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House expected to vote tonight on border. TRANSCRIPT: 6/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Ben Ray Lujan, Adam Schiff

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  So, go and check it out. 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend.  Much appreciated.

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

We are in Miami again tonight as debate prep reaches its furious joining us this hour.  We are in Miami again tonight as debate prep reaches its furious apex for the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who are converging on this city for a two-night double header debate that starts tomorrow night and continues into Thursday night. 

This is the first debate of the Democratic presidential primary.  As you might imagine, the decision of the Democratic National Committee to site this key first debate here in Miami, it is a strategic decision for the party.  Not only is this state of Florida, of course, a key swing state with a huge population and a huge number of electoral votes that seems like every year end up being of crucial importance when it comes to picking the next president of the United States. 

Florida, of course, is a state won twice by Barack Obama and then narrowly won by Donald Trump in 2016.  But Florida and south Florida in particular and Miami in particular, particular are home to a massively diverse field of voters, and that is also, I think, a key part of the calculation here.  Miami, of course, has a large African-American population.  African- American voters have long been basically the key that unlocks general election possibilities for Democratic contenders in general elections. 

But Miami is also a majority Latino city.  Seventy percent of the population in Miami is Hispanic.  And that Spanish speaking and Latino population in Miami is itself really diverse. 

And so, the Democratic Party choosing to site their first debate for the 2020 campaign here in Miami, it`s basically a de facto challenge to all these candidates to make sure they are competing for all different kinds of Latino votes, and to prioritize that at the start of the Democratic primary and at the start of their campaigns. 

And so, that is why I think the coincidence of this first debate here in Miami and the latest news of this administration`s attitude toward and treatment of Latino immigrants and their families, and particularly little kids, I think that is part of why this is a particularly potent mix right now because the Democratic candidates competing for the opportunity to run against Trump to try to end his administration, they would be criticizing him for what he has done to immigrants anyway.  But to have that happening in the light of these latest revelations, that criticism, that competition for what the country should be like should it continue as it is under Trump or should it continue under different leadership who would handle this matter specifically quite differently -- I mean, that resonates across the country right now with an electorate that is getting increasingly stunned by what they are learning about the Trump administration`s behavior in the news this week, and specifically now today. 

As we`ve been reporting here on the show, over the last few days, we`ve gotten these just absolutely horrifying accounts from U.S. Border Patrol stations near the Mexican border about two things.  The way that kids coming over the border are still being separated from their parents and their adult family members, even though the Trump administration claims they ended the policy of separating families a year ago.  That is still happening.  They are still taking little kids systematically away from their parents at the border.  So that`s one. 

Also, we are learning about the conditions in which those kids are being held by the Trump administration after they are forcibly separated from their families.  The gut-wrenching descriptions we have of conditions at some Border Patrol facilities have been coming in in the most part from lawyers who are able to access these facilities because they are monitoring compliance with government rules about how kids are supposed to be treated in Border Patrol custody.  These lawyers have done these monitoring trips for years.  As a rule, they do not talk to the press about their visits.  They`re used in ongoing litigation and legal matters. 

But despite the fact that a lot of these lawyers have been doing this for years, if not decades, these experienced lawyers who have kind of seen it all, this past week they have been so shocked and so disgusted by what they found that they decided that they needed for the first time to go public and to sound the alarm to let the country know what they were see.  One of these lawyers told the "Associated Press," quote, in my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity.

As we reported last night, the most recent egregious reports have come from a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas.  Where the lawyers who visited reported kids as young as infants sleeping on concrete floors, not being allowed to bathe or brush their teeth, not having access to soap or toothbrushes or diapers.  Older kids made to take care of the toddlers and babies on their own. 

Kids being fed terrible food and the same food day after day after day.  Kids getting sick.  Kids coping on their own with spreading lice infestations. 

The lawyers found that facility in Clint by chance.  It was not even supposed to be housing children but they heard a rumor that kids were being detained there. 

One lawyer said that one of the kids detained there told her that hundreds more kids had been there but he didn`t know where they had gone, so the lawyers decided to look around.  They drove around the facility until they found out back a brand-new windowless warehouse that hadn`t been there before.  It`s recently erected.  They were later told that, in fact, a couple hundred more kids were being held in that windowless steel warehouse. 

And these descriptions of these conditions have shocked and horrified the country for the last several days, along with the dawning revelation that these kids do not need to be there at all. 

Quote: Officials at the border seem to be making no effort to release children to caregivers.  Many have parents in the United States.  Rather, they`re holding them for weeks in overcrowded cells at the border.  Incommunicado from their desperate loved ones.

