NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: So those investigations will continue and indeed must continue because Mueller`s mandate was so limited, just focusing on Russia, not on the broader set of questions.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general of the United States. Neal, it`s an honor to have you in the NBC and MSNBC family and a real pleasure to have you here tonight. Thank you.
KATYAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. I want to thank everybody for being with us tonight. We will see you again the next time something like this happens, which could be any minute. I will say, this is a historic -- this is a historic landmark moment in the Mueller investigation. At this point what now will happen is a whole new fight and a whole new waiting game in terms figuring out what exactly Mueller determined.
But to have the investigation come to a close, to have there be a document produced that says what happened now puts us on a totally different front in terms of what we are as citizens able to know about what we`ve just been through as a democracy.
Just a remarkable time to be working in the news business. It is an honor to be here. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And it is an honor to be here, even though both of us planned not to be here tonight. I know - - I heard on T.V. tonight that you were actually in a river fishing when you got the word that --
O`DONNELL: -- got to get to work. I woke up in a boat thousands of miles southeast of Miami. A couple of airplanes get me to Miami tonight just in time for this. And this is the night that we really have to be here. I find the attorney general`s letter is so fascinating because you really can analyze it paragraph by paragraph, almost word by word. It`s just filled with possibility.
MADDOW: Yes. And this is, I mean, the reason that it is worth for us both to have stopped doing what we`re doing and there`s a reason that God doesn`t want us to go on vacation and we`re hearing those words, I get it.
MADDOW: But, you know, the reason it`s worth doing something like this is because this isn`t something is over and let`s reflect on what just happened. We still don`t know what Mueller found and now starts a whole new chapter of the Trump era in American life, a whole new era of the scandal, a whole new era of in fact the Mueller era in which we now see how it`s going to be determined.
Not only whether Congress gets access to this information but whether the American people get access to this information and then what becomes of it once we`ve learned the whole story as Mueller puts it. And this is just -- I mean, in some way it feels like the end of something we were waiting for but feels like day one of this whole new thing we get to start covering now for who knows how long.
O`DONNELL: And Rachel, I`m staying within walking distance of a studio this weekend because the words "this weekend" appear in the attorney general`s letter. So, there could be more and significant news on this tomorrow.
MADDOW: That`s exactly right. I am, however, going back to fishing again.
O`DONNELL: Go to it, Rachel. Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right.
O`DONNEL: Well, on this day in presidential history, March 22nd, 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the outlawing of polygamy. On March 22nd, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation -- the legalization, I should say, legalization of wine and beer as the first step in ending prohibition.
And on March 22nd, 2019, Robert Mueller signed his report and sent it to the Trump administration, Attorney General William Barr. Attorney General Barr got the Mueller report around 4:00 p.m. today and at 5:00 p.m. the attorney general delivered a letter to Congress saying he was in possession of the Mueller report and alerting Congress that they might have important work to do this weekend.
The attorney general`s letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees said, "I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel`s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend." So, stand by. Stand by tomorrow. MSNBC will be covering this tomorrow. Stand by Sunday. At any moment now, over the course of this weekend, we could be learning more.
The attorney general`s letter also said, "I intend to consult with the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations and the department`s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review."
The attorney general`s letter was short. It was only one page. Here it is. But each paragraph has something important in it. The first paragraph contains important information that the attorney general is required to report to Congress.
It says, "The special counsel regulations require that I provide you with a description and explanation with instances if any in which the attorney general or acting attorney general concluded that a proposed action by a special counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental practices that it should not be pursued. There were no such instances during the special counsel`s investigation."
The attorney general`s letter repeatedly cites the Justice Department regulations on special counsels and so there is no one better equipped to guide us through those regulations than one of the authors of the special counsel regulations, Neal Katyal, who will lead off our discussion here tonight.
Neal Katyal is a former acting U.S. solicitor general. And he is an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst. And to take us through the minute-by-minute drama as it played out in Washington late this afternoon after the Mueller report was hand-delivered to the attorney general, we have Julia Ainsley, national security and justice reporter for NBC News. Julia actually just left a restaurant in Washington where Robert Mueller just had dinner tonight.
JULIA AINSLEY, JUSTICE REPORTER, NBC NEWS: That`s true.
O`DONNELL: We`ll see what she has to report about that in a minute. And no one knows more about investigating a president than former assistant Watergate special prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks, who was part of the investigative team that delivered the proof of impeachable offenses that convinced President Nixon to resign the presidency instead of trying to defend himself in an impeachment trial.
