Democrats call for Barr to resign. TRANSCRIPT: 5/1/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: Adam Schiff, Richard Blumenthal

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.

I was actually watching the clock there.  Your whoo came exactly at 10:00.  It was 10:00:00 zero on my clock here. 

So, Rachel, that extraordinary explanation that Secretary Clinton just gave about OK, so according to William Barr, perfectly OK for a Democratic candidate to publicly ask China for help in this election and to try to hack e mails and so forth. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  Hey, China, if you`re listening, could you please get Donald Trump`s tax returns and then China responds by hacking the IRS and getting material and distributing it and the candidate says, thank you, I love China for doing that.  That means -- it is a -- it`s a very disconcerting thing that she`s laying out. 

O`DONNELL:  But it was -- it was really the most perfect illustration of where we are and what William Barr is willing to accept in the new standards. 

MADDOW:  And, honestly, what the Congress and particularly Republicans in Congress are willing to accept as behavior that wasn`t charged for whatever reason and is therefore OK.  I mean, if the result of the Mueller report is that all of the criminal and wrong and distressing behavior described in it is all verified (ph) and validated and in some cases celebrated because it wasn`t criminally charged, then what Secretary Clinton just described in terms of that public overture to Chinese hackers is absolutely what we should not only expect but what should be people -- seeing candidates, you know, contend with one another, compete with one another in order to get their first. 

I think that`s a salient point.  It`s important both for Barr and for Mueller, but it`s also really important in terms of Congress deciding that described behavior is something that they`re totally cool with. 

O`DONNELL:  I think we all remember Congressman Adam Schiff`s moment in the intelligence committee when he went through that, is it OK.  The way he kept phrasing it, I don`t think it`s OK.  And he just rattled off a series of things that the president and his associates did, knowingly did. 

And that`s the kind of question, if put in question form today, William Barr would not take that question.  Is it OK, is it OK to do these things?  He wouldn`t even entertain any of that.  I raise that not just because Adam Schiff is my first guest tonight, but because we saw the way the attorney general will only -- his rule is: I`ll only talk about things that are crimes and if it`s not a crime, you are not allowed to ask me if I think it`s OK for the president to lie to the American people. 

MADDOW:  And at that point, the right thing to do is to say, Attorney General Barr, thank you so much for your time.  Don`t call us, we`ll call you. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I mean, like, at what point -- 

O`DONNELL:  That`s kind of where we are now. 

MADDOW:  If that`s the grounds on which he`s saying to answer questions, he`s there to denigrate Robert Mueller and say Robert Mueller was terrible doing his job.  He`s there to further mischaracterize what`s in Mueller`s report that we can read for ourselves, he`s there to say I`m not going to answer questions unless they`re about things I decide to construe as crimes and by the way, I don`t know when you`ll hear from Robert Mueller himself. 

I mean, why have him there at that point?  Why continue with this operation today?  I know there`s a lot of drama whether or not the House Judiciary is going to be able to compel him to appear now that he`s turned down his committee date with them tomorrow.  Part of me is not excited about the prospect that he would ever succeed in getting him in there because at this point, I`d much rather hear from Robert Mueller at least on this point. 

When they later want to investigate Barr`s handling as a separate matter, sure, get him back then.  But right now, we still need to know what Mueller actually found because Barr is still restricting access to that information. 

O`DONNELL:  We are waiting for Mueller.  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, at the end of this hour tonight, we`re going to show you what went through my mind today when we heard Lindsey Graham complaining about FBI officials during the presidential campaign who said things about Donald Trump that were virtually identical to what Lindsey Graham was then saying about Donald Trump.  And so, we have assembled a special video at the end of the hour of Lindsey Graham angrily disagreeing with Lindsey Graham and it`s a neatly crafted 41 seconds of video you don`t want to miss.  It`s a perfect bite-sized video for tweeting and social media. 

Also toward the end of the hour tonight, I want to get to something we promised last night, actual video of Kellyanne Conway breaking the law in the White House driveway.  But she did it again.  So, we`ll show you both days.  We`ll show you yesterday and today of Kellyanne Conway breaking the law. 

