[CLIP FROM BURN AFTER READING PLAYS]
PALMER SMITH: Wait. Wait a minute. That’s it, then? No one else really knows anything.
CIA SUPERVISOR: Yes. What did we learn, Palmer?
PALMER SMITH: I don’t know, sir. Hard to say.
[TRUMP, INC. THEME-ISH MUSIC PLAYS]
ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Hello, and welcome to this Trump, Inc. podcast extra, Bill Barr letter edition. I’m Andrea Bernstein. We’re still processing what we do know, what we don’t know, and what we wanna know. But while we’re doing that, we’re going to send you three different ways to think about what we’ve learned so far about the special counsel’s report, which, obviously, we’ve yet to see.
In a moment, I’ll be joined by ProPublica’s Eric Umansky, who, a couple of weeks ago, put together a list of tips for interpreting the Mueller Report. After that, we’re going to play the segment that my cohost Ilya Marritz and I did with New School professor and MSNBC legal analyst, Maya Wiley on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.
But first —
[REMIXED WILD WEST MUSIC]
NEWS ANCHOR: The Department of Justice announced it will appoint a former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, as an independent special counsel.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: General consensus. It was a good decision to pick a special counsel.
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN: Robert Mueller is perhaps the single most qualified individual to lead such an investigation, in my view.
UNSPECIFIED VOICE 1: Mueller loves prosecuting bad guys. He loves putting criminals in jail. It’s his thing.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. My decision.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Do you believe this’ll rise to the obstruction of justice?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know that — that’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think that the — the probe is a disaster for our country.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: To me, this appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual, collusion.
SARAH SANDERS: We’ve been saying from day one, there’s been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Are people going to suspect cover up? Absolutely.
JARED KUSHNER: I did not collude with Russia.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: There was no collusion, no nothing. [TRANSITIONS CLIPS] I have this witch hunt. [TRANSITIONS AGAIN] It’s a total witch hunt. [FOURTH TIME, WITH REVERB] The witch hunt! [FINAL CLIP] This Russia thing with Trump and Russia.
REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Again, I think we really — we’ll just have to see what Mueller says.
UNSPECIFIED VOICE 2: We’ve got a lot of falsification going on, we’ve got a lot of lying going on, and we’ve got coverups.
A MIX OF NEWS ANCHORS’ VOICES: George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Alex Vanderswon, Konstantin Kilimnik, Michael Cohen, 13 Russian nationals.
UNSPECIFIED VOICE 3: They were hoping to make Americans feel more angry, more divided.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ROD ROSENSTEIN: While seeking to interfere in the United States’ 2016 presidential election.
UNSPECIFIED VOICE 4: It’s startling if you take a step back and think that a President of the United States is the subject or focus of an FBI counter-intelligence investigation. That’s remarkable.
UNSPECIFIED VOICE 5: … leaks, and there were insinuations and the people were then making of it what they wanted.
[A MIX OF LAURA INGRAHAM SAYING “RUSSIA” SEVERAL TIMES]
UNSPECIFIED VOICE 6: People were so giddy and eager to hear more about this Russia and Trump story, and when their stories come get completely debunked, it just kind of … Everybody agrees to ignore it
[A MIX OF LAURA INGRAHAM SAYING “RUSSIA” SEVERAL TIMES]
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It was just announced. There was no collusion with Russia. The most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. It was a complete and total exoneration.
REPRESENTATIVE JERRY NADLER: President Trump is wrong. This report does not amount to a so-called “total exoneration.” Special Counsel Mueller was clear that his report, quote, “does not exonerate,” close quote, the President.
BERNSTEIN: That audio diary was put together by Jay Cowen and our friends at the public radio show The Takeaway with Tanzina Vega.
[PIANO MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: I’m joined now by ProPublica’s Eric Umansky.
ERIC UMANSKY: Hi, Andrea.
BERNSTEIN: So Eric, when you put together your list of tips on how to interpret the Mueller report, you said, “Stop focusing on collusion and remember, we already know a lot.” So how do you think about the Bill Barr letter in that frame?