Quote: A second grader we interviewed entered the room silently but burst into tears when we asked who she travelled with to the U.S., "My aunt," she said, with a keening cry.  A bracelet on her wrist had the words "U.S. parent" and a phone number written in permanent marker.  We called the number on the spot and found out no one had informed her desperate parents of where she was being held. 

Quote: Some of our most emotional moments of our visit came witnessing children speak for the first time with their parents for the first time on an attorney`s phone. 

"The New York Times" reported that lawyers meet ranged from 17 years old to 5 months old.  Again, kids taken away from their families, 5 months old. 

The infants were either children of minor parents who are also detained or they had been separated from adult family members with whom they had crossed the border.  The separated children were now alone being cared for by other young detainees.

One lawyer telling "The New Yorker" magazine, quote: There were children at this facility who came across with parents and were separated from parents.  There were other children at the facility that came across with adult family members.  We met almost no children who came across unaccompanied.

Quote: The United States is taking children away from their family unit and reclassifying them as unaccompanied children but they were not unaccompanied children.

And the national uproar over these kids still now being taken away from their families and being held indefinitely in these totally inappropriate appalling conditions, amid that, amid that national uproar, yesterday we found out that nearly 300 kids had been moved out of that one border patrol facility in Clint, Texas. 

We talked to Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar about that last night.  That facility in Flint is just outside her district in El Paso.  She said as of last night she was not sure exactly where those 300 kids had been moved out to, she just few they had been moved out of the facility in Clint. 

That is how we left it last night.  Then today, just a remarkable series of events.  First, the head of the U.S. Border Patrol quits.  That facility in Clint, Texas, is a border patrol facility, as is the one in McAllen, Texas, where similar discussions have been described for yet more hundreds of kids. 

Amid this outcry over what his agency is doing to these kids right now, the head of the Border Patrol quit today, he resigned.  He was actually the acting head of the Border Patrol.  He`d only been there for a couple of months.  He`d never been confirmed in the position. 

But that is not uncommon, thanks to a string of firings and reassignments that kicked off after President Trump told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that she should illegally block all asylum applications to the United States.  Given all of the resignation and firings and reassignments that happened since then, we are now in a position where every single border-related or immigration-related agency in the entire U.S. government has only an acting leader who has not been vetted or confirmed by the Senate. 

But the latest head of the Border Patrol, he quit today after less than two months on the job.  Then we got word that the Border Patrol has now decided to move kids back into that facility in Clint, Texas.  I mean, yesterday, after all these reports about the horrible conditions and the national outcry over that, they moved 300 kids out of there.  Today they reversed course and said they`re going to move maybe 100 kids back in. 

Why is that?  A border patrol official who insisted on remaining anonymous held a call with reporters to confirm this news, to confirm that border patrol is in fact moving kids back into this facility that has given rise to these horrifying reports and this national outrage over the past few days.  I can tell you actually how that goes exactly because we got a transcript of the call today. 

A reporter asks, quote: Are you not concerned that you`ve now moved 100 children back to the very same facility where these allegations have surface from?  What the reaction would be from the public and Congress, who you`re asking for money from? 

Anonymous border control official, quote: I`m not concerned because a full investigation will be completed and, frankly, I personally don`t believe these allegations.

So, it`s not a problem to put kids back in that facility, even though just yesterday we spirited 300 of them out of there.  It`s not a problem because everything you`ve heard about what`s going on in there is a lie.  I`m sure those kids are doing just fine.  Who cares what anybody says?  I don`t believe any of it. 

And now, at the end of this astonishing day, now we learn who is likely to be installed to replace the border patrol chief who has just quit amid this disaster, and it looks like the leading contender is this guy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MORGAN, ACTING DIRECTOR OF ICE:  I`ve been to the detention facilities where I`ve walked up to these individuals that are so-called minors, 17 or under, and I`ve looked at them and I`ve looked at their eyes, Tucker, and I said that is a soon to be MS-13 gang member. 

They`re renting kids -- they`re paying to rent somebody`s kids and then fake themselves as a family. 

(END VIDOE CLIP)

MADDOW:  That is the Trump administration`s acting head of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  That is who reportedly President Trump is going to choose to take over the border patrol today.  Since the other guy quit in the midst of this national uproar over this humanitarian disaster of what the Trump administration has been doing to these little kids. 

And in the midst of that uproar, apparently what the president wants is someone at the top of border patrol who will tell him the so-called families he`s separating are fake families.  Those little kids, they`re just stunt kids.  He wants somebody who will go down to those border patrol facilities and look those little kids in the eye and see that they`re all actually future gang members.  That is who will now be running this show with your tax dollars on behalf of the United States of America. 

