RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Happy Friday. Thanks for joining us this hour.
Turns out the news rules of this era we`re all living through have not been suspended. It is Friday night, and therefore per unshakeable decree from our generation`s news gods, things are, of course, a little bit nuts in tonight`s news. We`ve had a whole bunch of breaking and developing stories over the course of this evening.
Tonight, for example, we have new word that the Oversight Committee in Congress is preparing to subpoena the White House personnel security director, specifically to respond to ongoing questions about how this administration has handled or mishandled security clearances. That is a question that started off as an acute one very early on in the Trump administration, given the criminal charges that were brought against Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn.
Similar concerns have continued most recently through the reports that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was actually blocked from receiving a top level clearance by career officials based on what they reviewed in his background checks. But for some reason those views of career officials, that determination that he shouldn`t get a clearance was overridden by the White House and he was given a clearance anyway.
So, the White House personnel security director has been or is going to be subpoenaed by the oversight committee. And soon after, we got word of that subpoena on the security clearance issue, tonight, we also got word that that same Oversight Committee led by Congressman Elijah Cummings, they are also now seeking to subpoena Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the new Attorney General William Barr -- subpoenas for both of those cabinet officials over the huge legal controversy that has erupted over Wilbur Ross intervening in the census to try to add a citizenship question to it.
This is a matter on which federal courts have repeatedly squished Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross like a bug. Now he is being subpoenaed by Congress, along with the attorney general to answer to them on that issue as well. Again, both of those stories delivering tonight -- developing tonight. Both of them breaking, you know, late on a Friday. Naturally.
And I think in part this is just our life now. This is just the pace at which things happen with this new era that we are in, but, really, it does feel like it`s just specifically our way that we now celebrate Friday nights, right? What is it about Fridays?
Last Friday, for example, you`ll remember that was when we got this letter from newly appointed Attorney General Bill Barr announcing that the special counsel Robert Mueller had completed his work. Last Friday is when Bill Barr told us that Mueller had completed his work and submitted a written report about what his investigation has uncovered over this past year and ten months.
That announcement from the attorney general a week ago tonight, Friday, just confirmed that Mueller had finished up. It confirmed that Mueller`s report existed. It confirmed that Mueller was closing down the special counsel`s office.
But that notice from the attorney general last Friday night didn`t say anything substantive about the content of Mueller`s findings. For that we had to wait two more days until on Sunday, we got another letter from Attorney General Bill Barr, and this one announced what he called the principal conclusions of Mueller`s report. He delivered what he said were Mueller`s principal conclusions and also one of his own.
And I think because it was very exciting to have any official characterization whatsoever of the results of Mueller`s investigation, I think because of that excitement that there was some content being described, the press, at least for a little while, basically uncritically ran with what the attorney general asserted were Mueller`s findings. But within a few hours for some publications, certainly within a few days for most, I think it started to dawn on everybody in the mainstream press and everybody consuming news on this matter that, wait a minute, we don`t actually have Mueller`s report at all. Mueller`s report is done and we know it`s done and we know it exists but we haven`t seen it. All we`ve got is what William Barr said about it.
And that statement from William Barr on Sunday was in itself an odd thing. I mean, the attorney general -- the way he`s written these letters and notifications, they sort of sound official. They sound like he is fulfilling the duty that is expected of him as attorney general as we were all expecting him to do.
But the attorney general is not supposed to provide a description of a report from a special counsel. There is nothing in the special counsel regulation that creates an expectation that an attorney general would take on the role of interpreting and summarizing a special counsel`s report in his own words, let alone announcing his own decision about whether or not the special counsel`s findings should produce any new indictments. But nevertheless, that`s what Barr did on Sunday. We still don`t know why exactly he did that.
It was -- it was -- I mean, it was kind of him freestyling, right? This was him making up his own dance moves, showing off what he could do now that he had seen Mueller`s report and we hadn`t.
That unexpected performance from Bill Barr last weekend, that sort of ad lib riff from the attorney general as to how he thinks he`s supposed to respond to Mueller`s report, that has given us this whole weird week that we have just lived through in which the Mueller report is in fact finished. It`s being kept under wraps at the Department of Justice. It hasn`t been given to Congress, none of it. Hasn`t been shown to the public, none of it. But the attorney general for reasons unknown took it upon himself to describe what he said was in it and what he thinks the president should not be charged about based on something that Mueller found that we`re not allowed to know, that he`s not even describing in detail.
