Nazis who they

elevated to the number two person of that government, he chats with this

young woman about what he wants from her uncle.  What he wants from a

Kremlin-connected Russian oligarch to support his party and to support his

political aspirations. 


He tells this woman that this Russian oligarch should use Russian money to

take control of the biggest tabloid newspaper in Austria, turn it into a

mouthpiece for the Freedom Party, help them get elected.  Once they get

control of the government, the Russian oligarch should then form a

construction company and this guy, who will then be running the government

will make sure that all the road building contracts, all the big

infrastructure contracts in Austria would then go to the new construction

company secretly set up for that purpose and run by the Russian oligarch

who spent all that money to get the ex-Nazi party in charge. 


So, you pay for us to get in power.  We will pay you.  You infiltrate our

country and our press on behalf of Russia.  You install a Kremlin-friendly

far right political party in Austria.  And once we`re in there, we`ll pay

you back with cash, with public contracts.  Win, win, win.  It`s all

spelled out. 


The video was published on Friday.  The vice chancellor of Austria, the guy

with the wide neck t-shirt and creepy wristband, he resigned the next day,

on Saturday.  Number two official in the government. 


Two days later on Monday, the interior minister who`s also a Freedom Party

guy, he was fired by the chancellor after he expressed not that much

interest in pursuing this as a potentially criminal matter.  In responses,

all of the other Freedom Party ministers said they would quit too, and

yesterday they all did.  That`s half the ministers in the government,

including the defense minister and the labor minister and the foreign

minister who invited Putin to her wedding. 


And so the Austrian government just collapsed.  They have to call snap

elections.  Nobody knows what`s going to happen.  But it`s happened

literally on the eve of the European elections, and now we`re about to find

out how well that Freedom Party, that exact same party, is going to do in

the European parliamentary elections when Austrians get their turn to vote

on those elections on Sunday.  They have been favored to do very well.  How

will they do now that all their ministers have left the government and the

government has been exposed for trying to sell out their government to

Russian oligarchs?


I mean, sometimes exposing Russian influence over a political campaign

leads to the collapse of the whole government.  It`s amazing, right?  It

can happen. 


But this – this dynamic is at large now, right?  It`s not just one

country.  In addition to that cooperation agreement that Putin`s political

party signed with the Freedom Party in Austria, Putin`s political party did

the same agreement with the right-wing ascendant political party in Italy

which is called The League.  The League is poised to win tons of seats in

the European elections this weekend. 


The Russian government has also been propping up Marine Le Pen in the far

right, racist National Front Party in France, which is also poised to win

tons of seats this weekend.  There are open questions under investigation

in Britain as to possible Russian support for the funders of Brexit and for

the ongoing Brexit uprising in the U.K. 


I mean all of these far right, anti-immigrant, anti-Europe groups are

poised to do very well in these elections that started today and that are

going to go over the next four days.  In Italy, in France, in Austria, in

Germany and Hungary and the U.K.  And all of them are supported by Russia

in one way or another. 


For all or most of them, the feeling is also mutual.  They also support

Russia.  Here`s a picture of the head of the League party in Italy sitting

in the European parliament wearing a Vladimir Putin t-shirt. 


The creepy American factor in all of this is that all of these far right

anti-immigrant, anti-Europe parties that are poised to destroy the European

Union from within, they are not only supported by Russia and supportive of

Russia, they are also being buoyed and to a greater or lesser extent all

being advised by Steve Bannon, who moved his operation to Europe after what

he did here for us in 2016. 


So, sometimes, I think it helps us as Americans understand our own

situation to take a broader lens on this stuff, right?  I mean, we are

still muddling our way through our own situation every day.  I`m going to

talk with the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in just a minute about

the latest fights to try to pry loose information and documents of

witnesses from this administration.  We are still muddling through it. 


But Europe is hitting this like wall this weekend, and this is a global

thing that we are in.  It`s not just us.  And in some places, yes, these

dynamics lead to whole governments collapsing suddenly and in shame and

disgrace.  And in other cases, that doesn`t happen.  In other cases, it

results in previously unimaginably shameful fringe figures not only making

it into power but clinging to it. 


We`ve got a lot to get to tonight and there`s a lot going on, but man, this

is no time to check out.  Your country needs you.  Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  A little bit of breaking news tonight from the White House. 

Honestly I`m not sure I understand totally.  It`s just – it`s just sort of

happening now. 


