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Bob Mueller to detail evidence. TRANSCRIPT: 7/23/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Paul Butler, Eleanor Clift, Betsy Woodruff, Juanita Tolliver, BobWoodward, Joe Neguse, Glenn Kirschner

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Chuck will be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY and stay with MSNBC tomorrow as Robert Mueller testifies on the Hill. Our special coverage begins at 8:30 am Eastern.

"THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. Thank you so much. We are 15 hours away from history. Right here in Washington Special Counsel Mueller will testify in public before Congress on the criminal evidence against President Trump for the first time.

That`s why pretty much whatever happens tomorrow is high stakes. Democrats think Mueller`s credibility and appearance in the flesh will bring to life a case, they say already exists on paper, the evidence that Donald Trump committed crimes in office.

But many of trumps defenders say they`re actually confident in the other side of this argument that Mueller did not charge an election conspiracy. That his worst findings have been out there for months and that in terms of politically damaging Trump, tomorrow could be in their words, a big dud.

So there are, as always, many ways to look at this. But as the hearing approaches I could tell you tonight we are getting all kinds of hard news about it. On the Congressional side, Democrats reportedly holding this private mock hearing to prep for a witness who has proven to be dry, unyielding and unshakable in his 60 plus appearances before this institution.

Then of course, there`s the Mueller side and even the famously tight-lipped operator has now been compelled to reveal some things about his approach. For example, we now know he`s being represented and prepped by a partner from his old law firm Jonathan Yarowsky. We only know that because Congress had to list a lawyer written down in that formal subpoena for Mueller.

We also know, as of today, that Mueller now wants one of his deputies, Aaron Zebley, to sit alongside him tomorrow and it looks like that`s going to happen. Now given the exacting boss and lawyer that Bob Mueller is, can you imagine what it`s like for those two lawyers to prep and advise him tomorrow on the most watched hearing of his life? Can`t be easy.

Then as you get ready for this, there`s the DOJ side. Trump`s Attorney General Bill Barr, formally pressing Mueller to stay in, what he calls, the boundaries of the report and the Democratic Chair of tomorrow`s hearing already pushing back on that.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I think it`s incredibly arrogant of the Department to try to instruct him as to what to say. It`s part of the ongoing cover-up by the administration to keep information away from the American people. He does not have to comply with that letter. He doesn`t work for them. And that letter asks things that are beyond the power of the Agency to ask even if you still work for them.


MELBER: And it`s true that the DOJ can only limit certain specified information like classified material for release. So Barr`s letter does look more like a fastball than a serious legal document. And while Barr keeps knocking other people for speaking out, I got to tell you he`s not exactly keeping quiet, today seeking out Fox News cameras.


WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: In conversations with the Department, his staff was reiterating that that was their position. And they asked us for guidance in writing to explain or to tell them what our position was. So we responded in writing. The Department sent the guidance that they requested.

REPORTER: So Mueller actually requested to you.

BARR: Yes.

REPORTER: Secondly, what do you think of Congressman Nadler, lashing out, saying this was arrogance to send this letter.

BARR: He was misinformed as to the facts.


MELBER: Now the debate over Mr. Barr misleading the public is certainly important, but that`s ultimately about Barr and those few months when he was using his filter before people had seen the report.

I`m going to tell you right now as we get ready, tomorrow has the potential to be about more than that, about the underlying facts. And here are a few in terms of what the special counsel probe actually did legally.

Charges against 34 people and three Russian companies, charges against several advisors and aides to Donald Trump. A remarkable string of indictments in Trump world that is sometimes forgotten about in this chaotic political era, but consider it compared with other presidencies tonight.

Richard Nixon holding the record of 12 aides charged in Watergate during his six years in office; Clinton saw three associates charged, mostly from whitewater during eight years in office; Obama actually went eight years without facing a special counsel, let alone any indictments of aides.

And Donald Trump now holds the record for the most indictments this early in his term - six former advisers or aides. These facts that you see on the screen - these legal and historical facts are a product of our system of an independent probe led by Bob Mueller.

Donald Trump has the highest rate of indictments for his aides than any President in history. Now would you have that same result without Mueller or if Barr had been the Attorney General that whole time?

We phrase that question and many more as I bring in an expert panel on Mueller eve in the hot seat; former federal prosecutor, Paul Butler; the "Daily Beast`s" Eleanor Clift and Betsy Woodruff; and Juanita Tolliver from the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Great panel for - not just for Washington nerds, but I think for everyone, the eve of a really big thing. Paul, put it in the context of what we just saw that all of the emphasis on whether it`s good or bad for Trump. But this is actually the first time Mueller is going to speak at all about his methods for that record-breaking series of indictments.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes so ultimately what tomorrow is about is, whether there are going to be consequences. Is the President of the United States above the law? Will people be made to answer to justice?

