IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Barr to face Mueller report questions. TRANSCRIPT: 4/30/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Devlin Barrett, Letitia James

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is Ady Barkan.

And that is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  That`s so incredibly powerful and amazing.  Thank you for covering that, my friend.  And thank you for playing that testimony.  That was incredible. 

HAYES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  I also know you`ve been all over this breaking news tonight about the conflict between Mueller and Attorney General Barr, about how Barr has misrepresented Mueller`s findings and Mueller has apparently confronted him about it.  We are going to be all over that story tonight, as well. 

We`ve got "The Washington Post" reporter who initially broke that story coming up with us, actually, in just a second. 

But I have to tell you, before we go to that reporter, this is another one of those days where we had, you know, a whole show planned.  And everything has gone out the window, as we have followed stuff that came up that we didn`t expect.  We are now, tonight, following two very dramatic and still- developing stories that we really had no idea that we should be expecting - - in one case, 24 hours ago, and in the other case, as recently as two hours ago.  It`s just another one of those days. 

But I`ll tell you, the first story we are keeping an eye on tonight broke open with a shock at dawn this morning, when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido appeared in this video message at a Venezuelan air force base just outside Venezuela`s capital city of Caracas.  In this video this morning, Juan Guaido announced that the Venezuelan military was now siding with him and the time had come for the Venezuelan people to rise up and oust Nicolas Maduro from Venezuela`s presidential palace. 

And, of course, this standoff in Venezuela, whether or not you`ve been following it closely, you are at least aware in am ambient sense that this standoff have been brewing for months and the Venezuelan people have been in extremis for months.  But part of the shock of what happened today is that Guaido appeared alongside his mentor, a longtime charismatic opposition leader in Venezuela, a Harvard and Princeton-trained economist named Leopoldo Lopez, who has been imprisoned as a flat-out political prisoner since 2014. 

Today, Guaido and Lopez explained that Lopez was out today, no longer in prison, that he was able to stand there alongside Juan Guaido because he was freed today by Venezuelan soldiers who had switched sides and who were now aligning themselves with Guaido, with the opposition, and supporting this effort to oust Maduro. 

So it was this shock announcement at dawn.  And it set off demonstrations and violent clashes all day long today. 

And we have been following this all day today, trying to figure out the fate of this country, right?  There have been, importantly, conflicting and contested reports about the split allegiances of the country`s powerful military.  Everybody sees that as the key, at least, a key dynamic as to how this is ultimately going to resolve and when.  And when you`re trying to track the divided loyalties of the military, yes, that is as scary as it sounds and as dangerous as it sounds for the civilians who are caught up in all of this. 

Internationally, Maduro is supported by very powerful allies, including China and Russia, plus also Bolivia and Cuba.  On the other side, it`s the government of the United States and Canada and many other Latin American and European countries who don`t just oppose Maduro, they formally recognized Guaido, the opposition leader, as the legitimate leader of that country.  It`s that split in world opinion as to who is the official president of Venezuela, that is why there`s been all of this energy exerted today over whether or not you should call what happened in Venezuela today a coup. 

I mean, etymologically speaking, you can`t launch a coup.  You can`t be overthrowing a government if technically you are the person who is already in charge of that government.  That`s why people are fighting over whether or not to call this a coup. 

Honestly, it`s a semantic distinction that`s not worth the breath at this point given the risk and the drama on the ground in Venezuela as this actual fight for the control of the government and the military and the country at large unfolds in a way that is just happening on the street, and is totally unpredictable and scary, particularly for a country that has been through so much pain in recent months. 

So, the news out of Venezuela, the visuals out of Venezuela have been frightening and surreal all day.  A lot of news organizations today played footage of what appeared to be national guard vehicles running down protesters in the street.  I am not going to show that video. 

But it has been hard to watch and dramatic and scary and fascinating to watch all day.  I will also tell you that that news took a dramatic and odd turn quite late in the day, early evening, when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in in a very specific way.  He cryptically announced in a couple of interviews that the U.S. government has learned that Maduro was about to flee his country in the face of this uprising and these demonstrations by Guaido and the supporters of the opposition with some unquantified amount of support from the military. 

Pompeo announced that the U.S. government had learned that Maduro was going to go to the airport, get in a plane, and flee the country.  He was going to fly to Cuba.  But according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Russians intervened and told him to stay put and not leave. 

Mike Pompeo then even more cryptically threatened that Maduro knew what the United States would do if he, in fact, got on that plane and flew to Cuba.  Pompeo told CNN, quote, Mr. Maduro understands what will happen if he gets on that airplane.  He knows our expectations. 

He would not say what that is that will happen.  He would not explain what those expectations are.  I mean, if the U.S. is supporting the opposition leader who is leading the uprising and Maduro is trying to flee, presumably the U.S. would want that, right?  Would want him to leave? 

So now the U.S. is threatening him, if he leaves?  And if he leaves, something might happen?  And you know what it is. 

