Return to Transcripts main page


FAA: Boeing Has Developed Software Patch, Pilot Training Program To Address 737 MAX Issues; Trump Now Says, Let People See The Mueller Report; Trump Complains He Didn't Get A Thank You For McCain's Funeral; Trump Calls George Conway Loser And Husband From Hell; O'Rourke Reveals New Details Of $6 Million Fundraising Haul. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Deplorable, that's what a Republican senator is calling the president's relentless attacks on the late Senator John McCain. But Mr. Trump refuses to quit. Tonight, he's adding a new complaint to his long list involving Senator McCain's funeral.

Loyalty test. Mr. Trump also won't stop publicly slamming his senior aide's spouse, labeling George Conway as a husband from hell and a whack job. Now Kellyanne Conway is taking the president's side.

And a new hope. A former aide and confidant to Mr. Trump now appears to be ready to cooperate with Democratic investigators in the House. Will Hope Hicks provide evidence against the president?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're following breaking news.

CNN's exclusive new poll shows Robert Mueller's approval rating has rebounded, as a whopping 87 percent of Americans now say they want the findings of his investigation to be made public. The survey also shows support for impeaching the president, that that has dipped, mostly among Democrats, who may be buying Nancy Pelosi's new argument that President Trump just isn't worth it.

Tonight, the president claims he won't mind if Mueller's findings are released, even as he tries -- keeps on trying to discredit Mueller. Mr. Trump continues to be on a trash-talking tear right now. He also launched another stunning attack on the late Senator John McCain during remarks at an Ohio tank factory.

I will talk to Congressman Jamie Raskin. He's a member of the Judiciary and Oversight committees investigating the president. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our White House Correspondent, Abby Phillip. She's joining us from Ohio, where the president spoke just a little while ago.

Abby, we heard the president go off on Senator McCain yet again.


He came here to Lima, Ohio, to talk about investments in the military and manufacturing jobs. But, instead, he continued his rant against Senator John McCain, who died seven months ago. This began over the weekend in a series of tweets and continued into today.

But he wasn't the only person that President Trump attacked. President Trump started his day by attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the husband of one of his top aides, Kellyanne Conway.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let it come out. Let people see it.

PHILLIP (voice-over): A change of tune from President Trump, who now says he wants the public to see the Mueller report.

TRUMP: I think it's ridiculous. But I want to see the report. And you know who want to see it? The tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy we have ever had.

PHILLIP: This coming weeks after the president suggested his willingness for transparency would depend on what's in it.

QUESTION: You wouldn't have a problem if it became public?

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. That's up to the attorney general. I don't know. It depends. I have no idea what it's going to say.

PHILLIP: But Trump isn't giving up his attacks on Robert Mueller.

TRUMP: But it's sort of interesting that a man, out of the blue, just writes a report. I know that he's conflicted and I know that his best friend is Comey, who was a bad cop. And I know that there are other things.

PHILLIP: The president insisted this afternoon that he has no inside information about the timing of the report, but he expressed confidence in his new Attorney General William Barr to make the final call.

TRUMP: I have no idea when it's going to be released. Now, at the same time, let it come out. Let people see it. That's up to the attorney general. We have a very good attorney general. He's a very highly respected man. And we will see what happens.

PHILLIP: Trump's attack on the Mueller probe comes as he launched into an unprompted rant against the late Senator John McCain at a tank factory in Lima, Ohio today.

TRUMP: I have to be honest. I have never liked him much. Hasn't been for me. I have -- really probably never will.

PHILLIP: Blaming McCain for his handling of the dossier.

TRUMP: John McCain received the fake and phony dossier. And what did he do? Didn't call me. He turned it over to the FBI, hoping to put me in jeopardy.

PHILLIP: As the crowd listened silently, Trump invoked McCain's funeral last summer in Washington.

TRUMP: And I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which, as president, I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn't get a thank you. That's OK.

PHILLIP: Trump also feuding with the husband of his top aide Kellyanne Conway after her husband, George, questioned Trump's mental stability.

TRUMP: He's a whack job. There's no question about it. But I really don't know him. He -- I think he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife. Kellyanne is a wonderful woman. And I call him Mr. Kellyanne. The fact is that he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wife and family. She's a wonderful woman.


PHILLIP: On the White House lawn and again at the tank factory in Ohio, Trump paused for some show and tell.

TRUMP: I brought this out for you, because this is a map of everything in the red. This was on election night in 2016.

PHILLIP: Months after he declared ISIS defeated and ordered his generals to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, the president acknowledged that some 400 troops would remain, but today he insisted that ISIS is nearly gone.

TRUMP: Everything red is ISIS. When I took it over, it was a mess. Now, on the bottom, that's the exact same, there is no red. In fact, there's actually a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight.