And the president and the vice president and Republican members of Congress and the anonymous border patrol official who spoke to reporters today, they all say that what border patrol really needs is more money, and specifically that Democrats, if they really want to help these kids who, by the way, are being treated just fine -- well, they need to send more money to the border patrol that has been running these facilities this way.  And, in fact, right now at this hour, Democrats in the House are actually passing a bill that would send billions of dollars to the border, including to the facilities caring for migrants at the border. 

But Democrats in Congress are also being very clear that what is happening at the border right now, what`s happening, for example, at that facility in Clint, Texas, is not something that`s happening because the Trump administration doesn`t have money to do better. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA):  You cannot tell me that the federal government does not have money for toothpaste and soap.  This is inflicted on these children as punishment to try to bring Democrats to the table to compromise on the border wall.  I think that is absolutely important. 

The other thing that I think is critical is that we need to stop saying that the policy for family separation has ended.  It has not.  Since when is a grandmother, an aunt or a sibling not considered family?  Only at the U.S. border. 

You can`t tell me that this problem cannot be solved.  You remember that President Trump just a few days ago said, well, he was going to cancel education, cancel recreation, cancel the hygiene needs. 

This was deliberate.  How dare you torture children to try to get a compromise out of Democrats?  And I am sorry, but looking -- but hearing about children walking around in soiled diapers, hearing about children taking care of toddlers, you are talking about straight up child abuse, and I think that this needs to be condemned internationally, frankly. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  This is the story that has sort of electrified the country a little bit.  It has resulted, for example, in Americans being moved to bring boxes of diapers and toothbrushes and soap to these facilities.  People have literally been showing up in the parking lot and asking for this stuff to be given to the kids who are being held there. 

One man who grew up in Clint, Texas, and tried to bring supplies to the facility there told "The Texas Tribune" today, quote: It makes me feel powerless knowing there are children taking care of toddlers and little kids knowing what`s happening in your community and can`t give these kids supplies to clean or clothe themselves.  It`s heartbreaking.  For God`s sake, they`re kids, man.

Border Patrol has been turning those donations away and won`t accept them.  When reporters asked that "I won`t give you my name", anonymous Border Patrol official who was asked to brief the press about this today, he or she said in response, quote: We`re not running low on those things.  Those things are available now and they have been continuously.  Those items are available now.  We`ve used our own funding to buy those things.

Plenty of soap.  Plenty of toothbrushes.  Plenty of food. 

But, really, apparently, it`s not about money.  I mean, Trump`s Border Patrol is happy to say, is happy to tell reporters today that they have all the money to buy those basic supplies.  Hygiene items, food, clean clothes, all of it.  That`s all been taken care of. 

So, then, why are these kids allegedly living right now under their care in these horrific conditions with none of those things? 

The other explanation from the Trump administration as to why this is happening is that they just don`t have the capacity to hold these kids in conditions that are any way more decent.  They just have to hold them in conditions like this because there`s too many of them and there`s no space, there`s nowhere to move them to.  What has never made sense about that from the very beginning is there`s no reason they have to be holding these kids at all, of course. 

I mean, remember, the lawyers visiting these facilities say plenty of these kids, they`re interviewing these kids, what they find immediately is that these kids have family members in the U.S. or they cross the border with family members from whom they do not need to be separated, but apparently, the Trump administration has decided they will separate these kids anyway and then they will make little to no effort to contact these kids` relatives. 

I mean, remember the little girl who had been separated from her aunt, was with her aunt, right?  She got a permanent marker and a bracelet on her wrist with a U.S. parent`s phone number, right?  The lawyers do what you would do in the situation like that as a human. 

They called the parent who was in fact in the United States.  The parent had no idea where that little girl was.  Nobody had ever called.  It took that happenstance interaction with a lawyer who thought to do that because the Trump administration is not bothering.  They are just taking the kids away from adult family members and then they`ll figure it out. 

Remember, the lawyers who say they found almost no kids who had come across the border unaccompanied.  These kids are being separated from family members and the Trump administration keeps saying, you know, we have nothing we can do with these kids.  One of the things you could do is call their freaking relatives in the United States because they have freaking relatives in the United States. 

If these kids were released to their family members in the United States which used to be the policy for how these things were handled -- well, then those kids could be released to their U.S. relatives and the care and housing and feeding of these kids would come at zero cost to the United States, but instead the Trump administration has decided they`re going to keep these kids instead, and that is what this boils down to. 

And honestly, that`s happening right now in particular because that is what President Trump wants to run for re-election.  It`s not like this is an accidental policy.  It`s not like this is an unintended outcome.  This is his platform for the re-elect. 

Joining us now is Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, Democrat of New Mexico. 

Congressman, thank you very much for being with us.  I know it`s a busy night with lots of votes tonight. 

REP. BEN RAJ LUJAN (D-NM):  Rachel, thanks for having me tonight. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask about, a lot has happened.  Just in the past 24 hours, a lot has happened with regard to the Border Patrol and the Trump administration and attempts at accountability for the way these kids are being treated on the border. 

