UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: -- in our election at all." That is public collusion that the President engages in, trying to help the Vladimir Putin and Russian cover-up of what our Intelligence agencies say they did do during that election campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there. Michael Weshlash (ph) and David Cor, thank you both very much for joining us on our special coverage tonight. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The breaking news tonight, Robert Mueller`s work is done. The findings of his Russia investigation have been handed over to the Attorney General. Bill Barr has notified Congress he may share some of the most basic details as early as this weekend.
Tonight, we`ll take on the flood of questions now, including what this means for the 45th President who`s watching it all from Florida. What does it mean for the other investigations now that this one is over? And what about the central question Mueller was hired to find out about, Russia`s role in our 2016 presidential election. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Friday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 792 of the Trump administration, and as of 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time today, the Mueller investigation is over. That`s when official word arrived that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had transmitted his report to Attorney General Bill Barr after 675 days of work.
According to a senior Justice Department official, Mueller for his part is not recommendation any further indictments. Earlier tonight the Justice Department said the Attorney General was still reading through the report. It`s now up to him to decide how much of this much anticipated report will become public.
We do know both Mueller and Rod Rosenstein will be assisting him during the process of going through the report. We learned that in a letter Barr sent to leaders of both the House a Senate Judiciary Committee today informing them that he had received Mueller`s report.
The Attorney General wrote, "I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel`s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the special counsel regulations, and the Department`s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible."
Well, so far there hasn`t been much reaction from the White House, on the Mueller report. The President is spending the weekend at his resort in Florida.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did post this statement, "The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the special counsel`s report."
Here is a quick recap of what Mueller has accomplished in his nearly two- year long investigation. He has secured guilty pleas for seven individuals including the President`s former personal attorney Michael Cohen. His former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. His former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. On top of that, another 27 people have been indicted including dozens of Russians, 37 indictments in all.
Without delay, let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a momentous Friday night, starting with Attorney Neal Katyal, former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration. He also happens to be a veteran of the Justice Department, where he drafted the special counsel regs under which Mueller was appointed. We are also happy to say he will be of counsel to us around here as our newest MSNBC Legal Analyst.
Nicolle Wallace, visits tonight. She is a veteran of the Bush 43 White House. And most importantly host of "Deadline White House" 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time each day on this network.
And Robert Costa. National Politic Reporter for the "Washington Post", moderator of Washington Week on PBS. Welcome to you all.
Neal, I`d like to begin with you, the lawyer and journalist Ben Wittis wrote tonight and we quote, "what is ending here is not the investigation, merely the portion of the investigation Mueller chose to retain for himself." Neal, do you agree with that assessment?
NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: A 100 percent. Today what happened is, the end of the beginning of the investigation, not the beginning of the end. So, I mean, so there`s a lot that`s left. I mean, the way to think about this, I think is, think about Mueller running a relay race, he`s got the baton. And baton is limited to Russia.
And the course of that investigation on his running, he learns about campaign finance violations and all sorts of other things. Instead of doing that himself, he`s now passing that baton on to other people, the southern district federal prosecutors in New York, the state attorney general of New York, as well as members of Congress and their own committees investigating a whole variety of things. So, what happens today is the close of one chapter of a much larger story.
WILLIAMS: It seems to me based on my reading today, and you`re the expert because you wrote the regs. What could bog this down is the attorney general going through this is trying to decide especially not to expose sources and methods and secrets, trying to decide what can be made public to which audience and when. Is there any chance Mueller would send two versions or a pre-scrubbed version with kind of exhibits over to the side to speed this process?
KATYAL: Sure. Sometimes that happens. And look, nobody will deny the fact if there is sources and methods in either version of the Mueller report, some classified material, that isn`t something the American public should see. But that`s a really narrow limited exception. And government - - federal governments are very good at using redactions and other things to accomplish that purpose.
What I think will not stand, Brian, is if Barr says "I`m not turning over the Mueller report to Congress, and to the American people." Because that is, you know, the questions of this report go to the central questions of our democracy, and whether or not our most powerful leaders are compromised, Mueller`s already found the inner circle of Trump in the campaign was plagued with people who were in cahoots with Russia or were lying or foreign lobbyists and not disclosing it, his inner circle, you know, outside of the campaign, people like Michael Cohen, his personal fixer or his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, all going to prison and admitting that they`ve committed felonies.
So, given all of that, if this is it from the American people, all of these facts, I think that that would be a, you know, a real, almost took crime against the American people.
WILLIAMS: Nicolle Wallace, you`ve been through this 675 day long looking glass. You`ve covered it each day yourself. What stands out at you as we look back on it through the rearview mirror tonight?