And so it`s theater, because we already know what the Mueller report says. That`s the script. The audience is the American people, the star is Robert Mueller, and Ari that`s the problem, because thus far he has not been an effective communicator.

The spin by Trump and Barr - no collusion, no obstruction, that has been effective. Polls show that`s what the American people know about the report. And so, if--

MELBER: Is that why Barr seems nervous that Mueller might actually upend some of that?

BUTLER: Well, he might. But again if we look at the way he`s pushed back thus far, it has not worked. This is what he said in that press conference. If we had no confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

Say what? What does that even mean? And so tomorrow for the health of our democracy, Mueller needs to speak clearly and plainly. He needs to state in a way that the American people can understand all of the criminal conduct by President Trump that his investigation revealed.

MELBER: You made Juanita laugh. I don`t know if you laughing worse or sadness?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR: It`s kind of like this. Yes, you`re correct Paul. Barr and Trump have been out for months now, really throwing their spin out there. No collusion, no obstruction is what we`ve heard from them repeatedly.

But this is really an opportunity for members of Congress, Democrats to ask those pointed questions to Mueller, who was someone who is ardent public servant, someone who was disciplined in principle and so really going to stay focused.

So, honestly, getting him on the record to talk through those 10 counts of obstruction, talk through the 272 plus points of contact that the Trump campaign, then tried to cover up, and even coordinated with a couple of folks behind the scenes.

Because one thing about Mueller is while he may be dry, he is direct. And we saw that directness when he wrote to Barr after bar released his summary back in April, and said this summary doesn`t capture the context, the content or substance of my report. And please release the content that my team prepared.

We`ve heard many times from his team that Barr has mischaracterized and misconstrued his findings. So this is time to lay it all out there.

MELBER: And so Eleanor Clift how much of this should be about that beef, which can strike normal American audiences that might not have read them Mueller report itself, let alone the filter, yes as a little bit beside the point?

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I`m interested in the back and forth between Barr and Mueller. But I`m much more interested in what this man who we`re going to see him speak at length really for the first time, I`m much more interested in his views about Donald Trump.

And he is a private citizen. He is bound by the rules of national security- -


CLIFT: --and by his own sense of ethics of what he can reveal, given his previous bosses at the Justice Department and the pressure they`ve put on him. But he`s going to be before the cameras and be grilled between four and five hours.

He`s got to give up something. "The Beast" will be fed. Something will come out of tomorrow. The question is, will it support the edifice that Trump and Barr have built of no collusion, no obstruction or will that be dented or obliterated? I think it could go either way.

MELBER: Yes. And Betsy I alluded to this in the top. There are Trump era issues where there isn`t really a good argument on the other side, Charlottesville. There are other Trump era very issues where people are so in the habit of saying the President lies or has bad arguments that they forget there`s a very strong argument here on the other side of the Mueller report.

Number one, you got into this to investigate an election conspiracy and Volume 1 doesn`t find a chargeable election conspiracy as we`ve reported. And then number two, as I think the three panelists thus far have said, a lot of this does feel like it`s in the water for America.

For your analysis Senator Graham makes that argument concisely here.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I`ve heard all I need to hear from Mueller. I`ve read his report. I accept my findings. I don`t think it`s going to change public opinion.


BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: I think he`s right. I think for the most part the way that the public views the Mueller report is baked in. Now one challenge for Democrats going into this is that Mueller isn`t going to be particularly helpful to them. There`s been reporting that some members might ask Mueller himself just to read portions of the report, that`s the kind of thing where you could potentially see at the margins some public opinion changing.

But for the most part, as this show is highlighted, he`s a pretty laconic guy and he`s not super chatty when he goes into these congressional investigations.

MELBER: I feel Betsy that we`re always just reaching for the Souris (ph) for all these different ways to say - you guys are saying laconic, not chatty--

WOODRUFF: I was going through it this morning, working on my SAT words. But the point here is that this is something that`s risky for Democrats.

And in this case I chatted earlier with a Democratic member of Congress who said one of the concerns they have is Mueller will give very brusque and curt answers. And then the members who are questioning him might be caught off guard, might not know how to follow up and might end up looking a little bit silly.

So this is this is not just - this is not a risk-free environment.

CLIFT: No. But it`s risky for the Republicans as well.

WOODRUFF: For sure, yes.

CLIFT: Who probably going to plunge in there. I assume they`re going to overreach and they`re going to go into Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and all of that. And Mueller does not suffer fools, gladly if at all. And I think he could he could strike back at that kind of grandstanding.

