Mueller: report did not exonerate. TRANSCRIPT: 7/24/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Guests:
Eric Swalwell, Mieke Eoyang, Ned Price, Ron Klain, Joaquin Castro
Transcript:

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

 

And I love your job.  It`s the most important job in the world to me

because it makes this job so much easier following you.  Your point is so

important about what today`s hearings represent and what future hearings

could be.  And hearing from the Mueller team as many members of the Mueller

team as possible is really important.  There was a team, as you know,

working exclusively on volume one.  There was another team working

exclusively on volume two. 

 

They have such a command of the detail of everything in that investigation

and their own reactions to it that would be so invaluable to be hearing. 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Especially, I think, today now that we have

heard from Robert Mueller.  I mean, obviously, this special counsel`s

office could not have been convened and could not have sustained itself to

the completion of the final report under anyone other than somebody like

Robert Mueller with the reputation for integrity and a rigor that he had

accomplished, that he had grown over the course of his decades in public

service. 

 

It maybe had to be Robert Mueller who was the name special counsel.  But

it`s clear from his performance he didn`t do all this work himself.  And

there were times when clearly the report felt like the work of his staff

and not his.  And he was taking it for granted that whatever the member of

Congress was reading to him must be in the report.  You didn`t necessarily

have in mind that he had the whole thing in his head. 

 

All the more reason for us to hear from the members of his team who did the

work, particularly when the details of the work and the decision-making

behind it is important in terms of what we don`t understand as a country. 

 

O`DONNELL:  I think the best version of a hearing is a minimum of four of

these staff people, two from volume, say, two from volume two, and when the

questions asked, they can actually decide which one is the best one to

answer, who has the best information for it.  They can kind of tag team on

answers in the interest of creating the best possible well of information

that the Congress can have. 

 

MADDOW:  Exactly.  And I`m sure the prosecutors and the FBI special agents

who worked with Robert Mueller are cringing, hearing us talking about this,

if they haven`t already turned this off, because I`m sure it`s the last

thing they want to do.  But I think, honestly, if you spent the last 22

months working with Robert Mueller on this critical, critical issue of

national importance, I`m sure you do not want Robert Mueller`s testimony

today to be the last word that anybody ever hears on this issue from your

team. 

 

I`m sure you don`t want it to revert to, you know, Attorney General Barr

mischaracterizing your findings and the president calling it names, and all

those things.  I mean, to the extent that the work doesn`t speak for itself

and I think we all know it doesn`t and the people who created this work

product and did this investigation do need to understand the implications

and what still needs to be revealed.  The other people on that are going to

have to do it.  Their service is not yet over.  I`m sure they would love it

to be, but they need the country to understand what they have been through. 

 

O`DONNELL:  One thing I`m glad about is the detail of negotiation that

Robert Mueller went through in scheduling these hearings and demanding a

time limit to each one of the hearings, because what that seemed to do was

force discipline on both sides. 

 

And forget about the content of how they used their minutes.  What is clear

about it is each side was disciplined in the way they were approaching

this.  The bombast was reduced on the Republican side, but the talking

points were still the same.  It was like they were two different hearings,

the Democratic hearing and the Republican hearing.

 

But certainly on the Democratic side where they were very interested in

getting all of the information they possibly could from the report out

there on the table.  The discipline was something I haven`t seen the likes

of in a long time. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, and that`s not to say that it was – I think that`s right. 

That`s not to say that it was – that everybody covered themselves in

glory.  I mean, there was definitely some speechifying and some people who

were reading a carefully drawn set of questions but they weren`t very good

readers, and when Mueller gave them unexpected answers, they didn`t know

where to pick back up and they were putting the right emphasis on the right

syllable.  You definitely had a little bit of embarrassment stuff there. 

 

You had a few funny conspiracy theories from a couple of Republican

members.  There really was a Republican member who complained that Fox News

was not cited enough as a source in the Mueller report, which for me was

kind of a laugh out loud moment.  I mean, there were some moments of

ridiculousness.

 

But I think the chairman of the two committees led in a way that was very

instructive and very helpful.  Each – both Nadler and Schiff themselves

covered so much ground so expertly and nimbly at the very start, at the

very onset of each of those hearings.  I do think it helped, I do think

that today`s hearing just was an exercise in public education that is going

to make us smarter as a polity, and is going to make us deal with this

issue in a way that is way more substantive than where we`ve been. 

 

O`DONNELL:  We`ll see where we go from here. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.

 

O`DONNELL:  We had two members of the committees joining us in this hour. 

We`re going to have a lot of help analyzing what went on today.