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE WHITEHOUSE": You know as it ends, I can`t stop thinking about how it began. So I have spent the day thinking about that 9-day period that lead to Mueller`s appointment in the first place. It was after Jim Comey was fired.
We learn when Andrew McCabe`s book came out actually a little bit before that from reporting in "New York Times" that that firing wasn`t what we thought it was through so much of our coverage of the Mueller investigation. It wasn`t just perhaps an effort to obstruct the investigations. It wasn`t just about the President`s peak about the Russia probe and thinking it was hoax as he said to our colleague Lester Holt.
It was also viewed in that moment, that moment Andrew McCabe decided to open a full field counterintelligence investigation into the President. So what Robert Mueller absorbed in the may hem that ensued in the nine days between the firing of Jim Comey and the appointment of Robert Mueller by Rod Rosenstein as special Counsel.
It wasn`t just a question about whether the President was obstructing justice. It wasn`t just that looming question about Russian meddling. It wasn`t just whether the Trump campaign was in cahoots, whether they were including. And as a matter of sort of correcting the record that`s already coming out, he did prove that there was contact and coordination at the highest levels of the Trump campaign between its chairman and Paul Manafort and a Putin aligned agent in Konstantin Kilimnik. But it was this question about who Donald Trump was loyal to, whether he was wittingly or unwittingly working on behalf of the Russians.
And the counterintelligence investigations run by the FBI don`t end in criminal prosecutions. So it would sort of make sense that there aren`t any more indictments from the Mueller probe. But I think those questions are at the heart of these, sort of, probing inquiries into what we will see, and it will be the most sensitive part of that investigation. But on a national security front, perhaps it`s the most important.
WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, the President tonight is inside the warm bath of approval known as Mar-a-Lago. We`ve already seen headlines on Fox News tonight. One in the last hour read, DOJ: no additional Mueller indictments. Absolutely correct, but Neal kind of pointed out what there could be, what are you hearing from Republicans around the President, Robert?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: There may be a celebration in Florida tonight. But in call after call with my top Republican sources, an air of apprehension pervades this Republican Party, uncertainty about what`s coming next. They know there may not be indictments on the horizon.
But they also know they`re not fully in control. House Democrats now have subpoena power, will pressure the Justice Department to release this report to the public. They also are uncertain about the President`s conduct. What about possible obstruction of justice will be detailed. The President love to say, no collusion. But Republicans feel vulnerable tonight about what obstruction of justice, if any, is detailed in this report. And what that could mean to the party and its agenda as it moves forward.
WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, join us in listening to what Donald Trump said about the dismissal of Mr. Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You had made the decision before they came in the room?
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey. There`s no good time to do it, by the way. They --
HOLT: Because in your letter, you said, I accepted their recommendation.
TRUMP: Yes, well, they also --
HOLT: You had already made the decision.
TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.
HOLT: So there was --
TRUMP: He made a recommendation. He`s highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. he made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time to do it.
And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it`s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election. That they should have won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Neal, the Mueller team never had that opportunity to sit across from that man and ask him questions. He got the take home test version instead. Would this case have been adjudicated differently? Would it have ended differently tonight if he had had the opportunity to be questioned one on one?
KATYAL: Well, it might be, we don`t know how it`s ending because we don`t know the report. But I think the one thing we do know, as Costa just said is, Republicans are apprehensive about what the report`s going to say about President Trump.
And if you want to know why, that tape is a perfect illustration of it, because even the most die hard Republicans know this is a President who bends the truth at every turn and has no respect for the rule of law.
And Nicolle and I had the privilege of both working for two different presidents, very different, Obama and George W. Bush, but I think nobody would ever think that there`s -- there would be ridiculously unfathomable to think that anyone could accuse these two men of being in cahoots with Russia or having their campaign aides in cahoots. I mean, when President Obama walked in, everyone stood up a little taller and he inspired us to be better. And I know that`s true about George W. Bush too. It`s not true about this President which is why there is so much apprehension about this report and why do I think there will be attempts to try to suppress it from the report from the American people.
WILLIAMS: Robert Costa?
COSTA: There is a possible political war on the horizon. Talking to top Republicans like Mayor Giuliani today. He was chuckling in a phone interview saying, waiting for the Mueller report is almost like waiting for a baby to be born. But then his tone changed. He had sharp words for the Justice Department.
He said a counter report is ready on the Trump legal team side of things to prepare to go after each and every point this report may have. And so that`s what the President who`s been trying to erode trust in the Justice Department for over a year, in tweet after tweet, statement after statement. That war is only beginning, as much as the Mueller report is only beginning its journey perhaps to the Congress, to the public. So too are the political battles.
