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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  February 15, 2020 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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february 27th and friday february 28th. we will do live audience shows at the cedar room in charleston, south carolina. tickets are free and they're available right now. head to for all of the details. that does it for us tonight. "rachel maddow show" starts now. rachel, how are you? >> hello, chris. thank you very much and thank you for joining us this hour and thank you for joining us for day four of the rule of law crisis that has been unleashed by president trump and his attorney general william barr. today, interestingly, is the one year anniversary of william barr taking over as attorney general at the justice department. congratulations. how has it gone? in this current scandal this week we're not only learning what general barr has been up to this week, as it has become a gigantic scandal and it's all started to fall apart, we're now learning as of this part of the week from public reporting and
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from sources starting to squawk about it, we are now learning what exactly attorney general william barr has been up to on the president's behalf for this whole year he's been on the job. happy valentine's day. the reason the news keeps getting worse and worse this week as this crisis stretches on is because this crisis over the president and the attorney general intervening in multiple criminal cases to basically fix them on the president's behalf, the reason the news keeps getting worse this week is because this ongoing crisis keeps sort of unfolding like a blooming onion. and it's just as healthy. we keep getting more and more new news about what the attorney general has been doing in his time on the job. but to get the depth of it, particularly the depth of what came out today, you should start back in 2017 before the hiring of william barr was a twinkle in president trump's eye.
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you may recall in 2017 the fbi fired director james comey. he asked comey for a loyalty pledge. he told comey he wanted him to let go the criminal investigation into national security adviser mike flynn, comey refused on both accounts, the president fires james comey. and you might remember the very next day president trump invited the russians into the oval office, surprise, the russian foreign minister and ambassador into the oval and told them in that meeting he was delighted to have gotten rid of comey. and that all of the pressure he had been facing about russia was not off. all of that pressure was now relieved because he had fired the fbi director james comey. and the president may indeed have thought so in the moment. he certainly looks happy enough about it. but it seemed in that moment when we learned what he said to those russian government officials that he was sort of confessing to them that the reason he had fired james comey was to try to make the russia investigation go away.
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and trying to make federal criminal investigations go away, trying to obstruct them by firing the person leading the investigation, well, whether or not you're ever going to get indicted for it, it's not good. and in any case, it didn't work. after an fbi director is fired, the second in command steps up and takes control. the deputy fbi director when james comey was fired was a man named andrew mccabe. and so mccabe, as deputy director, stepped up and became the acting director of the fbi once comey got fired. and in the short time andy mccabe served as acting fbi director in the wake of mr. comey's firing, mr. mccabe approved the opening of two investigations that we know of into the president. first, and it is unsurprising looking back at it, but first, he approved an investigation into whether the president in fact had fired james comey for the reason he explained to the russians. did he in fact fire comey or do anything else specifically to try to impede the government's
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investigation into russia messing with our election? so that's an obstruction of justice investigation into the president. mccabe approves that. mccabe also approved expanding the kifting counter russian investigation into the potential attack into the role of the president. this terrible central counterintelligence question as whether the president was somehow compromised by a foreign power, whether that anything to do with russia intervening in our election to try to install him in office, mccabe improved the expansion of the investigation to include that matter. andy mccabe was only acting director of the fbi for a short time, right after comey was fired. but the fbi after comey was fired was a fraught time. mccabe didn't flinch. that is what he did when he was in that role. naturally the president decided that he must be, you know, well, proverbially off with his head. the president's orientation
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towards andrew mccabe became one of a heat-seeking missile. the president fixated on mccabe as an enemy. president denunciation after public denunciation. long after there was a new fbi director and mccabe returned to his previous job, the president kept training fire on mccabe, insisting publicly hounding the fbi into firing him. firing him specifically a single day for him eligible to receive his pension as a 20-year fbi veteran. even beyond hounding the fbi into firing him, the president also demanded that mccabe should be criminally charged as well, lock him up. under attorney general william barr last year, the department of justice finally started to seem amenable to that demand from the president. they did in fact open a criminal investigation into andy mccabe, just as the president had been insisting. the problem on the horizon for this criminal investigation, however, was there really didn't seem to be adequate grounds to
