Return to Transcripts main page
White House is Confident About the Content of the Mueller Report; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) Was Interviewed Whether the Mueller Report is Going to be Public; James Comey weighing in on Robert Mueller Report; Former Vice President Joe Biden is Getting Plenty of Attention. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 21, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The news continues so does the waiting game here in Washington. Let's turn things over to Don Lemon, and CNN tonight.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Can you just feel the tension? The White House, Congress, all of us on pins and needles with the Mueller report expected to drop at any time now. The report that's been in the works for 674 days and counting. All the signs are there.
Mueller's team shrinking, down from 16 attorneys to 10. Staff members seen carrying out boxes. Prosecutors bringing their families in to visit the office. No sign of a grand jury in two weeks.
And as the White House braces for the report that's been a dark cloud over this administration for almost two years now, sources are telling CNN that team Trump is taking a, what me worry approach to this.
A source familiar with what's going on inside the White House saying there's growing optimism that the report will not accuse the president of committing any crimes, but that hasn't stopped the White House special counsel Emmitt Flood and his team from gaming out possible responses to Mueller, based on scenarios ranging from a report damaging to the president to one that clears him.
Another source admitting, quote, "We're tea leaf reading like everyone else." And let's not forget this word salad from the president just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion. I have no idea when it's going to be released. It's interesting that a man gets appointed by a deputy, he writes a report. You know, never figured that one out. Man gets appointed by a deputy. He writes a report.
I had the greatest electoral victory in the history of our country, tremendous success, tens of millions of voters, and now somebody's going to write a report who never got a vote. So, we'll see what the report says. Let's see if it's fair. I have no idea when it's going to be released.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But there is a lot we do know tonight. We know that Mueller has already brought criminal charges against 34 people and three companies, including half a dozen members of team Trump, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Roger Stone.
We know that five people have been sentenced to prison, including Manafort, and Cohen and Papadopoulos, plus Richard Pinedo and Alex Van Der Zwaan. We know that at least 16 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the campaign or transition.
But there are still plenty of questions about team Trump and Russia. Just listen to what happened when CBS's Norah O'Donnell asked them campaign chairman Paul Manafort about Russia. This was back in 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH O'DONNELL, CO-ANCHOR, CBS: So, to be clear, Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs?
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: If that's what he said -- that's what I said. That's obviously what the -- our position is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, that is about as awkward as it gets. But there's something else that we do know. We know that the president's strategy in all of this has been to call the investigation a witch hunt, tweeting more than 170 times and saying it out loud over and over and over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The witch hunt continues.
It's a total witch hunt. I've been saying it for a long time.
It's a witch hunt. That's all it is.
It's just a terrible witch hunt.
So far, this thing has been a total witch hunt, and it doesn't implicate me in any way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But in the face of all of that, there's this tonight from a New York Times op-ed by James Comey, the man whose firing led to Mueller's appointment on May 17th of 2017.
And here's a quote, it says, "I have no idea whether the special counsel will conclude that Mr. Trump knowingly conspired with the Russians in connection with the 2016 election or that he obstructed justice with the required corrupt intent. I also don't care. I care only that the work be done well and completely. If it is, justice will have prevailed and core American values been protected at a time when so much of our national leadership has abandoned its commitment to truth and the rule of law."
But this is far from the only investigation looming from this president, for this president I should say. Remember when President Trump stood next to Vladimir Putin and said he didn't see any reason Russia would interfere in our election? Taking the Russian president's word over his own intelligence chiefs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:04:59] TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now House Democrats attempting to investigate the president's contacts with Putin charge the White House is stone walling them. The White House today rejecting Congress's request for documents insisting presidential communications with foreign leaders are protected and confidential.
And House oversight chairman Elijah Cummings said today his committee has new information, new information alleging that Jared Kushner has been using WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders and alleging that Ivanka Trump may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act with her use of personal e-mails, personal e-mails. Seems to me I recall someone else complaining about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Lots to discuss now. Shimon Prokupecz is here, Laura Coates and Garrett Graff. Garrett is the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."
Good evening to all of you. I cannot believe that we're talking about e-mails after all of this. It is unbelievable. We'll get to that. Thank you for joining us.
Shimon, I'm going to start with you. I want to start with Mueller first. Like I said, he has been on the job for 674 days. He's expected to hand over his findings to the attorney general any moment now. So, walk us through what the next step and -- steps are and how this unfolds.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, so once this is all done and Mueller is ready to submit the report, he will notify the attorney general that they are done, that the report has been completed, and then the report will get delivered to the attorney general.
