Rep. Amash lays out case. TRANSCRIPT: 5/23/19, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell.

Guests: David Cicilline, Ezra Klein, Bill Weld

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  I heard that. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  Yes. 

O`DONNELL:  Good evening, Rachel. 

Speaking of breaking news, let`s get to the much more important thing than the minor reference you made to me where he`s telling us that Robert Mueller does not want to testify publicly on TV with everyone watching.  He`s willing to testify very old school with no cameras as if it`s a Supreme Court hearing with transcript to be released later. 

MADDOW:  Because he is worried about it being too political.  I don`t know whether a camera makes something political that a pen and paper doesn`t.  I can see not wanting to be made a spectacle of.  But I can`t see how testifying behind closed doors as opposed to testifying publicly affects whether or not your words are interpreted in a political context. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, what he`s right about, historically, but I`m not sure it would work in this case is that when you turn the cameras on in Congress, it is impossible not to get a certain amount of stunting. 

MADDOW:  Right.  Show boating, yes. 

O`DONNELL:  We know which side will be doing a lot of that.  The Republican side which basically has nothing to throw at Robert Mueller, that`s the side where the strangest things would come from and that`s the side where there are certain players who are always playing for the camera. 

And every member will tell you when they close the doors, those people don`t behave the same way.  Now, with Mueller, they might be playing for the transcript which is a little bit harder because it won`t just be fist pounding.  They have to come up with some words to make the transcript come alive. 

But I can see Mueller`s point but there`s something -- I mean, it takes us back to the 1940s to not have this on television. 

MADDOW:  And it is -- I will say that while I`m happy for Chairman Nadler to have given us that news tonight and we can break that news and have a better understanding of -- I still think there`s got to be some other variable here that we`re not factoring into the equation because all the different pieces of this don`t totally add up. 

I have been wondering whether or not it`s a question of Mueller testifying alone versus Mueller testifying with the team that carried out this investigation.  I`ve been worried about whether this might be the justice department intervening here in terms of what they`re allowing Mueller to do or suggesting to Mueller might be a good idea for him to do as opposed to him acting on his own steam here.  I still don`t know if any of those things are at work, but this is provocative news and an open question whether or not the judiciary committee will proceed on those terms. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, I think you got a huge revelation out of the chairman tonight, but it still leaves us I think me and you and a few million more people mystified -- 

MADDOW:  Yes.

O`DONNELL:  -- about where this stands tonight.  It is a very peculiar situation. 

MADDOW:  It`s like 63 freaking day since he finished in his investigation and turned into the report.  We`ve seen nothing from him.  He`s like locked up in a box somewhere.  It`s -- this is a weird situation we`re in. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, thanks for getting what you did get.  That was very important. 

MADDOW:  Appreciate it.  Thanks, my friend.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

Well, Republican Congressman Justin Amash is now making stronger statements about impeaching President Trump than most Democratic members of the House of Representatives. 

George Will has been watching Congressman Amash for more years than most.  And he will join us tonight with what his view of what Congressman Amash is up.  George Will himself left the Republican Party after Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination.  What will happen to Congressman Amash in a party that now seems to be owned and operated as a Trump enterprise? 

And another anti-Trump Republican will join us, former Republican Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld who is challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.  Bill Weld does not have to win that nomination to do very serious damage to the Trump candidacy. 

Every incumbent president who has been challenged within his own party in the primaries beyond the New Hampshire primary has then lost his re- election in the general election.  Bill weld will tell how far he plans to go beyond account New Hampshire primary. 

And it`s worth a reminder that presidents do not publicly attack members of their cabinet.  That may come as news to teenagers who have been paying their first attention to the presidency during the Trump years.  Donald Trump did it with Attorney General Jeff Sessions while he was still in the cabinet and he has done it repeatedly with his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.  The president called Rex Tillerson dumb as a rock again today because Rex Tillerson spent seven hours in a closed-door session with the house foreign affairs committee talking about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and how Putin has outsmarted Donald Trump. 

We have so much to cover in breaking news tonight that we will get to that.  Only at the end of this hour you will want to hear exactly what Rex Tillerson had to say about Donald Trump and Donald Trump`s values. 

But first, the breaking news we`re going to begin with tonight is the statement released by the White House that Rachel was just referring to, a statement saying today at the request and recommendation of the attorney general of the United States, President Donald J. Trump directed the intelligence community to quickly and fully cooperate with the attorney general`s investigation into surveillance activities during the 2016 presidential election.  The attorney general has also been delegated full and complete authority to declassify information pertaining to this investigation in accordance with the long established standards for handling classified information. 