Can you give us any up-to-date understanding in terms of what Congress is trying to do to stop this behavior by the administration or to hold anybody accountable for it? 

LUJAN:  Well, first, Rachel, there should be no question that the Trump administration, as has been reported, appears to be intentionally mistreating these kids, separating them and putting them in the most inhumane conditions.  And what Congress is doing right now under Democratic leadership with Speaker Pelosi at the helm is making sure that we`re passing an initiative to direct more funding with guardrails so that we`re able to get food, supplies, sanitary items, blankets, making sure that there`s health care provided for these kids and for these families as well and ensuring that there`s going to be humane treatment of these children. 

But make no mistake.  I travelled personally with other members of Congress to some of these facilities.  These kids were in cages, sleeping on floors, foil blankets, overcrowded cells where they were sharing one open latrine, one open toilet.  For families making coverings however they could with their bodies shielding so people could use the restroom with no dignity. 

It`s an absolute shame.  Shame on the Trump administration for doing this. 

MADDOW:  We`ve learned that as the Democratic candidates are convening in Miami, a number of them have been making an issue while they`re taking this trip here, making an issue of the conditions in one facility that`s not far from Miami.  It`s in Homestead, Florida.  Beto O`Rourke, Jay Inslee have gone or going. 

Elizabeth Warren said tonight that she is going to Homestead migrant detention facility tomorrow, ahead of tomorrow night`s debate in which she will appearing.  She told a crowd in Miami tonight they should come with her on that trip. 

Do you think it makes a difference for you to do these congressional visits like the one you just described for these presidential candidates to show up, to bring people with them?  I feel like the more this stuff gets exposed, the more dug in the Trump administration gets on the idea that they actually think this is the way this ought to be done. 

LUJAN:  Rachel, I would say it`s absolutely imperative that more members of Congress visit these facilities.  As a matter of fact, the legislation that we`re voting on in just a few minutes has language that allows members of Congress to do spot visits at these facilities without having to be prior approved. 

Look at just Clint, Texas.  A member of Congress tried showing up to that facility where they took 300 kids out and they wouldn`t let her in.  And then she went back the next day, there were no children.  Now, we`re finding out those children are being sent back there. 

So it`s absolutely imperative that members of Congress continue to show up and that`s why we need to pass this language that cannot prevent members of Congress from being able to go into those facilities to inspect them themselves. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, thank you so much for joining us tonight from Washington.  Much appreciate your time, sir.  Thank you. 

LUJAN:  Thanks for having me. 

MADDOW:  As I mentioned and as the congressman mentioned, there are votes happening right now in the House that includes Democrat essentially trying to constrain the Trump administration in terms of the way they are able to treat kids in border patrol custody and in other migrant custody. 

House Democrats are going to put those conditions in the funding bill that they are passing tonight.  Obviously the Republican-controlled Senate will not agree, but a fight will then be on as to whether or not the money for those agencies will come with those kinds of strings.  That`s part of what is going on in Washington tonight. 

Another thing going on in Washington has broken actually sin we started the show in the past few minutes.  It is about Robert Mueller and late breaking news right now that he is being subpoenaed to testify before Congress. 

This is something that we thought might be coming.  We thought it might be coming from before Mueller turned in his report.  We have thought that that might be where it ended up once we saw his redacted report and the way it`s been handled by the Justice Department.  Once we saw comments from Mueller himself about whether or not he intended to speak to Congress. 

We are getting word tonight that Mueller is being subpoenaed.  We have just arranged for Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, to join us live next to tell us what exactly is happening with that big development.  But that story is just breaking and Congressman Schiff will be here with us when we come back after this break. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We have some breaking news tonight.  Special counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify to Congress in an open session on Wednesday, July 17th.  This is big news. 

Word broke just a few minutes ago in a joint statement from the chairman of the House Intelligence and House Judiciary Committees, Congressman Adam Schiff of California and Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York.  This is their statement which they`ve just released, and I`ll tell you just been handed to me so I am reading this as you are. 

Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and House Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced special counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify per opportunity to a subpoena before the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee in open session on Wednesday, July 17th. 

In announcing the testimony, Nadler and Schiff hereby release this joint statement: Pursuant to subpoenas issued by the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees today, the special counsel has agreed to testify before both committees in open session on July 17th.

Quote: Americans have demanded to hear directly from the special counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered and determined about Russia`s attack on our democracy.  The Trump campaign`s acceptance and use of that help and President Trump and his associates obstruction into that attack.  We look forward to hearing his testimony, as do all American.

They`ve attached a letter to Robert Mueller which accompanies the actual subpoena, which we also have now.  The subpoena commands Robert Mueller to appear on July -- excuse me, July 17th to testify. 

