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New Barr letter raises questions. TRANSCRIPT: 3/29/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Lisa Graves, Jimmy Gomez, Ben Collins, David Cay Johnston,Christina Greer


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  No bongs at all for four years until 2021. And now no Brexit. As of tonight, the U.K. was supposed to be leaving the European Union, but Brexit is a mess and a disaster. Tens of thousands of Brits swarmed the streets near parliament in protest today after lawmakers shot down Theresa May`s Brexit plan yet another time. This vote brings Britain closer to crashing out of the European Union without any sort of net.

The clock is ticking. The E.U. has given Britain a new deadline now of April 12th to leave or figure something else out. Parliament is going to meet again on Monday to see if they can agree on any plan at all. Whatever they decide, though, Big Ben will not help. It will not be celebrated with a bing bong at all, but with some sort of whimper and probably more protests in the streets.

We will see you again on Monday. I hope you have an excellent weekend. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Katy Tur, filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Katy.

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST:  Hey, Rachel. Can you say bloody catastrophe with a British accent?

MADDOW:  Blah -- blah -- brit -- it`s terrible.


TUR:  Both Brexit and your British accent, I`m sorry to say.

MADDOW:  If I do a fake British accent, it actually sounds like I`m swearing.


MADDOW:  So, you don`t want to go there.

TUR:  We won`t go there. Rachel, have a wonderful weekend. Thank you very much.

MADDOW:  I appreciate it.

TUR:  I`m Katy Tur, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Exactly one week ago, Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr, detailing his investigation into President Trump and Russia.

In the weeks since, it`s become clearer every day that the fight to release Mueller`s full report might be uglier, dirtier, and just as controversial as Mueller`s actual investigation. That is especially evident after Barr sent a letter this afternoon to the chairman of the Senate and House judiciary committees.

Barr writes in part, "We are preparing for the report for release, making redactions that are required. The special counsel is assisting us in this process." And that is where things get tricky. What Barr decides to redact and why he decides to make those redactions will be the subject of intense scrutiny and debate.

House Democrats are calling for maximum transparency, but Barr seems to suggest in his letter that what could amount to a substantial part of the report will be redacted. He says he`ll redact grand jury material, intelligence information, information that impacts ongoing cases and, "information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties."

Basically embarrassing information from players who Barr potentially decides are not part of the main investigation. That is a lot Congress potentially will not see. That`s a lot potentially the public will not see. It is hard to imagine Democrats going along with that.

According to The Atlantic, House Democrats` position now is that "there is nothing stopping Barr from giving us the grand jury material that informed Mueller`s findings," according to a Democratic staffer who spoke with reporters. "If he doesn`t, then that amounts to a cover-up."

That sets up a major confrontation between Democrats and the Justice Department. And NBC News reports that Dems are ready to fight. The next step Democratic staffers said would be a subpoena. "We`ll have more to say on April 3rd," one staffer said.

Right now, House Democrats have demanded access to the full report, including its supporting documentation by Monday, April 2nd. Another possible point of contention, Barr says he does not have plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review. But as Ari Melber pointed out earlier tonight, that wording is key because Barr could very easily change plans later.

And former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance points out that Barr could, "theoretically advise Trump there are some items he believes he should assert executive privilege on." If the White House tries to keep parts of Mueller`s report hidden, it doesn`t take much to imagine how that would turn out.

Another interesting point that should not be overlooked is Barr`s two-page letter. In that, the attorney general directly pushes back on "media reports and other public statements criticizing the memo and his outline of Mueller`s findings." Public statements like this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  I have said, and I`ll say again, no thank you, Mr. Attorney General, we do not need your interpretation, show us -- show us the report and we can draw our own conclusions.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER:  To delay the release of an over 300-page report written by Mueller so the American people and we senators and congressmen can see what was written, has too much of the odor of political expediency to help the man who appointed him, President Trump.


TUR:  Barr states in his letter tonight that he did not summarize Mueller`s report and adds that his letter was "not and did not purport to be an exhaustive recounting of the special counsel`s investigation or report." Instead, Barr argues the memo was a summary of Mueller`s principal conclusions. One point of contention here, Mueller did not make a decision on obstruction. That one was made by Barr and Rod Rosenstein themselves.

Despite Barr`s apparent frustration over how his original memo should be characterized, this example makes it clear that Bill Barr has been paying attention at the very least to Democrats and to media coverage. For the first time, he gave a firmer date for releasing the report, setting a mid- April deadline for a redacted version.