It`s a brand new White House statement that says, quote: Today, at the

request and recommendation of the attorney general of the United States,

President Donald J. Trump directed the intelligence community to quickly

and fully cooperate with the attorney general`s investigation into

surveillance activities during the 2016 presidential election.  The

attorney general has also been delegated full and complete authority to

declassify information pertaining to this investigation, in accordance with

the long-established standards for handling classified information. 

Today`s action will help ensure that all Americans learn the truth about

the events that occurred and the actions that were taken during the last

presidential election and will restore confidence in our public



Again, that statement tonight from the White House.  The White House then

released this memorandum which is titled Memorandum on Agency Cooperation

with the attorney general`s review of intelligence activities related to

the 2016 presidential campaigns.  Campaigns, plural. 


Quote, the memo outlines the attorney general`s authority to declassify

information and intelligence, was sent to the Departments of State,

Treasury, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security, along with the director

of the national intelligence and head of the CIA. 


We are still running down the implications of this.  We know that the

attorney general, William Barr, had said that he wanted to pursue some kind

of investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation.  We had had

reporting that that involved the U.S. attorney in the state of Connecticut

and maybe also the director of national intelligence and maybe also the CIA

director, Gina Haspel. 


Attorney General Barr was said to be personally involved in whatever this

inquiry was.  This is on top of the inspector general also pursuing an

inquiry along these same lines. 


This memo tonight, we don`t exactly know what it means, but it makes like

they are somehow trying to clear a path for whatever it is that Barr is

doing.  It`s not totally clear what this means yet. 


But I want to tell you, we did get one really interesting response to this

news just a moment ago from someone who was there for the early stages of

the Russia investigation and also for the Clinton email probe.  When this

memo was released tonight, we contacted David Laufman, who was chief of

counterintelligence at the Justice Department under President Obama, who

served at the beginning of the Trump administration as well.  He was there

as the chief of counterintelligence at the justice department when the

Russia investigation was opened. 


David Laufman tells us tonight that this new decision by the president is,

quote, a grotesque abuse of the intelligence community to further his goal

of political retribution, made worse by the spectacle of the Justice

Department as his handmaiden. 


So, again, I think that`s the first response we`ve had from a senior

Justice Department official, former Justice Department official who was

involved in the origins of this inquiry tonight. 


But again, David Laufman calling this a grotesque abuse of the intelligence



Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Jerry Nadler joins us

next.  Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  Joining us now here on set is Congressman Jerry Nadler.  He is the

chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which makes him one of the

busiest human beings in Washington today and the man with a lot on his



Sir, thank you for making time for us.  It`s nice to see you.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  Pleasure to be here. 


MADDOW:  For coming in.


I want to get your – first, your top line reaction to this news that we

just got.  The president is directing the intelligence community to

cooperate with Attorney General Barr`s investigation into surveillance

activities during the 2016 presidential election.  He`s also delegating to

the attorney general full and complete authority to declassify information

pertaining to this investigation. 


Do you have any idea what this is about? 


NADLER:  Yes.  It`s part of the Trump and Republican plot to dirty up the

intelligence community, to pretend that there`s something wrong with the

beginning of the Mueller investigation and to persecute and bring into line

the intelligence agencies.  This is the third investigation. 


Remember, the inspector general of the Department of Justice launched an

investigation of Strzok and Page and all these people, and concluded their

political opinions did not interfere with their decisions in the probe and

there was nothing wrong with being in the probe.  The attorney general, the

prior attorney general asked the U.S. attorney in Utah, Herd (ph) I think

his name is, something like that. 


MADDOW:  Huber. 


NADLER:  Huber, to do a second investigation.  We`re waiting for the result

of that.  We don`t need a third investigation of the same material just

designed to further the propaganda against the Mueller investigation and

against an apolitical and properly functioning FBI and intelligence



MADDOW:  To that point, I feel like we knew that – we knew that Attorney

General Barr was pursuing something along these lines because he talked

about it in testimony before the Senate. 


What`s new tonight is this directive, this formal-looking directive in

which he says that the intelligence community is essentially ordered to

cooperate fully.  That`s the part I don`t really understand. 


NADLER:  I don`t know what that means. 




NADLER:  It may just be public relations, I don`t know. 


MADDOW:  Yes, that`s what I was wondering. 


NADLER:  I don`t know. 


The fact of the matter is this is all nonsense.  There is no basis

whatsoever to believe that anybody in the intelligence community did

anything wrong in terms of starting the investigation or the Hillary email

investigation.  What they`re really trying to do is to divert attention

from the Mueller report and from the president`s actions against the rule

of law to an imaginary scandal. 


MADDOW:  It`s been just over 60 days since Mueller`s investigation was

ended and since he submitted his report.  We have seen hide nor hair of

Robert Mueller in that time.  I don`t know where he is, I hope he`s well. 