They will then let the public know there will be a -- there's a process in place where they're going to let the public know that this is -- this is done, and at the same time members of Congress will be notified that the report's been submitted and that Mueller's work is complete.
I assume in that process the White House will be notified. In the initial stages, whenever this is tomorrow or whenever this happens, we are not going to learn anything that's contained in this report.
At some point -- and the attorney general is likely to set a date, could be from 10 days from when the report is submitted -- he will say I will submit the -- my report to members of Congress, that is the dumbed down version, the informs information that he can openly discuss, make public from the Mueller report, which is going to contain lots of classified and other secret information, he's going to say, OK, well, in 10 days I will submit a report to members of Congress and then we go from there.
You know, it's going to be another waiting game, right? We're going to have the -- we have this initial waiting game to say hey, Mueller is done. The report's been submitted, and then we're going to have a second waiting game of members of Congress receiving whatever it is the attorney general decides he wants to let them see.
LEMON: So, this is the next phase of a new phase?
PROKUPECZ: That's right.
LEMON: We've been waiting for two years, and now we move o --
PROKUPECZ: That's right.
LEMON: -- to the new phase and all of this. Garrett, I want to look at the special counsel's mandate, right? Because, you know, it hasn't been clear to many people, or they try to misrepresent it.
Here's what it said, "any lengths and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump," but then it goes on to say and anything -- something like in anything that arises after that. Can we expect a clear answer to this?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not necessarily because one of the big challenges that Bob Mueller faces in this is the question of what does he do with information that doesn't rise to the level of a chargeable crime.
You know, Laura sort of understands this from the prosecutor's standpoint. You know, the prosecutor's standard is not quite sort of beyond a reasonable doubt, but it's effectively you need to be 85 percent sure that you can convict this person in federal court of the charges that you are bringing against them.
That's a high bar for a reason, and Bob Mueller presumably has found all sorts of information that might be shady. It might be suspicious, it might be sketchy, it might not be the type of thing that we want circling around American politics.
It might not be the type of thing we want a president's family to be engaged in, but isn't an identifiable federal felony that he feels that he can bring charges against.
[22:09:55] And so what does he do with that information in the report that he turns over, and what does that -- what does Bill Barr then do with that investigation in turning it over to Congress or making it public.
Because, remember, everyone here involved in this process is going to have looming over them the shadow of Jim Comey really screwing up the situation in the summer in the fall of 2016 when he sort of, went further than anyone really thinks he probably should have gone to talk about Hillary Clinton and all of the things that she did wrong but that weren't criminal.
LEMON: Yes, and it's interesting. If there are things that he did wrong and then they redact them, I guess, you know, that's justice for you. Laura, I want you to weigh in. You're the legal expert here, similar question. Are we going to have a clear answer?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not initially, no, we're not going to have any clarity. We're going to have a waiting game yet again. But the waiting game actually is good in the interest of justice because for the reasons Garrett laid out.
You absolutely have the Comey factor weighing in here. You do not want people to be tarred and feathered in the public square if there actually is no basis to prosecute them.
Having said that, however, there may also be a basis to prosecute someone but there also may be a DOJ policy that says that we're not going to put light on this issue and let the public know.
Specifically, I'm talking about the President of the United States. If he is in fact, implicated, remember one of the very important things that the attorney general will weigh is this notion of the guidance that's been issued internally in the Department of Justice not to indict a sitting president. If that is the case --
LEMON: Sitting president.
COATES: --it would be more than simply the Comey effect of trying to say somebody was -- did erroneous things but not yet criminal, they were highly careless, but it wasn't actually felonious, it may be that given the guidance you can't do anything about it at this point.
LEMON: But Laura, what about the question of whether there's a -- the president obstructed justice because Congress will have to hear Mueller's view on that?
COATES: Absolutely, and of course think about the two parallel tracks here, Don. You've got the criminal implications if he's implicated in an actual crime. You have the political considerations that don't have to follow and track the definitions that we have in the code of criminal law about what's a high crime and misdemeanor, for example.
So, on the impeachment side, if that was the course being pursued, is therefore an inquiry. But you're right about the notion of obstruction of justice.
