Episodes

CD197: Constitutional Crisis

The United States system of government depends on the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches keeping each other accountable, but what happens when two of the branches refuse to police the third? We might soon find out. In this episode, by examining the Attorney General William Barr’s response to the release of the Mueller report, learn about recent events which foreshadow our system of government being tested in ways it hasn’t been tested before.
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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD191: The “Democracies” of Elliott Abrams

CD143: Trumps Law Enforcers

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Additional Reading

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Sound Clip Sources


Press Conference: Speical Counsel Robert Mueller Statement on Russian Investigation, May 29, 2019.

  • 4:10 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president can not be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.
  • 5:40 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: First, the opinion explicitly explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available.
  • 6:10 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.

Hearing: Attorney General William Barr Contempt Resolution, House Judiciary Committee, May 8, 2019.

  • 14:40 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): I urge my colleagues to think about how the department’s latest position and their insistence on ignoring our subpoena effects our committee, over time. Our fight is not just about the Mueller report, although we must have access to the Mueller report. Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress as an independent branch to hold the president, any president, accountable.
  • 15:20 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): The chairman of the oversight and Reform Committee has been sued in his personal capacity to prevent them from acquiring certain financial records from the Trump organization.
  • 15:30 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): The president has stated that his administration will oppose all subpoenas, and in fact, virtually all document requests are going unsatisfied. Witnesses are refusing to show up at hearings. This is unprecedented. If allowed to go unchecked, this obstruction means the end of congressional oversight. As a coequal branch of government, we should not and cannot allow this to continue, or we will not be a coequal branch of government.

Hearing: William Barr Testifies on Mueller Report, Senate Judiciary Committee, May 1, 2019.