But we begin with the new level of confrontation that Congress reached today with the attorney general and the president of the United States.  We will be joined by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.  Senator Richard Blumenthal, who had some crucially important exchanges with the attorney general in today`s hearing.  And Neal Katyal who co-wrote the rules for special counsels that William Barr relied on today when he said that it`s perfectly legitimate for President Trump to have tried to fire Robert Mueller for conflicts of interest. 

And so, the showdown has arrived.  That`s where we are now.  The attorney general of the United States is refusing to testify to the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler said tonight that because the attorney general is refusing to comply with the Judiciary Committee`s subpoena for the full unredacted Mueller report and refusing to testify tomorrow, he is on verge of seeking a contempt citation against the attorney general. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  If good faith negotiations don`t result in a pledge of compliance in the next day or two, the next step is seeking a contempt citation against the attorney general. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And so, it is now the House of Representatives versus the attorney general of the United States.  Legally and procedurally, the attorney general seems to be saying to the Democratic House of Representative, if you want to seriously investigate the president of the United States, you`re going to have to go through me first. 

And William Barr is putting every obstacle he can in front of the House of Representatives and creating every delay that he can in the House of Representatives. 

Demands for the attorney general`s resignation are coming from many of the Democratic senators who questioned the attorney general today.  Several of the Democratic presidential candidates and from our first guest tonight, Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, who said this.  After watching Attorney General Barr`s torturous explanations for a long list of misrepresentations, it`s clear Barr views himself as Trump`s lawyer, not America`s lawyer.  He was hired with an agenda to protect Trump and Barr like his boss is grossly unfit for the office. 

William Barr has a tell.  He has a tell when he`s cornered.  He has a giveaway, a signal when he is in trouble. 

It`s not in his manner which is always very steady and seemingly calm.  It`s in the way he parries the question that is loaded with danger for him.  The very first thing he always does, you can watch this, the very first thing he does when he`s in trouble is he asks for the question to be repeated.  He does that every time. 

And he needs that time to think about what to say and then after the question is repeated, he always latches on to one word in the question.  And then plays with that word to run away from answering the question.  It happened a few times today. 

Let`s watch William Barr`s tell in action when he is asked a very important question that he obviously does not want to answer by Senator Kamala Harris. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Attorney General Barr, has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? 

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t --

HARRIS:  Yes or no? 

BARR:  Could you -- could you repeat that question?

HARRIS:  I will repeat it. 

BARR:  Yes.

HARRIS:  Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?  Yes or no, please, sir. 

BARR:  The president or anybody else. 

HARRIS:  Seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us. 

BARR:  Yes, but I`m trying to grapple with the word suggest.  I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation.  But --

HARRIS:  Perhaps they`ve suggested? 

BARR:  I don`t know.  I wouldn`t say suggest. 

HARRIS:  Hinted? 

BARR:  I don`t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  I don`t know.  That`s the best he could do. 

William Barr knows how to give a yes or no answer. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI):  Is the White House exerting any influence on your decision whether to allow special counsel Mueller to testify in Congress and when? 

BARR:  No. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  The time to watch William Barr is when he`s given a yes or no question and he does not answer yes or no.  Senator Richard Blumenthal, who will be joining us tonight, was the attorney general of the state of Connecticut.  He`s a former federal prosecutor. 

Let`s watch what happens when is Senator Blumenthal asks the attorney general if he knows of any other instance where a federal prosecutor sent a letter to his boss, the attorney general, rebuking the attorney general.  He`s referring of course, to Robert Mueller`s letter to Barr and in his question, Senator Blumenthal refers to Robert Mueller as a career prosecutor because he`s held several prosecutorial jobs in the Justice Department from assistant United States attorney, to United States attorney, to deputy attorney general, as well as FBI director. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  A career prosecutor rebuking the attorney general of the United States memorializing it in writing, right?  I know of no other instance of that happening.  Do you? 

BARR:  I don`t consider Bob at this stage a career prosecutor.  He`s had a career as a prosecutor. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Well, he`s a very eminent prosecutor. 

BARR:  He was the head of the FBI for 12 years. 

BLUMENTHAL:  He`s a career -- law enforcement professional. 

BARR:  Right. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Repeatedly today, William Barr made the mistake of saying he didn`t know the answer to certain questions that only Robert Mueller would know the answer to which will significantly the House Judiciary Committee`s argument in court that they need to hear Robert Mueller`s testimony if it comes to a court battle.  Senator Kamala Harris trapped the attorney general into making the strongest statement made by anyone at the hearing today about how important it is for Congress to hear the testimony of special counsel Robert Mueller. 

