tv Elie Honig Hatchet Man - How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutors Code and... CSPAN October 19, 2022 12:01am-1:01am EDT
here with us this evening is the legal commentator to talk about his new book hell bill barr broke the code and prosecuted the justice department. a couplee of brief housekeeping notes though the question at any point you just click on the q-and-a icon at the bottom of the screen. the key thing to know the aspect of his background he highlights in the book is the experience of the prosecutor 14 years as one first at the federal level in the southern district from 2004 to 2012 and at the state level
in the new jersey division of criminal justice for 2012 to 2016 these days he serves as a legal analyst for cnn and works as a special counsel in the law firm on investigations and trial strategy but it's his time as a prosecutor with the principles of law enforcement lessons where he says bill barr himself had he ever been a prosecutor. to say how he's performed as attorney general under donald donald trump is an understatement charging him with lying, acting as a partisan and opposing his own legal and philosophical views of how civil
society ought to function. that's just in the opening pages. publishers weekly called it a comprehensive indictment and described the book as a convincingun account. on a forward-looking note the book is concluded with suggestions on the reform which i'm sure he will get to in a minute. we will be in conversation this evening with a cnn correspondent in chicago. the screen is yours. >> great to see you as always i
asked you to do it because i ythink you are a talented reporter and you've spoken to my classes and you connected so well with them so thanks for doing that. >> i'm excited for them haconversation because it is rae that you have a book that of course is text cover to cover but continues into the world as we move forward. to continue to make headlines even after the time as attorney general. one of the things i'm going to start with though has less to do with the news cycle and more about the style and the approach that you have in telling the story. a lot of it is woven between
anecdotes of your time as a prosecutor but mainly about how lessonser you learned were blatantly disregarded and bill barr's performance as attorney general so where did the idea come from to tell the story? >> i will take credit for that particular approach. would be a good person to write this book and i said the way i would like to do it is as my time as a prosecutor then drawing out the principal and applying that to one of the scandals. my editor first said let me see
how that looks. he responded a day later keep doing what you're doing. first it's entertaining. people are fascinated with what do prosecutors really do and what happens. i tell a a lot of those stories aboutt my trials but the other thing is too underscore the points i make ins the book. one of only two to serve as attorney general twice. first in theal 1800s so i was of course aging, 91 to 93 later
political independents can never be sacrificed. he never learned or internalized those lessons. he trashed those principles and that is a big part of what inspired me to write this book. so i thought i could make it real tangible for the reader. >> someone that is in from a prosecutorial background it is interesting andre compelling ani learned so many terms but one of my favorite prosecutor crossovers so to speak i came from the know your role chapter
and i texted you about this because the promise was about when anybody was being dug up. it was about the fact it seems like an exciting thing to do. you wrote specifically a prosecutor knows to resist that impulse. you are not a forensic anthropologist. you're a prosecutor, know your role. never learned that lesson then you go on to exemplify that and what happened in lafayette park when protesters were cleared out so tell me about that dynamic and that relationship in particularhi why you felt that relationship was so strong and
why you felt a bill barr never learned that lesson as you did. the story basically is a mafia case where we charged a bunch with a murder in springfield massachusetts played in college. one cooperates andan tells us ad they give us a name and i don't know what it is but he's been missing seven years and so the fbi came with the jackets and me and other prosecutors are like we should go.
we wanted to go because it sounded so exciting but we knew in our heart of hearts for a variety of reasons but the most importantba you can make yoursef a witness if you're at a crime scene and then off the case. you do have a lot of power as a prosecutor but you're y not for land expert. i will leave it to suspense. everyone remembers this incident. there are protesters t and remember the scene after meeting at the white house he said somethingg to one of the commanders and then using pepper
spray and worse on the assembled crowd. that's beyond his area of expertise to order them to do whatever he wants. he is a military buff and bill barr walks with him. there is a report that has's coe out since then. what that report does do is tie him directly to the order to clear the t place so the report says what a bill barr said to that person is are these people still going to be here when the president comes out in a couple
the mueller report and the bill barr for page summary that came out after that. i want to read a tiny quote of how you describe that as a powerfully dishonest historyne should remember it is the moment he first subordinated the justice department to the presidency. why did this moment stick out in your mind? the crazy thing is he told us what he was going to do about five months before when it became obvious he would be tossed outut after the midterms. so bill barr is telling us all in advance i'm going to kill
this case and that's what he did. the way he did it was so dishonest. on a friday night i remember, i still remember the panic when we happening two days later he issues a four-page letter summarizing the principal conclusion. it wasn't a summary, it's a four-page accounting of the report and it's so powerfully dishonest he leavese out all the stuff about how he cuts the sentence in half and there's no charge but he cuts out the first half of the sentence that is finding russia committed crimes and they did it because they wanted a trump to win.