PHILLIP: In that audience in Lima today, there were many members of the military standing there listening as President Trump attacked a decorated war hero.

But back in Washington, there hasn't been a whole lot of reaction from Republican senators to an attack on one of their own. However, one Republican senator did speak out.

Senator Johnny Isakson said the president's comments were deplorable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah also went after the president for this condemnation of Senator McCain. Abby Phillip in Ohio, thank you very much.

Now to the breaking news on the sweeping investigation of the president by House Democrats. Hope Hicks, a longtime former aide, close confidant of Mr. Trump, now appears ready to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee.

Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, broke the story for us. Manu, what more are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she has -- Hope Hicks has agreed to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into the president, investigation into alleged abuses at the White House, alleged obstruction of justice, and what the Democrats believe is a corruption.

Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, had sent a letter to Hicks earlier this month asking her a range of answers to questions that he had about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, about whether the president was involved in those false statements that then Michael -- National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made to the FBI, and her knowledge of those hush money payments that were made in the Oval Office.

The president directed to Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, to essentially silence those stories about those alleged affairs with the president that there were about to come out before the 2016 elections, as well as Hope Hicks' role in drafting a misleading statement that was given to the press back in 2017 to discuss -- to respond to stories about Donald Trump Jr.'s meetings with the Russians at Trump Tower in 2016.

Now, we are told that Hope Hicks will provide documents to the House Judiciary Committee, according to a spokesman for Jerry Nadler. Hope Hicks' attorney would not comment. What is unclear exactly how much she will ultimately reveal.

She -- the committee has asked her to turn over a diary that she apparently kept. We will see if she does just that. And when she met with the House Intelligence Committee last year, she would not discuss her communications and anything that occurred while she was serving in the White House, only would discuss things that happened during the campaign season.

But at that point Democrats were in the minority. They did not have subpoena power. Now they're in the majority. The question is, will Hope Hicks' cooperation change? Also, we are learning Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser, is cooperating with the House Judiciary Committee and some others have referred their inquiries to the White House.

But right now one entity that is not cooperating, at least at this deadline, that's the White House. The Democrats are still expecting one response from the White House, all part of a broader fight that Democrats are having with the White House, hoping they provide information to a range of questions that they have. We will see if they decide to do just that.

BLITZER: We certainly will see.

Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

Let's talk about the status of Robert Mueller's investigation right now, as our exclusive new poll shows most Americans want his findings to be made public.

Our Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining us.

Shimon, in a new court filing, Mueller's team suggest this could be potentially a very busy week. What does that tell us?


It's a very good question. What's not clear to us is why such a simple request -- this was a filing made from "The Washington Post" seeking information -- why this would be so consuming and time- consuming that the special counsel wouldn't have enough time to respond to it, why they would need more time, and why they would specifically use those kinds of words.

It's really not clear why they're doing it this way. It could be that they're stalling. They may not want to release some of this information. Or they may just be trying to figure out if this is information they can release, whether investigators on the team and also the prosecutor who was on this case that is now over at the Department of Justice, whether or not it's something that he wants to be released.


BLITZER: Because they asked that the information that "The Washington Post" is seeing -- public information, that they get an extension of time through and including April 1.

"The counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government."

PROKUPECZ: Yes, that's what's so baffling, I think, for many of us, because it's not clear why they would need more time to do something like this.

The line about needing to consult with others certainly is striking, in that it could be that they want to talk to other people inside the government. Could be people at the FBI. There could be other investigations that some of this information is connected to, and so they need to make sure that they can go ahead and make it public.

It's just weird that they would use this kind of language to say, well, we need more time, essentially saying that they're very busy this week, and they can't respond. Obviously, what else could be going on? We certainly have not seen any indications that the special counsel's

office is working on anything that I time-consuming. It could be that they're waiting to release the report and they're putting information together about that.

I mean, it's really baffling.

BLITZER: So nearly all Americans want the Mueller report to be made public, Democrats, Republicans, independents.

The president himself said today he doesn't have a problem releasing the Mueller report to the American public. That kind of public pressure, how much impact -- of an impact will it have on the new attorney general, Bill Barr?

PROKUPECZ: I don't think it's going to have any impact on him. I think he's made it very clear during his confirmation hearings. Other people we have talked to in the Department of Justice that are involved in this decision-making, I think they're going to stick to the guidelines.

They do not want to repeat of what James Comey did in releasing the Hillary Clinton e-mail, that investigation. They do not want to do anything like that. So I think we're going to see them follow those guidelines and continue to try and withhold whatever information is that is not allowed under the guidelines to be made public.

It doesn't mean that eventually all this won't come out after lawsuits and FOIA requests. We will see what happens.

BLITZER: We certainly will.