That came at the end of a day when another Trump campaign associate was indicted on bribery charges involving Paul Manafort, and the president of the United States, once again, described himself as a stable genius.  This time, quote, "an extremely stable genius."  He did that in a typically Trumpian rant about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in which everything he said about Nancy Pelosi was provably untrue. 

Speaker Pelosi responded in a tweet saying: When the extremely stable genius starts acting more presidential I`ll be happy to work with him on instruct, trade and other issues.  Once again today, the president said he would not work with Congress on anything as long as the House of Representatives is investigating the president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Mr. President, is there anything that you are willing to work with Democrats on now? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No, no, they have to go down their track.  Let them get rid of the nonsense first.  When that`s done, we`ll go very quickly.  We`ll go very quickly. 

Infrastructure is very easy.  For me, that`s very easy.  You can`t go down two tracks at the same time.  It doesn`t work that way. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Of course, it has always worked that way in the past when other presidents have been under investigation.  Important legislation always continued to move through Congress with the cooperation of the White House even when previous president were under investigation by that same Congress. 

During her weekly press conference had morning, Speaker Pelosi once again described how president Trump told her yesterday that he would not work with Congress on the infrastructure plan that they were actually scheduled to discuss.  Or work with Congress on anything else. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  The president again stormed out, I think what first pound the table, walk out the door.  What? 

Next time, have a TV cameras in there while I have my say.  That didn`t work for him either.  And now this time, another temper tantrum. 

Again, I pray for the president of the United States.  I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for good of the country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Speaker Pelosi said that her experience with the president including previous meetings with the president leaves her wondering who is in charge. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  This is not behavior that is rises to the dignity of the office of the president of the United States.  But having said that, as I said, I actually ardently pray for the president because we need -- I don`t know.  Sometimes when we`re talking to him, he agrees. 

And then, I said one time, who is in charge here because you agree and then, all of a sudden, something changes?  What goes on there?  Who is in charge? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And then the president said it`s very clears who in charge at the White House. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I haven`t changed very much.  Been very consistent.  I`m an extremely stable genius.  OK. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  The president was then asked specifically about Nancy Pelosi`s comments this morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Speaker Pelosi said today she hoped your family would provide an intervention with you.  What`s your reaction to that? 

O`DONNELL:  I saw her read it perfectly just the way she said it.  It`s very sort of a nasty type statement.  But I will say this: she said I walked into the room right next door yesterday and walked in and started screaming and yelling.  Just the opposite.  Just the opposite. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  As you saw in the Nancy Pelosi video, she was not reading her description of what happened in the cabinet room yesterday and she never said that the president started screaming and yelling. 

The president then called on individual members of his staff who were in the room and got each of them to agree that he was not screaming and yelling yesterday even though Nancy Pelosi never said that the president was screaming and yelling. 

The president also threw in some nasty name calling of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer which Speaker Pelosi in effect predicted he would do in her comments earlier this morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  This is not behavior that is -- rises to the dignity of the office of president of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island.  He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. 

And, Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight. 

Your chairman, Jerry Nadler, just was on with Rachel Maddow where he announced that Robert Mueller`s one of his conditions for testifying to the committee at this stage of negotiations is he wants to do it behind closed doors, no TV cameras present, no media present, transcript to be released later. 

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI):  Yes, I hope the negotiations will achieve a different result.  I think it`s very important that the American people hear from Mr. Mueller that he walk the American people and the Judiciary Committee through his report.  To explain his findings, explain the judgments he made. 

This, of course, was a report done on behalf of the American people when our democracy was attacked by a foreign adversary.  He details ten specific instances where the president obstructed justice, and lots of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.  I think people need to hear that directly from him. 

So, I hope we can arrive at a set of conditions that will allow him to give testimony under oath before the entire committee and before the American people. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to exactly what the chairman told Rachel in what is now the breaking news of the night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  Mueller, he I think I can say his point that he wants to testify in private. 

MADDOW:  Why? 

NADLER:  I don`t know why.  That`s -- he wants to testify, he`s willing to make an opening statement but he wants to testify in private.  We`re saying he ought to -- we think it`s important for American people to hear from him and to hear his answers to questions about the report. 

MADDOW:  Does he want to testify in private and have it be a closed session where we the people would not even get to see a transcript of it. 

