RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Tuesday.
The Republican Party pulled off a rare electoral feat in 1988 when they were able to elect a president from their own party after Ronald Reagan had just served his two terms as well. Usually voters are in the mood to turf out the party in power after a president from one party has been in there for a couple of terms.
But in 1988, the Republicans beat those odds. Republican President Ronald Reagan had served for two terms. He was succeeded in office by his Republican vice president, by George H.W. Bush. He was elected in 1988. He was sworn in in January 1989.
And although both those presidents, both President bush and President Reagan, will certainly have their place in the history books, the transition wasn`t as easy as you might expect. The elevation from Vice President Bush to President Bush was a little bit rocky. In his first year, especially early on in his first year, he suffered in comparison with President Reagan, in particular, when it came to his instincts around public communication and his handling of the press.
Take, for example, this moment just a few months after Poppy Bush became president. This was May 1989. He`d been sworn in in January of that year. In May 1989, President George H.W. Bush decided to make a very controversial, very provocative, very bold public statement on foreign policy but he did it in the most awkward inexplicable way possible which is exactly how the press reported it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: His aides said the situation in Panama was relatively quiet today and required no comments from the president, but Mr. Bush had a nagging feeling that he had not made his views on Panama clear. That the Panamanian people did not realize how much he hopes they will rise up against General Noriega. So, on Air Force One, Bush spoke out.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: They should do everything they can do to have the will of the people respected. They ought to heed the international calls. They ought to just do everything they can to get Mr. Noriega out of there.
REPORTER: Isn`t Bush worried that he might enflame the situation? On second thought when he urged the Panamanian people to be cautious.
BUSH: No, I would add no word of caution. The will of the people should be implemented. Not about to get into proposing a three-point action plan for the people of Panama. I do think it`s important that it not be the United States, the colossus of the north coming down there to try to dictate to the people of Panama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Such a weird rollout of this position from the president, right?
His aides tell the press, you know, nothing is going on. There`s nothing in particular that is driving this. The president was just doing this other thing, totally unrelated and he had a nagging feeling. He had a feeling that maybe people weren`t totally clear on how much he wants there to be a coup in Panama.
So, on Air Force One -- he hopes there`s a coup. He doesn`t want the United States to be dictating what should happen, but he does want there to be a coup, so he wants to summon all the reporters on Air Force One, apropos if nothing for him to remind them how much he thinks that country should overthrow its leadership.
Not that he thinks the United States should be dictating what happens there.
Given that initially awkward rollout that day in May 1989, the new president decided that he would give the whole thing another shot the following day. But, again, it was sort of one shot forward, two shots back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The administration says the Panamanian defense force will follow President Bush`s plea to rise up against Noriega. At a political fund- raiser last night in Kentucky, Mr. Bush said he`d act as much as possible in concert with other countries.
BUSH: We do not want a return to the days of the imperialistic gringos of the north.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re not here to be the imperialistic gringos. We don`t want to be the colossus of the north. We don`t want to tell any country what ought to happen in their country, except in Panama, you guys need to have a coup.
That was May 1989, the early awkward days of the George H.W. Bush presidency. By October of that same year, October 1989, though, in fact, Panama had a coup. At least they had an attempted coup. It did not go well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: Panama`s General Noriega in control then and still in control now.
Good evening. Panama`s General Manuel Noriega is alive and well tonight still in power after rebel troops tried to overthrow him on a day of heavy fighting. The shrewd and durable military strongman appeared tonight on Panamanian television and condemned the uprising. In the capital, Panama City, forces loyal to Noriega are in control.
NBC`s Brian Ross has been following all this from Washington.
And tonight, Brian, ultimately, it was Noriega`s forces who won the day.
BRIAN ROSS, NBC REPORTER: Yes, Tom, American authorities say Noriega is much more powerful tonight after having so easily put down this morning`s attack.
REPORTER: White House aides say they knew for a couple days there could be an attempted coup but the president knew for certain only after gunfire erupted in Panama City.
President Bush learned of the fighting just before he welcomed Mexico`s President Salinas. During the ceremonies, Bush seemed distracted. Not only was Bush worried about the coup`s chances of success, he also worried that Latin Americans would accuse the U.S. of throwing its weight around in a tiny Latin country.
Bush went out of his way to deny U.S. involvement.
BUSH: There were rumors this was some American operation. I can tell you that is not true.
REPORTER: Although Bush denied involvement, in the past, he has urged Panamanians, especially the military, to rise up against Noriega.