First, Senator Harris established that William Barr did not examine any of the evidence referred to in the Mueller report and then said this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS:  As the attorney general of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice.  If in any U.S. attorney`s office around the country, the head of that office when being asked to make a critical decision about in this case the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime, would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they had not reviewed the evidence? 

BARR:  That`s a question for Bob Mueller.  He`s the U.S. attorney.  He`s the one who presents the report. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.  He`s the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former federal prosecutor. 

Congressman Schiff, I want to use all of your skill sets including former prosecutor to go to Senator Blumenthal`s question.  Have you ever heard of a U.S. attorney or federal prosecutor of any rank writing a letter of rebuke as it was characterized to the attorney general to his boss, the attorney general? 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  No, I think it would be unthinkable except in the most extreme circumstances which I`ve never seen before. 

And here you had the spectacle of Barr saying basically Mueller is nothing more than a garden variety U.S. attorney.  He works for me.  When he gave me the report, he was done. 

Well, clearly, he wasn`t done when he provided that report.  He was still working with Barr, purportedly, on the redactions.  And more than that, he felt it necessary to weigh in with his boss and say, you`re misrepresenting my work.  You`re misrepresenting two years of work.  You have provided out of context.

And basically I think what Mueller was reacting to was Barr was feeding this false narrative being pushed out by the White House.  And I can only imagine how Mueller and his team must have felt seeing it happen in real- time.  And now that we have seen the letter, we see just how serious the flaws were in what Barr had been representing to the country. 

O`DONNELL:  What aspects of the attorney general`s testimony today did you have your strongest personal reaction to? 

SCHIFF:  Well, look, I think he testified very plainly, falsely, previously to Congress.  So, first, he misled the country with his false summaries.  And then he came into Congress and he was asked, are you aware of reservations by the Mueller team, and his answer was again, as you say, an equivocal no.  That was just flat out false.  And he knew it. 

You know, one thing you have to recognize in Barr, he`s not a stupid man.

He`s a very smart lawyer.  He understood exactly what was being asked of him, and he deliberately misled the Congress. 

This is the highest law enforcement officer in the country and when he was asked about that today to try to suggest that -- well, I was talking about Mueller`s team when I answered that question, not Mueller.  That`s absurd. 

And I`ll tell you, if he was overseeing a prosecution for perjury, he would never accept that kind of a bogus explanation.  But I think on a far more significant level what I found troubling about the attorney general today is he seemed to be saying that if Bob Mueller wasn`t going to either say he was guilty or say he was innocent, then he should have never done the investigation. 

Now, what does that mean?  Well, it means that there`s no way to hold a president accountable.  And maybe that`s what is Barr is really after because if you accept the OLC opinion and Barr hasn`t said that he doesn`t, then it does follow from that as Mueller suggested that if I can`t indict a sitting president because they can`t clear their name, then I shouldn`t say I would indict them but for this policy because then you`re placing the same stigma over the office. 

So, I don`t agree with Mueller.  I think you can indict a sitting president.  But if you are going to be bound by the OLC opinion and Barr would be the first one to say Bob Mueller, you will follow DOJ policy.

O`DONNELL:  Yes.

SCHIFF:  If you`ve got to follow it, you`ve got to follow it.

And so, Barr is being completely disingenuous.  He`s being completely disingenuous in saying that I had to make this decision myself to clear the president.  That`s baloney. 

And to arrogate that decision to himself to use the president`s language, false language, no collusion, no obstruction, spying, all those kind of buzz words, he has made himself essentially the hand maiden of the president, not the attorney general of the United States. 

And why someone at this point in their career would be willing to so sacrifice his integrity, his reputation, everything in the service of this is unethical president will forever be a mystery to me.  But he`s not alone.  Obviously, there are many others around Trump who are doing the same thing. 

O`DONNELL:  And he repeatedly said under oath today that he didn`t understand why the special counsel did not reach a charging decision when the special counsel explains it very clearly that any non-lawyer could understand. 

Let me go to the question Rachel had actually at the beginning of this hour which is OK, is there any point to continuing with Attorney General Barr?  Should the House of Representatives simply move on to be Robert Mueller, to Don McGahn, to much more important witnesses really than the attorney general? 

