CHRIS HAYES, ANCHOR, MSNBC: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes and we have got big breaking news tonight. What appears to be the first ever leak from the Mueller team sending a shot across the bow to the Attorney General.
"New York Times" reporting just moments ago that some of Robert Mueller`s investigators have told associates that their findings were more damaging for the President than William Barr revealed in his four-page synopsis.
To help interpret this breaking story, I`m joined by former U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara who was fired from that job by the President. He`s got a new book out called "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor`s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and the Rule of Law." Well, this is a big deal.
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes.
HAYES: I mean, they haven`t talked for two years. You can`t get them -- no one off the record, no one on the background.
BHARARA: No. Yes, sometimes when the band breaks up, they`re a little bit more talkative but to be clear, as you said at the outset, the report doesn`t say that some investigators on Bob Mueller`s team talked to reporters. They told associates and those associates maybe told reporters.
Maybe they were directed to do so -- I tend to doubt that -- and it`s a case where the investigation is over and people -- obviously, some of them -- are feeling more free to vent frustrations that they kept in check for a long time.
HAYES: I mean, we had two years. We got nothing. Anything that happened did not come from those folks. It was sort of a black box.
This also seems timed with what has been a news cycle in which Barr writes a four-page letter, the President runs around saying, "I`m totally cleared," and there was always this question of, "What`s actually in the report and what do the people who actually put it together think?"
BHARARA: Yes. Look, it`s sort of a standard thing that happens that you have to be careful about with prosecutors.
When prosecutors decide not to bring -- in a standard case, much less a case of this magnitude that involves a sitting President, there`s a temptation to say more than what you otherwise want to say because you close the investigation and you worry that the party that is not going to be charged will go out and say, "I`ve been exonerated. Nothing I did was terrible," and prosecutors who know that there`s a lot of bad information and a lot of bad misconduct don`t like that and, ordinarily, just keep your mouth shut. Nothing you could do about it.
This is different. This idea that you have a sitting President who has the shield of non-prosecution because of an Office of Legal Counsel opinion at the Justice Department. It also has enshrined in the Constitution a mechanism for holding that person accountable, the President, through the process of impeachment and trial in the Senate. That`s different from you, and me, and any other private citizen.
HAYES: Well, and here`s where -- I mean, this is like we are doomed to relive 2016 over and over again. One of the nuggets in there is that Mister Barr, according to "New York Times," was weary of departing from Justice Department practice not to disclose derogatory details in closing an investigation according to two government officials familiar with Mister Barr`s thinking and that he was worried he would face criticism in the way that Comey did who very much did disclose derogatory details in great length during the 2016 campaign with the Hilary Clinton investigation.
BHARARA: Yes. Look, on its face, the idea that you have to be concerned about disclosing derogatory information -- and forget about whether there`s a double standard or not. That`s not a bad policy.
HAYES: No, it`s not.
HAYES: In fact, James Comey, in my view, shouldn`t have gotten on and did what he did in 2016.
BHARARA: Yes, you`re right. It`s a mistake to do that, but to use that reason now to say that, after a two-year investigation by the Special Counsel about very important things that have deep public interest including potential bad conduct by the President of the United States is different because he is the President, because he has the shield of this protection and because the Constitution recognizes that abuse of power - allegations of abuse of power and other kinds of misconduct are in the province of Congress.
In fact, that`s why I think and a lot of other people think Bob Mueller didn`t come up with the final determination on obstruction to begin with. It may be thought, "This is not for me. It`s a close-enough question that it should be for Congress," and you can`t, at the same time, say, "Well, with respect to the President, he`s just like everybody else and you can`t release derogatory information." I think it must be released to the extent possible to Congress and to the public.
HAYES: Yes, and this gets at the basic enterprise here, right, which is something that began as a sort of criminal -- a counter-intelligence investigation that became a criminal investigation ultimately, is the closest we have to a record of what happened. What do you see as the necessity in light of this "New York Times" story of getting that out into the public as soon as possible?
BHARARA: That`s in the necessity of getting out into the public as soon as possible when we saw the Barr letter, and I think this just added reason why people are not going to have public faith in what the report says, in what the conclusions were, in how it was undertaken, in what Bill Barr`s letter says whether it`s distorting or not until the full report comes out. It actually is in everyone`s interests to have it come out as soon as possible.
Now, it may have been that Bill Barr thought he was putting a nice gloss, sanitized version of the letter out and then that would be the imprint on people`s minds and memories and then, weeks later when the full report or more of the report comes out, minds would already have been made up and the presentation would already have been nice, sweet and positive for the President.
It appears that that`s not happening, and some folks are concerned that that is happening. Even though the polls indicate otherwise, it probably is in the interests of the President and his team now to play a little bit more ball and release it sooner rather than later.
HAYES: You think so?
BHARARA: I do.
HAYES: Well, you do. You don`t want an escalating war of leak from people that did this, right? I mean --
BHARARA: No. Right. Exactly.
HAYES: I`m saying if you`re in the White House now, right?
BHARARA: Look, Bill Barr knows what`s in it and I don`t know how terrible it is for the President. I mean, it`s a spectrum, right?
It`s either completely innocuous, which you know can`t be because of the close question on obstruction, or it`s devastating or catastrophic, which it probably also isn`t because of the close question on obstruction and the buy he got on conspiracy with respect to the election, so it`s something in between.
It seems to me that they need to make the determination of what is better for the public, what is better for -- I know they don`t always --
HAYES: Yes, they`re not going to make that determination.
BHARARA: But even, I think, from their perspective, it`s about the optics of the President. The longer you have the suspicion ...
HAYES: That`s right.