All right, Shimon, thank you very much, Shimon Prokupecz reporting.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Congressman Jamie Raskin. He's a Democrat. He serves on both the Judiciary and the Oversight committees.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND: Delighted to be with you.

BLITZER: All right, let's start with the breaking news.

What are you hoping to learn from documents handed over by the former White House communications director, Hope Hicks?

RASKIN: Well, let's see. I think you're one step ahead of me. I wasn't aware that this was just turned over.

BLITZER: She's apparently agreed to hand over documents to the committee. As you know, there were, what, 81 individuals and entities that you guys have been searching for information.

RASKIN: Yes. BLITZER: She's willing to cooperate.


Well, look, we expect everybody to cooperate. I mean, these are all lawful requests. And it's mandatory that everybody share whatever information they have got with Congress. And so, you know, we're looking for everything related to ongoing investigations related to the Trump administration, including the hush money payoffs, including the abuse of the security clearance process, including the Emoluments Clause and payments from foreign princes and kings and governments.

So the full range is what we're looking for. And we expect everybody to be cooperating and sending in their documents.

BLITZER: You also sit on the House Oversight Committee. The chairman of your committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, says the White House is stonewalling all attempts to obtain information.

What are Democrats prepared to do about that?

RASKIN: Well, right now, the White House has refused to send over a single document that Chairman Cummings and the Oversight Committee have requested with respect to several different investigations.

And we are receiving cooperation from other federal agencies, which make -- which makes the White House's recalcitrance all the more striking. It really stands out that the president, who has time to be watching "Saturday Night Live" and sending out posthumous insults to Senator John McCain , doesn't have time to comply with a request from the U.S. Congress.

Look, we are the primary lawmaking branch of government. We have a constitutional oversight power and duty. And when we ask for documents, they have got to be turned over by everybody. Nobody is above the law here. And prior presidents have complied. Prior administrations have complied.

And we're not going to stand for the president not turning over documents that have been lawfully requested.

BLITZER: President Trump today seems to reverse course, telling reporters he'd like Robert Mueller's Russia report to be made public.

Are you encouraged by the rhetoric coming from the president on this day?

RASKIN: Well, I think it was probably not quite so categorical. I think he said pending the approval of the attorney general.


BLITZER: I will read you what he said.

He said: "I don't mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House, if you want, let them see it. [18:15:03]

He said that a few times, "Let them see it."


Well, then he's taking the right position, because the House voted overwhelmingly, maybe even unanimously, that the document should be made public.

And, look, what we're talking about in all these things is transparency and sunlight. Congress is in Article 1 the lawmaking branch of government. We represent the people.

And James Madison was very clear that, if the people are going to govern, we have to arm ourselves with the truth, the evidence and the data about everything that's going on in government.

BLITZER: Take a look at this new poll on impeachment, a CNN poll.

According to our poll, support for impeachment has now declined from 47 percent in September to 43 percent in December, all the way down to just 36 percent today, 36 percent.

You sit on the Judiciary Committee, which is the committee that would have to initiate impeachment proceedings, hearings. Are those poll numbers a warning sign to Democrats?

RASKIN: No, I think that those poll numbers are reflection of the wisdom of the American people.

I mean, impeachment is an extraordinary remedy that's used in cases of high crimes and misdemeanors against the American people and against our form of government. And, at this point, we don't have all of the evidence in. We don't have a case that's been made for impeachment.

And everybody wants us to be focused on the issues that the new Democratic majority was elected to confront. High prescription drug prices, we want to bring those down. Election reform, we want to guarantee everybody's right to vote. We want health insurance for everybody.

So we're going to deal with the corruption and the lawlessness in the administration. But we're also going to be focused like a laser beam on the problems of the American people. And I think that's what America wants us to do.

BLITZER: Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, thanks so much for joining us.

RASKIN: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news ahead.

Is President Trump serious about now wanting the Mueller report to be released publicly? The former U.S. attorney who was fired by President Trump, Preet Bharara, he will tell us what he thinks.

Also, what secrets about the president might his longtime confidant Hope Hicks share with Democratic investigators in the House?



BLITZER: We're following breaking news, the president putting a new twist on his rants about the Russia investigation.

He's now claiming he doesn't mind if Robert Mueller's findings are released to the American public.

Let's bring in the former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. He's now a senior legal analyst, CNN legal analyst.

He is also the author of an important brand-new book. There you see the book cover, "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law," a very important book.

We're going to talk about it soon, Preet.

But let's talk about the news right now. The president says he'd like to see Robert Mueller's report made public. Do you take that as a sign that the Justice Department and the new attorney general, Bill Barr, is going to opt for transparency?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I don't think it says anything at all about what Bill Barr will do. And I also don't think it says anything at all about Donald Trump really wants and what he might instruct Bill Barr to do if he thinks it's appropriate to do so.

