LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Are you sure you don`t want to host this hour also?
There`s just so much in this report, Rachel. It`s been overwhelming to try to pick what can we squeeze in to these segments.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": The only thing I want to do that would still give me pleasure even though it may result in me having to stop reading it for awhile, the only thing is take a little break to go to a casting office somewhere to pick the people who I would like to play to act out all of the scenes involving K.T. McFarland.
O`DONNELL: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: It`s like the new efforts at obstruction we didn`t know about, the K.T. McFarland stuff, Erik Prince stuff, the Steve Bannon stuff, the Corey Lewandowski stuff, the Rick Dearborn stuff, I mean, all of this stuff that we didn`t know, especially stuff never reported at all I feel like we ought to start acting that stuff out so we can envision how it went down.
O`DONNELL: I guess one of the things we should do since we can`t cram it all into either one of these shows and we`ll be still talking about this next week, is this time really urge the audience more than usual to actually get this report and read it because among other things as you just suggested, it`s really dramatic.
There are some really dramatic cinematic scenes in this report. The legalese is minimal. You can skip it. If you read one sentence you don`t understand, keep going. You`ll understand the next one.
This is one of the most powerful government documents of its kind I`ve ever held in my hands.
MADDOW: And there`s summaries at the beginning and there`s long narrative conclusions at the end. You can read those if you want the short version of the report or if you want, you can skip those and just jump right into the evidence and read anecdote after anecdote after anecdote, including all of those supporting information. I mean, you`re still frustrated when you get to redactions. But this thing is written for TV.
MADDOW: I mean, it is very cinematic.
O`DONNELL: And speaking of the summaries, now that we`ve seen them, how strange does it make what William Barr has been doing? Those summaries were clearly ready for immediate consumption, labeled executive summary which is what every Washington report has at the beginning of every major section of a Washington report. Executive summary, they were right there.
If William Barr was going to hand out anything, say anything about this report, it should have been the two executive summaries.
MADDOW: And for William Barr to get up there and say, you know on the obstruction stuff, the decision about not charging the president has nothing whatsoever to do with their Justice Department policy that says a sitting president can`t be charged, set that aside.
That`s totally -- I mean, given now that we know what`s in that summary for him to have tried for 26 days to get away with that claim as if that explains why the president isn`t facing criminal charges right now or isn`t facing some sort off substitute for prosecution if he can`t be prosecuted, that`s just remarkable to me because he was blunt as could be on that point and he is 180 degrees bluntly contradicted by the plain non-legalese language of what Mueller explained about his own decision there. Barr is absolutely caught out lying.
O`DONNELL: And here`s what`s so fascinating about it. He knew, he knew you were going to say that.
O`DONNELL: He knew the day was going to come that what he had been saying about this report would be proven false and he was still doing it when he knew it was going to be proven false two hours later, he was standing up there this morning saying the president cooperated completely.
O`DONNELL: -- with this. The guy who refused to submit to an interview.
MADDOW: The guy who -- cooperated completely and here`s 180-plus pages of all the things he did to try to block the investigation, which I`ll summarize as complete cooperation.
It`s just, I mean, the thing that is -- the thing that`s hard here is you`re exactly right. William Barr knows exactly what kind of criticism he`s going to get. He knew he would get that criticism. That`s what he`s here for. You know he`s sitting somewhere tonight going, like, yes, impeach me, right?
There`s all this stuff indicates there will be an impeachment inquiry about the president given what`s in the report. William Barr is hoping to be the heat shield, the guy who absorbs the criticism so as to distract from what this says about Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: We -- I never thought I`d say it when I was watching Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing and not so long after that when we started to find out that not everything Jeff Sessions said in his hearing was necessarily true. It was inconceivable to me that there would be an attorney general who we could say was not as is honorable as Jeff Sessions when it comes to the matter of investigating the president.
MADDOW: Jeff Sessions who we`ve just learned was actively investigated by the FBI for perjury.
O`DONNELL: Among other things. Among the many gems that each of which deserve a full hour of attention.
MADDOW: Exactly. Honestly, we should do it alphabetical by character. I`m going to get actors I swear.
O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s the next step. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence. Good luck.
O`DONNELL: Well, Attorney General Barr took as long as he possibly could to hand over his redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress. But Congress has it now, which means the Republican-controlled Senate will try to ignore it but the Democratically controlled House of Representatives must take on the responsibility of dealing with the Mueller report, which Robert Mueller clearly anticipates in the report. He expects congressional action.
It`s very clear in the report that Mueller expects Congress to be the next center of the action in the investigation of the president, including the possibility of impeachment, which is specifically mentioned by Mueller in the report, actual references to impeachment.
And so, we are important tonight to have two members of the House Judiciary Committee joining us, including one member who is a presidential candidate, Eric Swalwell. They have the responsibility of deciding whether the Mueller report has presented them with impeachable offenses by the president of the United States. They will join us later in this hour after we begin our discussion of the report with a mix of legal and political analysis.