MELBER: Well, this is the other Washington thing. Is the Republican argument fundamentally Mueller didn`t find anything, so believe him. Or don`t believe Mueller which suggests, we`ll gosh, and what did he find that you don`t want to believe in.

CLIFT: They`re arguing both ends against the middle. I don`t - you know, they want to portray him as someone who had a conflict of interest, because he had to pay back dues or something, and they didn`t refund his dues at a Trump golf course.

And they want to go into the origins of the investigation. And yet they want to accept the no collusion--

MELBER: Well, Juanita--

CLIFT: --no obstruction.

MELBER: --I`m not one to question Bob Mueller`s judgment, I`ve covered him a long time and found him to be really rock solid. But I do wonder why he wanted so badly to golf at the Trump golf--

TOLLIVER: No, clue. I have no clue.

MELBER: Right. That`s a fair question. It`s not substantive, but I do wonder.

TOLLIVER: Yes, it`s not substantive, irrelevant, Ari, but still. I think bringing it back to--

MELBER: Juanita just ruled - just for illegal - I`ve been overruled, irrelevant. All right, go ahead.

TOLLIVER: But still Mueller is who he is. And again he`s a creature of habit. So while we`re anticipating brusque responses, short answers, not really tolerating any foolishness or grandstanding. What he is going to do is stand by what he`s written in this report, that`s the one thing he has said repeatedly.

And while his language may not be the clearest, kind of - can`t speak in convoluted terms, what Democrats have the opportunity here is to ask straight questions, referencing elicit examples outlined and evidence.

BUTLER: Yes. Mueller is who he is, but again, at the end of the day, this isn`t about Mueller. This is about the rule of law and whether his report will have consequences. You know, in hip-hop there`s this expression, do it for their culture, which being speak up on behalf of shared values.

Tomorrow, Mueller needs to do it for the culture, so he needs to set aside that diffidence, that dryness and speak truth to the American people. He needs to state clearly and plainly that the President of the United States committed crimes and that if he were anyone but the President, he would be behind bars right now.

MELBER: I don`t know I don`t want to complete your verse for viewers who don`t know, Paul Butler years ago wrote a book called "A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice" which--

BUTLER: Thank you my friend.

MELBER: --which I liked. But Jay-Z in that in that line and many people of views it says, do it for the culture to let them know.


MELBER: And it sounds like you want Bob Mueller to let them know. The question is, which parts of the report are these questions going to get at.

Because as I`ve mentioned, Volume 1 has good news for the White House, if there`s substantive questioning that focuses on that. I think the American public may go, "Oh wait, a minute, but the whole thing that was started to see if the election was like a crime. It`s not a crime".

That that could be good news if they focus Betsy - on wait a minute Donald Trump`s own lawyer, so that`s like his guy, got an order that was so flatly illegal in his view. He didn`t just plan to resign. He called his own criminal defense lawyer. I mean do people know about that?

WOODRUFF: Certainly, lots of people don`t. There`s a significant percentage of Americans who don`t even know that Mueller wrote a report. And Trump`s relationships with his lawyers could be such an interesting through line for tomorrow.

Remember there`s a section in the report where it describes one of Trump`s lawyers calling one of Michael Flynn`s lawyers. And in sort of this mealy- mouthed way, hinting or hemming and hawing, and suggesting Flynn might be able to get a pardon.

I spoke with the DOJ official early in this administration, so upwards of two years ago, about the relationship that Trump had with lawyers. And this person, based on their knowledge of Trump`s history and also kind of having a sense early on what it was going to be like, said look. Trump views lawyers like their blunt instruments. He treats them like tools and like sledgehammers that he can use to get his way.

MELBER: Well, some lawyers are tools. Eleanor you wanted to disagree with that.

CLIFT: The Roy Cohn image always comes up when you think of Donald Trump. But it`s a good thing that a light is going to be shined on this report. A report that says, if we could have exonerated the President from wrongdoing, we would have done so and we didn`t.

And Mr. Barr in a burst of candor recently said, he was puzzled why Mueller didn`t bring a charge of criminal behavior. He understood why he couldn`t indict him. But why didn`t he make a judgment about criminal behavior. I thought that was pretty amazing coming out of Barr`s mouth.

Now if somehow we can get or we could get, Democrats can get Mueller to acknowledge that this is criminal behavior, perhaps going through those ten instances one by one and asking him what they mean. I mean, I think that`s a service to the Republics.

BUTLER: Starting - the first question I would ask to elicit that testimony is, "Mr. Mueller tell the American people what Trump said when he learned you were investigating him." What he said was, "Oh my god this is terrible. My presidency is over. I am screwed."