What are you threatening with?  You`re going to give him 50 bucks because he`s left and that`s what he wanted?  I mean, I don`t mean to point out the obvious here, but while we are watching this absolutely history-making eventuality today in that country, it really felt like the U.S. government had no idea what it was talking about, and had no plan for what was going on here, which is maybe something they should have cooked up when they decided to clear that this opposition leader would be the new president of that country. 

I mean, in any previous administration, good ones, bad ones, hawkish ones, dovish ones, any previous U.S. administration, a U.S. secretary of state making an announcement like that, the Russians blocked him from leaving, and he knows what will happen when it comes to us, if he does leave.  I mean, that would be a momentous and shocking moment, right?  A U.S. secretary of state saying that, that would signal some sort of serious potential international conflict involving potentially some of the world`s great nuclear-armed powers. 

In this administration, though, yes, it was Mike Pompeo and who really knows what any of it meant.  It has just been a chaotic response from the U.S. government all day today, including lots of statements released by various U.S. government officials today, supposedly intended directly for the Venezuelan people, but apparently it never occurred to anyone in the Trump administration that any of those statements should be in Spanish.  Let alone they should be delivered by any means of communication that the Venezuelan people should actually have any access to after the Maduro regime has cut everything off. 

So I know there`s a lot going on, but this is a very serious, very fluid, very much still-developing situation in Venezuela today.  We`re going to have more on that ahead later on this hour and we`re watching this as developments proceed, because, as I say, this is international history in the making. 

Whether or not you have been paying any attention to the drama and tragedy in Venezuela over the past year, this, tonight, as we speak, in some ways, it really feels like it may be the pivotal moment when either the Maduro regime is going to end, somehow, or the Maduro regime is going to survive, in which case, the opposition is going to be in the most perilous, literally, the most physically perilous place they have yet been in.  And that involves untold numbers of civilians and who knows what split of the military. 

So, the whole world really is watching this, and for us Americans watching at home, one of the sideshows we are watching here is our own government`s inexplicable, self-defeating, bungling hash of a response. 

And, you know, it doesn`t matter if you like this particular U.S. government or not, whether you like this particular presidential administration or not, every American in -- every American has an interesting in seeing our own government at least handle something like this responsibly, right?  At least handle it with basic competence, with a basic ability to speak in ways that make sense, to be understood and to act rationally.  Instead, we`ve got these guys.  Just -- it`s just been a remarkable spectacle. 

But as we are keeping an eye on that tonight, "The Washington Post" just broke a shocking -- I guess it`s shocking.  A shocking new story about Robert Mueller and the Mueller report and what apparently Robert Mueller believes was the botched handling of his findings and his report on his investigation by Trump administration Attorney General William Barr. 

Now, I say this is shocking.  That said, we had seen some rumblings along these lines soon after Mueller turned in his report at the end of March, right?  Newly appointed Trump Attorney General William Barr then started serially releasing multiple statements of his own, that he characterized as summaries of Mueller`s findings, peppered with his own fulsome musings on the fundamental innocence and good character of president Trump, right? 

But on April 3rd, you might remember that there was some inklings that something like this might be going on behind the scenes.  On April 3rd, "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" both reported that some personnel from the special counsel`s office were known to be, were expressing shock and anger at the way Barr was presenting Mueller`s findings.  And the way he was substituting his own assertions about Mueller`s investigation for the actual findings and the actual language produced by Mueller`s team. 

I mean, you`ll remember those stories from that first week in April, right?  Members of special counsel Robert Mueller`s team have told associates they`re frustrated with the limited information Attorney General Barr has provided about their nearly two-year investigation.  Members of Mueller`s team have complained to close associates that the evidence that they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant. 

Quote: It was much more acute than Barr suggested. 

At one time, one U.S. official briefed on the matter told reporters for "The Washington Post," quote, there was immediate displeasure from Mueller`s team when they saw how the attorney general had characterized their work, instead of him just releasing Mueller`s own written summaries, which he had prepared about his own findings, which were prepared for public release. 

Since that reporting in the first week of April, we have been able to see the redacted version of Mueller`s report that Barr allowed to be released.  One of the striking things that a lot of people noticed immediately upon receiving that report was that there was a narrative, detailed, easy-to- read, thoroughly damning executive summary at the start of each section of the report.  And despite the fact that there were myriad redactions throughout the rest of Mueller`s report, those executive summaries had almost nothing redacted.  Even under whatever redaction scheme Barr insisted on, those executive summaries, they were like 99 percent cleared to go to the public with nothing redacted at all. 

So, why did Attorney General William Barr give his, you know, speeches and hold his press conferences and make his no collusion, no collusion announcements and write his own summaries that he said shouldn`t be called summaries?  Why did he make all of these different efforts to characterize the Mueller report when we quickly learned they were mischaracterizations, right?  The things that he said about Mueller`s report were very quickly exposed as, I mean, the charitable word would be misleading characterizations of what Mueller actually found. 

Well, now, there is this new report, pretty stunning report from "The Washington Post" tonight.  "The New York Times" has a version of this story, as well.  The NBC News has also followed up on some of this reporting since "The Post`s" initial story.  But "The Post" was first. 