I mean, it`s been a weird week. I mean, that`s the assertion that we got from Attorney General William Barr, and based on that, the White House and the conservative media and a good chunk of the mainstream media, too, they`ve been celebrating all week long that everything`s done now and it sure is a relief after that long investigation to know what Robert Mueller found. And what Robert Mueller found was absolutely nothing, everything`s fine.
And the reason we know that Mueller found that is because that`s what William Barr told us. He summarized Mueller`s report, right? So that must be the end.
Well, now tonight, again, happy Friday. Now tonight it appears that there is a little bit of a panic in the disco because now William Barr has released yet another unexpected, taken it upon himself ad lib figuring it out as he goes along letter, which appears tonight to be an effort by the attorney general to try to take back some of what he said last week, which started this whole week of, you know, Trump is exonerated. It`s all over news coverage.
The attorney general tonight sent this letter announcing that everybody misinterpreted what he said last weekend in that letter. What he did last week is being talked about in a way that he didn`t expect. That`s not at all what he meant and we should all know better.
Quote: I am aware of some media reports and other publications mischaracterizing my March 24th supplemental notification as a summary of the special counsel`s investigation and report. For example, Chairman Jerry Nadler`s March 25th letter refers to my supplemental notification as a, quote, four-page summary of the special counsel`s review. My March 24th letter was not and did not purport to be an exhaustive recounting of the special counsel`s investigation or report. As my letter made clear, my notification to Congress and the public provided pending release of the report a summary of its principal conclusions, that is its bottom line.
I do not believe it would be the public`s interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion.
And therefore, yes, every few days, I`m just going to keep sending you another letter that says something about Robert Mueller and what he found without actually giving you anything from Robert Mueller, but don`t say I`m summarizing it because I`m definitely just describing it and only the parts I want to describe, not actually giving you a summary. It`s just bits of it that I think some people might want to hear that I`m going to call the bottom line, but it`s not a summary, it`s another thing, that nobody ever asked me for, but that`s what I gave you and you should know that`s what it is. What? How do we get to this place?
For all the ink and breath that`s been exhausted on the Russia investigation, including my own, right, trying to figure out the contours of the Mueller investigation, trying to anticipate and game out not only what he might find but how it would be handled when he ultimately submitted his findings -- I don`t think anybody is going to win the kitty for having bet that the way this would have been handle is the attorney general would get the report and ad lib his entire response. That the attorney general would start randomly releasing his own assertions about the report and little half sentence quotes from it and he would invent an evolving series of rules and categories for choosing which pieces of the report he might want to keep to himself and not show anybody else.
But he does appear to just be dancing here. He`s just been, you know, making it up as he goes along, which is odd in particular because the regulations that the attorney general is operating under here are clear and short and easy to read. I mean, there are regulations that spell out what he is supposed to be doing here.
He is supposed to notify Congress upon the appointment of a special counsel. Well, he wasn`t there when Mueller was appointed. Secondly, he`s supposed to notify Congress upon removing any special counsel. Well, Robert Mueller was not removed, so he didn`t need to tell them anything about that.
Thirdly and lastly, he is supposed to notify Congress upon conclusion of the special counsel`s investigation. He`s supposed to tell Congress that the special counsel`s investigation has concluded and consistent with applicable law, there is one other thing he`s supposed to tell them. He`s supposed to tell them quote -- supposed to give them, quote, a description and explanation of instances, if any, in which the attorney general concluded that a proposed action by a special counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental practices that it should not be pursued.
So, that`s the -- that`s the only other thing he`s supposed to formally notify Congress of. He`s supposed to tell them, A, Mueller`s done, and, B, did Mueller want to do anything that you blocked him from doing? If so, you have to tell Congress. That`s what the regulation spell out. There`s no provision here that William Barr is supposed to provide his own four- page summary, don`t call it a summary, about what he thinks is important about Mueller`s findings.
But nevertheless, that is what he did last week. Now, he says you shouldn`t call it a summary. He didn`t mean for it to be called a summary. It was meant to be instead a summary of the report`s principal conclusions. That is its bottom line.
I mean, he`s freelancing that, too. Nowhere in his remit is he assigned to pick out the bottom line. Nowhere is he assigned to describe the principal conclusions of anything to anyone.