Also for the first time, Barr confirmed that the report is nearly 400 pages long. It is important to keep in mind that that does not include supporting documentation. So we could easily see an entire report that is a whole lot longer than that. But so far, Barr`s concessions aren`t enough for Democrats who are already out swinging tonight.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler rejected Barr`s mid-April deadline, saying, "As I informed the attorney general earlier this week, Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence, by April 2nd. That deadline still stands."

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted earlier, "redactions are unacceptable." And he spoke just a short time ago with Rachel Maddow.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Almost none of what he`s doing is required by law or by the regulations. He certainly didn`t need to provide that summary/non-summary. Presumably in a 400-page report by the special counsel, the special counsel wrote his own summary. And there would have been nothing to preclude Bill Barr if he wanted to give a forecast of what was to come in releasing the summary.


TUR:  Folks, you may want to buckle up. We are in for a long and bumpy ride. Leading off our discussion tonight is Lisa Graves, who we booked because of her expertise as a former staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She also has experience in the Justice Department as a former deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton. She knows how congressional committees interact with the DOJ and how critical negotiations like this one happening now take place.

Also joining us tonight is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs and an MSNBC global affairs contributor, and Jonathan Alter, columnist for The Daily Beast and an MSNBC political analyst.

Lisa, I do want to start with you first because it does seem like there is going to be a battle between Congress, specifically Democrats in the House, and the DOJ. If Democrats want to see the entire redacted version and they are arguing that they`re able to keep that secret, if you`re worried about sources and methods or you`re worried about grand jury material, what sort of argument will they make to the Justice Department that will succeed?

LISA GRAVES, FORMER STAFF MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, I`m not sure about that, but I think they may end up having to go to court over it. What you see here is Congress that isn`t a co-equal branch of this government. Congress in fact has superior authority in the area of impeachment. It`s specifically given the power of impeachment. And what you`re seeing from the Justice Department is really an effort to ignore history.

What you saw in Watergate was a prosecutor who did not reach conclusions, recommendations, but was preparing that material extensively in Watergate for Congress` determination because it certainly is Congress` determination whether to impeach President Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, whatever they may be. I don`t know about you, Katy, but I was certainly shocked to hear that there were 400 pages in this report.

Now, as a lawyer, that`s like 200,000 words and that`s not even counting the appendices and the graphs and charts. The idea that William Barr would hold to himself with Rod Rosenstein the right to just basically summarize that and dismiss that evidence going from a Friday night to a Sunday, that`s not time for any normal person to actually assess that evidence.

And after 40 lawyers, 50 investigators, you know, 2,500 subpoenas, 500 witnesses, the idea that they could reach this conclusion and think that it`s going to stick is pretty absurd. Congress has a right to that material and I would say the American people have a right to see that material as well.

TUR:  Wouldn`t Barr be playing with fire, though, if he sent out a memo of principal conclusions from the Mueller report? Again, his decision on obstruction was his and not Mueller`s, but that greatly deviated from what Mueller presented in his actual report.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST FOR THE DAILY BEAST:  Yeah, I think that`s not likely to have happened, but the devil is always in the details. And at some point soon, Congress anyway is going to see those details and this whole story may take on a very different coloration.

Just because he didn`t commit a crime, according to Mueller, doesn`t mean that the president and the people around him weren`t engaged in seriously improper behavior, and we might get insights into that. We will get insights into that when we see this material.

Now, Watergate was just mentioned. There was a very interesting relevant case in 1974. It`s Haldeman versus Sirica. And in that case, an appellate court found overwhelmingly that Congress did have the right to this material from the Justice Department.

So, you know, if they abide by precedent, Congress will get this. Whether they get it on April 2nd or later on remains to be seen, but we are going to see this and the pressure works, Katy. The fact that Barr had to back and fill today so he didn`t look like a political hack, that meant that what`s happened over the last week with these calls for the release of the report have been having an effect.

TUR:  Lisa, though, let`s talk about what Barr has said he would redact. I mean, there is information that he says he`s going to redact in there that would potentially jeopardize current investigations and we know that there are other investigations going on. Is there an argument to be made that some of that might need to be redacted?

When you`re talking about sources and methods, might some of that need to be redacted if the intelligence community weighs in? Are there valid arguments in your opinion and from your experience to redact some material that might be in this report?