they expected the benefit from it when they were trying to coordinate so that is powerfully dishonest. if i tried that as a prosecutor the judge would tear my head off. that would be outrageous if you tried that as a prosecutor and then i felt him for not stating obstruction of justice. he gave us all the evidence but he never said therefore i find it's obstruction so i will leave it to others. he then said to this day he's never substantively defended that determination. one of 2,000 former prosecutors who served underws both parties
i've never seen a letter from 2,000. two days to read the report and then do you remember how long he held onto that report, 27 days. during that period by the time it came out everyone's opinions were already crystallized. he said we have two redacted. but when you can command power of the doj, you should give that a week max.
it's justhe a reminder but obviously he saved his fight on that. >> on that particular, president trump seemed to be very good with the bill barr's help he was able to turn a lot of these controversies on the head and create them as weapons so they use that in campaign rallies and so on and s so forth. so to borrow some of the prosecutorial anecdotes trump is the head of the family. where does barr fit into this metaphor and why?
>> the council to translate as a sort of man and force her as well he carries out some of the dirtiest deeds then trump house for him. you are doing things the next day. rogero stone sentencing recommendations come out to the u.s. attorney that night he says this iswe an outrage and an hour later he takes the unprecedented step of undermining his own prosecutors resigned fromid the case. i can't disprove that but very
dubious of it so donald trump doesn't always have to call people in and say this is how i would like you to do things. there's an understanding they get into a flow and there are instances there is explicit coordination between the two but i think that is the closest analogy i can make with that relationship. >> i don't want to give away too much of the book so i'm going to stop pulling from too many excerpts but one ofbu the things you see a lot of the current news cycle. one of the stories that's come out and i'm imagining since you wrote this book is part of
eugene carol. this was during his administration and there was a question over whether that defense would still hold up even though president trump was still in office and a new administration was coming in. because this happened during the administration we are going to take this up. i praised him forla some other things that are important but this i disagreed with. i'm critical i in the book. bill barr's determination when he came to the justice department said i would like you to represent me on this matter. the determination foror bill bar is what is the conduct in the official course of the presidents of duties and the way it's explained a to me if you gt
sued you do it's something you said in court you are covered by doj but if you get in a bar fight or something you will be covered inside or outside the job. they determine b the comments is twithin the scope of the presidency. i was very outspoken at the time thatl while the president has a very broad job description that can't be part of it. i felt vindicatedin a couple of weeks or months later when a federal judge appeared in front of a brilliant guy for the same position. you t can't do this case because it can't possibly be within the scope of the presidency. the doj appealed and garland decides we are going to keep fighting this. i think it was wrong and i also
think he missed an opportunity toay say we are different. we are not doing things this way to this preposterous extreme in order toou protect donald trump. but i think he was doing there, he seems i to be searching for e path of least resistance to make as few waves as possible. i think that's a mistake. he needs to undo some of them but not all can be undone. i disagree and. we will see how it comes out but it's a missed opportunity. >> i believe there's cannot bed with that decision one of the
other things i want to ask about because i'm fascinated with this concept of an endgame and we've seen it with multiple officials with their time in the administration or after they were designed i pushed you just didn't see it. after it was clear that he had lost in the weeks after it seemed that bill barr was changing his tune a little bit. we've spoken about belmar being in the news where he was quoted as saying i have suspicions all along that the claims were bowl despite acting the opposite.