WILLIAMS: And so Nicolle, on the political side of things, that just goes right to the base, and everybody stays in their partisan bubbles?
WALLACE: Well, we`ll see. I mean, this is a Republican Party led by men who were front and center with very strong words and very o strong opinions about obstruction of justice when the President in question was Bill Clinton. It took me three minutes to put together five minutes of those men screaming at the top of their lungs about what Bill Clinton`s actions that made up part of his impeachment proceedings meant. So to see all those men eat their words for breakfast, lunch and dinner will be amusing to me as someone who bee moans the death of the modern Republican Party.
But on the obstruction question, again, none of us knows what`s in the Mueller report. Neither does Rudy Giuliani, neither does this White House. But we do know the President intended to -- attempted to obstruct justice. And we do know that Robert Mueller investigated all those actions, the attempted firing of Robert Mueller, the efforts to get Jeff Sessions to unrecuse. Chuck Rosenberg, our colleague, says that`s not even a thing, unrecusal.
All of the tweets, we know that Robert Mueller assembled and tried to put together the tweets, the public statements. Donald Trump went to the Rose Garden and attacked Jeff Sessions for recusing. I mean, there`s such a vast body of this intent to obstruct this investigation.
And I think when you see Republicans saying, "Well, Robert Mueller finished." That in my understanding and Neal would know this better than me, that is not an exoneration from the crime of obstruction.
There are also open questions about whether there`s some exposure around witness tampering. So, this Republican Party is going to have to decide if they still care about criminal conduct.
WILLIAMS: And Neal, is it possible that Mueller could come of -- to some of the few things Nicolle just listed and well them off and say something akin to, in this area, I thought it best adjudicated by Congress?
KATYAL: Absolutely. I mean, I think that`s often what happens in impeachment, and that`s the way our system works. And it works for a good reason, which is some of this really bad conduct isn`t criminal. Some, like, obstruction of justice certainly can be. But, you know, other things like to Mueller basically proved that Trump lied to the American people before the 2016 election by saying, "I have no business dealings with Russia." We now know that not to be true, because of the investigation, that`s not a crime.
But boy, that is something that is a real betrayal of the American people`s trust. So, impeachment often is the right remedy constitutionally speaking when you have allegations like that.
WILLIAMS: And Counselor, just one more to put a finer point on this. So it is possible. It remains possible for all the people who have come in from the day, they`ve seen a headline or two on their devices that there are going to be no further indictments, that refers to the Mueller piece of this. The Southern District of New York, the Justice Department`s office in New York, the Eastern District of Virginia, could drop what they want and what they have at any time.
KATYAL: Exactly. So I think the way to think about it is much more like the internet now. The Mueller investigation, with multiple different nodes and each one having a certain amount of autonomy that`s particularly true for the state prosecutors, which have -- the President and the attorney general can`t stop and Congress, which is a coordinated branch of government.
When you get to the Southern District of New York or the Eastern District of Virginia, those are federal prosecutors. And it is possible to envision Donald Trump or Attorney General Barr saying, "oh, no, you can`t investigate any further, don`t touch my man."
WILLIAMS: The folks watching this network know the news hit at the end of Nicolle Wallace`s broadcast, and at the very start of Chuck Todd`s "Meet the Press Daily." They happened to be seated side by side in our Washington studios. So we watched that unfold live.
CNN had its own breaking news coverage.
Nicolle, I wanted to show you, because you were otherwise busy, how the moment transpired on Fox News this afternoon. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: We`ve just been told the Mueller report has been delivered to the Attorney General William Barr. But we don`t know any details as yet, and we don`t know when we`ll know any of the details, whether it will be a matter of hours, days, weeks, months, we don`t know.
Jesse, where are you?
JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Well, Mueller took too long, he lost all his momentum, it`s kind of like the guy at the barbecue when you invite everyone over at 5:00, and at 7:00 no one`s eaten yet, and then he burns the meat. And you say, waited two years for this, this is terrible.
I honestly don`t think the rest of the country outside of the swamp and the partisans really care about the Mueller report. They care about the brackets for the NCAA. They care about spring vacation. And they care about what`s on Netflix.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Nicolle Wallace?
WALLACE: I learned at the very beginning of my career in politics, never to treat voters like they`re stupid. And I don`t know who that guy was and I don`t watch a lot of Fox News any more. But to treat viewers and voters and citizens like they`re so stupid, they don`t care about anything other than sports is really cynical.
And I think it probably works for a segment of the population that Donald Trump already got locked and loaded. But this isn`t about them.