NADLER:  No, no, no, we would see a transcript.  But I -- we`d see a transcript. 

MADDOW:  Do you have any sense of, I mean, why would witnesses usually say something like that or do you have any indication of why he might want that? 

NADLER:  He -- he envisions himself correctly as a man of great rectitude and apolitical and he doesn`t want to participate in anything he might regard as a political spectacle. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Congressman, was that news to you tonight? 

CICILLINE:  No, we understood that those negotiations are under way and that that was part of the conversation.  I think the chairman is going to continue to try to persuade Mr. Mueller`s team to allow Mr. Mueller to come before the committee in public again.  I think everyone on the committee thinks it`s very important that the American people hear him testify, but obviously, those negotiations are ongoing. 

O`DONNELL:  And I want to get your reaction to this statement from the White House tonight where the president has put the attorney general not just in charge of investigating any kind of -- any kind of investigation that occurred during the presidential campaign but also in charge of all of the classification issues involved with all of the intelligence agencies who might or might not have picked up anything in that investigation. 

CICILLINE:  Well, I mean to quote a former high level DOJ official, this is a grotesque abuse of the intelligence community.  And what`s really disturbing is on the very same day that the president says, I can`t work with Congress to get anything done for the American people because I can`t do that and respond to investigations at the same time, he initiates yet another investigation.  So the irony is kind of extraordinary. 

We`ve passed over 100 pieces of legislation in the Congress so far while we are conducting robust oversight.  So we can do both things.  We ought to do both things.  That happened during the Clinton impeachment, that happened during the Nixon impeachment, investigations and oversight with normal congressional work.  We do that while passing the for the people agenda. 

It`s sort of ironic that on the very day the president stormed out and said, I can`t do both things, he announces his attorney general is now directed to assist the intelligence community to conduct a new investigation about the origins of the inquiry conducted by Mr. Mueller.  It`s kind of funny. 

O`DONNELL:  Chairman Nadler told Rachel that your subpoenas although are already being treated very seriously by judges in court.  You`re winning at every stage, that they might be taken even more seriously and moved even more quickly if they are in service of an impeachment inquiry. 

Do you support moving to an impeachment inquiry in your committee? 

CICILLINE:  Yes.  I have expressed that opinion to my chairman and to my colleagues.  I think we are at the point now where not only because of the contents of the Mueller report but because of the conduct of the president his administration and their efforts to impede and prevent us from getting the facts and following the facts wherever they lead us to get the truth the president has been engaged in a cover-up.  He is behaving as if he is above the law.  We have a responsibility to make sure we hold this administration accountable. 

I have argued that the opening of an impeachment inquiry is just a beginning step.  It`s a formal question whether or not impeachment is appropriate.  We would then conduct our hearings, collect evidence and make a judgment.  At the conclusion of that, we would consider articles of impeachment or not.  But this would be the sort of formal process. 

There is no question it would raise the level of seriousness of our effort.  It would consolidate some of this work.  I think there certainly is court decisions that say at that moment, when an impeachment inquiry is under way, Congress`s power is at its zenith. 

So, I think it would strengthen our hand.  I think the chairman is right.  We have enough authority under our regular oversight to get what we need. 

But I think the president`s conduct in attempting to prevent us from hearing from witnesses, defying subpoenas and telling people not to produce documents, those acts have by themselves may be a basis of impeachment, but certainly are enough in my mind to begin an inquiry, to open up a formal process to consider whether or not an impeachment is appropriate. 

O`DONNELL:  Before you go, Congressman, let me ask you one more thing about this because we know there`s been a debate within the Democrats in the House when to move to impeachment or how to move to impeachment.  And you have been one of the leaders of let`s go to impeachment now. 

What is the most persuasive counterargument you have heard from other Democrats in those private discussions you`re having? 

CICILLINE:  Well, I`d say two things.  I`m not suggesting going to impeachment now.  That`s a different question.  What I`m saying is open a formal inquiry today which is the first step before you decide whether or not to actually vote articles of impeachment. 

So, this is really the formal process by which the committee begins consideration of this question and then begins the fact finding and evidence collection process.  I think that the principal argument against it and I think it`s a fair one is it will be very divisive for the country.  And these are hard moments for the country.  We`re in a very grave moment. 

I happen to believe we have a responsibility to bring the Mueller report to life, to hold this administration accountable.  I think we can`t weigh political considerations that are good for us politically or not.  That`s irrelevant. 