Because remember the guidance, that's the important thing, the guidance that's been issued has not been set in stone, and certainly, the balancing test that would go in favor of figuring out whether that should actually be the case, whether or not to indict a sitting president would also have to include the notion of are we going to allow and would you allow somebody to evade justice as the head of the executive branch in their pursuit of trying to find out information? That's going to be a very crimpy (Ph).
But you know, I've been consistent about this, Don. Obstruction of justice while it has been the basis to at least try to bring down a former president, obstruction of justice is never the end game of a prudent prosecutor. It would be akin to saying rather than pursue the crime you were fleeing, I'm going to give you a speeding ticket along the way, and I'm going to end my inquiry there.
You were speeding from something. That's all I need to know. They are going to be -- and they should be over the last two years now -- looking at whatever thing you do not want them to see. And I think that's the crux of the Mueller probe related to his mandate.
LEMON: Will there be more indictments? Hold that thought right after the break.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: And we're back now. Shimon Prokupecz, Laura Coates, and Garrett Graff. So, the question I asked just before the break, Shimon, are we going to see or learn of more indictments?
PROKUPECZ: Not from the Mueller team. Garrett and I are going to disagree on this probably. But I don't see there being any more indictments coming from the Mueller team.
We've not seen the Mueller grand jury really in weeks, Don, weeks if not months, and also, we've not seen any activity that normally our folks who are at the courthouse and obviously staking out the Mueller team, when we see activity, when things are coming, we would have indications just by the activity. We would see people leaving and coming. So, I don't believe there's going to be anything else from the Mueller
team. I think some of what's going on here just quickly, is that this report is probably going through many different hands at the FBI intelligence community, and I think perhaps that could be where the holdup is now. They keep scrubbing it perhaps.
And the other thing I think to keep in mind is that this report, I think, most people on the Mueller team and at the Department of Justice do think that eventually it's all going to be made public, somehow, some way, whether it's through court battles, through Congress, this stuff is going to get out.
And they need to consider that because of whatever they put in there the public is going to eventually know, and there are certain things certainly as they have to deal with Russians and investigations of Russians and intelligence that they have to be sensitive, and I think that in part is what's holding a lot of this up.
LEMON: So, Garrett, two questions here, the first one if you can answer quickly. Do you disagree with what Shimon said? Do you think there will be more? We'll see more indictments?
GRAFF: I do. And I think Shimon might be right that there aren't new indictments, but I think there are too many loose ends at this point for Mueller not to have any further indictments at all, and that it's entirely possible that there are sealed indictments waiting -- waiting for some future moment to be unveiled.
LEMON: OK. So, the other question I have for you, Garrett, 87 percent of Americans say that they want a public report on Mueller's findings. Do you think they're going to be disappointed?
GRAFF: It's just -- it's too hard to know because we -- you know, Mueller has had lots of time to think through his strategy for what was going to be in this final report and how that's going to sort of what he's going to say to the Justice Department, but he doesn't necessarily have any control over what Bill Barr turns over to Congress.
And so, I think that there is a chance that Barr will try to bottle up some part of this. The White House might try to assert executive privilege. We might be settling into something that could take months to unfold before we really understand the totality of what Bob Mueller is reporting.
[22:19:56] But at the same time, I don't think Bob Mueller has put as you were saying earlier more than 600 days into this investigation and isn't going to leave confident that he's told the public everything that they need to know, that he's had all the time he needs to work out whatever the creative strategy is he needs to make what should be public, public.
LEMON: OK. Laura, stick around, I'm going to get Shimon back in but I'm going to ask you -- I'm going to have you follow up with the legal ramifications of this because I want to talk about the House oversight chairman, Elijah Cummings. He is saying that he has information alleging that Jared Kushner has been using WhatsApp to talk to foreign leaders and Ivanka Trump using private e-mails. Jared Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell didn't deny that Kushner shared classified information through the encrypted messaging service. He said that question is above his pay grade. So, Shimon, what is going on? What are you learning here?
PROKUPECZ: Look, this is a problem for Jared Kushner, and then, you know, the White House wonders why the intelligence community doesn't want Jared Kushner having a security clearance. It's because of activity like this.
The fact that he's having these conversations over WhatsApp with foreign leaders is extremely dangerous. You know, his attorney Abbe Lowell has tried to walk this back saying no, I don't think there was classified information. Then he also says well, it's something that you need to take up with the White House is what he told Elijah Cummings.