SCHIFF:  Well, I think Rachel is exactly right that at this point, there`s one witness that matters more than any another.  And that`s Bob Mueller.  We can`t rely on anything Bill Barr has to say. 

Now, Barr is characterizing his verbal discussions with Mueller.  Who can rely on that after this guy`s record?  So, we need to hear from Bob Mueller.  We need to hear why he made the decisions he made, why he didn`t reach certain decisions.  We need to hear his thoughts on the significance of the evidence, what he intended for Congress to do in terms of its role. 

I don`t have any confidence we can rely on Barr for that whatsoever.  But there may come a time to have Barr when we`re examining Barr`s own conduct, and it also may be inspector general investigation of Barr`s conduct may be warranted here. 

But I think Mueller`s very important.  We have demanded he come before the intelligence committee, as well.  We still don`t have anything about the counterintelligence investigation which is where this all began.  And Mueller makes reference to it in his report and says we had embedded counterintelligence agents who sent their own findings back to headquarters.  We still don`t have that. 

So, we`re going to bring Mueller into our committee, as well.  That`s I think going to be the most important testimony. 

O`DONNELL:  Would some of that have to be closed door testimony? 

SCHIFF:  Some of it will.  You know, our intention is to do as much as we can in open session, and then go to closed session where, you know, we may have foreign intelligence on issues of compromise involving the president or those around him.  You know, if the Moscow Trump Tower wasn`t disclosed, for example, in the in report itself, that`s the kind of thing that might be disclosed in a counterintelligence investigation. 

Hey, this guy has got a potential business deal.  The Russians are dangling lots of money.  This is influencing his policy, his views, et cetera.  That`s the kind of thing you would see in a counterintelligence report. 

But it came in the context of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia and the context of lying to the committee and obstruction, but what is in the counterintelligence report we still don`t know. 

O`DONNELL:  As you sit here tonight, are you worried about the timetable?  Do you have any idea when you would actually hear from Robert Mueller? 

SCHIFF:  I don`t think they can put Mueller off much longer. 

O`DONNELL:  Why not?  Why can`t they? 

SCHIFF:  Because I think they realize the public pressure is going to be too great.  And that`s why I think Barr has conceded I`m not going to oppose Mueller testifying before Congress. 

What he has wanted to do is part of the same pattern which is even though Mueller had a summary of his own, even though Mueller wanted to release his own summary, I released my summary to set a false narrative.  That wasn`t enough though. 

When the Mueller report was going to come out and I knew it was going to come out and it was bad for the president, I decided I was going to give my own be preview that morning.  Of course, that was completely unnecessary except in the service of the president.  So, he gives his false summary again.  And then he gives false testimony.

All of this is buying time for the narrative to settle in.  His testimony before Congress, his insistence and in our discussions they`re like -- their position at justice is first Barr and they be we can talk about other things. 

It`s all part of the same.  We`ll have Barr testify.  We will run the clock longer so that the Barr version of events which is essentially the Trump version of events will have longer to take hold before the country actually gets to hear from the man himself Bob Mueller.  So, it`s all part of the same tactic. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, we don`t know how it`s going to be cracked. 

Chairman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really, really appreciate it. 

SCHIFF:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Senator Richard Blumenthal cornered William Barr repeatedly today.  We`ll show you William Barr trying to run away to answering Blumenthal`s questions about his communication with the White House. 

And former Solicitor General Neal Katyal will join us with his analysis of the attorney general`s testimony today.  Spoiler alert, he didn`t love it. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLUMENTHAL:  Did anyone, either you or anyone in your staff, memorialize your conversation with Robert Mueller? 

BARR:  Yes. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Who did that? 

BARR:  There were notes taken of the call. 

BLUMENTHAL:  May we have those notes? 

BARR:  No. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Why not? 

BARR:  Why should you have them? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Oh, I don`t know.  Because they`re federal records according to Federal Records Act?  Just like Hillary Clinton`s State Department e-mails which William Barr, and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee still want to investigation and read?  And they have every legal right to read Hillary Clinton`s State Department e mails for exactly the same reason that Senator Blumenthal has a right to obtain the notes that were taken during a crucial phone call that an apparently had many witnesses.