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convict andrew mccabe of any federal crimes. there didn't even seem to be enough basis out there to charge him with anything. we would soon learn, the way we do indictments in the justice system, broadly speaking, is that prosecutors work closely with grand juries, that is a one-sided process, for bet are or worse, it's the way we do things, and it gives prosecutors a ton of power. and that's led to what is referred to the ham sandwich standard. the grand jury system is set up in a way that any capable prosecutor can get a grand jury to hand down an indictment as something as innocent of a ham sandwich if a prosecutor puts his or her mind to it. it is that easy for a prosecutor to get a grand jury indictment because of the way it's stacked in the prosecutor's favor. like it or don't, that is the system. but even in our little banana
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republic in which the president is insistently demanding lock him up when it comes to andrew mccabe, the president braying for months the former fbi director must be charged and must be indicted and must be prosecuted and william barr trying his best to go along with that, it turned out the case of andrew mccabe couldn't even meet the ham sandwich standard. we know that because last year started emerging intriguing reports that while the president was calling over and over again for mccabe's head, prosecutors in the u.s. attorney's office in washington apparently at least twice brought their evidence against andrew mccabe before a grand jury. and grand jury proceedings are secret, so a lot of this is just circumstantial evidence, but it appears, based on circumstantial evidence, that denight multiple attempts to get an indictment out of a grand jury against andrew mccabe, for whatever
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reason the grand jury wouldn't do it. again, i insist there's only circumstantial evidence of that. but no indictment of andrew mccabe ever emerged, even after this criminal case against him was open for months, even after the prosecutors appeared to convene the grand jury in this matter more than once. even after one of those instances with the grand jury not producing an indictment, mccabe's lawyers made a public demand the justice department should give it up, explain what is going on and stop letting their client, mr. mccabe, twist in the wind. there was a judge overseeing this matter. the judge also started making increasingly impatient remarks in court questioning why the justice department couldn't just bring charges already if that's what they intended to do. you have an open criminal investigation of this guy, produce charges. if not, you should close it. how long did they tend to leave this criminal case against andy mccabe technically open without actually being able to indict him on anything? well, here's the judge in july of last year, lamenting in court
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this investigation seemed to be going, in his words, going on, in his words, quote, ad infinitum. prosecutors at that point last july then asked for another 60 days. he gave them 60 days. 60 days later they were back in court. he told them once again, hey, how come you haven't brought charges if you're keeping this case open? he said, quote, how long are you talking about? prosecutors at that point asked the judge for another three weeks. three weeks later they were back in court. they still did not have any charges to present. they asked the judge at that point for another three months. at that point the judge said no. the judge balks, he says, quote, i don't know why it is so difficult for a decision to be made. either you have a case or you don't. it seems to me from the standpoint of mr. mccabe he has the right to have the government make a decision and not hold his life will limbo pending a decision. do you have any idea how long it will be before a decision is made? the prosecutor said, your honor,
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i would ask for a period of three months before we come back. the judge responds, no. that just seems like a long time to me. i just don't -- i just don't get it. so the president is publicly banging the drum about this. mccabe should be prosecuted. mccabe is a criminal. this guy who was at the fbi who oversaw the opening of the russia investigation and whether i tried to shut that investigation down by firing james comey and all of the other obstructive things i did, that guy is the real enemy of the state. he's committed treason, according to the president. he should be fired. he should be prosecuted. he should be behind bars. the president doesn't let up. and under william barr, under attorney general william barr, the effort to prosecute mr. mccabe keeps chugging along, trying -- trying, mr. president, but clearly it doesn't make much sense. it's not well grounded. it's really starting to seem like they don't actually have a case against him. "the new york times" reports last fall the supposed key
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witnesses they were going to count on to build their case against mccabe, those witnesses actually went into the grand jury and told them actually, everything mccabe did was fine. not only was it not illegal, it was specifically the kind of stuff he's tasked to do in the job that he held at the fbi. really seems like they don't have a case. still, though, who wants to be the one to tell president trump the criminal case they brought against andrew mccabe after he insisted on them opening it is not going to be dropped? who wants to tell him. you want to tell him? i will be out six the next three weeks. meanwhile, the prosecutors on the andrew mccabe case start quitting. one prosecutor pulls his name off the case, withdraws. although he stayed within the justice department. another prosecutor not only took her name off the case, she quit the justice department all together. sound familiar? those resignations happened in the fall. but today, finally, finally, after all of this, finally, they dropped the case against mccabe.