It is not possible to pick a most important line in the redacted version of the Mueller report because there are so many important lines about the proof that, quote, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. There are so many lines that prove conclusively, quote, the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. There are so many crucially important lines in the hundreds of pages of evidence that the president of the United States committed obstruction of justice.
Those are the lines that the Democratically-controlled investigative committees in the House of Representatives will use as the basis of their continuing investigations of the president while the Republican-controlled committees in the United States Senate will to the extent that they can just ignore the Mueller report.
But the line in the Mueller report that tells it you the most about Donald Trump, the person, and Donald Trump the president, and Donald Trump the obstruction of justice suspect is the line that Donald Trump himself speaks. When he is told that a special prosecutor has just been appointed to investigate Russian interference in the election and possible Russian interaction with the Trump campaign, one of the people in the Oval Office at the time was taking notes. And Robert Mueller obtained those notes.
Robert Mueller also obtained under oath testimony from the person who wrote those notes, and everyone else who was in the room -- except Donald Trump, of course, who refused to speak to the special prosecutor. It was one of the many dramatic scenes described in the Mueller report.
Days earlier, the president had fired FBI Director James Comey and believed that that would be the end of the Russia investigation and that the FBI was already conducting. The president was in the Oval Office with Attorney General Jeff Sessions who had recused himself from supervising at investigation. White House counsel Don McGahn was in the room, along with Jeff Sessions, chief of staff, Jody Hunt, who was taking the notes that Robert Mueller used to reconstruct the scene. They were there to conduct interviews for a new FBI director. And they didn`t know that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was supervising the Russia investigation now had just appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel.
Page 78, volume two of the Mueller report. Sessions stepped out to take a call from Rosenstein who told him about the special counsel appointment and Sessions then returned to inform the president of the news. According to notes written by Hunt, when Sessions told the president that a special counsel had been appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and said, oh, my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I`m F`ed.
And that is who Donald Trump really is. He is the terrified man who has feared from the day Robert Mueller was appointed that it meant the end of his presidency. There was no tough guy in him when he heard about the special prosecutor. Just fear and hopelessness. I`m F`ed.
He obviously felt powerless. There was no confidence, no Trumpian bravado.
The Mueller report notes that, quote, early the next morning, the president tweeted, this is the single greatest witch hunt of a politicians in American history!
That`s the public Trump, the witch hunt Trump. The private Trump, the real Trump? This is the end of my presidency. I`m F`ed.
There are many lessons in that important line. First of all, the president is not as crazy as he publicly appears to be. That was a perfectly reasonable assessment of his situation by Donald Trump. Oh, my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I`m F`ed.
That is a normal reaction from a person who realizes that a special prosecutor could ruin his life. He was right. Donald Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator tonight in a federal case in New York City which was begun by Robert Mueller, a cases in which Michael Cohen is going to prison for campaign crimes that he committed with Donald Trump and at the direction of Donald Trump according to federal prosecutors in New York City.
Donald Trump was right to think that thing like the crimes that he committed with Michael Cohen would be the end of his presidency. Donald Trump knew what he was guilty of when he said this is the end of my presidency. Donald Trump knew all the things that he was hoping Robert Mueller would not find out about him or would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt about him.
From a legal standpoint, Donald Trump`s statement also shows what the law calls consciousness of guilt. And that consciousness of guilt as expressed by the president, the second he found out a special prosecutor was on his case is all the motivation he would need for what occupies half of the Mueller report. Donald Trump`s obstruction of justice as described in the evidence gathered by Robert Mueller.
So any that one line, you have three big things. You have the real Donald Trump. You have consciousness of guilt. You have motivation for obstruction of justice.
It is certainly the most dramatic line any character speaks in the entire Mueller report. When the mini series is made, that line will be the end of an episode. The Mueller report is something entirely different from what Attorney General William Barr has been trying to portray it to be, including his highly misleading comments about it just this morning before anyone had read it, knowing that it would be disproved hours later, the attorney general tried to suggest this morning that Donald Trump was fully cooperative with Robert Mueller`s investigation when in fact he refused to be interviewed by the special prosecutor and tried to fire the special prosecutor and delivered messages through his lawyer that people should not cooperate with the special prosecutor.
The Mueller report makes clear that the only reason Robert Mueller did not charge the president with obstruction of justice is the Justice Department policy against indicting a president. And even though Attorney General Barr absurdly echoed Donald Trump`s no collusion chant this morning, hours later, we read on page one of the Mueller report that the investigation, quote, identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The Mueller report spends hundreds of pages describing the links between Russians and Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, and the Trump family.
Robert Mueller correctly points out that the word collusion has no lee meaning and what he was charged with investigating was the possibility of provable criminal conspiracy between Russians and the Trump campaign. The report says: We applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of collusion. And Robert Mueller says that -- within that legal framework, the prosecutors could not prove a Trump campaign conspiracy with Russians. Quote: The investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities, a statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.
