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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Special Counsel Mueller Finishes Russia Probe, Delivers His Report to the Attorney General; Rep. David Cicilline (D) Rhode Island is Interviewed About the Mueller Report; DOJ Official: No Additional Indictments Coming From Mueller; DOJ Officials: Lawmakers Expected To Receive "Principal Conclusions" This Weekend, That Will Then Made Public; Special Counsel Mueller Finishes Russia Probe, Delivers His Report To The Attorney General. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 22, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, certainly a historic day here in Washington. Special counsel Robert Mueller has turned in his report. Congress could be notified of the principle conclusions as early as tomorrow, but we've already learned a big one.
A senior Justice Department telling CNN's Laura Jarrett that no additional indictments will be coming from Robert Mueller. The investigation from Mueller is over. No more indictments, which means no indictments at all based on collusion or conspiracy or obstruction of justice -- certainly good news for the president or anyone around him who's not already been indicted.
So, after 675 days and charges against 34 people, including the president's campaign chairman and national security adviser, no new charges -- at least not from the Mueller team, which answers one big question but by no means all the big questions. For instance, how much factual detail if any does the special counsel's investigation contain beyond simply explaining his decisions to indict or not to indict? Does this speak at all to criminal culpability not withstanding to the president's factual claim, the refrain of no collusion? To what length, if at all, does the report go to establishing a narrative and what if anything, does it say about other cases in other federal jurisdictions as well as any counterintelligence investigations now under way?
Until tonight, Robert Mueller's work was kind of a riddle wrapped a mystery inside of an enigma. Now, we can finally start unwrapping it.
CNN's Pamela Brown has broken so much news in all this starts off with us.
So, a lot more information in this letter, and what's the latest that you're hearing?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, the bottom line, look, the investigation is over. That is huge chapter closed, but now we're embarking on a brand new phase-in all of this, and that is what will Bill Barr turn over to Congress. And he released this letter today to members of the Judiciary Committees, Anderson, and he made a lot of news in this letter. He said that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, never asked for anything through the course of this investigation that includes subpoenas or interviews with people that was turned down by the Justice Department. Bill Barr was required to tell Congress whether there were any requests deny, and we're learning today that nothing was denied.
Also, the attorney general is making news today, saying that as early as this weekend, he could provide members of Congress with principle conclusions from Robert Mueller. And he said he's going to consult with Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein to figure out if there's any other information beyond those conclusions that he can share with the public.
But no doubt about it, Anderson, White House officials I've been speaking with, those close to the White House say they are viewing this as a win because for a couple of reasons. First of all, there aren't anymore indictments. And they say, look, through the course of this nearly two year investigation, there hasn't been any charges related to coordination, collusion. Yes, defendants in the investigation, six Trump associates charged, but nothing relating to collusion.
And they say, look, the president never had to sit down with Robert Mueller for an interview. Yes, he answered written questions, but he never had to sit down, and now, we're learning today that there was never a subpoena, that Robert Mueller did not want to subpoena. So, all in all talking to those close to the White House, they view it as a win.
But at the same time, my sources tell me, Anderson, that White House officials have also been preparing for a subpoena fight. They do want to keep this report under wraps. They do not want a lot of this to be made public because their concern is there could be -- while, you know, some conduct derogatory or concerning and could make the president look bad. They simply don't know what's in this report.
COOPER: And we don't know at this hour is what Barr's the principal points that he's going to tell Congress about how extensive his summary of the Mueller report is going to be, because we're already hearing from Democrats in Congress saying they need to release the entire report.
BROWN: Yes, that's right. They're saying, look, we don't just want the report, what Mueller handed in today but look at the underlying documents. It's true that while one person could look at the underlying documents and reached one conclusion, another conclusion could be reached by someone else by looking at those same documents.
So, they're making clear, we want to see everything. However, Barr made clear in his letter today he's just going to provide as early as this weekend the principle conclusions. What does that mean? Well, we know Robert Mueller's mandate was to link at links or coordination between members of the Trump campaign or associates and the Russian government.
So, will we find out very soon whether that's been answer, whether or not concluded they're wise or not, or whether he couldn't answer it through the course of his investigation. That's also a possibility.
COOPER: Right because the question of something is indictable or not, there's also the question whether it's inappropriate or not, but it doesn't rise to the level, and also the belief that the president not indicting a sitting president.
BROWN: That is key. And Bill Barr was not asked specifically during his confirmation hearing, what he would do with potentially impeachable information? So that is still this open question.
[20:05:02] What if in that report that was handed over to him, there is conduct that could be concerning, that could be considered of interest or impeachable information that Congress would want to see? What do you do with that information?
