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CNN TONIGHT

One Probe With Different Interpretations; A Call For William Barr To Resign Or To Be Impeached; Mueller Wrote Letter To Barr Objecting To His Characterization Of Russia Investigation's Findings; William Barr To Testify Before Senate. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 30, 2019 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Our explosive breaking news. A source telling CNN that Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr expressing misgivings about how Barr characterized his findings, and saying the attorney general didn't fully capture the substance and conclusions of Mueller's 448-page report.

And tonight, Barr has released his written statement for the record for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. A hearing that is set to begin in a matter of hours.

And Barr's statement reads in part, and here's a quote. "When I appeared before the committee just a few months ago for my confirmation hearings, senators asked for two commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation. First, that I would allow the special counsel to finish his investigation without interference, and second, that I would release his report to Congress and the American public.

I believe that the record speaks for itself. The special counsel completed his investigation as he saw fit. As I informed Congress on March 22nd, 2019, at no point did I or anyone at the Department of Justice overrule the special counsel on any proposed action.

In addition, immediately upon receiving his confidential report to me, we began working with the special counsel to prepare it for release. And on April 18th, 2019, I released a public version subject only to limited redactions that were necessary to comply with the law and to protect important governmental interest."

Well, that is from the attorney general's written statement for the record ahead of tomorrow's hearing where he will certainly be forced to answer questions about Mueller's letter.

There is a lot to discuss. Let's bring in some folks to help me along -- to help us all along in this hour. I want to bring in CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, also Juliette Kayyem, and Harry Litman. Thank you all for joining us here.

So, Shimon, you have covered every twist and turn of this investigation for the last two years. I don't envy you, much closer than I have had to. How stunning, though, is this news? The news of this letter from Robert Mueller?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It's stunning when you think about the fact that we have not really heard from Robert Mueller throughout this entire investigation, throughout this entire process. The only time we have heard from his team is through court records.

And what we're seeing here is obvious disagreement from the Mueller team from Robert Mueller himself in this letter to the attorney general. And it's all about context. It's all about nuance. It's all about how they handle the beginning stages of releasing this report in that four-page letter that was ultimately released where, you know, he made -- the attorney general made some statements that now Mueller and his team have disagreed with.

And it set the tone, it set the tone in terms of how this went from that day on. And what Mueller said was he had issues with how the media certainly handled it, the impression that was left in the media by the attorney general.

And certainly, this is all, you know, keep in mind this is all having to do with the obstruction issue which he feels was not properly described. Mueller does not feel was properly described to the American people.

LEMON: Harry, here's what my producer say that you're -- you say that sending this letter to the DOJ is like jumping off the Empire State building for anyone else. Why do you say that?

HARRY LITMAN, CREATOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, TALKING FEDS PODCAST: For Robert Mueller who is the ultimate iconic soldier. Maybe I should say lighting yourself on fire in front of the Department of Justice.

Look, we're talking about three days after that letter. You can imagine how royal things were in within the counsel's office. It isn't simply context and nuance. He sends a letter, which he knows will eventually become public. He's making a record that says the substance has been misconstrued and asking for his summaries, his actual words to be released.

Something the people were clamoring before at the time and it took a month until it happened, a month in which Bill Barr's assessment of things was able to hold sway without any contradiction.

This is a very serious pushback from Mueller. It portends a bigger rift between them and then there's a whole mystery, by the way. What happened between the fifth when they meet and the 27th when it's released?

[23:04:58] And since then that Mueller is completely off the scene and Barr knows that Mueller disagrees. And not withstanding which Barr both testifies and tells the press he doesn't know about it. There's more stones to turn over here. LEMON: Juliette, you know, this is all coming just hours before the

attorney general appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It can't be a coincidence. In his prepared remarks he will say this.

And I'm going to read it and I want you to address after it.

He said, "After the Special Counsel submitted the confidential report on March 22nd, I determined that it was in the public interest for the Department of -- for the Department to announce the investigation's bottom line conclusion that is the determination whether a provable crime has been committed or not.

I did so in my March 24 letter. I did not believe that it was in the public interest to release additional portions of the report in piecemeal fashion leading to public debate over incomplete information. My main focus was the prompt release of a public version of the report so that Congress and the American people could read it for themselves and draw their own conclusions."