GRAVES:  Well, I certainly think for the Intelligence Committee in the house for HPSCI, they deal with sources and methods material all the time. They deal with some of the most sensitive information in the entire U.S. Intelligence Community, and there is no basis for redacting that from that committee.

In terms of other committees, I think Congressman Nadler is right, they have a right to see that full report. There are circumstances which the Justice Department and the Congress negotiate about the terms of sharing information, particularly, for example, grand jury information.

But it`s certainly not the case that there is no precedent for sharing grand jury information with Congress and that there is certainly -- there is certainly no precedent to suggest that the White House and the -- pardon me, the administration can`t share sources and methods information. That`s opposite of the reality.

The reality is there is ample precedent for sharing this information with Congress under terms that are negotiated. I think there is ample precedent for the vast majority of that information that does not pertain to a pending prosecution to be made public for all the American people to read.

TUR:  Ambassador, this investigation is not just about Donald Trump and his campaign. It`s about -- we believe it`s about Russia and how Russia meddled or attacked our elections and how they were influential. What sort of information does the public need to see, in your opinion, to give us a better idea of what exactly happened in 2016 so we`re informed for 2020?

WENDY SHERMAN, MSNBC GLOBAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS:  Well, first of all, you know, one of the big differences between the United States and Russia is we`re a democracy. We believe in transparency. We think transparency is important for accountability.

Our most sacred documents start off "we the people" because government is about citizens asking for a government, but that government is governed by the people, and so transparency is about respecting people in a democracy, and we undermine our institutions when we don`t have that transparency because it makes people even more suspect.

And we`ve seen how the president has tried to tear down American institutions. So, if William Barr does not share a full report with Congress and the Congress doesn`t share as much as possible with the American people, we`re undermining the very nature of our democracy and we are saying to Russia that the way you conduct yourselves, which is full of secrecy and KGB tactics because President Putin is really a KGB agent now governing his country, that we are really heading in the wrong direction.

I must say, Katy, I wonder -- the president goes and does his big rallies. He really talks about everything with the people at his rallies. I would hope that he respects those people enough to share all the information with them and not be worried a bit about it because that`s who we are as a country.


TUR:  Well, you might be holding your breath for a while. Ambassador --


TUR:  What is the message that Russia is already getting? I mean, Adam Schiff would say that there is evidence of collusion. Republicans would push back on that, so would -- so would Donald Trump. Regardless, it seems like from at least the Barr version of Mueller`s report that there was no conspiracy here.

There was no -- not enough evidence of conspiracy to criminally convict anybody. But what we do have is a presidential candidate, at the very least, standing at a podium in July of 2016 and saying, Russia, if you`re listening, find the e-mails. There was a presidential candidate --

SHERMAN:  Absolutely.

TUR:  -- waving around the WikiLeaks releases and saying "I love WikiLeaks" and reading off the embarrassing information to his advantage. That stuff all happened very much in the open. Then there is a reporting on the Don Jr. Trump Tower meeting. We know all of that. What is the message that Russia has already gotten?

SHERMAN:  Absolutely. The message that Russia has gotten is that the attorney general of the United States can put out a four-page document about a 400-page report and basically say everything is OK and, Russia, you`ve gotten away with it. I think that Putin probably feels pretty good today.

Now when those 400 pages come out -- and I really think there will be a big push to get them out because 75 percent of the American people in a new poll that came out today are in support, including a majority of Republicans, support the report becoming public because it belongs to the American citizens to find out what`s really going on here.

What`s really concerning, Katy, beyond all of this is there is no really comprehensive plan in our government to ensure that we do everything possible to make sure that our next election is safe and secure. We know that Russians tried again in the 2018 election.

We don`t think there was any major problem with that election, but it was because a lot of people in states and a lot of other people were on board. A presidential campaign raises the stakes considerably and I don`t think our government is prepared to take this on.

TUR:  On the other -- on the flip side, what does it say to a presidential candidate going forward on what they can do?

ALTER:  Well --

TUR:  It says to a president --

ALTER: I think, you know, eventually the Congress is going to enact legislation as it did after Watergate to correct a lot of the abuses that we`ve seen. But, you know, one thing very interesting that Barr mentioned today was, he said he is "required to redact, to protect reputational interests." That is a loophole that you could drive Mack truck through.

TUR:  Yeah.