UMANSKY: Most fundamentally, I think that this collusion question — which is very important, obviously — has served as an oversimplification on both sides because you have people who are, you know, resistance types, who feel like, “Okay. Mueller is going to come in and prove this thing. There was collusion!” It’s the “He’s going to save us, and this is the ultimate case.”
And Trump was, in turn, saying “No collusion,” that the question of what Trump has done was a binary question of collusion. But of course, the reality is that we have spent a year and a half — more than a year and a half — digging in to a whole range of troubling activities that we have seen by the President, uh, by the President’s organization. Really, collusion is a very poor descriptor of many of the troubling things that we’ve found. So, sure, there is the “news” who’s that Mueller has not found collusion. And so, yes, it makes sense to highlight that, but let us not think that that is the end game in and of itself.
So just to take an example of what we’re talking about is, our episode last week, where we really dug into the Trump Tower Moscow. And what we found had nothing to do with collusion, but that rather Trump had very clear business interests in Moscow. He was trying to build a tower. He could have made a lot of money if he had done it. And, in order to do it, he needed, basically, the Kremlin to help him. And in fact, Michael Cohen, his lawyer, asked the Kremlin for help.
So, what does that mean? That means that, you know, there didn’t have to be a pee tape. There didn’t have to be a secret spy meeting somewhere. It’s just, Trump could think, “Oh, you know what I want to do? I want to remain on the Kremlin’s good side here, because they can make me a lot of money.” It’s very straightforward.
BERNSTEIN: So you also wrote, “Don’t expect answers to everything or even most things.” How are you feeling about that today?
UMANSKY: Uh, I feel like we don’t have answers to most things. [BOTH WHEEZE-LAUGH]
BERNSTEIN: Can you talk a little bit more about that?
UMANSKY: Sure. We’re multiple steps removed from hearing the whole story. So, just to take Mueller itself, Mueller’s job is as a prosecutor. He’s not there doing the kind of 9/11 Report, everything that’s happened.
He’s not a historian. He’s not a journalist, he’s a prosecutor, right? His job is literally not to explain everything. It’s to bring cases, or to not bring cases. So you have that issue. Then, on top of that, of course, he gave whatever report he gave to the Attorney General, William Barr, who then wrote a four-page, roughly, that summarizes what Mueller found. Accurately or not, you know, the full picture or not — we just have no idea. I mean, we have no idea what we don’t even know, at this point.
BERNSTEIN: What do you think our task is now on Trump, Inc.?
UMANSKY: I feel like our job remains the same. I will tell you that, after having dug into this stuff for a year and a half, I feel like we obviously are conveying everything that we have seen, but that it’s, like, hard to tell people, just how questionable, just how widespread and problematic the activities that we have seen by the Trump Organization, prior to the presidency; by the powers that be during the presidency. I mean, the range of things that we have uncovered, that we have reported on — it is hard to wrap your head around.
And that, just to underscore it again — yes, collusion is an important question, but it is by no means the measure of whether or not the President has acted, uh, responsibly, ethically, morally, or in the interest of the country.
[STRING MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: ProPublica’s Eric Umansky. Thanks, Eric!
UMANSKY: Thanks, Andrea.
BERNSTEIN: And to that end, Trump, Inc. has a bit of breaking news. Here’s Ilya Marritz.
ILYA MARRITZ: So back in January, Trump, Inc. Senior Producer Meg Cramer and I stayed at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. And while we were there, we saw a candidate for president of Nigeria in the lobby. Well, I bring you news of another notable foreign politician staying at the Trump Hotel, D.C. It is Viorica Dăncilă. She’s the Prime Minister of Romania. She showed up in D.C. over the weekend to attend the APEC conference.
And she was spotted twice in the Trump Hotel lobby by our friend, Zach Everson. She appeared to have a room key that enables you to operate an elevator there. And Romania is quite an interesting country.