And they`ve actually got a lot more detail about what they`re reporting here tonight.  Which is that Mueller himself has apparently gone on the record in writing, mad as heck, about what William Barr did with his findings, about what William Barr did with the results and the written report prepared by Mueller and his team about their investigation. 

"The Washington Post" reporting tonight that they have obtained the letter sent by Mueller to Attorney General William Barr on March 27th.  So in terms of the timeline here, that`s, obviously, after Mueller submitted his report and it`s after, just after, Barr publicly released his four-page letter, explaining that Mueller`s report totally exonerated the president, but we couldn`t see the report yet, he`d be working on redacting it from here on out. 

Obviously, this letter from Mueller was in response to how Barr had characterized Mueller`s findings.  It was before Mueller`s redacted report was released to the public.  "The Washington Post" says it has obtained this letter.  They haven`t published the letter itself.  But they do describe it here and they quote from it pretty extensively. 

Quote: At the time the letter was sent, on March 27th, Barr had announced that Mueller had not found a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials seeking to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.  Barr also said Mueller had not reached a conclusion about whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice, but Barr reviewed the evidence and found it insufficient to support such a charge. 

Days after that announcement from Barr, Robert Mueller himself wrote a previously unknown private letter to the Justice Department, which revealed a degree of dissatisfaction with the public discussion of Mueller`s work, a degree of public -- a degree of dissatisfaction that shocked senior Justice Department officials. 

And then "The Washington Post" quotes from that letter that Robert Mueller sent.  Quote: The summary letter the department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24th did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office`s work and conclusions. 

Quote: There is now public confusion about criminal aspects of the results of our investigation.  This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed a special counsel, which is to assure the full public confidence, which is -- excuse me, which is to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations. 

Mueller`s letter then made a key request, that Barr release the report`s introductions and executive summaries.  Mueller`s letter also made some initial suggested redactions for doing so.  In his letter, Mueller wrote that the redaction process, which was then underway, quote, need not delay release of the enclosed materials.  Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and the outcome of our investigation, right? 

And, so, I mean, Mueller is saying there, to Barr -- and that`s a quote from Mueller`s letter, according to the "Washington Post." saying there that Congress and the public have been misled as to what his investigation found.  And the summary materials that were included in part of his report were intended for release for the purposes of informing the public and the Congress what the special counsel`s investigation found.  According to the way this letter is phrased, according to these quotes from "The Washington Post," it appears that Mueller prepared minor redactions to those summaries, such that they could be released immediately. 

I mean, we know, of course, by the way this unfolded that Barr, you know, sent out his "the president is exonerated letter" on march 24th.  March 27th, Mueller sends this letter, hair on fire, saying, what are you doing, that`s not what our findings say at all.  Here, I`ve done the redaction in the executive summaries.  Here, you can release these.  The public and Congress should see these.  These are our real findings, not what you`re saying. 

We know from what happened then in real life that Barr did no such thing.  The Justice Department gave "The Washington Post" a statement in response to this reporting tonight saying, Attorney General Barr ultimately determined it would not be productive to release the report in piecemeal fashion.  So, Barr refuses to release the introductions in the executive summaries, which Mueller has requested that he has done, which Mueller has prepared specially redacted versions of, so they can be released to the public and to congress. 

Barr says, no, I`m not going to release those, and instead lets his own introductions and executive summaries and feelings about the report, which completely misrepresented Mueller`s findings linger out there for weeks.  And again, this first reported tonight by "The Washington Post." reporters Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky.  NBC`s Pete Williams has subsequently able to confirm the story reporting that Mueller conveyed to Barr and both the letter and the subsequent phone call, that Barr`s description of what he called the report`s principle conclusions didn`t actually capture the substance of what Mueller found. 

Barr, of course, is scheduled to testify tomorrow in the Republican-led Senate judiciary committee, where Chairman Lindsey Graham has already said he considers the Mueller report to be over, done, he`s never going to touch it again.  Barr, right now, is still fighting an effort to appear the following day on Thursday, before the Judiciary Committee, in the House, where the Democratic-led committee there intends to have some of the questioning of Barr led by staff counsel, by professional attorneys, who work for the question, rather than only having him questioned by members of Congress.  William Barr apparently does not want to subject himself to that.  Starting to get a sense of why that might seem like an unfun way to spend a Thursday if you`re William Barr. 

I will say this news tonight from "The Washington Post" also puts a much hotter spotlight on the request by a dozen Democratic senators today that the inspector general at the Justice Department should investigate William Barr and the way he handled Mueller`s findings, including whether his letter purporting to summarize Mueller`s findings and his ridiculous press conference ahead of releasing Mueller`s report were, quote, misleading, and whether they were consistent with Justice Department policies and practices. 

Those dozen senators are also asking the Justice Department inspector general to look at whether Barr`s handling of the Mueller report has been so improper that Barr should no longer be allowed to oversee any prosecutions that spring from that report.  They want the I.G. to look at whether Barr has, quote, demonstrated sufficient impartiality to continue overseeing the ongoing matters related to the special counsel`s investigation, that were referenced in appendix "D" of the special counsel`s report.  You remember appendix "D," right?  That`s where we got those 14 matters that are ongoing criminal cases, that have derived from Mueller`s findings, 12 of which are still redacted from public view. 

