Republicans are likely to filibuster bill for January 6th commission. An Irish airliner was intercepted on its way to Lithuania and forced to land in Belarus by an ally of Vladimir Putin, and tonight, President Biden has issued a statement condemning the action. Today, former Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland filed a lawsuit seeking reimbursement for the attorneys` fees he incurred during the impeachment investigation. The Biden Justice Department will appeal order to turn over the memo that Attorney General Barr said he used in deciding that he could not prosecute or charge Donald Trump with obstruction of justice.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
We have late word tonight from "The New York Times" that Don McGahn is likely to testify next week on Wednesday to the House Judiciary Committee. That is breaking news a couple of years in the making.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Well, you know, Don McGahn is the lead witness from the Mueller investigation on President Trump obstructing justice. All of those, you know, ten instances, ten instances plus of alleged criminal obstruction of justice laid out in great detail in the Mueller report. McGahn has never had to testify about it.
This will be the first testimony that we`ve heard about it, and it happens just as the Justice Department is deciding right now whether or not they`re going to release to the public the memo that Bill Barr`s Justice Department prepared about why Trump shouldn`t be prosecuted for any of those alleged incidents of obstruction of justice. It`s kind of all happening at the same time.
O`DONNELL: And because of the late hour at which this Justice Department memo is going to be released or not, we`ve actually kind of adjusted the scheduling of this show so that Neal Katyal can appear later in the show because we don`t have the memo yet. And there`s kind of a whole, as I think you know, in the script here where that memo is supposed to go. And we`re just kind of waiting for it.
MADDOW: That`s exactly right.
O`DONNELL: I think you know what I mean. I think there might have been something like that in the 9:00 p.m. script. And so we are -- we are waiting, and maybe this hour, maybe not.
MADDOW: It`s -- I mean, listen, it`s going to be fascinating. If the Garland Justice Department decides to appeal the judge`s ruling to try to keep that Trump prosecution memo secret, that itself is going to be a huge story. If they don`t appeal it and it gets released by the judge`s order either tonight or maybe her order comes out before midnight and then it takes a little while to come out, either way this is going to be a fascinating story.
We never have to contend with the criminal prosecution of a former president before, and now it`s just -- it`s just here. It`s all -- it has arrived, and now we have to figure out how to cover it.
O`DONNELL: So, Rachel, what do you say we just -- we hang around and maybe at midnight we co-host live coverage of the release of the memo or maybe just wait until tomorrow?
MADDOW: I can`t hear you. I think you`re breaking --
O`DONNELL: No, I am.
MADDOW: I can`t hear you. Breaking up, sorry.
MADDOW: New phone. I can`t --
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
She`s right about that. We can`t do that. Well, even Scott Brown -- Scott Brown thinks Donald Trump is responsible for the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Scott Brown was as Trumpian as Republicans got before Donald Trump himself ran for president as a Republican. Scott Brown`s pre-politics fame was as a centerfold in Cosmopolitan in 1982. And in 2009, he won a special election in Massachusetts to serve out Ted Kennedy`s term in the Senate after Senator Kennedy died in office.
Three years later, Senator Brown was defeated in his re-election campaign by someone who had never run for office before, Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, who Senator Brown believed he was cleverly insulting every time he called her professor, in a campaign where it was inconceivable to Scott Brown that Massachusetts voters would want to send a provably smart person to the Senate to represent their interests.
Elizabeth Warren has now taken her place on the shortlist of smartest senators in history, and Scott Brown went on to serve as Donald Trump`s distinguished ambassador to New Zealand, where he apparently did no harm. Now Scott Brown is back and willing to state the obvious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re a former senator and ambassador. Do you agree with them that Trump bears responsibility --
SCOTT BROWN, FORMER U.S. SENATSOR: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- for the insurrection?
BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean he bears responsibility. I think his presidency was diminished as a result of this, and I think he`s paying a price. He`s been impeached twice. He was impeached for those actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Stating the obvious, which Scott Brown has not always been especially good at, now passes as the highest level of wisdom and integrity in the Republican Party because of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WILL, COLUMNIST: We have something new in American history. That is a political party defined by the terror it feels for its own voters. That`s the Republican Party right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Pulitzer Prize winning columnist George Will saw this coming, which is why he publicly quit the Republican Party in 2016 when Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL: I would like to see January 6th as burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11 because it was that scale of -- of shock to the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Republicans in Congress know that one way to burn January 6th into the American mind is to have an independent, bipartisan commission investigate what happened on that day. Since that day, Republicans in Congress have gone from being afraid that the invaders of the Capitol would kill them to being afraid of offending the invaders of the Capitol and their millions of Republican sympathizers who continue, according to polls, to fail one of the most basic mental competency questions -- who is the president of the United States?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Fifty-three percent of Republicans believe that Donald Trump is the true president, not Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that on the Senate floor today when he was announcing that he will bring the House bill passed last week to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6th to a vote in the Senate, where it will require 60 votes in order to close debate on the bill and then vote on the bill with final passage of the bill requiring only 51 votes.
That means Democrats will need ten Republicans to join them in the procedural vote that will then allow them to vote on a bill establishing a January 6th investigative commission.
Republican Senator Mike Braun told "Politico", quote, I don`t think there will be ten votes on our side for it. I`d be surprised if you`re going to get even a handful. Senator Joe Manchin said, quote, so disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country. I`m still praying we`ve still got ten good solid patriots within that conference.
And that is what the bar has been lowered to for patriotism on the Republican side of the United States Senate -- ten, 10 out of 50. There is no more generous judge of Republican patriotism on the Democratic side of the Senate than West Virginia`s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. He will be the very last Democratic senator to give up hope of finding ten good, solid patriots on the Republican side of the Senate.
And now Chuck Schumer is promising a vote that will show Senator Manchin and the country how many good, solid patriots there are on the Republican side of the Senate and what happens if Joe Manchin watches Republicans use the 60-vote threshold of a procedural vote to block an actual vote on a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened in the attack on the capitol and report that truth to the American people.
How disheartening might that be for Senator Manchin? And then how concerned for the country will Senator Manchin be? Will Senator Manchin be disheartened enough and concerned enough to be willing to join all of the other Democrats in the Senate in changing the Senate rule to eliminate the 60-vote threshold in all or some Senate votes?
If the 60-vote threshold remains in the Senate, the entire Biden/Harris legislative agenda, beginning with infrastructure and voting rights, will face the impossible hurdle of trying to find ten good, solid patriots on the Republican side of the Senate.
Leading off our discussion tonight are Jim Manly, a 21-year veteran of the United States Senate, who served as an adviser to Senators Harry Reid and Senator Kennedy. Also with us, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and host of "The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart" on MSNBC.
And, Jim, you know how seniority works in the Senate. On MSNBC, seniority goes to the anchorman. So, Jonathan Capehart, we will begin with you.
The anchormen and women, Jonathan Capehart, here we are. The test vote of what is possible in the United States Senate will turn out to be the vote on a bipartisan commission, a completely bipartisan idea, a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6th. We are going to find out in that vote exactly what is possible in the rest of the Senate votes this year.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST, "THE SUNDAY SHOW": You know, I thank you for giving me the seniority. It really should go to Jim Manley because he knows basically all of those characters there on Capitol Hill. But you`re right, Lawrence. This is going to be the first big bipartisan vote, and we`re biting our nails over whether there`s actually going to be a bipartisan vote.
This is not -- what happened on January 6th is not a Democratic issue. It`s not a Republican issue. It is a patriotism issue. That vote should be unanimous. It should unanimous to clear the filibuster, and it should be unanimous to pass the bill to get it to President Biden`s desk for his signature.
American democracy was brought to the brink, and the fact that Senator Manchin is still holding out hope that there are ten patriots -- what`s the word he used? It`s disheartening that he can`t -- that he can`t think of ten patriots to come together is a shame. It is a shame on the Republican Party. It is a shame on the Senate. It is a shame on the United States Congress, and it`s a shame on this country that the people who are elected to serve and lead this nation can`t find it within themselves to unanimously vote to approve this commission.