If you’re a Trump watcher, you might remember that last summer, Rudy Giuliani wrote to the Romanian president warning about overzealous prosecutors pursuing corruption cases there. And another prominent Trumpian is Elliott Broidy, who sought a defense contract for his company also from the Romanian government. So, interesting country — and yes, of course, it is a potential emoluments issue.
BERNSTEIN: Thanks, Ilya.
BERNSTEIN: You can read more of that story on our website at TrumpIncPodcast.org. And now, as promised, we’re sending down the stream the segment Ilya, Maya Wiley, and I did with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer.
[ROCK-Y MUSIC PLAYS]
BRIAN LEHRER: It’s the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. Good morning again, everyone. As we continue to talk about the release of the Mueller Report to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General and their four-page letter with their conclusions about what’s in the Mueller Report and a lot of what comes next. Now, here’s some unanswered questions — and our last caller, before the break, was feeling “gaslight,” as she put it, by knowing all these things. Um, and then seeing the conclusion of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. Don Jr. emailing, “I love it,” and then taking that meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton expressed in writing to him as part of Russia’s effort to help Trump win. Mueller apparently decided that was not coordination.
Roger Stone, Trump associate, meeting with WikiLeaks before WikiLeaks released the stolen Democratic party emails — some of them — and informing Trump in advance, not coordination — Mueller’s term — or “collusion,” as is more commonly said.
Manafort, his campaign chairman, meeting with Kremlin asset Konstantin Kilimnik, and giving him private polling data, not coordination.
After Russia dropped damaging emails during the Democratic Convention one week, the Republican Convention mysteriously changed their party platform from anti-Russia to pro-Russia on Ukraine the next. Remember that? Not coordination, says Robert Muller.
Trump asking Russia in a speech, “Russia, if you’re listening, find Hillary Clinton’s emails.” Not coordination.
Trump negotiating with Russia through the campaign for a lucrative Trump Tower deal and lying to cover it up while Russia was helping him get elected, not coordination.
And Michael Flynn, after the election, meeting with Russia to discuss sanctions relief and lying about it to the FBI, not coordination.
And the firing of Comey for investigating Russia ties, maybe obstruction. Maybe not, according to Mueller. No, according to Barr and Rosenstein.
So we’ll pick it up, um, with that set of points with our next guests, Maya Wiley, NBC News and MSNBC Legal Analyst, Professor of Urban Policy and Management at the New School and a former counsel to Mayor DeBlasio. And our Trump, Inc. team, Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz. Trump, Inc., of course, covers Trump’s business world.
Hi, Ilya. Hi, Andrea. Maya, thank you so much for giving us some time today. Good morning.
MAYA WILEY: Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
BERNSTEIN: Hey, Brian.
MARRITZ: Good morning.
LEHRER: Uh, so Maya, what’s your reaction to that litany of things that happened and Mueller apparently concluding no conspiracy, no coordination, no collusion.
WILEY: So, let — let me start with the latter part of what you said, Brian, because I think us attorneys read this letter differently from journalists. So, as an attorney, what I read is a statement about evidence and evidentiary standards. In other words, I don’t see the word “exoneration” related to conspiracy or coordination. The exact quote from Robert Mueller’s report is “The investigation did not establish.” And it’s not the whole sentence. Ari Melber made a very big point of this last night on MSNBC. And I — and I think it’s exactly why people are asking to see more, because, as an attorney, I — not knowing what preceded his statement of “not establishing” could change how one reads that sentence. So it’s not so much whether or not there are that long litany of — of — of evidence, of — of information that the public has already seen.
There’s even more than that list from Oleg Deripaska, and getting what seemed to be a very beneficial deal for him in terms of sanctions. Remember, Oleg Deripaska is the Russian oligarch that Paul Manafort owed money. We have the issue that Trump essentially gave confidential, classified information to Russians right after, [LAUGHS] uh, firing Comey. So we could even add to that list. And I think that is exactly the reason why we need to understand, “What was the evidence?” “And what — how was Mueller himself interpreting whether … how close he got to the standard? Was he very far from the standard, in terms of all the evidence he’s seen?” We know we have not seen it all. And I think this is the type of accounting that is critically important to our democracy.
