Mueller leaves open possibility. TRANSCRIPT: 4/18/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
William Yeomans
Transcript:

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.  Are you sure you

don`t want to host this hour also? 

 

There`s just so much in this report, Rachel.  It`s been overwhelming to try

to pick what can we squeeze in to these segments. 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  The only thing I want to do that would

still give me pleasure even though it may result in me having to stop

reading it for awhile, the only thing is take a little break to go to a

casting office somewhere to pick the people who I would like to play to act

out all of the scenes involving K.T. McFarland. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, yes. 

 

MADDOW:  It`s like the new efforts at obstruction we didn`t know about, the

K.T. McFarland stuff, Erik Prince stuff, the Steve Bannon stuff, the Corey

Lewandowski stuff, the Rick Dearborn stuff, I mean, all of this stuff that

we didn`t know, especially stuff never reported at all I feel like we ought

to start acting that stuff out so we can envision how it went down. 

 

O`DONNELL:  I guess one of the things we should do since we can`t cram it

all into either one of these shows and we`ll be still talking about this

next week, is this time really urge the audience more than usual to

actually get this report and read it because among other things as you just

suggested, it`s really dramatic. 

 

There are some really dramatic cinematic scenes in this report.  The

legalese is minimal.  You can skip it.  If you read one sentence you don`t

understand, keep going.  You`ll understand the next one. 

 

This is one of the most powerful government documents of its kind I`ve ever

held in my hands. 

 

MADDOW:  And there`s summaries at the beginning and there`s long narrative

conclusions at the end.  You can read those if you want the short version

of the report or if you want, you can skip those and just jump right into

the evidence and read anecdote after anecdote after anecdote, including all

of those supporting information.  I mean, you`re still frustrated when you

get to redactions.  But this thing is written for TV. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

MADDOW:  I mean, it is very cinematic. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And speaking of the summaries, now that we`ve seen them, how

strange does it make what William Barr has been doing?  Those summaries

were clearly ready for immediate consumption, labeled executive summary

which is what every Washington report has at the beginning of every major

section of a Washington report.  Executive summary, they were right there. 

 

If William Barr was going to hand out anything, say anything about this

report, it should have been the two executive summaries. 

 

MADDOW:  And for William Barr to get up there and say, you know on the

obstruction stuff, the decision about not charging the president has

nothing whatsoever to do with their Justice Department policy that says a

sitting president can`t be charged, set that aside. 

 

That`s totally – I mean, given now that we know what`s in that summary for

him to have tried for 26 days to get away with that claim as if that

explains why the president isn`t facing criminal charges right now or isn`t

facing some sort off substitute for prosecution if he can`t be prosecuted,

that`s just remarkable to me because he was blunt as could be on that point

and he is 180 degrees bluntly contradicted by the plain non-legalese

language of what Mueller explained about his own decision there.  Barr is

absolutely caught out lying. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And here`s what`s so fascinating about it.  He knew, he knew

you were going to say that. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  He knew the day was going to come that what he had been saying

about this report would be proven false and he was still doing it when he

knew it was going to be proven false two hours later, he was standing up

there this morning saying the president cooperated completely. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

 

O`DONNELL:  – with this.  The guy who refused to submit to an interview. 

 

MADDOW:  The guy who – cooperated completely and here`s 180-plus pages of

all the things he did to try to block the investigation, which I`ll

summarize as complete cooperation. 

 

It`s just, I mean, the thing that is – the thing that`s hard here is

you`re exactly right.  William Barr knows exactly what kind of criticism

he`s going to get.  He knew he would get that criticism.  That`s what he`s

here for.  You know he`s sitting somewhere tonight going, like, yes,

impeach me, right?

 

There`s all this stuff indicates there will be an impeachment inquiry about

the president given what`s in the report.  William Barr is hoping to be the

heat shield, the guy who absorbs the criticism so as to distract from what

this says about Donald Trump. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We – I never thought I`d say it when I was watching Jeff

Sessions confirmation hearing and not so long after that when we started to

find out that not everything Jeff Sessions said in his hearing was

necessarily true.  It was inconceivable to me that there would be an

attorney general who we could say was not as is honorable as Jeff Sessions

when it comes to the matter of investigating the president. 

 

MADDOW:  Jeff Sessions who we`ve just learned was actively investigated by

the FBI for perjury. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Uh-huh. 

 

MADDOW:  Ta-da. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Among other things.  Among the many gems that each of which

deserve a full hour of attention. 

 

MADDOW:  Exactly.  Honestly, we should do it alphabetical by character. 

I`m going to get actors I swear. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, that`s the next step.  Thank you, Rachel.

 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.  Good luck. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, Attorney General Barr took as long as he possibly could

to hand over his redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress.  But

Congress has it now, which means the Republican-controlled Senate will try

to ignore it but the Democratically controlled House of Representatives

must take on the responsibility of dealing with the Mueller report, which

Robert Mueller clearly anticipates in the report.  He expects congressional

action. 

 

It`s very clear in the report that Mueller expects Congress to be the next

center of the action in the investigation of the president, including the

possibility of impeachment, which is specifically mentioned by Mueller in

the report, actual references to impeachment. 

 

And so, we are important tonight to have two members of the House Judiciary

Committee joining us, including one member who is a presidential candidate,

Eric Swalwell.  They have the responsibility of deciding whether the

Mueller report has presented them with impeachable offenses by the

president of the United States.  They will join us later in this hour after

we begin our discussion of the report with a mix of legal and political

analysis. 