BHARARA: ... that the report is really, really much worse than the Barr letter suggests, maybe it`s not quite so bad, these reports, quite so as it ultimately will be, and it`s better to get things behind you rather than have them ahead of you.
HAYES: You know, we`ve also got a reporting in this article that there was -- and this is something that I think a lot of people have wondered is, were there other summaries, right?
I mean, you know, the idea that you`ve got 400 pages and Barr writes his four-page letter and it quotes 42 words, this suggests in the "New York Times" that they did actually write other summaries, that they`re sort of sitting there, but that Mueller never specifically instructed Barr or requested that they be released.
BHARARA: Yes, there`s a lot of questions there. It does make a reference to the fact that summaries were prepared by the Mueller team. It`s not clear to me if they were asked to do that by Bob Mueller or if people on their own decided to do it.
And as the report also says, the Special Counsel Office -- even though these summaries were prepared by some individuals on the Special Counsel team, the Office of Special Counsel did not ask Barr, if you believe it, to release them. And I don`t know if that`s a difference of opinion between and among the folks on the Mueller team or between Mueller and his subordinates or if there were problems with the summaries and they also contained classified information, it remains to be seen.
The other thing that`s odd to me --not odd, but you have to think about -- Mueller could have decided to do a version of the report that is sort of scrubbed of the kinds of things that people say that they`re worried about, and you do that all the time in court.
In a garden-variety proceeding, particularly when involving terrorism cases -- and we did this all the time in the Southern District -- you would prepare a version that you knew that the court could see and then, because of the interest by the public and because newspapers and media outlets like yours and others, would come forward and file suit. You prepare contemporaneously with that a version that`s redacted.
HAYES: A clean version.
BHARARA: A clean version, and then people will argue about the redactions, but you do them both at the same time. It may be that Bob Mueller and the team didn`t think that was in their province, that they were supposed to deliver a confidential report that`s thorough and comprehensive, and then redactions or anything else is to be done by the AG.
But you could have done it that way which would have tied the hands of the AG a little bit because if it became known later that you had a full version and you had a clean version, at least in the mind of somebody who is quite respected and cares about all these other interests, then it would have been harder not to release it.
HAYES: Right, and it sounds like -- I mean, again, sort of reading a little bit through the lines of this "New York Times" article which just broke about some uneasiness in the part of Mueller`s investigators about the conclusions that Barr has drawn or at least the ways in which those have been spun, it seems there`s some frustration, perhaps, with the facts that the summaries have not seen the light of day yet, and we are on Day 10, which also strikes me as part of the recipe here.
BHARARA: Yes, that is true, but like anything else, when you get a report like this, if you credit all of it and all of this caution -- maybe it`s not fully correct. I`m wondering why we don`t have other kinds of complaints. What`s omitted from here --and maybe it`s just that the reporting is not there yet.
I would have expected some members of the Mueller team to say not only that they thought there was a disconnect between the summary and the underlying report, but also to take issue with the fact that Bill Barr decided to take it upon himself to make a declaration about exoneration on the obstruction issue because that, I think, is one of the central questions here.
I don`t know if they`re annoyed about that or if others are annoyed about that, but that`s a question I`d like to have answered.
HAYES: Part also of also the human dynamic here -- and I think we saw this during the FBI and Hilary Clinton -- is that these are big teams and people have different views on things.
And those different views were leaking out of -- it appeared, particularly in the New York Office of the FBI or some places vis-a-vis Hilary Clinton - - people who were dissenting from the decision by James Comey ultimately not to pursue charges there. We have not seen any of that publicly facing yet until today.
BHARARA: Yes. Look, I have great respect for the team. He put together an amazing team. I know some of them personally. One member of the team used to work for me in the Southern District of New York. Things come to a conclusion and then people have views and, sometimes, those views get shared with other people who they think are not going to talk to folks.
And so, clearly it was not all harmonious. They kept it cohesive, tight and close during the entire time that the investigation was ongoing and pending, but I guess it`s different now.
HAYES: I guess, a final question here on Bill Barr, and I don`t know if you have a personal relationship with the man or you know him very well. Obviously, he was AG before your time in the Southern District the first time around. In his public conduct so far, do you think he has instilled - - has he conducted himself in a way that inspires confidence?
BHARARA: I don`t know him very well. I knew him and we interacted when I worked in the U.S. Senate and I know him to be a smart lawyer with a good reputation for lawyering and a person of integrity. He has inspired confidence because he has this track record of having put in an unsolicited document saying, before he knew any of the facts at all for reasons that still escape me, that he didn`t think the President could be held accountable for obstruction because of his view of the executive branch and executive power.
And it`s just an odd thing for him then later to become the Attorney General --
HAYES: And then make the call on exactly --
BHARARA: And then make the call when it looks like Bob Mueller was trying to send the call to Congress and then, you know, to have people wonder why is it taking so long to redact. Now, people would complain to us all the time when we took a long time to do something so I`m always at some caveat.
HAYES: Of course, yes.
BHARARA: But there are too many things going on that make you worried about that. Also, it says in the article, by the way, that Bill Barr and others were annoyed that Mueller didn`t make the final decision.
BHARARA: Which is interesting because he could have made the decision against the President. He didn`t make the decision either way and so, on one side of the coin, you might think that Bill Barr appreciated the fact that he got to be able to make the call. We just don`t know.
HAYES: That sounds like he did not appreciate it, at least from this reporting. Preet Bharara, it`s great to have you here. Thank you very much.
BHARARA: Thanks for having me. Thanks so much.
HAYES: All right. My next guest is a member of two of the committees that are investigating the President, Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and who voted today to subpoena the Mueller report as a member of the House Judiciary Committee that was a party-line vote in your committee.
