Absent Mueller Conclusion On Obstruction, William Barr Makes Own Ruling | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

thanks to at home for joining us this hour in 1974 Leon Jaworski was the special prosecutor who was investigating Watergate and related issues within the Nixon administration first special prosecutor of course had been Archibald Cox President Nixon had to fire his way through the upper echelon of the Justice Department in order to fire Archibald Cox the first special prosecutor for for him having the temerity to demand that the Nixon White House follow law and obey court orders and hand over material relevant to that investigation so Cox got fired Leon Jaworski was Archibald Cox’s successor and if the Nixon White House was hoping for somebody to be intimidated by how he got the job if they were hoping for somebody more cowed somebody who’d be less aggressive somebody who might have felt at least implicitly threatened by the way Archibald Cox had been ousted on direct orders from the president that was not what they got with Leon Jaworski Leon Jaworski was just as rock-ribbed just as straight forward just as unintimidated and 45 years ago this month Leon Jaworski assembled this 62 page document summarizing material that the Watergate grand jury had obtained that was relevant to understanding the president’s own conduct within the Watergate scandal now grand juries conduct their work in secret it is absolutely integral and sacred to the grand jury process that the evidence they obtain in the course of an investigation be used for one purpose and one purpose only which is drawing up indictments that’s all grand juries do the information that goes to them can’t be used for any other purpose however when a grand jury collects information that is relevant to the potential criminal misconduct of a sitting president of the United States it has long been Justice Department policy even in the Watergate era that in that instance the end product of the grand jury’s work can’t be an indictment a sitting president can’t be indicted and so what’s a grand jury supposed to do with the evidence it collects about criminal activity by a sitting president where does that information go I mean when a prosecutor conducts grand jury proceedings that turn up evidence that indicates potential criminal activity by a sitting president that prosecutor has to figure out right what what to do with what this grand jury has just learned about the president’s behavior in Leon Jaworski case in 1974 with the Watergate grand jury he had convened in 1974 what he decided was that it just would not do for that information about the president to drop into some black hole of presidential immunity from prosecution and so Leon Jaworski’s grand jury in March 1974 they obtained permission from the federal court in Washington DC to transmit the evidence that they had obtained to Congress the evidence they had obtained that was relevant to Richard Nixon’s criminal behavior as president that sixty two page document was not an indictment they did not try to bring an indictment against President Nixon what they did was present the factual record that they had amassed this is a sixty two page document it was essentially a guide a lot of people called it a road map to the hundreds of documents and multiple tape recordings that grand jury had obtained and reviewed and come to see as relevant to the president’s potential criminal actions they packed up all that evidence they wrote up this terse document summarizing that evidence giving Congress the salient information they thought Congress would need to be able to make a decision about what to do next there were no recommendations as to what Congress should do there were no conclusions drawn as to whether or not the President had committed crimes it was just the facts just the factual record and in the end Congress did decide to use that roadmap of evidence collected by the grand jury as the basis for their impeachment articles against Richard Nixon first and foremost on the basis of his alleged obstruction of justice and while grand jury information really is supposed to be secret and it is therefore a big deal that that Court cleared it for that grand jury information to be conveyed to Congress in 1964 it’s interesting that sixty two page document containing all that grand jury information about the president it never leaked it was conveyed by grand jury by Jaworski’s grand jury to Congress to the House Judiciary Committee it was kept confidential by the House Judiciary Committee even as they used it to drop the impeachment articles against Nixon it was never leaked to reporters was never leaked to the public the only reason we can look at it now 45 years later is because just within the past year the court decided it was finally okay to let it be seen basically as an object of historical interest and so finally now we can read in that original document all these years and decades later about what evidence there was about President Nixon obstructing justice and you know it is remarkable to see it all you know typed up in terse there he was on February 20 this item 41 February 28 1973 there was Nixon meeting with John Dean talking about offering presidential clemency to the Watergate defendants and we know from the footnote there 41.1 that there was a tape recording of that meeting and that’s how the grand jury knows that that conversation happened and what they discussed then a few pages later we get to item 45 which tells us that three months after that conversation he had with John Dean about offering clemency to the Watergate defendants Nixon says in a public statement quote at no time did I know about any offer of executive clemency for the Watergate defendants and what is the source of that information well that’s a thing the President did in public they source the transcript of a Q&A session by President Nixon with Associated Press managing editors and putting out those two pieces of information in that document that was not Leon Jaworski the special prosecutor or his grand jury saying hey hey the president appears to be obstructing justice here he knowingly lied about whether or not clemency was going to be used as a tool to try to cover up the Watergate break-in I never spelled it out like that they just laid out the facts and how they knew those facts that was just Jaworski and the grand jury saying this is what we know about the president’s behavior here is the documentation that proves it you make the call as to what to do about this and the you making the call in that case was Congress Leon Jaworski and that grand jury was not going to end the president in a court of law so they got permission from the court it was Congress’s decision what to do with the factual information that they had amassed no recommendations from that grand jury and from the special prosecutor no conclusions drawn just the facts that is our historical inheritance as a country as a people in terms of how we deal with presidential wrongdoing and now to celebrate the 45th anniversary of that on-the-nose historical precedent for an investigation into potential obstruction of justice by a sitting president of the United States now 45 years later to the month now this time the Trump administration has decided they’d like to handle this one a little bit differently