You have talked repeatedly about hoping to get him in to testify about his

own findings.  Today, in fact, was one of the days that you had put on the

calendar as a hopeful date that he might come in. 


What`s going on?  What`s wrong with – what`s wrong with our expectations? 

We had thought that it would be a big deal to get him in there. 


NADLER:  Well, we think it would be.  We want him to come in and testify. 

We want others to come in and testify. 


There are a lot of people who should come in and testify, who the

administration is saying they will not permit to testify.  They`re blanket

stonewalling of Congress and the American people.  The president was silly

enough – was foolish enough to admit that he was engaged in blanket

stonewalling, and that includes McGahn and that includes a lot of other



Mueller, he – I think I can say at this point, that he wants to testify in



MADDOW:  Why? 


NADLER:  I don`t know why.  It`s – he wants – he`s willing to make an

opening statement but he wants to testify in private.  We`re saying he

ought to – we think it`s important for the American people to hear from

him and to hear his answers to questions about the report. 


MADDOW:  Does he want to testify in private and have it be a closed session

where we, the people, would not even get to see a transcript of it? 


NADLER:  No, no, no.  We`d see a transcript.  But I – we`d see a



MADDOW:  Do you have any sense of – I mean, why would witnesses usually

say something like that or do you have any indication why he might want



NADLER:  He envisions himself correctly as a man of great rectitude and

apolitical and he doesn`t want to participate in anything that he might

regard as a political spectacle, especially if Republicans on the committee

start asking him questions about the beginning of the – about this stuff,

the beginning of the investigation.  I`m speculating really.




NADLER:  But he doesn`t want to be public in what some people will regard

as a political spectacle, I think. 


MADDOW:  It`s hard for me – I can see if he was advocating for a closed

session in which the public would never know.  I mean we can read it, we

can act it out.  We still have access to what`s said. 


NADLER:  You do very well acting out transcripts. 




NADLER:  But there`s a difference, obviously. 




Let me ask about whether there`s any discussion about whether his team, his

prosecutors and investigators involved, should also be testifying.  And the

reason I asked is not just because I`m interested to hear what they have to

say, but it`s because, among others, the attorney general and the president

and Republicans in Congress have singled out individual people on Mueller`s

team as being particularly bad actors or being the people who might explain

Mueller`s complaints to Barr about how Barr handled the investigation. 


They`ve already been targeted.  They had words put in their mouth.  Should

we not hear from them as well? 


NADLER:  I think we probably will.  I think we`ll probably hear from them

and a lot of other people. 


You know, our intention in the Judiciary Committee is to open all of this

up to the American people, to have everybody relevant testify so that

people understand what was in the Mueller report, what wasn`t in the

Mueller report, to understand what was going on.  We can ask questions

about other things, about the president`s derelictions of duty or about his

defenses of his dereliction of duty, about all of these things.  People

have to understand it. 


Now, the administration decided to use quite indefensible legal doctrines

to stonewall Congress, stonewall the American people and say nobody can

testify and nobody can bring documents.  We`re going to beat them in court

because that`s ridiculous from a legal point of view, but they are going

try to waste a lot of time. 


But we will have witnesses, those who will come in voluntarily, those who

will be subpoenaed, and we will enforce the subpoenas.  And we will have,

I`m sure, other witnesses too like some of those 900 federal prosecutors

who said that based on the evidence in the Mueller report they would have

indicted if it weren`t for the opinion that a president can never be

indicted no matter what the evidence. 


We will have hearings on other derelictions of duty.  For instance, the

president`s intimidation of witnesses, his dangling of pardons, his

intimidating witnesses, his failure – it`s the duty of the Justice

Department, the duty of the Justice Department to defend the

constitutionality in court of any law passed by Congress, unless they can

rationally say it`s so off the wall that there`s no legal argument that can

be made. 


So, why did the Justice Department switch from supporting the

constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, to opposing it and asking the

court to declare Obamacare unconstitutional and deprive 20 million people

of pre-existing condition coverage and of other things?  These are

questions that I think – what about the decisions that led to tearing kids

away from their parents at the border?  All of these are abuses of power

that we`re going to investigate. 


MADDOW:  And these sorts of hearings, this type of aggressive hearings

schedule that you`re describing, when does it start? 


NADLER:  Well, it starts as soon as we can get witnesses.  I mean, we have



MADDOW:  They`re never going to let you get witnesses – 


NADLER:  No, no – 


MADDOW:  – if they have anything to say about it. 