This is now a legal story that has also today become a political story with the Mueller report now in the hands of Congress. We are leading off our discussion tonight with experts on both aspects of this story, the legal and the political.
Ari Melber has crossover jurisdiction in both of those territories, the legal and the political. He`s MSNBC`s chief legal correspondent and host of "THE BEAT" weeknights at 6:00 p.m. here on MSNBC.
John Heilemann will consider the politics of the Mueller report as it lands in Congress, in the middle lest we forget of a presidential campaign. He is a national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus".
We have two Justice Department veterans with us tonight who will give us their reading of the report.
Joyce Vance is a former U.S. attorney and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. She`s an MSNBC legal contributor.
And William Yeomans spent 26 years in the Justice Department, was former chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He now serves as a senior fellow at the Alliance for Justice.
And, Ari, let me start with you. This is I think is your ninth hour of television today. I`ve lost track. I`ve been following you all day for quite awhile, most of what I knew about this I learned from you on television. I`ve caught up with my reading.
Given everything that`s been analyzed today, what do you think the focus should be now?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, Lawrence, the day is long but not nearly as long as the Mueller report. You just laid out something that was so vital and you did it as we`ve come to expect in a narrative fashion. But it has great legal significance, as you know, because when the president says, oh there`s going to be a fact-finding query into me and what I`ve done as president or in my life, so my presidency is over, I`m F`ed.
Bob Mueller doesn`t include that in a report this serious for headlines. If Bob Mueller wanted headlines, he would have sought headlines over the last 23 months. He did the opposite. Everyone knows that -- tight-lipped, no leaks during the probe and certainly nor exciting little tidbits.
I submit to you that while that is exciting and makes for great prose as you just read, it`s in there because of the legal significance, because it tells us about the potentially alleged corrupt intent in the president`s mind. And that be goes to the mystery that animates all of in that we`ve learned more about thanks to this report today.
I would put it like this. If there was no chargeable election conspiracy, why would the president do so many things that amounts to evidence of obstruction, so much evidence of obstruction that Mueller says, look, he says this near the end, if we found someone who didn`t obstruct at all, we would tell you that. We`re not telling you that. So, why?
Well, one of the answers that is basically gestured at in that amazing quote is that the president was knowledgeable of his own criminal liability and exposure, but maybe not for the election conspiracy. Maybe for as you mentioned, other election crimes that he knew about that were covered up in New York, maybe for one of the other referrals that remains under investigation. Maybe because the Trump Tower meeting or WikiLeaks contact that he had is the beginning and not the end. So, he knew of other things in his experience gave him knowledge of his own criminal liability.
It was not the private announcement or saying of a person who thought I`m clear, this will be a headache. Give it time. It was the statement -- raw, uncut, unvarnished off Twitter of a man who seemed very acquainted with his criminal liability.
O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, Trump is the one person who knows everything. He knows what he did with Michael Cohen in the closing weeks of the campaign now judged criminal. He might not have known that crossed legal lines but he did know I don`t want that public and he also knew once the prosecutor starts looking at you, they can look at anything.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, and look, I mean, we all have had conversations whether Donald Trump is in full possession of his facts. So, there may be some things he has done he doesn`t remember. I can`t speak to his state of mind, a lot of people speculate about it.
But there`s no doubt that Ari`s point is right. It is a dramatic moment, it is a moment in which to your point earlier, Trump recognizes the profound political peril that he`s in. And everything that happens I think from that moment forward so much of the obstruction part of this report that details owes from that.
He thinks really for the first time he is in existential peril, and he`s right. He may still be right not only that his presidency has been ham strung by it, that he`s been beaten about the head and shoulders by Bob Mueller, by Democrats, by all the critics that attacked him.
But it`s still to me as a political matter if it`s right, that we all directly read in the report and surmise from the tone of the report that Mueller`s intention was to say, I understand that I can`t indict a sitting president according to Justice Department policy. I`m an institutional conservative. I`m not going to challenge that. I`m not going to go to the Supreme Court and try to see if we can set new precedent. What I`m going to do is I`m going to push this in the political realm.
The political realm is the proper realm for this is Congress where we don`t talk about crimes in the purely criminal court sense. We talk about crimes, high crimes and misdemeanors.
And here is in the way that Leon Jaworski did in Watergate. Here`s a road map to Congress for things that could, in a democratic polity, be considered high crimes and misdemeanors. Guys have at it.
So, tonight, where we are in the political realm is a Democratic House of Representatives that faces a giant choice of how to proceed. Impeachment is now fully on table. The answer maybe the Democrats decide they want to go that path, or they want to try to partway down the path and decide later. Or if they want to, as Steny Hoyer suggests tonight, just don`t want to go down that path at all.
But that is the salient political issue is, are we going down that road or not? And that is a matter fully in the hands of Democrats who now control the House of Representatives.