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they will no longer try to bring criminal charges against andrew mccabe. they will close this matter. why did they give this up today? in the movie version of this moment in american life, somebody has had an awakening of conscience and recognized that it's really wrong and really bad for this country, quite injurious to our status as a rule of law country, for a president to keep publicly demanding criminal investigations of people he's decided are his enemies. somebody realizes, somebody has a come-to-someone moment and decides it's even more wrong for an attorney general to listen to those demands from a president and try to bring about those prosecutions that the president is demanding. in the movie version of this crisis, where america wins at the end, somebody wakes up to how wrong that is. and that is what finally causes this decision today to stop seeking criminal charges against andy mccabe. that does not appear to be what happened. what appears to have happened inside the movie that we're actually living is that these
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guys ran up against a court order. thanks to a freedom of information act lawsuit brought by an oversight group in washington called crew, today was the day that previously sealed documents from the mccabe case were going to be made public, including sealed qualifications between the prosecutors and the judge. the prosecutors who repeatedly couldn't explain why no charges were being brought, who couldn't explain why the grand jury wasn't producing an indictment, even though they kept meeting, who couldn't explain why they needed more time to keep this investigation alive, even though they couldn't get the grand jury to charge him. what was unsealed today were communications kept ex-party, meaning unsealed, for why the case was still going on and the judge asking them hard questions. today was the deadline. as of today that court order has been affect waited and those previous previously sealed documents had
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and have been unsealed. now we could see by what was going to become public today is the judge reaming out the prosecutors for what the president and by extension the attorney general were trying to do here. and that's why today went the way it did. this morning the justice department formally drops its case against mccabe. they formally drop their effort to lock him up like the president has been braying about for months. just a couple hour u.s. after that announcement we get quietly posted on the docket in federal court d.c. this transcript. it's judge reggie walton speaking to one of the prosecutors from the u.s. attorney general's office in d.c. who had been stringing this case along, who was never able to produce criminal charges and couldn't explain why the case was still open nonetheless, and the you judge just says it, quote, the public is listening to what's going on, and i do not think people like the fact that you've got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate
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whether somebody should be prosecuted. i just think it's a banana republic when we go down that road. and we have those types of statements being made that conceivably, if not influencing the ultimate decision, a lot of people on the outside are perceiving there's undue inappropriate pressure being brought to bear. i would just hope -- it is just very disturbing that we are in the mess that we are in, in that regard because, he says, i think having been a part of the prosecution for a long time, the judge is a former prosecutor, and the judge said respecting the role prosecutors play in the system, he says, quote, i just think the integrity of the process is being unduly undermined by inappropriate comments and actions on the part of people at the top of our government. i think it is very unfortunate. and i think as a government and society, we are going to pay a price at some point for this. prosecutors says to the judge, sir, i will certainly report back in the office about what was said here and i do want you
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to know i take my role -- and the judge interrupts. i'm not criticizing, he says. the prosecutor says no, i completely understand and the judge says, quote, i'm just happy that when i was in the justice department, those type of things were not taking place that were putting either perceived or actual pressure on the office as to whether you prosecute somebody for a criminal offense. i'm happy i never had to endure that. the prosecutor says, no, i completely understand. it's not like he defends himself and says, your honor, you're misunderstanding, there hasn't been any political pressure on us. nobody at the top of our government has been telling us to bring this prosecution. this is an independent -- doesn't say that. he just says in this ex parte communication unsealed today, yes, your honor, i understand. so this week, the scope of this week, it has been falling apart.