Congresswoman, your reaction to "The Times" tonight saying that Mueller`s team see their findings as more damaging for Trump than Barr revealed?
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), FLORIDA: Hi, Chris. It`s good to be with you and, look, tonight`s story from the "New York Times" does not surprise me at all. There`s just something about long-term career public officials and public servants when they feel like justice is being skirted, if you will, they will find a way.
Four hundred and twenty of us in the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the report to be released. Congress certainly has a right to have access to the un-redacted version. The public overwhelmingly wants to see the report released. And so I`m not surprised at all with tonight`s story because, obviously, there are members or it appears now that members of the Mueller team feel like what they are seeing, what the Attorney General summarized, is not an accurate or a clear view of the work that they did and so we have a lot of work to do.
HAYES: My understanding of the substance of the battle right now -- and I think it`s a little confusing because, punitively, the White House, the Republicans and everyone says, "Oh, yes. Make it public. Make it public." That`s not the way everyone seems to be acting.
In terms of your committee and its skirt and posture towards the Attorney General, your committee is asking for the full record, right? They want the full report not given to the public, but given to Congress first, to your committee, before Barr redacts. And Barr is saying, "I`m going to make redactions first." Is that the fight right now?
DEMINGS: Well, that is absolutely correct. Let us not forget that first, Chairman Nadler asked the Attorney General to release the full report with all supporting documentation and materials. Then, our Chairman followed that up with a letter, making the formal request with a deadline.
The Attorney General either ignored the deadline or just refused to meet it or he might say he couldn`t meet it and so the next step is what we did today. We voted to authorize the issuance of a subpoena.
And so, you know, I would just like to go back to Attorney General Barr`s unsolicited, as you we all know, 19-page statement talking about the President could not be subject to obstruction of justice. And so I just believe that that -- you know, we`re very interested in understanding his view, if he had that view, really, why he would not recuse himself in the first place, and here we are.
But we`re going to get the report. We`re going to get it either through subpoena, we`ll get it in the courts, but we want the un-redacted version with all supporting materials and documentation so we can get to the bottom of it.
HAYES: Do you have reason other than that, other than the memo that Mr. Barr wrote -- unsolicited memo -- do you have reason based on either the public record or things that you privately know to be true to have suspicions about his good faith in the way that he is conducting himself from the time of receiving the report to now?
DEMINGS: Let me say this. The Attorney General, as you know, leads the Department of Justice, and I have no reason to believe that he`s not a person of integrity, but let me say this. What took Mueller and his team 22 months to complete -- and there are still, as you know, cases that are out there that have not or that are still ongoing investigations.
It seems the Attorney General was in an awful big hurry to summarize a report and get it out to the public. We know that his summary had two parts. One involved collusion or conspiracy but the other one, which is of particular interest to Congress. It is of particular interest to the public, is the fact that Special Counsel Mueller said the report does not exonerate the President.
And so we are very interested in knowing what that means. And so the Attorney General then rushed to draw his own conclusion. We`re not going to accept that. We want to see the full report.
HAYES: I want to ask you one other question about something else, one of your other committees did today because there`s been a lot of activity on the Oversight side of things in the House today.
The House Intelligence Committee that you also sit on, if I`m not mistaken, is now seeking documents from the Trump Inaugural Committee.
Now, we know that there`s a Southern District of New York criminal investigation, it appears of the Trump Inaugural. What are you looking for there?
DEMINGS: Well, Chris, I will just say this. Remember the entire Special Counsel`s investigation started as a counterintelligence investigation. I mean, we certainly have a responsibility to see if the President, anyone in his administration, anyone who was a part of his campaign, anyone in his family or anyone involved in any of his businesses, the Inauguration Committee or Foundation is involved in anything corrupt, improper or illegal.
And so we certainly have a lot of work to do in that area but, remember, it started out a counterintelligence investigation, and we want to make sure that the President or any of the people around him are not subject to compromise.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Val Demings, thank you so much for your time tonight.
DEMINGS: Thank you.
HAYES: I want to go to Frank Figliuzzi now on the phone, former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence who, in the past, has worked for Robert Mueller. He`s also an MSNBC national security analyst. Frank, your reaction? You`ve got quite a few people, it appears, who are talking to the "New York Times" about what is going on. What do you make of this piece?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, MSNBC (via phone): Good evening, Chris. So if this is indeed the first leakage we`re seeing from the Special Counsel`s team, we need to stand up and pay attention to that because they, up until now, have not done that so that tells us they are not happy about what the Attorney General is doing, so if this reporting is accurate, it puts, really, into context how quickly Barr was able to get a four-page summary out of a two-year investigation, and it`s likely that they`re sensing some predetermined outcome or complete mischaracterization of what Mueller intended.
And so we`re left to think that it falls into one or two of the two categories -- obstruction of justice or the conspiracy or collusion with Russia. With regard to obstruction, it could be that Mueller clearly intended to let Congress decide the issue and that that`s reflected in his report or notes and, somehow, Barr chose not to reflect that accurately.
And then, on the criminal conspiracy with Russia, no one who knows counterintelligence ever thought that there would be criminal charges arising from what is essentially a counterintelligence case that almost never happens, so the team could be very upset that using a criminal metric to measure whether or not there was conspiracy with Russia is not the way to go here when, in fact, there might be substantial evidence of collusion with Russia.
HAYES: Yes, I just want to be clear. I want to read one part of this, it says, "The officials and others interviewed declined to flesh out why some of the Special Counsel`s investigators viewed their findings as potentially more damaging for the President," Mr. Barr explained, although the report is believed to examine Mr. Trump`s efforts to thwart the investigation.