Because DOJ policy as he says, you don't provide public information about uncharged individuals. But what do you do in this situation? We don't know how he's going to handle that.
COOPER: Do we know -- has Barr communicated with the president already directly? I mean, does the president know what's exactly --
BROWN: So the White House says -- this is what's interesting, the White House says it doesn't know what's in the report. But my sources tell me that the White House does expect to have an opportunity to exert executive privilege with whatever Barr hands to Congress.
Now, we don't know what Barr is going to give to Congress, even if it has material that has to do with executive privilege. We just have no clue. But you're already seeing Democrats, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi say we don't want the White House and the president to have a sneak preview before it goes to Congress.
So this is like the first big test for Bill Barr. What is he going to do? Is he going to involve the White House or not beforehand?
COOPER: Pam, stick around.
Before word came down the report had been handed off to the Department of Justice, President Trump had already left for a weekend at Mar-a- Lago. The latest reporting from there that he's surrounded by a larger group of staffers than unusual.
Jim Acosta is at the White House with the reaction coming from the administration.
So what is the latest? What you have been hearing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I will say really to echo what Pam was just saying a few moments ago that they are celebrating quietly I think, tonight, would be the way to describe it, Anderson. They are responding to this news there are no new indictments in this Mueller report, you know, with a fair amount of glee.
I talked to a Trump campaign advisor earlier this evening who said this was a great day for America and we won. That's how they feel right now. Now, of course, it is going to be, you know, very interesting to see what is in the full Mueller report or what these conclusions are that are released to Congress. And if that gets released to the general public, you know, it has been described as a comprehensive report.
So, as Pam was saying, there's something in between no new indictments and what's in this comprehensive report. There could be information in there that may well be negative information for the president, may not put him in his campaign in a very positive light. So they're going to have to deal with the fall out of that.
But at this point, it's not exactly clear what the steps are. I talked to a White House official earlier this evening in terms of how this is all going to play out. What's the review process like over at the White House, and that is sort of being worked out as we speak.
As for the president, he seems to be laying low for this evening. There are no plans at this point for him to come out and speak publicly about it. The last thing that we heard is that he was having dinner with his family, but he has been seeing -- we've been seeing pictures so far of the president down at Mar-a-Lago meeting with the White House Attorney Emmet Flood and so on.
So they're starting to assess and get their arms around what has been released in this Mueller report. And I think in the coming days, we're going to get a very clear sense from Mueller and his team as to how exactly they proceed from here. As Pam was saying, it could be an extensive legal fight to come, not to mention what you were just saying a few moments ago, we still don't know the conclusion of what's happening in the southern district of New York. There's still a lot to be seen in that venue as well.
COOPER: And, Jim, the way this has rolled out it certainly allows the president to define how many people see this report. Obviously, you know, we've heard the constant refrain of no collusion. That's something he very well now can with greater justification say, look, no indictments, no new indictments on collusion. There is no collusion, and before any actual details are actually revealed to the American public.
ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. And keep in mind, the president in the last few days has been saying he's in favor of transparency. So, you know, from time to time there's video of what the president has to say coming back to haunt him. He's been saying and he mentioned this the other day he told Republican leaders up on Capitol Hill that he wants to see the report released.
Now, at the same time, he's also been saying we're going to let the Attorney General William Barr take care of this. And that is something that we saw in Sarah Sander's statement this evening. And that goes to what Pam was saying a few moments ago, that there is a sense inside the White House that perhaps they might want to keep some of these cards close to the vest and not release the whole thing to the public. The best battle is obviously going to be Democrats saying we want the
full release of this report, and the White House will have to make it very clear what they want released to the public and, you know, where are the battle lines drawn at this point. But the president as he's been saying, yes, no collusion, witch hunt and so on. And in the last few days, he's been talking about and almost promising transparency to the American people.
So I think if he does not follow through on that, you're going to hear a lot of people, Democrats, and perhaps even some Republicans, saying what is the White House hiding?
[20:10:08] Why won't they release the whole report? And my sense, Anderson, that's something that the White House and the president's team is going to have to deal with. Whether they're happy or not tonight, that is looming question for them, certainly, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
The House Judiciary Committee was the first to be informed that the report was done.
Congressman David Cicilline sits on that committee and he joins me now.
Congressman, were you first of all surprised to find out the report's conclusions could be delivered to Congress as soon as this weekend?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, I mean, I think there have been a number of indications that the special counsel was completing his work and finishing his report. I think everyone was expecting for it to happen fairly soon and the notification came today at 5:00.
COOPER: Do you have full confidence that Attorney General Barr will in fact provide as much information as he can within the justice department guidelines, which is essentially what he testified to?