We have heard him time and time again say that he has no problem with something, and he in fact does. He said for months and months, everyone will remember, that he had no problem sitting down with Bob Mueller and answering questions face to face. Then he said it was up to his lawyers.

They did some questions that he answered in written form. So there are times when Donald Trump, I think, realizes that he sounds very defensive and he's afraid of something and he's running from something, and so we will say things like, I don't care, it doesn't bother me, when it, in fact, does.

So I don't think it's any evidence of anything that might happen in the future.

BLITZER: Yes, it's not the bottom line by any means.

You have this new book that is just out, "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law."

You write about how important it is for the public to have faith in the judicial system. If you were in the shoes of the new attorney general, Bill Barr -- I know you're not -- would you take public sentiment into account when making critical decisions about what to release from the Mueller report?

BHARARA: So, I think that's a complicated question. I think you would have to be very careful.

And I think you don't want to take public perception and public sentiment into account when you're deciding something that is prescribed by statute or some principle of the Justice Department or some policy, so that, just because a lot of people want to see something, if it would unduly harm the rights of some individual who doesn't deserve his rights to be violated in that way, in service of some other larger principle, I think then you don't take public sentiment into account.

You don't take public sentiment into account when you decide whether to bring a charge against someone or not. The law is the law. The facts are the facts. And sometimes people will be disappointed in the decisions prosecutors make. This is not a prosecutorial decision. It's a decision about transparency and disclosure.

So, on the other hand, I do think you want to be a little bit cognizant of public sentiment and public interest. And the law actually makes that clear in some regards, when it talks about requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act and other areas of law where we're talking about the making of something public.

You take into account the public interest in something. And so with respect to the material that might be in the Mueller report relating to the president, where there's deep public interest and deep congressional interest, I wouldn't call it public sentiment, but I would say public interest may require that he would be transparent.

BLITZER: So what form would you expect Robert Mueller's report to take?

BHARARA: So, that's another one of the things we all speculate about.

And I don't know. But my thought is, thinking about how Bob Mueller goes about doing investigations and his team and the thoroughness with which they do them, and the indictments and the attachments in the criminal complaints have not been short. They have been detailed and lengthy.


So, with respect to what format, I think his report will take, and he's required to describe decisions he made with respect to prosecutions and decisions he made with respect to their declinations.

And my guess is that he will be very thorough and very complete and very detailed, with a lot of exhibits. He could decide to be minimalist, but I don't think that is what he -- I don't think that's what he's going to do.

BLITZER: In a new court filing today, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, says his team is very busy this week. He asked for -- he asked the judge for more time to complete work on some unspecified work involving a petition from "The Washington Post" to get some information.

Let me read a piece of this statement that was released today: "The counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government."

They asked for an extension at least through April 1. What do you think they could -- first of all, what do you think they're working on? And why the delay? What does it mean?

BHARARA: They could be working on the report. They could be working on other prosecutions coming down the pike relating to Rick Gates or something else.

I wouldn't put too much in this. It's one lawyer who apparently has a press of work. Lawyers do this all the time. There were oftentimes, when I was a line prosecutor, sought extensions because you have extenuating circumstances, and you want to do a good job. So I wouldn't put too much stock in that particular document.

BLITZER: Do you think it's a sign that the special counsel is still pursuing potentially additional indictments?

BHARARA: Yes, I think it might be.

And combined with other information that we have -- I mentioned a second ago the document they put out on Rick Gates saying that they want to delay the sentencing for this person who pled guilty and is cooperating for 60 days because he continues to be of assistance on several investigations.

Usually, it's the case that you don't have that delay unless you think that there are going to be further charges. And maybe he's shoring up stuff on cases that have already been brought up. But I don't know what those would be. So, I don't want to predict, clearly.

But it seems to me that there's a good chance for further indictments, yes.

BLITZER: This book that you have written, "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law," tell us a little bit why you wanted to write this book.

And what really stood out was what you told especially the young lawyers, the prosecutors working for you when you were the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

BHARARA: I wanted to write a book that's not about Trump. Trump is not mentioned so much. I think we spend too much time.

And this is the proper forum for it. And Twitter is another place where people do it. But I think in this time when people talk about alternative facts and say truth isn't truth, and the rule of law seems to be turned upside down, and people substitute their political views for what the law and facts require, I think it's a moment to step back and take stock of basic principles, of how fairness is accomplished, how justice is accomplished, how we don't go down the wrong path, how we deal with people and engage in their arguments, like we do in courts of law and also should do in the public square.

I think that's very important. And the phrase that I inherited when I was in the Southern District was a mantra for us, not a slogan, but a mission statement for us, which is, your job is to do the right thing for the right reasons in the right way every day.