CLIFT: And that`s in the report - say it--

BUTLER: Get Mueller to say that.


MELBER: Do it for the culture, but also do it for the Committee. It will be very interesting. I would shake everyone`s hand. But I can`t.

TOLLIVER: We can reach.

MELBER: We can reach. Eleanor, Betsy and Juanita as well as Paul thank you so much. Fitting in a break, coming up an exclusive guest making a BEAT debut, journalist Bob Woodward is here live. From Nixon to Watergate, Trump and the Russia probe, he has seen it all and we`re excited to have him join us on the eve of these hearings.

Later in this show, a member of Congress who`s questioning Mueller joins me live. We`re going to get into some of what we just discussed. But how do you actually do it.

And we have a deeper dive on what some are now saying is an explicit effort to gag Mueller by Trump`s Attorney General.

I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT live from Washington.


MELBER: Our top stories are reckoning that`s over two years in the making, arriving first thing tomorrow morning. It`s something Donald Trump didn`t want. He never wanted to speak to Mueller himself and he never wanted Mueller to speak to the nation.

But notice it`s also something Bob Mueller didn`t want. He never wanted to talk about his report. He pleaded to let it speak for itself. But in our democracy it`s not his call and Congress says he must take questions under subpoena like anyone else, or if you think about it, like 500 of those witnesses that Mueller made speak under subpoena.

And so now, tomorrow Bob Mueller will testify, just like any one of them. It`s literally about 13 hours from now. You could see Capitol Hill live here where Democrats have been huddling in extra prep sessions that clearly outstrip most normal hearings, including prominent attorney and former Obama official Norm Eisen playing the role of Mueller like some kind of presidential debate prep.

Today Congressional aides were scurrying back and forth, making phone calls, finalizing details. We know there were negotiations over these new pressure tactics from the Justice Department, questions about which Mueller prosecutors can advise him during the hearing and who will face Congress in a closed session.

NBC News reported tonight that Mueller`s deputy Aaron Zebley will be at the House Judiciary hearing tomorrow morning. So if you see Bob Mueller turned to someone tomorrow during a tough question, that`s who will be conferring with him.

Questions like did your report find no obstruction? When did your team decide it could not indict a President? What did your other protest letter to Bill Barr say? And why did you report rebut a President`s potential defenses to obstruction, unless you were implying Donald Trump did obstruct justice and preparing rebuttals for that?

And then a really big question, did Bob Mueller hold back from what prosecutors did back in Watergate, because Trump didn`t do anything as serious as Nixon in Watergate? Or did he hold back because today`s laws governing special counsels are much narrower than the broad powers of prosecutors in that Watergate era?

Well that`s part of the context for our special interview next "Washington Post" journalist Bob Woodward, whose dogged pursuit of the Watergate story was the journalistic and legal process that led to Nixon`s resignation, joins THE BEAT for the first time on the eve of this hearing when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Welcome back on THE BEAT. We are now joined by journalist, Bob Woodward who had won a Pulitzer Prize for his Watergate reporting and continues to scrutinize and report on Washington power right on through the current Trump era.


BOB WOODWARD, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: Five men were arrested early Saturday while trying to install eavesdropping equipment at the Democratic National Committee. The country tonight is in the midst of what maybe the most serious constitutional crisis in its history. The President has set himself against his own Attorney General and the Department of Justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein pieced the Watergate story together bit by bit.

WOODWARD: Suppose we had not written those stories - we`ve thought about it and we`ve realized that it`s futile because you can`t answer it.

WOODWARD: These are the people who said that the truth is negotiable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bob Woodward`s explosive new book on the administration "Fear: Trump in the White House." shows the President lashing out fear. It paints a portrait of a chaotic White House driven by dysfunction.


MELBER: "The Washington Post", Bob Woodward joins us on this eve of the Mueller hearings. The author of 19 books, including as mentioned, "The New York Times" bestseller "Fear" about the Trump administration. TIME Magazine stated his work, "All the President`s Men", co-authored with Carl Bernstein, remains perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history. Thank you for being here.

WOODWARD: Thank you for inviting me.

MELBER: I`m thrilled to have you. I`m thrilled to learn from you. Let`s begin with the basics. How should Americans watch this hearing tomorrow?

WOODWARD: Well, I think as you`ve suggested, this is democracy and this is the President being held accountable in a way. He does not want this testimony. He does not want this spectacle, but we`re going to have it. And the question is how do you look at the evidence that Mueller presented.