If Mueller, as "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight, has told William Barr that Barr has misrepresented his findings, mishandled the findings of this investigation, given Congress and the public an inaccurate summary, an inaccurate characterization of what it is that Mueller found and the results of that inquiry, should Barr really be overseeing all of the prosecutions that derive from that inquiry, that are still open criminal matters? 

And if this is, in fact, what happened, if Mueller called Barr and wrote Barr a letter right after Barr put out his supposed summary of what Mueller found and said, hey, you are getting it wrong, that is not what we found at all.  If we can`t trust you to accurately summarize our materials, then put out our own materials.  Here`s the summary.  They`re redacted for public view.  Send these out. 

If that conversation happened, both in writing and then on the phone between Mueller and Barr, on or about the 27th of March, why is it that a few weeks later, April 10th, Barr testified under oath in the U.S. Senate that he had no idea whether or not Mueller had any problem whatsoever, whether he had any objections whatsoever with how Barr had handled his findings? 

Joining us now is Devlin Barrett from "The Washington Post."  He was first to report tonight on this confrontation by special counsel Mueller, directed at the attorney general over how Barr handled this. 

Devlin, congratulations on this scoop.  Thanks for joining us. 

DEVLIN BARRETT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Thanks for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask if I summarized your -- I didn`t summarize every aspect of what you found tonight, but let me ask if I was accurate in the nature of how I described this communication from Mueller towards Barr. 

BARRETT:  Yes, I think that`s right.  There was a letter that was obviously fairly harshly worded and caught senior justice Department officials by surprise.  And there was a follow-up phone call, which has been described to me as not quite as confrontational, but still an area where these two guys really significantly disagreed. 

MADDOW:  I know that you have reported that you have seen this letter from Mueller to Barr.  And obviously, you quote from it extensively tonight in your piece in "The Post."  Are you going to publish the full letter?  Is it your understanding that it could be published? 

BARRETT:  Yes, that`s the one thing I would correct in what you said.  I don`t have a copy of the letter.  I have read the letter and obviously I quote extensively from it.  So, I`ll publish it as soon as I have a hard copy, but I don`t have a hard copy yet. 

And frankly, look, I think given the context in which this comes out, that there`s a hearing tomorrow, I think we`ll see this letter tomorrow. 

MADDOW:  OK.  I know that we`re going to hear from Barr tomorrow in the Senate.  One of the other things that immediately becomes much more pressing, given your reporting tonight, is the question of whether or not Congress is also going to hear from Robert Mueller.  We know that the Judiciary Committee in the House that has explicitly recommended or of explicitly requested that Mueller himself come testify, and come testify before a deadline of May 23rd.  We haven`t had any further clarity as to whether or not that`s actually going to happen.  Barr is on record saying that he would not object to such testimony. 

Do you have any reporting or any further understanding as to whether or not Mueller will be ever speaking for himself on this matter? 

BARRETT:  I don`t have a definitive answer.  I will say my sense before all of this was that there`s almost no way in which Mueller does not get called to testify at some point.  I would say after this letter, there`s no way that Mueller does not get called to testify.  I just don`t think the politics of it are remotely practical for Mueller to try not to testify or for DOJ to try to prevent from testifying, even if they wanted to do that, which they say they don`t. 

MADDOW:  We have known from previous reporting from "The Post"," among others, that there were people in the special counsel`s office, people on the special counsel`s team who were upset with the way Attorney General Barr was handling that report.  We had these descriptions about members of the special counsel`s team speaking to associates or known to be upset about the way he was handling it. 

At the time those reports came out in the first week of April, that would have been after this report went from Mueller to Barr.  And after Barr had been informed directly in writing by Mueller and in a phone call from Mueller about how upset he was about how Barr was handling it.  What changed so that this letter from Mueller, which wasn`t previously reported, is now in some circulation?  You were able to describe it and quote from it tonight.  What changed? 

BARRETT:  Honestly, I think the pressure of, you know, a congressional hearing, in which these questions are going to come up.  You know, part of how this all happens is because, as a reporter heading toward this hearing, we`re asking all of these questions.  And we`re trying to figure out, you know, what are you going to say when they ask, was there a disagreement about this?  Because obviously, we`ve reported, there was something of a disagreement here. 

So I think the writing was on the wall in some sense, as far as the hearing goes.  And, you know, hearings have a way of, you know, shaking things out. 

MADDOW:  One last question for you, Devlin, is one of the quotes that you have from the letter tonight landed kind of with a lot of weight for me.  You quote from Robert Mueller`s letter, there is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.  This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department of Justice appointed the special counsel, which is to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations. 

That`s worded in a very specific and sort of legalistic way, sort of tight wording there.  But the implication of that is heavy.  The implication of that, as I read it, is that the public shouldn`t have full public -- shouldn`t have full confidence in the outcome of the investigations.  That Barr had so mishandled this matter, that the public shouldn`t trust the way the government was coping with the findings of this investigation. 