O`DONNELL: Let me stay with you on that for one point, because there`s a couple of elements to it and the most elementary part -- forget the politics of is it good for the Democrats or bad for the Democrats? By the way, one of the things I find so strange coming from the Democratic side is the fear that it`s bad for the Democrats because why? Because the impeachment of Bill Clinton was bad for the Republicans? Who really thinks that?
The Republicans then won the House of Representatives, they then won the Senate and they won the presidency. How did it hurt them? Someone explain that to me.
But the calendar, the calendar, the political calendar. We`re a year and a half away from a change of administrations. If President Trump loses re- election to mount an impeachment process, you might not get to an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives until say that everything at the earliest of this year.
You then move to a trial in the Senate and now you`ve got the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary and impeachment trial in the Senate going on and people are thinking -- wait a minute, isn`t the election close enough to solve this problem?
So the calendar is a practical problem that crashes up against the issue of impeachment.
HEILEMANN: It is and it`s also -- we don`t have what we had in 1974. We don`t have the smoking gun. We don`t have a set of tapes that have caused what would make this an easy political choice, a sudden crumbling of Republican support for the president, the country turning against the president with his approval ratings cratering.
We`ve seen that, and I don`t think we`re going to see that on the basis of this report. As a frank matter, the president`s base is likely to hold. So, therefore, it`s a much trickier political calculation.
Again, putting even aside the things you just laid out, is there a way it could work for Democrats or not? There`s an urgency to it because in some world, you might want to say let`s kick the can down the road, let`s tie the president up in investigations that are interminable, make his life miserable, and then we`ll figure out the impeachment thing in due course.
Unfortunately, in due course, the first Democratic debates are in June, six weeks away. We`re going to get -- we`re starting to hear people, even fierce opponents of the president, who are saying, the right thing to do right now is settle this at the election, at the voting booth.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, with this calendar on the impeachment question, doesn`t that strike you as something -- to me, it`s the invisible factor in the Mueller report, as I`m reading it. And Mueller says at a certain point that he`s not going to subpoena the president because it`s so late in the investigation.
Well, investigations don`t have calendars normally. They have kind of unlimited calendars. But it strikes me that the calendar Robert Mueller had in mind was in fact a presidential election and he did not want to infect a presidential election by letting his work and his investigation run that far down the calendar.
And that`s one of the reasons why he skipped the subpoena process of the president which would have taken several months.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It`s hard to know for sure, but there`s a long-standing DOJ policy that says that we shouldn`t have investigations that impact elections. And, of course, this case is the poster child for that. There is I think no practical way that that decision about the president`s testimonial status could have been decided by the Supreme Court without bumping heads with the timing on the election.
And Mueller may have felt something else here. It`s not something that prosecutors often feel but there`s some indication that he felt urgency to bring the facts in front of the American people. He knew all long he would not be indicting a sitting president because of DOJ policy. And so rather than kicking the can down the road in this regard, I think he was simply trying to get evidence into the hands of the people who constitutionally were the folks charged with making a decision about what to do with it.
O`DONNELL: William Yeomans, that evidence is in their hands now. What does Congress do next? With your experience working on the Hill and your experience in the Justice Department, what do you see happening next?
WILLIAM YEOMANS, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think the House Judiciary Committee has to start a series of very aggressive hearings. As you point out, there isn`t a lot of time. And the administration is going to try to run out the clock.
And I think they`ve already announced they resist every request for information, every subpoena that they get from Congress. They are denying the constitutional role of Congress in oversight and investigations.
So, their goal clearly is to get this beyond the election and to get it to what I think Joyce was just referring to, which is a period before the election when it`s going to be difficult for anybody to do much of anything.
So I think it`s biggest imperative for the Judiciary Committee to start right away with a series of have an aggressive hearings. They do have the road map here. They have a wonderful start. They know who to get in there. They need to do it. They need to do it now.
O`DONNELL: And, Ari, aggressive hearings to my mind, especially based on what we saw today with the attorney general would mean skipping the attorney general hearing. That`s just a formal procedure because there`s the Judiciary Committee, committee of jurisdictions over the Justice Department. They always like to talk to the head guy.
That seems like a tradition to dispense with here, like a wasted day and a wasted amount of time in getting to Mueller. They will get to Mueller weeks after Barr.
Why not just skip Barr and get to Mueller as soon as you can?
MELBER: Well, I suppose the reason to get to Barr is what you and Rachel were talking about, the notion that Sessions was on the hook for perjury was because he had been held to account in that sort of setting.
I agree with your premise. That`s not the point. That`s not the fireworks.
Getting Mueller and perhaps his deputies or going through every single one of his prosecutors to dig into this stuff can be very important. The Cohen testimony was important for the American public.
The nothing matters arguments that we heard throughout this probe and now that Mueller`s done the fair job which means what does fairness sometimes mean? It means there are things in here some people like and things some people don`t like. That`s why he`s such a fair, careful prosecutor.