O`DONNELL: Jim, you and I are old enough to remember when it was inconceivable that any member of the Senate, least of all a moderate Democratic member of the Senate, would question how many patriots there are on the Republican side of the aisle.
JIM NMANLEY, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN TO SEN. HARRY REID: Absolutely. You know, if only because, you know, the rank and file Democrats, conservatives though they may be, you know, believed in God and country. But, you know, I for one don`t quite understand what Senator Manchin is up to here. We`ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. But this is a -- the Senate`s in a bad place right now, and as maybe we`re going to talk a little bit later on, it`s only get worse in the weeks to come as the rest of the agenda starts moving down the pike.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Adam Kinzinger said about his Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I do think Kevin has failed to tell the truth to the Republicans and to the American people, and it pains me to say it. It`s not like I enjoy standing up and saying this. But people -- the 74 million voters that voted for Donald Trump that believe -- a number of them believe the election was stolen believe it because their leaders have not told them otherwise. The people they trust have either been silent or not told them the truth.
That`s where Kevin has failed because he told the truth on January 13th, something around then, and then he went to Mar-a-Lago and said, Donald Trump`s the leader of the party. He`s right. Donald Trump is the leader of the party. But we need to tell people the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Jonathan, one of the oddities under these circumstances of this proposed commission is that Kevin McCarthy would get to choose some of the members of that commission, as would Mitch McConnell. It is inconceivable that Kevin McCarthy would choose anyone without Donald Trump`s approval of being on that commission, and so the membership of the commission on the Republican side would actually end up being made up of Donald Trump-approved investigators.
CAPEHART: Well, think about this, Lawrence. Remember, when Speaker Pelosi proposed the commission before, there wasn`t going to be an even split between Democrats and Republicans, right? Now, you know, you had Congressman Katko, who as deputized by Minority Leader McCarthy to negotiate with Chairman Bennie Thompson to come up with the commission.
They gave everything that McCarthy wanted. They gave him everything. The commission would be split, Democrats and Republicans. More importantly, both the Democratic chairman and the Republican vice chairman would have to agree on subpoenas if subpoenas were going to be issued.
Those are two huge things, and yet Katko comes up with this deal, and then McCarthy rips the rug out from under him. In the end, one, they are -- well, they are afraid of Donald Trump. He`s afraid of Donald Trump. Donald Trump doesn`t want this commission to happen because he thinks it`s all a witch hunt and it`s all a fraud and whatever else excuse he`s going to come up with to try to throw sand in the gears of an investigation that is going to show his culpability in inciting those people to ransack the Capitol in order to overthrow the will of the American people with the Electoral College vote being certified.
I mean, McCarthy -- I don`t understand -- actually, I do understand what`s going on with him and why he had the sudden reversal from January 13th saying, you know, January 6th Donald Trump is responsible to going to Mar- a-Lago and kissing the ring of Donald Trump.
Kevin McCarthy has always and will forever remain, be someone who cares about power. And right now for him, doing whatever Donald Trump wants, he believes is going to lead to a situation where Republicans will retake the house and he will get the speaker`s gavel. That is what this is all about.
O`DONNELL: Jim, I need you to check my political homework on the Senate on what I think is going on there. This looks like possible win/win/win for Chuck Schumer in the following ways. He brings the bill to the floor. Either you get enough Republican votes, or the Republicans -- by the way, they don`t have to mount a 60-vote threshold challenge to it. They can just let it go without challenging it procedurally.
O`DONNELL: But in any event, it passes the Senate and you get your commission investigating January 6th, and that keeps some focus on January 6th, which is not politically helpful to Republicans. It`s only politically helpful to the Democrats.
On the other hand, if Chuck Schumer loses this on the Senate floor, he gets to turn to Joe Manchin and say, Joe, look at this. As Jonathan Capehart just outlined, this was a bipartisan piece of legislation created in a bipartisan, traditional way in the House of Representatives, and look at what they did, Joe Manchin.