 

MADDOW:  Great.  Thanks, Lawrence.  I look forward to it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

 

Well, as I said, we`re going to need a lot of help to cover today`s

hearings in the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence

Committee.  We`ll be joined by members of the committees who were in those

hearings and will rely on a strong panel of experts tonight for their

insights on what happened in the hearings. 

 

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks is with us. 

 

Former House Intelligence Committee Staff Mieke Eoyang who used to sit in

those chairs in the Intelligence Committee hearing right behind the members

will be with us.  She will be sitting with us tonight.

 

Former CIA analyst Ned Price is here.  He was a senior director of the

National Security Council in the Obama administration. 

 

Ron Klain is here.  Ron has held more important jobs in government that I

can list, including at the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice

Department, and the Obama White House.  We will get their analysis after we

review the video. 

 

For those of you who couldn`t watch all seven hours of hearings, in other

words, almost all of you, we`re going to take the next few minutes to

present a short summary of both hearings before our panel of experts

contributes their perspectives on what happened today, and before we will

be joined by members of the House Judiciary and the House Intelligence who

participated in today`s hearings. 

 

In his opening statement in the first hearing at the Judiciary Committee,

Robert Mueller accepted the ground rules suggested to him in a Justice

Department letter this week. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL:  The Justice Department has

asserted privileges concerning investigative information and decisions,

ongoing matters within the Justice Department and deliberations within our

office.  These are Justice Department privileges that I will respect. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  And with that, Robert Mueller guaranteed that he would end up

refusing to answer dozens and dozens of questions.  In fact, he ended up

using those ground rules to refuse to answer over 100 questions, mostly

because the answers would have required him to reveal, quote, deliberations

within our office, as he put it. 

 

That left the members of both committees trying to frame yes or no

questions that were confined to what has already been revealed in the

Mueller report.  Chairman Nadler began with taking apart President Trump`s

claim that Robert Mueller did not find evidence of obstruction of justice

and that the Mueller report totally exonerated the president. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  The report did not conclude that he did not

commit obstruction of justice, is that correct? 

 

MUELLER:  That is correct. 

 

NADLER:  And what about total exoneration.  Did you actually totally

exonerate the president?

 

MUELLER:  No. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Chairman Nadler demolished Attorney General Barr`s claim that

the president fully cooperated with the investigation. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

NADLER:  Did the president refuse to request to be interviewed by you and

your team? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

NADLER:  Yes.  Is it true you tried for more than a year to secure an

interview with the president? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

NADLER:  And is it true that you and your team advised the president`s

lawyer that, quote, an interview with the president is vital to our

investigation, close quote? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes, yes. 

 

NADLER:  And is it true that you also, quote, stated that it is in the

interest of the presidency and the public for an interview to take place,

close quote? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

NADLER:  But the president still refused to sit for an interview by you or

your team? 

 

MUELLER:  True.  True.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MUELLER:  The Republicans seemed to suggest that the president could not be

guilty of obstruction of justice if he tried to fire Robert Mueller, but

did not succeed in firing Robert Mueller. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA):  Was your investigation curtailed or stopped or

hindered? 

 

MUELLER:  No. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Zoe Lofgren identified what the Russian objective

was in attacking our election process. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA):  Did your investigation find that the Russian

government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

LOFGREN:  And which candidate would that be? 

 

MUELLER:  Well, it would be Trump. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  No Republican in either hearing today was even slightly

interested in why the Russians wanted Donald Trump to win the election, and

worked as hard as they did to help Donald Trump win.  Some Republicans

could not understand why a prosecutor would be investigating the president

for obstruction of justice if the prosecutor was not allowed, according to

Justice Department rules, to indict the president for obstruction of

justice.  Mueller had the answer for them. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MUELLER:  Well, you don`t know where the investigation is going to lie and

OLC opinion itself said you can continue the investigation even though you

are not going to indict the president. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee wanted to talk

about the FBI investigation of the Russian attack on our election that

began during the election campaign in 2016.  Robert Mueller was not

involved in that investigation that occurred during the presidential

campaign and refused to answer all of those questions.  No Republican was

interested in the details of the obstruction of justice evidence that the

Mueller report outlined against the president.  But the Democrats were. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CIP)

 

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN):  Based upon your investigation, how did Trump

react to your appointment of special counsel? 

 

MUELLER:  Again, I will send you the report where that is stated. 

 

COHEN:  Well, there is a quote from page estate 78 of volume two, which

reads, when Sessions told the president that the special counsel had been

appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and said, quote, oh, my

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

 

REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL):  You said in your report on page 90 volume two and

I quote: news of the obstruction investigation prompted the president to

call McGahn and seek to have the special counsel removed. 

 

Director Mueller, the most important question I have for you today is why? 

Director Mueller, why did the president of the United States want you

fired? 

 

MUELLER:  Oh.  I can`t answer that question. 