And finally and luckily, we are joined by the hardest-working person on this network today, Ari Melber, MSNBC`s chief legal correspondent and the host of his own hour, "The Beat" at 6:00 p.m. on MSNBC. Ari, let me just start with you. You`ve been on this since the story broke.
I stepped off an airplane in Miami to look up to see Julia in the frame on MSNBC having just found out on my phone that the report had been delivered, and then Ari Melber of course joins us with his analysis of what there is and is not in this attorney general`s letter as we see it at this stage.
And Ari, having been -- you`ve been covering this almost every hour since then. As you reflect on it at the close of this historic day of coverage and this historic night, what do you take from the attorney general`s letter that guides us on what to look for next?
ARI MELBER, CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC NEWS: As you were reporting, Lawrence, I take number one, he says that Bob Mueller was never overruled. So we take that to be the assertion of the DOJ. And if Bob Mueller has a disagreement about that characterization, I bet you we`ll find out about it.
And number two, as you say, Barr has now teased more news this weekend. He set that deadline himself and everyone`s been waiting for this. So I would expect him to make good in some way on some sort of update by Sunday night given that he knows what he has and he chose to announce that.
And number three, perhaps most interestingly, what he did not have to do but what he chose to do. Barr says he will continue to consult with Bob Mueller, who now as of tonight is no longer the special counsel, who has ended the probe, but he will continue to consult with him on revealing things that go beyond this weekend, that go beyond just the list of people who may have been indicted or investigated but not indicted.
And that`s where the fight is. That`s where the information is. And it`s very, very striking that Barr is doing that, either because he really does want to finish this out the right way and believes Bob Mueller can help him do that with integrity.
Or perhaps because alternatively he knows that Bob Mueller has a huge ace in the hole where he can always go and testify to the Democrats in the house side if there are any issues that he thinks still should be publicly aired and Barr, the smart attorney general and litigator that he is, wants to keep Mueller in the fold.
O`DONNELL: And Neal, I want to go to these regulations, Justice Department regulations as well as special counsel regulations. And to that first paragraph in the attorney general`s letter where it says that the special counsel did not propose anything that "was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental progress -- practices that it should not be pursued."
There were no such instances during the special counsel`s investigation. Now, there are many possibilities I think with that line. Isn`t it possible that the special prosecutor -- one of the things the special prosecutor did not propose was indicting the president even though evidence existed for indicting the president, for example, in the Southern District of New York in the Michael Cohen case and he did not propose that because it would be so inappropriate and unwarranted under the established department practices.
KATYAL: Right. It`s certainly possible, Lawrence, that that`s what happened, but we don`t know. All we know is this one-page letter. We`ll obviously find more out in the weeks to come. But that is just not something we know right now. Now, I do think we should take some heart from that letter in the Barr -- line in the Barr letter because that does really show kind of the central concern we had when we were writing the special counsel regulations, was fear of a government cover-up.
Because in our constitutional system, the president controls the prosecution power 100 percent. And the special counsel regulations were written to say OK, we get that, the president and the attorney general might be able to interfere with an investigation in some way, but if they do so, gosh darn, it. You`ve got to report it to Congress.
And here, the Barr letter says you know, that there was no interference by either himself or by his predecessors as acting attorney general. That is a remarkably important thing and something that we should celebrate in our democracy. In many other countries such a thing wouldn`t have been possible.
O`DONNELL: And Neal, I read your tweet after this, the news broke today, that you were racing to an MSNBC studio. And when I read that, I was hoping you`d be able to stay around till at least 10:00 because like Ari, you`re one of our MVPs on this. And I want to go to the last paragraph, Neal, on the attorney general`s letter where he`s talking about the letter itself, the notification to Congress. The letter itself and how that is governed by certain regulations.
And he says, "The special counsel regulations provide that the attorney general may determine that public release of this notification would be in the public interest. I have so determined and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you." That seems to be a very positive element of this letter too, Neal. Here`s the attorney general`s first decision about public disclosure, and he fully discloses the letter.
KATYAL: Absolutely. I`m heartened by that. I`m heartened by what the attorney general said at his confirmation hearing about transparency. I`m even, Lawrence, heartened by what Donald Trump said this week about how the Mueller report should be public.
And let me say that if it`s not public, if this really important document which goes to one of the central core questions we face as Americans, whether our leader is compromised in some way, if that`s not public because Barr or President Trump changes their mind and tries to hide that from the American people, that does seem to me really tantamount to a declaration of war on our American democracy because we cannot function as a society if we do not know whether our leaders are compromised.
That is a report our taxpayers have paid for and gosh darn it, they should see it.