LEHRER: Were you, with your legal background, expecting something more? And were you surprised, uh, at the top-line story that came out, even as early as Friday, which is that Mueller plans no more indictments — not of Don Jr., uh, not of anyone else closer to Trump, and not on anything else.
WILEY: Your short answer is yes. I — you know, I’m certainly in the camp publicly saying, as an attorney, when you see Rick Gates, um, continuing to cooperate, when you see the Roger Stone trial not yet coming, when you know that they’re ongoing investigations and you wonder — you know that you’ve had prosecutors standing up before the judge in Virginia — the federal judge in Virginia, Judge Ellis — and saying, “No, this Manafort trial is related to the probe around coordination and conspiracy with Russia.” And remember Manafort’s behavior, and there’s the issue of whether or not — or, at least, the question of whether there would be forthcoming charges. And yes, why wasn’t Don Jr. interviewed? That seems very strange.
Um, so, it — certainly, you know, my assumption was, just looking at the practice of law that the — that it was not yet the … Even if — even if Robert Mueller felt that he had amassed most of the evidence that he was going to get, it still seemed premature not to allow those other processes to play out, not to question, uh, Don Jr., certainly. And, you know, we, we can debate whether or not — not, he should have asked for an interview in person, potentially subpoenaed the President. But the allegations were sufficiently serious and there was enough question there around Trump Tower Moscow. You would really have expected at least, um, uh, some additional efforts to have follow-up questions to Donald Trump.
So it did seem strange to me. I will say, I do not have all of the evidence that was available to Robert Mueller. I believe that he is someone who would have acquitted himself by the book with integrity, looking at the facts. Again, though, these kinds of questions are why it is critical to have a full public accounting. Tell the public so that we can see where the evidence is, where it took the investigation, and why Robert Mueller would report it this time.
LEHRER: So, Andrea Bernstein, did Barr’s letter refer in any way to Trump business dealings — the beat of your podcast, Trump, Inc. — in the Mueller Report, or give you any clues as to any intersection, uh, between Trump’s businesses and the conclusions of the Russia investigation?
BERNSTEIN: I mean, the short answer is no. And I think it’s worth remembering that the Barr letter is his interpretation of the Mueller Report, which we haven’t seen. And we don’t know the extent of it. We don’t even know, at this point, how long it is.
I think it’s also worth reminding ourselves that the Barr letter comes at the end of a process in which the President overtly and covertly tried to intervene at every step of the way. So it’s just important to remember that this is coming, obviously — the firing of Comey, the firing of Sessions, the attempts to interfere possibly in the Southern District. So this is not sort of a hands-off thing. You know, not to mention all the Tweets!
But what I think is really, really important to remember about Trump’s business is, we have learned so much just from the indictment and the trials that have come out thus far in the Mueller campaign about Trump’s business. The top line of that, we learned that Trump was trying to profit, apparently, from his presidential campaign by doing a deal for Trump Tower Moscow as his poll numbers were going up. That’s number one.
We know that his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was trying to monetize his position in the campaign by becoming whole with the Russian oligarch that Maya mentioned, Oleg Deripaska.
We know that Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen, was also trying to make money. So this is something really startling and, if you — I mean, if we just start from the place that Mueller found, “Okay, there was no crime committed,” as Maya said — not enough evidence of, uh — of, uh — meeting a legal standard, we still know that the Russians hacked our election. We know that top military intelligence officers were stealing emails from Trump’s Democratic opponents. We know that a separate group of people, run by a man who is known as Putin’s chef, was running this internet trolling activity. So we know all of that happened during the campaign. And what did the Trump campaign do when they were approached by the Russians who said, “We are trying to help you. We have dirt,” was just, looked at the other way — at best.