 

DEUTCH:  Director Mueller, that shouldn`t happen in America.  No president

should be able to escape investigation by abusing his power.  But that`s

what you testified to in your report.  The president ordered you fired. 

The White House counsel knew it was wrong.  The president knew it was

wrong. 

 

And your report says there`s also – the president should not have made

those calls to began, but the president did it anyway.  He did it anyway. 

 

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL):  Simply trying to obstruct justice can

be a crime, correct? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY):  An obstructive act could include taking an

action that would delay or interfere with an ongoing investigation. 

 

MUELLER:  That`s true. 

 

JEFFRIES:  Your investigation found evidence that President Trump took

steps to terminate the special counsel, correct? 

 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

 

JEFFRIES:  Corrupt intent exist fist the president attempted to obstruct an

official to protect his own interest, correct? 

 

MUELLER:  That`s generally correct. 

 

REP. DEVID CICILLINE (D-RI):  An unsuccessful attempt to obstruct justice

is still a crime, is that correct? 

 

MUELLER:  That is correct. 

 

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  And that lies Trump campaign officials and

administration officials impeded your investigation. 

 

MUELLER:  I would generally agree with that. 

 

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA):  Ii would like to ask the reason that you did not

indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion saying you could not indict a

sitting president, is that correct? 

 

MUELLER:  That is correct. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  And for reasons known to himself, Republican Ken Buck decided

to emphasize and reemphasize that the president could be indicted after he

left office. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO):  Could you charge the president with a crime after he

left office? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

BUCK:  You believe you could charge the president of the United States with

obstruction of justice after he left office? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  At the beginning of the second hearing in the Intelligence

Committee, Chairman Adam Schiff said that the hearing would be about

disloyalty to country. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Disloyalty to country, those are strong words,

but how else do we describe a presidential campaign which did inform the

authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent which did not

publicly shun it or turn it away, but which instead invited it and

encouraged it and made full use of it.  That disloyalty may not have been

criminal, constrained by uncooperative witnesses and the destruction of

documents and the use of encrypted communications.  Your team was not able

to establish the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt.  So, not a

provable crime in any event. 

 

But I think maybe something worse.  A crime is the violation of law written

by Congress, but disloyalty to country violates the very oath of

citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was

founded that we, the people and not some foreign power that wishes us ill,

we decide who governs us. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Robert Mueller began by going back to one of the questions that

he was asked in the previous hearing. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MUELLER:  I want to go back to one thing said this morning by Mr. Lieu who

said and I quote, you didn`t charge the president because of the OLC

opinion.  That is not the correct way to say it. 

 

As we say in the report and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a

determination as to whether the president committed a crime. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Where the Judiciary Committee concentrated on obstruction of

justice, the Intelligence Committee concentrated on the Russian attack on

our election. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT):  Director, who did the Russian social media campaign

ultimately intend to benefit.  Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? 

 

MUELLER:  Donald Trump. 

 

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL):  Donald Trump, October 31st, 2016.  Boy, I love

reading those WikiLeaks.  Donald Trump, November 4th, 2016.  Do any of

those quotes disturb you, Mr. Director? 

 

MUELLER:  I`m not sure I would say –

 

QUIGLEY:  How do you react to that? 

 

MUELLER:  Well, if I – it`s problematic is an under statement in terms of

what it displays in terms of giving some – I don`t know, hope or a boost

to what is and should be illegal activity. 

 

DEMINGS:  Director Mueller, I do want to focus on the written responses

that the president did provide and the continued efforts to lie and cover

up what happened during the 2016 election.  Were the president`s answers

committed under oath? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes, yes. 

 

DEMINGS:  What did you determine about the president`s credibility? 

 

MUELLER:  That I can`t get into. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney asked a question that I`ve

repeatedly said I hoped would be asked. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY):  Why didn`t you subpoena the president? 

 

MUELLER:  We were almost towards the end of our investigation and we had

little success in pushing to get the interview of the president.  We

decided that we did not want to exercise a subpoena power because of

necessity of expediting the end of the investigation. 

 

MALONEY:  The president didn`t ever claim the Fifth Amendment, did he? 

 

MUELLER:  I`m not going to talk to that. 

 

MALONEY:  Nobody told you couldn`t subpoena the president, is that right?

 

MUELLER:  No.  We understood we could subpoena the president.

 

MALONEY:  So, my question, sir, is, did you have sufficient evidence of the

president`s intent to obstruct justice and is that why you didn`t do the

interview? 