The attorney general testified that his phone call with Robert Mueller was on speakerphone and that several of the attorney general`s staff were listening, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLUMENTHAL:  Who said what to whom? 

BARR:  I said, Bob, what`s with the letter?  You know, why didn`t you just pick up the phone and call me if there`s an issue?  And he said that they were concerned about the way the media was playing this and felt that it was important to get out the summaries which they felt would put their work in proper context. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Obviously, to anyone who works in government, Robert Mueller wrote a letter of complaint to the attorney general instead of a phone call because he wanted it in the record.  He wanted the attorney general questioned about that letter and the kind of hearing that we saw today. 

  And Attorney General Barr certainly knew that as soon as he saw the letter.  And that`s why he picked up the phone and called Robert Mueller because he was worried about that letter. 

And, today, the attorney general gave away just how enraged he must have been and still is by that letter. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  You know, the letter is a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  OK, let`s get there straight.  All of William Barr`s letters about the Mueller report were written by staff people.  That`s true of most attorneys general before William Barr. 

In Washington, complaining about a letter being written by staff people is the ultimate reveal about how much of a problem that letter has become for the person who is complaining about it. 

Joining us now, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who questioned William Barr today, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. 

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

What for you were the most important moments in that hearing? 

BLUMENTHAL:  That moment was a profoundly important one, Lawrence, because not only was the attorney general deeply dismissive and demeaning about one of the great prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country but he was deliberately obfuscating and deceiving about that letter. 

There`s no mention in that letter of the press misinterpreting the Barr four-page summary.  The letter says that William Barr was misleading and deceptive about the nature, context, and be conclusions of the Mueller report.  And it is doing damage to public confidence in the credibility of that investigation. 

Regardless of who wrote the letter, it has Bob Mueller written all the way around it, and that`s why enraged and I think also scared William Barr. 

O`DONNELL:  I want to take a look at an exchange that`s going to take us a minute, like a full minute to run it where I believe what I was watching was you discovering something in your cross-examination to the attorney general and then following it, something you didn`t know was necessarily there.  Let`s just watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLUMENTHAL:  I want to ask you whether on those remaining investigations, the 12 to 14 investigations, whether you have had any communication with anyone in the White House. 

BARR:  No. 

BLUMENTHAL:  And will you give us an ironclad commitment that you will in no way --

(CROSSTALK)

BARR:  By the way, I`m not sure, you know, the laundry list of investigations.  But I certainly haven`t talked the substance or been directed to do anything on any of the cases. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Well, let me give au opportunity to clarify. 

BARR:  Yes. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Have you had any conversations with anyone in the White House about those ongoing investigations that were spawned or spun off by --

BARR:  I don`t recall having any substantive on the investigation. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Have you had any non-substantive discussion? 

BARR:  It`s possible that a name of a case was mentioned. 

BLUMENTHAL:  And have you provided information about any of those ongoing investigations?  Any information whatsoever. 

BARR:  I don`t recall, no. 

BLUMENTHAL:  You don`t recall? 

BARR:  I don`t rule providing any. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Is there anything that would refresh your recollection? 

BARR:  If I -- probably looked over a list of cases. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And we can`t look over a list of cases because those cases are secret.  He knows what those cases are.  We don`t.  So we don`t know if a relative of his isn`t involved in one of those cases. 

What I was struck by I saw the attorney general give a solid no.  You asked him about any communication with the White House about those cases, no.  You move on.  That`s the answer you`re expecting.  That`s what I think I`m watching.

Then I wanted the attorney general start to crawl back and change the no, like he realized, I`d better change that into an I`m not sure, I don`t recall because there are a bunch of people in the White House who might some day be saying yes, they discussed those cases. 

BLUMENTHAL:  And he could see almost in his mind`s eye six months from now the rerun of that answer and his being held responsible for lying to the Congress.  But here`s the important point. 

O`DONNELL:  You just, you knew what you had, right?  As an experienced prosecutor when someone wants to go back and change a no, you knew what you were chasing? 

BLUMENTHAL:  I knew that he had had conversations with people in the White House and the reason that I was so struck by it was that reading the Mueller report, one of the signs of obstruction of justice is the fact that in fact, there was an ongoing pattern of White House officials talking to Sessions and trying to shut down the investigation.  So we`re seeing the same playbook here with a new attorney general, different investigations, William Barr knows exactly what they are. 