I say that only because, again, we don`t know which part of the whole problem, which is why we`re here, but what does this do to you, to the timeframe and the pressure now on Barr to get the report out into the public eyes?
FIGLIUZZI (via phone): Well, I said earlier today on Nicolle Wallace`s show that every day that passes where the Attorney General does not release the full report is another day where he looks more and more like a political animal and less and less like America`s attorney. His job, particularly in light of the appointment of Special Counsel, was to remain as neutral as possible, pass on and convey the intent of the Special Counsel to Congress.
He has not done that, and every day that goes by where he doesn`t do that just undermines the credibility of his role and the credibility of Special Counsel as well in the mind of the public. And I think it damages, quite frankly, it damages the President`s cause because the public sentiment will begin to turn more and more against this.
HAYES: Say more on that. That`s similar to something that Preet Bharara just said, which is we started out with the kind of consensus. The President said it should come out. There`s a 420-to-nothing vote in the House for it to come out. We`ve seen them sort of backtrack from that, but you`re thinking maybe, again, in the White House`s best interest to speed this along as well.
FIGLIUZZI (via phone): Yes, I think the public is beginning to become very cynical about the time it`s taking. Look, my position on this is, knowing how Bob Mueller and his team work, is that they would not simply throw in this report in raw form at the Attorney General desk and walked away.
They would`ve provided him -- and we`re seeing a reflection of that in this "New York Times" reporting. They would have provided summaries of different versions, redacted, declassified. They would have gone through the trouble of declassifying for him and giving him suggestions on how to release this publicly. And so this notion that this is taking many, many weeks or days to figure this out doesn`t sit right with me.
HAYES: All right, Frank Figliuzzi, thanks for making the time for this Breaking News. I appreciate it. Joining me now, Nick Akerman, former assistant, special Watergate prosecutor and now an MSNBC legal analyst. First time that we`ve heard anything from anyone on the Mueller team.
NICK AKERMAN, LEGAL ANALYST, MSNBC: That`s right. I can identify with this. This is exactly how we felt the night Cox was fired. When we walked out, I walked out with papers underneath my clothing, figuring that if this was going to be the end of the investigation, that I would be talking to the press, which I never did during the entire time I was involved in that prosecution. But I can understand where they`re coming from. This has all been misconstrued and it`s been done --
HAYES: Well, we don`t know that, right? I mean --
AKERMAN: Well, we do. We can just take the obstruction of justice.
AKERMAN: He just has it dead wrong on what an obstruction of justice is. He says it has to be a judicial proceeding. Not true. An FBI investigation can be the subject of an obstruction. The idea of corrupt intent is something you can`t fathom. Well, there`s a charge that the Department of Justice provides in every obstruction case to the courts that they give in an obstruction case, so either he just doesn`t understand the law or he`s trying to bend it in a way that helps Trump.
HAYES: So, you think -- your reading of that Barr letter, you have a more jaundiced view of Barr`s performance thus far.
AKERMAN: I do, and up to that point --
HAYES: You think he`s not been acting in good faith.
AKERMAN: No, not at all, not in good faith. Up to that point, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I thought he was following it by the book, but once you look at that letter and you come up with that crazy interpretation he has of obstruction of justice, which is just dead wrong under the law, and the fact that he really puts it out there as a playbook for Trump to go out and claim exoneration is absurd.
And if nothing else, I mean that Congress has to have the complete report; one, because you have to assume that Mueller was going by a beyond-a- reasonable-doubt standard, but the Congress, in deciding impeachment, doesn`t have to look at reasonable doubt or a preponderance of the evidence. I mean, they can look at what the evidence is and decide, based on that, whether it`s an impeachable offense.
HAYES: So, you think the fight that -- I just talked to Congresswoman Val Demings. The fight they`re having now is they have enabled here now the subpoena power in the party-line vote today, he can then subpoena the report, and what he wants is the report. He wants the underlying material, but he wants the full report with no redactions turned over to Congress. Do you think that`s reasonable and appropriate?
AKERMAN: Absolutely. Hundred percent. And they ought to go in front of a judge and get that ordered.
HAYES: Do you think they would win in court on that?
AKERMAN: I think they would because this is such an important public knowledge. You just have to have this. It`s not only for impeachment purposes; it`s also because there are probably a lot of things, once we read the report, that are just bad, but they`re not criminal. And so one of the questions is, "Should they be criminal?" Should it be that a presidential campaign is approached by the Russians to offer help, and you just sit there and you don`t call the FBI?
I mean, normally, that would be something known as imprisoning a felony or misprision of a felony, which nobody ever charges, but there could be a number of items here, including changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the criminal statute that involves hacking. I mean, it`s not a crime to possess stolen computer data. It is in New York State, but not in the Federal system so there are a number of things that come out of this.
HAYES: So, you mean, legislatively, you should have the full record in your hands?
AKERMAN: Absolutely, and, also, one of the lessons we`ve learned and to look at all of those and decide what changes need to be made.
HAYES: Do you interpret this -- and, again, I don`t know and I should say that it says the team was, I think, 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents and other personnel. It`s specific about some of them, right, so this is not all of them. And it`s quoting -- it`s saying they`re associates. We don`t know if they`re talking directly or that they`ve interviewed friends. Do you view the existence of this article as functionally, a warning to Barr?
AKERMAN: Oh, I think so. I mean, I think it`s going to come out. I mean, you`ve got -- look at how many people were involved in this investigation that know what the truth is. I mean, he is really playing with fire here. I mean, there`s only so much you can do as a political hack and get away with it. He`s not going to get away with it because, sooner or later, that entire report is going to come out. A judge is going to order it.