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you might remember there's been around the end of the impeachment trial, right, there's been a lot of punditry as to how the president would respond. with with the president having survived the threat of being removed from office from the impeachment trial, there's punditry about whether he removed in some way, he would do something to cause a new crisis because he's so geared up from not being removed from office. that pupd itry turned out to be half right, half right. what the president did this week was bigger than causing some new crisis. what the president did this week was that he started talking about something that has apparently been going on for a long time. he exposed something that he and attorney general william barr have been doing together for a year now. it is all tumbling out now because the president this week couldn't stop himself from bragging about it. to the extent that attorney general william barr has spent
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his one year in office trying to essentially fix criminal cases for the president, it turns out, it is true, both in terms of prosecutions the president wants brought against his enemies and favors the president wants done within the criminal justice system for his allies or for people who could potentially implicate him in further misbehavior and often those people are the same. some of this has really been hiding in plain sight. some of it is brand new. but there's a reason it is all cascading out now. that's next. stay with us. it's either the assurance of a 165-point
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in early january, on january 7th, prosecutors in the mike flynn case said he should receive a prison sentence. 22 days later on the 29th of january, prosecutors inexplicably reversed that recommendation. they filed a new sentencing recommendation for the judge saying actually they didn't want prison time for him at all. forget the earlier recommendation. i remember asking at the time, actually posting something online at the time asking what the heck was going on there? he posted this on january 29th, quote, 22 days ago doj
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prosecutors in the flynn case were asking for a sentence of imprisonment. now they say they're not. what happened in the last 22 days? i posted that on january 29th. well, now we know the answer. turns out over the course of those 22 days attorney general william barr intervened to basically try to put the fix in on that case on behalf of president trump. nbc news today nailing this down, quote, within the past month -- today is january 14th -- excuse me, today is february 14th, federal prosecutors on the flynn case came under pressure from senior justice department officials to recommend a lighter sentence for flynn than they had proposed. in early january prosecutors recommended flynn served up to six months in jail. they were overruled six weeks later on january 29th when the judge submitted a new recommendation for the judge saying probation for flynn was more appropriate instead.
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that was under pressure from senior justice department officials, who intervened what the line prosecutors were otherwise pursuing in that case. this revelation from nbc news comes amid further reporting from both nbc and "the new york times" today that attorney general barr has installed a team of people in an ongoing way in the u.s. attorney's office in d.c. specifically to, shall we say, oversee cases that are sensitive and that happen to be of interest to the president. quote, mr. barr has installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of politically sensitive national security cases in the u.s. attorney's office in washington. the team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the u.s. attorney in st. louis, a prosecutor who is now handling the flynn case. a st. louis prosecutor, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general. what are they doing there? quote, over the past two weeks the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors
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in the washington u.s. attorney's office about various cases, some public, some not, including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them. some of the cases involve president trump's friends and allies. some his critics and adversaries. quote, the moves amount to imposing a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the washington u.s. attorney's office. the move is, quote, highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top department officials. oh, you think? it could -- could trigger those. consider that trigger pulled. i mean, this is not a warning. about the possible mistaken appearance of criminal influence on the political justice system. this is further documentation that we piled up this week that in fact the criminal justice system has been breached. it's not threatened. it's hurt.