I mean, I don`t want to put more weight on it than you think was intended by the way that Mueller put that, so I just wanted to let you know my impression there and see how that strikes you. 

BARRETT:  So I think there`s some truth to that.  But I think one of the things you have to keep in mind, when he talks about the full public confidence, that`s always been central impasse point for Bob Mueller, as he goes through this.  He`s always felt that this work only matters if the public believes the work was done well.  And I think that`s why he writes the letter.  And I think as I read the letter, what he`s saying is, I am worried that this public discussion of the obstruction of justice issue, because this is really about the obstruction part, this public discussion, he thinks, is getting off the rails and he wants Barr to help him in his mind to get it back on the rails. 

Now, obviously, Barr and he disagree about a lot of key issues here, so it`s a tension point that doesn`t really ultimately get resolved.  But I think what Mueller is trying to say here is, we don`t want to let this things get out of our control and leave the public with an understanding of this that ultimately doesn`t ring true to what we did. 

MADDOW:  I said --that was my last question, I lied.  I also have to ask you, there`s a reference to the redaction process in here.  Are you getting a sense there was conflict between the special counsel and the attorney general`s office over the redactions and what was cut out of the report? 

BARRETT:  Yes, I think there was, but maybe not in the sense you mean.  So, what I have been told is that Justice Department officials, when they were waiting for the report, they expected they would get, if not like suggested redactions, then some sort of, you know, trail map that would help them work on the redaction process.  They say they didn`t get anything like that.  And that was frustrating and it meant that they had 448 pages to suddenly, you know, cycle through with every page marked, you know, this could require redactions. 

However, as the process goes forward, what you see in the Mueller letter is Mueller sends with the letter, and I think this is a really important part, Mueller sends with the letter the executive summaries and the introductions, with some proposed redactions.  And Mueller is, I think, very clearly trying to like egg this process forward, saying, look, you can put out these parts now and here are some of the things you should keep out. 

Now, from the DOJ senior leadership point of view, they had a little bit of concern about that, because to them, these aren`t -- those suggested redactions, while slight, weren`t every category of redaction.  And they felt they still had significant more work to do if they were going to release those. 

Obviously, again, another significant issue of disagreement and it matters a great deal, obviously, in terms of the consequences. 

MADDOW:  Right, and it matters in terms of what we, the public, are ultimately going towns about this, particularly because special counsel staff were involved in the redaction process, at least according to the way that Barr described it. 

And so, if Justice Department officials, either anonymously or not, are trying to characterize that process in a way that people from the special counsel`s office are going to contest, it`s starting to feel more and more like we`ll ultimately learn their side of the story, too.  At least if the kind of reporting that you did tonight is any prologue. 

Devlin Barrett, congratulations on this scoop tonight.  Thank you for being here talk about it.  I really appreciate it.

BARRETT:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  Devlin is a national security reporter at "The Washington Post."  Again, he and Matt Zapotosky, first to report tonight on this apparently angry confrontation by special counsel Robert Mueller directed at Attorney General William Barr over the way he handled the Mueller report.  Again, a letter being sent from Mueller to Attorney General Barr basically saying, release these parts of my report rather than to continue to mischaracterize my findings. 

I should note, one of the things that we can add to this reporting tonight is that as of today, as of tonight, Robert Mueller is still an employee of the Department of Justice, which is an interesting thing.  Peter Carr, the spokesman for the special counsel told us tonight, we called him after this -- or we contacted him after this reporting broke tonight.  We called him to find out whether or not Mueller is still a DOJ employee. 

He told us tonight that Mueller remains a Justice Department employee for now, but that Mueller, quote, will be concluding his service within the coming days.  That`s something that they told us right around the time that the report came out.  They said that advice is still operative, but to the extent it matters who`s actually Robert Mueller`s employer at this point, if this confrontation is getting this heated and this direct, he still belongs to DOJ. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Here`s something worth pondering.  On April 10th, 20 days ago, Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate and he was asked if special counsel Robert Mueller agreed with his conclusion summarizing the results of Robert Mueller`s investigation. 

Here is what William Barr said when he was asked that question before the Senate, under oath. 


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  It was the conclusion of a number of people, including me, and I, obviously, am the attorney general.  It was also the inclusion of the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. 

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD):  I understand.  I`ve read your letters


BARR:  I will discuss that decision after -- 

VAN HOLLEN:  Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion? 

BARR:  I don`t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion. 


MADDOW:  I don`t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.  That is what Attorney General Bill Barr testified to on April 10th. 

We now know that just two weeks earlier, on March 27th, Robert Mueller had sent a letter to Bill Barr, expressing serious frustration and concern with the way Barr was mischaracterizing his report.  That discussion happened both in a letter and in a follow-up phone call.  So when the attorney general said he doesn`t know how Mueller felt about his conclusion and he says that under oath, is that a problem? 

Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg.  He`s a former senior official at the FBI, former U.S. attorney. 