As you`ve pointed out earlier in the show, it`s very clear in Volume 1 on the basic investigative issue was there coordination, was there some sort of conspiracy, they didn`t find it. That was a big deal. That shocked lots of people, probably shocked you, didn`t it?

MELBER: You`re being a journalist and asking me, it seemed to me to take your question seriously, that at least by the ninth-inning of the probe a lot of the investigative focus was on Roger Stone and not the type of people that would have pulled off a true conspiracy.

WOODWARD: Well, but they didn`t find it, and that`s very significant. Now on the obstruction issue, it is not got that kind of tape recorded, incontrovertible evidence that we saw in Watergate.

MELBER: Let me get to that exactly then--

WOODWARD: Yes sir.

MELBER: --since you mentioned it. Listening to those tapes that you reported on that shocked the nation, here is a short one where the President himself starts talking about blackmail.


DEAN: I have been a conduit for information on, on taking care of people out there who are guilty of crimes.

NIXON: Oh, you mean like the, uh, oh - the blackmail.

Dean: The blackmail, right.


MELBER: How important is that when you`re investigating a President?

WOODWARD: When you listen to that tape and look at the transcript, the President is told we`re going to have to pay blackmail money to the Watergate conspirators to keep them silent, to keep them from telling the truth.

And you look at the whole Watergate story and the evidence, it was not only a cover-up, lots of crime 17 wiretaps ordered on White House aides and reporters. So in terms of magnitude we don`t see that in the Trump investigation so far.

But there are lots of things in the obstruction investigation - these 10 items that are presented that - if you think a President doing these things, whether they`re criminal or not, they really should be intolerable. That`s not what a President should be doing, sending aides, oh, stop the investigation. Cut it back.

And so people are going to look at that through the lens of politics or the law. And also the wonderful lens that I think is on this issue, more important common-sense, what was going on here?

Was this some sort of effort to strangle an investigation? Clearly it was. Was it criminal? Trump talked about and sent people out to let`s get rid of Bob Mueller, the Special Counsel and his investigation, but it never happened.

MELBER: Well, let me--

WOODWARD: --in case of Nixon, he did.

MELBER: Let me pause you on the word you just used. Although not to a criminal degree, you say the Mueller report does show an effort to quote "strangle" the probe.

WOODWARD: Yes, clearly.

MELBER: And what should Americans make of that?

WOODWARD: Well, the people are going to look it very, very differently and that`s the beauty of this report. This is the beauty of having somebody like Mueller testify, and people are focused on it and they`re going to learn from it.

And where it goes? I don`t know. In the case of Nixon, when all the evidence - or the evidence up to the month Nixon resigned in 1974, was the Barry Goldwater the conscience of the Republican Party went to Nixon and essentially said, "because of what`s on the tapes all the criminality, all the lies you are finished and 95 senators out of a 100 are going to vote against you." And when Nixon was told that he resigned the next day.

MELBER: And Bob you keep stressing the stock and trade that unites good prosecutors and good journalists, which is evidence. Not a theory of the case, not a speculation about what motives might be, but the evidence.

In Nixon, we look at blackmail, which we just mentioned. You have this overwhelming evidence from the tapes that you mentioned the smoking gun that we`ll put up here quote "We`re being blackmailed" says Dean. Nixon says "the blackmail", he`s aware of it. They say the blackmail is continuing.

I think we have this here and Haldeman says "The problem with the blackmail." Nixon says, "To pay the blackmail". You look at this up and we`ll leave it up here to sink in.  Does the Mueller report have this level of presidential conduct proven?

WOODWARD:  It does not.  And we need to face that and people who are so object to Trump and in the last book I did, I didn`t find anything new in the Russian conspiracy but I found the way Trump governs.  We really have a governing crisis.  And you pull out how he has handled North Korea, or Saudi Arabia, or China, or the tariffs, this this this is not the way we need to be governed and we better worry about that also, but you know, this is I applaud that we`re having this hearing quite frankly.

MELBER:  Yes, you think this is a worthwhile endeavor despite of course all the political noise attacking it.  Because you`re here, I want to go deeper with you and let`s put up the legal evidence that does compare this.  We hear these historical comparisons so often but let`s look at the legal evidence here.

When you start -- it starts out bad for Trump as you`ll see here, Bob.  You look at the attempted firing.  You have the alleged crimes and you have the attempt documented in the Mueller report of trying to fire Mueller.  That`s the Trump version and the Saturday massacre famously with Nixon.

But then when you go to the action or what prosecutors would call the overt act of firing the prosecutor, let`s look at the evidence.  You have the massacre with Nixon, you don`t have it with Trump.  Partly Don McGahn may have saved the presidency.