Now, no one's perfect. The office isn't perfect. It will never be perfect because no one is perfect. Journalists are not. Prosecutors are not. Judges are not, because they're all human beings.

But the aspiration was to do the job and do the work in ways that people could understand why you were doing it and that led to a result that was fair and fair-minded, because the process -- that's why the book is called "Doing Justice." It's a process of getting to a place where people can appreciate what you're doing.

And I want to emphasize also it's not a book just for lawyers. It's mostly not for lawyers. It's a book that tells stories about mob cases and terrorism cases and public corruption cases that have resonance, not just for lawyers, but for decision-making that people do in their own lives, whether you work in a bank, or you work in an office somewhere, or you're teacher, or you're a farmer, for that matter.

How we decide how to be fair to people, I think, is an important question. And I don't think it's ever been more important than it is right now.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly.

And tell us that saying, that slogan one more time. I want our viewers to appreciate what goes through your mind as a former U.S. attorney, trying to make sure the American public appreciates the enormity of what's going on right now.

BHARARA: Yes, we said all the time in the office, do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons, not because you want a particular result, but because the justice process has to unfold in a fair way, in a fair-minded way.

And that's what the place was all about.

BLITZER: You think that's going on right now, that slogan? Are we doing what you want everyone, especially in law enforcement, to be doing?

BHARARA: What I see from the outside -- I don't have any inside information anymore. I'm not in that office anymore.

The people who are working on these things are people that I know, most of them. And they have good hearts, and they have good heads, and they have good judgment, and they have good discretion. And they will take the facts where they may lead. [18:30:01]

And people will criticize me. I got a lot of criticism in some cases for being too tough, in some cases for being too soft. But people need to trust that these - the men and women at the Southern District, who I know better than any other office, are real people who care about doing things right.

And as all this attention is being focused on that office because of the Michael Cohen case, know that it's been around for -- since the beginning of the republic. And it has a long story, background and institutional history and legacy.

And if you want to learn something about the DNA of that place, the character of that place, the culture of that place, you'll -- you can if you take a look at my book.

BLITZER: Yes, doing justice. The stories in this book are really, really eye opening. I recommend it highly to all of our viewers. The book is called Doing Justice, A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and the Rule of Law. Preet Bharara is the author. Preet, congratulations on the new book.

BHARARA: Thank you.

BLITZER: I appreciate you joining us as usual.

BHARARA: Thank you, Wolf. Thanks very much.

BLITZER: All right, thank you. And let's dig deeper on all breaking news. Our correspondents and our analysts are here.

And, Gloria, let's talk about the President of the United States. He's picking fights almost everywhere he goes nowadays, including renewing this battle he's got with the late Senator John McCain, with the husband of Kellyanne Conway, George Conway. What explains these outbursts? He has so much going on right now and he's wasting so much time going after John McCain and George Conway.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: In a way, we shouldn't be surprised by this. This is who Donald Trump is. I remember after he won the presidency, there was lots of talk about pivoting and being more presidential. Well, no. That didn't happen. This is an obsession he has with John McCain because John McCain didn't like him and didn't do what he thought he ought to do. So it is full of grievance.

The man has passed away. It's just beyond bad taste. And I'm not quite sure how to react to it other than to say, really? You are the President of the United States and you are talking about a war hero, although he never admitted he was a war hero, in ways like this saying he never thanked me? Well, he was --

BLITZER: For the funeral.

BORGER: For the funeral. Well, he was in the grave, number one. And number two, this is what was expected. Maybe he did the airplane or the service or the lying in state or whatever. But he got applauded at the time, if you recall, Donald Trump that is, for doing the right thing. And now, he's saying, well, never mind, I never got thanked for it.

BLITZER: Just last week, David Chalian, the President Tweeted, there shouldn't even be a Mueller report. It's the greatest witch hunt, the greatest hoax in American history. And now, the President is now saying, you know what, the American public should see it. What has changed?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he said before -- I would be happy for folks to see it. I think that what remains to be seen is, what does that mean? We have to learn what is in this before, I think, we can rely on what Donald Trump really wants the American people to see or not.

Once we have a full sense of what's in it, what is being withheld from the American people and what is being shown, then I think we need to press the President on why not have everything released here? What is happening here is that Donald Trump doesn't know which side is the best side for him on this just yet.

It may be that if this report exonerates him and fully supports the notion that there's no collusion, then, yes, Donald Trump is going to be the loudest person out there saying, please, read every word of this that supports my conclusion. If that's not what Bob Mueller comes to, you can imagine that Donald Trump will dismiss it and say, it's not worth American people spending their time reading it.

BLITZER: Because he seems to be suggesting, David Swerdlick, that he has nothing to hide. Do you think he is sincere when he says that?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think the president clearly understands public perception. If there's one thing that the President does understand, it's that. So when he says, yes, sure, put it out there, he knows that saying anything else is going to make it look like he has something to hide. But this is a two-step, to David's point.