Joe, you have to help us change this Senate rule on the 60-vote threshold.
MANLEY: Yeah, absolutely. I think option two actually pretty much nails it. Let`s put it this way. If I was still advising the Senate Democratic leadership, I`d be giving my two cents` worth, arguing very strongly to take the bill to the Senate floor, recognizing it was going to be filibustered and quite frankly recognizing it`s going to lose, if only because it will help Senator Manchin and some of the others that are still wondering about whether Republicans are on the up and up, you know -- it will help them to focus their attention on what exactly is going on.
Now, to be clear, as some have argued, I mean there`s going to be a process and, you know, we`re going to see more bills get filibustered before that really focuses their attention. But this is going to be a big one, absolutely. I`ll just wait to see how Senator Manchin handles it because, again, as I mentioned earlier, I don`t quite understand what his game is here, you know, because if he thinks he`s cutting deals with Mitch McConnell, you know, he`s going to be sorely disappointed.
O`DONNELL: And if there is no commission, the House and Senate committees controlled by Democrats can run their own investigations of January 6th. Jim Manley, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
MANLEY: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, the presidency cannot be planned. No one in the White House could have known that this weekend an Irish airliner was going to be intercepted on its way to Lithuania and forced to land in Belarus by an ally of Vladimir Putin. Tonight, President Biden has issued a statement condemning the action.
Ben Rhodes will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was a shocking act, diverting a flight between two E.U. member states for the apparent purpose of arresting a journalist. It constitutes a brazen affront and a national peace and security by the regime. We demand an immediate international transparent and credible investigation of this incident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Michael O`Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, a European budget airline based in Ireland called it, quote, state-sponsored piracy. Yesterday, a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was intercepted by a MiG 29 fighter jet forcing it to land in Belarus, where authorities detained journalist Roman Protasevich, who is a prominent critic of Belarus` president, Alexander Lukashenko, who is closely aligned with the neighboring Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Today, all 27 leaders of European Union countries agreed to impose sanctions against Belarus and President Lukashenko. The European Union has called on all E.U. -based airlines to avoid flying over Belarus and has asked the European consul to begin the process of banning Belarusian airlines from flying over and landing at airports in the E.U.
Tonight, the White House released a statement from President Biden calling the diversion of the Ryanair flight, quote, a direct affront to international norms. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms both the diversion of the plane and the subsequent removal and arrest of Mr. Protasevich. The United States joins countries around the world in calling for his release as well as for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners who are being unjustly detained by the Lukashenko regime.
Joining us now is Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to president Obama. He`s an MSNBC political analyst.
Ben, the White House statement came out tonight. It seemed to be more than several hours in the making, but the language is about as strong as those statements get.
BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, because what we`re dealing with is something that we`ve never quite seen before. We have a situation where a plane is taking off from one European country and on completely absurd premises is basically hijacked by the government of Belarus for the purposes of detaining a critic of the government. And this is so dangerous, Lawrence, because what it says about the situation for people in Belarus but also because it suggests that international air travel, something that we all take for granted, is no longer safe.
If you fly over the airspace of some authoritarian country, this is able to stand. If there are not consequences for this action, then we could see this tactic repeated in the future. And this Vladimir Putin, who, let`s be very clear, there`s no way Lukashenko is still in power today without the sponsorship of Vladimir Putin. This is once again an effort to really upend international norms and put democracies on the defensive.
O`DONNELL: In a situation like this, what`s the likely answer to what did Vladimir Putin know, and when did he know it? Would he know of a plan like this before it was executed?
RHODES: Well, obviously the administration called for an investigation. That`s necessary. I think at first blush, Lawrence, this appeared to be a quite complex operation. You know, in order to fabricate this cover story about needing to ground the airline because of a bomb threat, the reports that there were kind of sketchy people onboard who seemed to be involved in the operation. And, you know, Russia is just far more sophisticated than Belarus, its much smaller neighbor.