There`s nothing that the attorney general is supposed to give us about the report in his own words because we somehow are not able to discern the meaning of the report itself. We the public or the Congress.
So how and why did the attorney general decide to do what he`s been doing now for a week with the Mueller report? He`s written up these multiple documents about it now, including what appears to be half of a sentence about the president not being prosecuted for conspiring with Russia. The attorney general has decided we`re not allowed to see the other half of that sentence.
We`ve also got the attorney general`s own declaration that he thinks there shouldn`t be any prosecutions here on obstruction of justice. That`s nothing he was asked for, nothing he is expected to provide, certainly nothing he is required to provide, but this is what he`s doing, he`s keeping the Mueller report to himself and making these sequential announcements about it.
And after he went out on that limb a week ago tonight, saying that there shouldn`t be obstruction prosecutions, and here`s what you get to know about the president and Russia and its half a sentence and it says everything`s fine, after going out on that limb Sunday, now tonight we`ve got this letter where he basically tries to crawl back up the limb and hug the trunk. Tonight, quote: I in no way intended to summarize what Mueller has reported. Quote: My March letter was not and did not purport to be an exhaustive recounting of the special counsel`s investigation or report.
When I told you I was going to convey hi principal conclusions, how dare you conclude that was me saying, hey, here`s what Mueller said. I mean, it`s just weird stuff from the attorney general. This feels like a panicky communication from the attorney general tonight. I mean, all of this could be very easily cleared up if we just did know what Mueller did say, if we could just see what is in his report.
After a week of the president declaring that Mueller`s report totally exonerates him. I will say my impression of what`s going on here inside the Justice Department is that I -- as I read this, I think the Attorney General William Barr is trying to change public expectations about what anybody is ultimately going to see from Mueller`s findings. I mean, last weekend, he announced there would be two categories of information that would be cut out of Mueller`s report before it would be handed even to congress, let alone the public.
The first type of information he said would be cut out was information from the grand jury. Stick a pin in that. We`ll come back to that in a second.
The second type of information he said would be cut out was any information related to any ongoing matters, meaning investigations or open case that derived from Mueller`s inquiry. Now, why it would take Attorney General William Barr weeks to cut that kind of information out of Mueller`s report? That`s a strange assertion in its own right, right?
I mean, if we`ve seen nothing else, we have seen that as a matter of course in hundreds of court filings over the entire duration of the Mueller investigation, Mueller`s team made redactions specifically for that purpose, specifically to not compromise ongoing investigations and ongoing criminal cases all the time. Almost every single document any of us in the public reviewed over the course of this whole gigantic investigation had stuffed blocked out or blacked out by Mueller`s team specifically because it related to other investigations and other open cases. This is something that Mueller`s team does in his sleep.
It`s hard to believe they`d leave the newly appointed 68-year-old Attorney General William Barr to personally pick through the report to try to figure out what mentions in this 400-page report might pertain to open cases. They wouldn`t leave that to Barr to do that. Mueller would have done that.
Mueller`s team would have done that as part of producing anything that they handed over outside their own offices. They`ve done that with every other document they have produced in the course of this investigation. You`d assume they`d be able to do that for this document, too. But William Barr`s saying it`s taken him a really long time because he`s having to do that himself.
Now, tonight, in this new surprise letter from William Barr, Barr is identifying two additional categories of information that he now says he also wants to cut out of the Mueller report, even though he didn`t mention them last week. He now says in addition to what he talked about last week he now also wants to cut out, quote, material the intelligence community identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods, and he says he wants to cut out, quote, information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.
So, let`s just take those in turn. On the intelligence stuff, I mean, it may be that what he`s trying to say there is that he needs to cut out any classified information that`s in the report. Well, yes, you know, duh, right? But, again, you don`t release classified material to the public, right?
I mean, Mueller and his team know how to deal with that. If there is classified material in the report, Mueller and his team would have treated classified information as such, in any report that they provided to him or to anyone else. I mean, if there is classified material in what Mueller has found and reported, that would presumably be, you know, sequestered in a classified annex to the report. So, only people with necessary clearances could review that material in appropriate settings. That`s how you handle material like that.
Again, they wouldn`t leave it personally to old William Barr to like put on his readers and go through it line by line and see if he could figure out what in here should be classified. Hmm. Who might need a clearance to see this stuff? I better -- I got to buckle down with this report. Close the door. Hold my calls, right?