 

It is not possible to pick a most important line in the redacted version of

the Mueller report because there are so many important lines about the

proof that, quote, the Russian government interfered in the 2016

presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.  There are so

many lines that prove conclusively, quote, the Russian government perceived

it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. 

There are so many crucially important lines in the hundreds of pages of

evidence that the president of the United States committed obstruction of

justice. 

 

Those are the lines that the Democratically-controlled investigative

committees in the House of Representatives will use as the basis of their

continuing investigations of the president while the Republican-controlled

committees in the United States Senate will to the extent that they can

just ignore the Mueller report. 

 

But the line in the Mueller report that tells it you the most about Donald

Trump, the person, and Donald Trump the president, and Donald Trump the

obstruction of justice suspect is the line that Donald Trump himself

speaks.  When he is told that a special prosecutor has just been appointed

to investigate Russian interference in the election and possible Russian

interaction with the Trump campaign, one of the people in the Oval Office

at the time was taking notes.  And Robert Mueller obtained those notes. 

 

Robert Mueller also obtained under oath testimony from the person who wrote

those notes, and everyone else who was in the room – except Donald Trump,

of course, who refused to speak to the special prosecutor.  It was one of

the many dramatic scenes described in the Mueller report. 

 

Days earlier, the president had fired FBI Director James Comey and believed

that that would be the end of the Russia investigation and that the FBI was

already conducting.  The president was in the Oval Office with Attorney

General Jeff Sessions who had recused himself from supervising at

investigation.  White House counsel Don McGahn was in the room, along with

Jeff Sessions, chief of staff, Jody Hunt, who was taking the notes that

Robert Mueller used to reconstruct the scene.  They were there to conduct

interviews for a new FBI director.  And they didn`t know that Deputy

Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was supervising the Russia

investigation now had just appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel. 

 

Page 78, volume two of the Mueller report.  Sessions stepped out to take a

call from Rosenstein who told him about the special counsel appointment and

Sessions then returned to inform the president of the news.  According to

notes written by Hunt, when Sessions told the president that a special

counsel had been appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and

said, oh, my God, this is terrible.  This is the end of my presidency.  I`m

F`ed.

 

And that is who Donald Trump really is.  He is the terrified man who has

feared from the day Robert Mueller was appointed that it meant the end of

his presidency.  There was no tough guy in him when he heard about the

special prosecutor.  Just fear and hopelessness.  I`m F`ed. 

 

He obviously felt powerless.  There was no confidence, no Trumpian bravado. 

 

The Mueller report notes that, quote, early the next morning, the president

tweeted, this is the single greatest witch hunt of a politicians in

American history! 

 

That`s the public Trump, the witch hunt Trump.  The private Trump, the real

Trump?  This is the end of my presidency.  I`m F`ed. 

 

There are many lessons in that important line.  First of all, the president

is not as crazy as he publicly appears to be.  That was a perfectly

reasonable assessment of his situation by Donald Trump.  Oh, my God, this

is terrible.  This is the end of my presidency.  I`m F`ed. 

 

That is a normal reaction from a person who realizes that a special

prosecutor could ruin his life.  He was right.  Donald Trump is an

unindicted co-conspirator tonight in a federal case in New York City which

was begun by Robert Mueller, a cases in which Michael Cohen is going to

prison for campaign crimes that he committed with Donald Trump and at the

direction of Donald Trump according to federal prosecutors in New York

City. 

 

Donald Trump was right to think that thing like the crimes that he

committed with Michael Cohen would be the end of his presidency.  Donald

Trump knew what he was guilty of when he said this is the end of my

presidency.  Donald Trump knew all the things that he was hoping Robert

Mueller would not find out about him or would not be able to prove beyond a

reasonable doubt about him. 

 

From a legal standpoint, Donald Trump`s statement also shows what the law

calls consciousness of guilt.  And that consciousness of guilt as expressed

by the president, the second he found out a special prosecutor was on his

case is all the motivation he would need for what occupies half of the

Mueller report.  Donald Trump`s obstruction of justice as described in the

evidence gathered by Robert Mueller. 

 

So any that one line, you have three big things.  You have the real Donald

Trump.  You have consciousness of guilt.  You have motivation for

obstruction of justice. 

 

It is certainly the most dramatic line any character speaks in the entire

Mueller report.  When the mini series is made, that line will be the end of

an episode.  The Mueller report is something entirely different from what

Attorney General William Barr has been trying to portray it to be,

including his highly misleading comments about it just this morning before

anyone had read it, knowing that it would be disproved hours later, the

attorney general tried to suggest this morning that Donald Trump was fully

cooperative with Robert Mueller`s investigation when in fact he refused to

be interviewed by the special prosecutor and tried to fire the special

prosecutor and delivered messages through his lawyer that people should not

cooperate with the special prosecutor. 

 

The Mueller report makes clear that the only reason Robert Mueller did not

charge the president with obstruction of justice is the Justice Department

policy against indicting a president.  And even though Attorney General

Barr absurdly echoed Donald Trump`s no collusion chant this morning, hours

later, we read on page one of the Mueller report that the investigation,

quote, identified numerous links between the Russian government and the

Trump campaign.  The Mueller report spends hundreds of pages describing the

links between Russians and Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, and the Trump

family. 