  • 7:50 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): I would like to do more to harden our infrastructure because the Russians did it. It wasn’t some 400 pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere. It was the Russians, and they’re still doing it. And it can be the Chinese, it could be somebody next. So my takeaway from this report is that we’ve got a lot of work to do to defend democracy against the Russians and other bad actors. And I promise the committee we will get on. Would that work? Hopefully in a bipartisan fashion.
  • 9:20 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): This is what Strzok said on February 12th, 2016 “Now he’s in charge of the Clinton email investigation”.
  • 11:25 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): “Trump is a fucking idiot”.
  • 17:05 Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA: First Special Counsel Mueller’s report confirms that the Russian government implemented a social media campaign to mislead millions of Americans.
  • 32:50 Attorney General William Barr: The special counsel investigated whether anyone affiliated with president Trump’s campaign conspired or coordinated with these criminal schemes. They concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to establish that there had been any conspiracy or coordination with the Russian government or the IRA.
  • 33:40 Attorney General William Barr: Now we first heard that the special council’s decision not to decide the obstruction issue at at the March 5th meeting when he came over to the department and we were frankly surprised that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction. We asked them a lot about the reasoning behind this and the basis for Special Council Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting in response to our questioning that he emphatically was not saying that, but for the OLC’s opinion, he would have found obstruction.
  • 34:40 Attorney General William Barr: Once we heard that the special counsel was not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, the deputy and I discussed and agreed that the department had to reach a decision. We had the responsibility to assess the evidence as set forth in the report and to make the judgment. I say this because the special counsel was appointed to carry out the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the department and to do it as part of the Department of Justice. The powers he was using, including the power of using a grand jury and using compulsory process exists for that purpose. The function of the Department of Justice in this arena (which is to determine whether or not there has been criminal conduct). It’s a binary decision. Is there enough evidence to show a crime and do we believe a crime has been committed?
  • 35:30 Attorney General William Barr: We don’t conduct criminal investigations just to collect information and put it out to the public, we do so to make a decision.
  • 35:40 Attorney General William Barr: And here we thought there was an additional reason, which is this was a very public investigation and we had made clear that the results of the investigation we’re going to be made public, and the deputy and I felt that the evidence developed by the special counsel was not sufficient to establish that the president committed a crime, and therefore it would be irresponsible and unfair for the department to release a report without stating the department’s conclusions and thus leave it hanging as to whether the department considered there had been criminal conduct.
  • 38:13 Attorney General William Barr: We prepared the letter for that purpose. To state the bottom line conclusions. We use the language from the report to state those bottom line conclusions. I analogize it to announcing after an extended trial what the verdict of the trial is, pending release of the full transcript.
  • 38:40 Attorney General William Barr: We were not trying to summarize the 410 page report.
  • 44:05 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Very quickly, give us your reasoning why you think it would be inappropriate to proceed forward on obstruction of justice in this case.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, um, generally speaking, an obstruction case, uh, typically has two aspects to it. One, there’s usually an underlying criminality that…
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Let’s stop right here.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Was there an underlying crime here?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
  • 48:00 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Do you think the President’s campaign in 2016 was thoroughly looked at in terms of whether or not they colluded with the Russians?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): And the answer is no according to Bob Mahler.
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s right.
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): He couldn’t decide about obstruction, you did. Is that correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s right.
  • 1:02:08 Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): In volume two of the report, the special council declined to make a traditional prosecutorial decision. Instead, the special council laid out 200 or so pages relating to a potential obstruction analysis and then dumped that on your desk. In your press conference you said that you asked the special council whether he would have made a charging decision or recommended charges on obstruction, but for the office of legal console’s opinion on charging sitting presidents, and that the special counsel made clear that was not the case. So Mr. Barr, is that an accurate description of your conversation with the special council?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes, he, he reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Yeah. If the special console found facts as sufficient to constitute obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding?
    Attorney General William Barr: If he had found that, then I think he would state it. Yes.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Yeah.
  • 1:03:45 Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Do you agree with the reasons that he offered for not making a decision and Volume II of his report and why or why not?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, I’m not really sure of his reasoning. I really could not recapitulate his analysis, which is one of the reasons in my March 24th letter. I simply stated the fact that he did not reach a conclusion and didn’t try to put words in his mouth. Um, I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t have gone down the path of making a traditional prosecuted decision, then he shouldn’t have investigated. That was the time to, uh, pull up.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Okay.
  • 1:37:53 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you first learn of the New York Times and Washington Post stories that would make the existence of this letter public? The ones that came out last night?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think it could have been yesterday, but I’m not sure.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When they contacted you to ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: They didn’t contact me.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)*: Contact to DOJ and ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: I can’t actually remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): So you…at some point you knew that the Mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think so.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay. When did you decide to make that letter available to us in Congress
    Attorney General William Barr: This morning.
  • 1:37:53 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you first learn of the New York Times and Washington Post stories that would make the existence of this letter public? The ones that came out last night?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think it could have been yesterday, but I’m not sure.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When they contacted you to ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: They didn’t contact me.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)*: Contact to DOJ and ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: I can’t actually remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): So you…at some point you knew that the Mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think so.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay. When did you decide to make that letter available to us in Congress
    Attorney General William Barr: This morning.
  • 1:40:30 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The…
    Attorney General William Barr: As I said, I wasn’t interested in putting out summaries. Period.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Well, you know, we can…
    Attorney General William Barr: Frankly…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): This is another hairsplitting exercise because Bob Mueller, (who I think we all agree is fairly credible) actually described your letter as a summary. So you can say it wasn’t a summary, but Mueller said it was a summary and I don’t think…
    Attorney General William Barr: I wasn’t interested in summarizing the whole report. As I say, I was stating that the bottom line conclusions of the report…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Your letter said it’s intended to describe the report, I quote your words…
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah, describe the report meaning volume one [inaudible]
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When you describe the report in four pages and it’s a 400 page report, I don’t know why you’re cowboying about whether it’s a summary or not.
    Attorney General William Barr: Because I state in the letter that I’m stating that the principle conclusions.
  • 1:41:13 Attorney General William Barr: You know, Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a US attorney. He was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. He’s part of the Department of Justice. His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby.
  • 1:42:59 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Um, the interesting thing to me is that it goes on to say that because of the OLC opinion, we have to give the president an extra benefit of the doubt because he is denied his day in court where he could exonerate himself. That seems like a fallacy to me because if you are the president of the United States, you can either waive or readily override the OLC opinion and say, “I’m ready to go to trial.” “I want to exonerate myself.” “Let’s go.” Could you not?
    Attorney General William Barr: How is this relevant to my decisions?
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): It’s relevant…
    Attorney General William Barr: Because I assumed that there was no OLC opinion.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Well, we have a report in front of us that says that this influenced the outcome. And in particular it says it influenced the outcome because it deprived the president of his ability to have his day in court. And my point to you is that the president could easily have his day in court by simply waving or overriding this OLC opinion that has no judicial basis. Correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, I don’t…I don’t think that there was anything to have a day in court on. I think that the government did not have a prosecutable case,
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): but part…well Mueller obviously didn’t agree because he left that up to you.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): He said that he could neither confirm nor deny that there was a prosecutable case here. He left that to you and when he did, he said, and you apparently have agreed that this OLC opinion bears on it, and then it would be unfair to the president to put them to the burden of being indicted and not having the ability to be charged himself…
    Attorney General William Barr: I don’t want to characterize…have Bob’s thought process on this.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): I’m not asking you to characterize it. It’s in his report. He’s put it in writing.
    Attorney General William Barr: I’m not sure what he means by that in the report.
  • 1:54:13 Sen. John Kennedy (LA): Tell me again briefly why Mr. Mueller told you he reached no conclusion…or he couldn’t make up his mind or whatever. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.
    Attorney General William Barr: I really couldn’t recapitulate it. I… it was unclear to us.
  • 2:31:25 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): The special council specifically said (at the same time I’m quoting), “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. He said it again at page 182, and yet in your summary and in the press room conference that you did, you in effect cleared the president on both so-called collusion.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. The difference is that I use the proper standard. Um, that statement you just read is actually a very strange statement.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): For four of the specific obstruction episodes, Robert Mueller concluded that it was substantial evidence on four on the three necessary elements of obstruction.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, you’re…you’re on. You’re a prospect…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): I have to finish my question with all…
    Attorney General William Barr: You haven’t let me finish my answer.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Well, uh, let me just finish the…
    Chairman Lindsay Graham (SC): We can do both.
    Attorney General William Barr: Alright, good.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Uh, you ignored in that press conference and in the summary that Robert Mueller found substantial evidence and it’s in the report, and we have a chart that shows the elements of that crime. Intent, interference with an ongoing investigation and the obstructive act.
  • 2:38:35 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You started by citing this thing in Volume II about how the report says that they could not be sure that they could clearly say that he did not violate the law. As you know, that’s not the standard we use in the criminal justice system. It’s presumed that if someone is innocent and the government has to prove that they clearly violated the law. We’re not in the business of exoneration. We’re not in the business of proving they didn’t violate law.
    Attorney General William Barr: I found that whole act very…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): …exonerated him in your press conference and in your four page summary