this time in a four-page letter to the judiciary committees in the house in the Senate newly appointed Attorney General William Bar has written a short narrative description of the contents of the final report that has been prepared by Special Counsel Robert Muller a final report which no one outside the upper reaches of the Justice Department in the special counsel’s office has apparently seen in what bard describes as an initial review of Muller’s report he starts off by describing the the reach and the effort put in the molars investigation quote in completing his investigation the special counsel employed 19 lawyers who are assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents intelligence analysts forensic accountants and other professional staff the Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas executed nearly 500 search warrants obtained more than 230 orders for communication records issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses and boy that’s a lot of numbers they certainly seem like an impressive list of numbers of things it would be more substantively illuminating to the American public and to Congress if we knew anything about the products of those 2,800 subpoenas or what those 13 foreign governments turned over when they got requests for information it would be more substantively helpful to know what kind of information was obtained from these 500 witnesses but nevertheless I think those free-floating numbers are up there at the top of the letter in order to make us feel assured that no stone was left unturned Barr then describes what he says are the two parts of the special counsels report the first is the special counsels investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election from what Barr says in his short letter it sounds like the actual molar report goes into quite a bit of detail about what Russia did to try to mess with our election and try to try to install their favorite candidate in the White House Barr then says and he repeats himself for emphasis he then says that quote the special counsels investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election so that’s the first part of the report he quotes what he says is a sentence from Muller’s report that there was there was no finding that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia that’s the first part of the report when it comes to the second part of the report when it comes to obstruction of justice one of the things bar appears to be vaguely hinting at here is that Muller seems to have made some sort of detailed factual accounting of the president’s actions that could potentially be construed as obstruction of justice Barr says that Muller made a quote thorough factual investigation into these matters related to obstruction of justice he says quote for each of the relevant actions investigated the report sets out evidence on both sides of the both sides of the question and quote leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as difficult issues of law in fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction more broadly William bard describes quote the special counsels decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusion which is something that has some echoes in history factual information about the president’s behavior as it relates to obstruction of justice no conclusions one way to the one we’re the other as to the criminality of those actions just that detailed factual information handed over without recommendation without drawing prosecutorial conclusions that is what Leon Jaworski and his grand jury did on March 1st 1974 in that document that was conveyed to the House Judiciary Committee and we don’t know exactly what robert muller has done because all we have is william bars short and somewhat opaque description of what he says muller has done but what bar seems to be indicating here is that he got a detailed just the facts recounting of trump’s behavior that potentially pertains to criminal obstruction of justice a recounting that quote does not conclude that the president committed a crime but it also does not exonerate him and when that exact sort of document was handed over to the Judiciary Committee in the House by Leon Jaworski in the Watergate grand jury in 1974 the Judiciary Committee in 1974 looked at that factual record of information they had obtained from the grand jury and the special prosecutor and they decided in fact that based on that information they would draw up impeachment proceedings against President Nixon primarily for obstruction of justice this time this factual record this description of the president’s behavior it didn’t go over to the House Judiciary Committee instead they got a letter because the actual information went instead to the president’s newly appointed attorney general who has been on the job for a month and who got the job after submitting to the White House an unsolicited 19 page memo which claimed that the president inherently can’t to obstruct justice and Robert Miller can’t even investigate him for that whatever information Attorney General William bar just received from Robert Muller about the president’s behavior as pertains to potential criminal obstruction of justice Barr could have just passed that information on to the Judiciary Committee for them to decide what to do with it following and Jaworski swift steps in the handling of the Watergate roadmap in 1974 but instead somewhat inexplicably he decided to take it upon himself to declare definitively yeah you know I looked at all that stuff and I can tell you there’s no crime there it’s fine at which point whatever you think about the the the quoted conclusions about the other half of robert molars report on this obstruction stuff it’s like do what like where did this come from I mean on what grounds are you saying that you have concluded there’s no crime here what facts did you consider about the president’s behavior when arriving at that conclusion Moeller did apparently provide a detailed factual description of the president’s actions as they pertain to obstruction of justice including some actions that bar says were not publicly reported but we apparently will not be allowed to see that material and the attorney general seems to be indicating that Congress won’t be allowed to see it either only he gets it I mean to the extent that Muller amassed a factual record of the president’s behavior some of it will be stuff the President did in public that we could all read about in the paper but other stuff especially stuff that wasn’t publicly reported he presumably would have presumed pursued through the grand jury process all right those 2,800 subpoenas in large part those were likely the subpoenas to provide an evidence and information to the grand jury there were interviews with hundreds of witnesses and some of those witnesses may have been directly interviewed by the special counsels office and that’s it but witnesses were also brought a lot of witnesses were also brought before the grand jury attorney general william bart now says at the end of his short letter to the Judiciary Committees that while he would love to convey convey Robert Muller’s confidential report in its entirety to Congress and he has quote mindful of the public interest in this matter Oh sad trombone he can’t because he needs to