NADLER:  That`s right, but we`re going to win – I mean, you saw in court

this week, two key cases, and I anticipate we`ll win the other cases,

because the arguments of presidential privilege and absolute immunity are

pure nonsense.  There`s no precedent for it. 


So, we will win those cases and we`ll get them.  Some of it will take time

because they`ll try to appeal it.  But meanwhile we have – and meanwhile,

we`re doing a whole legislative program separate from the investigations. 

We just passed this week, Dreamer legislation to protect the Dreamers. 

That will go to the House floor June 4th. 


We passed out of our committee legislation from an antitrust perspective

that should cut the cost of prescription drugs about $40 billion over 10

years.  We`ve passed legislation on the Equality Act, major act to say that

the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Fair Housing Act, and few others includes

LGBT people. 


We passed major gun control legislation, universal background checks. 

These aren`t getting the publicity they deserve because everything is

subsumed under the president`s scandals.  But we`re showing that Congress

can walk and chew gum at the same time and that we can carry a full

legislative agenda to do what we promised the American people during the

campaign, at the same time that we`re holding the president accountable to

vindicate the rule of law and to make sure that we keep a democratic

government, with a small D. 


MADDOW:  Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee, I have one more

matter that I want to ask you about tonight before I let you go –


NADLER:  Sure. 


MADDOW:  – if you can stick with us.


We`ll be right back with the chairman right after this. 




MADDOW:  Back with us again is Congressman Jerry Nadler, he is the chairman

of the Judiciary Committee in the House. 


Sir, thank you very much for sticking with us.  Much appreciated. 


“The Washington Post” reported this week that you helped make the case, and

you made your own case to Speaker Pelosi, that maybe this is the time to

open an impeachment inquiry into President Trump for the behavior described

in the Mueller report and other things. 


Was that reporting accurate?  And does that mean that you have evolved in

your thinking on this? 


NADLER:  Well, I`m constantly evolving on my thinking on this and frankly

going back and forth too because it`s a very tight question. 


Yes, I urged the speaker to speed things up and to consider an impeachment

inquiry.  Part of the rationale for that, which was that if you`re in court

seeking to enforce subpoenas, you have a better odds in court if you can

say this is part of your impeachment inquiry rather than just part of your

general oversight.  That rationale is much weaker now than it was on Monday

since those two court decisions came down in our favor.


MADDOW:  Uh-huh, meaning the courts are going your way anyway?


NADLER:  Right. 




NADLER:  Or they seem to be.  So, that`s weaker. 


But the fact of the matter is we have to pursue – what`s really important

t is that we pursue the investigations, we pursue the contempt citations,

we pursue the subpoenas.  We lay it all out to the American people.  We lay

the case out to the American people whether we call it an impeachment –

and we see where we go from there. 


MADDOW:  Uh-huh.


NADLER:  Whether we call it an impeachment inquiry or not is I think of

secondary significance compared to actually doing what we have to do. 


MADDOW:  Is it clear to you that there really isn`t much legal advantage to

calling something an impeachment inquiry as opposed to not having that

open?  I mean, I`ve heard both arguments on both sides.


NADLER:  That`s speculative. 




NADLER:  I mean, you`re arguing to a court that the court must intervene

between two coordinated branches of government which it`s reluctant to do

and order one branch to do what we want them to do.  And you`re arguing

that we have no alternative, you`ve got to do that because there`s no other

alternative.  And certainly, if we`re doing it in pursuit of our

impeachment constitutional right, it`s a somewhat stronger argument at

least theoretically than if you`re doing it just for normal oversight. 


But how much of a difference that makes?  We don`t really know.  And –


MADDOW:  Well, the cost of opening an inquiry, though, I mean, that`s also

somewhat speculative.  Everybody thinks there will be a political benefit

to the president of you opening an impeachment inquiry.  That to me seems

also like speculation.


NADLER:  Again, I don`t know.  And the fact of the matter is, and I think

Lawrence O`Donnell pointed this out about six or seven weeks ago, if we

were to call – to hold an impeachment inquiry in the – and hearings in

the Judiciary Committee, how would they differ from what we`re going to be

doing if we don`t call it an impeachment inquiry?  And the answer is they



MADDOW:  Except they`d be under the headline “impeachment inquiry” in the

House – 


NADLER:  Right, right, right.


MADDOW:  – which tends to land with a punch. 




MADDOW:  Sir, Congressman Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary

Committee.  Keep us apprised.  I know you were in the middle of a lot of

pushmi-pullyus (ph) right now.  I appreciate you taking the time to be



NADLER:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  It`s good to see you. 