But the nothing matters argument, that is the argument of the depraved, of the people who want to get away with everything. So while I understand it`s part of our job to cover, what would a calendar of impeachment look like, there`s also the let`s not get ahead of the fact finding that Congress does was this now as you put it, as the road map to have Mueller and other people in and go through it all.
The other point that`s very important of whether or not Congress takes the maximum approach or not is, the president of the United States is the one person our system of government who has the constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
MELBER: That`s what it says in the Constitution. We`ve had so much talk about the fact that for other reasons we don`t indict sitting presidents typically I think sometimes folks lose a little bit of the headline here which is if there is overwhelming evidence of obstruction by the president, that is worse than if it was by a regular citizen even though you have two thoughts in your mind, we have a system that doesn`t indict the sitting president.
And that is what is on the table here that the Congress has to deal with, a president who stands credibly accused of doing that over and over putting himself above the country.
O`DONNELL: Joyce Vance, we all you had some things we wondered about the in Mueller report, especially after the Barr letters started to come out, things that didn`t -- we struggled to make sense of like why didn`t Mueller reach a conclusion. Having read it today, do you feel like it answers all of those questions that we had about what was really happening here?
VANCE: Something that surprised me when I starred reading was actually how well some of the analysis based on the Barr letter held up. And that might sound surprising but what I mean by that is that when we read between the lines of the Barr`s initial letter, we saw he wasn`t saying that the campaign had not engaged in any sort of conspiracy with Russians. Instead, it seemed he had been very narrow and said that there was not evidence that established that.
We saw that repeated in the Mueller report today where Mueller says there was not sufficient evidence. And in fact, talks becomes some ways where evidence was hard to come by, people took the Fifth. Witnesses lied. Some of the evidence was unavailable because it was in the possession of people who were out of the country.
And there`s even this reference where Mueller says, you know, this is the judgment that we make here. But because we couldn`t get all of the evidence, because there were gaps in the evidence, it`s possible that some of what we`ve concluded here could be different if we had had access to the evidence.
So, the president doesn`t get indicted, people around him in the campaign don`t get indicted. But it`s pretty slender hope. It`s not really a strong bill of health.
And then we have something similar that happens on obstruction where it was very clear from Barr`s initial letter that there was no intent for Barr to make the ultimate decision. You know, Barr characterized it as binary. You`re a prosecutor, you have to say yes or no.
Reading the report though, it`s clear what we summarized all along that Mueller declined to make a decision because of DOJ policy against indicting a sitting president, that that was in fact the case, and Mueller writes a beautiful road map for Congress to pick up and investigate with.
O`DONNELL: And, Bill Yeomans, the attorney general seems to be extremely careful in what he writes, including his written statement this morning. You look back on it and you see oh, I see how he threaded the needle.
But then when it`s verbal and he`s just in exchanges in hearings or today with reporters, today the reporters, he said no collusion. This report does not say no collusion. This report does not say, no collusion. This report says if you`re going to use the word collusion in effect what it says is there could be. And there were a bunch of things that sure looked like collusion. We couldn`t get the proof of this up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt for a courtroom.
WILLIAM YEOMANS, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes, it was stunning that the attorney general stayed with the term collusion. And obviously, he was playing to his audience in the White House in the Oval Office. But, the report could not be more clear that the investigation was not addressing collusion. It was addressing the issue of a criminal conspiracy or coordination which is defined as something close to a conspiracy. So -- and there is a lot in the report that and certainly satisfies as my definition of collusion, for instance, where we have Paul Manafort and Gates sitting down with Konstantin Kilimnik to give and, you know, to do an inside strategy discussion on the Trump and campaign and to talk about the battleground states and to share internal polling. That seems to me to be collusion. So, I think there are a number of examples in the report that satisfy the collusion standard to the extent collusion is relevant.
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann in terms of the -- if you`re watching the movie of this like the character you want to track probably more than any other is Don McGahn. He is the one who is in the scenes with the President where the President is saying, you know, fire the special prosecutor, fire Mueller. And this is days after Mueller has been chosen. He comes back to more than once. He calls him at home he says to him call me back when you`ve done it, all these things. And McGahn, at certain points decides not to tell other, not only does he not do it --
JOHN HEILEMANN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND NATIONAL-AFFAIRS ANALYST FOR NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: Yes.
O`DONNELL: -- but, he -- and Mueller, by the way, judges him to be a credible witness, he offers that judgment right, in the writing. Not only does he not do it, but he doesn`t even tell other people about it because he doesn`t want them to be caught in the web where they will sometime have to answer for this. And so McGahn is the one who basically presents it to Priebus and others simply by saying the President is asking him to do crazy crap and I cleaned that up. And the crazy crap he`s talking about would be crimes --
O`DONNELL: -- reading up.
HEILEMANN: Yeah, right. And look, I mean I think what we learned about Don McGahn in this is that he`s a very -- anybody who had questions about his understanding of the intersection of law and politics --
O`DONNELL: And crime.