 

MUELLER:  There`s ballots.  In other words, how much evidence you have that

satisfy the last element against how much time are you willing to spend in

the courts litigating the interview of the president.  The reason we didn`t

do the interview is because of the length of time that it would take to

resolve the issues attended to that. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  That was the only time in the hearings when Robert Mueller did

discuss at any length the liberations of his team.  We will surely spent

the next few years or next several years learning more and more about the

deliberations of Robert Mueller and his team. 

 

Why were they concerned about how long it would take to enforce the

subpoena compelling the president`s testimony?  There was no time limit on

the investigation. 

 

With the president publicly attacking the Mueller investigation as a witch

hunt for years, were Robert Mueller and his team concerned they might wake

up some day and find themselves all fired by the president of the United

States?  How did that concern affect their investigation?  Did they speed

up the investigation because they were concerned the president would fire

them? 

 

When they discovered through Don McGahn`s testimony that the president had

already ordered the repeated firing of Robert Mueller, did that change

their investigative tactics?  No special prosecutor team in history ever

faced such public harassment on almost a daily basis by the president

himself.  And no special prosecuting team in history has been dealing with

a more unstable and reckless president.  How did that affect the way they

approach the investigation? 

 

All of those were questions about what Robert Mueller and the Justice

Department would call, quote, the deliberations of the Mueller team.  And

so, there were no answers to those questions in today`s hearings.  Answers

to those questions would lead to other questions that could not be asked

today. 

 

The real history of the Mueller investigation will not be written until we

know answers to questions about the deliberations of the Mueller team.  For

example, former Watergate prosecutors are willing to tell us things they

could not tell us in the heat of their investigation of President Nixon. 

We are probably years away from members of the Mueller team appearing on

programs like this to reveal many important dynamics of the investigation

that are not included in the evidentiary findings presented in the Mueller

report. 

 

Jill Wine-Banks is one of those former Watergate prosecutors who shares her

wisdom with us often and will join our panel tonight, along with experts in

this arena familiar to you, Ron Klain, Mieke Eoyang and Ned Price.

 

But, first, we will be joined by Congressman Eric Swalwell who was one of

the few members who was able to question Robert Mueller in both of today`s

House hearings. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  A thousand former prosecutors who served under

Republican and Democratic administrations with 12,000 years of federal

service wrote a letter regarding the president`s conduct.  Are you familiar

with that letter? 

 

MUELLER:  I read about that letter, yes. 

 

SWALWELL:  And so many individuals who signed that letter, the statement of

former prosecutors are people you worked with, is that right? 

 

MUELLER:  Quite probably yes. 

 

SWALWELL:  People that you respect? 

 

MUELLER:  Quite probably, yes. 

 

SWALWELL:  And in that letter, they said all of this conduct trying to

control and impede the investigation against the president by leveraging

his authority over others is similar to conduct we have seen charged

against other public officials in people in powerful positions.  Are they

wrong? 

 

MUELLER:  They have a different case.

 

SWALWELL:  Do you want to sign that letter, Director Robert Mueller?

 

MUELLER:  They have a different case. 

 

SWALWELL:  Director Mueller, thank you for your service.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell from

California.

 

Thank you very much for joining us after this busy day, Congressman.  You

were one of the lucky ones who was in both hearings.  That was from the

first hearing.  I just want to get your general overall reaction to what

you experienced in both of those hearing rooms today. 

 

SWALWELL:  As you pointed out, Lawrence, we brought a very prepared team to

both hearings that expected the director to stay within the four, you know,

the four sides of his report and not to deviate from that.  So, we were

ready to defer him to different pieces. 

 

And I think at the end of the day, the American people saw Russia attacked

us.  They sought to help Donald Trump.  Donald Trump welcomed it and

planned for it.  And when he became president, he went to great lengths to

cover it up. 

 

And only because of his own department`s policies is he shielded in a way

that no one else in America is being shielded from being charged with a

crime. 

 

O`DONNELL:  I want to go to an exchange you had with Robert Mueller in the

Intelligence Committee about the number of people who have been caught up

in this investigation.  Let`s listen to that. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SWALWELL:  The national security adviser Flynn lied about the discussions

related to sanctions.  Is that right?

 

MUELLER:  That`s correct. 

 

SWALWELL:  Michael Cohen lied to this committee about Trump Tower Moscow. 

Is that correct? 

 

MUELLER:  Yes. 

 

SWALWELL:  George Papadopoulos, the president`s senior foreign policy

adviser lied to the FBI about his communications about Russia`s possession

of dirt on Hillary Clinton.  Is that right?

 

MUELLER:  Correct.  Yes. 

 

SWALWELL:  The president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied about

meetings that he had with someone with ties to Russian intelligence.  Is

that correct?

 

MUELLER:  That`s true. 

 

SWALWELL:  In your investigation, it was hampered by Trump campaign

officials use of encryptions, is that right? 