What matters is what are the facts, what is the truth here and to be sure we`re acting in a way that upholds the rule of law and honors the Constitution and the world is watching us.  I think the behavior of this president and his administration and the contents of the Mueller report and his subsequent conduct necessitate the opening of this inquiry in a formal way. 

I take my colleagues at their word when they`re concerned about kind confident divisions it would have on country.  I think that`s real. 

But the other concern I think folks have and I think we disproved this is somehow this would consume us.  The truth is, the Democratic Caucus is unified on two points.  One, we have to continue to deliver on our for the people agenda.  We`ve passed 100 bills there`s relating driving down prescription drug costs protecting access to the Affordable Care coverage for pre-existing conditions, universal background checks, equal pay for equal work, a whole number of bills. 

So, we have to keep doing that.  And the caucus is unified on doing that.  The caucus is also unified that we need to hold the administration accountable, make sure no one is above the law, including the president and find the truth and follow the facts. 

Some people have a different sense of the best vehicle.  Is it inquiry of impeachment, is it just a regular oversight?  But we`re united on those two points and we`re going to get to the facts.  We`re going to get to the truths.  We`re not going to allow the president to continue in this cover- up and we`re going to demonstrate once and for all that no one in this country including the president of the United States is above the law. 

O`DONNELL:  Congressman Cicilline, your Chairman Jerry Nadler just outlined a very heavy work schedule for your committee this summer, both legislative and investigative.  We thank you very much for joining us tonight and we hope you`ll be able to join us again. 

CICILLINE:  My pleasure. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Congressman. 

And joining us now, Ezra Klein.  He`s the editor at large at "Vox" and he hosts of the podcast, "The Ezra Klein Show". 

Ezra, there`s so much to cover here tonight.  One of the developments today was the president taking time to publicly proclaim he`s not the crazy one here. 

EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR AT LARGE, VOX:  So things are going great in American democracy I guess. 

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL:  Yes, I didn`t know quite how to put that. 

KLEIN:  There`s a nice line in the "New York Times" piece about that in the moments he began going around the room.  And if you have not looked at this video, by the way, you at home, go online and look at this. 

"The New York Times" had this side in their piece saying in a ritual rarely seen in a democracy, it looked like the kind of Potemkin moment you see in dictatorships.  It was a scary moment watching him herd his own staff into a room to publicly testify to his own state of mind and as you say, publicly rebut a claim that was not actually made about him.  It was strange and given the fact that the guy has his hands on a nuclear weapon, it`s troubling. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ezra, let me get your reaction to the breaking news in Rachel`s hour.  Chairman Nadler announcing Robert Mueller is negotiating for a closed door hearing with transcript to be released later. 

KLEIN:  I think Robert Mueller who has done I think a lot of tremendous work is so -- is a little bit too concerned over the idea that his work could be interpreted politically.  You cannot take quite so much of the politics out of politics. 

He`s a fact finder.  He has done again I think a tremendous job trying to establish a pattern of facts.  There are questions left open by the document he created and while I certainly understand the idea that when you get put in front of a camera with the Congress the way that it is, a lot of people are going to be grandstanding and trying to create that the one viral moment or couple moments that will go viral in different systems of American politics. 

Nevertheless, you either don`t it because you`re worried that it could be politicize the to the American people, you`re working for the American people.  That doesn`t quite add up to me. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Ezra, we`re hearing, we heard from Chairman Nadler an outline I`ve whole new approach to hearings this summer trying to basically cover the territory of the Mueller report, the challenge he`s having is exactly what witnesses do you get, the reports are the committee is surprised at the resistance they`ve been getting from the Trump administration on getting witnesses.  Intelligence Committee also making plans for a similar approach to hearings that will illuminate what`s in the Mueller report. 

KLEIN:  Something that I am struck by and it`s something that the congressman said in the segment earlier is that Donald Trump since release of the Mueller report has considerably strengthened the case for impeachment against him.  There is what the Mueller report says and then there is the way the Trump administration under his command has acted above the law since.  The complete stonewalling of what is functionally Congress`s constitutional duty to conduct oversight over him. 

And added to that, the reversal of the normal approach preys take which is to say, I`m the one here doing the people`s business while they`re investigating me and doing a circus.  Instead, Donald Trump is saying, until they stop investigating me, I will not do the people`s business, I will not do infrastructure, as if governing is a favor he does us when everybody is nice to him otherwise. 