The letter that`s attached to that subpoena says: Dear special counsel Mueller, attached please find subpoenas from the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee to compel your testimony on July 17th.  Over the course of discussions about your appearance before Congress, we`ve consistently communicated our committee`s intention to issue these subpoenas if necessary and we now understand it is necessary to do so.  

I wonder what that means. 

Quote: We further understand that there are certain sensitivities associated with our open testimony, and particularly the special counsel`s office referred several criminal investigations to other offices at the Justice Department and certain matters are ongoing.  Your office, moreover, admirably limited public comment while the special counsel`s office work was ongoing.  You also explained you prefer for the special counsel`s office`s written work to speak for himself.

Nevertheless, they conclude: the American public deserves to hear directly from you about your investigation and conclusions.  We will work with you to address legitimate concerns about preserving the integrity of your work, but we expect you will join before our committees as scheduled.

Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. 

Sir, I really appreciate you taking time to join us in the wake of this big news. 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  You bet.  Good to be with you. 

MADDOW:  So let me ask first about this phrasing and the letter that you have sent tonight to special counsel Mueller. 

We consistently communicated our committees` intentions to issue these subpoenas if necessary and we now understand it is necessary to do so. 

Should we see this as a friendly subpoena that Robert Mueller believed had to be issued before he could accept an invitation to testify? 

SCHIFF:  I don`t think the special counsel`s office would characterize it as a friendly subpoena.  He did not want to testify.  He made that very clear. 

And nonetheless, they will respect the subpoena.  He will appear.  He`ll be testifying before our committee in open session. 

Each of our members will have an opportunity to ask questions of the special counsel.  And the American people get a chance to hear directly from him and have their questions answered.  So I think it`s a good result. 

July 17th is the date we expect him to appear.  There will be also a closed session in our committee following his testimony in which we`ll be able to ask questions of his staff that may not be suitable for open session. 

MADDOW:  So the open session testimony you said will be for both committees.  Will the members of the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee sit concurrently for that testimony or will those be sequential hearings with each committee in turn? 

SCHIFF:  They`ll be sequential hearings on the same day. 

MADDOW:  OK. 

SCHIFF:  Followed by private discussions or private testimony in executive session with his staff, but the open portions of the hearing will be back to back in the two committees. 

MADDOW:  The closed session that will happen with your committee following those of sessions, you mentioned that will be Mueller`s staff.  Will that be Mueller as well in addition to his staff and can you tell us who from his staff is expected to testify at that session? 

SCHIFF:  His testimony will be purely in open session.  So all the questions we have for him, we expect to ask in open session.  In terms of which of his staff, I can`t go into those particulars at this point, but there are any number of areas that may involve redacted material or may involve a pending case where it`s appropriate to ask those questions in closed session. 

But our predominant interest is being able to shed light on this investigation for the American people in open session with Bob Mueller himself.  And that`s going to be the predominant focus of our time with his team. 

MADDOW:  You mentioned that Mueller`s office would not see this as a friendly subpoena, that he did not want to testify.  Is that also true of his staff and will they be testifying under subpoena or are those appearances voluntary? 

SCHIFF:  I don`t think either he or he staff are eager to come before the Congress.  I think they are doing so because they`re going to honor the subpoena that we`ve issued.  In terms of whether there is a separate required subpoena, I can`t comment on that in terms of his staff, but, you know, clearly this is something I think from his perspective as a prosecutor, he`s reluctant to come, as a prosecutor ordinarily would be. 

But as Bob Mueller was the first to point out in his own report, he did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.  He did refer this matter to Congress.  We have taken it up in our referral and it`s fully appropriate in our view that we have an opportunity to flesh out what the Russians did, how they did it, what the role of the Trump campaign personnel campaign were, what were the counterintelligence issues, what was the process used to handle the counterintelligence concerns, where are the findings -- all of these questions and a great many more the American people should have the opportunity to pose through their representatives to Mueller himself. 

We never felt it was sufficient to rely simply on a written report or a 10- minute statement without the ability to follow up with questions. 

MADDOW:  Because we the public have had so little visibility into the way that Mueller works and how he and his team have approached their duties, and obviously there`s been a lot of controversy over the way they chose to approach their investigation to present their finds.  I think it`s always been a little bit fuzzy for us outside this process to understand why it is that Mr. Mueller does not want to testify, why he is resistant to speaking at all, as he put it, beyond the four corners of the report that he and his staff put out in writing.  Can you shed any light on that for us and tell us what these negotiations have been like?

I`ve seen you express dissatisfaction or impatience or frustration that it`s taken this long to arrange his testimony. 