The problem here is there are secret ways to do this. You know, Jared Kushner should be going through secure channels, their phones, plenty of other ways for them to communicate. And it is a problem, specifically because, a, we don't know what's being discussed, and b, any conversations with foreign leaders could be susceptible to people intercepting them. You know, a lot of people think WhatsApp is safe.
LEMON: And Shimon, it's just shady and its hypocrisy because this is exactly what Trump railed against Hillary Clinton for during the 2016 campaign, all those e-mails, she had a private server in her house.
Laura, I got to get -- I got to get Laura in here. What does this mean legally if they're indeed doing this?
COATES: Let's not put the form over substance. It's not just the fact that he's doing it, it's not just the notion that you'd prefer him to do something else.
There's actually a thing called the Presidential Records Act that says that you are required if you have any of these personal information to, at the very least, to forward them to your actual official account so it can be part of the government record.
Now why is that important? Because you want to ensure there are not compromised communications, that there is some way to corroborate or substantiate accusations or claims that are made by foreign leaders or members of foreign communities, and you want to be able to have that substantiated.
It looks shady as you said, Don, to not actually do that because it seems much like what Kushner was accused of earlier, which is trying to create a back channel --
COATES: -- to evade scrutiny, and to evade the national security protocols. It's really important not just because you prefer it but also think about this, Jared Kushner, as Shimon alluded to, is somebody whose own security clearance was in question because they thought that he may be somebody susceptible to bribery or compromise in some form or fashion because of his ties to foreign relations issues or whatever it may be.
So now the notion that he is also having communications in light of those concerns and still has a very high security clearance to solve the Middle East peace crisis is of concern. It's hypocritical but also violates the law.
LEMON: I'm just wondering when, I don't know, the president is going to start saying lock him up, lock him up. I mean, I don't know, I mean, it seems like, I don't know.
Garrett, the White House is refusing to hand over information about the president's communications with Vladimir Putin arguing that these documents are protected and that they're confidential.
We know that after the 2017 meeting with Putin that the president kept aides in the dark, took his interpreter's notes. There's -- it's just a lot of questions about what happened here, and a lot of questions about transparency in this administration.
GRAFF: Absolutely, and to Laura's point, sort of one of the main reasons you engage all of these official mechanisms that surround a president, surround White House communications is to ensure that the U.S. government has a good understanding and can back you up when the foreign leaders, when the foreign powers, when foreign agents are asserting that certain things have happened, that certain deals have been made.
And again, we sort of keep coming back to with Vladimir Putin this incredibly strange behavior that you only see surrounding the president and Vladimir Putin and their one on ones out of which seems to come no U.S. policy.
You know, there aren't people in these meetings following up and coming out with to-do lists and follow-up communications and readouts and sort of all of the things that you would normally expect to see.
[22:24:57] And unless you're sort of expecting that, you know, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are getting together to talk about, you know, Manchester United and this year's football league, you know, it's just really weird that these two leaders are getting together and having these conversations for apparently no reason related to the U.S. government.
LEMON: Thank you all, fascinating conversation. Fasten your seat belts. Here we go again. With 87 percent of Americans saying that they want Mueller's report released. The House unanimously voting that it should be and even the president claiming he hopes it will be, made public. The question is will it be? I'm going to ask Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: We're waiting on the report, and as we wait for Mueller to file his report with the attorney general anytime now, one big question is, will the American public ever see it? Here's what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't the public have the right to see the Mueller report?
TRUMP: I don't mind. I mean, frankly I told the House if you want, let them see it. Let it come out. Let people see it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But will we really get to see it? Joining me now is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat who is a member of the judiciary committee. Congresswoman, thank you so much. We have a lot of ground to cover here, boy.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, (D) TEXAS: Thank you.
LEMON: Things are heating up. The president surprised a lot of people yesterday when he said that he wanted the Mueller report to be made public, and the American people, the American public expect that to happen?
[22:29:58] LEE: Well, why don't I surprise the American public and say that I absolutely agree with the President of the United States on this point, that it should be released.
And the American people think so as well, Don -- 80 plus percent of the American people want it to be released. And so my answer is absolutely, the document should be released.
And as you may know, when Mr. Mueller's finished, he is to notify the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee that the report is finished. And we hope to receive it soon thereafter.
LEMON: Well, the president has ranted, Congresswoman, about Mueller and his team since the beginning. Do you think he actually wants this report released?