It only takes a judge to go in and say, "Look, grand jury secrecy, maybe a couple of things with privacy, maybe we`ll do a couple of redactions, maybe there`s some stuff that is classified," but the bulk, 99% of that report, ought to be released.
HAYES: What do you see is the timeframe here? I mean, I guess the argument that Barr has been making is, this is a process they`re going through, they`re doing it judiciously and they`re going to make it public. They need to go through it first. Does this increase the pressure, as I asked Frank Figliuzzi?
AKERMAN: I would certainly think it would increase the pressure, and this is just a slow roll. I mean, the whole point behind this is to try and get out the statement that, "Oh, Trump has been exonerated. He didn`t anything wrong," and so it can go out with this PR program that he`s been involved in. That`s what it`s all about, and so the longer you can delay that, the more Trump can go out, go to his rallies and talk about how he`s so innocent, which may be, but he didn`t commit a Federal crime, but he may have done some other things that don`t look so good.
HAYES: Again, as I keep saying, there also may be exculpatory information inside the report. I mean, there may be previously undisclosed exculpatory information.
AKERMAN: Yes, or undisclosed inculpatory information.
HAYES: Exactly. Whatever it is, though, it remains the case that we need to see all of it ...
AKERMAN: Need to see it, absolutely.
HAYES: ... as soon as it is humanly possible. Nick Akerman, thank you very much for your time.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining me now for more, Asawin Suebsaeng is a White House correspondent at "The Daily Beast" and Jane Coaston. She is a senior politics reporter at Vox. Asawin, how do you think this is going to land in the White House?
ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think we all know that this isn`t over yet. President Trump`s Mueller- related reality has not come to a close, and one of the people who knows this really well just as well as anybody else is President Trump himself.
We know this because, as we reported at "The Daily Beast" several weeks ago, starting late last year, President Trump convened some of his top outside attorneys such as Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani at the White House to specifically tell them that he didn`t want them going anywhere even after the Mueller report was finalized and sent to the Department of Justice because he knew there were all these other investigations and lawsuits against him, including SDNY, the Southern District of New York, where he knew he would need their legal work and/or public relations help.
And on weeks like this where the harsh reality that the Mueller-related stuff that Giuliani, Sekulow and President Trump himself will have to deal with isn`t going away, the report isn`t even public yet further underscores that and is further reason why the President of the United States knows that he doesn`t want his outside lawyers moving a muscle.
HAYES: You know, Jane, part of what I think when we saw the Sunday evening release and then the sort of triumphalism from the White House was, I think, genuine suspense on their part and, I think, particularly in members of the Republicans in Congress who have signed on to getting the President`s back, knowing not at all what he did or didn`t do, there was a sort of sigh of relief. But, at a certain point, they`re going to have to -- they can`t outrun whatever the facts are forever.
JANE COASTON, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, VOX: Yes, and you`ve seen an interesting transition among kind of conservatives within Congress who have talked about how, "No, we don`t need to see the entire report." You heard that from Senator Lindsey Graham earlier today tweeting about how it`s almost offensive for Democrats to ask for the entire Mueller report, and you`re starting to see a lot of conservatives recognizing that perhaps dunking on this investigation so early wasn`t a great idea.
But I do think that there`s an element that, now, this is the real discussion. Now that we`ve gotten -- I think that by taking Barr`s letter at face value for both people on the left and people on the right has led to more problems when we`re beginning to recognize that the conclusions the letter came to may not exactly match the conclusions the Mueller report came to. This is not to say that the Mueller report will show something that we don`t know yet, but it is to say that this isn`t going away anytime soon as Asawin said.
HAYES: Well, and Asawin, if there`s one person who knows this better than anyone, it`s the President, which is the political damage of an investigation can happen even if you are not charged as Hillary Clinton in 2016 found out when James Comey came out there and did give a lot of derogatory information and said she acted recklessly, and then sent a follow up letter a few weeks before the election saying we`re reopening that. That hung around Hillary Clinton`s neck and caused grave political damage, despite the fact that the threshold of changes were never made. And they have to know that in that White House.
SUEBSAENG: Absolutely. But in terms from a purely public relations standpoint, obviously the president and his cronies and his top lieutenants were thrilled with the Barr summary that came out, because they were able to spin this early as a major victory, which anybody who wanted to take a moment to breathe and take a moment to step back say we have not seen the hundreds of pages that are actually in the Mueller report would know, there is not necessarily a cause for celebration.
But what the president has been good at for the past two years is hammering over and over and over again with no collusion, no collusion, no collusion in terms of his messaging. Collusion, obviously, isn`t a legal term, it`s not a legal standard. Some people say that collusion is somewhat of a sort of slant synonym for conspiracy, but that`s not the case.
So, as long as these 300, 400 pages, or whatever, don`t have President Trump, or at the time candidate Trump picking up the phone, calling the Kremlin and saying yo, Vlad, let`s collude and destroy Hillary Clinton`s hopes and dreams, then they can spin it as a win.
And all the gray area and potential criminality in between is just noise to Trump supporters, and that`s what he cares about, damn the reality of the situation.
HAYES: Well, there is also -- and there is also a kind of strange expectations game that has been played here, Jane, I think that one of the issues that happened, right, was that there was expectations, certain quarters I think there would be further indictments, or there would be exactly what Asawin said, right, that there was some sort of smoking gun of texting Vladimir Putin to say, you know, I`m your loyal humble servant, and let`s do this. And that this is not the case, it appears. I think we would have learned of that by now.
But now you have a sort of reverse expectation situation that has been created by the White House, and you also have a situation with the polling data and the politics of this seem entirely unmoved by what we`ve already learned.