I have never been more glad for the chance to talk to you here in person tonight, Chuck.  Thank you for being here. 


MADDOW:  Let me just ask your reaction, first of all, your response to this reporting from "The Washington Post" tonight, that the special counsel expressed both in writing and by phone to William Barr that the attorney general was mischaracterizing the Mueller findings. 

ROSENBERG:  Bob Mueller must have been pretty upset.  You know, what`s so interesting to me, we always disagree about stuff at the Department of Justice, but we don`t always write letters about it.  We have a phrase called going to paper.  You don`t go to paper lightly, because you don`t want to box them in or show them up. 

You go to paper when you want to make a record for the history books.  If turns thing out really bad, right, if things don`t work out the way you wanted them to, you go to paper to make that record, to paper the trail.  So, for Bob to do this, he must have been quite upset. 

The other reaction I have is that the letter that Devlin Barrett read is probably the second letter, because you write the first one when you`re really angry, put it in your desk drawer, you sleep on it and come back the next day and take out some adjectives and then you send the second one.  And I`ve done that myself. 

MADDOW:  Yes, see, I`m the one who always sends the first letter. 

ROSENBERG:  You send the first --

MADDOW:  This is why I don`t even the even keel reputation that you have. 

The other thing that Barrett and his colleagues at "The Post" are reporting is that in addition to that letter, there was an enclosure.  Mueller had prepared a suggested redactions for the executive summaries and introductions for each volume of the report that he wanted Barr to release right away, basically to correct the record against what Barr had previously asserted were the bottom line conclusions of Mueller`s findings. 

We now know Barr rejected that and didn`t do it.  I know that Barr was probably under no obligation to do that, but that strikes me as quite an acute confrontation. 

ROSENBERG:  Right, you`re absolutely right, he was under no obligation, other than perhaps moral, to make sure that the public`s understanding of the report roughly coincided with the report.  And it didn`t, because the first version has dictated how we talk about it and how we think about it.  You actually have to read the darned thing to understand what Mueller really did.  And it takes a lot of time to do that and it`s complicated.  It`s also fascinating, by the way. 

But that`s what`s so disappointing.  There was a window for people to understand what Mueller found and it closed when Bill Barr rendered his principle conclusions.  And no letter -- no phone call would undo that damage. 

MADDOW:  In terms of what happens next here, you described papering the trail. 


MADDOW:  Creating a written record when there`s a serious concern, and that -- you sort of have to cross a threshold of seriousness or anger before you do that.  The judiciary chairman, Jerry Nadler, still doesn`t know whether or not he`ll have William Barr before his committee on Thursday.  It seems like that`s still in dispute.  But he is demanding a copy of that letter by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. 

Would you expect that the Justice Department would hand it over? 

ROSENBERG:  I think it`s hard for them not to hand it over.  I don`t blame him for wanting it.  I would like to see it, too, and I think it`s really hard to withhold that document now given the fact that it`s really mostly out.  It`s been shown to a reporter.  It`s not really a leap to provide it to Congress in my view. 

Now, that said, this administration seems to fight everything, the time of day, right, the month of the year.  There doesn`t seem to be a battle that they won`t join.  So, not clear, but it should be provided. 

MADDOW:  Somebody has shown it to reporters, tonight.  So somebody has access to it that wants it to be known.  So that would suggest that there`s at least an implicit threat that if the Justice Department tries to block it, it will see the light of day anyway.  Big pieces of it are already in public. 

ROSENBERG:  I think that`s right.  So, it`s definitely better for the department to just produce it, so they can say, we`ve made it available, than for it to get out anyway, which as you point out, it inevitably will. 

MADDOW:  One of the other things that`s going on right now, is that investigative committees in Congress and the House, in the Democratically controlled House are stepping up the different types of oversight they`re trying to do when it comes to the administration and the president in particular.  Led by Adam Schiff on the Intelligence Committee and Maxine Waters on financial services, those two committee chairs have asserted that they don`t believe Robert Mueller did a long money trail investigation here.  That he didn`t look in depth at the president`s finances, as part of his investigation for whatever reason. 

And they have stepped up their efforts to obtain financial information about the president that they think may have important implications on counterintelligence and other matters.  We`ve seen it from oversight, from intel, from financial services. 

The president is fighting those requests.  The president has filed lawsuits to try to block those subpoenas.  We got some very interesting news today from Betsy Woodruff at "The Daily Beast" who reports that the intelligence committee has now hired the former head of the financial crimes division at FBI, who is somebody who you -- Patrick Fallon, somebody you coincided with during your time as FBI chief of staff. 

ROSENBERG:  Well, actually, I go back further with Pat.  I knew him when I was an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia and when I was U.S. attorney in Virginia.  He`s a terrific agent.  He`s also a wonderful human being.  He`s a great hire. 

MADDOW:  Would you expect the Democrats, the House Intelligence Committee taking him on as a staffer, will meaningfully affect the ability for them to make sense of any financial documents they`re able to get from the president? 

ROSENBERG:  He`s a great financial crimes investigator. 