And then on top of that, what is this random new category that he says has to be put out of the Mueller report before even Congress can see it? Information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties. What?
Attorney general in other words is going through this report before it`s released to Congress to take out anything that some people might find embarrassing. I mean, where did that standard come from? Who counts as a third party? Who counts as peripheral?
Why is it the attorney general`s job to protect the reputational interests of people who he decides deserve that, you know, based on his own review before Congress gets to see any of this information? Even in a classified setting. I mean, where is this in the regulations?
I mean, the bottom line here is, you know, if as Barr says Mueller`s report is two parts, the Russia attack and obstruction, we know very little about what`s in the Russia part of the report, right? According to Barr, he says there is a lengthy discussion of what Russia did when they attacked us, how they did it. When it comes to any Americans being caught up in that attack in any way, we don`t know.
We have a sentence fragment for not charging Trump or his campaign for participating in the Russian government attack on the election. But that`s all we`ve got. OK. There`s half the report.
On obstruction, we also really have no idea what`s in that report given that the one sentence that Barr quotes from it says that the president is, among other things, not exonerated of crimes related to obstruction of justice. Now, on Mueller`s findings in this part of the report on obstruction, I think it`s fair to surmise that Mueller probably didn`t write a report about all the times the president definitely didn`t obstruct justice, right? I mean, presumably some of what we`ve got there in the obstruction part of the report is a catalog of problematic and in some cases potentially criminal behavior when it comes to obstruction of justice.
So what`s going to happen with that information? The president says the report exonerates him totally and he`s been saying that for a week, based on what William Barr said publicly last weekend. Now, Barr`s been sitting on it for a few more days realizing this expectation is really starting to take hold and they`re really starting to run with this on the right and the conservative media and the Republicans in Congress.
I mean, this thing now kicking around for a week, those expectations out there, the attorney general having released three different evolving statements about what he`s doing with the report and what he means when he describes the report and how he`s going to from here on out handle the information in the report, it just feels like this is turning into a bit of a scramble inside the Justice Department.
In response to the attorney general`s newest letter tonight, the Judiciary Committee chairman in the House, Jerry Nadler, released this. Quote: as I informed the attorney general earlier this week, Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence by April 2nd, which is does. That deadline still stands.
As I also informed him, rather than expend valuable resources to keep certain portions of this report from Congress, he should work with us to request a court order to release any and all grand jury information to the House Judiciary Committee, as has occurred in every similar investigation in the past. There is ample precedent for all the Department of Justice sharing all the information that the attorney general proposes to redact to the appropriate congressional committees. Again, Congress must see the full report.
On that issue of grand jury material and the attorney general announcing that he`s going to cut all grand jury material out of Mueller`s report and he`s not even going to allow Congress to see that material, Chairman Nadler is right that there is ample precedent for exactly that kind of material, for grand jury material being released to Congress in exactly this kind of investigation. I mean, grand jury information doesn`t get released to the public. I mean, if it does get released to the public, it`s decades down the line, right?
But historically, it frequently does get released to Congress. You require a judge`s permission in order to do that. You got to get a court order not in order to convey that kind of information to Congress, but that`s what happens. In the past, in the Ken Starr investigation, into the Whitewater real estate deal and the president`s affair with a White House intern, right, in the Leon Jaworski investigation into Watergate, prosecutors made that request to a federal judge so a judge would issue a court order allowing them to convey grand jury information to Congress.
And in those instances, the judge said yes and the information went to Congress. Here Jerry Nadler is asking for Attorney General William Barr to work with him, to make that request to the judge now. So the grand jury information in this report can also go to Congress, like it has in all previous reports like this. Jerry Nadler is sort of reiterating that point tonight, raising the question of whether or not Attorney General William Barr is refusing to do that, whether he is refusing to ask a court to release grand jury information to Congress in the same way that it`s been released in all previous reports like this.
If he is refusing to make that request of a court, why is he refusing? If he is refusing to make that request to release the jury material to Congress, if he`s refusing to do it, well, Robert Mueller right now is still on the job. Can Robert Mueller make that request of the court? Would William Barr as attorney general stop Robert Mueller from making that request to release that grand jury material to the -- to the Congress?