When he said to me, do you know what they are?  Can you tell me what they are?  I thought that was almost a humorous moment except it was so deadly serious. 

And the other point here is that the rebuke from Robert Mueller is really unprecedented.  It`s stunning.  It`s memorialized.  It`s on paper.  And it is for the ages.  It`s for history.

And so I think the American people have a right to know more about what Robert Mueller will say.  We need Robert Mueller and his team, not just him, but his team, to testify before the United States Congress along with Don McGahn and others.

O`DONNELL:  Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  I have to say, someone who spends a lot of time in courtrooms, it was really a pleasure watching you work and I say that as a kind of neutral observer of professional legal skills.  Thank you very much.

BLUMENTHAL:  Wow.  That`s high praise.  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Really appreciate you being here.  Thank you.

When we come back, former Solicitor General Neal Katyal will join us with his analysis of the attorney general`s testimony today.  And later, we will show you one of the president`s staffers breaking the law in the White House driveway, second day in a row.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  According to the Mueller report, the president twice told White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller.  And on one of those occasions, Don McGahn recalled Donald Trump saying call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can`t be the special counsel.  And then telling him, Mueller has to go.  Call me back when you do it.

Today, William Barr said this about why that attempt to fire Robert Mueller was not obstruction of justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES:  There is a distinction between saying to someone fire him, go fire Mueller, and saying have him remove based on conflict.

FEINSTEIN:  And what would --

BARR:  They have different results.

FEINSTEIN:  What would that conflict be?

BARR:  Well, the difference between them is if you remove someone for a conflict of interest, then there would be presumably another person appointed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  William Barr says he relied on the evidence in the Mueller report but the Mueller report evidence says that conflicts of interest were not the reason why Donald Trump wanted Robert Mueller fired.  The report says "the evidence indicates that news that an obstruction investigation had been opened is what led the president to call McGahn to have the special counsel terminated."

It also says "Don McGahn and other advisers believed the asserted conflicts were silly and not real and they had previously communicated that view to the president."

Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal who co-wrote the rules for special counsels when he worked in the Justice Department has just published an op-ed in the "New York Times" tonight called "Why Barr Can`t Whitewash the Mueller Report."

In that new op-ed piece, Neal Katyal says Mr. Barr`s deeply evasive testimony on Wednesday necessitates and tees up a full investigation in Congress.  Neal Katyal will join us after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  Many who watched Attorney General William Barr`s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee which followed the revelation that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller had expressed misgivings about Mr. Barr`s characterization of his report are despairing about the rule of law.

I am not among them.  I think the system is working and inching however slowly toward justice.  Those are not my words.  They are far too elegant obviously.  Everything I just said appears in Neal Katyal`s piece tonight in the "New York Times" entitled "Why Barr Can`t Whitewash the Mueller Report."

And joining us now is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general, and an MSNBC legal contributor.  I want to kind of focus your response to certain things.  I have an idea of what you`ve been saying about this.

And I want to show you something that the president said -- that William Barr said today about the president`s ability to fire the special counsel not just for conflict of interest.  This is now the false accusations theory.

And then I want to get your response to all of these theories of legitimate firing that were offered today.  Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  If the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, if he -- and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair propelled by his political opponents and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  OK.  I guess the way I will frame this is, which one of these answers bothers you the most, the one where the president can fire the special counsel because he thinks he`s falsely accused or the idea that Donald Trump had an absolutely legitimate reason for firing Robert Mueller based on Robert Mueller`s conflicts of interest?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL:  Yes.  Well, it`s all of the above.  And maybe just to back up, I mean the reason I wrote "The New York Times" piece is because I know there is this -- the people all across the country are watching this and they`re despaired and they`re scared and you know, I`m watching my beloved Justice Department have to go through this with this leader at the helm which is just a horrible thing for the department to go through.

But I do think in the end, America`s a lot stronger than Trump.  It`s a lot stronger than Barr.  These are people who are determined to destroy parts of the rule of law.  And I think the system is going to hold.

And that brings me to your question.  The very fact that we`re watching Barr testify and say such preposterous things is actually the system working in a way.  It`s him having to articulate his reasons and his reasons like what we just heard in that clip makes no sense.