 

Robert Mueller correctly points out that the word collusion has no lee

meaning and what he was charged with investigating was the possibility of

provable criminal conspiracy between Russians and the Trump campaign.  The

report says: We applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of

collusion.  And Robert Mueller says that – within that legal framework,

the prosecutors could not prove a Trump campaign conspiracy with Russians. 

Quote: The investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign

coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference

activities, a statement that the investigation did not establish particular

facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.

 

This is now a legal story that has also today become a political story with

the Mueller report now in the hands of Congress.  We are leading off our

discussion tonight with experts on both aspects of this story, the legal

and the political. 

 

Ari Melber has crossover jurisdiction in both of those territories, the

legal and the political.  He`s MSNBC`s chief legal correspondent and host

of “THE BEAT” weeknights at 6:00 p.m. here on MSNBC. 

 

John Heilemann will consider the politics of the Mueller report as it lands

in Congress, in the middle lest we forget of a presidential campaign.  He

is a national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.  He is co-host and

executive producer of Showtime`s “The Circus”.

 

We have two Justice Department veterans with us tonight who will give us

their reading of the report. 

 

Joyce Vance is a former U.S. attorney and a professor at the University of

Alabama School of Law.  She`s an MSNBC legal contributor.

 

And William Yeomans spent 26 years in the Justice Department, was former

chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He now serves as a senior

fellow at the Alliance for Justice. 

 

And, Ari, let me start with you.  This is I think is your ninth hour of

television today.  I`ve lost track.  I`ve been following you all day for

quite awhile, most of what I knew about this I learned from you on

television.  I`ve caught up with my reading. 

 

Given everything that`s been analyzed today, what do you think the focus

should be now? 

 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, as you say, Lawrence,

the day is long but not nearly as long as the Mueller report.  You just

laid out something that was so vital and you did it as we`ve come to expect

in a narrative fashion.  But it has great legal significance, as you know,

because when the president says, oh there`s going to be a fact-finding

query into me and what I`ve done as president or in my life, so my

presidency is over, I`m F`ed. 

 

Bob Mueller doesn`t include that in a report this serious for headlines. 

If Bob Mueller wanted headlines, he would have sought headlines over the

last 23 months.  He did the opposite.  Everyone knows that – tight-lipped,

no leaks during the probe and certainly nor exciting little tidbits. 

 

I submit to you that while that is exciting and makes for great prose as

you just read, it`s in there because of the legal significance, because it

tells us about the potentially alleged corrupt intent in the president`s

mind.  And that be goes to the mystery that animates all of in that we`ve

learned more about thanks to this report today. 

 

I would put it like this.  If there was no chargeable election conspiracy,

why would the president do so many things that amounts to evidence of

obstruction, so much evidence of obstruction that Mueller says, look, he

says this near the end, if we found someone who didn`t obstruct at all, we

would tell you that.  We`re not telling you that.  So, why? 

 

Well, one of the answers that is basically gestured at in that amazing

quote is that the president was knowledgeable of his own criminal liability

and exposure, but maybe not for the election conspiracy.  Maybe for as you

mentioned, other election crimes that he knew about that were covered up in

New York, maybe for one of the other referrals that remains under

investigation.  Maybe because the Trump Tower meeting or WikiLeaks contact

that he had is the beginning and not the end.  So, he knew of other things

in his experience gave him knowledge of his own criminal liability. 

 

It was not the private announcement or saying of a person who thought I`m

clear, this will be a headache.  Give it time.  It was the statement –

raw, uncut, unvarnished off Twitter of a man who seemed very acquainted

with his criminal liability. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, John Heilemann, Trump is the one person who knows

everything.  He knows what he did with Michael Cohen in the closing weeks

of the campaign now judged criminal.  He might not have known that crossed

legal lines but he did know I don`t want that public and he also knew once

the prosecutor starts looking at you, they can look at anything. 

 

JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST:  Yes, and look, I mean,

we all have had conversations whether Donald Trump is in full possession of

his facts.  So, there may be some things he has done he doesn`t remember. 

I can`t speak to his state of mind, a lot of people speculate about it.

 

But there`s no doubt that Ari`s point is right.  It is a dramatic moment,

it is a moment in which to your point earlier, Trump recognizes the

profound political peril that he`s in.  And everything that happens I think

from that moment forward so much of the obstruction part of this report

that details owes from that. 

 

He thinks really for the first time he is in existential peril, and he`s

right.  He may still be right not only that his presidency has been ham

strung by it, that he`s been beaten about the head and shoulders by Bob

Mueller, by Democrats, by all the critics that attacked him. 

 

But it`s still to me as a political matter if it`s right, that we all

directly read in the report and surmise from the tone of the report that

Mueller`s intention was to say, I understand that I can`t indict a sitting

president according to Justice Department policy.  I`m an institutional

conservative.  I`m not going to challenge that.  I`m not going to go to the

Supreme Court and try to see if we can set new precedent.  What I`m going

to do is I`m going to push this in the political realm.

 

The political realm is the proper realm for this is Congress where we don`t

talk about crimes in the purely criminal court sense.  We talk about

crimes, high crimes and misdemeanors. 

 

And here is in the way that Leon Jaworski did in Watergate.  Here`s a road

map to Congress for things that could, in a democratic polity, be

considered high crimes and misdemeanors.  Guys have at it. 

 

So, tonight, where we are in the political realm is a Democratic House of

Representatives that faces a giant choice of how to proceed.  Impeachment

is now fully on table.  The answer maybe the Democrats decide they want to

go that path, or they want to try to partway down the path and decide

later.  Or if they want to, as Steny Hoyer suggests tonight, just don`t

want to go down that path at all. 