So, Barr says his focus was to get as much information out as possible. But this doesn't square with Mueller's letter that says that he shouldn't get the summaries out -- that he should get the summaries out, I should say.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right. There were summaries that would have been those bottom-line collusion -- conclusions -- that was a slipped -- conclusions about what Mueller's findings were and that paragraph that you just read is internally inconsistent.

Because on the one hand, Barr says I wanted to get the bottom-line conclusions out to the public. And then he says at the end so that they can make their own conclusions. And we know this because Barr's four-page letter was just part of the conclusions.

And so, I just want to remind everyone that one of the most egregious aspects of the four-pager that Mueller clearly was responding to, didn't just have to do with obstruction of justice, it was when Barr took out that clause before saying that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The clause before said, of course, that there were multiple contacts and that the Trump campaign intended to benefit from what Russia was doing. And so, those misrepresentations as well as the obstruction of justice misrepresentations means that Barr wanted his bottom -- his sense of what the bottom-line conclusions to feed this narrative and both were wrong.

We now know that there were extensive contacts between Trump campaign and Russia. That seems to be the bottom-line conclusion here. And that also that Mueller did not decide the obstruction of justice case not because he necessarily don't have the facts but because of the DOj rule prohibited him from prosecuting or indicting the sitting president.

LEMON: OK. So now, Harry. I want to read part of Mueller's March 27th letter to the A.G. Barr. OK? And here is what he wrote. He said, "The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon on March 24th did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office's work and conclusions.

There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the special counsel to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations."

Does this letter confirm that the attorney general of the United States was working to cover up the special counsel's investigation or at least to gloss it over to make things look better for the president?

LITMAN: Look, it's a screaming indictment and it's a bomb shell. And somewhere in the rubble may be Bill Barr's reputation. We're going to find that out tomorrow. But the bigger point is not only that he sent the letter but the letter we haven't known about for a month and the summaries we haven't known about for a month.

And you know what else we still don't know to this day is why Barr and Rosenstein, apparently decided to counter manned Mueller. Barr says in his statement for tomorrow, we didn't do anything to contradict the special counsel. That's just not true.

Mueller concluded that we cannot exculpate him and Barr went ahead and did so for reasons that are still mysterious. Was it just the kind of well, we just, if you don't say yes, you must say no? Or was there some evidence that Barr who's never been a prosecutor was looking toward?

The American people do not have the first ounce of the explanation here of the most important decision the Department of Justice has made since the Saturday night massacre.

LEMON: Well, remember, Harry, Rosenstein reportedly said to the president to members of the administration, I can land this plane when it comes to the Mueller investigation.

LITMAN: Yes. Well, he did, right? And that's certainly going to add to an unsettling kind of suspicion of the sort that you're making. But again, is he, will Rosenstein say well, I saw the evidence differently?

[23:09:57] I mean, Barr does say at the press conference that poor Trump was over rot and frustrated. We don't know where the hell that came from and whether that was intended to negative the intent of the Mueller's 22-month meticulous investigation. Really, we are on this most consequential decision completely in the dark and misled. I mean, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, Harry, I have to say, this is --

LITMAN: Yes. LEMON: -- it's a bit surprising and I don't know if it should be. But I should say -- I should say surprising. You've done a 180. Because you said you were happy with the fact that Barr was going to become the A.G. You gave him the benefit of the doubt, and now?

LITMAN: And now right. I mean, yes, OK. You know, call me out perfectly fairly. I thought he was --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm not saying that to be unfair to you. I'm just saying that this --

LITMAN: No, no, no.

LEMON: -- this show is just --

LITMAN: It's perfectly fair.

LEMON: Right.

LITMAN: Look, I do think, you know, as have others who really had faith in Barr, that something has happened here, I don't -- there are -- the debate can go forward about why exactly, what is motivating him. But I think it's beyond -- it's a very sad conclusion. But beyond dispute that he has not been playing the hand straight since the 27th.

And even more than that we don't yet know some of the most important things. This Mueller-Barr rift will continue to play out. And you are right, Don. It has shaken me in my previous confidence.

PROKUPECZ: And just to make a point. Keep in mind that both Barr and Mueller have been friends for a long time.

LITMAN: Right.