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prosecutorial decisions are now being made under the direct supervision of the attorney general, specifically to benefit the president and to respond to his demands, to punish his enemies and try to free his friends. it's not just a threat of this. we are now living with a justice system that has been made to work this way. this crisis emerged on tuesday this week in the case of roger stone because the president couldn't keep quiet about it. but the stone case followed the exact pattern of what happened with michael flynn. just like in the flynn case, prosecutors recommended to the court a prison sentence. and then there was political intervention by the attorney general on behalf of the president to reverse that prison recommendation. and instead to recommend no prison sentence and so a revised recommendation was made to a court. the only difference between the two cases wa this week, while the president was apparently feeling his oats, he couldn't resist making his demands about this prosecution out loud. he couldn't resist saying out
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loud how he wished the stone case to be fixed, please. and that, of course, brought everybody's attention to it in an inescapable way. of course, the dark reality that we are confronting, even beyond this cascade of very upsetting evidence about what trump and barr have done to break the rule of law, the very dark revelation here i think is that the president screwed up and set off this crisis this week by crowing about what he wanted done in this one criminal case, specifically because he really doesn't want this stuff to be done quietly. he does want this stuff to be done out loud. he wants to brag about it because the threat is the point, right is this i mean, attorney general william barr clearlip does the want this to be public. who wants to be known as the attorney general who really is fixing criminal cases on the president's behalf? so, of course, attorney general barr is expressing public consternation about the president talking about these matters so much, it makes his job quite impossible. the president to keep publicly
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describing what it is they've been doing for the past year. but the dark truth here is that the president wants this to be broadcast as loudly as possible because he wants the effect. first of all, he's not ashamed by this. he doesn't believe he's constrained by the law. that's his recent experience seems to back him up on that. he believes the criminal justice system should be there for his disposal, that he should use the criminal justice system to lock up his political opponents, to criminalize political opposition to him, to lock up anybody who stands against him, whether as part of a political opposition movement or as part of law enforcement or as a whistle-blower or as somebody in the government who just obeys a subpoena and testifies truthfully as to something that they saw. he believes that anybody who does such a thing is a traitor and should be locked up and anybody who is considering doing such a thing should fear being locked up so as to shut down all opposition to himself and
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essentially render resistance futile. his idea is to create that fear that will stop people from standing up against him. if that's what you're trying to do, the louder you can be about the fact you're using the criminal justice system this way, the better. and so the stone case interference happened out in the open because the president couldn't stop himself. the flynn case interference is now out in the open. the mccabe case interference is basically laid bare today, and the rest of the case is pouring out, attorney general william barr ordered the hush in new york. ful the person connected to the felonies, individual one, and the such executives were under criminal scrutiny, the person sworn in a year ago and immediately got himself to new york where he met with prosecutors about that very case. that very case was closed a few months later without any
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additional charges brought against anybody, despite the fact special prosecutors in that office blocked investigators from having anything to do with this case because they supposedly had pending charges there, supposedly had an ongoing intervention that closed without anybody being charged at all. barr also purportedly inserted himself in the rudy giuliani case in the southern district of new york, which resulted in charges so far against lev and igor but not against rudy giuliani. we'll have more on that a little later in the show. so it may not just be that one attorney's office in washington, d.c. it may be the sovereign district of d.c., one that somebody assured us would be so sovereign nobody could ever push them around. one last piece i need to underscore because this rattles my molars the most about the revelation of this crisis today
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and it's from "the new york times." it's about barr establishing these oversees in washington, d.c. about sensitive cases that relate to the president. not only has that team inserted itself into the stone case and flynn case but "the times" today describes this team hand picked by attorney general william barr as interceding in various cases, quote, some public, some not. some not. some indications we don't know about? you mean, what "the times" is reporting among the politically sensitive cases that -- and every other case we know of in this circumstance has something to do directly with the president, one of these politically sensitive cases which likely has something to do with the president, some of cases that bill barr's interceding in here as having his team mess with in the u.s. attorney's office in d.c. are cases we don't know about yet. cases that are either sealed indictments in which the alleged perpetrators haven't been
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arrested yet or open criminal cases where charges have not been filed. barr's hand-picked team of overseers are messing in those cases too. what are those cases? and what is bill barr doing to them right now as we speak? and how do we get our legal system back when these guys are done with it? how do we get those cases back if they're improperly kiboshed? because what we're living through as of this week is not a threat to the rule of law in the out of america, we emerging into a reality where we recognize we have a lack of the rule of law. it is broken. the rule of law is no longer in effect when it comes to criminal cases that have anything to do with the president or his perceived interests. they hijacked one u.s. attorney's office to serve the president's needs. another supposedly very independent district in new york does not appear to have been immune from this pressure either, at least there's circumstantial evidence that raises serious questions about that. given that, what do we do know?