HEILEMANN: -- and crime. Well, that`s what I meant by law, the criminal risk and the political, the nexus of political risk and criminal risk, he doing things that are quite extraordinarily careful to make sure that he keeps other people out of trouble. You can make various judgments about what his moral standing was, and what you would do in a more heroic version of the movie. But there`s no doubt that it`s extraordinary the number of scenes in which he`s involved where the question of obstruction again in any layman`s understanding is like that`s looks a lot like obstruction of justice to me.
ARI MELBER, AMERICAN ATTORNEY AND JOURNALIST FOR NBC NEWS AND HOST OF MSNBCC`S THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER: And can I add something to that? The criminal code as, you know, Lawrence, is all about -- I`m being told we`re out of time.
O`DONNELL: No, finish.
MELBER: It`s what you intend to do. I try to follow your producer. In my -- meaning, if you accidentally leave the oven on and the house goes up in flames and God forbid people to burn to death that is very different than arson. It`s all about --
MELBER: -- what you`re trying to do. Both sections of this report show the President and his team trying to get foreign help. But not always succeeding. And then the President trying to shut down the probe in ways that his own lawyer thought would be illegal "Saturday Night Massacre" and stops him. So the criminal intent there and the negative attempt to do things that might be criminal is a fuse (ph) throughout you the report even though there`s good news for some of Trump`s folks because people stopped him. That is something America needs to take and consider.
HEILEMANN: And the page after page of Donald Trump trying to break the law basically.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave it there. Ari Melber gets the last word in our opening extended round here. Ari, thank you --
MELBER: Thank you, sir.
O`DONNELL: -- for your service all day today. John Heilemann, and Ari Melber, and Joyce Vance, William Yeomans, thank you all for starting us up. We really appreciate it.
And when we come back, the Mueller report has now been handed to the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that has jurisdiction over impeachment. The chairman of that committee said tonight that it could be a road map. He`s staying away from the word impeachment as much as he can. We will have two members of that committee join us next, Congressman Eric Swalwell and Jamie Raskin.
O`DONNELL: The Mueller report anticipates the possibility of impeachment for the President based on its findings on obstruction of justice and in that section of the report. It specifies that impeachment would not necessarily, be the end of the story for this President. "A possible remedy through impeachment for abuses of power would not substitute for potential criminal liability after a President leaves office. Impeachment would remove a president from office, but would not address the underlying culpability of the conduct or serve the usual purposes of the criminal law. Indeed, the Impeachment Judgment Clause recognizes that criminal law plays an independent role in addressing an official`s conduct, distinct from the political remedy of impeachment."
Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over impeachment was asked about impeachment today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you say that it`s Congress`s responsibility to hold the President accountable, does that mean impeachment? JERRY NADLER, (D-NY) CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That`s one possibility. There are others. We obviously have to get to the bottom of what happened and take whatever action it seems necessary at that time. It`s too early to reach those on conclusions. That`s one reason we wanted the Mueller report. We still want the Mueller report and its entirety and we`ll want other evidence too. O`DONNELL: Chairman Nadler said, he will issue a subpoena for the full, unredacted report and underlying material. Chairman Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff both sent letters to Robert Mueller asking him to testify to their committees next month. Chairman Schiff said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA) CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Whether these acts are criminal or not, whether the obstruction of justice was criminal or not, or whether these contacts were sufficiently illicit or not to rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy, they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral and unpatriotic and should be condemned by every American. That is not the subject of vindication. That is the subject of condemnation. And that is how I think we should view the Mueller report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her colleagues about the Mueller report saying, "As we continue to review this document, we will have more to report and will be update you on the next steps that must be taken. The Caucus is scheduling a conference call for Monday to discuss this grave matter. Congress will not be silent."
Joining our discussion now, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat from California, member of the Judiciary Committee and current candidate for president, and Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, he`s on the Judiciary Committee, the Oversight Committee and House Rules Committee.
Congressman Swalwell, let me start with you with your reaction generally to the report, what you`ve been able to read of it today, and to the question that will be faced in your judiciary committee, the question of impeachment.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening, Lawrence. Hey, Jamie. How is it going? Also, Lawrence, first, I think and foremost this has to be about the future of election security. We now know that the Russians interfered. We need a president to condemn that. And just because a prior Congress never imagined that someone would conduct themselves the way that the President and his campaign did doesn`t mean that we should welcome this type of behavior in upcoming elections.
So there`s a duty to put in place laws to prohibit so much of the conduct that we saw. Also, I don`t think Attorney General Barr can remain as attorney general. He can either be the President`s lawyer or America`s lawyer. He has chosen to work for the President. I believe he should resign immediately.