BUSH: I`d love to see him get him out. We`d of like to see him out of there.
REPORTER: Bush`s aides do not believe today`s failure is George Bush`s Bay of Pigs, the Cuban invasion fiasco that haunted John Kennedy. The Bay of Pigs was an American operation. Today`s attempted coup was not, according to Bush`s aides, say that although he urged to revolt, he never promised to help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Any time they`re saying, now, they don`t think this is his Bay of Pigs, any time you have to reference that -- those reports are from October 3rd. That was the day of the failed attempted coup in Panama.
Within a few days, this just continued to escalate and escalate and escalate domestically here until it became a full-scale political disaster for the relatively young George H.W. Bush White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: Good evening. President Bush and his advisers are under fire tonight charged with fumbling a chance to get rid of General Manuel Noriega during Tuesday`s attempted coup.
REPORTER: President Bush took the unusual step of going to the Democratic leader of the Senate`s office to assure George Mitchell that George Bush did not wimp out in the middle of the coup attempt. Later, NBC`s Andrea Mitchell asked Bush if he got bad intelligence from his advisers.
BUSH: No, I do not think so at all. I don`t think anybody up here thinks so.
REPORTER: President Bush knew he was in trouble when he read his morning newspapers. Caught off guard. Aides admit bad handling. Tragedy. Inexperience helped doom coup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is how that unfolded over the first week in October 1989. George H.W. Bush`s first year in office. Here`s this new U.S. president who had been encouraging a coup in his foreign country in Panama for months, awkwardly encouraging it, having nagging doubts about whether he`s been encouraging it enough, right, insisting on it at times but still saying I don`t want to be telling you what to do except you should have a coup.
When the coup finally comes to pass, the coup fails. The U.S. president doesn`t seem to know what he was talking about when he was begging publicly for that coup to happen, pledging there would be all this U.S. support that never arrived. Then a week later, it`s interesting, that whole story which was very, very bad news for this new presidency, that whole story took a turn. It happened on Friday the 13th, October 13th, 1989, just exactly a week after that day of terrible headlines for President George H.W. Bush about him screwing up when it came to that coup in Panama.
But October 13th, one week later, that was Black Friday, that was the day the stock market had a huge crash in 1989, one of the biggest crashes of the decade. But even alongside that huge crash, the new twist in the Panama crisis made news that night, too, in a huge big in way because of this scoop on the front page of the "L.A. Times." "FBI gets OK for overseas arrests.
That`s the A1 headline in the "L.A. Times." This is the subhead: Justice Department decision which allows U.S. law officers to act without the consent of foreign states could apply to efforts to bring Panama`s Manuel Noriega to trial in Florida.
So, even with the huge devastating stock market crash that Black Friday, October 13th, 1989, there`s also that weird scoop in the "L.A. Times" which puts the disastrous Panama story back on the nightly news that same night and, again, yet another sort of almost ridiculously inept comment from the new president to punctuate it because every time something comes up in this story, he just seems to stick his foot in it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: The FBI tonight has broad new powers to arrest American fugitives overseas. The Justice Department says permission is not needed from foreign countries. However, Secretary of State James Baker said this new procedure will not be used without a full discussion of the obvious foreign policy implications.
REPORTER: Mr. President, the "L.A. Times" is reporting today, given the FBI the go-ahead to arrest fugitives in foreign countries without the foreign countries` consent. Can you tell us what led up to this event and perhaps --
BUSH: Now, I`m --
REPORTER: -- the FBI can go into Panama now?
BUSH: I`m embarrassed to say I don`t know what it is -- I`ll have to get back to you with the answer to your question. Marlon? Can you take care of that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not sure --
BUSH: I don`t know what it is -- I`ve not seen the "L.A. Times" report, so I just have to not comment until I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Marlon? Marlon? Do you know? Do we get the "L.A. Times" here? What is this?
I mean, here is this new president on shaky ground who`s had a really big foreign policy national security crisis in his first six months in office, right? He has been ineffectually noncommittally saber rattling for months about how he wants there to be a coup in Panama.
He wants the leader to be overthrown. The U.S. will be there. If the Panamanian people, Panamanian military just rise up and topple their leader, the U.S. will be there for them. After months after saying that and then not following through, including when they tried it, this was a shocking turn in that story, right?
Here`s the president`s Justice Department saying, well, here`s a plan "B," if the whole coup thing doesn`t work out because we can`t quite get that together, then here`s plan "B." Here`s something we believe we can do. We`re going to proclaim under the law we can do it.