ALTER:  He could basically redact the whole thing since everybody`s reputation is on the line. But what he didn`t mention is that his reputation is on the line, too. Talk about reputational interests.

I mean, you know, when he was attorney general in 1992, William Safire, conservative columnist, wrote a column about what a hack Attorney General Barr was because he was protecting President Bush from an independent counsel. If he continues to engage in such a shameless political fashion, one member of Congress called it a cover-up --

TUR:  You heard it right at the top of the show.

ALTER:  We`re not quite there yet, but it`s beginning to smell a little bit like a cover-up. If he continues down this road, he will hurt not just his own reputation, but he will remind the American people that the president really has something to hide.

TUR:  Jonathan Alter, thank you very much. Sorry, I didn`t mean to cut you off there on the end. Wendy Sherman and Lisa Graves, I apologize. Appreciate it, guys. Thank you for joining us tonight.

And coming up next, we`ll get reaction from a freshman Democrat working to hold the Trump administration accountable on the Oversight Committee, which will vote next week to subpoena the White House personnel security director about the security clearance process.

Also ahead, what is QAnon and why were so many enthusiasts of QAnon at the Trump rally in Michigan last night? And in tonight`s "Last Word," some words from the Michigan rally and Donald Trump`s deep thoughts.


TUR:  Tonight, the House Oversight Committee announced that it is preparing to subpoena the former White House personnel director -- security director to testify in connection with the committee`s investigation into the security clearance process at the White House.

The Trump administration has been stonewalling multiple congressional investigations by refusing to comply with dozens of document requests. But Democrats have a new strategy to force the White House to work with them. The Washington Post reports that House Democrats are seriously considering withholding money from key administration priorities until their document requests are met.

It is not clear yet which departments could be targeted, but according to the Post in the coming weeks, as House Democratic appropriators write bills funding agencies and departments across the federal government, they will be working with chairman to find out what one official called pressure points to force compliance.

The White House has refused other requests for documents relating to Trump`s family separation policy, Jared Kushner and Ivanka`s use of a private e-mail account and the illegal hush money payments to women that Michael Cohen alleged he made at Trump`s direction.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee ramped up efforts to formally request the president`s tax returns after Cohen`s testimony last month revealed key details, including telling Congressman Jimmy Gomez that he did not believe Trump was telling the truth about being under audit.


REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D), CALIFORNIA:  Mr. Cohen, do you know whether President Trump`s tax returns were really under audit by the IRS in 2016?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  I don`t know the answer. I asked for a copy of the audit so that I could use it in terms of my statements to the press, and I was never able to obtain one.


TUR:  Joining us now is a member of both the House Ways and Means Committee working to get the president`s tax returns and the Oversight Committee investigating the White House security clearances, Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez from California.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here. Just out of curiosity, what sort of funding do you think should be on the table in terms of revoking that funding in order to get the White House to submit to the document requests or these subpoenas?

GOMEZ:  You know, one of the things that people don`t really understand is that a lot -- the leaders and the chairs of different committees act as a team. Everybody is doing their part. So Oversight investigating, of course, the security clearances, Ways and Means investigating the tax returns, and now Appropriations is looking at those pressure points.

I know Chairwoman Nita Lowey is still looking at what those pressure points will be, but they`re going to do it in a concerted effort to make sure we maximize that pressure.

TUR:  Do you have an idea of what that would look like and are you concerned there would be public backlash to something like that?

GOMEZ:  As long as it doesn`t undermine, you know, public safety, it doesn`t undermine any key, you know, business of the federal government, I think the public will be OK. But, you know what? I want to just kind of point out something.

This administration, we`ve had Wilbur Ross to come and testify, we had Steve Mnuchin, we had Kirstjen Nielsen, we had the acting attorney general, and they all showed one thing, that they`re not going to Congress, before Congress to answer questions. They`re there to protect the president. They`re there to dodge and delay and to push back. So we have to find other ways to hold this administration accountable.

TUR:  In terms of what you think the priorities should be -- that`s my question. What do you think the priorities for Democrats should be? Is it getting the full Mueller report right now? Is it investigating and trying to get Ivanka or Jared Kushner in front of committees to talk about security clearances? Is it getting Donald Trump`s taxes? Is it investigating conflicts of interest or emoluments? What is the -- what should be the priority right now when it comes to Donald Trump?