So I think that Donald Trump is doing a pretty nice job strengthening the case for an impeachment inquiry against him and I think Nancy Pelosi who has had his psychology pegged perfectly since the beginning is doing a nice baiting him into it step by step.  I`ve always think it`s important to recognize her position has not been no impeachment, but to continue going forward and either building support for it or in seeing support dissipate for it. 

And so far, she`s moved into him into a place where I think he is building support both in her caucus and I suspect over time in the country. 

O`DONNELL:  Ezra Klein, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

KLEIN:  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  And to continue our breaking news coverage, we`re going to crash right through a commercial break and we`re going to be joined by Bill Weld.  He`s the former Republican governor of Massachusetts.  He is running for the Republican presidential nomination against President Trump.  He is joining us tonight from the campaign trail in New Hampshire. 

And, Governor Weld, I want to get your reaction to be what we just learned from Chairman Nadler about Robert Mueller`s testimony and for the audience we`re going to play it one more time and for you.  Here`s Chairman Nadler telling Rachel Maddow that Robert Mueller wants to testify in a closed door hearing, not a publicly watchable hearing. 

Let`s listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  Mueller, he I think I can say his point that he wants to testify in private. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  Why? 

NADLER:  I don`t know why.  He wants to testify, he`s willing to make an opening statement but he wants to testify in private.  And we`re suggesting -- we`re saying that he ought to, we think it`s important for the American people to hear from him and to hear his answers to questions about the report. 

MADDOW:  Does he want to testify in private and have it be a closed session where we the people would not even get to see a transcript of it?

NADLER:  No, no, no, we`d see a transcript.  But I -- we`d see a transcript. 

MADDOW:  Do you have any sense of -- I mean, why would witnesses usually say something like that or do you have any indication of why he might want that? 

NADLER:  He envisions himself correctly as a man of great rectitude and apolitical and he doesn`t want to participate in anything that he might regard as a political spectacle. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Governor Weld, you`re a former U.S. attorney in Boston.  You are a former -- you`re a veteran of a Republican Justice Department.  You know the workings of this sort of thing.  And you know the workings of congressional investigative committees. 

I think your first job in public service was working with young Hillary Clinton, then Hillary Rodham on the congressional committee investigating President Nixon which eventually led to President Nixon resigning the presidency. 

As you see the special prosecutor making this unprecedented choice basically unprecedented since television cameras first went into hearing rooms, what is your reaction tonight to Robert Mueller saying I`m ready to testify but no cameras?

BILL WELD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, Lawrence, I think that Bob Mueller is totally up to testifying in public.  He was head of the FBI for 12 years.  He was grilled by Congress both parties many, many times. 

And he was my deputy in the U.S. attorney`s office in Boston.  And I remember I went to a dinner in New York where he was giving a speech 12 years later after he had served so long and ably in the FBI. 

He`s a totally different guy.  I mean, he`s a very, very consummate, experienced guy.  So, he would be up to it. 

I think what`s going on here is Bob is so straight, that he doesn`t necessarily want to say how the process has been perverted.  And my reading of what happened behind closed doors, Bob Mueller`s report says we decided not to make a traditional prosecutive judgment because we really couldn`t.  Translation, Bill Barr told me that he was going to squash any indictment I tried to bring against the president for obstruction. 

That`s a dirty story.  Bob Mueller doesn`t want to have to tell that on TV.  And I think that`s exactly what`s going on here.  He`s such a gentleman. 

O`DONNELL:  But, Governor, he is saying he`ll testify.  The transcript can then be immediately released. 

Knowing Bob Mueller as you do, what do you think he sees -- because, obviously, it won`t change his testimony whether there`s cameras there or not.  What about it do you see in his approach to this that makes him think the transcript is the way, the written word in the transcript in news print, in us reciting it on this show, that`s the way he wants his words delivered instead of him? 

WELD:  Yes, I would suspect, Lawrence, that he wants to avoid a circus.  But as I say, he`s testified many times in high pressure situations with a lot of members of both parties from time to time being angry at the performance of the FBI, and he always stood there and took it.  And he can do that again. 

Believe me, he`s a tough guy.  I was shoulder to shoulder with him.  He can more than hold his own there.  I think it`s just that the picture of the politicization of the Justice Department around him and putting him down is so tawdry that he doesn`t like the idea of that being in a circus atmosphere. 

But you`re right, the facts are what they are and they`re pretty bad. 