PROKUPECZ: We don't know where their friendship stands now. And the other thing is for the attorney general when you look that entire way that they have rolled this out from the time Mueller ended to the press conference to even now where we're not hearing about this letter until today, it's a big problem for the Department of Justice.

When you think about everything that they've been through under Sessions, what the president has done to the Department of Justice to the FBI and then now we have kind of still -- you know --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you think it stains their credibility?

PROKUPECZ: It does and it certainly stains the attorney general's credibility. Because he has argued I'm going to be as transparent as I can. I'm going to come and put everything forward. And he certainly has made it seem that he was going to do that with the release of that four-page letter. And then when we start learning more and more, well, actually maybe,

you know, things aren't being put forward as they should and the fact that we're just learning about this letter -- even when he testified before Congress when he held that press --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm glad --

PROKUPECZ: -- there is time for him to say that.

LEMON: Yes. I'm glad you brought that up.

(CROSSTALK)

LITMAN: Well, he had no idea what Mueller thought.

LEMON: That's very important and I'm going to play it. Juliette, I want you to respond because he denied knowing.

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: I mean, Shimon just brought it up, and Harry as well, denied knowing about Mueller's objections twice when he testified before Congress since early April. This was after he had gotten the letter from Mueller. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Mr. Attorney general, the thing is you put this out there. I mean, the president went out and tweeted the next day that he was exonerated. That wasn't based on anything in the Mueller report with respect to obstruction of justice. That was based on your assessment. That was on March 24th. Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.

REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D), FLORIDA: Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report's findings. Do you know what they're referencing with that?

BARR: No, I don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Juliette, did he think that this letter would never come out?

KAYYEM: Yes, I think this is, this is like the big question that I think a lot of people like Harry but many others who supported Barr can't quite -- we can't quite figure out. And that is this, does Barr think we're stupid? Or is he stupid? In other words, everyone knew that. I mean, how could you sit there

and say Mueller was fine with what I'm saying knowing that there's this letter and knowing the kind of reporting has been done and knowing that Mueller had the capacity to come forward at any time.

He has not yet, as far as we know, but this letter is the beginning, right. It's the documentation. He's greasing the runway for either testimony or after a subpoena.

So, I, there may be third theory here, which is that Barr has no other options because the facts in both volume one about the Russians, which I want to remind everyone is the scary national security one, and volume two obstruction of justice are so bad that Barr literally is just throwing a lot of things at the wall hoping anything sticks.

The good news here is that Barr has failed miserably. And so even though he was able to set a narrative for a month, I just want to remind everyone, the polling is horrible on this issue.

[23:15:00] Most Americans believe that President Trump is, you know, did something wrong. The media has now -- you know, you fool me once, OK, fool me twice, Mr. Barr, not again.

LEMON: Right.

KAYYEM: He lost Congress and we're going to see that over the next two days. And now he's lost Mueller.

LEMON: Yes.

KAYYEM: And so, to me, whatever play he thought he had, he's lost every aspect of it.

LEMON: Well, it's going to be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of days. I appreciate all of you joining us. Thank you so much.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

LEMON: We've got lot more to come on the breaking news tonight. Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro calling for the attorney general to face impeachment. He's going to tell me why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Tonight, it's breaking news and it's on Robert Mueller's letter to the Attorney General William Barr, raising objections that Barr's four-page memo characterizing the findings of the Russia investigation that it didn't fully capture the intent of Robert Mueller's report.

[23:19:54] Let's bring in Julian Castro, a former cabinet official in the Obama administration. He's a candidate for Democrat -- for the Democratic presidential nomination and he joins me by phone.

Secretary Castro, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you, especially with this breaking news. Give me your reaction to the news tonight. You're calling on the attorney general to resign or possibly face impeachment?

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What you have is an attorney general that has actively misled the public and Congress. You know, the attorney general takes an oath to defend the Constitution. And at every juncture what's clear is that this attorney general instead has tried to be Donald Trump's personal lawyer, trying to defend Donald Trump and that's not the role of the attorney general.

You know, people will remember that the summary he sent out about the Mueller report didn't reflect the fact that Bob Mueller had found 10 different instances of potential obstruction of justice that the president committed.

He also misled the American public about whether Bob Mueller thought under Department of Justice guidelines that he moves forward with an indictment against the president.