And I really-- we have to be careful not to lay over too much politics. We don`t know what he found. There are really serious questions. And we should give voters and viewers credit for caring about whether or not their President -- and he could have unwittingly, he could have unwittingly been acting as a Russian agent.
But I think every voter, whether or not it changes their political persuasion, whether or not it changes how they vote in the next election, I don`t know. But I think that we should give our viewers and our voters credit for wanting to know the answers to those kinds of questions.
WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, you`re nodding, someone at DOJ in the press said what they did know was that the Mueller report was comprehensive. DOJ knows from comprehensive, this could be a very, very voluminous document.
KATYAL: Yes. And so first, I just want to echo what Nicolle said, and it just brings pride to my eyes to hear someone say that, because I do think that is our fundamental responsibility, which is to try and give viewers and the American public an education about what`s in this report and what`s likely to come.
Now, we`re hearing that this report is comprehensive, I don`t know what comprehensive means. It means different things to different people. But it does sounds like there`s going to be a substantial amount of detail in the report. And that is, I think, fitting for report of this nature and equally fitting for the American public to see that report for the reasons Nicolle was talking about earlier.
WILLIAMS: And Robert Costa, your job is the world between and including law and politics. And to Nicolle`s comments, it would be a good time for everybody to try to keep their powder dry.
COSTA: So far the Mueller investigation has had its ups and downs, in Alexandria`s court with Judge Ellis, we`ve seen him be critical of the Mueller probe. What matters now is the facts. What are the facts with the President`s conduct?
The American people, reporters, everyone who just wants to know the truth and the facts. Everyone from Fox News to other commentators they will have their opinions about this. But at the end of the day, if you`re a reporter or a citizen, you want to know what happened, what was the intent, was it corrupt or not, and know the time line and the context. That`s what matters. That`s why this investigation is so important.
WILLIAMS: And Bob, a serious question about a not always serious medium, can the President continue to show discipline on social media tonight? We have not heard comment one from him. He had dinner with his family, we`re told, he stopped by a GOP fund-raiser as well. Nothing on Twitter.
COSTA: Based on my conversations tonight with White House officials and Trump advisers, they`re bracing for that political war. They expect nothing in terms of discipline or control with the President`s tweets. The Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, the lawyer Mr. Giuliani, none of them are prepared to reign the President in.
They expect the President, whatever this reports says to be fighting day in and day out. This is going to overhaul the congressional front. This is going to change the rest of 2019 and the 2020 Presidential race. A pivot point in the Trump presidency tonight.
WILLIAMS: Yes. We underscore this news about the Mueller report is six hours and 21 minutes old. That`s also evidence. It`s been a long day. So our thanks to Neal Katyal, to Nicolle Wallace, to Robert Costa, we greatly appreciate the three of you starting off our broadcast for us tonight.
And when we continue, with Mueller`s job now done, we have more on where it will all go from here.
And later, the national security risks that prompted the Russia investigation in the first place and the threats that still exist. THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a critical Friday night.
WILLIAMS: We`re back. Twenty-five after the hour, and now that the Mueller investigation is over the focus will soon shift to the other investigations as we`ve been talking about. And to Congress, the first priority on the Hill is to make sure the report is released to the public as evidences by the flurry of calls late today for transparency. There is a small sampling.
There are four separate House and Senate committee investigations into this President and his dealings, currently underway. The chairs of two of those committees hinted tonight at what is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA INTEL COMMITTEE CHAIR: The Attorney General committed to making as much of it public as was consistent with law and policy. If he`s true to that, it means the entire thing.
The Congress is going to need the underlying evidence because some of that evidence may go to the compromise of the President or people around him that poses a real threat to our national security.
REP. JERRY NADLER, (D) NEW YORK JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIR: The Mueller report concerns only crimes that may have been committed. Our constitutional mandate is to look at -- is to maintain the rule of law, which means examining not only crimes, but other abuses of power and obstructions of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Again, there are active investigations in the Southern District of New York, and the New York attorney general and the U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
With us to talk about all of it, Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at CIA and Pentagon, former Chief Counsel Intel. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor. And Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.
Again, I`m going to ask you all the same questions so fair warning. This is a big day for loss, so we`re going to be fair here too. What was the biggest moment or revelation? And do any of you have a lingering question from today that you would like answered? And home field advantage being what it is, Counselor, Joyce, you go first.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think the most significant thing we learned today came in Attorney General Barr`s letter that was sent to congressional leaders. In that first paragraph, the first thing he told them was that there had been no request from Bob Mueller that was denied. So no request to indict or perhaps to subpoena a president that was denied. That was important for the Attorney General to say.