U.S. law enforcement personnel, U.S. FBI agents, we`re going to declare that they legally can go into any other country anywhere in the world and arrest the leader of that country if the U.S. wants to. Therefore, you won`t really need a coup. We`ll just have the FBI do your coup for you, anywhere. That was the "L.A. Times`" scoop that October.
Justice Department acting with unusual secrecy has given the FBI legal authority to apprehend fugitives from U.S. law in foreign countries and return them to the United States without first obtaining the foreign state`s consent. The rule could apply to such cases as the U.S. effort to bring Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega to trial.
Quote: Department officials refused to discuss the broad new grant of power, the legal grounds used to justify it, or even to acknowledge its existence.
"The Times" noted that the refusal by Justice Department officials to discuss the ruling was puzzling at a legal level because the ruling wasn`t classified. It, quote, does not carry a security classification. So, why wouldn`t they discuss it? Why wouldn`t they even admit that it existed? "The Times" knew it existed. "The L.A. Times" was able to figure out both the title of that memo and its author, its author, then-Assistant Attorney General William P. Barr.
Yes. That guy. The same William P. Barr who`s the newly appointed attorney general of the United States under President Trump.
When he was assistant attorney general under George H.W. Bush, when he was running the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, he wrote and then tried to keep secret a very controversial legal opinion on this very controversial issue. I mean, the brand-new Poppy Bush administration was contending with wave after wave of controversy and drama over this whole issue of Panama, this was one of the big ways in that controversy, a legal opinion which came to light a week after this failed coup, right, a legal opinion they were trying to keep secret, which seems to imply that the U.S. now believes the FBI could send in its agents to remove a foreign leader from power anywhere in the world on our own government`s own say-so without consulting any foreign government about the fact they were going to do this.
I mean, it was one thing for the president to be, you know, calling for uprisings in other countries, promising support for those uprisings and not delivering. It`s another thing for him to be saying the uprising from here on out wouldn`t be needed because we`d just do it ourselves with our law enforcement guys?
Congress unsurprisingly was concerned. They convened a hearing that was titled, "FBI authority to seize suspects abroad." William P. Barr, the author of that reported memo, was summoned to testify. He was asked by Congress to hand over this legal memo that he`d authored which reportedly justified this kind of radical action that nobody`s ever heard of before. William P. Barr did show up for his congressional testimony, but he refused to hand over the opinion that he had written that led to him being summoned to testify in the first place.
This from the transcript of that hearing. Mr. Barr, quote: Although the content of the opinion like other advice rendered by the Office of Legal Counsel must remain confidential, I`m happy to share with the committee our legal reasoning and our conclusions. Before turning to these legal issues, I think it`s important that the committee understands -- then he gets interrupted.
Congressman Don Edwards, the committee chairman, interrupts: Mr. Barr, may I interrupt? Why does the opinion have to remain confidential? Is it a change in policy? We have a copy of other nonclassified opinions. This is not a classified document.
Mr. Barr says, excuse me, he says: Mr. Barr, why are you withholding it from this committee? Barr then insisted it was the policy of the Justice Department that opinions like this must remain confidential. It does not appear at all to have been the broad-based policy of the Justice Department that such documents would remain confidential, but nevertheless, the he insisted that was a policy he was following.
The committee chairman knew that he was asserting a confidentiality policy that didn`t really exist and he pushed him on it. Committee chairman pushed him. He said, quote: I understand that, Mr. Barr, but this is public business, the subject of much discussion in the United States. You are going to have to tell the public and the Congress sometime why you changed the rules on the arresting of fugitives overseas.
William Barr responds: That`s what we`re here doing. We have no objection to explaining our conclusions and our reasoning to the committee. I`m just not going to give you the document. I`ll explain it to you. I`ll describe what`s in it.
So, here`s Congress saying, this is a matter of intense public interest. This is the biggest scandal for this new president, right? There is reportedly a document within the Justice Department that is very relevant to our understanding of the conduct of this administration. It is directly on point for a matter of huge public controversy and political importance and geopolitical importance that directly affects the behavior of the president of the United States which has not been stellar on this point.
You have to show us this document that has been reported in the press. That has been described. You`re now admitting that this document exists. Show us the document.
William Barr says: I don`t want to show you the document. But trust me, I will describe it to you. He actually says at the hearings, these are his words at that hearing in 1989, he says that instead of handing over the actual opinion itself, he will, quote, summarize the principal conclusions of the opinion.
Summarize its principal conclusions. Where have I heard that before?