And lastly for your analysis, as discussed, this idea of what did Trump want to do, what did he secretly try to do, what was his intent, the Mueller report gestures at it plotting caught on tape though with Watergate you have it.  What is it -- in the in your view is that the key difference here at the end of the day or not?

WOODWARD:  Well, there`s an unwritten rule in the Justice Department going way -- going back decades, and that is the more evidence, the higher- quality evidence you have you need it -- you need more of that the higher you go.  Everyone talks about and these thousand prosecutors who`ve said rightly an average citizen who had this kind of evidence against him or her would be indicted and charged.

But the president is not the average citizen and to Mueller`s credit, he adhered to the Office of Legal Counsel opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted.  And if you just think of that not through any partisan lens, that makes sense.  You can`t go around and indict the president who has all these responsibilities and the executive.

MELBER:  Well, let`s be clear.  There were plenty of people who felt that was the obvious and clear standard until Donald Trump became president.  And even in the legal community which is supposed to pride itself on consistency, we saw some shifting among some.

But before we go, I want to turn to some of your reporting.  You interviewed Bob Mueller and he`s told you all the way back in 2002 --

WOODWARD:  Right, when he was FBI director.

MELBER:  As director.  He says I don`t feel that I get the substance or texture of an issue without going far down in the organization as it takes to find the person who understands and is dealing with it day to day.  I could be accused of micromanaging and I`m sure I am.

Bob, couldn`t someone wave that quote at him tomorrow when he says I don`t know, I`d have to check back, and say Mr. Mueller our understanding is every day you`ve already checked in with everyone to know what you know.

WOODWARD:  Well, but he -- but he -- I mean this is a wonderful description and it was not a question I asked him.  He volunteered it.  And he said I`m interested in substance and texture and I wanted to dig as into the level in the organization where you have the people who have day-to-day responsibilities.

He did this in this investigation.  I think as I`ve read the report now three times, my god, for you know, to be punished like that because --

MELBER:  That`s 1,600 pages then.

WOODWARD:  Yes it`s a slog, but you see something new each time.  And it is a very important presentation of findings about presidential behavior.  And in the end and I think this is what Attorney General Barr hung so much on, the report says, Mueller says this report did not find, did not conclude that the president committed a crime.  And that`s very important.

Whatever the reasoning is, go back to Watergate, they did find that Nixon committed a crime and the special prosecutor, in that case, had Nixon indicted as an unindicted co-conspirator by the grand jury in secret.  And Mueller said no we`re not going to do that, and he talks about that in this report.

So I think lots of people are going to look at Mueller and say OK, I don`t necessarily agree with all of it but this is a decent process.  We also I live in the environment now of the unexpected, the witness that appears.  I know people I know myself and working on all of these issues.  I`m looking for new witnesses.

And if you look at the history of Watergate, it was only kind of an accident that they found the secret taping system that Nixon had.  We don`t think Trump had one but let`s keep digging.  And you know, to a certain extent it`s the probably the best digger around is Mueller and it`s too bad he`s home or playing golf at this country.

MELBER:  Well, I think as you say, it was interesting to hear you fairly draw the comparisons and the contrast and also say and I think it`s a fitting point to end on for today, let`s keep digging.  Bob Woodward, thank you so much for coming on THE BEAT.  I hope you come back.

WOODWARD:  Thank you.  Thank you.

MELBER:  Yes, sir.  We`ll fit in a break and ahead as promised, a Judiciary Committee member who will be doing some of that question joins me live.  We`ll be right back.



ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL:  We chose those words carefully and the word speaks for itself and the report is my testimony.  I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.


MELBER:  Bob Mueller`s famous declaration about how he wants to testify will be tested tomorrow.  And my next guest is one of the lawmakers questioning Mueller and may want to push beyond the comfort zone.  Congressman Joe Neguse serves in the Judiciary Committee which begins the questioning first thing in the morning.  Thanks for joining me on the eve of your big day.

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO):  Yes.  Thanks for having me on, Ari.  Good to be here.

MELBER:  What do you want to know?

NEGUSE:  A lot.  There`s a lot of ground to cover for our committee.  I mean, look, tomorrow, the Judiciary Committee which I`m honored to serve on, the Intelligence Committee, the Congress, and ultimately the American people will finally have the opportunity to hear directly from the special counsel at length about his findings, the exhaustive investigation --

MELBER:  I know that.  We`ve been reporting -- I`m asking you -- we`ve been reporting that all night.  What do you want to know?  What are you going to ask him?

NEGUSE:  Well, I`m not going to reveal the questions I intend to post tomorrow morning, Ari.  Suffice to say that the committee and committee staff and members have been working diligently for quite some time preparing the question.  We`ll let you know tomorrow.