But with that said, there are an enormous number of lingering questions. So many loose ends for this investigation, both those that involve Russia and those that involve the other cases. This is unlike any other special counselor independent counsel case. There are lingering investigations, as you say, all over the country and on the Hill. And more questions left to ask than have been answered.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, same question.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes. I think what was significant to me, Brian, was that there is a report that there is detail in Bob Mueller`s findings, that he`s presented that to the Attorney General. And now it`s up to-- I think the attorney general to disclose all of the entirety of that report to Congress and to the American people. I think it`s going to be a very unsatisfactory situation. I think it`s going to be, frankly, a constitutional crisis.
If the attorney general who is a presidential appointee handpicked by Donald Trump, tries to shield these findings from the Congress and the American people.
WILLIAMS: Frank, same question.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Yes. So, the mystery is not yet solved. The biggest revelation today, no more indictments as has been reported. But the mystery that remains, the gap in our knowledge, is simple where we go from here with seeming loose ends that have not yet wrapped up.
WILLIAMS: And Frank, we`ll start a different vein here, and that is that Mueller, in all various forms found a way to -- we learned the term, speaking indictment, thanks to all of our friends on this broadcast over the last 675 days of covering this. He found a way, and his prosecutors of telling the story as it rolled on in realtime. Much of what we know is thanks to the court papers that came out. Can that still exist in this report? And again, we`re poking around in the dark without having seen anything.
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, there`s conjecture today running amok, but let me add to it. So the phrase "speaking indictment" applies here because we`ve heard the story told as segments in a season on Netflix as to what`s happening. And he`s talked through detailed indictments.
Now the question is, what if he employs that same strategy in his report, but has what I would call speaking declinations? What if he explains to us why he did not ask to indict the President, but rather says, "I found all of this stuff, it`s damning, it`s bordering on criminal conspiracy. I think he`s compromised. Here`s all of it." And the purpose of it really is to begin impeachment proceedings. Is that what the Congress will take away and say, "OK, you told us you didn`t indict, you couldn`t indict. But now we have this evidence to move forward with possible impeachment?"
WILLIAMS: Joyce, is that in the realm of the possible that he would after all think of how much they have Hoovered up into this investigation? Is it possible that he and his folks would say at the end of the day that they didn`t think they had the proper resolution or the proper tools that this was better handled by Congress, but here`s what we found?
VANCE: you know, I think it`s unlikely that Mueller will get into Congress` lane and tell Congress what to do, but I think it`s very reasonable to believe that he`ll give us some form of speaking declamations as Frank says, and explain why he didn`t think the evidence warranted a criminal indictment.
We know at the end of the Clinton investigation for prudential reasons, Starr declined to indict President Clinton over perjury, potential perjury charges. We might hear something like that from Mueller, and then he`s developed this great body of evidence that the Congress can use for whatever purpose they think is appropriate.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, help me underscore this report could be absolutely sprawling. And it could be monumental and it could contain language that will surprise all of us tonight who will look back on this broadcast, 11:32 pm Eastern Time on the Friday we got the report, and will marvel at how little we knew.
BASH: That`s right. I think Bob Mueller`s going to be able to piece together for us, the extent to which our President, our presidency and ultimately American foreign policy is under the influence of a foreign adversary nation, and is compromise. And then how a President took a candidate, a campaign, allowed itself to be under the leverage of political leverage and the financial leverage of an adversary.
Now I think it`s important to point out, Brian, that activity may not violate the criminal laws of the United States. And to the extent that that was Bob Mueller`s rep, which is to understand whether or not criminal laws are violated, he is now able to submit his findings to the attorney general.
But of course, the broader question from a perspective of national interest is, what foreign policy has been compromised by the actions of the presidential campaign, by the candidate and the President himself.
WILLIAMS: Frank Figliuzzi, we had a little fun last night with the pictures of Robert Mueller owns a baseball cap and a valid driver`s license, and in fact drove a car to work this week. Our own Julia Ainsley walked into a restaurant in Washington tonight sat at a booth that had just been vacated by one Robert Mueller. A guy who has been a kind of public ghost like figure with those of us repeating those same pictures of him over and over again.
So we know he`s going to be available to Barr to talk him through the report he authored. Is there any other work that they might have to sweep up that even though the Special Counsel`s work is done that could still require more hours and work from Mueller as he`s trying to get a foot out the door?
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, I think so. There are signs in the last couple of day that he`s feeling more relaxed, as you said with the -- with his activity in public. But yes, I think one of those things left to do, Brian, is I still adamantly believe that because this started as a counterintelligence investigation, he owes the Senate and House Intelligence Committees a briefing.