COASTON: Well, I think if there is anything we have learned over the last couple of years, it`s that a lot of people`s opinions of Donald Trump are baked in. There isn`t a lot of movement from that 42 number when a lot of the country is just kind of set on what they think about him. And they have been set on what they think about him, in many respects, some since June 2015 when he declared, some since November 2016 when he won the presidential election.
So, I really think that the idea that this was keeping people either off the Trump bandwagon or on the Trump bandwagon was always going to be a little bit kind of sketchy, but I also think that we have to think about this not -- we are entering out of the legal standards, as Asawin said, and into political standards. And I think that it`s important to recognize that, like, you know, for a lot of people, people really did think that this was going to lead to Donald Trump heading out of the White House in handcuffs, and I don`t think that was ever a real possibility for a disparate number of reasons.
But I also think that the White House, and I think many Republicans who are supportive of the president for their own reasons, whether transactional or just generally believing in him, don`t recognize that that doesn`t mean that Trump is going to be perceived as this triumphant hero.
You know, Trump`s base has not expanded. This is again and again going to become -- it`s a political question now.
And I also think that Trump choosing to decide to pick a fight on health care immediately after this concluded showed that even if you wanted to use the Barr letter as a sort of political cudgel, it wasn`t going to work.
HAYES: Yes, he finally got around to clear the clouds to go after the issue he is worst on in the public imagination.
Asawin Suebsaeng and Jane Coaston, thank you both for being with me.
All right, coming up next, there`s more breaking news tonight. Democrats are for the first time formally asking to see the president`s tax returns. I will talk to one of the congressman leading that inquiry next.
HAYES: The first leak from the Mueller team broke tonight as House Democrats stepped up their oversight of the Trump administration across the board. Just hours ago, Democrats finally started going for the president`s tax returns. In a letter to the IRS commissioner, congressman Richard Neal, he is chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, formally requested the president`s tax returns under a rule giving the committee access to any tax filer`s records.
The letter requests all the president`s personal returns between 2013 and 2018, returns for several of his shell companies, and documentation showing whether any of them has ever been under audit as he continues to claim.
The question now is whether the IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department, will comply.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Based upon the request, we will examine it, and we will follow the law. We will follow the law, and we will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I am joined now by a member of that committee going after the president`s taxes, Congressman Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan.
First, let`s start with this, what is the authority that your committee has to make this request?
REP. DAN KILDEE, (D) MICHIGAN: Well, it`s section 6103 of the tax code grants to the chair of the ways and means committee the authority to request the tax return when there is a public policy interest in receiving that return.
The committee is looking at very specific questions as to whether or not the IRS is properly and fully auditing and enforcing the federal tax code on the president of the United States. The only way to determine that is to look at those returns and look at the associated documents connected to those returns.
So, there is a serious public policy question we are trying to address, whether or not the president is properly subject to tax law of the United States, and whether we need to make any changes to ensure that he is. The only way to know that is to look at the information.
HAYES: So, that sounds fairly clear cut to me, but I suspect it won`t be that clear cut in the reception. If the Treasury Secretary says no, then what?
KILDEE: Well, it`s really not up to the Treasury Secretary, it`s up to the commissioner of the IRS, that`s who the letter was addressed to. And in fact recently when Secretary Mnuchin was before the Ways and Means Committee, he said the same thing.
So, the commissioner of the IRS will follow the law, that`s our expectation that he will follow the law of the United States and deliver the returns that had been requested.
HAYES: You know, the IRS is a little like the Department of Justice or the FBI. There is some, or the Census Bureau in some ways, there`s some kind of independence baked into it, or at least there should be, right. We know one of the transgression transgressions of Richard Nixon was mucking around with the IRS and trying to order audits on his enemies.
I mean, do you fundamentally do you have faith in that basic integrity of independence of the IRS as currently constituted?
KILDEE: Well, that`s -- we generally do have faith in the independence and the autonomy of the IRS to execute the laws passed by congress, signed by the president and on the books.
One of the questions we are asking is whether or not in fact the IRS is adequately enforcing tax law on the president of the United States. It has been a practice, for example, Chris for the IRS to audit presidential tax returns, it has been a practice. There is no legal requirement.
We don`t know -- further, we don`t know whether or not they are auditing those business returns that really constitute a closer and more accurate view of Donald Trump`s business empire. We need to know the answer to those questions.
HAYES: So what happens if you get the returns? I mean, I think the fear probably from the White House, and from Republicans, is that they would leak and then sort of mission accomplished on your part, but -- I mean, I imagine that`s not in your plan. What do you do when you get them?
KILDEE: Well, the chairman will receive the returns. It`s the authority that the chairman of the committee has that this is being executed under. And of course then there would be a fairly thorough review. We don`t expect the information to be simple to discern.
But then at that point we let whatever the findings are speak for themselves and take whatever necessary steps are. And I don`t want to hypothesize as to what those might be. I mean, we know that there are some specific questions that we have that relate to a policy decision that we are debating and that is whether or not the laws are adequate when it comes to the president being subject to the laws of the tax code. It`s not clear to us that that`s happening.
For example, there is no way we actually know whether or not President Trump`s tax returns have been audited. He says they have.
HAYES: Yeah, he said that again today.
KILDEE: But there is no law requiring it. It`s a practice of the IRS. In order for us to make it a judgment as to whether or not the law is adequate to protect the interests of the American people when it comes to a president being held responsible to adhere to the tax code of the country, we have to take a look at this.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Dan Kildee on the Ways and Means Committee, thanks for joining me.
