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CNN Sources Say Mueller Report May Be Delivered as Early as Next Week; Trump Holds Press Conference; Gang of Eight Quiet After McCabe Claims He Warned About Trump; McCabe Says I Think It's Possible Trump Is a Russian Asset. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 20, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: "I want to apologize to Drew Griffin, CNN, over a misstatement I made in a live interview. I did inform a producer that I had begun to question the allegation itself he reported on that over 1000 ballots may have been destroyed."

So, let's be clear, Woodhouse has an agenda. He wants to influence the board against calling for a revote and don't forget the man at the center of the scandal, Republican operative, McCray Dallas has refused to testify before the board without the promise of immunity. He and he alone, if you could believe him, knows what actually happened to the ballots that were illegally collected and handed over to him. It's a story that isn't going away any time soon.

That's it for me. "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you so much. I'm Brooke Baldwin, you are watching CNN, thank you for being we me.

President Trump has called Robert Mueller's Russia probe everything from a witch-hunt to a Democrat-led hoax to a disgrace but next week he may be able to give it a new name -- over. CNN has learned that new Attorney General Bill Barr may get Mueller's report as early as next week nearly 2 years after the special counsel was appointed.

An appointment sparked by a move President Trump thought would make any and all questions about his ties to Russia go away, that being his firing of the former FBI Director James Comey. Instead, that only made things much worse.

As of today, seven former members of Trump's inner circle from his business empire to his campaign to his White House have pleaded guilty in this massive investigation, including Michael Cohen, his former fixer, now do to report to prison in May.

Michael Flynn, his former National Security Adviser set to be sentenced next month. Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, Mueller is recommending he get up to 24 1/2 years in prison for financial crimes. In all, 37 people and entities including dozens from Russia have been charged.

We begin with CNN crime and justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz live in Washington, D.C. and, Shimon, tell me what you know.

SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: The big headline is that with the delivery of this report from the Mueller team to the Attorney General would signal this investigation is now over, as you said. It's complete. That means any certain specific type of investigative steps that the Mueller team wants to undertake is now done and so now all we're waiting for is whether or not this report now they have to decide what they release to members of Congress, how much detail do they release to them? Does it answer questions? That's going to be the next big step. Certainly, it's an important step. The Mueller team is wrapped up, they're done and now they're waiting to submit their report to the Attorney General.

BALDWIN: On those key questions that we have been reporting on for months and months, right, about questions about collusion, obstruction of justice, myriad other accusations, will this answer all of that?

PROKUPESZ: The confidential report may answer it but what the public ultimately Sees and what members of Congress, we may not get those answers.

Unless someone is charged, unless someone is brought up on charges by the Department of Justice, unless someone is convicted, these things aren't necessarily discussed in public by the Department of Justice, by the FBI. Remember, James Comey took heat for what he did by releasing information in the Hillary Clinton investigation and William Barr, the current Attorney General and others at the Department of Justice do not want to do that in this case. But if we think it's going answer a lot of key questions, it's not. So, we'll see what members of Congress do. There's been talk and speculation ant perhaps William Barr somehow came in and shut down this investigation but it would appear to us that they were waiting for the new Attorney General to come in to do this. And now that he's there a lot of signs point to this being wrapped up.

BALDWIN: And just set your expectations here. Shimon, thank you so much. Let's listen, parse this out. Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor, Gloria Borger is our chief political analyst. Let me play sound. Just reminding everyone, this is what the new AG Bill Barr testified during his confirmation hearing last month.


[14:05:00] SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: What happens next under the protocol rules and regulations at justice?

WILLIAM BARR, NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, under the current rules, that report is supposed to be confidential and treated as -- the prosecution and declination documents, in any other criminal case. And then the Attorney General as I understand the rules would report to Congress about the conclusion of the investigation and I believe there may be discretion about what the Attorney General can put in that report.

KENNEDY: So, you would make a report to Congress?

BARR: Yes.

KENNEDY: Based on the report you've received?

BARR: Yes.


BALDWIN: So, such an important exchange and let's go through it, Jennifer. Two things, one, Barr said the rules for the Attorney General to report to Congress about, two, he said his words, there may be discretion about what he can actually put in this report, right? So, will the public see the full Mueller report? How much transparency will there be?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Bill Barr pledged to be as transparent as he could so we'll see. I don't think the public will see Mueller's actual report unless it leaks, which is a possibility depending on how many people get their hands on it. I think Barr if he does live up to that pledge will have to show the American public enough so that we at least get not only what the conclusions of the Mueller team were --

BALDWIN: But how they reach the conclusions?