CICILLINE: No, I'm very concerned about this. It's important to remember that this investigation began because of evidence that a foreign adversary of the United States attacked our democracy. This is important to every single person in this country to find out what happened, be sure people are held accountable and we know all of the facts. And so, I think it's important Mr. Barr review this report quickly, that he'd make it available in its entirety to the American people, obviously taking what they have to in order to protect sources and methods and classified material.
But this report belongs to the American people. It was done on their behalf. They have a right to see it its contents as do members of Congress that we can do our work. This will inform some of our oversight work, but this is essential. What I'm very concerned about is that the attorney general is going to provide some sort of summary what he considers principle conclusions here.
We needs to hear from Mr. Mueller, and I think the Judiciary Committee ought to have him come before the committee so he can walk the American people through his report, through his findings, through the evidence he's collected so they can make judgments about the conclusions he's come to and really learn the facts about what happened.
This is about improving the integrity of our democracy. We're going to fight as hard as we can to make sure this report is made fully public.
COOPER: Should the president, the White House be able to look -- if they're going to try to release the entire report, should the president and White House be allowed to see it ahead of time to look at any issues of executive privilege?
CICILLINE: No, I don't think it makes sense at all to allow one of subjects of this investigation to have a sort of sneak preview and decide what the American people get to see. This idea that you're going to invoke executive privilege after in fact people have already shared information and testified or been interviewed seems to me a totally specious claim. It'll be very difficult at this stage to assert executive privilege when that information has already been shared with the special counsel's office.
So I don't think there ought to be an ability to sensor the report or limit the public's information, and having a sneak preview I think would be completely inappropriate. I know Mr. Barr's reviewing the report now. I hope he'll move quickly to make it public so the American people can have confidence not only in the special counsel's -- the process of the special counsel, but in how this conclusion and report is being handled and that they in fact see all that Mr. Mueller concluded so they can make their own judgments.
COOPER: So when the president has continually said no collusion, if tomorrow he comes out and says, look there's no new indictments based on collusion, I've said this all along, there was no collusion, is he right? I mean, the fact there are no indictments about collusion, has the president been right on this?
CICILLINE: I think, you know, we have to see the contents of the report. But remember one thing, whatever conduct Mr. Mueller found with respect to the president, even if it rises to a level of criminality, there's already a Department of Justice memorandum which I disagree with that claims a sitting president cannot be indicted.
So, while it's not fair to speculate what might be in that report, it is conceivable that Mr. Mueller made conclusions about the conduct of the president of the United States that rose to the level of criminal activity, but in honoring the memorandum of the Department of Justice did not elect to proceed with an indictment.
That's important information both Congress and the American people have a right to know. So I think it's a little too early to speculate what the conclusions are. It certainly is the end of Mr. Mueller's investigation, not the end of the investigation in its entirety. There are obviously other matters being investigated in the Southern District and at the Department of Justice. But the important thing is the American people have a right to know
what the special counsel found. How it made the judgments, what evidence it considered. And the only other time the special counsel regulation has been invoked was in the Branch Davidians incident in Waco, Texas. In that incident, the special counsel's report was released in its entirety.
There's surely as much as a public interest in this moment as there was in the Branch Davidian case, and that's the only other example we have because the attorney general needs to release the full report.
[20:15:06] COOPER: Congressman, if you will stay with us. I want to bring in our team here because I know some of them have questions for you.
Shan Wu is here, Carrie Cordero, Pamela Brown, Gloria Borger, Shimon Prokupecz, Jeffrey Tobin.
As I said I know a number of people have questions for the congressman.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Congressman, a lot of Democrats are talking about underlying documents and trying to get these underlying documents from Mueller. But isn't a lot of it grand jury testimony, which, you know, can't be revealed? Some of it's going to be subject to for example executive privilege. Some percentage of it is classified.
So how much do you really think cruel be able to finally get in terms of the evidence that Mueller was looking at?
CICILLINE: Well, I think it's critical that we get it, and I do think we'll have access to the vast majority of it. Even with respect to grand jury proceedings, there are instances in which the court can authorize the release if it's important to advance a critical interest. So there is sort of a blanket rule.
BORGER: So you go to court.
CICILLINE: That's right.
BORGER: Oh, absolutely, look, we have a responsibility to conduct oversight in a number of areas we've identified -- corruption, obstruction of justice, abuse of power. This will inform the work that the Judiciary Committee must do. And we have a responsibility to do that not blindly but with all the relevant information necessary to make informed judgments.