 

But that is the salient political issue is, are we going down that road or

not?  And that is a matter fully in the hands of Democrats who now control

the House of Representatives. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Let me stay with you on that for one point, because there`s a

couple of elements to it and the most elementary part – forget the

politics of is it good for the Democrats or bad for the Democrats?  By the

way, one of the things I find so strange coming from the Democratic side is

the fear that it`s bad for the Democrats because why?  Because the

impeachment of Bill Clinton was bad for the Republicans?  Who really thinks

that? 

 

The Republicans then won the House of Representatives, they then won the

Senate and they won the presidency.  How did it hurt them?  Someone explain

that to me. 

 

But the calendar, the calendar, the political calendar.  We`re a year and a

half away from a change of administrations.  If President Trump loses re-

election to mount an impeachment process, you might not get to an

impeachment vote in the House of Representatives until say that everything

at the earliest of this year. 

 

You then move to a trial in the Senate and now you`ve got the Iowa caucuses

and New Hampshire primary and impeachment trial in the Senate going on and

people are thinking – wait a minute, isn`t the election close enough to

solve this problem?

 

So the calendar is a practical problem that crashes up against the issue of

impeachment. 

 

HEILEMANN:  It is and it`s also – we don`t have what we had in 1974.  We

don`t have the smoking gun.  We don`t have a set of tapes that have caused

what would make this an easy political choice, a sudden crumbling of

Republican support for the president, the country turning against the

president with his approval ratings cratering. 

 

We`ve seen that, and I don`t think we`re going to see that on the basis of

this report.  As a frank matter, the president`s base is likely to hold. 

So, therefore, it`s a much trickier political calculation. 

 

Again, putting even aside the things you just laid out, is there a way it

could work for Democrats or not?  There`s an urgency to it because in some

world, you might want to say let`s kick the can down the road, let`s tie

the president up in investigations that are interminable, make his life

miserable, and then we`ll figure out the impeachment thing in due course. 

 

Unfortunately, in due course, the first Democratic debates are in June, six

weeks away.  We`re going to get – we`re starting to hear people, even

fierce opponents of the president, who are saying, the right thing to do

right now is settle this at the election, at the voting booth. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Joyce Vance, with this calendar on the impeachment question,

doesn`t that strike you as something – to me, it`s the invisible factor in

the Mueller report, as I`m reading it.  And Mueller says at a certain point

that he`s not going to subpoena the president because it`s so late in the

investigation. 

 

Well, investigations don`t have calendars normally.  They have kind of

unlimited calendars. But it strikes me that the calendar Robert Mueller had

in mind was in fact a presidential election and he did not want to infect a

presidential election by letting his work and his investigation run that

far down the calendar. 

 

And that`s one of the reasons why he skipped the subpoena process of the

president which would have taken several months. 

 

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  It`s hard to know for sure, but there`s

a long-standing DOJ policy that says that we shouldn`t have investigations

that impact elections.  And, of course, this case is the poster child for

that.  There is I think no practical way that that decision about the

president`s testimonial status could have been decided by the Supreme Court

without bumping heads with the timing on the election. 

 

And Mueller may have felt something else here.  It`s not something that

prosecutors often feel but there`s some indication that he felt urgency to

bring the facts in front of the American people.  He knew all long he would

not be indicting a sitting president because of DOJ policy.  And so rather

than kicking the can down the road in this regard, I think he was simply

trying to get evidence into the hands of the people who constitutionally

were the folks charged with making a decision about what to do with it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  William Yeomans, that evidence is in their hands now.  What

does Congress do next?  With your experience working on the Hill and your

experience in the Justice Department, what do you see happening next? 

 

WILLIAM YEOMANS, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, I

think the House Judiciary Committee has to start a series of very

aggressive hearings.  As you point out, there isn`t a lot of time.  And the

administration is going to try to run out the clock.

 

And I think they`ve already announced they resist every request for

information, every subpoena that they get from Congress.  They are denying

the constitutional role of Congress in oversight and investigations. 

 

So, their goal clearly is to get this beyond the election and to get it to

what I think Joyce was just referring to, which is a period before the

election when it`s going to be difficult for anybody to do much of

anything. 

 

So I think it`s biggest imperative for the Judiciary Committee to start

right away with a series of have an aggressive hearings.  They do have the

road map here.  They have a wonderful start.  They know who to get in

there.  They need to do it.   They need to do it now. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ari, aggressive hearings to my mind, especially based on

what we saw today with the attorney general would mean skipping the

attorney general hearing.  That`s just a formal procedure because there`s

the Judiciary Committee, committee of jurisdictions over the Justice

Department.  They always like to talk to the head guy. 

 

That seems like a tradition to dispense with here, like a wasted day and a

wasted amount of time in getting to Mueller.  They will get to Mueller

weeks after Barr. 

 

Why not just skip Barr and get to Mueller as soon as you can?

 

MELBER:  Well, I suppose the reason to get to Barr is what you and Rachel

were talking about, the notion that Sessions was on the hook for perjury

was because he had been held to account in that sort of setting. 

 

I agree with your premise.  That`s not the point.  That`s not the

fireworks. 

 

Getting Mueller and perhaps his deputies or going through every single one

of his prosecutors to dig into this stuff can be very important.  The Cohen

testimony was important for the American public. 