so my question why is it too late. >> i don't criticize everything belmar did. they came forward in 2020. the timing is so important this is three and a half weeks after the election and it's clear to any non-rudydy giuliani person that it's over. let's remember a famous quote when he was asked about the case he said with a chuckle history is written, by the winners. at this point he's not going to be writing that history and he's trying h to salvage any bit of
reputation and b avoid being grouped in with rudy giuliani. the problem with the image rehab tour they talk aboutut that andi don't know what happened behind closed doors but the problem is they are completely the article completely omits and we can't forget that for months leading up to thee election bill barr ws one of the biggest cheerleaders for the conspiracy theories. he was one of the biggest spreaders, perpetrators, amplifiers of the big lie as attorney general. an interview with npr where he talked aboutwi the massive thret of fraud. shortly after donaldld trump started he talked about the
threat shortly after and experts said the things he was saying were preposterous, false and my favorite, they were just nuts. then he says the same kind of garbage and congress calls him out. if i made a serious assertion in court and they said i don't have any proof it's just obvious common sense then he came on cnn with wolf blitzer in september and was very combative insisting there's a massive threat and nothing we can do about it. we indicted a case where 1700 false ballots and i'm watching this going that's substantial like get ready to hear about
this. what did doj do, they had to issue a correction. this is profile encouraged leadership. the bill barr has a responsibilityl. soth those three instances first impressions are so powerful and he's out there. is it better he took it back then if he didn't, yeah but it's so much damage with what he did early on. with the q-and-a in the last few minutes or so we will try to take the viewer q-and-a. >> we will open up questions in
about five or six minutes. now is the time to put them in and we will start rattling them off. this is a little bit more of pushing the ball forward. one of the major events that i'm sure you would have written about extensively that came on january 6th on insurrection day at the u.s. capitol. >> blame comes from all sides and others that were involved that a day. at this point notably after being out of the administration he committed a betrayal of his office but i'm curious over the past four years how would anna attorney general bill barr have
handled h that day under presidt trump? >> the attorney general on the today was jeffrey rosen who had been the longtime deputy and resigned. he was mia that today. i can't speakly to what he would have done w that day but for beg rational enough there were lines i never thought i would see an attorney general cross. i'm willing to give him the benefit of f the doubt to thinke would have done the right thing. to get in touch with the president like a lot of people were urging him to do in the unequivocal statement to call this thing off.
we have seen the impact of bill bar on the justice department that as many came from the trump administration but was a blip looking at history? how did the impact justice departmentea where is it something that in your view they are r-uppercase-letter find their way out of quick. >> when my hopes and admonition at the end future attorney general will look we have seen the impact of bill at what bill barr didn't say under prosecutorial principles he got away with it. it was beneficial to him in the president's we need better
people in these jobs. there's two ways to look at this. what are the doj internal policies and i offer up nine policy prescriptions or what needs to be change to prevent the future agin from going down the same road to commit the same transgressions. the doj has to get back to the prosecutors code all of those affects that he never learned because he was never a trial prosecutor but i was taught this very early. they are given a staggering amount of power you realize they started at 29 years old as a prosecutor. i had the power to take away liberty from a human being and by doing that to destroy families and businesses in relationships and you learn
that when youn are in the trenches and somebody has their kids there. with a real lack of humility but the only weird thing standing between prosecutors said abuse of power is the integrity of those who have those jobs one encouraging sinai and seeing is that they do seem to be a strict wall of separation and that is absolutely necessary. and there was a search warrant on rudy giuliani's home there was reporting the biden white house was kicked off because that was the first joint address of congresss but yet
it's a big chunk of the news media was laid out and when i saw the story i said good that's how it should be the last thing doj should ever be doing is say we will do a big thing today with fact i was glad to see that's how it should be no communication so i am encouraged to make progress but we need policy change as well. >> so don't freak out i will just use your first name but i want to say a random user but to start if the ag decided to
continue on how broad those responsibilities are perhaps to lose the cases at a legal strategy but thatt prosecutorial strategy quick. >> that's on a heard quite a bit. i don't think so. you have a duty as a prosecutor to pursue it vigorously is unethical to say i want to bring this case up so i can lose that. it's possible to get more definitive guidance because we have the district level may be with the court of appeals to have a more definitive and is where the line is this falls on one side or the other. that's closer to what eleanor is asking that what i don't think it is the cases the more
extreme version he's doing this because he wants to lose and have a second circuit ruling otherwise would have judge kaplan's ruling not as powerful. host: so from abc news in these voter fraud claims are real all along in his question is why do you believe he's trying to rewrite history does he have a future with a republican administration? >> he wants to preserve his standing in polite society bill barr is very image-conscious. don't let him say that i don't
read the papers he put on i don't want the job. there's plenty of evidence he's very image-conscious from the folks i know that know him he will talk to the media and he knows about my book and is not happy which i take as a good sign but if you look at that article that is so one-sided it leaves out the whole six months i said this is interesting but when i said those things to congress i really didn't mean this i said some things before hand but then i corrected it i would
have given him at least partial credit but it's nowhere to be seen in this article i don't know how you don't ask him that as a reporter that he is presenting a cell little sliver of the story that is good for him. other than to preserve his own image. and with the postscript he had a moment of courage in december finally when he said there is no evidence of voter fraud. and then in hisnhi resignation letter this owed to donald trump and says dear mr. president i just consult with you in the white house and it was a pleasure to advise you that we are still investigating the possibility about leaving their door open. and he undermined his own one brief moment of courage.