If the report clears him, then it clears him, great, he'll want that information out. If it doesn't completely clear him of suspicion, the next thing that he will say is, well, it's to the lawyers. It's to Attorney General Barr that we can't release all the information. It's not up to me. I wanted the public to see it.

BLITZER: Look at these numbers, Susan Hennessey. The American public clearly wants to see this report, should the Mueller report be made public. 80 percent of republicans say, yes. Eighty-eight percent of independents say, yes. 95 percent of democrats say, yes. Would it be appropriate for the new Attorney General Bill Barr to take American public opinion into consideration in deciding what to release?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I don't think he should take public opinion into consideration. But He does need to take the public interest into consideration. Barr is likely to sort of couch his decision about how much of this report to release in legal or even constitutional terms. But this is ultimately a discretionary balancing test between the need for confidentiality, the public interest. There is an overwhelming public interest here.


Now, ordinarily, we would be talking not about a Mueller report, but about a Barr report, that Attorney General report that's going to summarize that underlying information. I think in this case, anything less than the original Mueller report probably isn't going to cut it. There just isn't that level of trust.

One thing to keep in mind though is that the report might not be the final sort of word we hear from Bob Mueller. If Congress doesn't feel like it's gotten enough information, they are likely to call Mueller to testify. And if Mueller doesn't feel as if important information has gotten to the public, he might be be more inclined to be forthcoming and there is very little that prevents him from saying pretty much all he knows.

CHALIAN: Well, those numbers suggest should the democrats call Mueller to testify, the public is going to be behind them on wanting to hear from the Special Counsel.

BORGER: Well, about -- so there is this a unanimous vote in the House, if you recall, saying --

BLITZER: 420 to nothing.

BORGER: When does that happen? Saying we want to release this. And Trump Tweeted on Saturday, I told leadership to let all republicans vote for a transparency makes us look good and doesn't matter. Play along with the game, as if this is a game.

BLITZER: If he doesn't release the report, if the President says, you know what, executive privilege, we're not releasing this, how will that impact the upcoming presidential election given the American public's attitudes that we now see?

CHALIAN: Well, I think it will impact our immediate politics first, which is that, again, because of the political pressure that will be there for some sort of information, it will give democrats a strength in hand on Capitol Hill. In terms of the presidential election a year-and-a-half from now, I don't know that the decision of releasing information or not will play directly into that.

But it will be part of all of the information relating to this probe that has been the dominant thing, this cloud hanging over the first term of the Trump presidency, that is going to factor into the presidential election.

BLITZER: In this new CNN poll, there's been a significant decline, David, in the percentage of Americans who want to see the President impeached. Now, look at these numbers. Not only 36 percent of the American public wants to see the President impeached and removed from office, last September, 47 percent wanted to see the President impeach and removed from office. What's behind the decline?

SWERDLICK: So I think those numbers suggest that Speaker Pelosi is smart and knows the public that she's serving right now. They go along with those numbers that say the American public, including republicans, want to see what's in the report, but at the same time, without knowing what's in the report, without knowing if there's something that's definitively to the President's guilt in some way or some criminal activity that they don't want to proceed with impeachment proceedings.

And so this plays into the strategy the democrats have right now, full throttle on investigations and hearings, holding back on formal impeachment.

BLITZER: Is this a warning sign to House Democrats who want to begin impeachment hearings, proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee?

HENNESSEY: Well, it might be a warning to those more aggressive democrats and certainly nothing that Speaker Pelosi wasn't aware of. Look, it speaks to, as David said, the suggestion that the current record isn't enough to support impeachment. We'll see if more information comes out either in the Mueller report or in additional investigations.

With that said, these are still astounding numbers. Nearly 40 percent of the American public believe that the President should be removed from office. Maybe the President is keeping sort of a bear majority against impeachment. It's really hard to see those numbers as anything other than expressing profound satisfaction with his performance in office.

BORGER: But if you break that down, a lot of it is democratic-based politics at certain not republican with whom he has a, what 90 percent, 80 something -- 89 percent approval rating.

BLITZER: Yes. I want to get back to John McCain, the late Senator John McCain. And I'm going to play a clip of what the President just today said about Senator McCain.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What do you think of McCain? What do you think -- not my kind of guy. I have never liked him much, it hasn't been for me. McCain didn't get the job done. Then he went thumbs down, badly hurting the Republican Party, badly hurting our nation.

I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which, as president, I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn't get thank you. That's okay. We sent him on the way but I wasn't a fan of John McCain.


BLITZER: What's up with that?

CHALIAN: It's a complete obsession and it's one that doesn't come out with a good look for President Trump. The comparison of John McCain and his life of service to President Trump is one that does not work well politically for the President. He learned that at the time of Senator McCain's death last August.