    Attorney General William Barr: How did that start? I didn’t hear the beginning of the question?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You in effect exonerated or cleared the president?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I didn’t exonerate. I said that we did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to establish an obstruction offense, which is the job of the Justice Department and the job of the Justice Department is now over. That determines whether or not there’s a crime. The report is now in the hands of the American people. Everyone can decide for themselves. There’s an election in 18 months. That’s very democratic process, but we’re out of it and we have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon.
  • 2:50:30 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): You lied to Congress. You told Representative Charlie Krist that you didn’t know what objections Mueller’s team might have to your March 24th so-called summary. You told Senator Chris Van Hollen that you didn’t know if Bob Mueller supported your conclusions, but you knew you lied, and now we know.
  • 2:51:10 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): I expected you would try to protect the president, and indeed you did. In 1989…this isn’t something you hadn’t done before. In 1989, when you refuse to show Congress and OLC opinion that led to the arrest of Manual Noriega. In 1992, when you recommended partners for the subjects of the Iran Contra scandal and last year when you wrote the 19 page memo, telling “Donald Trump as president”, can’t be guilty of obstruction of justice, and then didn’t recuse yourself from the matter. From the beginning, you are addressing an audience of one. That person being Donald Trump.
  • 3:00:40 Attorney General William Barr: How did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous and accused of being a Russian agent. And the evidence now is that was without a basis and two years of his administration, uh, have been dominated by the allegations that have now been proven false. And you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller report and found the opposite.
  • 3:18:14 Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): In your March 24th summary, you wrote: “After reviewing the special council’s final report, deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.” Now the special council’s investigation produced a great deal of evidence. Um, I’ve led to believe it included witnesses, notes and emails, witnesses, congressional testimony, witnesses, interviews, um, which were summarized in the FBI 302 forms, former FBI Director Columbia’s memos and the president’s public statements. My question is, in reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, no. We took a… we excepted…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did…Did Mr Rosenstein…?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, we accepted the statements in the report as the factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted it as accurate and made our…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you accepted the report as the evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You did not question or look at the underlying evidence that supports the conclusions in the report?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did, uh, Mr Rosenstein review the evidence that underlines and supports the conclusions in the report…to your knowledge?
    Attorney General William Barr: Not to my knowledge. We accepted the statements in the report.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did anyone in your…
    Attorney General William Barr: The characterization of the evidence is true.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did anyone in your executive office review the evidence supporting the report?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): No.
  • 3:20:17 Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): As the Attorney General of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice. If in any US attorney’s office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision about in this case the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime. Would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they’d had not reviewed the evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, that’s a question for Bob Mueller. He’s the U.S. Attorney. He’s the one who presents the report.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): But it was you who made the charging decisions there. You made the decision not to charge the president
    Attorney General William Barr: No, in the pross memo and in the declination memo…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You said it was your baby. What did you mean by that?
    Attorney General William Barr: It was my baby to let, to decide whether or not to disclose it to the public.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And whose decision was it,? Who had the power to make the decision about whether or not the evidence was sufficient to make a determination of whether there had been an obstruction of justice?
    Attorney General William Barr: Prosecution memos go up to the supervisor. In this case, it was the…you know, the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, who… who decide on the final decision, and that is based on the memo as presented by the US Attorney’s office.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I think you’ve made it clear that you’ve not looked at…we can move on. I think you’ve made it clear Sir that you’ve not looked at the evidence and we can move on.
  • 3:22:25 Attorney General William Barr: You know I haven’t been the only decision maker here. Now let’s take the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was approved by the Senate 94 to 6 with specific discussion on the floor that he would be responsible for supervising the Russian investing.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I’m glad you brought up that. That’s a great topic.
    Attorney General William Barr: He has 30 years experience and we had a number of senior prosecutors in the department involved in this process, both career and non-career.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Yes, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve read a lot . I have another question and I’m glad you brought that subject up because I have a question about that. Earlier today in response to Senator Graham, you said quote “that you consulted with Rosenstein constantly” With respect to the special council’s investigation report, but Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is also a key witness and the firing of FBI Director Comey. Did you consult with…? I’m not finished.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah?
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did you consult with DOJ Ethics officials before you enlisted Rod Rosenstein to participate in a charging decision for an investigation? The subject, of which; he is also a witness.
    Attorney General William Barr: My understanding was that he had been cleared already to participate in it.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you had consulted with them and they cleared it?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I think they cleared it when he took over the investigation. Did you consider?..
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s my understanding? I am…I
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You don’t know whether he’s been cleared of a conflict of interest?
    Attorney General William Barr: You would be participating if there was a conflict of interest.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you’re saying that it did not need to be reviewed by the career ethics officials in your office?
    Attorney General William Barr: I believe, well I believe it was reviewed and I…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): and what role should find…?
    Attorney General William Barr: I would also point out that this seems to be a bit of a flip flop because when the president’s supporters were challenging Rosenstein
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I think in this case that you’re not answering the question directly.
    Attorney General William Barr: What?
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did the ethics officials in your office, in the Department of Justice, review the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of making a charging decision on an investigation, which he is also a witness in?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. So as I said, my understanding was he had been cleared and he had been cleared before I arrived.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): In making a decision on the Mueller report?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And, and the findings of whether or not the case would be charged on obstruction of justice? Had he been cleared on that?
    Attorney General William Barr: He was, he was the acting Attorney General on the Mueller investigation.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Had he been cleared?
    Attorney General William Barr: He had been, I am…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): By your side recommendation?
    Attorney General William Barr: I am informed before I arrived, he had been cleared by the ethics officials.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Of what?
    Attorney General William Barr: Serving as acting Attorney General on the Mueller case.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): How about making a charging decision on obstruction of justice?
    Attorney General William Barr: That is what the acting…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): With the lack of offenses, which include him as a witness?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. He, that’s what the acting Attorney General’s job is.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): To be a witness and to make the decision about being a prosecutor?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well. No. But the big charging decisions.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I have nothing else. My time has run out.
  • 3:45:15 Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): And President Trump. I am correcting my earlier statement, never allowed anybody to interview him directly under oath. Is that correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think that’s correct.
    Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): Even though he said he’s ready to testify. Thank you.
  • 3:45:42 Attorney General William Barr: The absence of an underlying crime doesn’t necessarily mean that there would be other motives for obstruction. Although, it gets a little bit harder to prove and more speculative as to what those motives might be. But the point I was trying to make earlier, is that in this situation of the president, (who has constitutional authority to supervise proceedings), if in fact a proceeding was not well founded. If it was a groundless proceeding, if it was based on false allegations, the president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it to run its course. The president could terminate that proceeding and it would not be a corrupt intent because he was being falsely accused and he would be worried about the impact on his administration. That’s important, because most of the obstruction claims that are being made here or, episodes, do involve the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority. And we now know that he was being falsely accused.
  • 3:52:05 Attorney General William Barr: Right after March 5th, we started discussing what the implications of this were and how we would…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And you made the decision when?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, probably on Sunday the 24th.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): That’s the day the letter came out?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes. We made the decision…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And make the decision until the letter came out?
    Attorney General William Barr: No. No.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): You must have told somebody how to write the letter, you couldn’t…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you actually decide that there was no obstruction?
    Attorney General William Barr: The 24th.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay.
  • 3:52:35 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you get the first draft of the Mueller report?
    Attorney General William Barr: The, the first?.. It wasn’t a draft. We got the final.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The first version of it that you saw?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, the only version of it I saw.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay, the only version for you Sir. When you do first?
    Attorney General William Barr: The 22nd
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The 22nd
  • 3:52:50 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Now you told Senator Harris that you made your decision on the obstruction charge, you and Rosenstein, based on the Mueller report. Did I correctly infer that you made that decision then between the 22nd and the 24th?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, we had had a lot of discussions about it before the 22nd but then the final decision was made on the 24th
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): and you didn’t…
    Attorney General William Barr: We had more than two and a half days to consider this. LLC had already done a lot of thinking about some of these issues even before, uh, the…we got the report.
  • 4:03:30 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): This letter was an extraordinary act. A career prosecutor would rebuking the Attorney General of the United States memorializing in writing. Right? I know of no other incidents of that happening. Do you?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, I don’t consider Bob at this stage, a career prosecutor. He’s had a career as a prosecutor.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Well, he was a very eminent…
    Attorney General William Barr: Who was the head of the FBI for 12 years? Um…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): He’s a career…He’s had a, he’s… law enforcement professional?
    Attorney General William Barr: Right? Yup.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): I know of no other instances of…
    Attorney General William Barr: But he was also political appointee and he was a political appointee with me at the Department of Justice. I don’t, I, you know, the letters a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did you make a memorandum of your conversation?
    Attorney General William Barr: Huh?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did you make a memory?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I didn’t need anyone else around them. What?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did anyone, either you or anyone on your staff memorialize your conversation with Robert Mueller?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT):Who did that?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, there were notes taken of the call.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): May We have those notes?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT):Why not?
    Attorney General William Barr: Why should you have them?