O`DONNELL: And Julia, you were there at the Justice Department today as all of this was unfolding. Give us the tick-tock, what you know about what happened, when, and where it happened.
AINSLEY: Well, for me I was in the dark until right up until 5:00 when this news came down, ran to the camera. But now I have the behind the scenes of what was going on while the reporters were in the dark. We know that the Attorney General William Barr got this report, hand-delivered to him from the Special Counsel`s office sometime early afternoon before 4:00.
And then at 4:30, his chief of staff called over -- actually sorry, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called Mueller, thanked him for his service, and then Barr`s chief of staff called Emmet Flood at the White House to go ahead and give the White House a heads-up. That was something we were wondering about.
They had about a half hour notice before Congress -- before the public to know what was in this letter. And as we understand, the letter was read to the White House so they knew what to expect. Then we all start to get into our positions. And at 5:00, the Justice Department and their congressional liaison`s office went out and basically dispersed a team on the Hill so the appropriate committees all got this letter handed to them at the exact same time.
At that point, we ran out, we had this letter, we reported it, and as of 7:00 p.m. tonight, the attorney general was just finishing up his day and leaving and he had been reading and reviewing that. So, the next tick-tock will be what happens this weekend because our jobs are not done tonight.
O`DONNELL: Okay, Julia. Now quickly, to the small town that you live in called Washington, D.C. somehow you found yourself in the same restaurant that Robert Mueller chose on the day when his burden was lightened rather dramatically. Tell us about that.
AINSLEY: Yes, I think there`s something cosmic going on tonight, Lawrence. I can`t explain it, but I mean, and it`s also the same seat. I think that was really strange to me, so.
O`DONNELL: Okay. Wait, wait. You ended up taking the same table that Robert Mueller had and literally the same seat?
AINSLEY: Literally. I was just walking toward the back of the restaurant, I guess. I like a booth and maybe Robert Mueller likes a booth to sit in too. You can have a more private conversation. Seeing my husband for the first time in about three days, an hour of catching up with him and we sit down and the waiter said oh, do you know who just left this exact seat? That would be Robert Mueller.
I won`t disclose the restaurant because I think it`s a place he likes to frequent and we should absolutely respect his privacy. But it was amazing. And then the feedback on twitter was great. People asking me if maybe he had dropped a document or a tape or thumb drive somewhere.
O`DONNELL: Well, Julia, another point here, is Robert Mueller known to do Friday night restaurants or is this -- do we know whether this is unusual for him given the job he`s had for the last almost two years and that this might have been one of those moments where he finally gets to relax?
AINSLEY: That`s a good question. What we know about Robert Mueller is he has a pretty strong wall between his private life and his professional life. I do know that he has gone to this restaurant before and I think that he goes with people who would put him in the friend group, not people he works with, other prosecutors.
I think he`s someone who has routine and so this is part of that routine. I don`t think he was, you know, letting it loose tonight like everything is over. But you know, certainly it must be a relief for him. And he was eating dinner so he was finished with his day long before we were finished with ours, Lawrence, so I think there must be some relief for him and his wife tonight.
O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks, on days like this, as soon as news breaks, I`m always wondering what is Jill thinking. What is Jill thinking? You`re the person on this panel who has been through something like this, been through it on the inside, major investigation of the president, the only investigation of a president that has actually driven the president from office in the Richard Nixon case.
Your reaction to where you think we stand tonight, what you read in the attorney general`s letter today about where we will be next week and the weeks to come.
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTION: Well, I focused in the letter on the paragraph that said that there was other information that the attorney general would consult with Mueller on. So that means that there is much more than just some tight conclusions, that there may be some very big information.
We don`t know of course whether this report says that the president is guilty, but we can`t indict him because of office of legal counsel policy. We know that it`s likely that he did not ask for permission to indict because that would have no doubt been refused and so there would have been a disagreement that would have had to be reportable.
But the report could also say we found no evidence either because witnesses were so uncooperative that we just ran up against a stonewall much like we ran up against in the Watergate case until basically the American public rose in total disregard of the president and said you have to cooperate.
And that`s what led to the release of the first tapes, which were the beginning of the end for the president. And so it`s hard to say whether the stonewalling of witnesses has had an impact that has led to no final conclusion. But I think the most important thing I thought about was the role of the Congress and the role of a prosecutor.
As prosecutors, we were looking at was there a violation with proof beyond a reasonable doubt of elements of a crime that existed, of a statute that spelled out what it is. What Congress is looking at and should be looking at is, number one, is the president doing something that is impeachable, which is not necessarily a crime but which threatens democracy, which threatens national security.