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how do we get this back? how much should we be counting on people inside the justice department to help stop this, at least squawk about it and let us know. if they do squawk about it, how do we respond? i have just the guy to ask. stay with us. ♪ do you recall, not long ago ♪ we would walk on the sidewalk ♪
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i have questions. now that we have arrived here. now that we know the american criminal justice system is being used by a tool for him and his
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attorney general to help go after those in the president's favor and go after his enemies, now that it turns out it is happening and we might be living it, i have questions, what do we do to stop it? and is it fair to help what people do inside the justice department who are seeing the hijacking of their cases firsthand, whether it's fair to hope whether those people should jack about it and let us know? whether it's fair for us to expect the judges whose cases that are being affected by these political hijackings, should the judges themselves try to make the justice department admit to and count to the interference that is affecting these cases? i want to know whether the justice department might in fact be screwing up cases that have no interest to the president, just normal criminal cases because the attorney general is wading into some specific cases on the president's behalf to ask for lenience over specific favored defendants. won't every defendant in the country now ask for that same treatment since the attorney general is giving it to the president's friends? i want to know how to counter
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the message that the president is now sending that in fact if you oppose him, he will have the attorney general bring the legal system down on you. i want to know how normal, everyday people can counter that by finding a way to support the people that he wants to make an example of. is there any way for the president to support citizens to support the witnesses and whistle-blowers and people the president has made examples of by destroying them? i have all of these questions. i don't know how i should get answers, but i would like to ask some of them of andrew weissmann, former fbi counsel and nyu professor in criminal law. any of those answers, please tell me. first, do you think i'm being unreasonable? >> i don't think you're being unreasonable. the one point i would make is this is not a democrat or
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republican issue in terms of where we are today. i have served under democratic administrations and republican administrations in the department of justice. i have worked on the enron case which was highly, highly political in the sense there was enormous interest in the press about whether ken lay, the then chairman of the firm, was connected to the vice president. >> the brand-new bush/cheney administration? >> correct. and there was not a scintilla, any political pressure put on us at all. it was classic department of justice. you follow the facts, you follow the law. if it was a warranted investigation, it will be brought. that whole investigation was led by republicans who had integrity. this really isn't -- what we're living through now, i don't think people should be thinking somehow democrats won't be like this and republicans are. no, we're really dealing with something very, very different.
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>> the way the president has portrayed this -- and this is interesting both psychologically and as a political strategy, he's portrayed the justice department as always having been corrupt and political, as presidents always having attorney generals who fixed cases for them, who punished their enemies and rewarded their friends and why isn't he getting the justice department that he knows every other president has had? he's trying to create a sense this is not only -- not something he should get as a republican but something that all presidents have gotten. >> that's simply not true. it is fair to say that there are attorney general generals who have had closer relationships with their president and some that have had more distant relationships, but do you know in 21 years, do you know how many times i have experienced or even heard of the attorney general of the united states reaching in to a single criminal case to weigh in on the sentencing submission? >> how many times? >> that would be zero. it doesn't happen. i think one of the things that was missing from attorney
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general barr's interview was he making it sound like oh, this is normal. this is something that happens normally. the question i would have for him is tell me one other time other than for flynn and stone and actually for paul monanafor not in the sentencing but housed, wheres would you do this with another attorney general? it's hard to look at the facts and not be cynical and say it's obvious what has been happening. this is the attorney general who is clearly doing this because they are three people close to the president and they're getting disproportionate justice. >> let me ask you about the potential remedies here when we come back. andrew weissmann is our guest. stay with us.