I mean, I -- I ask at that level of detail because the attorney general does appear to be making this all up as he goes along. As of tonight, he appears to be trying to clean up some of what he`s already done in the past week since he first got Mueller`s report. I mean, what actually governs what Attorney General William Barr is doing here? Why did he release what he`s calling these principal conclusions that he now says definitely should not be taken as a summary of what Mueller said?
I mean, what`s the basis for these whole new categories of redactions that he says must be made to the Mueller report before anybody`s allowed to see it? In part because he needs to protect third parties` reputational interests. I mean, if he`s refusing to ask the courts to release grand jury information to Congress -- I mean, can Mueller do that if Barr will not? If Barr won`t let Mueller do it either, what`s going to happen when the committee in Congress inevitability goes to the court directly themselves? Goes around the Justice Department to do so, when they ask a judge to clear them to obtain that grand jury material.
And what do you do if you`re the chairman of the intelligence committee in all of this, right? I mean, intelligence committees get access to classified information. Even very sensitive sources and methods type material gets briefed to the intelligence committee or at least to the Intelligence Committee leadership on the so-called Gang of Eight for particularly sensitive matters. I mean, nothing gets redacted from you if you run the intelligence committee. Not if it`s intelligence-related information.
So if you`re the intelligence chairman, what do you do with this letter tonight? Right? Upon being informed that as of tonight all the sensitive intelligence stuff is also going to be cut out of Mueller`s report before even you are allowed to see it. That wasn`t true as of last weekend, but apparently that true as of tonight.
That is not how this works. None of this is how this is supposed to work. Chairman of the Intelligence Committee joins us next.
MADDOW: After the new letter from Attorney General William Barr tonight saying he intends to release some version, some redacted version of the Mueller report in mid-April, if not sooner, we got this response from Chairman Adam Schiff, who is the head of the House Intelligence Committee. He says tonight, quote: Congress has asked for the entire Mueller report and underlying evidence by April 2nd. That deadline stands.
In the meantime, Barr should seek court approval just like in Watergate to allow the release of grand jury material. Redactions are unacceptable. Release the report.
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Congressman Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Chairman, it`s good to have you here tonight.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know you`ve had a heck of a week being pilloried by the president and your Republican colleagues in the House. Has this been a tough week for you?
SCHIFF: You know, it started out as a tough week, but the encouragement around the country has been much more than I ever expected, so it ended much better than it started.
MADDOW: Yes. I got to ask about this notice from the attorney general tonight. I asked you to come on the show tonight and be here tonight because I knew you were going to be in New York and I wanted to talk to about you about what happened over the course of this we`ve. I didn`t know we were going to get this notice from the attorney general.
I want to ask you about the unexpected nature of how he is handling this. It strikes me that the attorney general is sort of freestyling, sort of ad libbing what he`s trying to portray of what`s expected of him in this moment.
Do you know of anything that sort of governs or dictates the way the attorney general is supposed to behave here that might explain his behavior?
SCHIFF: No, I don`t, and almost none of what he is doing is required by law or by the regulations. He certainly didn`t need to provide that summary/non-summary. Presumably in a 400-page report by the special counsel, the special counsel wrote his own summary, and there would have been nothing to preclude Bill Barr if he wanted to give a forecast of what was to come in releasing the summary. I have to think that Bob Mueller wrote his report knowing because he could hear it all around him that the public was going to demand to see it. So I think it likely, as you suggested, that there is a classified annex.
When we introduce the intelligence bill every year, we have a classified annex and we have a part that we know is going to be made public, so nothing that Barr is doing is required, except for the most minimal notification, and I thought the most problematic part of this summary/non- summary by Bill Barr was the suggestion that because Bob Mueller chose not to make a decision on indictment on obstruction of justice that somehow he was compelled to. That was the flimsiest part of that memo because, of course, he wasn`t required to opine on that at all. And presumably if bob Mueller thought that should have been done, he would have done it himself.
I think far more likely he expected that to go to Congress. That he didn`t want to put his hand on the scale because if he said notwithstanding Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president, that this president if it weren`t for that policy, I would say indict him, he would basically be saying, Congress, you need to impeach.
SCHIFF: I think he decided, no, that Congress, like in Watergate, should go to the Congress. Bill Barr decided, no, that question should not go to Congress without my opinion. And I`ll add this. It is even less likely that Bob Mueller knowing that Bill Barr applied for the job by sending this unsolicited memo talking about how Bob Mueller`s obstruction theory was bogus, what are the odds that bob Mueller would say, yeah, let`s let that guy decide about my two years of work product?