On top of that, and I know that you are playing the clips tonight in congressional testimony, he got asked by both Congressman Crist and Senator Van Hollen, questions about whether Bob Mueller agreed with his conclusion in his summary. And he gave very misleading answers to those questions. And so, he's completely compromised. He ought to resign or they should begin impeachment inquiry.

LEMON: So, you know, Secretary, that there's been this consternation among Democrats about whether to proceed with impeachment or at least investigating or proceed with impeachment proceedings against the president.

And I think the question is, is there are growing pressure now for two impeachments, the attorney general and the president and is that wise?

CASTRO: I think both of them are appropriate. And on Capitol Hill right now you have this, you know, heartburn among Democrats, whether they should move forward and a lot of that is centered on whether they think it's the right thing to do. But that's not what the Constitution calls for. I don't think this is a political call.

I think the question is are you going to hold this president accountable? For the fact that on 10 different instances, he either tried or did obstruct justice. And are you going to hold this attorney general accountable for the fact that he has actively mislead the American public and the United States Congress about the findings of the special counsel. And I believe the answer is yes, you need to hold them accountable.

LEMON: Secretary, we've read a little bit of the written testimony, the prepared testimony from William Barr tomorrow. Basically, saying that he says, "I believe that the record speaks for itself." OK? And that's just me summarizing this a little bit of what the beginning statement, the opening statement says. What do you expecting to hear from Bill Barr's testimony tomorrow?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, if history is in guide about the members of this administration, I think what we're going to hear is a very defensive and testy attorney general. They tend to push back. They tend to, you know, create lot of smoke. Try put this Congressional congressman or congresswoman on their heels but never really get to heart of the matter.

And that's what -- that's what I expected him. I don't think we're going to get much from him in the way of substance on why he's tried to mislead the American public. And essentially serve as the spinmeister (ph) for the president instead of the people's lawyer which he's supposed to be as the attorney general.

LEMON: Secretary Julian Castro, thank you for your time, sir. I appreciate it. I know that you're very busy out in the campaign trail. We thank you for joining us for this breaking news.

CASTRO: Great to be with you, Don.

LEMON: So, so far tonight we haven't heard anything from President Trump about Robert Mueller's objection to how the attorney general described his report. Not even a tweet. Will the president start to lash out?

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So here is our breaking news. The special counsel Robert Mueller sent a letter to the attorney general, a letter objecting to the way Barr characterized the findings of the Russia investigation in his four-page summary. So how will Republicans respond to this?

Let's bring in Peter Wehner, Michael D'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump."

Hello, one and all. Thank you so much for joining us.

Peter, you first tonight. Mueller, is by all accounts, a by the books guy. As everyone says he's so procedural, right? When you hear the language that he used, the fact that he even wrote the letter to document his disagreement with Barr. This is from a lifelong Republican by the way. Should other Republicans take note of this?

PETER WEHNER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: They should but they won't. At least they won't publicly. You're exactly right. For a person of Robert Mueller's disposition, temperament in history, he is a by the books guy. He follows the rules, chain of command.

For him to do this, to write this kind of letter and use the language he did is pretty extraordinary. Basically, pulled the pen on a political grenade and handed it to the attorney general. So, it's a huge deal.

The Republican Party long ago, threw their hat over the wall for Donald Trump, it doesn't matter what his corruptions are, what's exposed about him, they will not, as a party institutionally confront him speak out against him now and then there's a person like Mitt Romney that will. [23:30:01] But the party itself decided long ago that they would be

his sword and his shield and that hasn't changed.

LEMON: I've got to ask you, Peter, because -- let me just read some of the testimony from the Senate Judiciary Committee, OK? And Barr will say this. He said, "The exercise of responding and reacting to the report is a matter for the American people and the political process. As I am sure you agree, it is vitally important for the Department of Justice to stand apart from the political process and not to become an adjunct of it."

After everything that he has done in the rollout of this report, how can he say that it is now time for the DOJ to stand apart?

WEHNER: That is a reasonable statement. I mean, this is life in Trump world where reality gets inverted. The attorney general has politicized this process. Look, I went into this. I was in the administration -- George H.W. Bush administration with Mr. Barr. I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he was appointed. But this is the latest link in a chain of misrepresentation, and he's acted inappropriately.

