Appearing on the PBS reporter roundtable on Washington Week Friday, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell complained that Republicans have “controlled the narrative” when it comes to the Mueller report. She also acted like she was a Democratic strategist for a second by urging the Democrats to focus on health care instead of obsessing about Mueller and Russia.
The segment on the Mueller report began with a focus on Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on Capitol Hill, where he alleged that “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign. Nancy Cordes of CBS News accused Barr of speaking out of both sides of his mouth when it came to his belief on whether or not spying occurred as well as his intention to put together a team to look into whether or not spying occurred.
Washington Week host Robert Costa picked up on Cordes’s point by mentioning that “there is an Inspector General inside of the Department of Justice already looking at the FISA courts and the surveillance from the 2016 campaign” and asking “why did the Attorney General get ahead of his own I.G?” Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post responded by telling Costa “that’s a really great question” and chatted about her interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said that he would wait “defer to the Inspector General report and let that play out.” Then Mitchell complained about Democrats losing the PR battle:
ANDREA MITCHELL: And what has happened because of the Attorney General’s initial four-page memo and because of the President’s reaction -- you know, I’m exonerated, you know, I’m cleared, it’s all over -- they’ve controlled the narrative, and they have branded this as a complete exoneration. And if there are a number, you know, a lot of redactions in this report and if it’s not conclusive, it’s going to be very hard, I think, for the Democrats, in a protracted legal argument, going to the courts, trying to get this out. They really are going to be on the defensive, and I don’t know how they can get ahead of it.
They really need to start talking about health care and, and other things. As important as this is, I don’t know how they can get on top of it.
Based on the fact that the Democrats have started obsessing about President Trump’s tax returns, it looks like they have decided not to take Mitchell’s advice to start focusing on “health care,” although the President’s tax returns may fall under the umbrella of “other things.”
A fuller transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of Washington Week is below. Click “expand” to read more.
ROBERT COSTA: Let’s turn to the other political and legal battle this week, Attorney General Bill Barr, he set off a firestorm when he testified that he believes U.S. Intelligence agencies spied on the President’s 2016 campaign; sparking sharp criticism from Democrats for using that charged term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
WILLIAM BARR: I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think what he said was absolutely true. There was absolutely spying into my campaign. I’ll go a step further. In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
COSTA: Barr also testified that he plans to release an edited version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia and President Trump’s conduct within days. Many Democrats and some Republicans say the AG must share the full report with Congress and the American people. And worry that he has too much say over the report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR JEANNE SHAHEEN: I am concerned by recent media reports that those working on the Special Counsel’s team believe your summary to Congress glossed over the severity of the damaging actions of those in the White House including the President. The American people should be allowed to see the report in its entirety so they can make their own judgments about its content.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTA: Senator Shaheen reflected the view of many Democrats, Nancy, when she seemed to be taken aback by the Attorney General’s position. His use of the word “spying.” What has the Attorney General’s remark meant for the credibility of the Department of Justice as we wait for this Mueller report?
NANCY CORDES: Well, the Speaker of the House point blank said she does not trust the Attorney General, which in and of itself is pretty remarkable. That you have the leader of the House saying that she doesn’t trust the top law enforcement officer of this country. You know, this is a very new relationship. He has only been in this position for a short time. And his efforts and his, his aides’ efforts to sort of clean up or clarify what he meant have only left things more confusing and left some wondering whether he intended for there to be a lot of confusion, a lot of murkiness over whether or not he thinks that his own department spied on a presidential campaign. First he said yes, I do believe spying occurred. Then he said, well, I don’t know if any spying occurred. But I just want to…I just want to be clear on that. And it’s not like I’m creating a team to look into it. But I am going to create a team to look into it. So no one on Capitol Hill really understands what it is that he believes.
COSTA: There is an Inspector General inside of the Department of Justice already looking at the FISA courts and the surveillance from the 2016 campaign, why did the Attorney General get ahead of his own I.G., any reporting on that?
SEUNG MIN KIM: That’s a really great question and we actually asked Mitch McConnell yesterday when we sat down with him about those spying comments and asking him, don’t you think this is kind of a loaded term? What was your reaction to it? And he said, look, I’m going to defer to the Inspector General report and let that play out but there’s no doubt those comments have really made what was already, I mean let’s admit it, what was already kind of this very partisan atmosphere that much more divisive. And I think that, you know, going back to the trust issue that you mentioned with Pelosi, something that Mitch McConnell has said several times this week is that you either trust Bill Barr or you don’t. And he’s absolutely right. Now he’s in the camp where he does trust Bill Barr. But he was also telling us that I anticipate, you know, without having seen what the Mueller report is going to be, he says I anticipate being completely satisfied with what the Attorney General does. I believe…yeah. “I’m anticipating being satisfied with the level of disclosure that he makes.” And he’s like…basically like you’ll see my point next week once you see the report but he hasn’t seen the report, either. So, I mean, no matter when the report drops, you kind of already know where Democrats will be. You know where Republicans will be. And it’s not going to be any more closer to the same conclusion.
ANDREA MITCHELL: And what has happened because of the Attorney General’s initial four-page memo and because of the President’s reaction…you know, I’m exonerated, you know, I’m cleared, it’s all over…they’ve controlled the narrative, and they have branded this as a complete exoneration. And if there are a number, you know, a lot of redactions in this report and if it’s not conclusive, it’s going to be very hard, I think, for the Democrats, in a protracted legal argument, going to the courts, trying to get this out. They really are going to be on the defensive, and I don’t know how they can get ahead of it. They really need to start talking about healthcare and, and other things. As important as this is, I don’t know how they can get on top of it.