The Mueller report did not say that this was all false, all the accusations of collusion and stuff.  It said applying that beyond a reasonable doubt a very high standard, they wouldn`t make out a criminal case.

It doesn`t necessarily -- the whole reason you have an investigation if you had a standard that said you have to prove everything up before you actually investigate, then we wouldn`t ever have any investigations.  And then the idea Barr`s legal theory, well, the president can just fire someone and end an investigation if he thinks it`s bogus, well, that`s generally true but it depends on your motivation.

So if your -- if I have the right to, you know, destroy -- to have a laptop with all my evidence on it and all my writings, but if I know the cops are coming for it, I can throw it away.  That`s called obstruction of justice.

Similarly here, Barr -- excuse me.  Trump fired the guy investigating him.  And Mueller`s report lays out a devastating detail example after example of where this looks like a corrupt motive.

O`DONNELL:  And the attorney general was trying to use the rules you wrote today that include conflict of interest as a potential reason for firing special counsel.  What was your reaction to that?

KATYAL:  That was just so deeply misleading.  It made no sense whatsoever.  So first of all, Barr said, well if Sessions will a conflict of interest, that`s somehow different from firing him for some other reason.  But -- and that you could kind of unrecuse people and the like.  None of this makes any sense.

The special counsel regulations are really simple.  They just simply say look, if the public doesn`t have confidence in the person doing the investigation because, for example, they happen to be appointed by the president, you can go outside the department.

And that`s why they did.  And that pointedly is what we learned Mueller`s complaint about Barr was yesterday because that letter says and it quotes actually part of the special counsel regulations and it says the whole point of this is public confidence, an independent investigation.

Here you are eliminating all of that putting your own spin on the report and trying to exonerate a president, you know, ahead of time.  That is not the way the system is supposed to work.

O`DONNELL:  In the big picture focus, you take in your op-ed piece, you say we are in the fifth inning, inning five.  What`s next?  What`s in the other innings?

KATYAL:  It`s all the ball game`s really largely Congress at this point.  There are some other stuff going on, state investigations, and also the possibility that Trump could be prosecuted after he leaves office.  All that is on the table.

But I think for the next immediate future, we`re going to see pressure for Mueller to testify.  He essentially has to.  And the special counsel regulations were written in a way that will permit him to do so.

Even if Barr wants to try and stop him, he can`t stop him.  Mueller will testify.  The truth is going to come out.

And then the question is what`s Congress going to do about it.  Are they going to just exercise oversight responsibilities or are they going to bring impeachment?  And who are they going to bring impeachment proceedings against?

I mean I think anyone watching Barr`s testimony today realized impeachment isn`t just an I word against the president.  It might be against his chief law enforcement officer.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s get on the specifics on the Mueller testimony.  As long as he`s an employee of the Justice Department, does William Barr control whether or not Mueller can testify?

KATYAL:  Yes.

O`DONNELL:  So do we wait for Mueller to leave the Justice Department then he becomes a complete free agent on testifying?

KATYAL:  He largely becomes a free agent.  That`s why when we wrote the regulations, we saw the special counsel to be outside the Justice Department and on sufficient stature so they would be able to leave and not have to worry that they wouldn`t get a job or something like that.  And then they would be free to testify.

Now, there will be -- and with this White House, which blocks the truth at every turn, no doubt they`ll assert executive privilege, attorney/client privilege and this and that.  They`ll try all those things.  But in the end, the truth is going to come out.

Congress has robust powers in this area.  And if they try to mess with that, even just like Barr today refusing to testify, he`s scared to go before the House and be questioned by someone for more than five minutes at a time, Nadler will subpoena that tomorrow, subpoena and then issue a contempt citation.

And if that goes to court, Barr is going to lose these cases.  They are taking preposterous positions in court.

O`DONNELL:  We have all been wondering where we are in this story.  And now we know, the fifth inning.  Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

KATYAL:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Really appreciate you being here.