Hearing: Attorney General Barr News Conference on Mueller Report Release, Department of Justice, April 18, 2019.

  • 4:00 Attorney General William Barr: As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter.
  • 9:30 Attorney General William Barr: Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense. After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.
  • 10:30 Attorney General William Barr: In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.
  • 18:00 Attorney General William Barr: But I will say that when we met with him, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I met with him, along with Ed o’Callaghan, who is the principal associate deputy, on March 5th. We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking a position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion. And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.”
  • 19:30 Attorney General William Barr: And we don’t go through this process just to collect information and throw it out to the public. We collect this information. We use that compulsory process for the purpose of making that decision. And because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the department had to. That was a decision by me and the deputy attorney general.
  • 20:15 Attorney General William Barr: Well, special counsel Mueller did not indicate that his purpose was to leave the decision to Congress. I hope that was not his view, since we don’t convene grand juries and conduct criminal investigations for that purpose. He did not – I didn’t talk to him directly about the fact that we were making the decision, but I am told that his reaction to that was that it was my prerogative as attorney general to make that decision.

Hearing: Justice Department Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, April 9, 2019.

  • 1:07:10 Rep. Charlie Crist (FL): Reports have emerged recently, General, that members of the Special Council’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?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I don’t. I suspect that they probably wanted more put out.

Hearing: Michael Cohen Testimony, House Oversight Committee, February 27, 2019.