And I think he`s waiting for permission to do that, as I used to do as assistant director of Counterintelligence. You don`t just run to the hill with at least -- without at least a phone call to DOJ saying I`m going to the hill for a briefing. He needs to get that green light, and I think he owes them an explanation, highly classified on the counterintelligence findings that he`s had.
WILLIAMS: Joyce, we`ve just ran through everything that`s still open, all the various field offices of the Justice Department. We use these titles, Southern District of New York, for people who don`t think of New York in terms of a north or south entity. It`s the Justice Department`s New York`s field office really in Manhattan. Is that the most consequential of what`s still open or are you not willing to label any of the still open investigations by priority?
VANCE: What we`ve seen publicly of what we`ve seen, Southern District of New York appears to have some of the most important cases. They have the look into the inauguration. They have the look into the President privately owned businesses. But we`ve also seen a couple of moves by the New York attorney general which issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank a couple weeks ago, and it`s entirely possible that we`ll see complimentary state action along with the work that`s being done in Southern District of New York. There`s a lot left there.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy, was anyone cleared tonight, Mr. Corsi was quoted on social media as having given a quote about, you know, "I`m done, this clears me," I`m paraphrasing, but was anyone cleared? Do people whose names we`ve been discussing still have reason to worry?
BASH: I think they do. No one was cleared. I think the handoffs were to other prosecutorial offices at the federal and state level. But I think most fundamentally, we`ve now entered the broader phase, the phase in which the constitutional questions are presented, the phase in which the national security questions are presented, and the phase in which the abusive power questions are presented. And those are really questions for Congress, and ultimately the American people. Can we trust this President to carry out American foreign policy?
And that`s not something that Bob Mueller could have told us and saying that we have to rely on our Congressional representatives, and ultimately the American people to decide.
WILLIAMS: I think this is a good time to sneak in a commercial break, all of our guests are going to stay -- when we come back with all the noise about this. And all of our discussion tonight, it is sometimes difficult to recall what got us here in the first place, we`re going to talk about the national security threats that started it all that gave Mueller his original charge. That and more when we come back.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coates came to me and some others. They said they think it`s Russia. I have President Putin he just said it`s not Russia. I will say this, I don`t see any reason why it would be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It`s a tough moment for a lot of people to watch, Russian meddling was at the crux of Mueller`s initial mandate, let`s not forget, which called for "a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election."
Now, one year, 10 months, six days later, the investigation has netted 37 indictments, including three Russian companies, and dozens of Russians Intel officers and Russian nationals. Seven people have pleaded guilty. We learned at least 16 Trump associates have had contact with Russians along the way.
Back with us, Jeremy Bash, Joyce Vance and Frank Figliuzzi.
Jeremy, it`s an odd question to ask but you have repeatedly said this is the most important national security investigation of the modern era. Are we better off even if no reforms come a bit, are better off for the fact that Mueller`s folks, the fed were digging into it? And we have these indictments and now the troll and bot farms half a world away know we`re at least on to them.
BASH: Yes, I think so. I think the indictments of the Russian intelligence officers from last year sent a shot across the bow. But what`s truly troubling and I think get constitutionally troubling at this hour, Brian, is that usually in a national security investigation, after you conduct your findings, you would brief the commander in chief, the President.
But what do you do when you suspect that the President himself is the national security threat. We don`t have a playbook for that. We don`t have a playbook for when the national security investigation target is the President.
So here, again, this is going to have to go to Congress and Congress is going to have to evaluate fundamentally the evidence that Robert Mueller put together. And all the other things that they can investigate to determine how do you deal in the constitutional crisis that we have now before as a nation.
WILLIAMS: Well, you may have just made the point of the evening, I would add to that, a discussion you and I have had on a rolling basis on this broadcast. And that is your assumption that your fellow professionals in the Intel community have put heads down and have kept doing the job they were trained to do even if orders looking like that haven`t come from the top.
BASH: That`s right. And I think they have spoken truth to power which is there tradition and their training. They have done their work and they have called out Russian interference and Russian meddling, even as the President has refused to.
WILLIAMS: Frank Figliuzzi, how much ground in your view have we lost in what should be the central fight, our disbelief that another country reached into our country and affected our presidential election to a degree we`ve yet to decide and agree on. But how much have we lost in what should be a daily fight against them?
FIGLIUZZI: So the definition of intelligence that most people use is inactionable information. So as Jeremy said, perhaps the greatest findings so far in the Mueller case has been the fact that Russia clearly meddled and attempted to meddle with our election, that`s great Intel. It`s great information. It doesn`t become great Intel until it`s actioned, and we have a chief executive who appears not to be actioning that information.