But also they should be looking at are there laws that should exist that don`t. Is there a gap in the coverage of our laws that needs to be filled by this Congress? And they should also be looking at the known crime of interference in our election by the Russians and what steps congress can take to protect the next election. And I don`t think they`ve done that, either of those things.
O`DONNELL: Jill, you have teed it up for Congress and Congress is with us tonight in the person of Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. Congressman Cohen is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the impeachment process.
And Congressman Cohen, to what Jill Wine-Banks just said, what do you see as the distinction between your obligations on the judiciary committee and Robert Mueller`s obligations as a federal prosecutor?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: Well, Jill was exactly right. Robert Mueller was limited to Russian involvement in our election. We are not limited to that. And we could have laws that we see that need to be passed concerning interference in our elections, concerning gaps in the law with campaigns and with administrations and possibly with inaugural committees.
There`s all kind of things that could be seen that are without prohibition that should be in our laws. And we need to know the facts. The American public needs to know the facts. We`ll get, I think, a goodly share from what Mr. Mueller gives us and Mr. Barr allows us and if we get the whole report it would be better. But regardless, we need to have fulsome investigations and oversight and I feel confident we`ll have that.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Cohen, let`s listen to what your chairman, Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If the justice department doesn`t release the whole report or tries to keep parts of it secret, we will certainly subpoena the parts of the report and we will reserve the right to call Mueller or to testify before the committee or to subpoena him as several other committees might do. But we`ll only do that if necessary, obviously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So Congressman Cohen, clearly your committee, the judiciary committee with Chairman Nadler is the center of the next stage of the action here about this report. The chairman saying they will subpoena Robert Mueller if necessary. They will definitely -- you as a committee will definitely subpoena the report if you have to.
What is your sense or is there a sense on the committee about just how likely it will be that you`ll be forced to subpoena this report as opposed to simply have it handed over by the attorney general?
COHEN: I can`t say what the sense of the committee is. I know the sense of the committee in general is that we want to see complete disclosure. We know that we are responsible for the constitution and defending it and defending the rule of law. So the committee will be strong in wanting to pursue and get as much information as possible to help us draft legislation or to do whatever we need to do to show if there are holes in the law to correct that.
I personally am concerned that we won`t get everything we want because I don`t think Trump would have named Mr. Barr without having some reason to believe that he was going to have somebody who would cover for him. We know Trump had said in anger about Jeff Sessions. He wanted to have his Roy Cohn at justice. Well, that`s a pretty awful thing to think about.
But he wanted somebody like that, and Bill Barr certainly not Roy Cohn, but he wanted somebody that he felt would be in his corner, and I think I saw that Bill Barr recently visited the White House, like in the last day or two. And that was probably a bit unusual. He`s got a chance to be Elliot Richardson. He`s got a chance to be one of the good guys. But we`ll see what he does.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Cohen, the attorney general`s letter says this weekend, which means that Chairman Nadler and possibly you, members of the committee, could be learning more about this from the attorney general this weekend. Please come back and join us next week when we know more. Steve Cohen, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. I want to go back to --
COHEN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to Ari Melber. Ari, on this issue of stonewalling and possible obstruction of justice, how do we describe a president of the United States asserting Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to be interviewed by a special prosecutor?
And the special prosecutor then refusing -- declining to subpoena the president because the president`s lawyers have said he will plead the Fifth Amendment to everything after his name. That could be in the Mueller report. There could be a passage in the Mueller report, a narrative describing the attempt to get testimony from the president of the United States and that it was road-blocked, stonewalled by taking the Fifth Amendment.
Something, by the way, that Richard Nixon was caught on tape advising some people to do at certain points. What do we call that? If that`s not -- he has a legal right to assert the Fifth Amendment but what do you call that when the president of the United States says I`m not going to tell you anything, I`m taking the Fifth Amendment?
MELBER: Well, I think a lot of people would call that incriminating or suspicious at best. You`ve covered this closely for a long time, Lawrence, and I think your question hits at another key thing that is advanced tonight. You know, there are some people who are saying, well, gosh, if all we know is that the report was turned in and a little bit of the other details in the letter do we not know that much tonight.
And actually, as your question alludes to, I think tonight is different and we know more because now we know officially that Bob Mueller never forced or tried to compel the president to testify in person the way past special counsels have.
And to your question, that may be because the case that Bob Mueller was making, whatever else is in the report, he may have felt he had and didn`t need to force the testimony or he may have felt the incriminating statements if they exist from the president already were there or a better reading for the White House might be that it didn`t reach that high, so he didn`t want to go take that extraordinary step if he didn`t feel it was warranted.