As it relates to our duty in Congress, yes, a road map has been laid out for the President to be held accountable. I think the first way point is to bring Bob Mueller before our committee which we`re going to do very soon and hear from him.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Raskin, is there really any point to hearing from Attorney General Barr in a hearing? Chairman Nadler has wants to schedule that hearing before the Mueller hearing.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D-MD) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That`s an interesting question. He certainly has a lot to account for in terms of the last three weeks of propaganda rollout of the report which completely stripped him of any credibility as attorney general of the United States. And my friend Eric Swalwell was calling for his resignation. It seems like he`s already resigned in some sense, he`s no longer acting at the Chief Law Enforcement Official for the country, he`s acting more like conciliary and propagandas for the for Trump administration. So I`m much more eager to hear from the Special Counsel for Mr. Mueller than I am from the attorney general at this point. We`ve heard a lot from him over the last few weeks.
O`DONNELL: Let`s hear from the Senate for a second. This is Senator Kamala Harris earlier tonight on this network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: I think it`s -- I think that there`s definitely a conversation to be had on that subject. But first I want to hear from Bob Mueller and really understand what exactly is the evidence that supports the summary that we have been given today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, she was talking about impeachment there, definitely a conversation to be had. That conversation apparently will be had in the presidential campaign. She`s one of your rivals for the democratic nomination. Do you expect it become a campaign issue for Democrats?
SWALWELL: Well, it`s an issue for our country, Lawrence, because what we do now will set the standard for future presidents. So that could be Ms. Harris, that could be myself, so many of us. And that`s really what we have to weigh, is do we want to tolerate what Donald Trump has done or are we willing to say that no president should conduct themselves this way.
And then there`s also just national security implication here and that`s why the Intelligence Committee should also see the full, unredacted report. Because Russia did interfere, they did work with the Trump campaign. We need to know the methods that they used to make sure as all of us go into this 2020 election, even in the primary that Russia is not savaging the field and again taking away our freedom to choose at the ballot box.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Raskin, what do you think the judiciary committee`s most important focus should be in studying the Mueller report?
RASKIN: Well, I think first of all, we want to give the Special Counsel Mueller the opportunity to state what I think is completely pervasive in his report which is that the ball is in congress`s court. It`s up to congress to decide. He didn`t kick it upstairs to the attorney general to declare there was no obstruction on the contrary. He laid out 10 episodes of attempted obstruction or obstruction by the President and basically said the Congress, you go and do your job right now and so we`d like to hear him say that, I think.
But look, the global backdrop here is important. There is rising authoritarianism around the world, there are lots of efforts to interfere with people`s Democratic elections and human rights and Russia interfered in our election and we can`t have countries interfering in each other`s elections. We really need some kind of international treaty on that but we also need to fortify our own state electoral systems because we have a very vulnerable and decentralized electoral system with 51 different election processes on boards, really thousands across the country.
And we`ve got to make sure that we have a real fair election and we defend people`s voting rights against voter purges and all of the tricks that we saw in 2018 in Georgia, in Kansas, in Texas, and North Carolina, all over the country. But we also have to strengthen our cyber defenses against attacking from abroad and from bad actors at home, too.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Swalwell, the report is almost like two reports. One to the intelligence committee that you serve on, and one to the judiciary committee that you serve on. Judiciary that seems to me will be concentrating on the obstruction of justice whereas the intelligence committee concentrating almost entirely on part one which is what the Russians actually did during the campaign. What they hoped to do, what they achieved, how they did it, including the way they infiltrated campaign activities on the ground in the United States specific examples of such things happening in Florida and elsewhere. Which of those -- can you say which of those is more important?
SWALWELL: Well, to me, the security of upcoming elections is the most important thing. We can go back to the past only if it`s informing us about what we`re going to do in the future. I don`t think anyone wants to relitigate the 2016 election.
But we do need to know who they worked with? We need to know how they did it? We need Republicans to join us and acknowledge that they did it. It`s time for the President to lead and do that.
But Lawrence, we also need to make new laws that will make sure if any campaign is approached by a foreign adversary, there`s a duty on them to tell the FBI. I wrote legislation called duty to report. It would put that burden on a federal candidate. And I don`t think any of us want to see this conduct carry out again.
O`DONNELL: Yes, I think Congressman Raskin, that`s and so far one of the lose elements of the Mueller report issues, there`s just so much in it. But there are a number of spots in the report where it is in effect recommending new laws so that they would have had different legal frameworks that they were looking at for this activity.
RASKIN: Yes, and you know, one of the things we need to do is to get foreign money out of our elections. Citizens United opened up the floodgates to foreign money to come pouring in through corporations. We`ve got legislation called, "Get Foreign Money Out" which attempts to close that loophole.
But we also need to strengthen generally the right to vote in the country. We need to strengthen the defenses of the state electoral systems which got hacked in the 2016 election. And there was actually some tantalizing evidence offered in the report that had not been public before about intrusions into, you know, state computer election systems. So that`s a very serious problem.