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to putting your true colors on display. say "yes" to allegra-d. good morning, mr. sun. good morning, blair. [ chuckles ] whoo. i'm gonna grow big and strong. yes, you are. i'm gonna get this place all clean. i'll give you a hand. and i'm gonna put lisa on crutches! wait, what? said she's gonna need crutches. she fell pretty hard. you might want to clean that up, girl. excuse us. when owning a small business gets real, progressive helps protect what you built with customizable coverage. -and i'm gonna -- -eh, eh, eh. -donny, no. -oh. back with andrew weissmann, former member of the senior counsel investigation and now an nyu law professor. andrew, i assume roger stone will still have his sentencing late next week on thursday. the government prosecutors in the stone case submitted a sentencing recommendation that said give him a bunch of prison
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time and the next day after the president tweeted a new sentencing recommendation that meant no, don't, we didn't mean it. the judge will have to consider -- what does the judge do with those two filings? what does she make of this? >> so i think -- one, the judge is excellent and she is smart and she's tough and she will be tough on either side if they're playing games. whether it's the government or the defense. i would expect her with respect to the government having a lot of pointed questions about you submitted something initially that said certain things about the facts and also made certain representings about the law, which you then retracted and said, well, we're not saying the law really requires this. she's going to put it how can you say that? i looked at the law. the law does require this guideline applies . >> can she inquire the justice department explain what happened? what changed? >> absolutely, she can require that and the u.s. attorney general to show up and people who signed it to come in and say
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what happened. >> if it turns out the truth of what happened is what we believe it was, political pressure on the department, on the u.s. attorney and those prosecutors to change it, all signs would seem to indicate that public reporting and resignation of the prosecutors, if the judge includes it's improper political appearance that caused the government to change this recommendation, can she sanction the department? is there some remedy she can impose beyond embarrassment? >> this member, her main issue is making the right decision first with respect to the defendant. what's the appropriate sentence? so she will want to know what she should make of the government's submission. and that is the thing that gives her leeway to ask all of these very probing questions. at the end of the day though she's going to be principally focused on what you're supposed to do, doing justice for the defendant before her because unlike the department, she's going to be trying to apply equal justice. she's not going to hold a different standard for roger
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stone or any other defendant. >> she may have accountable for things that went wrong here. >> absolutely. she famously said what's great about the courts, it's one place in this country that facts still matter. >> that's right. >> i think she does have a remedy because if they are lawyers, they can be referred to the bar if they she thinks something happened that was inappropriate. she can also refer them to the ig if she thinks there's something inappropriate. there's some sanctions. of course, if you're a lawyer, that is a terrible thing to have happen to you. >> andrew weissmann, thank you so much. it's a pleasure to have you here any day that you're here but particularly tonight. thank you very much. >> pleasure to be here. we'll be right back. - oh. - what's going on?
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journalist david rode is out with a new piece today about attorney general william barr. i encourage you to read it. i will give you the punch line, though. he leaves us with this chilling thought. the unresolved question is how far barr will go in expanding presidential power when the president is donald trump. critics contend that by empowering trump, barr is paving the way for autocracy. used that word a lot more than i wanted to this week. david rhode is the perfect person toe answer that question. also, the author of an upcoming book called "in deep, the fbi, the cia, and the truth about
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america's deep state." comes out in april. thank you so much for being here. i feel like you are a little bit of a bill barr whisperer, which is why i wanted to talk to you. >> i'm trying. >> you have been looking in depth at him as a political actor and attorney and in this part of his life. do you feel like there is something about the way he approaches his job that we are misunderstanding as we confront this crisis this week? >> he has very different view of the presidency. he sees the presidency as the most important branch of the government. when the united states has come under threat of war or the great depression, the president has saved the country. and he really believes the president should be stronger and congress or the judiciary, anything since watergate, you know, the presidency has been -- has been weakened. weakened too much. and he is trying to restore that balance. >> in terms of the judiciary, i feel like we use the word constitutional crisis a lot. this week, i have been thinking
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of this as a rule of law crisis and not necessarily a constitutional crisis. i think of a constitutional crisis as the disobedience or disobeying a court order. if barr believes that a president is -- should be superior to the judiciary, does he believe that a president should disobey a court order if he wants to? >> yes, i think he believes that the president has that power. he thinks there's two remedies to contain a president that's out of control. one is impeachment, which we just saw fail. and the other is elections. and that's, essentially, it. and that the president, through article ii, has full control of the executive branch. that means he has full control of the judiciary -- sorry, of -- of the department of justice. and as you have been talking about, he can bring criminal cases. the president himself can bring criminal cases against whoever he wants. >> so what do you make of attorney general barr sort of not defending what has been exposed this week but trying to explain his own frustrations with the president making public statements about it? i mean, the president is clearly