  • 4:01:34 Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): On January 17 of this year, the Wall Street Journal published a story stating that you hired John Gauger, the owner of a consulting company who works for Liberty University in Virginia, to rig at least two online polls related to Donald Trump. Did you hire him? Michael Cohen: Those were back in I believe 2015? Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): 2014. Michael Cohen: 2014. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): 2014. So you did hire him? Michael Cohen: Yes. I spoke with Mr. Gauger about manipulating these online polls. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): And did he use bots to manipulate the poll? Michael Cohen: He used algorithms and if that includes bots then the answer’s yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): Yes. That’s accurate. Did the president have any involvement Michael Cohen: Yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): In directing you to do this? Michael Cohen: Yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): What were the results of the poll Michael Cohen: Exactly where we wanted them to be. In the CNBC poll, we came in at number nine. And the Drudge Report, he was top of the Drudge Report as well.
  • 4:50:20 Michael Cohen: So there was a contract that I ended up creating Mr Trump’s behalf for a Ukrainian oligarch by the name of Victor Pinchuk. And it was that Mr. Trump was asked to come into participate in what was the Ukrainian American Economic Forum. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to go, but I was able to negotiate 15 minutes by Skype where they would have a camera, very much like a television camera, very much like that one. And they would translate Mr. Trump to the questionnaire and then he would respond back. And I negotiated a fee of $150,000 for 15 minutes. I was directed by Mr. Trump to have the contract done in the name of the Donald J. Trump foundation as opposed to Donald J. Trump or services rendered.

Hearing: FBI Oversight, Senate Judicary Committee, May 3, 2017.

Witnesses:

  • James Comey: FBI Director

Sound Clips:

  • *2:27:00: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): So potentially the President of the United States could be a target of your ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russian interference in our election. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: I just worry… I don’t want to answer that because it seems to be unfair speculation. We will follow the evidence. We’ll try and find as much as we can and we’ll follow the evidence where it leads.

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Check out this episode!

CD196: The Mueller Report

We finally have the facts. The two year long investigation, lead by Robert Mueller, into whether or not the 2016 Donald Trump for President campaign worked with members of the Russian government to steal and release Democratic Party emails is now complete. In this episode, after reading every word of the 448 page report, Jen breaks what the facts indicate Donald Trump did and did not do so that we can all be “in the know” for the Congressional battles with the President that are sure to come.


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Official Mueller Report

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Visual Resources


Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: Michael Cohen Testimony Before House Oversight Committee, C-SPAN, February 27, 2019.

Sound Clips:

  • 33:31 Michael Cohen: You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.
  • 33:44 Michael Cohen: To be clear, Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.
  • 39:21 Michael Cohen: Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation, only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be greatest infomercial in political history. He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign, for him, was always a marketing opportunity.
  • 43:50 Michael Cohen: Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw man to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned off at an art Hampton’s event. The objective was to ensure that this portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself.
  • 48:50 Michael Cohen: When I say con man, I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant, but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.
  • 53:09 Michael Cohen: Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr had the worst judgment of anyone in the world.
  • 55:31 Michael Cohen: And by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal scurrilous attacks by the president and his lawyer trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel.
  • 56:30 Michael Cohen: And I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle make it clear that as a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before Congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.
  • 2:10:30 Michael Cohen: And when Mr. Trump turned around early in the campaign and said, I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, I want to be very clear. He’s not joking. He’s telling you the truth. You don’t know him. I do. I sat next to this man for 10 years and I watched his back.
  • 2:11:13 Michael Cohen: And when he goes on Twitter and he starts bringing in my in-laws, my parents, my wife, what does he think is going to happen? He’s causing… He’s sending out the same message that he can do whatever he wants. This is his country. He’s becoming an autocrat and hopefully something bad will happen to me or my children and my wife so that I will not be here and testify. That’s what his hope was. To intimidate me.
  • 2:11:46 Rep. Jim Cooper (TN): Have you ever seen Mr. Trump personally threaten people with physical harm? Michael Cohen: No. He would use others.
  • 2:12:00 Michael Cohen: Everybody’s job at the Trump organization is to protect Mr. Trump
  • 2:12:07 Michael Cohen: Every day. Most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something, and that became the norm, and that’s exactly what’s happening right now in, in this country. That’s exactly what’s happening here in government.
  • 4:10:30 Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): Mr Cohen, why do you feel or believe that the president is repeatedly attacking you? You are stating that you feel intimidated asking us to protect you following your cooperation with law enforcement. Michael Cohen: When you have access to 60 plus million people that follow you on social media and you have the ability within which to spark some action by individuals that follow and follow him and from his own words that he can walk down Fifth Avenue, shoot someone and get away with it. It’s never comfortable when the President of the United States… Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): What do you think he can do to you? Michael Cohen: A lot. And it’s not just him, it’s those people that follow him in his rhetoric. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): What is a lot? Michael Cohen: I don’t know. I don’t walk with my wife. If we go to a restaurant or we go somewhere, I don’t walk with my children. I make them go before me because I have fear and it’s the same fear that I had before when he initially decided to drop that tweet in my cell phone. I receive some, and I’m sure you, you’ll understand. I received some tweets. I received some Facebook messenger, all sorts of social media attacks upon me, whether it’s the private direct message that I’ve had to turn over to secret service because they are the most vile, disgusting statements that anyone can ever receive. And when it starts to affect your children, that’s when it really affects you.
Interview: Trump joins Judge Jeanine for a phone interview to give an update on where Washington is at with the border crisis, Fox News, January 12, 2019.

Sound Clip:

  • 15:00 President Donald Trump: Look, I was a client of his, and you know, you’re supposed to have lawyer-client privilege, but it doesn’t matter because I’m a very honest person, frankly, but he’s in trouble on some loans and fraud and taxi cabs and stuff that I know nothing about and in order to get a sentence reduced, he says, “I have an idea, I’ll give you some information on the president.” Well, there is no information, but he should give information, maybe on his father in law because that’s the one that people want to look at because where does that money? That’s the money in the family. And I guess he didn’t want to talk about his father in law. He’s trying to get his sentence reduced.
Press Conference: President Trump Accuses Personal Lawyer Michael Cohen of Lying, C-SPAN, November 29, 2018.