JACKSON LEE: Well, I think the administration, over these past two years, has been an administration of smoke and mirrors. There have been incidences and actions and firings and obstruction of justice, corruption, and maybe even abuse of power that we would never have imagined in our lifetime. So I don't know whether the administration is accurately saying they want it released.
But this is a document that came about because the deputy attorney general felt that there was some form of obstruction of justice. And he determined because the attorney general recused himself, that a Special Counsel should be appointed. That Special Counsel was appointed to determine whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign, the Trump administration, and Russia, and what kind of interference in the 2016 election.
Since that time, we have seen layers and layers of documents and commentary by people in the Trump administration that really point to the possibility of Russian collusion and or Russian intrusion into the election. So I would make the argument that maybe the president is being a good citizen. But I would make the argument that it's imperative that the American people see this document, and I see no means or barriers to prevent it.
And the attorney general should review the document carefully and be very cautious of preventing it from being seen by the American people and the United States Congress.
LEMON: Well, I am glad you mentioned the attorney general. Because when the report is handed over and Mueller hands over that report, the spotlight is going to be on AG, the Attorney General Bill Barr, who testified in front of Congress that he wants to be as transparent as he can. Here's what he says, and then we'll get your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I am going to make as much information available as I can, consistent with the rules and regulations that are part of the Special Counsel regulations. I am in favor of as much transparency as there can be consistent with the rules and the law. I don't know what -- at the end of the day what will be releasable. I don't know what Bob Mueller is writing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So it seems like he's giving himself some wiggle room there. So if President Trump tries to claim executive privilege and block the release of this report, will Congress fight that?
JACKSON LEE: Absolutely. And I am glad you played that video, that tape. Attorney General Barr is a seasoned lawyer, but more importantly, this is his second go-round as attorney general of the United States of America. He is well aware of the context of the Special Counsel regulations. There's nothing in those regulations, to my knowledge, that bars the transmittal of the document to the American people and to the United States Congress.
Obviously, we know the trend or the standards that if there are innocent persons there that would be harmed possibly by their names remaining in the document, it's possible to redact. But we certainly don't want to give permission to redact the whole entire document, and his comments about we don't know what's going to be in it.
He's absolutely right. Mueller has kept this very close to the chest, rightly so. I applaud him for it. I applaud him for the work. Now, if his work is finished, the American people, who are the beneficiaries of the process of the rule of law, absolutely need to be able to see this document. And I would make the argument that Congress would be appropriate in its effort to secure it.
Hopefully, it will be a collegiate way of transfer of the information, the document to Congress as an independent branch of government. But otherwise, there may be a subpoena or other methods to secure that document. We have to be the people's house in the House of Representatives, in particular. And I would make the argument that we have every right and should use every point to get this document for the American people.
LEMON: So before I let you go, Congresswoman, I want to ask you about this massive chemical fire. It is in Deer Park, Texas, just outside of Houston. Houston is where you are right now. There was a shelter in place order earlier this morning. That's since been lifted. What can you tell us about this situation? What do you know?
[22:35:03] JACKSON LEE: Well, the nation watched as this billowing black smoke literally took over, not only the city of Deer Park, but many areas surrounding that. What I can tell you is that I am very proud of the local officials, county, city, the various cities, first responders who acted very quickly. But what I can also tell you are that we have great concerns of the aftermath, the toxicity that may be in the air, may be in the water.
There are federal agencies here on the ground that is assisting local and state authorities. And I think, Don, we have a lot of work to do with how these chemicals are handled, what actually happened in this particular company, and whether or not it will happen again. We note that there have been some clean water violations with this company that have not been remedied.
So the good news is there was no loss of life. But this is going to probably include continued federal investigation, and certainly the local leaders here want to have answers. And they will be investigating as well. And what we want to do what is best for the people and provide a safe and -- safe quality of life, safe air, and safe water for the surrounding communities. And we're going to continue to work on that.
LEMON: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you for your time.
JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having me. Have a good night.
LEMON: You as well. James Comey coming out with an op-ed telling the world what he wants from Robert Mueller's report. We're going to tell you what he says. That's next.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The former FBI Director, James Comey, weighing in today on Robert Mueller's pending report, saying that whatever the investigations conclusions, what he cares about is that it's been done well and completely to demonstrate that the U.S. justice system works. Let's discuss now. Matthew Axelrod is here, who was a Justice Department senior official in the Obama administration. Good to have you on, Mr. Axelrod.