 

The nothing matters arguments that we heard throughout this probe and now

that Mueller`s done the fair job which means what does fairness sometimes

mean?  It means there are things in here some people like and things some

people don`t like.  That`s why he`s such a fair, careful prosecutor. 

 

But the nothing matters argument, that is the argument of the depraved, of

the people who want to get away with everything.  So while I understand

it`s part of our job to cover, what would a calendar of impeachment look

like, there`s also the let`s not get ahead of the fact finding that

Congress does was this now as you put it, as the road map to have Mueller

and other people in and go through it all. 

 

The other point that`s very important of whether or not Congress takes the

maximum approach or not is, the president of the United States is the one

person our system of government who has the constitutional obligation to

take care that the laws be faithfully executed. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

MELBER:  That`s what it says in the Constitution.  We`ve had so much talk

about the fact that for other reasons we don`t indict sitting presidents

typically I think sometimes folks lose a little bit of the headline here

which is if there is overwhelming evidence of obstruction by the president,

that is worse than if it was by a regular citizen even though you have two

thoughts in your mind, we have a system that doesn`t indict the sitting

president. 

 

And that is what is on the table here that the Congress has to deal with, a

president who stands credibly accused of doing that over and over putting

himself above the country. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Joyce Vance, we all you had some things we wondered about the

in Mueller report, especially after the Barr letters started to come out,

things that didn`t – we struggled to make sense of like why didn`t Mueller

reach a conclusion.  Having read it today, do you feel like it answers all

of those questions that we had about what was really happening here? 

 

VANCE:  Something that surprised me when I starred reading was actually how

well some of the analysis based on the Barr letter held up.  And that might

sound surprising but what I mean by that is that when we read between the

lines of the Barr`s initial letter, we saw he wasn`t saying that the

campaign had not engaged in any sort of conspiracy with Russians.  Instead,

it seemed he had been very narrow and said that there was not evidence that

established that. 

 

We saw that repeated in the Mueller report today where Mueller says there

was not sufficient evidence.  And in fact, talks becomes some ways where

evidence was hard to come by, people took the Fifth.  Witnesses lied.  Some

of the evidence was unavailable because it was in the possession of people

who were out of the country. 

 

And there`s even this reference where Mueller says, you know, this is the

judgment that we make here.  But because we couldn`t get all of the

evidence, because there were gaps in the evidence, it`s possible that some

of what we`ve concluded here could be different if we had had access to the

evidence. 

 

So, the president doesn`t get indicted, people around him in the campaign

don`t get indicted.  But it`s pretty slender hope.  It`s not really a

strong bill of health. 

 

And then we have something similar that happens on obstruction where it was

very clear from Barr`s initial letter that there was no intent for Barr to

make the ultimate decision.  You know, Barr characterized it as binary. 

You`re a prosecutor, you have to say yes or no. 

 

Reading the report though, it`s clear what we summarized all along that

Mueller declined to make a decision because of DOJ policy against indicting

a sitting president, that that was in fact the case, and Mueller writes a

beautiful road map for Congress to pick up and investigate with. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Bill Yeomans, the attorney general seems to be extremely

careful in what he writes, including his written statement this morning. 

You look back on it and you see oh, I see how he threaded the needle. 

 

But then when it`s verbal and he`s just in exchanges in hearings or today

with reporters, today the reporters, he said no collusion.  This report

does not say no collusion. This report does not say, no collusion.  This

report says if you`re going to use the word collusion in effect what it

says is there could be.  And there were a bunch of things that sure looked

like collusion.  We couldn`t get the proof of this up to proof beyond a

reasonable doubt for a courtroom.

 

WILLIAM YEOMANS, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Yes, it

was stunning that the attorney general stayed with the term collusion.  And

obviously, he was playing to his audience in the White House in the Oval

Office.  But, the report could not be more clear that the investigation was

not addressing collusion.  It was addressing the issue of a criminal

conspiracy or coordination which is defined as something close to a

conspiracy.  So – and there is a lot in the report that and certainly

satisfies as my definition of collusion, for instance, where we have Paul

Manafort and Gates sitting down with Konstantin Kilimnik to give and, you

know, to do an inside strategy discussion on the Trump and campaign and to

talk about the battleground states and to share internal polling.  That

seems to me to be collusion.  So, I think there are a number of examples in

the report that satisfy the collusion standard to the extent collusion is

relevant.

 

O`DONNELL:  John Heilemann in terms of the – if you`re watching the movie

of this like the character you want to track probably more than any other

is Don McGahn.  He is the one who is in the scenes with the President where

the President is saying, you know, fire the special prosecutor, fire

Mueller.  And this is days after Mueller has been chosen.  He comes back to

more than once.  He calls him at home he says to him call me back when

you`ve done it, all these things.  And McGahn, at certain points decides

not to tell other, not only does he not do it –

 

JOHN HEILEMANN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND NATIONAL-AFFAIRS ANALYST FOR NBC

NEWS AND MSNBC:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  – but, he – and Mueller, by the way, judges him to be a

credible witness, he offers that judgment right, in the writing.  Not only

does he not do it, but he doesn`t even tell other people about it because

he doesn`t want them to be caught in the web where they will sometime have

to answer for this.  And so McGahn is the one who basically presents it to

Priebus and others simply by saying the President is asking him to do crazy

crap and I cleaned that up.  And the crazy crap he`s talking about would be

crimes –

 

HEILEMANN:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  – reading up.