 

MUELLER:  We believe that to be the case. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman, that last question about how the investigation was

hampered by the use of encryption goes to something that other members of

the committees brought out at different points, which is there were –

there were limits to what Robert Mueller could find out.  There were

roadblocks.  There were successful elements of obstruction of justice that

prevented the Mueller investigation from discovering some evidence. 

 

SWALWELL:  That`s right.  He also describes in his report that destruction

of evidence, lying, tampering, and obstructing created gaps.  And so, the

president said there is no collusion and no conspiracy.  But in America, we

don`t reward people if they bury the evidence so deep beneath the earth

that investigators can ever find it.  We have a separate crime for that,

and that`s obstruction. 

 

Now, again, this president was shielded from being charged with

obstruction, others were not and they were charged with obstruction.  But

he has laid out a road map for how we can hold the president accountable. 

And the only way to do that is through the impeachment process. 

 

O`DONNELL:  I want to go to one of the classic questions of the day, I

think, in which Robert Mueller doesn`t answer the question, but you can see

that the answer is there.  That`s in the question about the credibility of

the president asked by – 

 

SWALWELL:  Val Demings.

 

O`DONNELL:  Val Demings.  We`re going to go to that right now. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DEMINGS:  Could you say, Director Mueller, that the president was credible? 

 

MUELLER:  I can`t answer that question. 

 

DEMINGS:  Director Mueller, isn`t it fair to say that the president`s

written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn`t

answer many of your questions, but where he did his answer showed that he

wasn`t always being truthful? 

 

MUELLER:  There – I would say – generally. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Congressman, to be contrasted with Robert Mueller was

willing to say that some other witnesses were credible. 

 

SWALWELL:  That`s right.  He said that Michael Cohen and Rick Gates were

credible.  That was essentially a careful prosecutor saying that if I could

call the president credible, I would call him credible. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, that`s one of the things about this particular hearing. 

With the limits Robert Mueller accepted from the Justice Department, his

answers had to be interpreted more than they might otherwise. 

 

What was your reaction at the beginning of the judiciary hearing where you

heard him say he was going to accept the limitations that were suggested to

him by the Justice Department in that letter he received this week? 

 

SWALWELL:  That he`s a patriot.  That he follows rules, even when he`s

investigating a president who doesn`t.  And as frustrating as that was, we

were going to do all we could to get the information that we needed.  And I

think we did that today. 

 

Today, you saw act one.  He laid out all the witnesses we need to bring in

who were front row percipient witnesses. 

 

But also, you should step back and realize, if the president had nothing to

hide, he would do two things.  First, he would lift the DOJ policy that

says a sitting president can`t be indicted, and say, if I truly committed a

crime, bring it.  I`m so confident that I didn`t.  He`s never going to do

that.

 

And, second, he would not tell the attorney general or Mueller to restrict

testimony.  He would say ask you want.  He did neither which goes to his

consciousness of guilt. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, the most personality testimony was Donald Trump`s own

refusal to testify about – in the obstruction of justice investigation. 

 

SWALWELL:  And, Lawrence, from January 2017 until March 2019 when the

investigation ended, Donald Trump met in person with Vladimir Putin six

times.  He exchanged 10 phone calls with him and four letters.  He met with

Robert Mueller zero times. 

 

Again, that goes to who this president prioritizes, a dictator who sought

to interfere in elections over the person seeking to protect the country

from that attack. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much for joining us.

 

SWALWELL:  My pleasure.  Thanks, Lawrence.

 

O`DONNELL:  It has been a long day for you and I really appreciate your

work today and joining us today. 

 

SWALWELL:  My pleasure. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you very much.

 

And when we come back, we will be joined by our panel to consider what

would have happened to anyone else who was discovered to have engaged in

the obstruction of justice activities described in the Mueller report. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(ROBERT MUELLER`S TESTIMONY)

 

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Ron Klain, Former Chief Counsel of

the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Senior Aide to Vice President Joe

Biden and President Obama also with us Mieke Eoyang Former Staff Member of

the House intelligence Committee.

 

Jill Wine-Banks is here she is a Former Assist Water Gate Special

Prosecutor and an MSNBC Legal Analyst and Ned Price, a Former CIA Analyst

and Former Senior Director and Spokesperson for the National Security

Council in the Obama Administration. He is also an MSNBC National Security

Contributor.

 

And Jill, to the question of what would have happened to anyone else if

prosecutors found the pattern of obstruction they found from Donald Trump?

 

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: They would

be indicted. I`m one of the thousand lawyers who signed the letter a long

time ago. I said probably two years ago that I thought there was in plain

sight evidence of obstruction of justice and that the case could be made.