We also know tonight, Lawrence, that Donald Trump was not telling the truth when he proclaimed over and over that he would be happy to face Mueller in testimony because he didn`t provide it. We also know in a very key way, now we can say, and Lawrence, I don`t think we could have ever reported this as fact until tonight. Bob Mueller beat Donald Trump`s attempts to circumvent or shut down the Mueller probe.
And there were many moments where that wasn`t necessarily clear. The future was yet to be written. According to Don McGahn`s testimony and leaks to the "New York Times," Donald Trump was seeking to ask someone to do his dirty work for him and fire Mueller. And rather than that being a thing that maybe chilled the special prosecutor`s office or slowed its work or ended it, it failed.
Mueller found out about it. We know that he`s investigated it. And we will find out whether he ultimately provides material on that to go to Congress. So in many key ways, the fact that bob Mueller picked tonight to end the probe tells us some ways he beat Donald Trump`s efforts.
O`DONNELL: And Neal Katyal, I want to go to -- the only defense that the president has ever really offered about this is the two-word defense, no collusion, no collusion. Collusion is not a legal term. It does not legally describe a crime. And so it`s not really in any real legal sense a defense.
What do you see in what we -- in what this letter tells us from the attorney general tonight about what there might or might not be in terms of revelations about Russian interference in the election, which the word collusion is just a descriptive term that some people have come up with basically in the news media. That`s not a legal term.
And what about the president`s continued use of that phrase "no collusion, no collusion," and many in the news media thinking that it has legal meaning?
KATYAL: Right. I think he just likes the sound of the word "collusion" or something because you`re absolutely right. There`s no legal word there. The word is conspiracy and there have been allegations that President Trump`s advisers conspired with the Russians in various ways in the 2016 election.
Now, Mueller`s mandate was, Lawrence, very narrow. It was just on this conspiracy question with Russia. And then when Trump fired Comey because of what he called the Russia thing on your network, you know, that was his mandate, nothing more than that. And so the Mueller report we expect will be just about that, not about all the other strands of the investigation that other folks have done, campaign finance and the like.
So the letter today, the one-page letter, doesn`t tell us very much, but I suspect the full Mueller report will, and that is yet one more reason why the American public needs to see this report in almost its full entirety.
O`DONNELL: And Neal, I want to go back to your original point that you are voicing optimism tonight in terms of Attorney General Barr`s approach to disclosure so far, that what you`re seeing in this letter -- is this as positive a letter as you could read from the attorney general today, positive in terms of indicating the eventual full disclosure of the Mueller report?
KATYAL: Yes. I mean, at this juncture I`m sure some people are clamoring and saying why don`t we have the report right now? But there are any number of very legitimate reasons why the attorney general should take a little time, review the report, make sure there isn`t, for example, some classified source that would be burned if this material came out or something.
I`m sure that Mueller has already done a large part of that. But still I think it`s perfectly appropriate for the attorney general to do that. But if there`s ever hiding from the American people on the report, on the evidence underlying the report, then I think, you know, that all Americans should stand up and protest in the loudest possible terms.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break here. And it is a well-deserved break for our guests who have stretched their long workday right through to the tenth hour of our coverage here tonight, 10:00 p.m. hour. Julia Ainsley, thank you for staying with us. Ari melber, thank you for staying with us tonight.
MELBER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And Neal Katyal, joining us right after joining Rachel. Really appreciate that. Jill Wine-Banks, we always need your perspective on this. We`re really appreciative of you joining us tonight. Thank you all very, very much.
MELBER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: The special counsel`s investigation is finished, but the Southern District of New York, several attorneys general, state attorneys general, and Congress still have work to do investigating the president of the United States.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Chris Coons will join us on what`s next in Congress. Two former federal prosecutors will join us on the investigations that are still ongoing. And presidential historian Michael Beschloss will join us with an amazing historical echo of presidential investigations that occurred today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The Mueller report concerns only crimes that may have been committed. Our constitutional mandate is to look at -- is to maintain the rule of law, which means examining not only crimes but other abuses of power and obstructions of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is Chairman Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the impeachment process.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Coons, thank you very much for joining us on this special coverage Friday night. I want to get your reaction to what you`ve seen today and what you`ve read in the attorney general`s letter about the Mueller report, which is really all we know about the Mueller report at this point.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Lawrence. All of us are waiting with bated breath to hear exactly what Attorney General Bill Barr is going to convey to Congress of his summary of the Mueller report.
He commits in his letter to being as transparent as possible within the boundaries of policy and law. And as some of your guests before have pointed out, there are legitimate reasons why the attorney general might decline to share either classified information or information that would interfere with ongoing investigations.