And that is very, very consistent with what we have found about Trump’s business partners. They are suspected money launderers, suspected tax evaders. One of his partners was indeed a fugitive from U.S. justice at the time that Trump started doing a deal with him. That he just doesn’t seem to have a vetting operation. One — one former Trump Organization employee said he doesn’t want to know. And I think it’s important to think about that as we go. What are the implications of a president who doesn’t want to know about who his associates are as we move into this next phase of investigation?
LEHRER: And Ilya, this next phase of investigations will include whatever Congress decides to continue doing. That’ll be a political decision, I presume. And also what the U.S. Attorney here in New York — not the Special Counsel — uh, decides to continue to do as well as what the New York State Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney decide to do. And we already know they’re, um, looking into Paul Manafort — at very least — in some of these respects. And so who’s out of the woods and who’s not with respect to actual legal charges?
MARRITZ: Yeah. Tish James, the — the new Attorney General in New York state, said, “Donald Trump has three — three things to be afraid of: Robert Mueller, Michael Cohen, and me.” [LAUGHS] Uh, so I thought that was a pretty bold statement on her part. Uh … The thing that ties most directly to the Mueller probe — that’s spun off of the Mueller probe — is the Southern District of New York’s investigation into hush money payments.
And we’ve had a — that’s around Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, the two women who alleged that they had affairs with Donald Trump and where Michael Cohen went to extraordinary lengths to bury their — their are stories in the final days of the campaign, basically paying them hush money, which was an — which was an illegal campaign contribution.
Now, uh, all the legal papers around that refer to the President as, uh, as “Individual One.” He appears in some readings to be an unindicted co-conspirator there. And we know that that investigation is live. We know that from a couple things. We know it from Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress, where he said, “The Southern District has asked me not to talk about this” when he was asked about this. And we know it from the search warrant application that was released last week, which is heavily redacted. And most of the redactions are about those illegal campaign contributions. So it’s a really interesting question, how this other unit of the Justice Department — distinct from the Special Counsel, located here in Manhattan — is going to — where they’re going to take this. The obvious next place to go is the person one person higher up. That’s the President of the United States.
Justice Department, uh, you know, legal memos holds that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted. Uh, so that means what for the Southern District? Do they wait until Trump is out of office if he only gets one term? Or do they try to get other people? Are there other dimensions to this probe that we don’t know about?
It’s a big, “We don’t know,” but just based on the facts that we do know, it seems very clear that the man who is now president directed Michael Cohen to break the law, to bury a story that was unfavorable to him — a story that really would have resonated with a lot of voters in the last days of the campaign.
LEHRER: And so Maya Wiley for you, as a legal analyst, former counsel to the Mayor of New York, um, and more, what do you think the president’s — or, his very closest people who have not been indicted or mentioned, apparently as a criminal actors by the Mueller Report, um, because he says he’s not going to pursue any new indictments — what — what legal jeopardy do you think they’re still in?
WILEY: Well, I agree with Andrea and Ilya. I think if you really look at the evidence that is public, we already know that the President has been directly implicated in a campaign finance crime. So that is clear. That is still being investigated. The Trump Organization is a family business. It is a family business in which Donald Trump was the CEO.
And part of what we’ve seen coming up in the context of hush money payments is also some implications related to how the business operated. And the thing about investigations is — you know, it’s a little bit like unraveling a rug. If you start pulling at the edge of a thread, oftentimes a whole lot more starts unraveling than what you initially started pulling.
And simply from what we’ve seen around the business practices of the Trump Organization, I think you can expect a lot more potential investigations that we may or may not hear about, that arise as a result of some of the evidence of business practice, and that will directly implicate the President as the CEO of a very closely-held family business.
BERNSTEIN: You know, it’s funny that Maya, you use the example of the rug, ’cause that’s often what I say. “We need to pull on this thread.” And, just — we know that there are actually three more investigations out there that are — they’re not concluded. At least. One is the investigation of the Trump foundation in which depositions that were released from Trump’s, uh, Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, in fact show that there were no separations between the business, the campaign, and the Trump Foundation.