Look at his poll numbers were happening in last August when the country was in a moment of understanding through the grief and -- around John McCain's death, a moment of understanding of what it was to come together politically, which the country did for a moment, in complete contrast to the Trump era. And he's continuing this contrast and it's not one that works for him.

BORGER: Well, it doesn't work for him, as Michael Cohen testified.


The President told him he didn't have bone spurs. And so you have somebody who served, was in five years a POW. And Donald Trump refuses to call him a hero. And you have the bone spur issue. How can he do that? I don't even understand it.

BLITZER: David, Senator Johnny Isakson, republican of Georgia, he condemned what the President is saying. Mitt Romney of Utah, he issued a very strong statement. But most of the republicans, they've been pretty much silent.

SWERDLICK: Right. You have a few of these republicans who want to be on record. Because, look, it's not just unpresidential, it's gross. No one brought up to think it's okay to dance on someone's grave the way the President did today. That being said, republicans can reap holes. They know that most republican voters are with President Trump. And most of them are scared to go crossways on him on an issue that he clearly feels that strongly about.

BORGER: How about veterans though, right?

CHALIAN: And just on that point, a lot of republicans -- now, John McCain was alive at that time, so I do think there's a difference. A lot of republicans in 2015 completely denounced his comments about John McCain not being a war hero and Donald Trump went on to win the Republican nomination.

So to your point about reading the polls and where the party is, I don't think that this is going to damage him with republicans. But, once again, the story of Donald Trump politically is, what does he do to expand? And this is something that does hurt him with independents. It's precisely the thing that drove them to the democrats in the 2018 midterms.

BLITZER: What about Senator Lindsey Graham's position on this?

CHALIAN: I find that actually one of the most befuddling parts of this story. Because Lindsey Graham's entire political identity is because of John McCain, in a large part. That's how the country got to know Lindsey Graham.

And Lindsey Graham proved himself to be the most loyal of friends to John McCain in some of John McCain's very dark moments. But that doesn't seem to impact Lindsey Graham's thinking about his relationship with Donald Trump.

Now, whether that is because he is up for reelection and he's just understanding where the politics is --

BORGER: You think?

CHALIAN: -- I think that has something to do with it. But it is astonishing to see John McCain's best friend -- yes, he'll put out and statement and brush back the President on this. It's just astonishing to watch him basically take this lying down.

BLITZER: And, Susan, when the President railed for minutes, several minutes, today in a speech Ohio at a tank factory, there was a lot of military personnel there, they manufacture U.S. Army tanks, and they were stunned by all accounts to hear the President, use this occasion, talking American manufacturing, tank production, the U.S. Defense Department, U.S. National Security, all of a sudden, waste a whole bunch of minutes just railing against John McCain.

HENNESSEY: Right. Well, certainly, they are shocking and disgraceful sort of comments to make. I do think that one of the things that's going to be on the table in 2020 is this question about what we want in a president that has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with leadership, a president who can stand up with grace and humility and actually lead the nation, the entire nation.

And so I do think that this is going to look very, very badly and reflect poorly on Donald Trump, especially whenever Americans are trying to make choice about what kind of leader they want in the future.

BORGER: And his personal characteristics, as we look at our polling, are his Achilles heel, and we know that. And he's not -- clearly, not able, not able and not willing to take any of that into consideration.

BLITZER: We've got more news we're following, guys. Don't go too far away.

There's a major announcement about the Boeing 737 Max and the issue that led to its global grounding.


[18:48:17] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following tonight. The FAA has just announced that Boeing has developed a software patch and pilot training program to address the issues that led to the global grounding of its 737 MAX planes.

And tonight, there's also new disturbing information about the Lion airplane that plunged into the Java Sea last October, the first of two deadly crashes involving the Boeing model.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us.

So, Oren, there was a reportedly close call involving that same Lion airplane the day before it crashed.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On that flight, according to Bloomberg, which spoke with two people familiar with the Indonesian investigation, there was an off duty pilot in the cockpit who saw the problems that the flight crew was having in terms of the indications and the warnings that were happening and the difficulty controlling the plane. It was that off duty pilot who hopped in to diagnose the problem and correct the problem.

That flight then continued without the autopilot which had been deactivated and landed safely. What's critical there is that it indicates a difficulty in diagnosing what the problem was and how to fix that problem. And that, of course, was crucial on the next flight.

"Reuters" is reporting according to three people who heard the cockpit voice recorder, which has not been made public, the cockpit voice recorder from that doomed flight indicating that the flight crew there, the pilot and the second in command, were struggling with the flight manual, trying to diagnose the problems they were having, the difficulty they were having controlling the plane, figuring out what was wrong and correcting that before the plane crashed.