And when we come back, Lindsey Graham got angry today about FBI agents for saying things during the presidential campaign that sounded exactly like what Lindsey Graham was saying during the presidential campaign.  That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  At today`s hearing, Chairman Lindsey Graham complained that there were some people working in the FBI during the presidential campaign of 2016 who, like a majority of Americans then and now, disapproved of Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) CHAIR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  This is what Strzok said on February 12, 2016.  Now, he`s in charge of the Clinton e-mail investigation.  "Oh, he`s, Trump`s, abysmal.  I keep hoping the charade will end and people will just dump him."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  That sounds so familiar.  Who else was saying things like that in February of 2016?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM:  He`s an opportunist.  He`s not fit to be president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Oh, yes.  That was Lindsey Graham in February of 2016 at exactly the same time that some people working in the FBI completely agreed with Lindsey Graham about Donald Trump.  And so that`s what I kept hearing today when Lindsey Graham was complaining about FBI officials who completely agreed with him in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM:  God, Trump is a low some human being.  Strzok, oh my God, trump`s an idiot.  Page, he`s awful.

He`s a race baiting xenophobic religious bigot.  He doesn`t represent my party.  He doesn`t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.

I cannot believe Trump is likely to be an actual serious candidate for president.

Now, I don`t think has the temperament or judgment to be commander in chief.

Trump is a disaster.  I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be.

I think he`s a kook.  I think he`s crazy.  I think he`s unfit for office.

Trump is a [bleep] idiot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Whoa.  He really seemed to enjoy saying that last line today.  After this final commercial break, we will show you, Kellyanne Conway, breaking the law in the White House driveway two days in a row.  We caught her on video both times.  That`s next.

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O`DONNELL:  Kellyanne Conway is going to need a lawyer.  I hope she knows a good one because Kellyanne Conway broke the law again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT:  And by the way, while I`m on the subject of Biden --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  It`s against the law for her to be on the subject of Biden.  She said that yesterday in the White House driveway to a group of reporters as she was illegally campaigning against Joe Biden for Donald Trump while holding her position on the federal payroll.

And I was going to show you that last night at this hour, but we ran out of time because of the breaking news last night.  And so Kellyanne Conway did the same thing again today in the White House driveway.  She violated the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act says that a federal government employee, including the White House staff, "may not use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election."  In other words, they cannot participate in campaigning.

Another provision of the Hatch Act prohibits campaigning at federal buildings, which the White House most certainly is.  So Kellyanne Conway violated two sections of the Hatch Act two days in a row standing in the White House driveway campaigning against Joe Biden.

The only people working in the government who are allowed to make campaign statements are elected officials.  The Trump campaign manager and anyone on the Trump campaign staff can be on the subject of Biden any time they want.  Here is Kellyanne Conway breaking the law again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY:  Oh, we must be worried about Biden.  Look what Kellyanne said about him today.  So thanks for the free commercial about all the things Joe Biden didn`t get done for the eight years he was vice president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And she`s right.  It is a free commercial and it is an illegal free commercial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY:  I do find it fascinating that the former Vice President Joe Biden said that he asked President Obama not to endorse him.  Do not endorse me.  But we know he`s open to endorsements because he got it from the management of the firefighters.

It will be fascinating to watch the other candidates who are tied with the margin of error in most polls in the democratic -- I can talk about them, too, if you like, no problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Yes, problem, very serious problem.  It`s the problem of breaking the law.  She could have stood in the White House driveway today, for example, and criticized the questions that Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar asked in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

They`re all presidential candidates so Kellyanne Conway cannot legally attack them for their campaign positions on things like Medicare for all, but she can legally attack them for what they do in their jobs as senators.  But she`s breaking the law when she talks about candidate Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY:  I think a responsible reporter would ask Vice President Biden, this all sounds great, you want to rebuild the economy and the middle class, but somebody beat you to the punch, his name is Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And I think a responsible reporter would ask Kellyanne Conway why she`s violating the Hatch Act.  Kellyanne Conway was found guilty of violating the Hatch Act twice already, but penalties for violating the Hatch Act are administered by the federal employee`s boss.

Penalties like being fired or suspended.  And Kellyanne Conway`s boss, Donald Trump, has not penalized her in any way.  And so Kellyanne Conway will continue to campaign against Joe Biden illegally and most of the news media will present her violations of the Hatch Act to you as part of their normal campaign coverage without realizing that they`re really showing you Kellyanne Conway breaking the law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY:  Let`s have at it.  I don`t think we`re worried about Joe Biden.  People are worried about different union endorsements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And I don`t think the Trump team is now or ever has been or ever will be worried about breaking the law.  That`s "Tonight`s Last Word," "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

 

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