O`DONNELL:  Governor, what would do you if you were in Robert Mueller`s position as a special counsel, which you would be by the way fully qualified to do with your background and experience in a case like this, and you were at this point where an now it`s the question of testifying to Congress about this, would you make that request that it be a closed door hearing? 

WELD:  Oh, no, I would testify in public.  I think that involves a lot of the flavor.  You never know what`s going to happen when all kinds of witnesses are testifying in public. 

I`ve been a litigator for a long time, as long as Bob Mueller.  And you never know what`s going to come out of witnesses` mouths or interrogators` mouths, and that might be quite revealing.  But I think the back story is that the president is trying to bait the Democrats into impeaching him prematurely so that he can cry foul and total exoneration if the Senate doesn`t vote to remove him. 

And that will be his campaign going into the 2020 election.  I don`t think Nancy Pelosi is trying to bait him or baiting him.  I think it`s the other way around. 

O`DONNELL:  What -- if you were in the House of Representatives, what would you be advocating? 

WELD:  I would pause, I`d want to -- I agree with Jerry Nadler.  I think they should have a full summer of investigations so that by the time the House finally cuts and cuts cleanly on the question of whether to vote for impeachment -- by the way, and the evidence is already there as a matter of law if they wanted to.  But why not do so with maximum evidence with the most, you know, finely tissued report about exactly everything that went on here? 

But the president has already gone well beyond what Richard Nixon ever did he in terms of obstruction of justice and 750 former federal prosecutors, Republicans and Democrats, and mostly career prosecutors, 20 of them like myself confirmed by the Senate, have said the president committed obstruction of justice according to the Mueller report.  And it`s not even a close question. 

The only person that doesn`t agree with that is Attorney General Bill Barr and his theory I think with all respect -- and Bill Barr is a very eminent lawyer and friend of myself and Bob Mueller in years past, I don`t think his theory holds water as a matter of law.

O`DONNELL:  Republican Presidential Candidate Bill Weld, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  I want to talk next time --

WELD:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Next time when you`re here, I want to hear your plan for how you take your candidacy all the way to the Republican Convention.  We`re going to find time for that next time.

WELD:  Yes, sir.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you very much for joining us, Governor.

WELD:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Really appreciate it.  And when we come back, the president attacked a member of his cabinet today calling him dumb as a rock and that cabinet member was reported to have called Donald Trump a moron.  So this kind of sounds like a case of the pot calling the kettle a rock.

And next, no member of the House of Representatives is more forceful in calling for the impeachment of President Trump than Republican Congressman Justin Amash.  Who is Justin Amash?  Why is he doing this and why is he the only Republican doing this?  That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  The Republican leader of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy said during the last presidential campaign, "There`s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrabacher and Trump."  He said that he thought in private, of course, the comment was leaked later.

Dana Rohrabacher was a Republican member of the House of Representatives who was defeated in his re-election campaign last year.  That same Republican leader Kevin McCarthy who once said he believes Putin pays Trump is now attacking Republican member of the House of Representatives Congressman Justin Amash because Congressman Amash is the first and only Republican member of Congress who has come out in support of the impeachment of President Trump.

Congressman Amash did that last weekend in a series of carefully composed tweets and he added to that body of tweets today saying, "Mueller`s report describes a consistent effort by the president to use his office to obstruct or otherwise corruptly impede the Russian election interference investigation because it put his interests at risk.

It also reveals criminal activity, some of which were committed by people in Trump`s orbit and in the case of Michael Cohen`s campaign finance violation on Trump`s behalf.  Trump asked the FBI director to stop investigating Michael Flynn who had been his campaign adviser and national security adviser and who had already committed a crime by lying to the FBI.

After Attorney General Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation on the advice of Department of Justice ethics lawyers, Trump directly asked Sessions to reverse his recusal so that he could retain control over the investigation and help the president.  Trump directed the White House Counsel Don McGahn to have special counsel Robert Mueller removed on the basis of pre-textual conflicts of interest that Trump`s advisers had already told him were ridiculous and could not justify removing the special counsel.

When that event was publicly reported, Trump asked that McGahn make a public statement and create a false internal record stating that Trump had not asked him to fire the special counsel and suggested that McGahn would be fired if he did not comply.  Trump asked Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager to tell Attorney General Sessions to limit the special counsel`s investigation only to future election interference.