But I disagree with one premise, slightly.  I`m confident, reasonably confident, that the Mueller team looked at financial records.  I mean, we saw the manifestation of that, right, in the Manafort trial -- tax records and bank records and all sorts of financial documents. 

So there`s a difference between investigating financial crimes and charging financial crimes.  You would investigate financial crimes, I think, to inform your counterintelligence investigation.  But because it wasn`t within Mueller`s remit, which was relatively narrow, you might not charge it. 

MADDOW:  Right.  And we haven`t seen anything in terms of the counterintelligence remit.  We haven`t seen his findings on that, at all. 

ROSENBERG:  But for instance, on your tax return, it asked whether or not you had control over a foreign bank account.  Do you have interest or control over a foreign bank account?  A counterintelligence investigator would want to know how you answered that question.  But they may not charge you with tax evasion for lying in response. 

MADDOW:  Chuck Rosenberg, former senior official at the FBI, former U.S. attorney and the host of the newest MSNBC podcast, "The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg" which debuted tonight, interviews with a couple of guys you might have heard with, James Comey and Preet Bharara. 

I have not yet listened, I read every word of the transcript of your James Comey discussion and I am floored. 

Congratulations on "The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg."  I`m super excited that you`re doing this.

ROSENBERG:  I`m really humbled that you would mention it.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Yes, absolutely.  Great to see you.  Thank you.

All right.  We have much more.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  As we continue to cover this breaking news tonight, first led by "The Washington Post" that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has contacted Attorney General William Barr, both in writing and by phone, to complain that Barr was misrepresenting the findings of Mueller`s investigation and his report, Mueller going so far as to submit to Barr redacted versions of his executive summaries and introductions to both volumes of his report, so Barr could release those publicly rather than allowing his own assertions about Mueller`s findings to stand on their own. 

Since that was reported tonight, again, first by "The Washington Post," we`ve been watching things fall into place thereafter.  Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has put out a statement demanding that he receive a copy of this letter from Mueller to Barr by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.  He`s also reiterating his demand that Robert Mueller himself be allowed to testify.  That Mueller himself, not Barr, Mueller come to Congress and talk about his findings, rather than continually having this mediating influence of William Barr and his office. 

Well, at "The Daily Beast" tonight, Erin Banco and Sam Stein are reporting that House Democrats have been told that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is willing to testify, but the Justice Department has been unwilling to set a date for him to testify.  According to multiple sources, DOJ hasn`t agreed to a date, citing Mueller`s continued status as a Justice Department employee.  Two sources say the Judiciary Committee has been in regular contact with the Justice Department about trying to set a date for Mueller`s testimony, but Justice Department will not do it.  Well, that won`t last.

Stay with us.  We`ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  Not much going on around here.  Super sleepy news night around these parts.  Nothing doing, really. 

In addition to the breaking news we have been covering tonight that Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave Attorney General Bill Barr a piece of his mind for publicly misrepresenting Mueller`s findings in his report, just in the past 24 hours, the president and his three adult children and the Trump family business all sued two banks that they`ve done business with, including Deutsche Bank, to try to block these banks from handing over Trump-related financial information in response to congressional subpoenas. 

This follows a week after Trump also sued his own accounting firm trying to stop them from replying to congressional subpoenas and handing over information about Trump`s financial dealings and taxes. 

Here`s one question that arises out of that fight.  If Mr. Trump and his family and his business are concerned to the point of hyperventilating in a paper bag at the prospect of anybody getting a look at their finances and taxes, why are they not also suing the New York state attorney general? 

New York Attorney General Letitia James is chasing a lot of this same stuff or at least along these same lines.  It has been reported that she has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank about its relationship with Donald Trump.  CNN is reporting she`s already received some of that material in response to that subpoena.  "The Washington Post" tonight reports the attorney general`s office is also investigating serious alleged labor violations at Trump`s golf club in Westchester, New York. 

She`s also launched an investigation into the NRA, which apparently led the NRA to fire its lead lawyer and led to the NRA`s lead outside counsel warning that organization`s entire board of directors that he believes Letitia James may dissolve the NRA, dissolve them. 

She also brought a suit against the Trump administration over her efforts to put a citizenship question on the next census, which will lead to an undercount of Hispanics and immigrants.  She fought them aggressively on the gag rule on abortion rights.  I mean, I can understand why the president has begun to tweet angrily about the New York Attorney General Letitia James.  So far, I`m interested to see how this fight evolves from both sides. 

Joining us now for the interview tonight is Letitia James, attorney general of the great state of New York. 

Madam Attorney General, thank you so much for being here. 

LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Thank you for having me.  I really appreciate it. 

MADDOW:  I know some of the stuff I`ve talked about here, ongoing investigations, you`re not necessarily at liberty to talk about them.  I hope you will forgive me asking anyway. 

JAMES:  Mmm-hmm. 

MADDOW:  But I wanted to get your reaction tonight just as a law enforcement official in relation to this breaking news that we`re covering about the special counsel`s report and this reporting that the special counsel himself has expressed anger to the attorney general about the mischaracterization of his findings. 