 

Everything that we`ve read in the Mueller report, everything that we`ve

heard since confirms that there has been obstruction of justice plain and

simple. It`s really clear. The evidence of all the elements of the crime

has been establish and were he not protected by the Office of Legal

Counsel, an opinion by the way that I think is flawed constitutionally and

legally, I think it`s incorrect it`s time for someone to challenge it or

for someone to change it.

 

It may take a prosecutor indicting the President to take it to the Supreme

Court for a decision. On whether you can cover up your own crime and get

away with it.

 

O`DONNELL: Yes, the state prosecutors who get around that ignore that

Justice Department rule. Mieke, I was watching the Intelligence Committee

Hearing today thinking of you because you have been on those chairs on the

Intelligence Committee and the staff section. This is the biggest hearing

that came through your old committee in a very long time.

 

MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF MEMBER: Yes, look it was very clear the numbers

were really well prepared on that. You could tell by the way they were

pulled their questions together -

 

O`DONNELL: Can you just start from it plus how unusual that is. I have

never seen discipline in the house especially like I saw today?

 

EOYANG: Usually what you have over the members running around and playing

like second graders in soccer with they are all running in the same ball

and they`re all asking the same questions. And what you saw today is they

were really fanning out and covering the waterfront. You could tell that

they had really work together to prepare by the way the slides came up, it

were showing Mueller the quotes, they were staying on message. And they

were really focused on a few key things.

 

Trying to demonstrate the places where the Mueller report didn`t go into.

Things like the counter intelligence investigation and some the financial

crimes and they`re showing look there is still more work to be done here

and more importantly we have got an ongoing threat and challenge. They were

very good at getting both those points out.

 

O`DONNELL: Ron, what was your reaction when you heard in Mueller`s opening

statement that he was indeed going to accept the restrictions that Attorney

General Barr suggested that he accept for this hearing?

 

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF STAFF OF VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I was not

surprised. He is a rule follower and a patriot as Congressman Swalwell said

and plays by the rules. But it was a clear sign that today`s hearing was

not the end of what Congress needs to do to look into the events of what

happened in 2016 and afterwards with the Trump campaign and the Trump

Presidency.

 

It was a clear signal. But look, if you are going to do your jobs House

Committees, then after I finished testifying today, you need to fire up the

subpoena, you need to go to court and enforce those subpoenas and get to

the truth. Robert Mueller couldn`t tell the full truth today and the truth

is important for these committees to find out.

 

O`DONNELL: And then Price, not one Republican was interested in the

question of why did the Russians want Donald Trump to be the next President

of the United States?

 

NED PRICE, FORMER CIA ANALYST: They were not interested in public. They

knew the answer though. That`s the reason they didn`t ask the question.

They knew the answer because in January of 2017, the Intelligence Committee

came out with a high confidence assessment that said the Russians were

favoring Donald Trump and denigrating Hillary Clinton for a number of

reasons but chiefly because they understood that Trump would do their

bidding. Trump was their guy in 2016. Trump remains their guy in 2019.

 

It was certainly in their interest. But there was another underlying factor

here, Lawrence. That`s the fact that not only was Trump against the

sanctions that had been enact and not only was he someone that they saw as

a patsy on the world stage, but he is someone who is quite literally and

the Russians understood this in 2015 and 2016. Who is quite literally

capable of tearing our country apart of pitting Democrats against

Republicans of minority groups against others?

 

And creating this hostility in this country that really neutralizes what we

can do on the world stage. So yes it`s about his policies, but it`s also

about the Russians understanding that Trump really destabilizes us at home

and in turn that he destabilizes us and makes us less influential in the

world stage.

 

O`DONNELL: Jill, how important to this the story that wasn`t told today and

that is the story of the deliberations that covers every single discussion

that the Mueller team had amongst themselves about everything. It covers

every thought that crossed Robert Mueller`s mind when he was driving to and

from work. What did we lose by not knowing any of that at this stage?

 

WINE-BANKS: We lose some, but I think we have to focus on all the things

that did come out today. It was very important because we clearly

established that there was no exoneration. That there was evidence of

obstruction. There was evidence of cooperation with Russia and welcoming

the Russian interference. That there was all of these things that are

really serious for us to know.

 

The problem is we need have the Republicans really hear that. And as you

just said, the Republicans showed no interest basically in any fact. They

didn`t touch any of the facts. They diverted into conspiracy theories and

other things. They were not interested in what was coming out, which is to

rebut how they played this report. That`s what is important from today.

 

O`DONNELL: I want to go to one of the moments of discovery in the hearing

where we learned something we did not know and this came out through Raja

Krishnamoorthi questioning Robert Mueller. Let`s listen to this.

 

(ROBERT MUELLER`S TESTIMONY)

 

O`DONNELL: Did we all kind of echo that currently when we heard?