So, I think it`s hard for those of us who are national security analysts to think that Russia didn`t have some role in planning this or some foreknowledge of it. Lukashenko has really looked to Putin to shore himself up ever since he basically tried to steal an election that most international and independent observers think he probably lost. And given that reliance on Putin again, it`s hard to see something of this complex nature going forward without at least some Russian hand behind it.
O`DONNELL: What does Putin think of something like this? Is this something that Putin thinks this is good, this shows the kind of power we have, or might he think that was an idiotic thing, shouldn`t have done that over just a reporter who was causing you problems?
RHODES: Well, I think sometimes Putin likes to demonstrate that he is willing to flout international norms without regard for the consequences, to essentially call the bluff of the democratic world. I`m reminded of a situation that was probably some form of accident when a civilian airliner was shot down over Eastern Ukraine over an area where Russian-backed separatists were very active.
And, you know, Putin obfuscated. He blamed Ukraine. He blamed the United States.
But, again, I think, you know, part of the point of that whole episode was that Putin feels like he can annex countries. He can poison opponents as he did to Alexei Navalny and throw them in prison. He can assassinate people in third countries as we`ve seen take place in places like the U.K., in part to make a point to any opponents of his regime, or in this case Lukashenko is making a point to any opponents of his regime that if you`re an opponent, you`re not safe anywhere. Don`t think that just because you live in the democracies, that you`re safe there.
And that`s a world that`s not safe for any of us, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: What are the options presented to President Biden in a situation like this? You would be in the Obama White House, you`d be part of the team putting those options together.
RHODES: Well, I think the near-term target was this issue of aviation and to show that on the specific question of international air travel, that Belarus is basically kicked out of that system. That air carriers cannot fly into and out of Belarus. They cannot fly through Belarus` airspace, essentially cutting off Belarus from Europe.
I think secondly, though, the Biden administration is going to have to look at what kind of sanctions can be imposed on Lukashenko and his inner circle. And the reality is the guys that Lukashenko relies upon, oligarchs to finance their autocracy. I think this is a case where we`re going to be looking at coordinating efforts with the Europeans to go beyond the sanctions already in place and really throw the book at Lukashenko and his cronies, trying to freeze their assets, cut off their money trails they depend upon, but also potentially exposing the depths of their corruption.
I mean this guy who they detained was a heroic journalist, someone who blew the whistle on some of the things Lukashenko was doing. That`s part of what gave so much motivation to the opposition there, this frustration with autocracy and corruption. I think the United States and Europe need to look at how can we be more vocal, more transparent in shining a light on those things and providing support to the Democratic opposition in Belarus through expressions of solidarity and support for their cause.
O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight.
RHODES: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, today newly unredacted documents show Paul Manafort told even more lies to federal investigators than we knew. And a former Trump completely unqualified ambassador is suing Mike Pompeo for not paying his legal bills during the first impeachment investigation of Donald Trump.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will join us, next.
O`DONNELL: It turns out there is a limit to how much Gordon Sondland was willing to pay to be the Trump ambassador to the European Union.
In 2016, Gordon Sondland went from being a Trump critic to being a Trump contributor, donating $1 million to the Trump inaugural committee. That got him a position he was completely unqualified for, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, which then made him a key witness in the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump in which the president was accused of urging the president of Ukraine to interfere in the presidential election in a way that would harm Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON SONDLAND, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ambassador Sondland was fired two days after the impeachment trial in the United States Senate. Today Gordon Sondland filed a lawsuit seeking reimbursement for the attorneys` fees he incurred during the impeachment investigation, which secretary of state Mike Pompeo promised to reimburse.
The Sondland lawsuit says that Mike Pompeo made that promise to reimburse his attorneys` fees quote, "entirely for self-serving personal and political reasons in the hopes that Ambassador Sondland would not implicate him or others through his testimony".
Also today a federal judge unsealed files revealing lies that Paul Manafort told to federal investigators during the Mueller investigation. Many of the lies involved Paul Manafort`s conversations with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence operative.
And joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He`s chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and served as the lead impeachment manager in the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
Chairman Schiff, I`d like to begin with Ambassador Sondland`s lawsuit and not so much on its merits. He can afford the attorneys` fees. There was no grave injustice done there even if he was lied to about reimbursement.
But the discovery process in a civil case like that could go in some interesting and revealing directions. What might you expect from a lawsuit like that?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, first of all, these guys all deserve each other, Lawrence. Gordon Sondland testified in the deposition to one thing and then he claimed to have an improvement of recollection. And then he gave the testimony you just excerpted there, admitting openly there was a quid pro quo.
Apparently, it sounds from this pleading, that Secretary Pompeo was willing to reimburse his legal fees when he stuck to the line he gave in the deposition. But when he testified during the open hearings and basically said everybody was in the loop and showed emails and other messages to Pompeo showing that Pompeo was in on this scheme, apparently that and his unwillingness to resign after the trial led to Pompeo saying I`m not going to reimburse your fees anymore.
You know, the litigation, I guess, will depend on what the basis is for their failure to reimburse him. If they claim that Sondland was acting on his own, that he was some free radical, then Sondland might be able to get discovery to show no, he was actually working with Rudy Giuliani, who was working with Mike Pompeo, and they were all in the loop.
So it`s possible he could get discovery about what Pompeo was involved in, what he knew, and Giuliani. But my guess is he just wants to get paid, and he`s looking for a settlement where he can get some money out of it.
O`DONNELL: The Pompeo angle here exposes him to being subpoenaed to testify in a deposition under oath. That would mean Mike Pompeo under oath for the first time, being forced to answer questions about any of this.
SCHIFF: Well, that`s right. And of course that could be very interesting because those documents that he did share demonstrate that Pompeo was very much in on this. And of course Mike Pompeo was listening in on that call between Donald Trump and President Zelensky, in which he was trying to strong-arm the leader of Ukraine to help investigate the Bidens.
So there`s a lot we still don`t know about this story. We don`t know about, for example, the role of Mike Pence, who was also in the loop. And Pompeo would undoubtedly know about what the former vice president was aware of.
So, yes, there could be some very interesting things come out in discovery, which gives Pompeo, at least, a good incentive to try to settle this and pay Gordon Sondland to go away.
O`DONNELL: And what was your reaction to what we learned in the newly- unredacted -- well, we, the public, learned in these newly-unredacted documents about Paul Manafort dealing with the Mueller investigation and the ways he kept lying to them about Konstantin Kilimnik?
SCHIFF: Well, it`s pretty interesting because in two respects. First, you`re right. It shows Manafort was a bigger liar than we knew, and we knew he was a pretty big liar to begin with. But it also shows the degree of collusion between the campaign chairman for Donald Trump and Russian intelligence.
Here Manafort and Gates, his deputy chairman, are repeatedly giving an agent of Russian intelligence internal polling data, internal strategic documents about their efforts in battleground states and key demographics within those battleground states.
So, you know, this is going on while the Russians are doing a secret social media operation to help the Trump campaign. And so it`s hard to find something more graphic than that in terms of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the same Russian intelligence that`s working on the social media campaign.
But what`s also interesting about it is this is now the second federal judge in ordering these things to be unredacted, who has essentially said Bill Barr was misleading the country, misleading the country by saying there was no evidence of collusion, misleading the country by saying that he was compelled to conclude that you could not indict the president on obstruction.
And he`s also -- the judge is also saying that essentially Barr has been dishonest with the court about what that memo is about. It`s not about just deliberations.
Apparently it`s about spin. And it`s for that reason, because it`s about how do they spin this pre-decision, this predetermination that they weren`t going to indict the president no matter what -- how do they spin that? That`s not something that can be concealed from the public. So it`s interesting at many levels.