So let's talk about James Comey's op-ed this afternoon in The New York Times. It is entitled -- here's what the -- what he says -- it's entitled What I Want from the Mueller Report. And here's what it says he wants to happen. Even though I believe Mr. Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States, I am not rooting for Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that he is a criminal.
I am also not rooting for Mr. Mueller to clear the president. I am not rooting for anything at all except at that the Special Counsel be permitted to finish his work, charge whatever cases warrant charging, and report on his work. So from what we understand, it looks like the Special Counsel has finished that work. But that's just one part that's over, right?
MATTHEW AXELROD, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SENIOR OFFICIAL: Yeah. That's exactly right. There are a number of other inquiries at the Department of Justice that will continue even when the Special Counsel finishes his work. And then also once his work is completed, things will switch to another forum, namely the Congressional Oversight Committees, who are just beginning their work of oversight and of investigating what, happened here.
So even though Special Counsel Mueller's work is coming to a close, the investigative process is going to continue on.
LEMON: Well, you worked with the Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. How do you think now Attorney General Barr will handle the release of this report?
AXELROD: Yeah. So I think he has a difficult strategic decision to make. There are always institutional clashes between the legislative branch of Congress and the executive branch in the form of the Department of Justice over oversight requests, because Congress believes it has a legitimate need to conduct oversight.
And the Department of Justice believes it has a legitimate institutional need to keep certain law enforcement information confidential. You played the clip earlier of Attorney General Barr during his confirmation hearing going through the Special Counsel regulations. And he's right as to what they say. They say that the Special Counsel's report will be delivered to him and just to him, and that then he will provide a separate notification to Congress.
So under the Special Counsel regulations, he is not obligated to turn over the Mueller report to Congress. But look, those are executive branch regulations. That wasn't a law passed by Congress. And Congress isn't going to agree with that outcome, as you just heard the congresswoman say. So if you're Attorney General Barr, and you know that this is going to be a long, drawn out battle for the -- not just the Mueller report but likely underlying investigative materials, you have a strategic decision.
Do you provide that information early and claim you're being fully transparent or do you fight? And if you fight, you risk the chance that you are going to be accused by the Democrats on the Hill of covering things up and of stonewalling. And so there are a lot of, I think, difficult strategic decisions to make about sort of both institutional interests and sort of what the political fallout will be. LEMON: So I have got to ask you. The president aired some of his
grievances about Robert Mueller at the White House yesterday. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that he's conflicted. And I know that his best friend is Comey, who's a bad cop. I know that he put 13 highly-conflicted and, you know, very angry -- I call them angry Democrats in. So, you know, so what it -- now let's see whether or not it's legit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:45:00] LEMON: So he says that Mueller is conflicted and questioning whether or not the report is legitimate. It's the same thing that he has been doing, has been saying for the months now. Mueller was appointed by the acting AG. No matter how many votes he got, is this president missing the whole point here that no one is above the law?
AXELROD: Yeah. I got to say that what the president said yesterday, unfortunately, is in keeping with attacks that have been lodged against the Special Counsel in this investigation from close to the beginning of it. And they are unfortunate and a sharp break with past practice in both Republican and Democratic administrations of senior level White House officials, including the president himself, respecting the work of the FBI and the Justice Department.
And this is not without consequence. Attacks on the Special Counsel and his team are attacks on the notion, as you said, that no one is above the law. They're attacks on the rule of law. And that's -- it's an interesting strategy for someone who continues to assert that he did nothing wrong. You would expect someone who is confident that they will be vindicated would want the investigators and the prosecutors to be seen as on the level legitimate.
But that's not the approach this White House has taken. And I will say just to add one thing. You know, I had the privilege of working a little bit with Robert Mueller when I was at the Justice Department. And he's an icon to federal law enforcement. He is exactly the type of person you want doing this, because he does things the right way. He does them with integrity.
And he does them on the level. If there are things, charges to bring, he'll bring them. If there aren't charges to bring, he won't bring them. And that goes for the members of his team as well.
LEMON: Matt Axelrod, thank you for your time.
AXELROD: Thank you.
LEMON: The field of Democratic presidential candidates already pretty crowded, but there are a lot of rumblings, a lot of rumblings about what Joe Biden is going to do. We have some word from his camp tonight, so stay tuned. We'll be right back. [22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So more than a dozen Democrats are already vying to replace President Trump, but former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn't even made it official, is getting plenty of attention tonight, including questions about a potential running mate. Let's discuss with former Florida governor nominee, Andrew Gillum, a former president candidate and DNC Chair Howard Dean. Lengthy resumes and titles here, gentlemen, good evening, so good to have you on.