MELBER:  OK, all right, let me try another way.  We both -- I deal with difficult witnesses like you right now, I mean that nicely, and you deal with one tomorrow.  Let me ask you a different way.  If Bob Mueller says to you and your colleagues see the report, I address that in the report, I`m not going to go beyond the report.

Is that acceptable in your view as a guidepost for those hours which to some degree people would say what was the point of all this or do you feel that your role as a co-equal branch of government means it`s your call to get that info from him and not his call or the Justice Department`s call to say we`re not going to say anything?

NEGUSE:  I would say two things, Ari.  First and foremost, I do think there is value in the Special Counsel providing clarity and context to his findings tomorrow in public testimony before the committee.  And so as you know, most of Congress has not read the report and most of the American public has not read the report.

So having the special counsel come in and be able to actually detail his findings out loud, I actually think that that will be incredibly helpful and will be important for the American people to hear.  I would also say obviously as you`ve covered on your program, that to the extent the special counsel decides to stick within the four corners of the report, that`s you know his decision to make.  That is not in my view you know a rule by any means that he has to adhere to.  We`ll see what happens during the hearing.

MELBER:  Bill Barr -- yes, Bill Barr said that the rule.

NEGUSE:  Yes.  Well, I think Bill Barr is wrong but that`s not the first time that I`ve found that the Attorney General has made the wrong legal conclusion.  So again, suffice to say, Ari, there`s a 448-page report that most people have not read.  And so the ability for the special counsel to go into greater detail about his findings I think again is going to be important for the American public to be able to hear that directly from him.

MELBER:  And finally on that, which elements and incidents of obstruction outlined there are most concerning to you?

NEGUSE:  It`s a tough question.  What I would say, Ari, is I think that in particular the obstruction incidents involving White House Counsel McGahn to me are the most disturbing and in some respects the most egregious.  So I`m interested to hear more about that from the special counsel tomorrow.

MELBER:  And do you think Don McGahn is still trying to defend Trump sort of or is he past that?

NEGUSE:  I hope not.  I mean, I think we all were puzzled by his decision to defy the congressional subpoena that was duly issued a few months ago.  And you know, I`m hopeful that eventually, we will secure his testimony before the committee.  I think he`s going to have to be compelled at the end of the day to testify as are a number of other fact witnesses as you know.

MELBER:  Congressman Neguse, you did not reveal your whole playbook, you did not answer every question to the fullest extent but nor did you violate the law of your oath.  It`s a preview of tomorrow is what I`m jokingly saying.  I know it`s a busy night for your whole committee.  I really appreciate you coming on THE BEAT and giving us some of your thoughts.

NEGUSE:  Of course, I`m happy to share more tomorrow evening, Ari.  Thanks again.

MELBER:  I have a hunch yes, it`ll come in due time.  Thank you, sir.  We`re not going anywhere because I want to tell my viewers all of you one other important story.  There`s a lot going on in Washington but consider that hours ago a story we`ve been covering for a while, the Senate did finally move and act on this legislation to fund 911 victims support.  And it will be done for decades now.

If you remember this is the product of a pretty intense lobbying campaign by a whole group of first responders and New Yorkers and comedian Jon Stewart.  In fact, just before the vote went to the floor, this photo of Stewart went absolutely viral.  What you see here is Jon Stewart -- I would say almost puckishly smiling at the camera as his foe on this issue Majority Leader Mitch McConnell strolls by in the Capitol.  Stewart also spoke after the legislation was passed.


JON STEWART, COMEDIAN:  We can never repay all that, the 9/11 community has done for our country but we can stop penalizing them.  And today is that day.


MELBER:  Today`s that day.  Jon Stewart gets the last word on that today.  When we come back, after a quick break, Bill Barr of course is accused of spinning the Mueller report and now is trying to actually muzzle Mueller`s deputies.  I have a former prosecutor who actually worked directly for Mueller when we`re back.


MELBER:  one of the obvious problems tomorrow for the Justice Department is that it has had all kinds of critiques of Bob Mueller speaking out but he`s now going to speak out under subpoena.  And Chairman Nadler has said this about why that scares Attorney General Bill Barr.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  Of course the Attorney General Bill Barr does not want Mueller to testify.  He doesn`t want to be contradicted in his lies and misrepresentations.


MELBER:  And Mr. Barr has obviously changed his tune over time about this whole issue.  Take a look.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  I don`t have any objections that Bob Mueller personally testify. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What about Bob Mueller, should he be allowed to testify before this?

BARR:  I`ve already said publicly.  I have no objection to him.