Law Professor Ryan Goodman is a former special counsel of the Defense Department wrote up this historical account this week, now that this same William Barr, this exact same guy, is handling the report from special counsel Robert Mueller in exactly the same way. Refusing to hand over the document, itself, and instead, he`s providing what he described with exactly the same words, his summary of principal conclusions, right?
That summary of principal conclusions is all we`ve got thus far from Barr. It`s going to be followed Thursday morning this week by some sort of redacted censored version of Mueller`s report. It`s been 25 days since Mueller handed his report in to William Barr, a matter of intense public interest, intense investigatory interest when it comes to this president and his administration and his campaign.
We still only have William Barr`s so-called summary of that document`s principal conclusions. We still don`t know what we`re going to get in terms of a redacted version of Mueller`s report from Barr on Thursday morning. But you know, thanks to history, we do know what happened the last time William Barr asked the country and asked Congress to trust him, to trust his summary of principal conclusions while he simultaneously refused to release the underlying document, itself.
That is what he is doing with the Mueller report right now. That is exactly the same thing he did using exactly the same language in 1989 with his super controversial legal opinion that said the FBI could go into any country in the world and arrest any foreign leader and bring them back to the United States. It took a while for it finally to come out, but within a couple of years of that stonewalling testimony from William Barr at the height of the Panama controversy in 1989, within a couple of years, the underlying document that gave rise to all that scandal that he said couldn`t be released, within a couple years, that document did finally get released in full.
Congress subpoenaed it. "The Washington Post" reporter Michael Isikoff got his hands on it. Ultimately in the early years of the Clinton administration, the legal opinion that Barr had refused to release, said he`d only describe it, it was just finally publicly printed in unredacted form. Because of that, because we can now see that, we now know for the sake of informing our good judgment today and this week when it comes to William Barr, we now know that the last time he tried to get away with something like this in 1989, William Barr`s summary of that document`s principal conclusion bore no relation at all to what was actually in the underlying document.
As Ryan Goodman puts it this week, quote: When the opinion, the real opinion was finally made public, it was clear that Barr`s summary had failed to disclose the opinion`s principal conclusions.
Barr`s so-called summary, quote: omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the actual opinion and there was evidently no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts from Congress or the public.
Just as an example, as an example, the distance between what Barr said in his summary and what was actually in this document that he was purportedly summarizing, what he assured Congress in his summary was that the actual opinion, this controversial document that the "L.A. Times" had scooped him on, right, they learned existed, he said that the opinion was, quote, strictly a legal analysis of the FBI`s authority as a matter of domestic law to conduct extraterritorial arrests."
It`s strictly about domestic law. Trust me. Not going to show you the opinion. I decided I cannot show you this opinion. But this is my summary of what`s in it, I`m telling you it`s strictly an analysis as a matter of domestic law. Strictly.
Then, ultimately, we get the underlying document that he was refusing to release. Just, I mean, you don`t want to go through all of it, look at the subheadings in it.
The effect of customary international law on the FBI`s extraterritorial powers. Also, the president`s constitutional power to authorize actions inconsistent with customary international law. Also, the status of the U.N. charter and other unexecuted treaties and treaty provisions. My favorite, subsection F, international and foreign law and the fourth amendment.
I mean, whether or not it`s a good thing or bad thing that the Justice Department held that the FBI could go arrest foreign leaders anywhere in the world, when it came time for William P. Barr to explain that to Congress, to explain to Congress and the public what was in that document, he said, strictly on domestic -- this was strictly on domestic law. This is analysis strictly only about U.S. law. The whole thing actually turned out to be about international law.
At least all of the controversial and incendiary and inflammatory parts of it were but he left all of those out in his summary. That`s the last time William P. Barr tried to issue a summary of principal conclusions to Congress and the public instead of handing over an actual document. And that previous experience in U.S. history with William P. Barr is part of the reason there are so many red flags flying everywhere about him refusing to release the Mueller report in full to Congress, about him writing his own summaries of what he says is in the Mueller report. Instead of releasing the summaries that Mueller`s team wrote, themselves, about their own report.
It`s also the reason I think why there are just generally low expectations for whatever it is that`s going to be released from Barr`s office Thursday morning this week as he has been involved in supervising this vague and ever-shifting redaction process that he appears to have invented on the spot once he received the Mueller report and got a look at what was in it.