MADDOW: And you`ve worked in the Justice Department yourself. You were a former assistant U.S. attorney. You were a former federal prosecutor.
Does it -- I mean, my understanding in the way things work here, just as an observer and a person who reads the news is that it never works in the way where a prosecutor leading an investigation considering potential criminal charges against somebody assembles all the evidence and then punts, and then the attorney general decides without any recommendation from the prosecutor whether or not those charges will be brought. I mean, is that - -
SCHIFF: You know, it is -- I think maybe not that simple because in a normal circumstance where you have let`s say a U.S. attorney or assistant U.S. attorney with a high-profile case in some part of the country, they`re not conflicted. They weren`t chosen because the attorney general had a conflict or some other reason. So, if it`s of national significance, you might go to Main Justice and they might weigh in in terms of how it might reflect.
Like if you were going to prosecute a journalist for not disclosing their sources, that decision is not likely to be made in a field office. It might go to Main Justice.
MADDOW: With a recommendation?
SCHIFF: With a recommendation, yes.
SCHIFF: But here where the acting attorney general had opined bias and the ethics lawyers said you should recuse yourself and Bill Barr would likely get the same advice from the ethics lawyers because he showed a bias. And the whole point is to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. He should not be the one putting his hand on the scale.
SCHIFF: That report, that Mueller report should have already been produced to the Congress without his commentary. But clearly, you know, Bill Barr views his role in the unitary executive theory as being the hand of the president, the president`s Roy Cohn, there to do the president`s bidding and his will. And he`s doing it just as expected.
So he was a brilliant hire for the White House, but the long-term consequence of this is that in the future, any president under investigation if he doesn`t like what the attorney general is doing will fire him and find another that`s more suitable to his liking because that`s the precedent here. And as much as I blame Bill Barr for not recusing himself, I hold the Senate more responsible for confirming him without getting a commitment of recusal.
MADDOW: Is that precedent less dark if Congress figures out some way to release this report, even despite his efforts to apparently keep it in his drawer?
SCHIFF: We`re going to compel the release of this report. This report is all going to come out and it`s just going to reflect more poorly on the attorney general if when it does come out and we look at the difference between what he redacted and what was under those redactions, it shows an effort to cover up or conceal either evidence of impropriety or evidence of a lack of morals or ethics or judgment and -- that is shy of criminality, or in the case of obstruction of justice is criminality.
So we`re going to -- we`re going to compel this. This is a fight that is worth going to the mat on. Bill Barr in his confirmation said I will be as transparent as possible, as much as the law or policy would allow. If he was true to those words, as Jerry Nadler said, he wouldn`t be saying I`m cutting all the grand jury material, he would be saying, Congress, I`m going to the court tomorrow to seek their permission to send it all to you.
And I`ll tell you this, the other areas that he wants to redact, information about -- classified information, we get that all the time.
SCHIFF: Information about pending investigative matters. They go -- gave hundreds of thousands of pages that were both open investigation and investigatory material that reflected on the privacy of third parties. And if you don`t think so, ask Peter Strzok or Lisa Page how they feel about that.
MADDOW: In terms of the attorney general saying that the he wants to redact intelligence information specifically out of this, as the intelligence chairman, I have some specific questions for you on that. Can you stick with us?
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff is our guest. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Mr. Chairman, thank you for sticking around.
Let me just ask you about a few things that I really have no idea whether we`re going to get these are not. The scoping memo that described what Mueller was allowed to investigate. Part of the Manafort investigation. We got like big long redactions and then you can look at whether Manafort did this bad thing and then big long redactions.
Will we ever get documents like that unredacted so we can see what Mueller was asked to investigate?
SCHIFF: We should. I would think that that would very well be part of his report. The introduction says this is the charge we were given, we were supposed to look at this, but not this, we therefore didn`t consider, you know, these other issues. It may innumerate them or it may not.
But it looks like -- again, reading the summary/non-summary, the social media operation the Russians were running, the hacking and dumping operation the Russians were running, those two areas squarely within the special council`s counsel`s jurisdictions.