GOMEZ:  You know we have to do it all. And that`s the problem with this administration. They have so many different avenues that we have to go after. So, first, we need a push to make sure that we get the full Mueller report without redactions. And the reason why is that the American people won`t trust this report unless it`s fully revealed.

I also believe sitting on both Ways and Means and Oversight that tax returns will tell us a lot. Allen Weisselberg, his finance person, if we can bring him in to testify, we`re going to understand how did he use the tax code to either enrich himself or to avoid paying taxes. I think that is somewhere we should go as both the Oversight Committee as well as the Ways and Means Committee.

TUR:  In terms of the Mueller report, do you expect to see anything in the Mueller report about Donald Trump`s tax returns?

GOMEZ:  You know, I`m not sure, and that`s one of the reasons why we need to get our hands on it. I think we need full transparency. I support Chairman Nadler holding this administration to the April 2nd deadline, and I think we need to push back as a Democratic caucus and as a House of Representatives over our role as a co-equal branch of government.

TUR:  Congressman Jimmy Gomez, thanks for joining us tonight.

GOMEZ:  Thank you so much.

TUR:  And coming up, how much do you know about the conspiracy theory QAnon? NBC News reporter Ben Collins has been covering the pro-Trump, anti- Hillary conspiracy, and he was shocked by what he saw at the Trump rally last night. He`s going to tell us about that right after this break.


TUR:  This next segment is brought to you by the letter Q, specifically Qanon.  What is Qanon?  Well, it went from -- it went mainstream during the so-called Pizzagate affair which led one man to walk into a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. with an assault rifle because conspiracy theorists claimed that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta ran a child sex ring in the basement.  Seriously.

And it made national news when Vice President Mike Pence tweeted and then soon deleted a photo showing him with a police officer who wore a patch with the letter Q.  But what is it?

Simply put, it`s kind of a conspiracy theory, a conspiracy theory fan fiction, if you will, that started and is based on anonymous postings on an Internet message board in which someone or in reality many someone`s posting as Q falsely claim that the world is run by a satanic cabal of elites led by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the deep state.

And that Donald Trump with the help from secret allies, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, will expose and defeat this deep state.  Now, where have we heard that term before?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The crazy attempt by the Democrat Party and the fake news media right back there -- and the deep state to overturn the results of the 2016 election have failed.


TUR:  So why are we talking about it tonight?  Well, because supporters of Qanon were out in full force of President Trump`s grand rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday.

You can see in this line of Trump supporters waiting in line to get into the event many wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the letter Q and shouting Qanon slogans.

NBC News Reporter Ben Collins has been covering Qanon for the past year.  He reported the amount of pro-Qanon supporters at the Trump rally in Grand Rapids on Thursday as absolutely shocking.

Now, there is no evidence to back up any of the Qanon claims.  Again, absolutely none at all, and there is even a theory that the Q posters might be elaborate pranksters modeling themselves off an Italian book.  But for those who wear t-shirts and claim to be in the Qanon clique, what do they hear when the president says things like this?


TRUMP:  All of the current and former officials who paid for, promoted and perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics in our country, they have to be, I`m sorry, they have to be accountable.


TUR:  Joining us now is NBC News Reporter Ben Collins, who is the perfect reporter to talk about this because he has been reporting on Qanon`s presence at Donald Trump`s rallies for the past year.  Ben, so good to see you.  What do those Qanon supporters, believers hear when the president says stuff like that?

BEN COLLINS, REPORTER, NBC NEWS:  They hear a wink and a nod, that`s what they hear.  Because no one`s denied it or anything like that.  There are people on the fringes of the Trump orbit who have denied it in the past, but no one has out and out said this is crazy, this is insanity, please don`t follow this thing.

And they rely on that.  They rely on that sort of wink and nod.  They rely on little clues like it`s numerology.  It`s not real winks and nods but that`s what they into it.

TUR:  What is the danger here when they`re showing up with Q t-shirts and Q hats and Q patches and they`re shouting Qanon themes?  What is the danger?

COLLINS:  Sure.  There -- this is a militant group.  Like there`s been two murders tied to this group this year alone.

One happened a couple of weeks ago.  Somebody killed a mob boss and he held up his hand and said Q on it.  Yes, in court.

TUR:  Here in New York City?

COLLINS:  Yes, exactly.  Somebody else has tried to burn down Comet Pizza a couple of weeks ago and an hour before he did it, again 10 minutes --

TUR:  Again?