So, we`re going to speak with Ryan Goodman in just a moment about the implications of William P. Barr`s past behavior here and what that tells us about what we`re about to experience. But the fact that there are such low expectations for what`s going to be released on Thursday morning I think also puts the spotlight on two other prospects here which may yet be influencing how Attorney General William Barr is heading into what he`s going to do in two days.
Number one, there`s the question of Mueller. There`s the question of whether or not Robert Mueller, himself, will be allowed to testify to Congress about what his findings were. I mean, separate and apart from whatever written document is released to Congress and the public, will Mueller be allowed to testify, to explain what his findings were?
It`s very interesting, over these last couple of weeks, unexpected development, House Republicans, surprisingly, have been on the same side as House Democrats on the issue of Mueller testifying. Both the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, and the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins, they have both said since Mueller submitted his report 25 days ago that Mueller, himself, should be called to testify in Congress about the results of his investigation and his findings.
So that will mean both the Democratic chairman and the Republican ranking members of both of those key committees have said they want Mueller testifying in Congress. Could that help?
If this goes badly on Thursday morning, which I think everybody is expecting it to in terms of what is cut out of Mueller`s findings, could testimony from Mueller meaningfully fix that? Could it meaningfully assuage concerns in the country about what Barr has cut out of Mueller`s written findings? If Mueller`s allowed to testify on his own terms as to what he found? That`s one.
Then there`s also the judicial process and this has not had nearly as much attention, but we know that the Judiciary Committee is going to subpoena the full document after they see what`s been redacted out of it. But there`s another way that judicial proceedings matter here. Not just in terms of what Congress might be able to get through the courts using the subpoena process. There`s another way in which the judiciary here might matter.
Today, there was a hearing on a FOIA lawsuit, Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by "BuzzFeed News". A number of media entities and First Amendment entities are seeking to release the full unredacted report. Today in a hearing and one of these FOIA motions, a federal judge, George W. Bush appointee named Judge Reggie Walton, he suggested in open court today that whatever William Barr redacts from Mueller`s report, that may be subject to his review as a judge who`s considering these FOIA requests.
That judge today suggested in court that he personally may need to look at the entire unredacted Mueller report, himself, to decide if Barr`s redactions from that report are proper under the Freedom of Information Act, or if those things that Barr is redacting from that report ought to be released to the public, too. That`s important, right? That`s important not only for what might happen down the line, in terms of those FOIA lawsuits, it`s important in terms of what William Barr might do next because the bottom line here is that William Barr got caught once before, not telling the truth about an underlying document that he said couldn`t be released. He purported to summarize it. He put out a purported summary that did not at all match that document that he tried to keep secret.
Well, the Mueller report may never be kept secret in the long run, either. There are multiple paths by which the full, unredacted Mueller report may ultimately see the light of day -- some of them controlled by Congress, some of them controlled by the judiciary, some controlled by unforeseen factors that we don`t know how U.S. history is going to wrap around in the future. But if Barr is going to try this week to get away with selling some version of Mueller`s findings, that is not a truthful representation of what Mueller actually found, he will likely be caught for that, just like he was before. That is what history tells us and that has to loom, that has to loom over what he is planning on shoveling to us on Thursday morning.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: After being handed the report on the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller 25 days ago, newly appointed Attorney General Bill Barr told the country while he really, really wanted to be as transparent as possible, he could not possibly release Mueller`s report to the public or to Congress, nor could he release even the summaries of Mueller`s findings that Mueller`s team reportedly wrote themselves specifically so they could be released to the public.
No, he couldn`t release those at all. William Barr could not let any of that see the light of day. Instead, he`d be more than happy to release his own summary of the principal conclusions of Mueller`s investigation. Those principal conclusions we now know amounted to everything`s fine, the president is very cool, everybody go home.
We`re now learning that this is not the first time William Barr has resorted to that trick. In 1989, he drafted a really, really, really controversial memo when he was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. When word leaked about that document and Congress demanded to see it, Barr said, no, he insisted that even though the document wasn`t classified, it was just very important that they not see that document. Instead, he offered to, you guessed it, summarize the principal conclusions of the document. Trust him, you don`t need to see the real thing, he`ll just tell you what`s in.
As law professor and former Defense Department special counsel Ryan Goodman writes this week at Just Security, quote: When the OLC opinion was finally made public long after Barr left office, it was clear that Barr`s summary had failed to fully disclose the opinion`s principal conclusions. It omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the opinion. There was no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts from Congress or the public.
Joining us now is NYU law professor Ryan Goodman. He did serve as special counsel to the Defense Department during the Obama administration. He`s now co-editor in chief at Just Security.