KILDEE: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Still to come, DNC Chairman Tom Perez will join me here on set. He is the media mogul behind the rise of Donald Trump and the calamity of Brexit, the latest New York Times magazine reporting on Rupert Murdoch, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In a perfect illustration of how deadlocked parliament has become, this afternoon, this result.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ayes to the right, 310; the nos to the left, 310.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What does that mean? I don`t know, but there is more Brexit madness as the country continues to slowly, painfully and ludicrously edge towards committing economic suicide. Parliament remains, as you see, paralyzed as ever the deadline approaches, and panic and exasperation are setting in.
Back in the summer 2016, the surprise victory of the Brexit referendum served as a kind of harbinger of the possibility of a Trump victory in the presidential election. And the two events, Brexit and Trump`s victory, have already really been linked. As we`ve watched these two democracies across the ocean from each other, destroying their own international reputation and institutions by empowering their most xenophobic forces.
And there`s been a lot of analysis about how we got here. Is it globalization? Is it voters who feel left behind? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But what of it`s just one guy, Rupert Murdoch? What if it`s just him? Arguably the most influential media figure in both countries, in the English speaking world, who has, as New York Times magazine says in a deeply reported piece out today, worked for years to elevate, stoke, and amplify the kinds of ethnonationalist messages of Trump and the Brexiteers, quote, "the right wing populist wave that looked like a fleeting cultural phenomenon a few years ago has turned into the defining the political movement of the times, disrupting the world order of the last half century. The Murdoch empire did not cause this wave, but more than any single media company it enabled it, promote it, and profited from it."
Joining me now is one of the authors of that fantastic deep dive piece, Jonathan Mahler, staffer writer at The New York Times Magazine. Great reporting.
JONATHAN MAHLER, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Thank you very much.
HAYES: What do you think about this thesis that like when all is said and done, if you had to choose one thing in the world that proximately explains Donald Trump and Brexit and these things happening at the same time, if it`s just one, Rupert Murdoch would be a pretty good thing to say?
MAHLER: Yeah, I mean, that is the operating thesis.
I mean, he -- you know, as we say, he didn`t cause it, but he saw it and he seized it. You know, and if you think about the kind of moment when Trump really emerges, I mean, it is really in the months leading up to Brexit. And, you know, Rupert sort of gets on board with Trump just a few months before the Brexit vote.
And the Bexit vote was itself something that Rupert had been pushing for decades. I mean, he had been pushing -- trying to encourage the UK to get out of the EU for decades, for years.
HAYES: Yeah, this is -- Brexit, much more than Trump, who Murdoch comes to kind of late, but ultimately embraces, Brexit is a Murdoch project for decades, and he pushes it through his media environment. And he has huge audience and control in the UK.
MAHLER: That`s right. I mean, he has the Sun tabloid, which is the biggest tabloid in the UK, and extremely influential, and in a powerful populist voice. And with Brexit I mean he was hammering it day in and day out.
And it was -- I mean, the two things just sort of dove tailed almost seamlessly. And then, you know, days after the Brexit vote, Donald Trump arrives in Scotland and who does he make time to have dinner with but Rupert Murdoch who only months before had come around on Trump after a lot of resistance.
HAYES: Murdoch knew Trump for a long time and sort of dismissed him as kind of a clown, basically, right. I mean...
MAHLER: Or worse.
HAYES: Yeah, there`s reporting in the piece about how disparaging he was.
MAHLER: Clown is kind.
HAYES: Yeah, about this nincompoop, basically, this idiot.
But ultimately Fox becomes the central outlet for the guy.
MAHLER: Yeah, it`s amazing. I mean, I think it`s so -- it`s easy to forget now that there was a period of time when Trump was furious at Fox. He thought because of his long history with Rupert, which, you know, dates back to the New York Post 1970s, and, you know, he has the connection to Jared and that Trump thought that -- you know, he assumed that of course Fox News was going to get behind him. I mean, Trump was a contributor on Fox and Friends for years.
And so he felt betrayed.
And, you know, there was a long period of time where Rupert was looking for other options, sort of desperately casting around. But ultimately he switched sides and really of course threw Fox behind him.
HAYES: You know, one of the things that comes through in this piece I think is really important for understanding American politics and Fox is, Murdoch fundamentally sees his empire as a political project, it`s not ancillary to it, it`s not just chase the dollars, like he is a right winger. He has reactionary politics. He wants to see them brought about. And he has used his properties in Australia and the UK and the U.S. to do that.
MAHLER: Yeah. And in a way, his politics work with his business desires in a sense that there is a great irony here, but he kind of gets in with these conservative governments and helps them take power and then he basically uses those governments to knock regulations out of his way so that he can continue to sort of expand his empire.
So -- but it is very much always a conservative agenda.
What happens now to this empire as he sort of enters his twilight years and his son is about to take over?
MAHLER: Yeah, well there was a -- you know as we kind of detail in the piece, there was a -- for years there was a big succession fight between his two sons, only the sons were really considered, even though there were also two adult daughters. And so the two sons, James and Lachlan, kind of fought for years. And they had very different ideas about the company, and they were different -- very different people, different politics. James was -- is much more centrist. Lachlan is much further right. James wanted to turn the company into more of a kind of -- you know, kind of modern and global business, progressive, modern, global business. And Lachlan wanted to kind of keep doing what his dad does. And, you know, Lachlan emerged with the company.
HAYES: All right, Jonathan Mahler, thanks so much for being here.
MAHLER: My pleasure.
HAYES: Still to come, we get our first very initial indicator of enthusiasm levels in the 2020 campaign as candidates release their initial fundraising totals. DNC chairman Tom Perez is here to talk about it, next.
HAYES: Last night, there was a special election in Pennsylvania where Democrats flipped a state senate seat in a district that Trump won by six points in 2016. But in Wisconsin, in a nonpartisan state Supreme Court election that the liberal candidate was favored to win, the conservative candidate appears to hold a very narrow lead ahead of a probable recount.