Mayor, I am going to start with you. Joe Biden has yet to announce that he will run. CNN is reporting that he may not announce until late April. What's he waiting for? Why's he taking so long?
ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean the truth is the vice president there probably isn't any person in the United States, maybe not even in the world, who doesn't know who he is. He gets the luxury of a long record, a long resume, and friends all across the country that he has the opportunity to call on. And my guess is the ability to pretty quickly assemble a team should he decide to run for president.
So I think the vice president probably assumes he's got time on his hands. I would say -- I do think people are pretty eager to know one way or another. It's my hope that he'll make a decision. And if it is to run this race for president that he get in, because he may need some time to make sure that he can work through all of the issues that maybe raised over the course of this race.
LEMON: OK. So I want to bring in Governor Dean now. Biden is reportedly choosing his running mate early, Governor. Would he have to do that for maximum impact if he announces that?
HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I -- it's something we took a close look at when I was running. We actually interviewed a candidate. And I didn't do it in the end because I was afraid it might be a brokered convention, and I would have to throw -- make a deal with somebody. I didn't want to have a candidate running with me the whole time and then throw him over the side. So -- but it would be very unconventional.
I actually think it would be good for Biden to do it. Our party is young. They're of color, and they're female. And Joe is older, and he's not the only older candidate. But I think we cannot win with two white guys at the top of the ticket. And I can't think of anything to energize the ticket more than having somebody who looks like the Democratic Party running with him.
And I think doing it early would be a stroke of great genius on his part. But it's up to (Inaudible) -- I am going to stay neutral in this race because I am running the data projects, but that would be something that I would seriously consider doing if I were Joe.
LEMON: OK. So let me ask -- I want both of you to answer this, so Governor, you first. So here's what people are saying. This is -- this is the word on the street. Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, if that ticket happens, it's a done deal. What do you say to that, Governor?
DEAN: Nothing is ever a done deal in politics. But it would be pretty hard to refute that. Stacey is somebody who many of us believe was -- should be -- have been the governor (Inaudible) that was going on in the voting booth (Inaudible) stuff like that in Georgia. She's unbelievably smart. She hit the State of the Union rebuttal out of the park. And so, you know, she would be formidable and she's obviously incredibly well qualified.
[22:55:02] But I am sure there are other people that Joe could pick. And he may not do it at all, because it's really an unconventional thing to do. But I think it's going to really stir up the race if he does it.
LEMON: Sp should it -- Mayor Gillum, should it be a Biden-Gillum ticket?
GILLUM: Come on. No, no, listen. I am not sure what's happening here with regard to this vice presidential conversation at this point. First of all, to the governor's point, if we want to make sure that our nominees reflect the diversity of the party, then Stacey Abrams deserves to be in the conversation as a potential contender for president of the United States, not vice president, but as a contender for the Democratic nomination for president.
But the truth is, is we are a long way off here. We're going to have a vigorous primary. I don't think anybody needs to short-circuit that process. I think you get in there. I think you get measured on your merit. Put forth your agenda, what you believe. And I don't think the vice president necessarily needs the cover of anyone. I think he can stand on his own. And I believe he deserves to be evaluated off of his beliefs and his position.
LEMON: OK. Mayor, before I let you go, because I want to talk to you about launching this voter registration drive in Florida that you launched, which the state intended of denying Trump a second term. You say the road to the White House runs through Florida. Would Florida be a --
GILLUM: Well, Florida obviously by itself won't be enough. But listen, Florida's got 49 electoral votes. I know that there are Democrats talking about a pathway to the White House that doesn't include our state. But if you want to deny a reelection of Donald Trump, then you want the state of Florida. And I have committed to working with our patterns to register and reengage a million voters with the expressed intention of denying Trump a reelection to the White House.
But importantly, also building important infrastructure in the state, that would help to turn the state of Florida blue for the long haul.
LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, gentlemen, I wish we had more time but we have so much news tonight. So please come back, and we'll discuss this and other issues. Thank you so much. GILLUM: All right.
LEMON: I want to remind you that next week I am going to be hosting a town hall with Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Cory Booker. That's Wednesday, March 27th, right here on CNN at 10:00 p.m. eastern. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.