remove all grand jury material from the report before he allows anybody else to see any of it including the judiciary committees in Congress and again grand jury information rightfully is kept secret but it is kept secret for a reason which is that grand juries collect information for the purpose of considering criminal indictments against criminal suspects when a grand jury has collected information against the one person in the country who can’t be indicted as a criminal suspect because of his job cuz he’s the president well does that grand jury information about the president just go into a burn box somewhere or does it go in confidence to an entity that can pursue justice and accountability for known criminal acts even when an indictment can be brought me Jaworski and the grand jury conveyed their information in secret under seal to the Judiciary Committee in 1974 this information obtained by molars report apparently just goes to president Trump’s appointee and other than that he’s gonna make sure nobody else sees it the surprise in william bars letter this weekend about about molars findings the big surprise was this strange assertion a legitimately unexpected assertion about Robert Muller the special counsel choosing to quote not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment as to whether or not the president committed crimes related to the obstruction of justice and and that looms the largest in all of the questions raised by william bars report right we do not have the molar report we have less than 50 words that bar says our boats from the Muller report other than that we’ve just got william bars statement and william bars statement we can call it the bar report it raises all sorts of brand-new questions we didn’t have before about what exactly is going on here with this investigation and what fruits it will be allowed to bear I mean first and foremost question one the special counsels office according to bar determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement on obstruction of justice well why did Muller make that determination and was it in fact a choice did Muller believe that he had a choice in that matter or did he believe he was constrained either by his legal remit or by Justice Department policy I mean Barr in his report describes this decision by Muller almost in wonder like who knows what this Muller guy was thinking he just decided not to do this part of his job weird right and so that has led to a whole day plus of speculation and news reporting now – what this crazy guy Muller must have been thinking when he did that well all we have here is bars assessment of what Muller did Muller was reportedly not consulted on the bar report and how Barr characterized Muller’s decision here nor has the special counsels Office commented one way or another on bars report since it was released and so we don’t know but if Robert Muller believed like Leon Jaworski and his grand jury did in 1974 if he believed that his role was to lay out the facts that pertain to the president’s alleged criminal behavior without making recommendations or drawing conclusions one way or the other as to whether or not that behavior constituted a crime well that makes it all the more remarkable that Attorney General William bar then jumped in and said I know what the answer is I know what the answer is here I’ll do it I’ll decide so that’s question 1 question 2 it relates did Robert Muller expect the Attorney General to jump in and make a no prosecution announcement regarding obstruction of justice did he ask him to do that that he expect him to do that or was that as much of a surprise to Robert Muller as it was to the rest of us third question and it relates is it proper that Attorney General William bar would make this kind of a public call especially upon receiving no recommendation from the prosecutor who helmed this grand jury and otherwise conducted this investigation is there anything in the special council regulations or injustice depart right Justice Department regulations more broadly that direct the Attorney General to jump into the breach here and say hey I personally have decided after looking at this for a day that there’s definitely no crimes I’ve decided it’s my role to make that public pronouncement was that a proper role for the Attorney General and on what basis did he make that public pronouncement fourth one of the reasons it might not be processed proper for a prosecutor for any prosecutor or for the Department of Justice more broadly to jump in and make a pronouncement that a president appears to have committed crimes is because of the possibility that that president could actually be indicted and prosecuted and put on trial for those crimes after he or she has left office so let’s say like just as a lark that president directed his longtime personal lawyer to commit campaign finance felonies right before the 2016 presidential election and prosecutors are sending his longtime personal lawyer to prison for that and they think they’ve got the president himself dead to rights for having directed the commission of that felony and prosecutors are willing let’s say to bring charges and mount a trial to prove it in a court of law but they can’t do that while the president is serving as president so say they plan to do that they plan to try to secure that indictment against the president starting the day he leaves office that kind of a scenario might conceivably be a reason why a prosecutor and why the Department of Justice more broadly would not want to go on the record publicly declaring whether or not some behavior by the President amounts to a crime because that sort of pronouncement from a Justice Department prosecutor or the Justice Department more broadly would taint the deliberations of any grand jury that was asked to consider whether an ex-president committed a crime and should be indicted as such so is that a reason why Robert Muller might not have said one way or the other whether the president’s actions constitute a criminal obstruction of justice so as to avoid essentially precluding any future prosecution of the president for crimes that he may have committed once he leaves office and if that’s why Muller believed if if that’s why Muller believed that he was not supposed to say one way or the other whether this was a crime if that’s why he believed this was supposed to be just the facts ma’am other people should come to her their conclusions about whether or not this is a crime if that’s why Muller was reticent on that point to give any recommendation to pronounce any conclusion and make any prosecutorial announcement if that’s why Muller was holding back on that did William bar blow that up I mean well when William Barr decided to land with two feet on one side of that question and say as far as I can tell there’s no crime here I hereby proclaim no crime in so doing that he just screw up any future grand jury proceedings that Muller might have been trying to protect we’re only after question four oh hold on I’m just getting started stick with us hey there I’m Chris Hayes from MSNBC thanks for watching MSNBC on YouTube if you want to keep up to date with the videos we’re putting out you can click subscribe just below me or click over on this list to see lots of other great videos

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