Sound Clip:

  • 1:00 President Donald Trump: He was convicted of various things unrelated to us. He was given a fairly long jail sentence and he’s a weak person. And by being weak, unlike other people that you watch – he is a weak person. And what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence. So he’s lying about a project that everybody knew about.
Interview: Interview with Ainsley Earhardt on Fox & Friends, YouTube, August 23, 2018.

Sound Clips:

  • Ainsley Earhardt:What grade do you give yourself so far? President Donald Trump: So, I give myself an A+. Ainsley Earhardt: Will you fire Sessions? President Donald Trump: I’ll tell you what, as I’ve said, I wanted to stay uninvolved, but when everybody sees what’s going on in the Justice Department – I put “Justice” now in quotes – It’s a very, very sad day. Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done, or he should have told me. Even my enemies say that Jeff sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn’t have put him in. He took the job and then he said, “I’m going to recuse myself.” I said, “What kind of a man is this?” And by the way, he was on the campaign and you know, the only reason I gave him the job, because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter.
  • President Donald Trump: He makes a better deal when he uses me, like everybody else, and one of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial… You know, they make up stories. People make up stories. This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years, I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful, and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.
Press Briefing: President Trump Remarks on John Brennan and Mueller Probe, C-SPAN, August 17, 2018.

Sound Clip:

  • President Donald Trump: I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad when you look at what’s going on there. I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what, he happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.
News Report: State of the Union with Jake Tapper, CNN, YouTube, June 17, 2018.

Transcript

  • 9:30 Jake Tapper: How do you respond to critics who say you discussing it on TV, you discussing it with the New York Daily News, President Trump tweeting, that you’re sending a signal to defendants in a criminal prosecution that a pardon is out there. It might be on its way. Some people think that this is the president and you suggesting that – signaling really, – don’t cooperate with prosecutors because the pardon is there if you’ll just hold on. Rudy Giuliani: Jake, I don’t think that’s the interpretation. It’s certainly not intended that way. What it should be… I’ll tell you what I clearly mean. What I mean is you’re not going to get a pardon just because you’re involved in this investigation. You probably have a higher burden if you’re involved in this investigation as compared to the others who get pardons but you’re certainly not excluded from it if, in fact, the president and his advisors, not me, come to the conclusion that you’ve been treated unfairly.
Press Conference: President Trump gives off-the-cuff news conference on White House lawn, CNBC, June 15, 2018.

Transcript

Sound Clips:

  • 6:30 Reporter: So there’s some high-profile court cases going on. You’ve got a former campaign manager, your former lawyer. They’re all dealing with legal troubles. Are you paying close attention — President Donald Trump: Well, I feel badly about a lot of them, because I think a lot of it is very unfair. I mean, I look at some of them where they go back 12 years. Like Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. But I feel so — I tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?
  • 8:50 Reporter: Is he still your lawyer? President Donald Trump: No, he’s not my lawyer anymore. But I always liked Michael, and he’s a good person. And I think he’s been — Reporter: Are you worried he will cooperate? President Donald Trump: Excuse me, do you mind if I talk? Reporter: I just want to know if you’re worried — President Donald Trump: You’re asking me a question; I’m trying to ask it. Reporter: I just want to know if you’re worried if he’s going to cooperate with federal investigators. President Donald Trump: No, I’m not worried because I did nothing wrong.
White House Briefing: President Trump receives a briefing from Military Leadership, YouTube, April 9, 2018.

Transcript

Sound Clips:

  • President Donald Trump: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys — a good man. And it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down. We’ve given, I believe, over a million pages’ worth of documents to the Special Counsel. They continue to just go forward. And here we are talking about Syria and we’re talking about a lot of serious things. We’re the greatest fighting force ever. And I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now.
  • President Donald Trump: The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself. Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different Attorney General in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. But you’ll figure that out.
Hearing: Facebook, Google, and Twitter Executives on Russia Election Interference, Senate Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN, November 1, 2017.

Sound Clips:

  • 1:49:24 Sen. Roy Blunt (MO): Mr. Stretch, how much money did the Russians spend on ads that we now look back as either disruptive or politically intended? It was at $100,000. Is that— Colin Stretch: It was approximately $100,000. Blunt: I meant from your company. Stretch: Yes, approximately $100,000. Blunt: How much of that did they pay before the election? Stretch: The— Blunt: I’ve seen the— Stretch: Yeah. Blunt: —number 44,000. Blunt: Is that right? Stretch: So— Blunt: 56 after, 44 before. Stretch: The ad impressions ran 46% before the election, the remainder after the election. Blunt: 46%. Well, if I had a consultant that was trying to impact an election and spent only 46% of the money before Election Day, I’d be pretty upset about that, I think. So, they spent $46,000. How much did the Clinton and Trump campaigns spend on Facebook? I assume before the election. Stretch: Yeah. Before the elec— Blunt: They were better organized than the other group. Stretch: Approximate—combined approximately $81 million. Blunt: 81 million, and before the election. Stretch: Yes. Blunt: So, 81 million. I’m not a great mathematician, but 46,000, 81 million, would that be, like, five one-thousandths of one percent? It’s something like that. Stretch: It’s a small number by comparison, sir.
Hearing: Russian Interference in 2016 Election, Senate Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN, June 8, 2017.