 

EOYANG: I think it was a real concern. We`ve all wondered what happened to

the counter intelligence investigation that Mueller`s investigation grew

out off. We didn`t see anything about it in the report itself. We were all

wondering he said he didn`t - he was referring those things back to the

FBI. There was a fear they would get buried in this FBI. But he says it is

currently under investigation.

 

O`DONNELL: That was a surprise.

 

PRICE: Absolutely it was a surprise when we heard at it was startling

perhaps it shouldn`t have been because those of us who have worked in this

round know that counter intelligence investigations tend to start and tend

not to end. They also tend not to end even if they do end in criminal

charges.

 

In many ways, the afternoon session for me was so powerful because it took

us away from this dichotomy between legal and illegal, criminal versus

exculpatory and really forced us to focus on right and wrong. And I think

Adam Schiff was very good in guiding Mr. Mueller in that direction. He

actually got him to say and I quote, “We should hold our elected officials

to a higher standard than mere evidence of criminality” and Mueller

responded certainly. And I think that`s the key point.

 

O`DONNELL: All right, we`re going to squeeze in a quick break right. When

we come back Congressman Joaquin Castro who questioned Robert Mueller at

the Intelligence Committee Hearing will join us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(ROBERT MUELLER`S TESTIMONY)

 

O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Representative Joaquin Castro Democratic

Congressman from Texas and a Member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman when your constituents ask you why you asked that question,

what will you tell them?

 

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Because Americans need to know whether their

President has been compromised. Whether the Russians have any kind of

leverage over the President of the United States and whether that`s

affecting his decision making as President of this country.

 

O`DONNELL: And in your experience on the Intelligence Committee, is that

what you would expect given the evidence that you read in the Mueller

report?

 

CASTRO: Yes, I think that it is very much an open question. Unfortunately

we didn`t get a resolution to that today, but I think it`s something that

Americans deserve to know.

 

O`DONNELL: Where do you hope the Intelligence Committee is able to go after

this?

 

CASTRO: Well, I think there are still many issues on counter intelligence

and figuring out exactly how deeply Russia had its hooks in our political

system and in particular, people in politics. Also, we didn`t get to talk

too much about how we prevent this in the future. What do we do about 2020?

Right now, Mitch McConnell in the Senate is blocking any kind Election

Security Act that would help prevent Russian interference or foreign

interference in the election our 2020 and beyond so there are those things

to consider and then of course for the Judiciary Committee the issue of

impeachment.

 

O`DONNELL: There was a meeting of all House Democrats after both of the

hearings, some members left that meeting saying it sounded to them as

though Nancy Pelosi has moved closer toward the impeachment process?

 

CASTRO: Of course I let the speaker speak for herself, but I do think that

you see a growing number of Democrats who are convinced that we should open

an impeachment inquiry. It doesn`t mean that at the beginning you are going

to determine - you`re going to say right away that the President should be

impeached, but because the evidence, especially on obstruction of justice

seems so compelling, more and more Democrats believe we should open the

inquiry and I think ultimately the speaker will be there as well.

 

O`DONNELL: What can you tell us about what you hear from Democratic members

of the House who do not want to go to an impeachment process?

 

CASTRO: It`s a mix of arguments and I think one of them is a political one.

There is a political risk in having happened what happened to the

Republicans in the mid-1990s when they tried to impeach President Clinton

which essentially backfired on them. There is a great fear that in November

of 2020 that there will be a misfire and that, Democrats will pay a price

politically.

 

O`DONNELL: If you had more time with Robert Mueller today and he was

willing to answer any question including the deliberation questions, what

else might you have asked him?

 

CASTRO: There were so many questions I think that we wish that we could

have gotten answers to. Sean Patrick Maloney`s question about why he didn`t

subpoena the President, I wish that we could have followed-up on that. I

have an issue with time being the main concern and if they knew that the

President was going to stall forever, why didn`t they issue a subpoena

after just two months for example that after he wouldn`t cooperate for just

two months.

 

Also on - I wish that he would answer my question on compromise or leverage

that the President may be under. So there is just so many questions that

are still left unanswered and there is still work for the Intelligence

Committee to do and for the Judiciary Committee to do.

 

O`DONNELL: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thank you for joining us at the end

of this important day. We really appreciate it.

 

CASTRO: Thank you.

 

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back with more with our panel after this.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: Here is the closest that Robert Mueller came to saying the word

“impeachment.”