And in that action, the Attorney General is seeking to have the Trump family barred from serving on foundation boards and pay a fine. Just last week, the Attorney General subpoenaed loans in relation to — or information about — loans from Deutsche Bank, which was the only lender that would give to Trump after no U.S. banks would, because he’d sued them so many times and/or stiffed them.
So he went to Deutsche Bank and — not their regular real estate unit, their private wealth unit — and Michael Cohen released some documents in the public record suggesting that, in fact, Trump may have been lying to them, which would be bank fraud. And then the other big investigation is the inaugural, which Ilya has been doing a lot of work on, and there are still so many questions. And, in fact, at least one person has pleaded guilty to accepting — basically, being a straw man for an illegal foreign.
MARRITZ: Yeah. Uh, so the inaugural fund is super interesting, uh, both in itself and also as a microcosm of the Trump way of doing business, where other inaugural funds need to set a very specific target of the amount of money they were going to raise from private donors. They put limits on who could give and how.
This inaugural fund seems to have been run fairly differently. A ton of money came in — quite understandably, because Donald Trump was not expected to win this election, so a lot of people who wanted to have influence in the new administration, uh, [LAUGHS] I think may have panicked and said, “Let’s, uh, let’s give this guy some money.”
Um, and what we know already on the record is that there was one straw man donor acting on behalf of a Ukrainian politician. The Southern District has sent out subpoenas in that probe as well. They’re looking for money laundering and several different types of fraud. It sounds very serious. And they’ll be requesting the — all of the financial documents connected with that.
The inauguration is interesting because it wasn’t — in some ways — directly controlled by Donald Trump. Uh, and yet we know that Trump and — and Mrs. Trump were routinely briefed on planning. They may have been briefed on the financials as well. We don’t know that. And, um, and —
BERNSTEIN: — and we know that the Trump Organization directly profited by making sure that they were going to get very hefty payments for use of the Trump Hotel during the inaugural.
MARRITZ: Which is news that we broke. So, um, you know, so there’s — there’s any number of really interesting things to find out there. It doesn’t diminish my own sense of dissatisfaction though. I want to know what Robert Mueller, of all people, having looked at all of this closely and carefully, thinks. And there’s really no substitute for understanding what he learned from all of the records that we know that he got and all of the records that we don’t know that he got and the interviews that we don’t know that he had.
LEHRER: So, Maya, Robert Mueller’s reputation I think has benefited, um, these two years from being such a sphinx — if that’s the right word. [WILEY LAUGHS] I heard people use that word, like, “Sheldon Silver was a sphinx” — but that’s another show. [LAUGHTER] Um — um, but now, why isn’t he out there today holding a news conference or something?
WILEY: Robert Mueller is a consummate public servant in that regard. If you’re prosecuting, one of — one of the reasons why James Comey’s behavior around the Hillary Clinton emails was so shocking is because he wasn’t behaving in the tradition of, — of the — of prosecutors — of federal prosecutors, which is you keep your mouth shut, um, except to the extent that you’re sharing your conclusion. And I — the reason for that really is to protect both the legal process. It’s also to protect the reputation and reputations of those involved.
I think, where Robert Mueller is gonna, I think, not be viewed as favorably by history — and I say that, not as a personal judgment, just as, as a matter of fact — is that, as Special Counsel, you know, he punted on the issue of obstruction of justice, pretty explicitly, according to the Barr letter. You know, he said — according to the Barr letter — he didn’t participate in that decision around obstruction. He essenti— he essentially handed it off to Rod Rosenstein and William Barr who then say, you know, “He’s not a — you know, Robert Mueller, neither said he should be convicted — uh, you know, said that there was a crime committed nor exonerated,” and — and really in the context of the letter, you know, suggests the politics, uh, and the — and the internal decision of the Department of Justice about whether you could an indict a sitting president as part of how they kind of addressed this issue.