Witness:

  • James Comey – Former FBI Director

Sound Clips:

  • 48:20 Senator James Risch (ID): You put this in quotes. Words matter. You wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words there that are in quotes, and it says, quote, ”I hope”—this is the President speaking—”I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”Now those are his exact words, is that correct? James Comey:: Correct. Senator RISCH: And you wrote them here and you put them in quotes? Director COMEY: Correct. Senator RISCH: Okay. Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go? Director COMEY: Not in his words, no. Senator RISCH: He did not order you to let it go? Director COMEY: Again, those words are not an order. Senator RISCH: No. He said, ”I hope.” Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses. And of course you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome? Director COMEY: I don’t know well enough to answer. And the reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction. Senator RISCH: Right. Director COMEY: I mean, this is the President of the United States with me alone, saying, ”I hope” this. I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.
  • 54:18 Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA): You described two phone calls that you re- ceived from President Trump, one on March 30 and one on April 11, where he, quote, ”described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability,” end quote, as President and asked you, quote, ”to lift the cloud,” end quote. How did you interpret that? And what did you believe he wanted you to do? Director COMEY: I interpreted that as he was frustrated that the Russia investigation was taking up so much time and energy, I think he meant of the Executive Branch, but in the public square in general, and it was making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his. But what he asked me was actually narrower than that. So I think what he meant by the cloud, and again I could be wrong, but what I think he meant by the cloud was the entire investigation is taking up oxygen and making it hard for me to focus on the things I want to focus on. The ask was to get it out that I, the President, am not personally under investigation.
  • 1:17:17 Sen. Susan Collins (ME): And was the President under investigation at the time of your dismissal on May 9th? James Comey: No.
  • 1:30:15 James Comey: On March the 30th, and I think again on—I think on April 11th as well, I told him we’re not investigating him personally. That was true.
  • 1:39:10 Sen. Angus King (ME): And in his press conference on May 18th, the President was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The President responded, quote, ”No, no. Next question.” Is that an accurate statement? James Comey: I don’t believe it is.
  • 1:48:15 James Comey: I think there’s a big difference in kicking superior officers out of the Oval Office, looking the FBI Director in the eye, and saying, ”I hope you’ll let this go.” I think if our—if the agents, as good as they are, heard the President of the United States did that there’s a real risk of a chilling effect on their work.
  • 2:21:35 Sen. Jack Reed (RI): You interpret the discussion with the President about Flynn as a direction to stop the investigation. Is that correct? James Comey: Yes.
  • 2:24:25 James Comey: I know I was fired because something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that. I can’t go farther than that.
  • 2:26:00 James Comey: There’s no doubt that it’s a fair judgment, it’s my judgment, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change—or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.
Interview: Lester Holt Exclusive Interview with President Trump, NBC News, May 11, 2017.

Sound Clips:

  • President Donald Trump: Look, he’s a show boat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.
  • Lester Holt: Monday you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensteinn. President Donald Trump: Right. Lester Holt: Did you ask for recommendation? President Donald Trump: What I did is I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not… Lester Holt: You had made the decision before they came… President Donald Trump: I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way. Lester Holt: Because in your letter, you said, I accepted their recommendation, so you had already made the decision? President Donald Trump: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.
  • President Donald Trump: And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
  • Lester Holt: Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey. You write, “I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.” Why did you put that in there? President Donald Trump: Because he told me that, I mean he told me… Lester Holt: He told you you weren’t under investigation with regard to the Russian investigation? President Donald Trump: I’ve heard that from others. I think… Lester Holt: Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face to face? President Donald Trump: I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. We had a very nice dinner at the White House. Lester Holt: He asked for the dinner? President Donald Trump: The dinner was arranged, I think he has for the dinner and he wanted to stay on as the FBI head and I said, I’ll consider, we’ll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner and at that time he told me, you are not under investigation. Which I knew anyway. Lester Holt: That was one meeting. What were the other two? President Donald Trump: First of all, when you’re under investigation, you’re giving all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn’t under and I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level, that I wasn’t. Number one. Then during the phone call, he said it and then during another phone call. He said it. So he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice doing phone calls. Lester Holt: Did you call him? President Donald Trump: In one case I called him. In one case he called me. Lester Holt: And did you ask him I under investigation? President Donald Trump: I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it’s possible when you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, “You are not under investigation.” Lester Holt: But he’s, he’s given sworn testimony that there was an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government. You were the centerpiece of the Trump campaign, so was he being truthful when he said that you weren’t under investigation? President Donald Trump: Well, I know one thing. I know that I’m not under investigation. Me. Personally. I’m not talking about campaigns. I’m not talking about anything else. I’m not under investigation.
  • President Donald Trump: He’s not my man or not my man. I didn’t appoint him. He was appointed long before me.
  • President Donald Trump: There was no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians. The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote and everybody seems to think that.
  • Lester Holt: But when you put out tweets, it’s a total hoax. It’s a taxpayer’s charade. And you’re looking for a new FBI director. Are you not sending that person a message to lay off? President Donald Trump: No, I’m not doing that. I think that we have to get back to work, but I want to find out, I want to get to the bottom. If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about.
White House Press Briefing: Sarah Sanders Daily Press Briefing, White House, May 10, 2017.

Transcript

Oversight Hearing: FBI Oversight, Senate Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN, May 3, 2017.