SCHIFF:  Well, you know, I will let the special counsel speak for himself and their office speak for themselves, but I think that what they have represented to us is that they view themselves as prosecutors, and prosecutors don`t normally talk outside of the trial or outside of the indictment.

But let`s face it, this is not a traditional prosecutorial case.  And what`s more, Bill Barr has felt more than free as the attorney general to speak well beyond the Mueller report, and if he is able to speak beyond the four corners of the Mueller report, then so too should Bob Mueller feel free so to do so. 

So we have never concurred with that judgment, but I think that`s where they`re coming from.  Yes, it was frustrating that it took so long because it seemed like such an obvious step from my own point of view.  If you`re going to accept the role of special counsel in one of the most significant investigations in modern history, you`re going to have to expect that you`re going to be asked to come and testify before Congress. 

So the only surprise to me is that it`s taken so long, but nonetheless, we`re grateful we have finally reached a resolution and the American people will have an opportunity to hear directly from the man who led this team for almost two years. 

MADDOW:  Congressman, I know that you have to go vote, and I have to let you go.  I want to ask you one question before I let you go. 

SCHIFF:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  I`m sorry.  Cut me off if you need to. 

But can you let us know in terms of the questioning and the preparation for having Robert Mueller before you.  I`m thinking particularly of that open session.  Do you expect that all of the questioning will be done by you and your members on the Intelligence Committee or will this be something where professional staff from the committee are involved in the questioning? 

We`ve obviously seen in every big controversial congressional investigation all the way back to Watergate, some of the most effective questioning is sometimes done not by elected members but by professional staff.  Will that be part of the way that you approach this with Mueller? 

SCHIFF:  You know, we`re going to sit down as a committee and have this discussion.  We have in our discussions with the special counsel arranged so that we`ll have sufficient time that if we go through the traditional format, every member will be able to ask questions.  We may choose to allocate the time among the members differently than that. 

And it`s true that when we have interviewed fact witnesses, and we just conducted the interviews within the last week with a fact witness, we have often staff-led interviews that go on for a period of time where we will ask questions for an hour then the other side will ask questions for an hour.  We`ll have to determine whether -- because this is not a fact witness, per se, whether we will use the traditional approach or we`ll use the approach where we concentrate time among fewer members. 

I think that given the profile of this testimony, it`s more likely to be member questions than staff, but we`re going to be convening among ourselves to determine the best method to approach this hearing. 

MADDOW:  Just going to be an incredibly important moment for the country.  I don`t envy you, the job of prepping for it, sir, but I hope you`ll keep us apprised as we get closer to the date.  Thank you for helping us understand tonight.

SCHIFF:  You bet.

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  Really appreciate it, sir. 

He`s got to leave because he`s got to go vote and I think I held him long.  Sorry.  But he`s on his way to make that vote and I hope that he does. 

But, again, this is -- this is an important step.  This is what the American people have been waiting for since the Mueller report was released to us in the form that we got, which is sort of an explanation of what`s in that report, and I think in particular, of why the special counsel and his staff approached the Russia investigation the way that they did. 

It has not been long.  It`s been since mid-April since we got the -- we got the mostly unredacted version of the Mueller report released to the public.  But, again, the breaking news tonight is that between the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee in the House, they have now subpoenaed Robert Mueller`s testimony and he has agreed to testify. 

As Congressman Schiff just told us, the special counsel`s office would not look upon this as a friendly subpoena.  This is not one of those things where you sometimes hear in these congressional negotiations a witness or an entity that`s been called to testify or hand over documents said, I`m super happy to do it, but just for my own, you know, CYA purposes or just because of my own professional responsibilities or just so I can explain this to some other people for some other way, please give me a subpoena but I`ll be fine, I`ll definitely show up. 

This does not appear to be that type of negotiation.  He said this has not been -- this will not be viewed as a friendly subpoena by the special counsel`s office but they do expect it to be honored. 

Now, of course, the White House has blocked lots of fact witnesses, lots of Trump administration witnesses who play key roles in Mueller`s report from being allowed to testify to congress.  Whether or not the White House will try to block Mueller from testifying in response to this subpoena remains to be seen, but as of now, it appears they do have a date -- 9:00 a.m., Wednesday, July 17th. 

Cancel your plans. 

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Breaking news just within the last few minutes. 

Quote: Pursuant to subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, tonight, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has agreed to testify before both committees on July 17th in open session.

We knew this -- well, for awhile we knew this day would come then we wondered if this day would come.  Now at least we`ve got a schedule for whether or not this day is going to come. 

Joining us by phone is the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, the great Barb McQuade.

Barb, thanks for joining us on short notice.  I really appreciate you`re getting on the phone with us. 

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY (via telephone):  Oh, thanks, Rachel.  Wouldn`t want to miss this news. 