 

HEILEMANN:  Yeah, right.  And look, I mean I think what we learned about

Don McGahn in this is that he`s a very – anybody who had questions about

his understanding of the intersection of law and politics –

 

O`DONNELL:  And crime.

 

HEILEMANN:  – and crime.  Well, that`s what I meant by law, the criminal

risk and the political, the nexus of political risk and criminal risk, he

doing things that are quite extraordinarily careful to make sure that he

keeps other people out of trouble.  You can make various judgments about

what his moral standing was, and what you would do in a more heroic version

of the movie.  But there`s no doubt that it`s extraordinary the number of

scenes in which he`s involved where the question of obstruction again in

any layman`s understanding is like that`s looks a lot like obstruction of

justice to me.

 

ARI MELBER, AMERICAN ATTORNEY AND JOURNALIST FOR NBC NEWS AND HOST OF

MSNBCC`S THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER:  And can I add something to that?  The

criminal code as, you know, Lawrence, is all about – I`m being told we`re

out of time.

 

O`DONNELL:  No, finish.

 

MELBER:  It`s what you intend to do.  I try to follow your producer.  In my

– meaning, if you accidentally leave the oven on and the house goes up in

flames and God forbid people to burn to death that is very different than

arson.  It`s all about –

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

MELBER:  – what you`re trying to do.  Both sections of this report show

the President and his team trying to get foreign help.  But not always

succeeding.  And then the President trying to shut down the probe in ways

that his own lawyer thought would be illegal “Saturday Night Massacre” and

stops him.  So the criminal intent there and the negative attempt to do

things that might be criminal is a fuse (ph) throughout you the report even

though there`s good news for some of Trump`s folks because people stopped

him.  That is something America needs to take and consider.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

 

HEILEMANN:  And the page after page of Donald Trump trying to break the law

basically.

 

O`DONNELL:  We`re going to have to leave it there.  Ari Melber gets the

last word in our opening extended round here.  Ari, thank you –

 

MELBER:  Thank you, sir.

 

O`DONNELL:  – for your service all day today.  John Heilemann, and Ari

Melber, and Joyce Vance, William Yeomans, thank you all for starting us up. 

We really appreciate it.

 

And when we come back, the Mueller report has now been handed to the House

Judiciary Committee, the committee that has jurisdiction over impeachment. 

The chairman of that committee said tonight that it could be a road map. 

He`s staying away from the word impeachment as much as he can.  We will

have two members of that committee join us next, Congressman Eric Swalwell

and Jamie Raskin.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  The Mueller report anticipates the possibility of impeachment

for the President based on its findings on obstruction of justice and in

that section of the report.  It specifies that impeachment would not

necessarily, be the end of the story for this President.  “A possible

remedy through impeachment for abuses of power would not substitute for

potential criminal liability after a President leaves office.  Impeachment

would remove a president from office, but would not address the underlying

culpability of the conduct or serve the usual purposes of the criminal law. 

Indeed, the Impeachment Judgment Clause recognizes that criminal law plays

an independent role in addressing an official`s conduct, distinct from the

political remedy of impeachment.”

 

Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which has

jurisdiction over impeachment was asked about impeachment today.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When you say that it`s Congress`s responsibility to

hold the President accountable, does that mean impeachment?

     

JERRY NADLER, (D-NY) CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  That`s one

possibility.  There are others.  We obviously have to get to the bottom of

what happened and take whatever action it seems necessary at that time. 

It`s too early to reach those on conclusions.  That`s one reason we wanted

the Mueller report.  We still want the Mueller report and its entirety and

we`ll want other evidence too.

     

O`DONNELL:  Chairman Nadler said, he will issue a subpoena for the full,

unredacted report and underlying material.  Chairman Nadler and House

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff both sent letters to Robert

Mueller asking him to testify to their committees next month.  Chairman

Schiff said this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA) CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Whether these

acts are criminal or not, whether the obstruction of justice was criminal

or not, or whether these contacts were sufficiently illicit or not to rise

to the level of a criminal conspiracy, they are unquestionably dishonest,

unethical, immoral and unpatriotic and should be condemned by every

American.  That is not the subject of vindication.  That is the subject of

condemnation.  And that is how I think we should view the Mueller report.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her

colleagues about the Mueller report saying, “As we continue to review this

document, we will have more to report and will be update you on the next

steps that must be taken.  The Caucus is scheduling a conference call for

Monday to discuss this grave matter.  Congress will not be silent.”

 

Joining our discussion now, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat from

California, member of the Judiciary Committee and current candidate for

president, and Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, he`s on

the Judiciary Committee, the Oversight Committee and House Rules Committee.

 

Congressman Swalwell, let me start with you with your reaction generally to

the report, what you`ve been able to read of it today, and to the question

that will be faced in your judiciary committee, the question of

impeachment.

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Good evening, Lawrence. 

Hey, Jamie.  How is it going?  Also, Lawrence, first, I think and foremost

this has to be about the future of election security.  We now know that the

Russians interfered.  We need a president to condemn that.  And just

because a prior Congress never imagined that someone would conduct

themselves the way that the President and his campaign did doesn`t mean

that we should welcome this type of behavior in upcoming elections.

 

So there`s a duty to put in place laws to prohibit so much of the conduct

that we saw.  Also, I don`t think Attorney General Barr can remain as

attorney general.  He can either be the President`s lawyer or America`s

lawyer.  He has chosen to work for the President.  I believe he should

resign immediately.