COLLINS:  Yes --

TUR:  Same pizza place as the guy that walked with a gun?

COLLINS:  By the way, Pizzagate is part of Qanon.  Every conspiracy theory from the right is part of Qanon.  But an hour before he tried to burn this place down, he posted a Qanon video from a very famous YouTuber who has tens of millions of views.

TUR:  So why has this popped up at Donald trump`s rallies?  I mean it wasn`t a huge thing during the 2016 campaign.

COLLINS:  Right.

TUR:  It`s suddenly much bigger now.  But I guess you could argue the pump was primed.  I mean I do want to play one sound bite from October 13, 2016, and just listen to the terminology Donald Trump is using.


TRUMP:  We`ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.  So true.


TUR:  So that was at the end of the campaign.  Donald Trump didn`t think he was going to win, looking for anybody to blame, and he was talking about this grand conspiracy to keep him out of office, to keep him from fighting for the people at those rallies.

Is that part of the reason why this is such a prime place for conspiracy theorists to latch on to?

COLLINS:  Yes, it`s perfect for them.  and what it does is it combines the two kinds of problems that we have on the Internet and politics right now, where he primes the pump, like you said, and then there are these recommendation algorithms on websites like YouTube and Facebook where they`re searching what the president says.

They say, you know, Hillary Clinton evil or Hillary Clinton part of a global cabal or something.  But then the second video after that, the one that auto-plays after that is what`s the global cabal really?  Oh, it`s about pedophilia, it`s about killing and eating children.

Like there was a lot of this thing last year because it`s a doomsday cult about how one day there is going to be a tape that comes out that says Hillary Clinton is going to chop the face off a child.  And it never came because it doesn`t exist.  But it doesn`t matter because the whole point of it is to extend the boundaries of how evil this set of people in the deep state can be.

TUR:  What is the remedy here, though?  I mean are-- is YouTube, is Twitter, is Facebook, are they looking at this and saying this is an area that we need to police a little bit more?  Don`t you get into a very slippery slope with freedom of speech?

COLLINS:  Yes.  Well, that`s the thing.  You can get into a slippery slope with freedom of speech but they haven`t even gone down that road yet, right.

They can give you better videos than just if you type in "Hillary Clinton evil."

TUR:  So the autoplay is the answer?

COLLINS:  Yes, exactly.  They can -- like there are better ways for things to happen automatically to you on the Internet.

TUR:  Better algorithms?

COLLINS:  Yes, exactly.  This isn`t a speech issue.  Like I always say, like if you walk into a store, like a bookstore, and you say, hey, can you tell me about World War II?  Like if the bookstore is handing you "Mein Kampf" right away, I`m not sure that`s a good bookstore.  If the bookstore is handing you stuff about World War II, it`s probably a good bookstore.

That`s what we need to start doing more on the Internet.  And that`s really -- this is how it grew.  People just had good intentions sometimes.  People had OK intentions.  People wanted to learn about politics.  And they just got radicalized over time because they were trying to solve this mystery.

TUR:  That`s a good analogy, bookstore.  Ben Collins, thanks so much for joining us and helping us understand.  It is all very weird and confusing.

Coming up, among the many things the Oversight Committee is investigating is the new report that Donald Trump inflated his assets to lenders and investors.  Stay with us.  That`s next.



O`DONNELL:  There is no good reason why every presidential candidate can`t release their 2018 tax returns by April 15 or explain exactly why they are using an extension to file after April 15.  It is nothing less than their moral responsibility.


TUR:  Lawrence ended his show last night talking about the moral responsibility that 2020 presidential candidates have to release their 2018 tax returns before tax day on April 15.  But there`s one candidate you can probably assume is not going to release his 2018 return, and that, as you`ve guessed, is Donald Trump.

For nearly four years, Trump has repeatedly dodged questions about his tax returns by claiming that they are under audit, a claim his personal attorney Michael Cohen cast doubt upon during his testimony before Congress.

And we`re learning more and more about why President Trump might not want his tax returns to be released.  Yesterday, "Washington Post" reporters David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O`Connell reported that Donald Trump regularly sent his business partners documents he called a statement of financial condition, which detailed Trump`s properties, debts, and multibillion-dollar net worth.

According to "The Post," those statements regularly inflated the value or size of Trump`s assets while omitted properties that carried big debts.  One of the most blatant and easily disprovable errors contained in the documents is the claim that Trump Tower is 68 stories tall when, in fact, it is only 58 stories tall.