MADDOW:  Well, yes, it is -- I mean, to me, this feels like big news.  Let me just ask your top line reaction hearing this for the first time. 

MCQUADE:  Well, I`m not being sarcastic.  I think it`s really big news. 

I think that -- sort of accepted that maybe the committee had moved on, that Robert Mueller gave his statement where he made it clear that he didn`t want to speak and that he wouldn`t have anything to say beyond what`s in his report and that people were going to let that lie, and so I do think it`s big news that he`s going to speak because I think that his testimony will put a spotlight on what`s in his report in a way that the mere words has not permeated, you know, the public consciousness. 

MADDOW:  You know, and I want to ask you what you think about what Mueller should be asked.  I`m going to ask you that in just a minute. 

But to that point about how long it took to get here and how important it is that we got here, striking that the Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff just told me that we shouldn`t understand this as a friendly subpoena to Mueller.  Make no mistake about it.  He did not want to testify. 

This letter from Nadler and Schiff makes clear that there were definitely difficult negotiations here.  Over the course of discussions about your appearance before Congress, we`ve communicated our intention to issue she`s subpoenas if necessary.  We now understand it`s necessary to do so.  We further understand there are certain sensitivities associated with your open testimony, in particular several criminal investigations in certain matters that are ongoing. 

Does it strike you as important that Mueller was so resistant to this and that ultimately this subpoena was what it took to compel him to do this rather than him agreeing to it voluntarily? 

MCQUADE:  Yes, you know, I can`t really get into his head.  He`s obviously an experienced person with testifying on Capitol Hill, so I don`t think he is in any way intimidated by it.  But, you know, as a prosecutor, I sometimes participated in press conferences to announce charges.  You sometimes will get questions and there`s a lot of challenge in making sure that you are saying only what`s in the four corners of the charging document, not disclosing things that are classified or, you know, that relates to ongoing investigations. 

There is also in this case the additional political football aspect of it all, and I think Robert Mueller is very resistant to being a political pawn, and I`m sure to some extent he will be made one.  So for all of those reasons I can understand his reluctance. 

MADDOW:  When it comes to matters that are ongoing criminal investigations, obviously, Chairman Schiff took pains to point out that there is going to be open session testimony but it`s going to be followed by testimony in closed session that will involve Mueller`s staff.  Even at that closed session where members are used to hearing classified information and all sorts of sensitive stuff, those Justice Department staffers, those special counsel`s office staffers, even in closed session they won`t be able to talk to members of Congress about ongoing open criminal matters, will they? 

MCQUADE:  I don`t think so.  Typically not.  Some of the things for which the Department of Justice will typically invoke privilege, you know, or narrowly they`re supposed to disclose and be transparent but there are a few areas of sensitivity.  Grand jury material is one and another is ongoing criminal matters.  They wouldn`t want to say anything that might jeopardize the success of those investigations. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Even behind closed doors.  Yes. 

MCQUADE:  There is always the chance that someone will disclose something that happened that can harm --

MADDOW:  Let me just ask you bluntly.  I know you`ve read the whole Mueller report, as have I, and we`ve all been sort of marinating in it since it first came out.  What springs to your mind immediately what Mueller should be asked in this setting that was mandated by the subpoena and described to us by the chairman. 

MCQUADE:  Well, first I would want to know, did you really intend to leave it to Attorney General William Barr to make a decision when you declined to make a prosecutorial decision?  William Barr says, well, that leaves it to me and I decide no obstruction.  Was that your intention?  I would ask that, number one. 

Number two, I would ask him about you didn`t make a decision with regard to obstruction but you treated it very differently than conspiracy.  You said the evidence does not establish conspiracy.  With obstruction you said something very different, you said, we do not charge the president but we also do not exonerate him.  What do you mean by that?  Is that because there was evidence of crime here and you didn`t feel it was fair to say it out loud? 

And the last thing I would say, with regard to conspiracy, at one point in the report he identifies gaps in the evidence from witnesses who lied, witnesses who gave incomplete information, witnesses who deleted communications and used encrypted apps.  What were some of the -- you`re unable to answer for yourself because of that obstructive activity.  I`d want to know that because that could be avenues for Congress to follow up on in its own investigation. 

MADDOW:  Right.  Exactly, because part of what you`re going to want to know here is what Mueller wasn`t able to find if there is an opportunity for anybody to find it. 

Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in the great state of Michigan, Barb, thanks again for joining us on short notice tonight, as we handle this breaking news.  I really appreciate it. 

MCQUADE:  You bet, Rachel.  My pleasure.  Thanks. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Again, the bottom line here is that Robert Mueller has agreed to testify after receiving a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.  That testimony due to start in open session 9:00 a.m., Wednesday, July 17th.  That will be a sequential set of testimony in one committee and then the and other then his staff in closed session with the intel committee members.  Fascinating. 