RODGERS: How they reach the conclusions, all the evidence we should see with the exception of classified information and we should get those conclusions, who is chargeable. We'll already know who is charged so we should be able to see a lot of those things excepting the classified information and taking out, as Shimon indicated, people are implicated but ultimately were not charged because, you know, prosecutors do that to protect the privacy of people who ultimately are not charged.

BALDWIN: Gloria, I wanted to ask. Shimon on Comey and mistakes made and lessons learned.

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So, Comey lit the match, set the House on fire and walked out the back door and it burned and nobody wants to do that. But this is a very different law than it was during the Starr report, during the infamous Starr report. At that point, Starr, who was an independent counsel, was required to write a report to Congress. He had to do that. After that report to Congress, Democrats reacted and said wait a minute this is too much, it was unfair and so the new special counsel law does not require. That bob Mueller is treated as a federal prosecutor, period. So, he does not -- he is not required to send anything to Congress. He just reports to the Attorney General. It's up to the Attorney General.

BALDWIN: If he wants to send it to Congress.

BORGER: The only thing that Congress has to know -- and I was just reading it this morning -- is if, for example, bob Mueller went to Rod Rosenstein and said I would like to subpoena the President to testify in person because I can't get them to do anything other than written questions and you would know that -- if Rosenstein said I'm not allowing that. So that might be interesting to know what the conversations were and what Rosenstein allowed and did not allow. But there is something here. Congress -- and this is uncharted territory here -- Congress could potentially subpoena the document could try and find a way to get the document, go to court for.

BALDWIN: It the document being the entire Mueller report?

BORGER: The entire Mueller report if it doesn't leek. You've got Democrats thinking about ways to get it out there.

BALDWIN: I hear you loud and clear and of course the timing becomes how quickly would the public then see that which is just an unanswered question. What about Jennifer on the -- it was just last month that Mueller's grand jury was granted an extension of up to six months and at the time conventional wisdom was that this would be a sign of the investigation was nowhere close to being over. Does the issuance of this report mean the end of indictments, for example?

[14:10:00] RODGERS: I think it does mean the end of indictments from the Mueller team but remember they've been handing things off and famously the other day apparently someone pushed out a truckload or a cart load of documents or something to go to a U.S. attorney's office so they've been handing things off to the district of New York, the D.C. U.S. attorney's office so it's not clear more indictments won't come from those offices but I think Mueller's team issuing their report is the last step in what his work is so we won't see any more indictments coming from those folks.

BALDWIN: And you mentioned SDNY and I want to get into that. But staying with you, New York, the D.C. U.S. Attorney's office so it's not clear more indictments won't come from those offices but I think Mueller's team issuing their report is the last step in what his work is so we won't see any more indictments coming from those folks.

BORGER: And you mentioned SDNY and I want to get into that. But staying with you, do you have any ballpark clue of how long it would take Bill Barr to review this whole Mueller report and determine what it can and cannot if he chooses to go to Congress versus sending something out to the public? Hang on, ladies, President Trump is speaking.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're trying to make a deal. They're very tough to make a deal with, the EU. They've been very difficult over a period of time, over many, many years and so it's something we think about and we're negotiating with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The new report has changed your mind about it all? The new report from the Commerce Department?

TRUMP: The new report isn't that kind of a report, it's just a study that's under way. We've studied it carefully. But the bottom-line result is whether or not we can make a deal with EU. We lose about $151 billion trading with the EU. That's a lot of money. This has been going on for many years. They wouldn't meet with the Obama administration and they're meeting with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will the Mueller report be released when you're abroad?

TRUMP: That's up to the new Attorney General. He's a tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this is country and respects the Justice Department so that will be totally up to him, the new Attorney General. I guess from what I understand that will be totally up to the Attorney General.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President. [inaudible question]

TRUMP: Say it? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Decriminalizing. [inaudible question]

TRUMP: I don't know which report you're talking about. We have many reports. Anybody else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [inaudible question]

TRUMP: Well, we're going to have a great meeting. We have a great relationship and our countries have a great relationship and he's a very young leader, I have to tell you. You are a young guy, that's pretty good.

SEBASTIAN KURZ, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA: But the problem with the age is getting better from day to day.

TRUMP: Someday you won't be saying that. But we have a good relationship, we have a great trade relationship and that's what we'll be talking about today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want Dan Coats As Director of National Intelligence?