You know, look, the Democrats are taking this on. We haven`t been waiting around. We obviously have a very strong positive program that we`re fighting for which is reauthorize the violence against women act. We`ve passed the toughest gun safety legislation in more than a decade which we`re waiting on the Republicans to take up and we passed HR-1 which is all democracy reform, vote strengthening package where we eliminate gerrymandering and move to the independent voting boards in every state in the union so we can have some fairy districting and real democratic opportunities.
So these are things that we`ve got to do on the positive side, even while we`re defending the constitution and the rule of law against the most lawless White House of our lifetime. So that`s the challenge for us as a party as a caucus is to stay on the positive high road at the same time that we`re defending the rule of law.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Jamie Raskin, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you both for joining us on this important night. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
And when we come back, we will consider where we are on this be historic night. We`ll be joined by Journalist and Presidential Historian Jon Meacham who will help pinpoint for us where we are in this story. What is to come?
Jon Meacham was the Managing Editor of "Newsweek" during the last impeachment process in the Congress and he`s written biographies of four presidents. He has much to say in terms of guiding us about what comes next.
O`DONNELL: Jon Meacham`s beautifully written best selling book, "Franklin and Winston" the story of the friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as they worked together during World War II included this quote from Winston Churchill after a crucial victory in a British battle.
"Now is not the end," Churchill said, "It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." That`s the quote that I used at this time last night to describe where I expected us to be tonight, the end of the beginning.
And so tonight the special prosecutor`s investigation has been handed to Congress with much for Congress to pursue, including the possibility of impeachment hearings and the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives.
Jon Meacham has seen this once before. He was the Managing Editor of "Newsweek" when President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives. Since then he has written biographies of four presidents from Thomas Jefferson to the first President Bush.
Jon Meacham joins us now to combine his journalism experience with his historian`s eye to give us his reaction to the Mueller report and where we are tonight in the investigation of Donald Trump. Jon, thank you very much for joining us tonight on this historic night, which it is, and when we have historic nights, of course, I want the historical perspective.
Your reaction to what you saw today, both in the report and in the country`s reaction to it?
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, another Churchill line came to mind, one that`s attributed to him, which is that you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing once they`ve exhausted every other possibility which we`re in the process of exhausting all these possibilities.
My sense of the report was it was something that remarkable in its level of detail, and I hate to say it, not especially surprising. I think if you`ve followed Donald Trump in his national political career from the false conspiracies about Barack Obama`s birth unto this very day, you would probably not be surprised that you had a president who did all he could to fight for his self-preservation above all else. And I think that what we now will face is a question of whether the Congress will confront what is clearly their constitutional responsibility.
They may choose for political reasons not to do it, but George Mason said at the constitutional convention, talking -- debating the impeachment clause that actually ended up in the document, that he asked rhetorically, can any man be above justice? Who can be above justice? Particularly not he who has the power to do the most extensive injustice.
And to my mind, what gave me more of a sinking feeling than anything else and seeing the details in the report was if this is what we know he`s done, Lord knows what he`s done that we don`t know or that he might do.
O`DONNELL: And let`s take a look at the last impeachment case that the -- that Washington dealt with where Lindsey Graham, then a congressman, was one of the House prosecutors of President Clinton in the impeachment trial in the Senate. And let`s listen to the standard that Lindsey Graham thought applied then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He doesn`t have to say go lie for me to be a crime. You don`t have to say let`s obstruct justice for it to be a crime. You judge people on their conduct, not magic phrases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jon Meacham, does that sound like Lindsey Graham got it a little closer to correct in those days than he does now?
MEACHAM: It`s funny how that happens, isn`t it? Videotape is an amazing thing.
You know, the politics of hypocrisy, the punditry of hypocrisy is something that we all practice because it`s so rich. What worries me most and, again, historically speaking right now is the last time we impeached -- one time back, President Nixon, he was impeached largely for what we now have evidence of that Donald Trump did. And there wasn`t much debate about it and there is virtually no historical debate about it.
Nixon was caught -- the wall began to crumble, as you know, in the summer of 1974 when the June 22nd tape came out in which he had said that he wanted to get the CIA to stop the FBI from investigating Watergate. The CIA didn`t do it which is, again, an Eerie Echo we have here, but that was the last straw. And what worries me most about where the political culture is right now is what the last straw was in 1974 is barely a straw at the moment, for at least for the 48%, 49% of the country that has decided that whatever he has done with Russia they don`t seem to particularly care.
You asked me about the country`s reaction to it. My great hope in all of this has been that somehow or another we would be able to let reason into the arena with passion. It`s a passionate era. It`s like -- it`s a lot like 1968, which you`ve written about. It`s where people have chosen a tribe and that`s the tribe they`re going to stay in.
But if we don`t absorb the facts, if we don`t let our preconceptions be shifted by changing data, we`re not being true to the original intent of the American revolution, which is that reason has to take a stand here, and I hope the people will read it, I hope they`ll do that and I hope the Congress will confront their responsibility.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Jon Meacham gets "Tonight`s Last Word." Jon, thank you very much for joining us.
"The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.