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




MADDOW:  There`s a lot of moving pieces tonight. 


Joining us to help sort out some of what we learned just over the course of

this hour is the great Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney from the great

state of Michigan. 


Barb, thank you so much for being here.  I really appreciate it. 


BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Thanks, Rachel.  Glad to be here. 


MADDOW:  So, we just got news from Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary

Committee.  He just told us and I think this is the first time this has

been bluntly articulated anywhere that in terms of negotiations with Robert

Mueller to testify in Congress about his investigation and his report and

his findings, that Robert Mueller wants to testify in private, not in a

closed session where we would never ultimately see the transcript of it,

but in a closed-door session that was transcribed and ultimately the

transcription would be released to us even though we couldn`t see it on TV. 


What do you make of that? 


MCQUADE:  Well, you know, for curiosity seekers like me, it`s disappointing

because I would rather see him testify live.  I think it`s probably more

compelling for the public to see live testimony.  But, you know, just based

on pure speculation, I guess I might think Robert Mueller is one to sort of

shun the spotlight. 


And we`ve all seen those hearings turn into sort of political theatrics. 

He may want to avoid that sort of posturing by members of Congress as they

ask the questions and stick to the facts.  So, it is sort of keeping with

his M.O. of just the facts. 


MADDOW:  In terms of how the Judiciary Committee is going to proceed here,

it`s a very interesting prospect in terms of Mueller.  As Chairman Nadler

described it, he said that, you know, Mueller wants to avoid essentially

being politicized being on TV versus being on a transcript.  It`s hard to -

- I don`t know.  I mean, we`ll see how this works out. 


There`s also the broader structural question as to whether or not the

judiciary committee can get further down the road of compelling witnesses

or compelling documents if they open up an impeachment inquiry.  The

chairman suggested to him as a legal matter, it`s an absolutely open clear. 

Do you feel like that is an unclear part of the law that we don`t know

whether that would help them? 


MCQUADE:  I don`t know that it does.  I think they can get almost

everything they want and I think we saw that demonstrated this week with

the court orders.  You know, this Judge Mehta who order that if Congress

has the power to legislate, they have the power – or the power for

oversight, they have the power to investigate. 


So I think Chairman Nadler is correct whether they call it an impeachment

hearing or not, if they just want to continue to investigate, I think they

can do so and the subpoenas will have teeth. 


MADDOW:  The president tonight made a statement from the White House or a

statement was issued by the White House press office, and they released a

memorandum in which the intelligence community is directed to quickly and

fully cooperate with the attorney general`s investigation into surveillance

activities during the 2016 presidential election.  The attorney general

also delegated full and complete authority to declassify information

pertaining to this investigation. 


We assume this is whatever William Barr was talking about when he testified

before the Senate recently, and said that he`s looking into the origins of

Mueller`s inquiry.  I don`t know what this new directive from the White

House is meant to signal tonight or if this is a substantive thing.  How do

you see this? 


MCQUADE:  I think it`s actually very significant.  You know, the idea they

should cooperate with each other, I have no problem with.  But the idea of

giving William Barr the power to declassify all of the material within the

intelligence community is unprecedented.  Ordinarily, each intelligence

agency controls its own information because they are best able to assess

whether it would compromise a source or method to disclose particular

information with the director of national intelligence over all of it. 


Instead, President Trump has given all of that power to William Barr.  You

know, when I was practicing and handling cases, there were times when I

wanted to bring a case but I was prevented from doing so because someone in

the intelligence community made a decision that it would irreparably harm

some source or method and that equity was worth more than my little case. 

So, you know, I accepted that they were acting in good faith when they made

that decision. 


If William Barr who I think now has given at least the appearance that he

is acting in the best interests of President Trump as opposed to the best

interests of our national security has that power, I worry that it gives

him the power to create a whole lot of mischief within the intelligence

community and with the outcome of his investigation. 


MADDOW:  It may also suggesting that in this young investigation that he

has started, that he`s personally involved in, the intelligence community

has already been telling him no.  He went to the White House to get

authority in order to overrule those nos.  I don`t – I agree with you,

this is worrying but it`s not like anything we`ve seen before.  So, I`m not

sure what we know, that, we know what it means yet. 


Barb, thank you for helping us understand all the breaking news tonight as

it happens.  I really appreciate you being here.


MCQUADE:  You`re welcome, Rachel.  Thanks very much for having me. 


MADDOW:  All right.  That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again



Now, it is the time for “THE LAST WORD” with the aforementioned Lawrence

O`Donnell who was quoted by the chairman of the Judiciary Committee right

here just moments ago. 







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