Professor Goodman, thanks for being here.
RYAN GOODMAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW PROFESSOR: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, I`m working off your work here. I didn`t know this story about this OLC memo until you wrote about it, but it was fascinating to get back into that history. Let me first ask you if I screwed any of that up in telling that story.
GOODMAN: No. I think you laid the political context out extremely well, too.
MADDOW: So one of the things that we learned from you resurfacing this story from recent history is that William Barr has been doing this for a long time and that he is -- we knew he was an experienced Washington official. This tells us something specifically about his experience.
But it also raises the question as to whether or not he might ultimately feel constrained in putting out a summarized or redacted version of a document if he knows that the ultimate document, the original document, is ultimately going to come out. How did you come I away feeling about that looking at this issue?
GOODMAN: So, I think that`s one of the most important insights from history, is that when he is withholding from Congress, first, he tries to withhold the opinion, then he says I`ll give you my summary of it. He must know that eventually it will come out.
So what`s most worrisome is that he must know that it will tarnish his reputation when the opinion finally does see the light of day, but I think he has a mission and the mission is to protect the White House and protect the president, so he knows by the time that this opinion might come out and he guessed right or he strategized correctly, three years later. The whole political issue has changed and it`s a new administration. So --
MADDOW: And he`s moved on out of that job, he`s moved on to other jobs and small enough issue in history that it doesn`t end up tarring him for life.
GOODMAN: If anything, it proves himself, it proves himself to another administration, Trump administration, this could be your guy. Like he can do this kind of work for you because he`s willing to put himself on the line and it`s pretty artful what he did. It`s strategic deception. And I would think that if they knew about this history, there`s every reason to think they might have in digging up his history and understanding him, this would be the person for them.
MADDOW: Does it -- how does it factor into that sort of calculus, that sort of strategic deception, the prospect that Robert Mueller might testify?
It`s getting a lot of attention, but I`ve been surprised over the last couple weeks to see the top Republicans on key committees, including Intelligence and Judiciary come out and say they, too, want Robert Mueller to testify about his findings. Not just Barr testifying about Mueller`s findings but Mueller, himself. I wonder just big picture if you think that Mueller`s testimony might be a way of correcting for any distorting redactions or overambitious redactions that Barr tries to get away with it.
GOODMAN: I do think so. I think there are a couple of checks this time around that won`t repeat history. There`s Mueller in the background, and maybe he testifies. There`s also the Mueller team. So, we already know from "The New York Times" reporting and "Washington Post" reporting that the Mueller team was very dissatisfied with --
MADDOW: They went to the press for the first time.
GOODMAN: Yes, for the first time in all of this period, they`ve been incredibly quiet. So, that`s another check they might go to the press as whistle-blowers essentially, if Barr misrepresents their work which he seems to have already done and he does it even worse on Thursday, that`s a second check and the third check is the House Judiciary Committee has already authorized the chair to subpoena the full report.
And back in 1989, believe it or not, it takes Congress 21 months before they subpoena the full report. So this time around, I think Barr, if he thinks about the calculation, he might actually think this report could become public within a matter of months.
MADDOW: Exactly. Even though it took a long time in `89 for Congress to issue that subpoena, once they did, they got it quickly. In this case, he knows Congress is going to issue the subpoena right away, maybe on Thursday, and so it may happen fast.
GOODMAN: Exactly. One week in 1989 after they finally issued the subpoena.
MADDOW: Thank you for digging up the history. It was hiding in plain sight once you went to go look for it. I never would have known about this point in Barr`s history and it does feel like an incredibly uncannily spot- on precedent for what we`re going through. Thanks.
GOODMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: It`s really good to have you here.
Ryan Goodman is the co-editor in chief at justsecurity.org, which is where you can read this piece he`s written about the bizarre Noriega memo. He was also former special counsel of the Defense Department during the Obama administration.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There was the time he got mad about the size of his rally. Not the reported size of his rally but the size of his rally.
There was the time he told the attorney general that he was an idiot.
There was the time he cursed out the Senate majority leader over the phone, the berating with a profane shouting match reporting.
There was the time he erupted at Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. That one happened on live TV and gave rise to some amazing photos.
It is a feature, a regular feature, of this presidency that the president gets so mad. It is such a thing that the president has literally had to say, quote, I don`t have temper tantrums. He said that in the many middle of a big public rant about his border wall which kind of seemed like a tantrum even if that moment.