Trump said Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired if he would not meet with him.  Trump used his pardon power to influence his associates including Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen not to fully cooperate with the investigation.  Trump through his own statements such as complaining about people who flip and talk to investigators and through communications between his personal counsel and Manafort, Cohen, gave an impression that they would be pardoned if they did not fully cooperate with investigators.

Manafort ultimately breached an agreement to cooperate with investigators and Cohen offered false testimony to Congress including denying that the Trump Tower Moscow project had extended to June 2016 and that he and Trump had discussed traveling to Russia during the campaign.

Both men have been convicted for offering false information and Manafort`s lack of cooperation left open some significant questions such as why exactly he provided an associate in Ukraine with campaign polling data which he expected to be shared with a Russian oligarch.

Some of the president`s actions were inherently corrupt, other actions were corrupt, and therefore, impeachable because the president took them to serve his own interests.  The president has authority to fire federal officials, direct his subordinates, and grant pardons but he cannot do so for corrupt purposes.  Otherwise, he would always be allowed to shut down any investigation into himself or his associates which would put him above the law."

I was somewhere between surprised and shocked when I read Congressman Amash`s tweets this weekend supporting impeachment but I think Conservative Columnist George Will was probably much less surprised.  He has been watching Congressman Amash much more closely than I have for years.

And six years ago, George Will wrote that Justin Amash was one of those Republicans who had to deal with the challenge of how to balance "being interesting and being electable."  George Will who gave up his membership in the Republican Party when Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  Here is the Republican Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy attacking Republican Congressman Justin Amash for supporting the impeachment of President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:  It`s very disturbing.  This is exactly what you would suspect from Justin.  He never supported the president.  And I think he`s just looking for attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist for the "Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.  And George, to Kevin McCarthy`s point that Justin Amash is just looking for attention, let me officially enter into the recorded that this television program has been begging the congressman to come on as has every political television program and news program and he has not done one second of attention-getting television for his position.

How surprised were you this weekend when Justin Amash became the first Republican to come out in support of impeachment?

GEORGE WILL, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Not at all.  Let`s give you a little thumbnail sketch of Mr. Amash.  He represents the Grand Rapids, Western Michigan District once represented by Gerald Ford, the epitome of Vanilla Republicanism.

There is nothing vanilla about Justin Amash.  He`s the son of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother.  Magna cum laude graduate in Economics from the University of Michigan and then from the University of Michigan Law School.  Student of Friedrich Hayek in the Austrian School of Economics.  That is to say, he`s a real libertarian Republican limited government conservative.

When he was in his first term in the Michigan legislature on something like 70 bills, he was the only no vote, the only one to vote against them because he thought government had no warrant to be doing what the government was doing.  He got to the House of Representatives and he said he would not vote for any legislation that was submitted to the House before people had a chance to read it.  Talk about eccentric.

Now, if someone who believes as he does that this is a government of limited delegate and enumerated powers is immune to the normal controlling structure of incentives in Washington, by which someone says if you support my expansion of government, I`ll support your expansion of government.  He`s not interested in that which means he`s a free agent which makes him dangerous and a little bit frightening to Washington.

O`DONNELL:  He told you -- you quoted him six years ago in your column saying that -- he said, "I am a moderate because the point of the Constitution is to moderate the government."  He seems to be trying to moderate the presidency now.

WILL:  Well, I think that`s right.  I mean most libertarians and all, it seems to me, Americans are alarmed by the growth of executive power and not just under this president but the eclipse of Congress over decades now and the freewheeling unilateral activity of the president in foreign as well as domestic.  So this is a piece with someone who came to Washington sensitive to the basic problem of the disequilibrium in our constitutional structure caused by the swollen presidency.

O`DONNELL:  Do we have a reason to suspect that many or some House Republicans watched this with admiration, with secret admiration?

WILL:  I don`t know.  I wish we could suspect that but I don`t think there are very many people whose admiration is secret for anyone else other than their public admiration for Donald Trump.

O`DONNELL:  And how about his congressional district which you know well?  Can he get re-elected in his congressional district having taken this position?

WILL:  Well, I won`t say it`s a matter of indifference to him but it`s not the most important thing in his life.  His convictions are he is what Margaret Thatcher called herself, a conviction politician.  And it was said of Margaret Thatcher that she couldn`t see an institution without swatting it with her handbag.

That`s the spirit in which I think Justin Amash operates.  He`s been challenged before in his district.  He no doubt will be challenged again, this time from the right.  He`s been challenged from a more Moderate Republican.  I don`t know how it will turn out, but as I say, I think he would like to win, but he can live without it.