Chairman Schiff, we have breaking news about that memo as you`ve been speaking. We have reports indicating that the Biden Justice Department now is going to ask for an extension of time. They had until midnight tonight to hand over that memo to Bill Barr that Attorney General Barr said he used in deciding that he could not prosecute or charge Donald Trump with obstruction of justice.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said no, no, no. This memo could not have been used for that because his mind was already made up. It seems the Biden Justice Department is now trying to at least extend the time they have to turn over that memo and possibly appeal that decision under that extension of time.
SCHIFF: You know, I would hope that they would not resist turning that over to the public. The public should see what`s in that memo.
Now, you frequently have a situation, Lawrence, where the new Justice Department comes in, and they say, well, to protect the prerogatives of the Justice Department, we`re going to maintain the same position as the old Justice Department.
That really ought to give way to the greater public interest. After all, this involved an investigation into wrongdoing by the president of the United States and an attorney general, Bill Barr, who was willing to essentially lie to the country to conceal.
And I think that public interest and full disclosure ought to outweigh whatever concern the Biden Justice Department may have about the precedent, particularly when, as the court has found and the court has read this document, it isn`t an internal deliberation over a legal issue. It`s essentially spin. I don`t think the Biden administration should get in the way of disclosing that spin to the public.
O`DONNELL: Mr. Chairman, our reporting now indicates that they will be appealing the decision. So it will be the official position of the Merrick Garland Justice Department that they do want to protect this memo.
SCHIFF: Well, that`s disappointing. And if they do persist in it, then I hope that they are not sustained by the Court of Appeals. I hope the Court of Appeals will reject this entreaty by the Biden Justice Department.
But you know, again, this is not atypical. When the next executive wants to protect the prerogatives of the executive, but I really think it`s a mistake for the Justice Department to do that. I hope they will reconsider if they`re considering appealing. But if they do go through with it, I hope the Court of Appeals rules against them.
O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, we have timed Neal Katyal`s appearance perfectly. He will join us next on this breaking news at this hour about that Trump administration memo to William Barr that William Barr claims he was using as his reasoning for not charging Donald Trump with obstruction of justice. That memo is now being protected by the Biden Justice Department apparently at this hour.
Neal Katyal will join us next.
We have breaking news. Minutes ago, the Justice Department filed a notice of appeal saying the United States Department of Justice hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The ruling of Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who had ruled that a memo written in the Trump Justice Department for Attorney General William Barr must be released.
The Biden Justice Department is now protecting that memo through the appeals process, trying to keep it as an internal memo.
Joining us now is Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general and an MSNBC legal contributor. Neal, what do you make of this literally I mean, not last-minute, but last hour -- they had about 60 minutes left to file this -- last-hour decision to appeal this ruling that would have otherwise made that memo to William Barr public tonight?
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. So, Lawrence, I`ve read the DOJ filing. It`s not an extension. They are seeking to appeal Judge Jackson. They`re saying Judge Jackson was wrong to order the disclosure of the Barr Justice Department memo.
And this is disappointing to me. I think this is the people`s memo. I think this is the wrong decision. They`re, in fairness, not going to appeal at all. They`re going to leave an unredact about 1.5 pages of the memo, I`m told, but the rest they are fighting.
Now, in an ordinary world, Lawrence, this wouldn`t be an unusual decision. The decision would be made by the solicitor general in consultation with the attorney general. Solicitor General was my old job.
I can tell you that in an ordinary world, I would have appealed this decision because the government doesn`t want federal judges ordering disclosure of sensitive, perhaps ongoing law enforcement investigations. You want a zone of secrecy around that, and encouragement of unfettered advise.
But the problem is that this investigation is anything but ordinary. Judge Jackson is one of the most respected judges in the country, wrote a scathing opinion basically saying Bill Barr lied, the Justice Department lied. Barr was disingenuous, to use her word.
And we`ve always known there`s been a degree of corruption around Bill Barr. He acted always like one of Donald Trump`s attorney. Indeed, you know, Lawrence, while we`ve been waiting for the Justice Department to make this decision there`s already people on social media saying oh, the Justice Department made the decision. See this Barr memo. That was Barr`s audition memo to be the attorney general that he wrote before he got the job in which he, for 20 pages, said there is no obstruction of justice prosecution that should exist here.