Here`s another one, though. In December 2017, there were multiple reports that the president`s biggest lender, Deutsche Bank, had received a subpoena from Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation. Deutsche Bank, of course, has loaned President Trump billions of dollars over the years when other financial institutions wouldn`t loan him so much as their pocket lint.
Why have they done that? I mean, the bank was also involved in a multibillion dollar Russian money laundering scheme. Are those things connected?
It was not a total surprise that Robert Mueller might want a peek inside the Trump files at Deutsche Bank. Nevertheless, months later, we learned that those published reports that Deutsche Bank had received subpoenas from Mueller`s investigation, we learned that those reports sent President Trump into one of his more over the top destructive impressive freak-outs.
The president was reportedly so hopping mad over the nerve of Robert Mueller to subpoena Deutsche Bank that he reacted to that news by trying to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. That was the reporting. Quote: Angry president sought to fire Mueller over Deutsche Bank subpoenas.
Now, weirdly at the time, it was not totally clear that Mueller actually had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank. The president`s personal lawyer said he checked it out with the bank and found that no such subpoenas existed. OK. We don`t know. Sort of an open question given the reporting.
Maybe that was right. I mean, maybe it was a false alarm for the president. The House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has repeatedly publicly questioned whether the special counsel`s investigation ever peeked into the president`s finances at all, suggesting, in fact, that they haven`t.
I don`t know why Adam Schiff is saying that but he`s been saying that for months. He`s probably in a position to know as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
I mean, we also don`t know for sure what happened to the subpoenas that Deutsche Bank reportedly got that made the president so mad? Did they definitely get them? What happened to them once day were issued? Why did the president react the way he did -- I mean, maybe we`ll find out on Thursday when the attorney general releases some redacted version of Robert Mueller`s report.
But two days before that report comes out, we do know, as of today, that Deutsche Bank definitely has been subpoenaed now for sure. Late yesterday, Democrats in the House issued friendly but formal subpoenas to Deutsche Bank demanding the president`s financial records. Exactly the same territory of those reported subpoenas that drove the president to rage out and try to fire Robert Mueller a long time ago.
"The New York Times" is reporting that Democrats have not just subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, they also asked for documents from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and also Citigroup, documents regarding, quote, possible money laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe. These new subpoenas by Democrats in Congress follow financial records that were sent to the president`s accounting firm and the House Ways and Means Committee directing the IRS to hand over the president`s tax returns in accordance with the law which says the IRS has to hand them over.
The president has now fired a brand-new phalanx of lawyers whose only job seems to be to keep the president`s tax returns and financial records away from scrutiny. To keep them secret from everybody who has a right to see them. The president`s business, Trump Organization, is also reportedly considering ways to try to block Deutsche Bank from complying with the subpoenas and forking over Trump`s files.
So, the president`s bank, the president`s accounting firm, the president`s taxes, it`s all happening at once. I know the Mueller report Thursday morning, but all of this stuff separate and apart from Mueller`s investigation, it`s all now happening. Congress wants all of those records now and is acting to get them.
The last time we got anywhere close to this, the president got so mad he tried to fire Robert Mueller. With no Robert Mueller left to fire anymore, what is the president going to do to stop this now?
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Greg Farrell, investigative reporter for "Bloomberg News."
Mr. Farrell, it`s great to have you with us tonight. Thanks for coming in.
GREG FARRELL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Thank you.
MADDOW: So the last time we spoke, the president was reportedly freaking out over the special counsel reportedly having issued a subpoena to Deutsche Bank about their relationship with President Trump. We then learned months later that the president considered that to be a red line. He blew his top. It led him to try to fire the special counsel.
Now, after all of that experience, now, we`re in a situation where undisputedly, there are definitely subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and a bunch of other banks.
MADDOW: So, I have a couple of questions for you just as an experienced reporter in these matters. First of all, a subpoena from Congress, does it have any less force or any more force for these banks than a grand jury subpoena would?
FARRELL: No. It has the full force and banks want this. You mentioned friendly subpoenas before. Friendly insofar as this makes it easy for Deutsche Bank to respond.
It was difficult when Congresswoman Maxine Waters asked for it two years ago, she did have subpoena power. So, there might have been public interest in it but the Bank Secrecy Act prevented Deutsche Bank from doing anything along those lines.
FARRELL: So, subpoena power, you know, gives Congresswoman Waters, Adam Schiff, you know, the chance to -- the power to command this and Deutsche Bank has full defense that, you know, they`re allowed to turn this over. So, I don`t think the president`s lawyers are going to have much of a chance if they`re going to try to fight this.