He's basically Steve Bannon with a suit and tie and a clean shave. That shouldn't be the case. He's the attorney general, and he is acting in ways that are clearly misleading. And as you showed in the previous couple of segments, he misled Congress. He went in this trying to frame it in a way that was fundamentally dishonest, really. In a way that was favorable to the president and that is really sad.

It shows that the people who get in the orbit of Donald Trump, almost without exception, are staying by or corrupted by. I'm afraid that William Barr is the latest person added to that long list.

LEMON: It's very sad. Michael, you know, speaking of framing, the Barr framing of Mueller's findings was in the public for nearly a month and it gave the president a lot of time to exploit it. I want you to listen to this and then we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no obstruction and none whatsoever. It was a complete and total exoneration.

The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said no obstruction, no collusion. It could not have been better.

(Voice-over): The finding was very, very strong. No collusion. No obstruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So all of this was in between the Barr four-page letter and then the Mueller letter that we learned about today. Was the way this rolled out exactly what President Trump want it? They were going to use it to exploit what they wanted it to say? MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. He's the quarterback and he called the play and William Barr executed. When you hear the president say no collusion, no obstruction, what I hear is no integrity, no loyalty to fact, no commitment to a duty to the American people.

If we have a normal president, a normal human being leading our country, he would be outraged by something like the Barr betrayal of Robert Mueller. But instead, we should expect that he is going to come out and so confusion -- every American knows that this is what he's going to do. He is going to bash Mueller. Mueller will probably get a nickname. It's going to be another pathetic display of distortion and deception.

LEMON: Michael, the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says that Mueller should have the decision and shouldn't be complaining or whining now that he didn't get described correctly. I mean, is he going to be the president's spin that Mueller -- is this going to be the spin that he missed his chance, that Mueller missed his chance?

D'ANTONIO: It will be and, you know, this is the main activity not only of the president but also of Rudy Giuliani, who as Peter said, he's someone who has come into Donald Trump's orbit. He's been caught by the gravitational pull of the habitual lying and the president's salesmanship.

You know, sometimes I wonder if Donald Trump isn't the greatest salesman in the world and if he isn't capable of persuading otherwise regular human beings to hand over their reputation to flush away their place in history in service to a cause that is really rotten.

And so now we have Mr. Barr, whose place in history has been forever soiled. Then we have Rudy Giuliani, who is no longer America's mayor, no longer someone we remember for 9/11, but someone who is regarded as a joke. So he is attorney as salesperson.

[23:35:02] LEMON: Yes. Well, the question is, do the people give Barr too much credit in the first place considering his reputation from other presidents in the past? Listen, I'll ask that to my next panel. I got to go. We got a bunch of people waiting, but I appreciate your comments and your time. Thank you, gentlemen.

We're learning about Robert Mueller's letter objecting to Attorney General Barr's description of his report just hours before Barr set to testify in front of Congress. Last time he testified publicly, Barr got the benefit of the doubt from a lot of people, but will he tomorrow?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:39:59] LEMON: So the attorney general is set to testify tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And tonight, top Democrats are demanding that special counsel Robert Mueller testify publicly as well.

Let's discuss. Renato Mariotti is here, Susan Glasser and Matthew Rosenberg. Lots to discuss. Good evening to all of you. Another turn of events, shall we say, that we have to discuss. Susan, so talk about the significance of Mueller's letter coming out just hours before Barr is due to testify.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, here we go again in the sense that, you know, you do see the Justice Department playing very aggressively over and over again trying to put things like this, damaging things out in advance to shape the narrative. They are already clearly aware that Barr is facing two days of tough questioning up on Capitol Hill, but it is a bombshell either way, whether they pre-spin it or not.

What I am left wondering, as I think a lot of people are tonight is, what was Attorney General Barr thinking when he gave that press conference before releasing the Mueller report after he had already received this letter from Mueller.

He knew one way or another that this was probably going to come out. He knew that the historical record would show that the special counsel believed that he had lied and misrepresented, at a minimum, the findings of this report, a very serious report. I'm just flabbergasted about this. I think he is going to face a weathering brush on Capitol Hill tomorrow.