So the question is, if you have all of these great findings and what the question is what are we doing about it. There are reports already, Brian, that Russian bots are already on social media trying to get us thinking in a certain direction toward the 2020 election. What have we done to shore up resources and security around our next election, what are states doing about it, is anyone listening. And until we have a chief executive who says this can`t happen again, we`re still in a national security risk.
WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, I have to say that with this new vocabulary we all have it was the speaking indictments that laid out the story of the extent of the Russian attempt to ramp up against our defenses electronically. Turns out we opened the door for them and they came in.
That was kind of an extraordinary early part of the story, we all got to read.
VANCE: I was and I think people should go back and re-read those indictments, but troll farm indictment and the hacking indictment. They do tell a narrative story and it`s a very important one. The real problem and I think Jeremy and Frank both hit the nail right on the head is we know that Russia tried to interfere with our elections. And this president, because either he was compromised or he felt like maybe the result of the election was called into question was unable to prove Russia meddling, Russian interference.
And he has taken those steps to sure up the safety of our election, which are really managed at local government levels, at county levels. And yet nothing is being done to assist those units of government in conducting elections with integrity from further Russian interference.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, I have a hunch that proper names like WikiLeaks and Assange are going to come back into the national conversation right quick. How should, in your view, Americans think of those two proper names?
BASH: Well, I think they should think of them as agents of the Russian Federation, which is how our intelligence community thinks of them. And there are multiple points where the Russian federation went to the Trump campaign beginning in April of 2016, you ask about the origin. And they said, we have dirt on Hillary Clinton, and the Russian government went to the Trump tower and had the meeting.
Then a Russian intelligence officer met with Paul Manafort and talked about polling in proprietary data. And then, of course, Roger Stone served as a conduit between the Trump campaign and the Russian Federation`s intelligence assets.
So you have multiple points of contact. And again, I think the prudent question here for the Congress as we move into this new phase of the investigation is, OK, maybe no laws were broken with respect to those relationships, but was there an abusive power, was there a compromise of American foreign policy, because that ultimately goes to whether or not the President remains fit for office
WILLIAMS: Frank, is it something else entirely to try to bring Assange or WikiLeaks to any American style or American notion of justice?
FIGLIUZZI: I don`t think people are giving up on that in Washington or inside the FBI or inside the Department of Justice. I think it`s quite possible, I was a part of early discussions on how to handle WikiLeaks and Assange, and I can tell you those agents, those prosecutors are still working. There`s clearly something very significant going on in the Eastern District of Virginia involving WikiLeaks and/or Assange.
Perhaps he`s already been indicted. And I think the key gap in or knowledge, Brian, is tieing him to a plot to release the Russian hacked e- mails with a deliberate intent to mess with the election. Did they understand they were an agent of Russia? Did they understand they were going to damage the electoral process in the United States?
My gut tells me yes, they did. The question is how to prove that, and if that can be proven, every attempt will be made to get Assange back here for justice.
WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, I watched between 12 and 14 hours of cable news coverage. It occurs to me just today. And I don`t like to brag, I did hear it theorized that when we woke up this morning the most important American alive was Robert Mueller.
By tonight, it`s William Barr, the attorney general, a man who`s had that job before. Do you concur?
VANCE: I`m not sure if I agree. You know, I think what`s really important, and I`m going to say this at the risk of sounding silly and patriotic.
WILLIAMS: Please do. I do it all the time.
VANCE: The most important person in America now is the average American citizen who should be paying attention, who should be reading the indictments, who should be watching what William Barr does, who should be a student of Bob Mueller`s work, because in 2020, we`re going to all going to have the most important decision of our lives to make in the ballot, when, you know, we vote in the election. And whether Congress acts, no matter what their conclusions or Bob Mueller`s were, each of us have an obligation as an American citizen to determine whether this President is fit for office.
WILLIAMS: Sometimes it`s a matter of knowing which quote to end a conversation on. I think we just heard it. Jeremy Bash, Joyce Vance, Frank Figliuzzi, a long day`s journey into night. Much obliged to your help on our broadcast tonight. Thank you, the three of you.
Coming up on this consequential Friday night, a Pulitzer Prize winner who`s pretty good with words himself is here to help us put everything into perspective when we continue.
WILLIAMS: There`s two numbers here. Donald Trump has been president for 792 days. The number we start the broadcast with every night. Robert Mueller has been on the job for 675 of those.
But this last week may be the last of its kind now that the report is out. If you remember, we saw Trump go on an extensive social media rant with over 50 tweets in two days, over one an hour, an ongoing feud with George Conway, husband of his counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Conway questioned the President`s mental capacity. The President fired back, called him a whack job and then some.