JAMES:  It truly was a mischaracterization.  He misled the public and he misled Congress, and it`s really critically important that unfortunately he stepped outside of his boundary.  And he should not have interpreted the Mueller report.  He should have just issued it to the Congress and its executive summaries and that was it. 

Instead, he went a bit further and he basically attempted to exonerate President Trump, and as a result of that, he should be held responsible and he should go before Congress.  I hope not only tomorrow but also on Thursday and present himself and answer those questions in. 

In addition to that, I would hope that Mr. Mueller also testify before Congress as well.  It`s really critically important that we hear from him.  I understand that he`s very angry and this letter obviously really speaks to the fact that Mr. Barr was serving as the president`s counsel and not the people`s counsel. 

MADDOW:  You are in a unique position as the top law enforcement official in New York state, given the jurisdiction of your office and the powers of your office.  We have seen congressional committees pursue things related to the president`s finances and taxes in the wake of Mueller`s report and the revelation that it does not seem that Mueller made that a central element of his investigation.  You have been reported to also have pursued some of these lines of inquiry, particularly after Michael Cohen, the president`s longtime lawyer, suggested in sworn testimony that the president had inflated his assets for the purpose of obtaining bank loans or trying to obtain bank loans. 

Can you tell us anything about your office and its investigation along those lines? 

JAMES:  So what I can tell you, Rachel, and obviously we do not want to jeopardize any investigation.  I can tell you we have commenced an investigation into the Trumps` finances and it`s based on the testimony of Mr. Michael Cohen.  And as a result of that, we have issued subpoenas to certain banks and we are in the process of discovery.  And that is about all that I can tell you without jeopardizing that investigation. 

MADDOW:  I understand if you can`t answer this, but can you tell me if Michael Cohen has cooperated with your office or with other New York state law enforcement?  And can you tell me if the banks are cooperating with the subpoenas? 

JAMES:  So I can tell you this.  The media has reported that Mr. Cohen has been to our office and I can also report to you that we have received some information from some of the entities that have been previously mentioned. 

MADDOW:  OK.  The president is suing Deutsche Bank and his accounting firm Mazars, as well as other entities to try to stop them from obtaining -- from replying to congressional subpoenas.  Have you had those same kinds of fights in terms of your investigation? 

JAMES:  Unfortunately, as of right now, they are not seeking to squash our subpoenas. 

MADDOW:  OK.  The NRA investigation, which you have publicly confirmed.  On Friday you announced that that -- your office is investigating the NRA in terms of its incorporation under New York law and alleged financial mismanagement of that -- of that organization, its assets and its donations. 

The NRA appears to be quite afraid of what you are capable of doing as New York`s top law enforcement official.  As I mentioned, they fired their lead lawyer.  Their outside counsel is reported to have warned the board that you have the power to dissolve them as an organization if your investigation merits that. 

Is he right to believe that`s within your powers? 

JAMES:  So let me just say -- I can`t speak to the remedies we are seeking.  At this point in time, as you know, we have commenced an investigation into the NRA.  We have issued letters basically requiring certain entities to retain documents and communication.  And some of those entities have received subpoenas. 

It`s really critically important that the NRA follow the law just like any other charitable organization in the state of New York.  And until such time as we review the information that we received, we cannot lay out our case and we cannot speak to the remedies that we are seeking. 

MADDOW:  This would be -- this is being pursued as a civil matter or as a criminal matter? 

JAMES:  It`s a civil matter. 

MADDOW:  It`s a civil matter.  At this point, we`ve -- again, public reporting that the department of financial services in New York, another law enforcement entity in New York, has also pursued the president`s insurance broker. 

Again, in response to Michael Cohen`s testimony saying that there may have been -- he alleged that there may have been asset inflation in order to basically affect insurance rates, which would be insurance fraud.  Is that also being pursued as a civil matter?  Is that something that could potentially be referred to you as a criminal matter if the department of financial services finds evidence of wrongdoing there? 

JAMES:  Yes, we`ve not received a referral as of yet, but our investigations for the most part are civil in nature. 

MADDOW:  OK.  Letitia James, attorney general of New York.  You have a lot on your plate. 

JAMES:  I do. 

MADDOW:  I hope you`ll come back again and keep us apprised.  I know a lot of these things as they`re ongoing you can`t give us details, but I think it`s important the country know the implications of what you`re working on. 

JAMES:  I also think it`s important for you to remain in our homes every night.  It`s critically important we have a free press, an independent press and it`s really critically important that I as the attorney general of the state of New York stand up for your right and oppose any effort to suppress your First Amendment right. 

MADDOW:  Madam Attorney General, thank you very much for being here. 

JAMES:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Hope you`ll come back soon. 

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  This has been one of those days and the news is continuing to develop over the course of this hour, and I have a feeling it`s going to continue to develop into the late night tonight.  I will just tell you before we go that you shouldn`t forget, tomorrow night right here, Hillary Clinton is going to be here live in studio, in person for the interview.  Tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.  I`m not going to sleep between now and then because I`m already working on it. 

I`ll see you then. 


Good evening, Lawrence. 

                                                                                                                THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END