And that is what this document is that we are all wanting to see. And the Justice Department now is saying no, the people don`t get to see it. It`s going to stay in the vault. And that to me is not the right call.
O`DONNELL: Neal, let me go back to what you and I consider would tradition in these circumstances, the norm in these circumstances.
If this was say the Clinton presidency after the George H.W. Bush presidency, no one would blink an eye at something like this. They could consider this one responsibly run Justice Department being handed off to another responsibly run Justice Department, basically using the same values, the same approaches to the law, to procedure, to all off these things, and they would see things similarly.
This comes after the most legally radical administration in history with the most ongoing legally radical attorney general in operation. Richard Nixon`s attorney general went to prison, he was taken out of the job. Bill Barr was not taken out of the job except by an election.
And so that`s what`s so striking about this is that this is -- the Biden Justice Department is giving a kind of normal frame to a stunningly abnormal period, and abnormal memo.
KATYAL: That`s beautifully said, Lawrence. You will find no person who is a more zealous defender of the institution of the Justice Department and the way in which you shouldn`t change from one administration to another than me. I mean that`s my hard-held belief.
But this is a different thing. Remember Judge Jackson read the actual underlying documents and she doesn`t just attack him for just trying to keep this report confidential and away from the public. She also goes after Bill Barr for his false and misleading summary of the Mueller report.
And it`s Judge Jackson, it`s other federal judges. Judge Reggie Walton called Barr`s handling of the Mueller report quote, "distorted and misleading". And Emmet Sullivan said, you know, about Michael Flynn, apply the same rule book for a normal like presumption of regularity Justice Department than you can to this.
That is what the Garland Justice Department appears to have done tonight. We will have to study the decision. But for right now at least, you know, my sense is, this is not the right call. The people need to see and understand what happened at this Justice Department over the last four years.
We waited and waited and waited. And, you know, to bury this is I think detrimental to what American democracy is all about.
O`DONNELL: Neal, please stay with us.
We have to squeeze in a final commercial break here. When we come back, I have a couple more questions on this, including what will happen on this appeal? What is the likely outcome if we can say tonight when this goes to the appeals court.
We`ll be right back with more on this breaking news from Neal Katyal.
O5 :Breaking news: the Justice Department has decided to file an appeal tonight to appeal a judge`s ruling that ordered the Justice Department to hand over a memo that was -- that was prepared for Attorney General William Barr which Attorney General William Barr he said was his reason for not charging Donald Trump with obstruction of justice during William Barr`s tenure as attorney general.
Neal Katyal is back with us. And Neal, we have about two minutes left for the two following questions. Take them in either order. What would Attorney General Garland`s role be in this decision? And what is the likely outcome in the appeals court?
KATYAL: So generally, these decisions are left to the solicitor general or here the acting solicitor general. Sometimes there is consultation with the attorney general. That depends from administration to the next. We can`t say here whether or not there was that consultation or whether it was missed (INAUDIBLE) the acting solicitor general`s determination.
Now, here is what is going to happen. Lawrence. It`s going to take about a year for an appeal. It bought you two months of briefing for both sides. Then there`s an oral argument, then there`s a decision.
So if there is a decision by June of 2022, and in the interim, these memos will be confidential. Now again, it`s a partial appeal. They`ve decided -- the Biden DOJ`s decided to release about a page and a half that the Trump DOJ wanted blocked but the rest they`re saying should be kept secret.
And ordinarily, there is a lot of deference to the Justice Department in court, in appellate which is why I think the onus was on the Biden DOJ to get this call right in the first place. And we`re going to need to study this. But I`ll tell you, right now Lawrence, I`m disappointed. And I hope that judges in D.C. come to a different conclusion because Bill Barr, what he did was it really weakened the Justice Department.
And look I believe there should be a zone of secrecy for government decision making and government privacy but it`s a two-way street. It requires people there who act like they deserve it and Bill Barr never acted that way.
O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us on this breaking news tonight.
Neal Katyal gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.