Witness:

  • James Comey – FBI Director

Sound Clips:

  • 57:19 Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): In October, the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign’s connection to Russia. You sent a letter informing the Senate and House that you are reviewing additional emails. It could be relevant to this, but both of those cases are open, but you’re still only commented on one. FBI Director James Comey: I commented, as I explained earlier on October 28th in a letter that I sent to the chair and rankings of the oversight committees that we were taking additional steps in the Clinton email investigation because I had testified under oath repeatedly that we were done, that we were finished there. With respect to the Russia investigation, we treated it like we did with the Clinton investigation. We didn’t say a word about it until months into it. And then the only thing we’ve confirmed so far about this is – same thing with the Clinton investigation – that we are investigating and I would expect we’re not going to say another peep about it until we’re done.
  • 1:47:32 Sen. Al Franken (MN): Any investigation into whether the Trump campaign or Trump operation colluded with Russian operatives would require a full appreciation of the president’s financial dealings. Director Comey, would president Trump’s tax returns be material to such an investigation? FBI Director James Comey: That’s not something, Senator, I’m going to answer. Sen. Al Franken (MN): Does the investigation have access to President Trump’s tax returns? FBI Director James Comey: I have to give you the same answer. Again, I hope people don’t over interpret my answers, but I just don’t want to start talking about anything…What we’re looking at and how.
  • 2:00:15 FBI Director James Comey: The current investigation with respect to Russia, we’ve confirmed it. The Department of Justice authorized me to confirm that exists. We’re not going to say another word about it until we’re done.
  • 2:11:30 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): You do confirm that there is still an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign and their conduct with regard to Russian efforts to undermine our elections? FBI Director James Comey: We’re conducting an investigation to understand whether there was any coordination between the Russian efforts and anybody associated with the Trump campaign. Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): So since you’ve already confirmed that such an investigation is ongoing, can you tell us more about what constitutes that investigation? FBI Director James Comey: No. 2:25:40 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You have confirmed, I believe that the FBI is investigating potential ties between Trump associates and the Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, correct? FBI Director James Comey:Yes. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): And you have not, to my knowledge, ruled out anyone in the Trump campaign as potentially a target of that criminal investigation. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: Well, I haven’t said anything publicly about who we’ve opened investigations on. I’ve briefed the chair and ranking on who those people are. And so I, I can’t, I can’t go beyond that in this setting. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Have you ruled out anyone in the campaign that you can disclose? FBI Director James Comey: I don’t feel comfortable answering that senator, because I think it puts me on a slope to talking about who we’re investigating. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Have you ruled out the president United States? FBI Director James Comey: I don’t want people to over-interpret this answer. I’m not going to comment on anyone in particular because that puts me down a slope of… Cause if I say no to that, then I have to answer succeeding questions. So what we’ve done is brief the chair and ranking on who the U.S. persons are that we’ve opened investigations on. And that’s, that’s as far as we’re going to go with this point. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): But as a former prosecutor, you know that when there’s an investigation into several potentially culpable individuals, the evidence from those individuals and the investigation can lead to others. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: Correct. We’re always open minded about, and we follow the evidence wherever it takes us. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): So potentially the President of the United States could be a target of your ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russian interference in our election. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: I just worry… I don’t want to answer that because it seems to be unfair speculation. We will follow the evidence. We’ll try and find as much as we can and we’ll follow the evidence where it leads.
Interview: Interview with President Trump, Fox Business Network, YouTube, April 12, 2017.

Sound Clip:

  • 5:30 Maria Bartiromo: Was it a mistake not to ask Jim Comey to step down from the FBI at the outside of your presidency, is it too late now to ask him to step down? President Donald Trump: No, it’s not too late. But I have confidence at him, we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be interesting
Interview: Face the Nation interviews Vice-President elect Mike Pence, YouTube, January 15, 2017.

Transcript

Sound Clip:

  • 8:48 John Dickerson: It was reported by David Ignatius that the incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn was in touch with the Russian ambassador on the day the United States government announced sanctions for Russian interference with the election. Did that contact help with that Russian kind of moderate response to it? That there was no counter-reaction from Russia. Did the Flynn conversation help pave the way for that sort of more temperate Russian response? Vice President-elect Mike Pence: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation and actually was initiated on Christmas Day he had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.
Hearing: Jeff Sessions for Attorney General Confirmation, Senate Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN, January 10, 2017.

Clip: Jeff Sessions Didn’t Disclose 2016 Meetings with Russian Ambassador

Sound Clips:

  • Sen. Al Franken (MN): If there is any evidence that any one affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL): Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have not have communications with the Russians and I’m unable to comment on it.
Campaign Speech clip: Trump: I could shoot somebody and not lose voters”, Iowa Campaign Rally, CNN, January 23, 2016.

Sound Clips:

  • Donald Trump: I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. Okay? It’s like, incredible.
Interview: Trump says Clinton policy on Syria would lead to World War Three, Steve Holland, Reuters, October 25, 2016.
National Security Address: Hilary Clinton Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, C-SPAN, November 19, 2015.

Transcript

Sound Clip:

  • Hillary Clinton: So we need to move simultaneously toward a political solution to the civil war that paves the way for a new government with new leadership and to encourage more Syrians to take on ISIS as well. To support them, we should immediately deploy the special operations force President Obama has already authorized and be prepared to deploy more as more Syrians get into the fight, and we should retool and ramp up our efforts to support and equip viable Syrian opposition units. Our increased support should go hand in hand with increased support from our Arab and European partners, including Special Forces who can contribute to the fight on the ground. We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air.
Video: Gonzalez: Pressured Hospitalized Ashcroft to OK Spying, James Comey Testifying before Senate Judiciary Committee, YouTube, May 15, 2007.

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

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