 

(ROBERT MUELLER`S TESTIMONY)

 

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, what kind of game is that? I mean, he basically just

did say impeachment. He could have just answered, well, the constitutional

process is impeachment. He could have said that right at the beginning

 

KLAIN: Look, if people thought Mueller the report was dry, Mueller the

witness made an effort to be dryer. And I think if you were looking for

theatrics you didn`t get it today. But if you were looking to see the

Former Director of the FBI, a distinguished public servant, say that Donald

Trump asked for help from Russia, got help from Russia, used help from

Russia, that`s what you heard, and that`s the bottom line of what we

learned today.

 

O`DONNELL: Mieke, what left you most perplexed?

 

EOYANG: So many things. I mean, I found it really strange that he was

unwilling to even just read back the things that he`d already written. That

he could have just simply said things that he had concluded in the report

and just told the American people that because reading the book and

watching the movie are very different things.

 

O`DONNELL: Ned, the same question.

 

PRICE: You know, I think I was more perplexed, I`ve been more perplexed by

our collective reaction, maybe our collective expectations of Mueller. You

know, he`s gotten some criticism from all corners, left and right, for his

reticence, for his taciturn nature, for his hesitation to go into this.

 

Look, I don`t think we should have imposed our own expectations on Mueller.

We should not have anticipated that he would light himself on fire to

dramatize a 448-page report that details a sweeping and systematic attack

on our election and the efforts of a President to obstruct the

investigation. That in some ways should speak for itself.

 

I think it reflects poorly on us and not on Mr. Mueller that he sort of

seems to have let some people down.

 

O`DONNELL: Well, I haven`t heard that at in this table, but I know what

you`re talking about.

 

PRICE: Yes.

 

O`DONNELL: Jill, having the experience you`ve had working on the Watergate

Special Prosecutor team, what would you say to someone who`s offered a

special prosecutor job in the 21st century after Kenneth Starr, after all

the special prosecutors we`ve seen? I mean, wouldn`t you have said to

Robert Mueller, look, you`re not going to be able to be a private person

you`re going to have to make a public presentation?

 

WINE-BANKS: I think that I would certainly advise that. But I would also

advise that you change the regulations. The rules that we operated under

and then the rules that Ken Starr operated under were very different from

what he`s operating under. He`s just another–

 

O`DONNELL: You were in a much more powerful position.

 

WINE-BANKS: We were much - had much more independence and we had the

protection of the Attorney General as opposed to the President having the

protection of the Attorney General. And he`s supposed to represent the

Attorney General, the United States of America, not the United States

President.

 

So that`s what I would say. And I would say that what I`m frustrated about

is that what we need are fact witnesses. We don`t need summary witnesses.

We need to hear the actual witnesses who were told to do things that are

obstruction.

 

It`s much more powerful to hear Don McGahn say the President ordered me to

do this, to have Lewandowski say the President ordered me to do this.

That`s what Americans need to hear. And that might move the needle a little

bit in terms of who is supporting impeachment and who`s not supporting

impeachment.

 

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, in the press conference that Nancy Pelosi did after

all of this she sounded warmer toward impeachment than she ever has before?

 

KLAIN: Yes, I think we need to distinguish between impeachment and the

impeachment process.

 

O`DONNELL: Impeachment inquiry is the way she was talking.

 

KLAIN: Yes, exactly. And I think what`s mounting is as the White House

continues to stonewall, the fact witnesses Jill was talking about, the

House may have no choice but to take an impeachment process open to get

that testimony. They need to get to the bottom of this. If the White House

is going to stonewall, the impeachment process I think is almost

inevitable.

 

O`DONNELL: Mieke, as a House veteran where do you think impeachment is

tonight compared to where it was last week?

 

EOYANG: I think that you see more and more members coming around saying yes

on starting this process. And I think Ron`s right. In order to be able to

really put the full weight of the House behind the kinds of requests

they`re going to make, opening that process puts them in a much stronger

position.

 

O`DONNELL: Ned, people were watching around the world people in other

governments around the world, Foreign Intelligence Agencies watching this

around the world. What`s their reaction to what they saw today?

 

PRICE: Well, I think the reaction from our adversaries is in some ways

going to be embodiment. Our adversaries like Russia, China, the Iranians,

the North Koreans, the countries that our intelligence community has

identified as pursuing our election as a lucrative intelligence target.

They will look at this and say look, only half of Congress seems to really

care about this.

 

You have a President who`s looking the other way and who not that long ago

told another network that he would actually use this material if offered

again. So I think in some ways far from serving up a red light or a yellow

light to countries who would interfere in our elections there were elements

that those countries would take as a green light to go forward with what

they intended.

 

O`DONNELL: Ned Price gets tonight`s LAST WORD. What I know all of you have

many more words to say about this. And we will have more chances to talk

about it. Ron Klain, Mieke Eoyang, Jill Wine-Banks and Ned Price, thank you

all very much for joining us on this important night. That is tonight`s

LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams starts now.

 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END

 

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