 

As it relates to our duty in Congress, yes, a road map has been laid out

for the President to be held accountable.  I think the first way point is

to bring Bob Mueller before our committee which we`re going to do very soon

and hear from him.

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Raskin, is there really any point to hearing from

Attorney General Barr in a hearing?  Chairman Nadler has wants to schedule

that hearing before the Mueller hearing.

 

REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D-MD) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  That`s an interesting

question.  He certainly has a lot to account for in terms of the last three

weeks of propaganda rollout of the report which completely stripped him of

any credibility as attorney general of the United States.  And my friend

Eric Swalwell was calling for his resignation.  It seems like he`s already

resigned in some sense, he`s no longer acting at the Chief Law Enforcement

Official for the country, he`s acting more like conciliary and propagandas

for the for Trump administration.  So I`m much more eager to hear from the

Special Counsel for Mr. Mueller than I am from the attorney general at this

point.  We`ve heard a lot from him over the last few weeks.

 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s hear from the Senate for a second.  This is Senator

Kamala Harris earlier tonight on this network.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS:  I think it`s – I think that there`s definitely a

conversation to be had on that subject.  But first I want to hear from Bob

Mueller and really understand what exactly is the evidence that supports

the summary that we have been given today.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Swalwell, she was talking about impeachment there,

definitely a conversation to be had.  That conversation apparently will be

had in the presidential campaign.  She`s one of your rivals for the

democratic nomination.  Do you expect it become a campaign issue for

Democrats?

 

SWALWELL:  Well, it`s an issue for our country, Lawrence, because what we

do now will set the standard for future presidents.  So that could be Ms.

Harris, that could be myself, so many of us.  And that`s really what we

have to weigh, is do we want to tolerate what Donald Trump has done or are

we willing to say that no president should conduct themselves this way.

 

And then there`s also just national security implication here and that`s

why the Intelligence Committee should also see the full, unredacted report. 

Because Russia did interfere, they did work with the Trump campaign.  We

need to know the methods that they used to make sure as all of us go into

this 2020 election, even in the primary that Russia is not savaging the

field and again taking away our freedom to choose at the ballot box.

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Raskin, what do you think the judiciary committee`s

most important focus should be in studying the Mueller report?

 

RASKIN:  Well, I think first of all, we want to give the Special Counsel

Mueller the opportunity to state what I think is completely pervasive in

his report which is that the ball is in congress`s court.  It`s up to

congress to decide.  He didn`t kick it upstairs to the attorney general to

declare there was no obstruction on the contrary.  He laid out 10 episodes

of attempted obstruction or obstruction by the President and basically said

the Congress, you go and do your job right now and so we`d like to hear him

say that, I think.

 

But look, the global backdrop here is important.  There is rising

authoritarianism around the world, there are lots of efforts to interfere

with people`s Democratic elections and human rights and Russia interfered

in our election and we can`t have countries interfering in each other`s

elections.  We really need some kind of international treaty on that but we

also need to fortify our own state electoral systems because we have a very

vulnerable and decentralized electoral system with 51 different election

processes on boards, really thousands across the country.

 

And we`ve got to make sure that we have a real fair election and we defend

people`s voting rights against voter purges and all of the tricks that we

saw in 2018 in Georgia, in Kansas, in Texas, and North Carolina, all over

the country.  But we also have to strengthen our cyber defenses against

attacking from abroad and from bad actors at home, too.

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Swalwell, the report is almost like two reports. 

One to the intelligence committee that you serve on, and one to the

judiciary committee that you serve on.  Judiciary that seems to me will be

concentrating on the obstruction of justice whereas the intelligence

committee concentrating almost entirely on part one which is what the

Russians actually did during the campaign.  What they hoped to do, what

they achieved, how they did it, including the way they infiltrated campaign

activities on the ground in the United States specific examples of such

things happening in Florida and elsewhere.  Which of those – can you say

which of those is more important?

 

SWALWELL:  Well, to me, the security of upcoming elections is the most

important thing.  We can go back to the past only if it`s informing us

about what we`re going to do in the future.  I don`t think anyone wants to

relitigate the 2016 election.

 

But we do need to know who they worked with?  We need to know how they did

it?  We need Republicans to join us and acknowledge that they did it.  It`s

time for the President to lead and do that.

 

But Lawrence, we also need to make new laws that will make sure if any

campaign is approached by a foreign adversary, there`s a duty on them to

tell the FBI.  I wrote legislation called duty to report.  It would put

that burden on a federal candidate.  And I don`t think any of us want to

see this conduct carry out again.

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, I think Congressman Raskin, that`s and so far one of the

lose elements of the Mueller report issues, there`s just so much in it. 

But there are a number of spots in the report where it is in effect

recommending new laws so that they would have had different legal

frameworks that they were looking at for this activity.

 

RASKIN:  Yes, and you know, one of the things we need to do is to get

foreign money out of our elections.  Citizens United opened up the

floodgates to foreign money to come pouring in through corporations.  We`ve

got legislation called, “Get Foreign Money Out” which attempts to close

that loophole.

 

But we also need to strengthen generally the right to vote in the country. 

We need to strengthen the defenses of the state electoral systems which got

hacked in the 2016 election.  And there was actually some tantalizing

evidence offered in the report that had not been public before about

intrusions into, you know, state computer election systems.  So that`s a

very serious problem.