MELBER:  I`m joined by former Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner who worked directly for Bob Mueller in the Washington U.S. Attorney`s Office.  What do you make of Mr. Barr`s shift?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  You know, Ari, I see this last-ditch attempt at the bill bar Department of Justice to try to muzzle Bob Mueller by sending the letter, the two-page letter that was sent yesterday.  I would say it`s a letter of do`s and don`ts but it`s really just a letter of don`ts.

When you read that two-page letter, it`s surprising how many prohibitions they could actually cram into just two pages.  Let me just tick through them really quickly.  They say, Bob Mueller, you better stick to the four corners of your report and here`s what you`re prohibited from doing.  Don`t talk about Grand Jury materials, don`t talk about redactions, don`t talk about ongoing investigations, don`t mention uncharged persons, don`t talk about executive privilege, don`t mention the deliberative process, don`t mention any attorney work client privilege and don`t --

MELBER:  So will -- do you think it`ll move Mueller in any way?

KIRSCHNER:  You know, they`re trying to muzzle Mueller but I don`t think they`re going to be able to do it.  You know, Mueller is not going to be impacted by outside forces trying to edit him and trying to limit him.  The only thing that edits and limits Bob Mueller is the internal man.

He will be guided by what he thinks is right and just and fair.  He`s not going to be pushed somewhere he doesn`t want to go.  But you know, I think the most interesting question, Ari, is if he`s asked questions beyond the four corners of his report that don`t implicate any of the privileges that I think he should be concerned about, does he answer because he did tell take an oath to tell the whole truth and to be responsive to questions.  So I think that may present Bob Mueller with a little bit of an internal struggle.

MELBER:  Let me ask you more widely about what we`ve learned here because we are at this inflection point tomorrow that`s going to put a button on the probe.  We were -- we were very happy to have Bob Woodward on THE BEAT for the first time earlier this hour and he sort of threw the question back.  Were you surprised that they didn`t find the election conspiracy?

And I alluded to the fact that at least by the end we weren`t on this show because we`ve been talking to so many witnesses so we had a sense of where investigators were going and it did look like worse findings coming on obstruction then on volume one conspiracy.

And since you`ve been helping us think about these issues along the way for the whole ride, I want to tee up some of the witnesses we`ve heard from throughout this probe right here on THE BEAT.  Take a look.


SAM NUNBERG, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN:  They could take down Donald Trump, take him down.  If he did -- if Donald Trump did something, take him down.  I`m not going to go into a grand jury for them to set up a case.

JEROME CORSI, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR:  I will not lie to keep myself out of jail and I realize that I could go to jail for the rest of my life.

MELBER:  What was it like for you in prison?  How were you treated by the other inmates?  You are not the traditional short term inmate.

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN:  It was Trump country, OK.  Quite frankly, I was treated excellent.  I mean --

MELBER:  And you`re saying the other inmates were Trump supporters and viewed you through that lens?

PAPADOPOULOS:  Let`s say I had some street cred.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN:  If I knew how dishonest people would be behaving behind the scenes, I definitely would have done some you know, I would have been more careful.


MELBER:  When you take it all together, what is your interpretation of who was charged and who wasn`t?  Because on obstruction, one of the arguments the Trump`s side will make is there`s no co-conspirators on obstruction.  Mr. McGahn and others who were caught up in requests to commit crimes according to the Mueller report refused them.

KIRSCHNER:  You know, Ari, I think what we are forgetting is that Bob Mueller referred out 14 cases and investigations to various U.S. Attorneys` offices.  I have a hard time believing none of them will bear criminal fruit.  I suspect we`re going to hear some indictments in the future so I don`t think we`ve seen the last of the defendants.

So you know, I don`t know that we`re going to learn much more about that tomorrow but I think as we move forward, when we start to hear from the Don McGahn`s and the Corey Lewandowski`s, I mean Bill Barr and Donald Trump are so deathly afraid that the American people are about to see for themselves the movie.

MELBER:  Right.

KIRSCHNER:  That`s not going to bode well for Donald Trump.

MELBER:  I think you`re right about the fear because we`re picking up the numbers of it out of the White House.  As to whether this is case closed or not, we`ll just have to wait and see.  Glenn Kirchner, thanks for being here.

KIRSCHNER:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  Yes, sir.  We`re going to fit in one more break and we have one more thing on this big show when we come back.


MELBER:  I`ll be back here with you tomorrow morning on MSNBC bright and early reporting from both inside and outside the Rayburn Office Building, room 2141, where everyone is gearing up for this hearing.  Join us starting with "MORNING JOE" at 6:00 a.m.  I`ll be there in the 8:00 a.m. hour and all through the day.

"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.