it felt like his record can stand on its own why did he go his way? so like you did with the mueller report with the one sliver that was good and he ignored and tried to omit the huge body of evidence that went the other way. the differences unlike the mueller report when he lied about it we know the full truth. he said those into a microphonef on camera. host: and it follows the pattern of former trump officials. >> he's about 72 years old now if i'm not mistaken and has made a fortune by the way. he was worth at least 40 million when he became ag
the second time.e. he is set financially and just wants to save his reputation but who wouldn't? host: so one of the questions is that he was ag under bush. we heard less about him so why and how did he change? >> we know far less about him. during his first tenure is majors controversy was part of the iran contra defendant which was a bit of foreshadowing because that help those people that could haveve harmed the president or vice president. and then between 1983 in 2018. and we went to a much more extreme, version of protect
yourself and justify the means politics. but why? why does bill barr want this job? he has plenty ofe money and he says i'm semi retired went to spend time with my grandchildren. not a m politically powerful person but people want power there's nothing wrong with that. i tried to get promoted as a prosecutor but let's not be misled by his i don't need this. he sought power andow auditioned and got it. but the president stands alone
andce then to drive these out when they went away and then the third thing and as a culture warrior not just a deeply religious person that is fine. as the ultimate goal to bring it back to public. he gave a hint in his speech that turn some heads. and that is sharking does he said shocking and alarming things in his he was that the only thing asti religiosity but judeo-christian religiosity
and secularism meaning those nonreligious aspects of government is the source of all evil so hero. with the bigotry against catholics and then from the fast past few decades what is a larger strategy to preserve the church and see it prevail? how do we getac on o the battlefield and those militaristic terms that must prevail and then go on to rail against the social pathology and the homosexual movement which he blamed and depressions and
into view that to quote him again free government is only suitable and sustainable for a r religious people. outrageous stuff. and then further religious people and the judeo-christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct. he sees this as a battle come in his c own words to have a strategy to retake the power away from thend secularist and this is the last shot to do anything to maket' that happen. and as a persistent member of thebe french group he is a true culture warrior. >> this question says in your
opinion what was the motivation for serving as attorney general under trump? >> it's interesting he said he had enough money how does he view donald trump based on words and actions he did not see donald trump as a mystical be on —- being to be worshiped who are his biggest believers? looking like a gifted person i don't think he viewed him that way that i think he viewed him as a tool or a vehicle he recognized and donald trump sharedhe similar views of how powerful the president should
be and to be untouchable and all-powerful as president there is a nice synergy there but did not phrase it as academically but to say i'm i the president i can do what i want. but to recognize we are simpatico and to implement the agenda and personal beliefsnd through donald trump on —- through donald trump without him interfering. they do view each other as a means to d an end he wrote that memo that said choose me i will clear you for a mueller and that's all he cared about and he viewed trump as nwsomewhat unwitting means to his own personal and. >> that relationship was apparent when you go back to ukraine and how trump viewed
in a similar grouping. i don't know if it says more about trump or bill barber he was in a position to be viewed in that manner or someone that would go along with everything as opposed to be a personal attorney versus theer attorney general. >> t that terrible moment that got trump impeach to say i will have my team connect. i say in the book there is no evidence they actually got g involved in ukraine but is not a good luck when the president casually says you're on the federal payroll. host: of course and part of that the question is there are a lot of things to be insinuating situations he
could have gotten involved in but he didn't so when you are writing thiswe book was he commenting did you reach out or did he reach out to directly to her expressed di dismay? >> i'm glad that question was asked. yes i reached out twicewi in writing and i was forthcoming and they said i'm writing this book. it is called hatchet man and it is very critical i'm more than happy to come in and sit down with the attorney general to interview him and hear his perspective they did not respond either time. i gave them a chance to do that t i was positive on bill barr i was on cnn. i was onset and his name came out as the nominee and it got in my ear.