So that in and of itself is — is — is something that I think is of rightful concern, both to Congress and the American people — and to history, because the whole point of a Special Counsel is to have some independence of judgement in the evaluation of the evidence. And that was an — this is an example where he should have spoken at least through a conclusion of some form in his report, and we should see what that evidence is.
LEHRER: Let’s go to our next caller, Kaitlyn, in Port Washington. You’re on WNYC. Kaitlyn, thank you so much for calling.
KAITLYN: Oh, thank you so much. I’m just — I’m just struck by all the references to the narrow investigation or the narrowness of the investigation, which spent 22 months and — correct me if I’m wrong — $23 million of taxpayer money, and now people are calling it a narrow investigation. How long, and how much, are people willing to spend, of taxpayer money to continue with this? It’s — I — there are suspicions, I’m sure, in every regard of Trump’s business. There are suspicions about Clinton and Loretta Lynch’s conversations on the tarmac, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page discussions. But if the taxpayers are asked whether they want to spend their own money to pursue those investigations, I think very few people would want to spend their own money, which is what’s happening without any taxpayer consent.
LEHRER: Would you like to see, Kaitlyn — for yourself as a taxpayer — would you like to see all of the investigations discontinued now? So that is, not look into potential FBI Strzok and Page, et cetera, misbehavior, to launch the investigation. Not look into the Trump, Inc. stuff that Ilya and Andrea have been talking about with regard to his business dealings, uh, close it all up and just move on to the — to the issues? Or how much of any of that do you want to see gotten to the bottom of?
KAITLYN: Yes. Yes. I would — I would prefer to see taxpayer money spent in proactive ways to improve the American economy, the American people. And if — I think — journalists, if they want to pursue investigations and come up with something that — that looks actually pertinent, relevant, or, um, like it’s going to have an impact on the American people —
LEHRER: People’s lives?
KAITLYN: — or the economy, that’s one thing, but — but it should not be charged to the taxpayers to be paying for — for political investigation.
LEHRER: Thank you, Katelyn. We appreciate it. We have one minute left. Andrea, to her point, um, I’m going to give you 30 seconds of a political analysis, and Maya, 30 seconds of a legal analysis. Um, all the business related investigations. There may be, per Kaitlyn from Port Washington, investigation fatigue now.
BERNSTEIN: Well, it’s interesting about the Barr letter, because the Barr letter certainly sets that up by saying, “Nothing to see here, move along.” It sort of sets up everything else that comes after as somehow an anticlimax. Whereas we know all of the details are going to be in the Report itself. So I think that that is exceedingly important. I also believe in people being held account for their actions. And I think one of the ways you prevent future crimes and misdeeds is by holding people account. So I think it’s important to continue them.
LEHRER: And Maya, you said earlier that there is ongoing cooperation by Rick Gates, and I think, also, by others, that supposedly was pertinent to ongoing investigations. So can that be the case, and Muller be saying that no more indictments will come at the same time?
WILEY: Well, no more indictments will come from Robert Mueller. We don’t know what Southern District of New York or — or other U.S. Attorney’s offices will do, because Mueller has essentially spun out other investigations. And I think, you know, the caller’s point is a quite legitimate one, in the sense that people don’t necessarily know, uh, in the scope of investigations, what this really means in context. But I think the way to look at it is, we — 37 indictments are guilty pleas. And we know so much more as a public about — and this is something we should celebrate in terms of what Robert Mueller’s role has been — there’s so much more we know about how Russians were interfering, how they are trying to compromise, uh, our — our elections and people and U.S. citizens, and the extent to which we have corrupt individuals who are operating within government. That is money well spent, it seems to me, if we want to ensure the integrity, both of our government and our road— our democracy.
LEHRER: Maya Wiley, Professor of Urban Policy and Management at the New School, NBC News, and MSNBC Legal Analyst, and former Counsel to Mayor DeBlasio, and our Trump, Inc. cohosts, Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz.
[MEANDERING PIANO MUSIC PLAYS]
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