The House Oversight Committee is now investigating whether these misrepresentations cross the line into potential fraud, and as requested, 10 years of these statements from the Trump Organization`s accounting firm.

As 2020 Democrats start making moves towards transparency, will Donald Trump be able to continue to dodge questions about his taxes and business practices?  David Cay Johnston and Christina Greer join me here next.



TRUMP:  I`m being audited now.  A minor audit.  It`s under routine audit.  Like routine.  But, but as soon as my routine audit`s finished, I`ll release my returns.  I`d be very proud to.


TUR:  That is how the president dodged questions about his tax returns last election cycle.  People in this studio are laughing at that right now.  But with an entire field of 2020 Democrats in Congress now pressing the issue, will he be able to do it again?

Joining me now is David Cay Johnston, a man who knows more about Donald Trump`s taxes than just about anyone else.  He`s the founder of the and author of "It`s Even Worse Than You Think, What the Trump Administration is Doing to America."  And Christina Greer, a political scientist and associate professor at Fordham University.

David, the president has been claiming he`s under audit now since the beginning of time.  He`s offered no proof that he`s under audit.  A letter from his tax attorneys but no letter from the IRS.

We can`t go to the IRS and get that information because the IRS can`t answer those questions.  And now, because he is president, those tax returns are locked away in a vault somewhere.

So it`s Donald Trump`s word versus everybody else.  Everyone seems to know that he doesn`t want to release them.  Do you think this reporting from "The Washington Post" today is one of the reasons potentially why?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP:  Well, "The Post" reporting provides some delicious new details about his development in Palace Verdes, California.  But I think the number one thing to keep in mind is that Donald Trump has been tried twice for income tax fraud.  He lost both cases.

The judges wrote opinions that just excoriated his conduct.  There were badges of fraud that would have justified criminal action against him.  These were civil tax fraud trials.  And Trump has never been willing to produce the audit letter, that`s an announcement that tells you nothing except you`re under audit.

So why should we believe he`s under audit if he won`t even produce the audit letter, given his past record of known income tax cheating?

TUR:  Will he be forced to releasing them this time around?  If all of the Democrats do so, Bernie Sanders ends up doing it as well, will he be forced, will he be shamed into it?

CHRISTINA GREER, POLITICAL SCIENTIST:  No because we`re dealing with a man who has no shame.

TUR:  I mean that`s a simple answer.

GREER:  Right.  No.  I don`t think so.

TUR:  Jay Inslee was on "Fox & Friends" this morning, he said I`m releasing all my taxes.  Donald Trump, I dare you to do the same.  Is that the way to do it, have Democrats all get on "Fox & Friends" every morning and say I`m going to release my taxes, the president`s too scared not to.

GREER:  It doesn`t matter because unfortunately, he has the Republican Party who is standing behind him.  These are men who were once -- and I say men primarily.  These were men who once had respect and dignity for themselves and their party.  We`ve seen them behave as sycophants when it comes to this particular president because they`re so afraid of him for a host of reasons.

And so I don`t think he can be shamed into anything.  Those of us who are in New York have had 40 years of dealing with Donald Trump to know there is a bottomless pit of a lack of self-awareness and absolutely no shame.

So everyone in the country could release their taxes.  Every single colleague and peer of his could release their taxes and he still won`t and he`ll come up with some excuse as to why he`s going cheat, lie, and steal.

TUR:  He`s inflated and deflated his assets according to the reporting from "The Washington Post."  The idea that he claims Trump Tower, David, is 68 stories when it`s in fact 58 stories.  That`s something that we`ve heard him say before.  He thinks the atrium is 10 stories and that should count so he adds it on top of the tower, even though it`s only 58 stories.

The interesting thing about that reporting from "The Post", David, is that no financial institutions, no bank complained about any of this.  So even though they may have been loaning him money on financial statements that could potentially have been inflated or deflated, they weren`t bothered.

JOHNSTON:  Well, Donald has gotten bankers to break the law.  I have a copy of a letter from Chase Bank which loaned him the entire purchase price of Mar-a-Lago plus money on top of that in which they pledge to not record the mortgage.

So Donald went on saying I paid cash for it, there is no mortgage.  It is against the law for a bank to not record a mortgage.