Stay with us.  More ahead tonight. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  One of those nights I had a whole other show planned.  But these things -- these things happen.  Again, we`re covering the breaking news tonight that a subpoena -- actually I believe it may be two subpoenas.  Have been sent to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. 

The reason I think it`s multiple subpoenas is because of the way that a press release is phrased from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. 

Their joint statement tonight says, pursuant to subpoenas issued by house judiciary and house intelligence, special counsel Mueller has agreed to testify before both committees.  We have only seen one of the subpoenas before.  We`ve seen a subpoena in which Mueller appears to be, Mueller is commanded to appear before the committee.  Now, we know from talking to Congressman Schiff that Mueller`s agreement is that he will testify at each committee, at judiciary and at intelligence. 

And interestingly after open session testimony from Mueller himself before the intelligence committee, Chairman Schiff says there will then be a closed session, but as far as I understand what he told me and, again, we just got this information live from here on the air.  I`m prepared to be wrong if I misunderstood him, but what I believe he explained is that Mueller himself will not be the witness, will not be continuing to give testimony once they go into that closed-door session.  Mueller will only speak in the open session.  So that closed-door session will be members of the intelligence committee along with members of the Mueller`s staff. 

Now, I pressed Schiff to find out whether or not he would give us the names of the specific staff members from Mueller`s team who might be participated in that closed-door session with the Intelligence Committee members.  Obviously that`s of interest because we don`t know, for one, if there have been divisions among Mueller`s team.  Also because it would be interesting to know which of those members of his team is going to be there, in part because we`ve come to learn a little bit over the weeks and I guess months now about what each of the members of his team focused on, both in terms of the expertise that they brought to the investigation and what they actually worked on in there. 

What remains I think for the American public is probably the biggest question about Mueller`s investigation, is what happened to the counterintelligence part of it?  We know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation specifically into the counterintelligence implications, the counterintelligence equities at risk from potential improper contact between the president-elect`s campaign, the -- the president`s campaign, his time as president-elect and his time in the White House. 

Obviously, that`s, you know, that`s the big kahuna.  That`s the big question at the heart of the all of this.  Obstruction of justice ends up becoming a very important potentially criminal part of it once the investigation is under way, but what the investigation started as was this base level question of whether or not the president of the United States might be acting on behalf of a foreign power, wittingly or perhaps unwittingly if he was being manipulated by that foreign power, by some sort of contact between him and the Russian government that we didn`t understand. 

The resolution of that counterintelligence investigation is never addressed in Mueller`s report.  We believe that that -- that that intelligence investigation was taken over by Mueller`s team.  We think.  Once he started the special counsel`s investigation.  But there is really -- you can find hide more hair of it in his written port. 

So we know that Mueller has said publicly that he will not comment publicly on anything that is outside the bound of that report.  Well, outside the bounds of what`s in that report is the central smoking counterintelligence question that gave rise to this entire scandal and the national concern over it. 

If other members of his team behind closed doors will be able to speak to those parts of the investigation, even if they weren`t in the report, that`s a matter of significant, I think, public interest and a really key part of the question of accountability for this administration and for the investigators who launched that and then publicly announced that that`s what they had done. 

So, again, we are absorbing this information.  The testimony is planned for Wednesday, July 17th, 9:00 a.m.  Two open sessions followed by a close session with Mueller`s staff. 

We`ll have more right after this.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  All right.  Here`s the skinny.  Mueller`s subpoena to testify or no Mueller subpoena to testify, over the next two nights, over the next 48 hours, NBC and MSNBC and Telemundo are going to host the first debate of the 2020 presidential race.  It is on. 

Twenty Democratic candidates will be taking the stage here in Miami.  As you know, it`s 10 candidates the first night, then 10 different candidates the second night.  The lineup from night to night was chosen randomly.  We`ve got 10 on night one, 10 on night two. 

You need to start watching debate coverage at 7:00 p.m. Eastern at the latest, OK? 

Our MSNBC special coverage starts tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern with Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace.  Because MSNBC is one of the hosts of this debate, they`re going to have the kind of access and information and footage that nobody else is going to have, so you need to start with Brian and Nicolle here at 7:00 Eastern at the latest. 

And then at 9:00 sharp, from 9:00 to 10:00 Eastern, the candidates will square off in the first hour with Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Jose Diaz-Balart moderating.  And then from 10:00 to 11:00, for the second hour of the debate, Savannah and Jose are going to tag out and Chuck Todd and I will tag in to moderate the second hour of the debate. 

It`s going to be a very big deal.  I am absolutely terrified.  You will not want to miss it.  I will see you there. 

That does it for us tonight. 

Now, it`s 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