LEMON: Renato, why are we hearing from Barr tomorrow when we should be hearing from the special counsel himself, Robert Mueller?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the DOJ has not scheduled an interview with Mueller. I think that is just emblematic of the approach that Barr and his Justice Department taken towards Congress. You know, Congress has a constitutional responsibility to investigate wrongdoing by the president. That's their constitutional role. And he's refused to provide the full report that's due tomorrow.

The House Judiciary Committee said that they won't get it. They've been trying to schedule Mueller. They've been trying to schedule other witnesses like Don McGahn with no success. So I'm sure that's going to be a question he will be asked tomorrow. And of course, Barr wants, I think, to be the one to shape the storyline, so he wants to go first.

LEMON: Scheduling Mueller, Matt, what's the hold up?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think, you know --

LEMON: You're choked up by this reporting tonight, right?

(LAUGHTER)

ROSENBERG: Very emotional. Look, I think what Renato said is absolutely right. The attorney general has sought from the outset to set the narrative on this to, you know, stress no collusion, no obstruction, which are basically talking points we've also heard from the White House, you know, in going first, in making sure he gets out there, and then dealing with Mueller later, you know, we'll schedule it out later. He gets a chance to promote that narrative, the kind of this is what we wanted to do. This is how it is. And I think, you know, every step of the way that we keep seeing that challenge, this letter is more evidence of that. This letter basically says, we'll know. It's not there is no obstruction, no collusion. It's a lot more complicated than that.

LEMON: Yeah. What about the fact that Rod Rosenstein resigned with an obsequious letter yesterday just before this report broke? Is that suspicious? Is that just winky-dink (ph)? I don't know. Susan?

GLASSER: Look, one thing that you can say about the Trump administration since it began is it's been essentially the great shredder of reputations. Attorney General Barr, Rod Rosenstein, they will forever have their careers at this point associated with the actions and decisions they've taken essentially to support President Trump.

Many people will see this, I think, historically as an incredible erosion of the independence and, you know, possibly the integrity of the Justice Department. Certainly, it represents a pretty definitive break with the traditions of the Justice Department since the end of Watergate in effort to insulate and to protect our law enforcement system from this kind of political influence and I --

LEMON: Susan, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, on what you said. You said that -- you talked about their reputations. But obviously, they care about something more than their reputations.

GLASSER: Yeah.

LEMON: What is it? Why is it that William Barr and others would allow this to happen to their reputations and to their legacies?

GLASSER: Don, you know, that's the question. It's the one that I ask myself every day. I feel like the psychology of this movement is just as interesting and puzzling as the law of it, as the details of it that were pouring over right now.

I mean, again, what is it? What is the hold that Donald Trump has over these folks that makes them abase themselves in public like that Rosenstein letter, that makes them do things that seem to be at odds with a lot of the rest of their careers?

LEMON: Yeah. So --

MARIOTTI: Don --

[23:44:59] LEMON: William Barr -- hang on -- hold that thought for the other side of the break. I'll just let you respond on the other side. We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now with Renato, Susan, and Matthew. So, listen, Renato, you have to wonder why Bill Barr would risk his integrity, his name, his credibility to carry -- his career to carry water or to cover for President Trump. It's a question that I asked Susan earlier.

MARIOTTI: Yeah. I have to say -- you know, Bill Barr is somebody who is obviously a very big deal in the early 90s when he was attorney general. But I just have to wonder whether or not he wanted to be relevant again.

[23:49:59] I think you can say that about a lot of people around Trump's orbit, right? His legal team consisted of people like Rudy Giuliani and John Dowd and Ty Cobb and others who were, you know, nearing the end of their career and wanted to, I think, have a big role in an important investigation.

Here you have somebody, Bill Barr, who I think wanted to be, you know, back in the center, in the thick of things. You know, we are all in television talking about what Mr. Barr is doing, and I suspect a few years ago, most of us didn't remember who Bill Barr was.

So I think, you know, unfortunately, for a lot of people, they're willing to put a lot in the line in order to get that attention and relevance and it's really unfortunate in the case of Mr. Barr because he is supposed to be working for all of us.

LEMON: What do you see happening next? I mean, Matthew, obviously he released his prepared statement for the Senate tomorrow. What -- do you have any idea? Does anyone have any idea what is going to happen later in the week when he is supposed to go and testify before Congress?