TRUMP: I haven't even thought about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [inaudible question]

TRUMP: I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [inaudible question]

TRUMP: I spoke this morning with Prime Minister Abe, had a long conversation with him, we talked about the trip next week to Vietnam which will be very successful. The first trip to Singapore was extremely successful. We'll meet with Chairman Kim for two days and we'll accomplish a lot. We started off with a good meeting and we'll continue that. I don't think this will be the last meeting but I think the relationship is strong. When we started there were a lot of problems, the missiles going all over, there were hostages being held, they were remains we wanted to get back, many, many things now there's no nuclear testing, no missiles going up and we have a good relationship, very good relationship, I'd say so I spoke with Prime Minister Abe of Japan about that and we compared notes and I think we are on the same wavelength. It was a good meeting. Good conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [inaudible] TRUMP: No, I don't think they're reluctant. I think they want to do something but you've been talking about this for 80 years. They've been talking about this for many, many years and no administration has done anything. They've gotten taken to the cleaners and I think we have a meaningful relationship, we'll see what happens. Sanctions are on in full. I'd love to take sanctions off but in order do that we have to do something that's meaningful but Chairman Kim and I have a good relationship. I wouldn't be surprised to see something work out. I believe that as an economic power because of its location in between -- you look on a map and you see Russia, China, and right in the middle of everything is South Korea but North Korea right smack in the middle so you have Russia, China, and then South Korea and this is right in the middle. Tremendous potential for economic well-being long term and I think he understands that very well. I think he might understand that better than anybody so they have a great, great potential as a country and that's what they're looking to do. We'll see. But we made a lot of progress. I don't believe this will be the last meeting because I don't believe it will, we have subjects to discuss which will be very fruitful, I believe.

[14:15:19] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a comment on Andrew McCabe briefing McConnell and Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes telling them about the investigation?

TRUMP: I think Andrew McCabe has made a fool out of himself over the last couple of days and he looks like a poor man's J. Edgar Hoover. I think he's a disaster and what he was trying to do was terrible and he was caught. I was proud to say we caught him so we'll see what happens but he is a disgraced man. He was terminated not by me. The IG report was a disaster from his standpoint. Anybody reading the IG report would say how could a man like this be involved with the FBI? This man is a complete disaster. Thank you all very much, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: So, the President making news in a couple headlines. One, you know we've been reporting about this Mueller probe coming to an end and the President was asked about Bill Barr, his new ag called him a tremendous man. McCabe, the former acting FBI director, talked to a lot of media outlets and Andrew McCabe saying he believed that the President might have been a Russian asset. So, a lot of questions from Kaitlan Collins. What did you find most noteworthy with regard to what he said about Mueller, Bill Barr and this investigation potentially coming to a close?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of the focus since our great reporting from our justice team earlier about that Mueller report, the President will be in Vietnam with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un so I asked the President is that something he thinks should be released while he's out of the country and he said ultimately he believes it's up to Bill Barr. He remarked he thinks Bill Barr, who he nominated to be his second Attorney General is going to be a tremendous Attorney General but when I asked the President if this is a report that should be made public, because that's something that's very much still a question, even though the investigation has come to an end and we know Barr is expected to give some kind of sum troy Congress, whether or not the American public can read it is still going to be a big question. The President looked around the room, it seemed like he was looking towards Sarah Sanders who was standing to his left and said from what he understands he believes that, too, will be up to Bill Barr, how much of that report becomes public.

Then there was the claim about Andrew McCabe and whether he briefed the gang of eight, those Congressional leaders way back when in 2017 on the investigation into Trump and a gang of eight that includes not only Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, then House Speaker Paul Ryan and big Trump ally Nunes. Now McCabe claims they had no reaction when he told them he was conducting an investigation into the President and when I asked the President how he felt about that but instead of answering that he said he believed Andrew McCabe was a disgrace and got fired from the FBI and what not but didn't answer how he felt about the Republicans not having a reaction to his briefing.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, excellent questions, thank you so much for all of that, getting that from the President. Gloria Borger, let me bring you back in. I think it's stunning to think about. Kaitlan hit the nail on the head. The whole thing coming to an end that this report may drop with Bill Barr soon and you juxtapose that with the fact that the President will be in Vietnam next week meeting with Kim Jong-un, should he or should he not go is a question way above my pay grade but what do you make of that?