MADDOW: So, Alan Garten, who`s a lawyer at the Trump Organization, president`s business, said he`s exploring options to try to block Deutsche Bank from responding to the subpoena. Are there any options? It sort of seems like this is a cul-de-sac.
FARRELL: I don`t think so.
MADDOW: There`s not any --
FARRELL: They`re very creative. I`m sure he`s going to try to find something that might pose an impediment, but I don`t see how they can avoid this at this point.
MADDOW: Given the earlier reporting that the president really did lose his mind about this and that it led him to try to fire the special counsel, even though he knew what the implications of that would likely be, what do you -- how are you viewing this in terms of the seriousness of these subpoenas, in terms of the potential response from the White House, in terms of the limited legal options they have for blocking this?
I mean, as I said, there is no Robert Mueller to fire here. He can`t fire Maxine Waters or Adam Schiff. How do you think about this in terms of what kind of a clash this is and how serious this might be?
FARRELL: Well, first of all, for most people, you know, the -- going into defensive mode and trying to prevent information like this getting out would be a sign that there is something that is being hidden.
FARRELL: Something that the president`s hiding.
However, I think we`ve seen after a couple of years this is almost a reflexive mode, anything having to do with Russia. One of the reasons the Russia inquiry became, like, so powerful and had so much momentum because there were denials and lies and attempts at covering up. Most people only cover up when there is something to be covered up.
But, you know, to some extent, it`s just a default mode, it seems like in the White House, to prevent information from coming out, even if, you know, everything was on the up and up. So, you know, I don`t think that helps in this case. You know, we will find out, but that kind of reaction suggests that there is something wrong.
So, you know, I`m not sure that`s the case, but, you know, the president`s different that way.
MADDOW: Do you think this will unfold in fairly short order? Is this something that is going to stretch on for years in terms of this fight?
FARRELL: No, I think this will be fairly short order. I think -- I`m not sure it`s a coincidence that the subpoenas come now after Bob Mueller`s finally wound down. So his inquiry is over and now it`s a chance for Congress to go forward. They`ve had five months to put a game plan together. I`m sure on November 10th, they were planning on what they were going to do, but this is the first move. So, you know, now is their chance to get something. I don`t think it will take long.
MADDOW: Greg Farrell, investigative reporter for "Bloomberg News" -- thanks for helping us understand this, sir. Great to see you.
FARRELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tonight was the second one ever. The first one happened last month. Congress had voted to basically undo the president trying to declare an emergency so he could build his wall between us and Mexico, even though Congress said no to that. He declared the emergency. Congress said, oh, no, you don`t.
Trump then issued his first ever veto. He vetoed the "oh, no, you don`t" from Congress so that he could still build his wall. That was the first time he ever issued a veto.
Now, tonight, he has issued his second ever veto. Congress this year took the very rare step of challenging a president on war. They voted to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen. Tonight, President Trump called that measure that Congress sent him, quote, an unnecessary dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, and then he put his veto sharpie to it.
We have a president who is now governing in a way he didn`t used to govern because Congress has not openly challenged him much. He has not governed by veto much, but now two vetoes in two months. Presumably more to come?
Watch this space.
MADDOW: I have an unusual sound for you. Can you name this? If you`ve ever spent time in New England, you`ll have a leg up on everybody else here, but are you ready?
All right. Hit it.
I know that sounds like bad news, but it`s not. That is not the sound of a dying animal or an animal in distress. That is the sound of a happy fisher cat.
The fisher cat is not actually a cat. It`s in the weasel family. It`s a large, carnivorous, arboreal tree-dwelling weasel.
They`re one of the only things rascally enough to know how to eat a porcupine. Part of the answer is carefully. Despite its screaming acuteness, fishers are known to be pretty ferocious.
If you want to talk more about the fisher cat, you should ask former two- time governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld. Yesterday, Bill Weld announced he was challenge President Trump in the Republican presidential primary in 2020. He also went out of his way to announce that the fisher cat will be his mascot, his guiding spirit in this endeavor?
He told "The Boston Globe," quote: people are usually like, what`s a fisher cat? But they don`t realize how ferocious they can be. Sort of like me and this campaign."
The last time a sitting president faced a primary challenge was 1992. The last time Bill Weld ran for office was 2016 as Gary Johnson`s vice presidential candidate on the libertarian ticket. This should be interesting.
I also want you to know that Bill Weld is standing by to talk to my friend Lawrence O`Donnell this hour. So don`t go anywhere.
We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END