Other things like Moscow Trump Tower, which don`t fit in either bucket, may only have been viewed from the perspective of does it tell us something about the obstruction case? Because the president`s lawyer lied to the Congress about it. But that Moscow Trump Tower, which holds the potential of dangling money in front of Donald Trump, could be far more compromising than some of these other issues, which is part of the reason why we in Congress need to get the report on the counterintelligence part of the investigation, not just the criminal part.
MADDOW: Do you think that would be a separate report or do you think that would already have been -- that would have been part of what was already given to Barr?
SCHIFF: I don`t know, but I suspect that it is really not in this report.
SCHIFF: And I think that the report was designed to be about these are the prosecutorial decisions we made to prosecute these folks, not to prosecute these folks, here`s the reason why. It`s a prosecutorial memo.
It isn`t really this is what we found, these are the risks of compromise, this is what the Russians were trying to do. Now, some of that`s going to be relevant to the criminal case, but a great portion of it may not.
MADDOW: If there were findings by Mueller that were of the type you described there, money being dangled, somebody taking action that is beneficial to Russia because they were hoping to get something from the Russian government, if that`s in the in the Mueller report, how are you ultimately going to get briefed on that? How will the American people find out about it?
SCHIFF: By statute, the National Security Act, the Intelligence Committee is required to brief Congress on any significant intelligence or counterintelligence activity, so there has been no more significant counterintelligence investigation, that is an investigation into what a foreign power may be doing covertly to influence Americans. There`s been no more significant counterintelligence investigation than this one in my lifetime, and so we will be briefed on it because they`re required to be.
What format will take, we don`t know. We`ve already begun outreach to the intelligence community and the FBI to find out. But that has always been really front and center of the intelligence committee. We don`t have a criminal charge.
Our investigation from the beginning to present has always been predominately concerned with is a foreign power exerting influence over the president, people around him, in such a way that it would warp U.S. policy in a way that was not in our national interest?
MADDOW: Do you think that we`ll also get a list of the people who talked to Mueller? Will we get the witness list?
SCHIFF: I don`t think he will give us a witness list. And, again, this is obviously guess work at this point.
SCHIFF: I think what we will have is a narrative --
SCHIFF: -- about different parts of the investigation and who the players were. If there are people that they brought before the grand jury or interviewed who really didn`t have something all that valuable to share, I don`t think their name is going to appear just to have a comprehensive list, but I would imagine a 400-page report has exhibits far more than 400 pages. Whether one of those exhibits is a list of everyone they talked to, every search warrant they executed, every subpoena they issued, I suppose it`s possible.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I would keep you here for longer but I know you have to go because you have to travel. Please come back and talk to us and, and I congratulate you on having more nicknames from the president than anybody else. None of them are sticking thus far, but I think if you stay in this job, ultimately you might hit the record.
SCHIFF: It`s a badge of honor.
MADDOW: Yes, thank you, sir.
Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In his new letter just released tonight, Attorney General Bill Barr says everybody misinterpreted his previous letter to Congress. He says that letter was never meant to be a summary of Robert Mueller`s report. He says instead, it`s supposed to be a summary of the report`s principal conclusions. Oh.
Nowhere in the special counsel regulation does it say the attorney general is supposed to report on the principal conclusions of anything. All he`s supposed to do under the regulations, at least as far as I can tell, is he`s supposed to tell Congress the investigation`s over. He`s not really supposed to do anything else.
Nevertheless, Attorney General Barr`s letter today also gives us a newly expanded list of what he says he plans to redact from Mueller`s report before Congress can see it. On Sunday, the list was comprise of just two things, grand jury material and information that could impact ongoing investigations, but tonight, he`s added two more categories of information he`s planning on cutting, intelligence information, as we were just discussing with Congressman Adam Schiff, and also this odd duck, quote, information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties. Otherwise known as embarrassing stuff about people I don`t want to name.
I mean, I am not a lawyer, but I can Control-F my way through the special counsel regulations and I just don`t see anything like that that`s guiding what the attorney general is doing here, and what the attorney general is doing here is apparently going to determine what we the public or allowed to know about this most serious investigation. The grounds on which the attorney general is acting here just appears to be dislocated from what we thought was the legal basis of this part of this whole investigation.