It`s an indication that the massive enthusiasm advantage Democrats carried during the first two years of Trump may be waning a bit. And there is an open question about how to sustain that as the party heads into 2020.
Here to talk about the state of the Democratic Party heading into 2020, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. Good to have you here.
TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Always great to be with you, Chris.
HAYES: So, let`s talk that enthusiasm thing. I mean, you don`t want to draw too many conclusions from any one race, but I think it was the case that just Democratic voters were like climbing over hot coals for the first two years of Trump to vote in any election -- like school board elections, referendum -- anything. How do you sustain that? How do you sustain that when there was victory, 40 seats swung, you`ve got the House, the Democratic House, how do you keep that fire lit under people?
PEREZ: By continuing to focus on those pocketbook issues. Donald Trump has clarified I don`t want to repeal and replace Obamacare, I want to repeal it with no replacement. And so we talk day in and day out about these issues. They want to take away your health care. We want to make sure you keep it. They want to do nothing about the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs...
HAYES: But that`s not driving -- I just disagree that that`s what`s driving enthusiasm in these places where you need to get -- you need to mobilize marginal voters.
PEREZ: Well, we`ll have to agree to disagree on this.
HAYES: I mean, in a place like Wisconsin, right? Like what was driving those voters like Donald Trump is president, the world is ending, was part of it was driving people to the polls.
PEREZ: I think what`s been driving people to the polls is they`re starting to learn that Democrats have their back on the issues that matter most, and Donald Trump has a knife in their back, and he twists it at ever turn. The trail of broken promises is endless.
So, yes, I mean, was Donald Trump a motivator for Democrats? Of course. But was the fact that Democrats were fighting for the issues that people care about? Of course.
And the enthusiasm continues. I mean you look at Pennsylvania. That was a R-plus 6 district and the Democrats won that, and we now need three more to take the state Senate in Pennsylvania.
You look at Wisconsin, Rebecca Dowlith (ph), we had a race about a year a year ago, and yesterday, the Democrat got 40,000 more votes than Rebecca Dowlith (ph) got a year ago.
So people are voting. The other side is voting.
HAYES: That`s a good point.
PEREZ: And this is a reminder that these races are going to be close.
HAYES: Well, also, that there is no permanent state of advantage in American politics, that`s part of it too, right? I mean, Democrats in Wisconsin mobilized 40,000 more voters, you know, just a year later, Republicans managed to mobilize it looks like a few more.
PEREZ: And that`s why the old DNC was about mobilizing every fourth year. The new DNC is every day of every year in every zip code in every state, that`s how we won at scale in 2018, that`s how we`re going to continue to sustain it, and that`s why we`re organizing everywhere.
Our new initiative organizing core is an initiative to recruit, train and deploy in the seven key state, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan and Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, training and deploying 1200 organizers that we will hand to the nominee.
HAYES: Interesting. Ahead of -- as the primary -- so there is a parallel process to the primary.
HAYES: I want to talk about the fundraising. So we`ve got some quarter one fundraising numbers. What has changed in fundraising in the last four years, because we`re in a totally different space there are so many candidates. There is so much small dollar fundraising. Candidates stepping away from big dollar fundraising increasingly and swearing off different kinds of money. What has changed in the last four years?
PEREZ: Well, I think the capacity to raise money online has really been transformed. We`re working very closely with Act Blue, as we -- which is the epicenter of Democratic grassroots fundraising. They`ve been really helpful.
And what I`ve learned from four years ago is that people have gotten smarter and better at raising money at a grassroots level. I think that`s a great thing.
The reason we set a threshold to get in the debate that wasn`t simply polling, but also included grassroots fundraising, is we wanted to incentivize it. I think it`s healthy for our democracy and the for the Democratic Party for people to be incentivized to get out there and talk to voters at a grassroots level, raise money at a grassroots level.
HAYES: It`s interesting, because it has become part of the campaign, that threshold. I mean, you see fundraising numbers saying help us get to 65,000 donations. You need donations from 20 different states, right?
PEREZ: 200 donors in at least 20 different...
HAYES: 20 different states.
So, you see fundraising people say help us get about to the debate stage. What do you think of that as sort of part of the fabric of this primary?
PEREZ: I think it returns power to the grassroots.
Every change that we have made, every reform we have taken, has been designed to make sure that the process is fair for everyone, that the grassroots get to vote, and that we maximize participation.
We have -- in all likelihood we`re going have six states that were caucus states in 2016 that will be primary states in 2020. That was as a result of reforms we undertook. And what happens in primary states is more people vote. And they get the muscle memory to come out and vote in the primary and then in a general election. I think that`s good for Democrats and it`s good for our democracy.
HAYES: Yeah, I guess the question is more the merrier, right. I mean, if you have -- if there are -- if 30 people were to qualify for the first debates, which are going to be here in the NBC family, that`s fine with you, right?
PEREZ: Well, again, we wanted to -- I don`t think we`ll have 30, so let`s be clear, OK? I mean, my guess is it will be somewhere between 14 and 20 who will qualify for the debate. I welcome that.
We wanted to err on the side of inclusion, because if there is 15 people running, 14 aren`t going to make to it the mountaintop, we want to make sure that everybody who is running and their supporters feel like they got a fair shake and could give their vision of America to the voters and let the voters decide.
HAYES: All right, Tom Perez, thanks so much for coming by. Come by any time.
PEREZ: It`s great to be here.
HAYES: Some fun news tonight, I`ll be on "Late Night with Seth Meyers." I always love being on the show. Tonight was a lot of fun, so make sure to stay up and check it out. That`s tonight at 12:35 eastern here on NBC.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END