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saying i believe i have the right to interfere in any criminal -- in any criminal case that i want to. and i'd like to crow about the fact that i am going to. i believe he is trying to intimidate his critics by doing that. attorney general barr isn't exactly saying the same thing. he's not conceding that president trump has the right to dictate what the sentencing recommendation should be for his pals but does he believe that? >> that's the real question here. and i don't know what, you know, what -- what barr was trying to do. i think he was -- i think he's in extraordinarily difficult position. last anyway, lou dobbs was saying there's two dozen people who should be arrested right now in the fbi and justice department. one of them according to the conspiracy theory is andy mccabe. guess what? there is no evidence against mccabe. how does bill barr prove the president's rhetoric about a deep state when there is no evidence to prove that? so i think he's still carrying
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out this agenda he believes the president has right to influence these cases but he is saying please stop broadcasting it on twitter. you're making it very hard for me to give you the power i think you should have. >> you're making it very hard for me to keep doing the stuff we've been doing together all year with people only suspecting it and not being able to prove it. >> one theory -- i don't know. none of us are in bill barr's head. but he had this theory that the president can prosecute whoever he wants but it's got to be a different experience for him to be attorney general. he was under george h.w. bush, who was very cautious and did believe the president should have sort of more power and too much was lost in watergate. versus, you know, working for president trump. and believing that this single person should have this kind of power and, you know, he's written in some legal papers about restraints and political pressure. nothing seems to restrain this president. so a best-case scenario is that, you know, bill barr, working for donald trump, thinks maybe a president shouldn't have this much power. >> it's hard to imagine that
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part of him getting unwired at this point in his life. let me ask you one last question in terms of your perspective on him and the way he's evolved over the course of his career. one of the things i think people are considering is a potential sanction against bill barr himself. that might try to reel this in. i mean, this is a crisis of the rule of law. learning that the attorney general has been fixing these cases for the president is -- is a remarkable thing. it would be the biggest scandal in any presidency in the modern era. it's one scandal, among many, in this one. but it's a deep and dark one. how would bill barr react to himself being impeached by the house of representatives? >> he would see that as like an excessive reaction. i think he buys into the sort of dark donald trump, you know, no one's neutral. every attorney general is highly politicized and a view that the mueller investigation was just like political smear on the president. and -- and so you know, he gave this speech to the federalist society saying it's the radical
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left setting out to destroy our norms. this sort of mentality, this sort of besiege, they are under attack. the house is abusing its powers. mueller abused his powers and so we ever to fight back. and so he's fixing these cases and maybe in his mind, he thinks it's unjust that it is too much of a sentence against roger stone. i don't know how that compares to the facts. roger stone was convicted by a jury of his peers of seven felonies. and you know, we can debate the sne sentence but that's a fact. bill barr is a pivotal player right now. will he continue to play along? will he push back? will more people resign? you know, it's an enormous crisis and it's very sad. >> it is an enormous crisis and it's getting deeper by the day the more we learn. david, author of the upcoming book "in deep" which comes out in april. we'll be right back. stay with us. [ siren ] give me your hand!
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♪ we would only hold on to let go ♪ ♪ blow a kiss into the sun ♪ we need someone to lean on ♪ blow a kiss into the sun ♪ all we needed somebody to lean on ♪ the new xc90 plug-in hybrid electric. xc90. recharged. it has been a dark week. these are difficult times for
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our country. but as always, that just means all the more reason to pay attention. and all the more reason to appreciate stuff totally outside of what's going wrong when it still goes right. like, happy valentine's day. we will see you again on monday. now, it's time for "the last word." a a ali velshi in tonight. >> we will see you on monday, rachel. tonight, michael moore will join us. i am going to ask him to help us assess donald trump's re-election chances. it's going to be a good conversation. plus, we are on the ground in nevada talking to voters about the democratic race. and former governor bill weld of massachusetts will join us on what his stronger than expected showing in the new hampshire republican primary means for trump this fall. but we begin as rachel discussed, with the country's rule of law. facing a growing crisis as the controversy widens over the attorney general and president trump's influence over the department of justice. tonight, new controversial developments involve the people both at the