 

You know, look, the Democrats are taking this on.  We haven`t been waiting

around.  We obviously have a very strong positive program that we`re

fighting for which is reauthorize the violence against women act.  We`ve

passed the toughest gun safety legislation in more than a decade which

we`re waiting on the Republicans to take up and we passed HR-1 which is all

democracy reform, vote strengthening package where we eliminate

gerrymandering and move to the independent voting boards in every state in

the union so we can have some fairy districting and real democratic

opportunities.

 

So these are things that we`ve got to do on the positive side, even while

we`re defending the constitution and the rule of law against the most

lawless White House of our lifetime.  So that`s the challenge for us as a

party as a caucus is to stay on the positive high road at the same time

that we`re defending the rule of law.

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Jamie Raskin, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you

both for joining us on this important night.  I really appreciate it. 

Thank you.

 

And when we come back, we will consider where we are on this be historic

night.  We`ll be joined by Journalist and Presidential Historian Jon

Meacham who will help pinpoint for us where we are in this story.  What is

to come?

 

Jon Meacham was the Managing Editor of “Newsweek” during the last

impeachment process in the Congress and he`s written biographies of four

presidents.  He has much to say in terms of guiding us about what comes

next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Jon Meacham`s beautifully written best selling book, “Franklin

and Winston” the story of the friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and

Winston Churchill as they worked together during World War II included this

quote from Winston Churchill after a crucial victory in a British battle.

 

“Now is not the end,” Churchill said, “It is not even the beginning of the

end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”  That`s the quote that

I used at this time last night to describe where I expected us to be

tonight, the end of the beginning.

 

And so tonight the special prosecutor`s investigation has been handed to

Congress with much for Congress to pursue, including the possibility of

impeachment hearings and the Judiciary Committee of the House of

Representatives.

 

Jon Meacham has seen this once before.  He was the Managing Editor of

“Newsweek” when President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of

Representatives.  Since then he has written biographies of four presidents

from Thomas Jefferson to the first President Bush.

 

Jon Meacham joins us now to combine his journalism experience with his

historian`s eye to give us his reaction to the Mueller report and where we

are tonight in the investigation of Donald Trump.  Jon, thank you very much

for joining us tonight on this historic night, which it is, and when we

have historic nights, of course, I want the historical perspective.

 

Your reaction to what you saw today, both in the report and in the

country`s reaction to it?

 

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Well, another Churchill line came to

mind, one that`s attributed to him, which is that you can always

count on the Americans to do the right thing once they`ve exhausted every

other possibility which we`re in the process of exhausting all these

possibilities.

 

My sense of the report was it was something that remarkable in its level of

detail, and I hate to say it, not especially surprising.  I think if you`ve

followed Donald Trump in his national political career from the false

conspiracies about Barack Obama`s birth unto this very day, you would

probably not be surprised that you had a president who did all he could to

fight for his self-preservation above all else.  And I think that what we

now will face is a question of whether the Congress will confront what is

clearly their constitutional responsibility.

 

They may choose for political reasons not to do it, but George Mason said

at the constitutional convention, talking – debating the impeachment

clause that actually ended up in the document, that he asked rhetorically,

can any man be above justice?  Who can be above justice?  Particularly not

he who has the power to do the most extensive injustice.

 

And to my mind, what gave me more of a sinking feeling than anything else

and seeing the details in the report was if this is what we know he`s done,

Lord knows what he`s done that we don`t know or that he might do.

 

O`DONNELL:  And let`s take a look at the last impeachment case that the –

that Washington dealt with where Lindsey Graham, then a congressman, was

one of the House prosecutors of President Clinton in the impeachment trial

in the Senate.  And let`s listen to the standard that Lindsey Graham

thought applied then.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  He doesn`t have to say go lie for

me to be a crime.  You don`t have to say let`s obstruct justice for it to

be a crime.  You judge people on their conduct, not magic phrases.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Jon Meacham, does that sound like Lindsey Graham got it a

little closer to correct in those days than he does now?

 

MEACHAM:  It`s funny how that happens, isn`t it?  Videotape is an amazing

thing.

 

You know, the politics of hypocrisy, the punditry of hypocrisy is something

that we all practice because it`s so rich.  What worries me most and,

again, historically speaking right now is the last time we impeached – one

time back, President Nixon, he was impeached largely for what we now have

evidence of that Donald Trump did.  And there wasn`t much debate about it

and there is virtually no historical debate about it.

 

Nixon was caught – the wall began to crumble, as you know, in the summer

of 1974 when the June 22nd tape came out in which he had said that he

wanted to get the CIA to stop the FBI from investigating Watergate.  The

CIA didn`t do it which is, again, an Eerie Echo we have here, but that was

the last straw.  And what worries me most about where the political culture

is right now is what the last straw was in 1974 is barely a straw at the

moment, for at least for the 48%, 49% of the country that has decided that

whatever he has done with Russia they don`t seem to particularly care.

 

You asked me about the country`s reaction to it.  My great hope in all of

this has been that somehow or another we would be able to let reason into

the arena with passion.  It`s a passionate era.  It`s like – it`s a lot

like 1968, which you`ve written about.  It`s where people have chosen a

tribe and that`s the tribe they`re going to stay in.

 

But if we don`t absorb the facts, if we don`t let our preconceptions be

shifted by changing data, we`re not being true to the original intent of

the American revolution, which is that reason has to take a stand here, and

I hope the people will read it, I hope they`ll do that and I hope the

Congress will confront their responsibility.

 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Jon Meacham gets “Tonight`s Last Word.” 

Jon, thank you very much for joining us.

 

“The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams starts now.

 

 

 

END   

 

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