And if we had a full accounting of Donald Trump`s finances, we would find many more things.  I mean there is the scam they ran, Ivanka was deeply involved in Baja, California that ripped people off over a development that never took place.

And throughout his career, Donald has just made up numbers and gotten away with it again and again.  Now, in this case, Congress under a 1924 law to avoid corruption and the tax system has an absolute right to see his returns.  They look at people`s returns all the time.

In addition, the State of New York can go after Trump`s returns.  And the City of New York, if Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan prosecutor, housing the interest can also go after his city return.

TUR:  So in terms of the returns itself and we don`t know what is in it, we don`t know who ever see it -- will ever see it.

GREER:  Either a thousandaire or a billionaire.

TUR:  Yes.  I just wonder what difference it makes to those who like him?  I mean if there is a desire to try and pull away of Donald -- pull away of some Donald Trump`s support and the idea might be that, oh, people find out what he`s really worth or what`s in his taxes or how he`s leveraged might convince people otherwise.  Do you think that`s the case or is this a foregone conclusion for them?  They don`t care what`s in the returns, except Donald Trump for the person that he is.

GREER:  Well, I mean here`s the thing.  I think the Democrats care because they think it is a larger issue that needs to be discussed in the American public.  Donald Trump`s base does not care.  They did not care, and I`ve said these times before.

When a man came down the gold escalator and said that Mexicans are rapists, and then we had the Muslim ban, and the trans ban and S hole -countries and the list goes on and on and on.

And the base has not left him after Charlottesville.  All of these things we can list all night long.  They`re not leaving.  They don`t care.  They think that his policies will help them.

I think when people start filing their taxes in two weeks, they`re going to realize those tax cuts are not for them, especially regular working class Americans.  But they are with him, and because of the Mueller report, because there are so many egregious accounts that this president has done, not just whilst in office but before office.  And we`re just pulling these threads of just years and years and decades of corruption.

It seems as though it`s a witch hunt.  It`s just we`ve never had a president in modern history that was this corrupt, that was this ignorant of the office and just completely just about norms and institutions.

So it seems as though that Democrats are picking on him.  But I think there are a lot of people, myself included who are genuinely worried about American Democracy and the future of the country if we survive Trump tenure, either by 2020 or 2024.

TUR:  David, what about Bernie Sanders, if he -- does he have the responsibility to release those taxes before or during the primaries, before the primaries, before he might or might not become the nominee?

JOHNSTON:  Bernie, absolutely, has an obligation here.  And I wrote about this in the last campaign where he played games about it.  And frankly, Bernie doesn`t talk to me anymore since I pointed out that his wife took ax that could be bank fraud of $5 million.

TUR:  OK.  David Cay Johnston and Christina Greer, thank you guys very much.  We appreciate it.

Tonight`s last word is next.


TUR:  It is not every day that the president of the United States comes out in opposition to his own policy.  But that is what Donald Trump did last night.


TRUMP:  We have some breaking news, you ready?  I don`t know.  Can you handle it?  I don`t think you can handle it.  I support the Great Lakes, always have.  They`re beautiful an, they`re big, very deep, record deepness, right?

And I am going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes restoration.  Restoration which you have been trying to get for over 30 years.


TUR:  The cheering crowd may not have realized that Donald Trump`s budget actually calls for a massive cut to that program to protect the ecosystem of the Great Lakes that he just took credit for.  Congress appropriated $300 million for the program last year but Trump`s latest budget proposes a 90 percent cut reducing funding to $30 million.

In fact, every Trump budget has proposed cuts to the program.  Michigan Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee compared Trump`s claim last night to "an arsonist congratulating themselves for putting out a fire that they started."

And that wasn`t the only self-made fire Donald Trump tried to put out.  His budget would eliminate federal funding for the Special Olympics.  But after that, it was widely condemned.  Donald Trump condemned it too.


TRUMP:  I just authorized a funding of the Special Olympics.  I have been to the Special Olympics.  I think it is incredible and just authorized a funding.  I heard about it this morning.  I have overridden my people.


TUR:  If Donald Trump wants to protect the Great Lakes and fund the Special Olympics, why was that not in his budget?  Does Donald Trump not know his own administration`s positions what they are?  Does he not agree with them?  Or is it like "The Washington Post" observed today?

For President Trump, sometimes the easiest problems to solve are the ones created by his own policies.  That`s all for tonight, all for the LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the attorney general has issued a clarification.