Trump continues his attacks on the late Republican Senator John McCain. He blamed him for the Steele Dossier, complaining that he was never thanked for approving McCain`s funeral, among other things.
Finally, this is just today, Trump undercut his own administration by rolling back new sanctions on North Korea. His spokeswoman explained it`s because he likes Chairman Kim. And he said again today that Democrats are anti-Jewish.
So while this may be the kind of week we`ve become accustomed to around here, it may well be known as the week before the Mueller report versus after the Mueller report. And so on a night like this we are so pleased to have our friend Jon Meacham here with us in New York, Pulitzer Prize- winning Author and Historian. Latest work is "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels." Welcome.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you, sir.
WILLIAMS: What will we remember March 22nd for and for how long? Is this -- are we living a moment of true consequence within a moment of true consequence?
MEACHAM: Yes. My mind immediately went to July 16th, 1973. Alexander Butterfield reveals that the White House has a taping system. Then it went to November 25th through the 26th. Iran-Contra is revealed. Reagan comes in the briefing room, Ed Meese is there. He says not only did we sell arms but we diverted the money to the Contras.
WILLIAMS: A genuine moment.
MEACHAM: And so what we don`t know, and this is with a nod to Secretary Rumsfeld, is a known unknown. We don`t know exactly what it`s going to look like. But what is in this report I believe will shape at least the next six years of American political history because if he hasn`t got him, let`s just speak bluntly, if he hasn`t got him Trump will spin that into a strong position in two years` time fro reelection.
He will say that the deep state tried, they tried everything they could. They spent all this money, it didn`t happen. If they`ve got him, we may or may not have a witting asset of a foreign government in the Oval Office.
And so to me the most -- I know this. This I do know. Attorney General Barr is not streaming Netflix tonight. He is reading something that will shape who we are for at least two years, six years, and like Watergate, like Iran-Contra it will have significant implications going forward.
WILLIAMS: Unlike those periods we have a president whose use of language is fascinating, wherever you want to begin, but talks about "our people, " his base, not of the collective, the kind of steward of all of us. He talks about his people and used a phrase in the last 24 hours "people wouldn`t stand for that."
WILLIAMS: And everyone knows exactly what he`s talking about.
MEACHAM: Exactly. Will there be a mega pitchfork rebellion? And that`s going to be one of the great questions here, is will this inevitably go into the tribal cuisinart (ph)? And 50% of the country is going to think he`s guilty, 49% is going to think that he`s not. But the 49% is louder and more motivated.
To me in an interesting way it`s the most fascinating citizenship question because will fact actually continue to be a governing principle in our political affairs or is it going to be what people want to believe, not what`s on the page?
WILLIAMS: Well, who has the moral authority? Who can speak with enough lumber to move those numbers, those percentages you just listed?
MEACHAM: I think that Director Mueller himself, interestingly, has become that figure. I don`t think we`re in a position where, you know, we all talk about the Goldwater moment where Hugh Scott and John Ryans went down. But that was so late, I think that was the 6th of August and Nixon left on the 8th and 9th of August.
I think it`s going to be -- Joyce was just saying this. I think it`s going to be all of us. I think that it`s a very -- it`s a stress test for citizenship. And are we -- are Republicans, the party that gets a lion share seems to me for victory in the Cold War, which will upset Democrats, but I think that Republican presidents and ultimately Reagan and Bush were so essential there. Started by Truman and then conducted by all of them.
But Republicans built a significant presidential governing coalition on projecting power against the Soviet Union, and standing against totalitarianism. They have to recover that tradition and think about what the facts tell them.
You know, Reagan used to say -- he said that-- I think that first speech in 1964 for Barry Goldwater, right before the election, now just known as "The Speech." He said the problem with liberals is not that they don`t know but just so much they think they know that isn`t so. That`s what has to be applied now I think to people who are inclined to believe the President at all costs.
WILLIAMS: I have about 20 seconds. When Carl Bernstein says, as he says to this day, "Republicans were the heroes of Watergate," is that too easy or do you concur with that writ large?
MEACHAM: They were very late. At the very end of the day they jumped in front of the train. I think in a weird way it transcends those quick -- the standard partisan dimensions here. There`s about 20% of the country that actually does make up their mind based on facts, and I think it`s on those folks who are not already assigned to one team or the other. And they need to be the umpires.
WILLIAMS: I`m amazed you didn`t just call them better angels. Thank you very much. You transcend your fair share as well. Jon Meacham, always such a pleasure to have him as part of our broadcast, especially on a consequential Friday night.
That is our broadcast indeed for this Friday and for this week. Thank you for being here with us. Have a good weekend. Good night from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END