i said a few minutes we are going to ask you what you think. i knew he was somebody with the bush d administration i did some quick research andnd i said and asked the producer to pull the clip i wanted to quote myself he is a serious person. he has done the job before and seems qualified and now then we learned about the audition memo. but my point is i did not have it out for this guy. to the contrary i was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt i feel many others were critical originally said he looks like a good pick and then the worst we have ever had that's important so i did give him an opportunity to come in and speak with me or even issued a statement to say i've been a good ag and i disagree with the premise
nobody has reached out directly but i do think he is trying to do a pr campaign with the atlantic peace and others. host: what is so interesting is that it's hard to keep up when you look back at the trump administration and scandals or controversy in parts of the federal government and it is a variation so what do you think jeff sessions would have done or any other attorney general would have done with the mueller report had he remained as attorney general during that period? >> that would cause him to bury himself but take any of
the four eighties i served under gonzalez, all those under the bush administration and eric holder with obama. he could not have made it easier. there are two volumes of the mueller report interference by russia and obstruction ofop justice and at the top of each one robert mueller himself m did his seven-page summary and here are my findings. it was a ready scrubbed for classified information and ready to go. this is a detail you forget about he wrote a letter to bill barr and then mueller said essentially you have mischaracterize the nature and conclusion of my report and then says i gave you the summary. why wouldn't you just put those out? you could have done that on day number one.
the detail i forgot is that mueller sends this letter to say you misstated my report in a couple weeks later he testifies in congress that we didn't know about that letter yet andme a member of congress senators asked has anybody expressed any displeasure he liked right into the camera andhe said no. then the letter came out he went back in front of congress and they said you lied to us and you got this from mueller and he said it is i word salad in a bunch of gobbledygook but i didn't think robert mueller himself wrote that himself i thought it was his team but it doesn't count as on his team. come on at some point we can
say i don't swear but you would not buy that from your kid. does anyone in miss johnson's class have a problem with your behavior? miss johnson doesn't count. get out of here. >> that's definitely the dynamic. >> i will get in a a few more but one of the things you hone in on is what bill barr decides is important and what narrative or voter fraud or wherever, what he decides for the justice department is or is not important that you singled out the case in michigan where the people were arrested in the plot to kidnap and you said
that was the most significant criminal charge in the entire tenure as an attorney general but yet did not quite capitalize on that reputation wise. were there other ways he could have elevated his name to stand out as an attorney generalfo even with what he was doing for trump quick. >> there were three things that bill barr tried to never acknowledge or say or give any oxygen to. one was the idea of voter fraud and to shy away from all of the evidence and white nationalistsm terrorism to take every opportunity to blame and huawai and black lives matter but despite all the data in
the words of the fbi to publicly acknowledge that that domestic extremist the fact he did not make a people and that any ag would make a statement. they would issue a written statement and then did nothing until we drove it out of them. and then the third big one is racial disparities that then was asked do you acknowledge that there is some systemic racism and he said no. that is not a matter of opinion. and just to common political talking points for candidate for reelection of donald
trump. so he fell right in line to politicize those talking points. >> so as someone in the media you have to do the extra digging to find out what is important. and then to take it pretty seriously. on from those viewers i will add on to the question. any thoughts about subjects for your next book? if not was there anything you tried to fit in this book?
>> great questions. thank you you did a great job as always and everyone who checked us out i used to live in dc. i almost felt like walking into work at the jewel if i could ever do an event there is so hard for me to fathom. is there anything i wanted to fit inhi that i couldn't? know. t except that hadou to go to the printer and i would say just let me add this one thing. and i knew the answer was no. it is printed and on paper. but i do have quite a bit of material for the paperback the stuff that has come out the last couple of weeks. i deafly want to do another
book that is exhausting but exhilarating but i would like to focus on a specific case. i don't know which one but a criminalal case that either has been underappreciated in our history, a subject that is getting a lot more attention is the tulsa massacre. something enormously significant didn't get enough attention at the time. i don't want to do a thriller but a broader social and public importance. but we are flexible and i want to get more into reporting we've done a lot of research but i do want to start working on what you do every day. harpercollins has standard book stuff to do a book if
they want it. i would like to continue writing in the criminal justice field and that's the field that i know best. >> it was great moderating. and those talking about the attorney general for a a long time. and that is also devastating so thank you for that. thank you to everyone watching for tuning in a reminder in the chat column you can findur the link for purchasing where they are. multiple copies stay well and well read.