Mueller leaves open possibility. TRANSCRIPT: 4/18/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 –
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.
HEILEMANN: And the page after page of Donald Trump trying to break the law
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the