That, of course, as we know didn't happen. And the plane crashed just a few minutes after takeoff. This is also crucial because it's the same system that experts say will be scrutinized carefully with the Ethiopian Airlines crash, from just a few days ago. Meanwhile, as all this is happening, Wolf, you pointed out, the FAA has said Boeing is developing new software and additional training.

[18:50:05] The FAA says that will receive very close scrutiny of its own, as Boeing tries and works to implement that.

BLITZER: Do we know, Oren, why that same Lion Air plane was allowed to fly just one day after such a very close call?

LIEBERMANN: It's difficult to get inside the heads of the operators of Lion Air, but we know from the preliminary investigation that they had the faulty indications from the air speed as well as the angle of the sensor, and the pilots after landing the flight the day before the crash told the engineers, the engineers flushed the system, cleaned the system, ground tested the system, and everything checked out. From their perspective, it was a problem on one flight that had been fixed.

What apparently they failed to realize was that this was a repetitive problem, that it happened on two earlier flights as well. Similar issues, and that perhaps is what led to the flight going up again on the day it crashed. Boeing is hoping, of course, they can get their planes back in the air as soon as possible, perhaps with the additional training and upgraded software, but Air Canada, for example, have said their 737 MAX series will stay grounded until July 1st.

Wolf, if other countries follow that lead, it will be a major blow to Boeing. BLITZER: Let's not forget, 346 people -- men, women, and children --

were killed in those two plane crashes.

Oren Liebermann reporting for us, thanks very much.

Just ahead, Beto O'Rourke campaigns in a key state. While Joe Biden locks down donors. We're live on the trail to the 2020 campaign.


[18:56:10] BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is revealing new details about his fund-raising haul.

CNN's Jessica Dean caught up with him in New Hampshire where she is right now with all of the latest on the race for the Democratic nomination.

Jessica, New Hampshire, of course, holds the first primary, the 2020 race for the White House.

What's the latest?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, it's a very important state for that very reason. And this is a place where retail politics matters, Wolf. And Beto O'Rourke making the most of his time here in New Hampshire. He's going to have his fourth stop here at the University of New Hampshire, this as he promises to visit all ten states on this trip.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How is everybody doing today?

DEAN (voice-over): On his first swing through New Hampshire as a presidential candidate --

O'ROURKE: That gives me some hope.

DEAN: Beto O'Rourke is touting his record $6.1 million fund-raising haul in his first 24 hours.

O'ROURKE: More than 128,000 unique contributions made in the first 24 hours from every state in the country, $47 was the average contribution.

DEAN: Still, O'Rourke is facing questions about his lack of policy specifics.

O'ROURKE: I can tell you that I have had, I think, upwards of 30 events in Iowa, in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in New Hampshire. As you have seen, I take questions from anyone. I make time to take questions from members of the press on any policy issue that anyone cares about.

DEAN: We asked him to outline his stance on immigration during a stop in Keene.

(on camera): What is Beto O'Rourke's immigration policy?

O'ROURKE: Let's free those Dreamers who have already contributed so much to our country's success from any fear of deportation. Let's acknowledge there are millions of our fellow Americans working some of the toughest jobs in the shadows, sometimes paid less than minimum age. Let's bring them out of the shadows which will demonstrably make us safer.

DEAN (voice-over): Meantime, Joe Biden continues to dance around a possible entry into the 2020 race, with people close to the former vice president telling CNN an announcement is a matter of when, not if. Biden has been working to shore up major endorsements and is making calls to donors ahead of an expected April announcement.

Another sign, according to "Politico", a Democratic ad maker had been spotted in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, outside the home Biden grew up in. This as some 2020 Democrats push for big changes, such as calling for the Electoral College to be abolished.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College.

DEAN: President Trump dismissing the idea, writing in a tweet, quote, I used to like the idea of the popular vote. But now realize the Electoral College is far better for the USA.

Several Democrats also saying they're open to expanding the Supreme Court.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to begin the debate on what it will take to make sure our Supreme Court is less political.

DEAN: Another idea opposed by the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only reason that they're doing that is they want to try to catch up. So if they can't catch up through the ballot box by winning an election, they want to try doing it in a different way. It won't happen. I guarantee it won't happen for six years.


DEAN: And of course, ten counties here in New Hampshire, and we have been to a number of them today.

And here's what's interesting. People are incredibly enthusiastic, Wolf, to hear from all of these Democrats candidates. They're turning out for Beto O'Rourke right now, but they're very interested in these ideas and what all of these candidates have to say. There is certainly an appetite for this.

People are very ready to vote in 2020 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Dean reporting for us. Thank you, Jessica.

And later tonight, please join us for a CNN presidential town hall with 2020 candidate, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Dana Bash moderates live from the CNN Center in Atlanta later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.