[14:20:03] BORGER: And one more thing, Michael Cohen could be testifying publicly about his relationship with the President so the question is whether Barr wants to kind of release something in the middle of all this while the President is overseas. We don't know the answer. What is stunning to me is we think about all of this is I believe that bob Mueller is going to do some kind of mic drop here and go away. I think maybe Congress could subpoena him but maybe -- he's performing as a federal prosecutor, and what he knows about Mueller and how he shies away from the limelight, it will be interesting because I don't know that we'll ever hear from him. I think he'll want the report to speak for itself to the Attorney General. Now it's up to Congress. Once Barr decides to do whatever he does, whether he redacts it or writes a summary, now the ball moves into Congress's court. You see Michael Cohen will be going before Congress. They could subpoena the document. They could leak the document. Maybe they can support Mueller? I don't know at this point because we haven't gone through this before but I think all of these options are sort of hanging out there while the American public wants to know what the special counsel was doing for these couple of years.

BALDWIN: Absolutely. Absolutely so perhaps the public will learn in time. You get the feeling that it's forth coming but let's keep our information in check to Shimon Prokupecz's point and remember that whole SDNY investigation has a whole other life of its own.

BORGER: And so do the courts.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, thank you. Thank you.

Listen, as all of this is going on, the former number two at the FBI says the President may be a Russian asset. But what did the gang of eight at the time in Congress know? Plus, the man President Trump never seems to criticize just threatened

to attack the United States with new Russian weapons. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: We are back, you ear watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.

It seems each and every day Andrew McCabe speaks of his book another headline comes forth. On top of confirming the FBI was looking into whether the President of the United States was a Russian foreign agent, McCabe is now saying that possibility could still apply today. We'll get to that in just a second. First to more details about McCabe's meeting with Congressional leaders known as the gang of eight who inform them the FBI was opening an investigation into the President. There was no reaction, no protest from them, according to the fired former FBI Deputy Director. McCabe says he knew he risked tipping off the President by telling those leaders of Congress, specifically because of one of the four remembers President, then House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It was my expectation that it would likely be relayed back to the President, partially because of the presence of Devin Nunes. I mean, his interactions at the White House and the impropriety of the exchange of information at the White House is well known so as we began that briefing, as we came into the room, it's a situation I lay out in the book, I was concerned about being able to keep that information we are discussing confidential and close hold and it's my belief that that information got back to the President.


BALDWIN: Let's start here with CNN Congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. Sunlen, Congressman Nunes -- has Congressman Nunes or any lawmakers involved responded to these details? They were told about the investigation into the President?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, many are being tight-lipped about the briefing and the fact it happened at all but we just heard from Devin Nunes who was then when this briefing happened back in May of 2017 the Republican chairman of the House intel committee and we did just hear from Devin Nunes and he goes right after Andrew McCabe's credibility in the statement, very similar to what we just heard from President Trump and he gives a subtle pushback to the notion, as you said, the big claim Andrew McCabe has been making that when he briefed this gang of eight that there was no on section, no pushback from either the Republicans in the room about the investigation into Donald Trump. He says, quote, Andrew McCabe was fired for the FBI for lying and leaking and many of the stories he's telling on his book tour are transparently self-serving although I cannot comment on the gang of eight briefing. He goes on to say it's preposterous to deny the FBI was investigating Donald Trump from the moment it opened its investigation in mid-2016 so Nunes basically saying it was clear they were looking into Donald Trump and certainly you get the sense he wants to say more but many of these members, their hands are tied. We polled all of those folks who were allegedly in the room for this meeting man say no comment, obviously this was a classified briefing.

BALDWIN: Sunlen, thank you. Now to McCabe's thoughts about the President's ties to Russia today. McCabe says right now as I'm speaking to you that the President of the United States is possibly working for Russia.


[14:30:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you still believe the President could be a Russian asset?

MCCABE: I think it's possible. I think that's why we started our investigation. And I'm really anxious to see where director Mueller concludes that.


BALDWIN: With me now, Greg Brower, former U.S. Attorney for The District of Nevada, who also serves multiple functions at the FBI, including Deputy General Counsel, so Greg, nice to have you back, welcome.


BALDWIN: You worked with several players in the Trump/Russia investigation, Rod Rosenstein, Andrew McCabe with whom you had daily contact for two years so given your knowledge here, do you see evidence that would back up McCabe's claim about Trump being a Russian asset?

BROWER: Well, quite frankly, Brooke, I'm surprised that McCabe is going as far as he is in talking about what we all know to be an ongoing investigation.