But other than that, everything should be shared with Congress and I`m going to be pressing for the attorney general to be as transparent as possible and to move as quickly as is reasonably possible because I think this isn`t the beginning of the end, this is just the end of the beginning. There`s a lot of work for us to do now in Congress. And there are ongoing investigations.
As you`ve pointed out earlier in this broadcast, the Southern District of New York, the state attorney general of New York, there are other matters still yet unresolved. Roger Stone`s trial has not been completed. And there are other investigations into the Trump Organization, Trump Foundation, Trump campaign.
But as for Robert Mueller`s investigation into collusion or the possibility of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election and obstruction, that`s reached a conclusion and all of us are now going to be waiting for the conclusion to be shared with Congress.
O`DONNELL: You say you`re going to press the attorney general on making the report public. You did that. Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee did that in his confirmation hearing. Let`s listen to what he said about it then.
COONS: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to listen to what he said about it then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Will you commit to make public all of the report`s conclusions, the Mueller report, even if some of the evidence supporting those conclusions can`t be made public?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, that certainly is my goal and intent. It`s hard for me to conceive of a conclusion that would, you know, run afoul of the Regs as currently written but that`s certainly my intent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator Coons, a lot of observers were uncomfortable with the tentative nature of the attorney general nominee then`s answers about that. But his letter today seems as though -- certainly what he`s saying in the letter is that his ambition on this is full disclosure and that the public interest is definitely something that he believes is absolutely already here in this case and should be honored. That`s what he`s saying in writing anyway.
COONS: That`s what he`s saying. And Lawrence here`s an opportunity for Attorney General Barr to show himself to be an institutionalist, someone who cares more about the Department of Justice, its reputation, and the rule of law than he does about any partisan political advantage. And I certainly hope that he will prove those of us on the Committee who are skeptical of those commitments wrong.
In my questioning of Bill Barr on his confirmation hearing, I reminded him that Elliott Richardson in a confirmation hearing before the same committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked very similar questions as he was, gave crisp, concise, clear, simple answers. Didn`t hedge, didn`t talk about, well, in the best interest of and given the balancing, he simply said yes to a number of critical questions that Attorney General Barr found it much harder to be concise and clear about.
So my hope is that he will overcome that tendency and instead will demonstrate a commitment to full transparency. One thing that was in the letter that I found encouraging, Lawrence, was a commitment on his part that he would continue consulting with Robert Mueller.
It is certainly the case if there`s any hint or suggestion on our part that the report that we get is overly redacted or is concealing some critical elements of Mueller`s work that I think we can count on Chairman Nadler and the House to promptly call for both Barr and Mueller to appear in front of the House Judiciary Committee. I would hope that Chairman Graham would do the same in the Senate.
O`DONNELL: Senator Coons, just on that point, I want to double underline that. That passage that refers to the attorney general conferring with Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller on what to release in the report or what not to release in the report indicates that the report is a certain level of complexity.
Meaning the regulations simply require that you literally provide just a list. You could just do it as a list, list of people we decided to indict, list of people we decided not to indict. It really could just be as simple as that, a list, almost not even including sentences.
What the attorney general`s letter seems to suggest is that this is a report that is substantial enough, that is fulsome enough, that there could be decisions that have to be made about what parts of it to release and what parts of it not to release, and the fact that he`s saying that he wants to consult and making it public, that he wants to consult with Robert Mueller, that would strike me as one of the more encouraging notes people who want full disclosure are finding in that letter.
COONS: I agree. And there is a precedent for this, of course. Leon Jaworski, the special prosecutor during Watergate, in the interests of public disclosure and transparency released the entire final report of the Watergate prosecution. There was a previous appointment of a special counsel in the Waco case, former Senator Jack Danforth of Missouri who released a complete and fulsome report with very few redactions of his investigation into the issues around the Waco matter in Texas.
So I do think there is a precedent for the full release of a report of this kind with very minimal redactions or redactions in terms of what`s released to the public. And it`s my real hope that that`s what`s going to happen here, that Attorney General Barr will recognize intense public interest, will recognize that President Trump himself has said that this report should be released. And I think anyone who is thinking of defending the president should instead listen to the president`s own words and say that he believes he has nothing to hide, so let`s let this entire report come forward.
One thing we know for sure, Lawrence, is that people at the most senior levels circles around Donald Trump have already either pled guilty or been convicted. So it`s Paul Manafort his campaign manager, Michael Cohen his personal attorney, Michael Flynn his first national security adviser, and a host of others have been indicted but those three have been found guilty of crimes. And I think that suggests that there may well be more in this report than we know so far.