ROSENBERG: I imagine it is going to get -- it is going to be as contentious as expected. I mean, I think this really puts Democrats in a difficult position.

LEMON: How so?

ROSENBERG: Bunch of them is already pushing for impeachment. This is going to increase the pressure on them. Their leadership, however, is wary. It does not look like the public is kind of there yet, if they are ever going to be there.

LEMON: Matthew, let me ask you.

ROSENBERG: Yeah.

LEMON: The public is not there yet. But what if -- I mean what if other things keep coming up like this? I'm just asking. And maybe they won't be, but do you think that that changes the equation at all?

ROSENBERG: I mean it's really hard to say. You know, there are things in the Mueller report that would be hard to imagine. I guess before the Trump presidency, it would have been hard to imagine any president surviving politically or legally. But here we are. So, it's really hard to figure out, you know, what tips the balance here? What would make impeachment plausible? What would say no way, it's never going to happen? And I think for Democrats --

LEMON: But you have to have a hearing, Matthew, because how many people actually sit down and read the 488-page report. We can sit here and preach or talk until we are blue in the face and tell everybody, this isn't in the report, but they're going to see the headline on their phone or maybe perhaps listen to what the president says. So, I think it's important that it plays out in the Senate and in the Congress, no?

ROSENBERG: Absolutely, but it's going to be very partisan hearings.

LEMON: Yeah.

ROSENBERG: I'm pretty sure of that.

LEMON: Yeah. Susan, let me ask you. Can you tell me about -- let's talk about Bill Barr's history at the Justice Department, because he's currently leading the Justice Department, but his history there, how he served in a political fashion in the past and helped another president out of a jam.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. I saw (INAUDIBLE), I remember into the Bill Safire (ph) column, calling essentially even in 1992, Bill Barr, the general cover-up or something like that for an earlier brush with the independent counsel statute and appointing special counsel to end a political controversy. This is sort of the opposite, appearing to play clean-up for the president in order to get a special counsel's investigation off of his plate.

It's a highly political and politicized interpretation of the job. We knew that from the beginning when in this presidency, when Barr essentially auditioned for the job with a memo undercutting the legitimacy of some of the ways in which Special Counsel Mueller's mandate was drawn up.

And, you know, that again, is what I'm struck by. If you read his testimony that they released for tomorrow, it ends on a note of real political sanctimony essentially saying, well, gee, we wouldn't want -- I was just trying to be transparent. We wouldn't want to politicize this process and have the Justice Department in the middle of this political process.

That's the last sentence of the testimony that has been prepared for General Barr tomorrow. I don't know if he'll actually read that out loud or not, but if he does, my guess is there will be guffaws in the audience up on Capitol Hill.

There has always been politics to this. Remember, Richard Nixon, Attorney General Mitchell actually went to jail and was convicted of obstruction of justice among other issues. You already heard, I think, tonight on your program, Don, some Democrats beginning to call for Barr's impeachment as well as the impeachment of Donald Trump. That's one thing we can see.

But remember, who are we not hearing from tonight? We're not hearing from Republicans. In the end, as the math changed, you still would need 20 Republican votes to change in the Senate in order to remove Barr or to remove Trump. And you know what? We're not even going to get 20 statements from Senate Republicans commenting on this issue. I mean, it's extraordinary how they feel that there's no political consequence for them, not even to have a mild-mannered statement.

[23:55:04] There was a tweet tonight from a senator from Hawaii, Brian Schatz, saying, you know, I'm hearing tonight, a bunch of Senate Republicans are really upset about this and are planning to do nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Yeah.

GLASSER: And that sort of sums up where we are.

LEMON: Renato, I'm running out of time, so quickly if you can, because Barr got benefit of the doubt from many. Not many, not all but many, on his initial round of testimony, for example, his unsolicited 19-page memo undercutting Mueller's investigation. What about now?

MARIOTTI: Yeah, I have to say now the senators should feel like they were deceived. I think they do. And I think we are going to get a lot of tough questioning and just wait until he is before the House Judiciary Committee getting questions from lawyers. It's going to be interesting.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you all. Fascinating day. What a turn of events. We shall see what happens tomorrow and the rest of the week. Get some rest now. Thank you. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

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