Joining us now is a man who knows. Neal Katyal wrote the DOJ regulations defining the Office of Special Counsel. He`s also acting solicitor general in the Obama administration. Mr. Katyal, thank you so much for joining us on a Friday night.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, obviously, you know these regulations better than anybody. My sense is that Attorney General William Barr is freelancing here a little bit and is finding his own and is responding to his receipt of the Mueller report in a way that isn`t necessarily prescribed by these regulations. Is that fair?
KATYAL: Absolutely. You said before that the way it`s working now is not the way it`s supposed to work. That`s exactly right. That started last week with all of the celebrations by the Trump folks when the Barr letter was released saying total exoneration and things like that, and, you know, I said at that point I felt it was very premature. I felt this is a bunch of Dartmouth students looking for a party and trying to find an excuse or something like that. That`s really, you know, I think what we`re starting to see the seeds of after one week.
We learned today it`s a 400-page Mueller report that Barr purported to have the top line conclusions of in his four-page memo. We knew last week that Barr took it on himself to decide and issue that Mueller wouldn`t decide whether the president had obstructed justice. All in a matter of 48 hours and in a four-page memo. You know, this is looking increasingly problematic, and as you said earlier, this looks panicky today.
MADDOW: He has suggested that there is a number of categories of information that he is going to excise from the report, not only before it`s released to the public, but before it`s released to Congress. The one -- one of those categories is grand jury information. And obviously grand jury information is secret. We the public never expect that stuff to be released to us under the normal course of events, but what do you make of the way he`s treating that, particularly if that`s the major quantity of information that he`s trying to cut out of this and deny access, even for Congress?
KATYAL: I mean, two things. One is grand jury information -- you can go to a court and get it released, as you said earlier. That`s exactly what happened in Nixon.
It`s been seven days now since the Mueller report was delivered to Barr. He hasn`t even bothered to go to court to try and do that. He could do that right now and say, court, release this information to Congress. That`s what happened in past investigations.
The fact that he won`t do it is really suspicious and tells me at least there is information in the Mueller report that Barr doesn`t want to come out and I don`t think it`s for up and up reasons, I think it`s because it is embarrassing to the president.
And that leads me to my second point, which is as you said, they started with -- Barr started with two categories of information that he would redact. We`re now up to four. Next week I suppose it`s eight and the week after that 16 or something, you know, in one of those ones today is privacy interests of third parties.
I don`t know what that means. I don`t know if he thinks Trump is a third party or Trump Jr. or Jared or the like, but I do know this, you know, the taxpayers paid for this report that Mueller wrote and it goes to some of the most sensitive, you know, important things that every member of the American public should know about, and there is no excuse whatsoever for it being hidden from the Congress and the American people.
MADDOW: Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration. Again, the man who drafted the special counsel regulations. Thanks for your clarity on this, Neal. It`s great to have you here.
KATYAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Stand by. Stand by for Big Ben. Stand by. OK, go.
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MADDOW: That is Big Ben, the iconic British landmark that sits atop a clock tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster in London. Big Ben has been ringing since 1859 when it became, quote, the biggest, most accurate, four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. Take that. Big Ben survived the blitz during World War II. It went dark but it never went silent.
Big Ben can be heard on the radio before British newscasts. Those chimes are also used, of course, to mark holidays. Big Ben, resilient, consistent, it is a big, solid sure thing in the whole wide world.
It is also now unexpectedly prophetic and that is our final story tonight. That`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two years ago, British Prime Minister Theresa may set today as the date for the U.K. to leave the E.U. Her spokesman said at the time the deadline for the deal would be today, March 29th, 2019, quote: When Big Ben bongs midnight.
He said that two years ago today and you know what happened next? They closed Big Ben for repairs. No bongs at all for four years until 2021, and now, no Brexit.
As of tonight the U.K. was supposed to be leaving the European Union, but Brexit is a mess and a disaster. Tens of thousands of Brits swarmed the streets near parliament in protest today after lawmakers shot down Theresa May`s Brexit plan yet another time. This vote brings Britain closer to crashing out of the European Union without any sort of net.
The clock is ticking. The E.U. has given Britain a new deadline now of April 12th to leave or figure something else out. Parliament is going to meet again on Monday to see if they can agree on any plan at all. Whatever they decide, though, Big Ben will not help. It will not be celebrated with a bing-bong at all, but with some sort of whimper and probably more protests in the streets.
We will see you again on Monday. I hope you have an excellent week.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Katy Tur, filling in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Katy.
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