O`DONNELL:  George F. Will, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  Appreciate it.

WILL:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Today, the Trump Justice Department released a 17-count indictment under the Espionage Act and we`re just getting to that now.  That`s going to be next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  Today, the Trump Justice Department charged WikiLeaks` founder Julian Assange with 17 crimes under the Espionage Act.  The charges include conspiring with ex-army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to disseminate national defense and classified documents including the identities of human sources on WikiLeaks in 2010.

Chelsea Manning served seven years in prison after being convicted by court-martial of espionage.  Chelsea Manning is currently in jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating Julian Assange.  "The New York Times" reports today the Justice Department`s decision to pursue Espionage Act charges signals a dramatic escalation under President Trump to crack down on leaks of classified information and names squarely at first amendment protections for journalists.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like "The New York Times" do, seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.

Tonight, Julian Assange is in a London jail serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012.  The United States has June 12 deadline to present its case for extradition of Julian Assange from the United Kingdom to the United States.

Coming up, we have seen the Trump cabinet humiliated in congressional hearings day after day, but no one humiliates the Trump cabinet the way Donald Trump does.  Today, he called a former cabinet member who he predicted was going to be a star "dumb as a rock."  That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  Rex Tillerson lasted as Donald Trump`s first secretary of state for a little over a year.  The president told us that he always hired the best people and was putting the best people in his cabinet.  And when Rex Tillerson took the oath of office, the president said "Congratulations to Rex Tillerson on being sworn in as our new secretary of state.  He will be a star", exclamation point.

Today, the president said Rex Tillerson is dumb as a rock.  That`s the second time the president has said Rex Tillerson is dumb as a rock.  In December of last year, the president said "Rex Tillerson doesn`t have the mental capacity needed.  He was dumb as a rock and I couldn`t get rid of him fast enough.  He was lazy as hell."  The president said that after Rex Tillerson described Donald Trump in a "CBS" interview in December.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON:  A man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn`t like to read, doesn`t read briefing reports, doesn`t like to get into the details of a lot of things but rather just kind of says look, this is what I believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump revived the dumb as a rock accusation today against Rex Tillerson after the "Washington Post" reported that Rex Tillerson met in a closed-door session with the House Foreign Affairs Committee for seven hours.

We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted, a committee aide said.  There was a discrepancy in preparation and it created an unequal footing.

Rex Tillerson was describing a meeting he attended with the president and Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany.  Andrew Weiss, a Russia scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the "Washington Post", "Putin is a very nimble adversary who`s been at this for 20 years now.  The Hamburg meeting sounds like it was one of Putin`s wildest dreams.  A freewheeling backroom style conversation with the U.S. president."  The president has told us how he prepares for meetings like that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I`m very well prepared.  I don`t think I have to prepare very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  In his seven hours with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rex Tillerson said he and President Trump do not share the same "value system."  The "Washington Post" reports, when asked to describe Trump`s values, Tillerson said, "I cannot."

That reporting in the "Washington Post" by John Hudson and Josh Dawsey not surprisingly got a response from the president today on Twitter, of course.  The president tweeted "Rex Tillerson, a man who is dumb as a rock and totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped to be secretary of state made up a story, he got fired, that I was out prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany.  I don`t think Putin would agree.  Look at how the U.S. is doing", exclamation point.

We have no response yet to that tweet from Rex Tillerson but we have every right to imagine that his private reaction is something along the lines of what he said while he was serving as Donald Trump`s secretary of state after Donald Trump left a meeting one day at the Pentagon.  Rex Tillerson was reported on this network at that time and then later in Bob Woodward`s book to have offered what for him was a complete description of Donald Trump in only two words.

Here is the scene as described in Bob Woodward`s book "Fear."  Just after President Trump walked out of a Pentagon meeting about North Korea.

Trump got up and walked out.  All the air seemed to have come out of Tillerson.  He could not abide by Trump`s attack on the generals.  The president was speaking as if the U.S. military was a mercenary force for hire.

If a country wouldn`t pay us to be there, then we didn`t want to be there.  As if there were no American interests in forging and keeping a peaceful world order.  As if the American organizing was money.

"Are you OK?", Gary Cohn asked him.  He`s an f-ing moron Tillerson said so everyone heard.  And now everyone has heard it again.  Rex Tillerson gets tonight`s last word.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS starts now.

 

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