O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Coons of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we can`t thank you enough for joining us on this very important Friday night. Thank you very much, Senator.
COONS: Thank you, Lawrence. Good to be with you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we will ask former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York Mimi Rocah what she thinks might happen next in the investigation of the president by the Southern District of New York where the president is known as Individual-1 in legal filings.
And former Federal Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, who has worked with Robert Mueller, will also join us with his reaction to the completion of the Mueller report.
O`DONNELL: NBC News is reporting tonight that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will not be pursuing any more indictments. But as Benjamin Wittes wrote tonight on "Lawfare", it`s possible, for example, that Mueller is not proceeding against certain defendants other than the president because he has referred them to other prosecutorial offices.
"Some of these referrals are already public and it`s reasonable to expect there may be other referrals too. In this iteration, what is ending here is not the investigation, merely the portion of the investigation Mueller chose to retain for himself."
Joining our discussion now, Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. And Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor who has worked with Robert Mueller. They are both MSNBC legal analysts.
And Mimi, first to you. One of the things that Robert Mueller has sent -- Robert Mueller actually shipped out of his office to the Southern District of New York is the prosecution of Michael Cohen, which includes an Individual-1 who`s identified as President Trump. And that prosecution shows President Trump engaged in criminal behavior, ordering Michael Cohen, directing Michael Cohen to engage in criminal behavior.
And so the Mueller investigation has already revealed what federal prosecutors are calling criminal behavior that Donald Trump participated in. What happens next in the Southern District of New York?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Lawrence, that`s right. I mean look, President Trump has already been implicated in a crime in the Southern District of New York by a cooperator under oath and essentially in documents submitted by the Southern District and adopted by a federal judge.
What happens next, you know, we recently had the search warrant as to Michael Cohen`s offices and premises unsealed, and there were a lot of redacted pages, as you recall. And under that redaction, those redactions is more evidence. And that was from about a year ago. That was last April.
So they`ve clearly been continuing this investigation. They are continuing this investigation. Or those redactions would likely not still exist. That material would have all been unsealed. But they said they were keeping it redacted because it`s an ongoing investigation.
So we definitely have not heard the last of that investigation. Now, they will face the same dilemma about whether a president can be indicted and should be indicted under a policy and for a crime like this, like campaign finance violations. But we don`t know that that`s all that Trump has been implicated in there as well.
So we`re going to have to see how that plays out. And I agree with Ben Wittes that we also do not know whether other offices, possibly the Southern District of New York and possibly other U.S. attorney`s offices will be taking care of other aspects of the previous Mueller probe.
O`DONNELL: Glenn Kirschner, I`ve been wanting to talk to you about what we can now officially call the Mueller report because it is in, it exists. Since you`ve worked with Robert Mueller.
And when I saw that passage in the attorney general`s letter where he`s basically saying this report is not just a one or two-page list of who we decided to charge and who we declined to charge, which is the minimal version that the report could be.
But this report is big enough and has a sweep and a scope that`s big enough that I, the attorney general, am keeping Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller at my side to advise me on what we should release from this report and what, if anything, we should not release from this report.
You know Robert Mueller. You`ve worked with Robert Mueller. Does the attorney general have 300 pages on his desk? Does he have three pages on his desk? What does he have?
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Lawrence, I`m going to take a stab at it and say he has somewhere between 300 and 500 pages. And like you, I was heartened by that passage in Bill Barr`s letter because I think it shows a good ongoing relationship between the attorney general and now I guess we can call him the former Special Counsel Bob Mueller.
But the passage that I think I was most heartened by was in the first paragraph. When the letter says in substance that Bob Mueller was not denied any investigative step he wanted to take. That means he got to subpoena everybody he felt needed to be subpoenaed. He got to also subpoena documents and records. He got to return indictments against the people he thought should be indicted.
And what that should give us all is a comfort level that this was a full and fair investigation. And Bob Mueller had the authority and the free reign to do everything that he felt needed to be done to get to a fair conclusion.
That should -- I see loose ends as a prosecutor and I can`t help wanting everything to be wrapped up and answered for us. We don`t have that yet. But I think because we can have confidence in the process, that ultimately will give us confidence in the outcome and conclusions.
And, Lawrence, I don`t think prosecutions are over, not by a longshot. They have probably been farmed out and we will see continued investigations and I would bet continued prosecutions.
O`DONNELL: Former federal prosecutors Mimi Rocah and Glenn Kirschner, we needed to hear from you tonight. We`re going to be learning more about this. Certainly next week, we`re going to need to hear from you then. Thank you very much for joining our special coverage tonight. Really appreciate it.
And when we come back, presidential historian Michael Beschloss will join us. David Corn is here. David Corn has been studying what the president calls the collusion part of the case and David Corn says guilty.
O`DONNELL: This day, March 22 is an important day in presidential investigation history. And we can thank our next guest, presidential historian Michael Beschloss for teaching us that today in this tweet.
"Mueller report has been delivered on the 46th anniversary of the secret Watergate tape in which Nixon tells John Mitchell, "I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover-up or anything else if it will save it, save the plan."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover-up or anything else if it will save it, save the plan. That`s the whole point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Richard Nixon said that on tape on this day 46 years ago. So is it just a coincidence that the Mueller report is completed today or could this be a deliberate historical echo by Robert Mueller in his investigation of possible obstruction of justice by a president?
Joining our discussion now, NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss. Also joining us is David Corn who literally co-wrote the book about the Russia portion of the Mueller investigation as he knew it. Russian Roulette by David Corn and Michael Isikoff.
And Michael Beschloss, we don`t know exactly what Robert Mueller`s historical fluency is in the Watergate investigation. But here we have a President Trump who most likely, we don`t know this yet, but most likely told Robert Mueller through his lawyers that he would plead the Fifth Amendment if questioned and subpoenaed by Robert Mueller.
And there`s Richard Nixon advocating pleading the Fifth Amendment, doing whatever they had to do to stonewall it and cover it up. A cover-up presidential tape on the same day, coincidence?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it probably was, Lawrence. But maybe if you or I were writing this as a novel, we would have done it with a little bit more aforethought, because it does have that amazing cosmic echo of what happened.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And Michael, talk about the difference in the way President Nixon approached his own investigation versus -- and the similarities versus the way President Trump has approached the investigation into President Trump.
BESCHLOSS: Well, in Nixon`s case, I mean he should really thank Donald Trump because Donald Trump is making Richard Nixon look so much better by comparison. Earlier today, I was talking about him and someone was asking about Nixon versus Trump. And I said Nixon was so much more gentlemanly.
Lawrence, would you ever think of using the word gentlemanly in connection with Richard Nixon? That`s what this has all come to. But the line that you were using from the tape of this day in 1973, those are things that Donald Trump could have said.
And you have to imagine that there may be things that he is saying in private during the next couple of weeks because as you well know and have talked about, Elijah Cummings and others are saying that the things that the House Democrats are asking for from the Trump White House, they are stonewalling.
O`DONNELL: David Corn, collusion is not a legal term. There`s no crime called collusion but the president loves saying no collusion. You today are saying yes collusion.
DAVID CORN, AUTHOR, RUSSIAN ROULETTE: I`m saying that what Mueller -- we got caught in a trap of focusing on whether there was criminal collusion, whatever that might be, as the only standard by which to judge Trump and the Trump scandal.
But if you actually look at what we know already, without the Mueller report and the Mueller indictments, what we know is that Trump while he was campaigning for president, he was colluding to do a business deal in Russia to make hundreds and millions of dollars and he went to Putin`s own office through Michael Cohn to get help and he lied about that. He said he had nothing to do with Russia. Tremendous conflict of interest.
We know that in June, his top three advisers, Paul Manafort, Trump Junior, and Jared Kushner, met with an emissary from a secret Kremlin plan to help Trump -- the Trump campaign win. And when that came out after the campaign, they lied about it.
We know that Paul Manafort met with a Russian intelligence associate in August of 2016 while he was campaign manager at the behest of a Russian oligarch and they discussed a Russian peace plan that might have -- would have been beneficial for Moscow, while Moscow was attacking the U.S. election. And Manafort lied about that.
And finally, the biggest lie of them all throughout the 2016 campaign and even afterwards, Donald Trump kept saying, Russia is not attacking the U.S. You know, there`s nothing going on here. And by doing that, he aided and abetted the Russia attack. He amplified the disinformation.
So all that aside -- I mean, put aside everything that Mueller might have looked at, and I`m not saying any of this is criminal, but I think this amounts to the largest scandal in American political history to have this set of events and yet we`re just overly hyper-focused on whether or not there was a crime. Sometimes the biggest scandals are not criminal.
O`DONNELL: And the president specifically colluded with Vladimir Putin by coming out and saying publicly, "I believe Vladimir Putin when he says the Russians did not interfere" --
O`DONNELL: -- "in our election at all." That is public collusion that the president engages in, trying to help the Vladimir Putin and Russian cover- up of what our intelligence agencies say that they really did do during that election campaign.
We`re going to have to leave it there.
Michael Beschloss and David Corn, thank you both very much for joining us on our special coverage tonight.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END