And we will use all the procedures we have to -- litigation, subpoena, bring witnesses before the committee, because ware going to get to the bottom of all of these things and the American people are relying on us and expecting us to do it. COOPER: Jeff Toobin, you have thoughts on what the judiciary
committee does next.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's important to point out how much news there was in this letter that Attorney General Barr sent today.
First of all, you have the fact that there were no conflicts between the Mueller team and Rod Rosenstein, that Rod Rosenstein never said don't indict this person, don't issue that subpoena, don't travel to this location. So I think, you know, that shows that the Mueller investigation proceeded as was wanted, as Mueller wanted to go.
The other thing is, you know, I think we need to be specific about some of the good news in here for people around the president. Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Jerome Corsi, the conservative writer, all of whom people have suspected of criminal wrongdoing, they are not going to be indicted. That is unambiguously good news.
I think on the president, it's a little more complicated. You know, the idea that Robert Mueller did not try to indict the president I don't think is especially good news for the president because he couldn't indict the president.
COOPER: Yes, that's what the congressman also was pointing out --
TOOBIN: If I could just ask the congressman a question. You know, what about FBI 302s? That's the core of an investigation. You know, the notes of the interviews by the FBI agents, it's not grand jury material.
Is that something you think you could get relatively easily?
CICILLINE: Absolutely. And as you know those are very revealing. They can provide substantial information to the Judiciary Committee about both the judgments made pie the special counsel but really in informing the work we are required to do in our own investigation.
So I think there are a number of documents like that that will be easy to collect. And again, I think the chairman of our committee has made it very clear that we intend to use the tools that we have at our disposal in terms of bringing witnesses before the committee, issuing subpoenas and litigating where necessary to make sure we get the information and documents that are necessary to do our oversight work.
COOPER: Congressman, a couple more questions? Shimon?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I just want to know, do you plan to call Robert Mueller before your committee? There's been a lot of questions whether he would testify, whether he'd need to testify, but is there any plan in place to potentially call him to come and answer some questions?
CICILLINE: Well, as you know that decision will be ultimately by the chairman of the committee. I certainly will argue vociferously that we should do that. I think it would be very valuable to the American people to have Mr.
Mueller come before the Judiciary Committee in public, and walk the country through the report, walk the country through the findings he made, the evidence he collected, the conclusions he came to.
This is about safeguarding our democracy, about understanding an attack by a foreign adversary. We invested a lot into this investigation, resources of the people of this country, and I think we owe it to them that they fully understand what this report concludes and what the conclusion of the special counsel were.
I think it would be very helpful to have Mr. Mueller come before the committee and walk through paragraph by paragraph and explain it to the American people.
COOPER: Yes, I know Pamela Brown has one more question for you.
[20:20:00] BROWN: Yes, first of all, just to clarify. So, you said you want to use any tools at your disposal. Does that mean you will issue a subpoena for it full report if the attorney general does not provide that to Congress? And if the full report, if you do see it, and the full report exonerates President Trump, will the committee and will Democrats in particular move on?
CICILLINE: Oh, absolutely. Look, the chairman of the committee Mr. Nadler has already said if the full report is not provided to the committee, that we will issue a subpoena to obtain the report. So I don't think there's any question that Democrats on the committee would support such a move.
And, look, if the report exonerates the president, I think everyone will accept that. It will not, of course, eliminate our responsibility to continue to do oversight on a whole range of corruption and abuse of power and obstruction of justice issues. But it will certainly conclude the narrower subject of the Mueller investigation.
And it's important that whatever the conclusion of that report is, that we know it, the American people see it and we make judgments based upon it. So, yes, I think Mr. Nadler has made it clear we're going to get it. And we will accept the conclusions and recommendations of the special counsel, but it needs to be share would the American people.
COOPER: Shan Wu, one question and we'll let you go, Congressman.
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Congressman, you talk about having Mueller walk through the report for the country. I'm curious, do you think Congress is also entitled to ask him about his thoughts and impressions? What was his thinking for example on strategic decisions, why didn't you compel the president to come in person for an interview?
CICILLINE: Absolutely. I think the benefit of having Mr. Mueller before the committee not only to walk through the report and explain his judgments and the considerations he took into account, but also to be able to ask questions about the conduct of the investigation. I think it's completely appropriate. I think it would be helpful to the American people. It will provide additional credibility to the work that he did.
So, yes, I think both the contents of the report, the decisions and judgments he made would all be areas that Mr. Mueller could be questioned about and useful and important to the American people.
COOPER: Congressman David Cicilline, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
CICILLINE: My pleasure.
COOPER: I want to continue this conversation. Carrie, for you, what are the biggest questions still unanswered?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, the one big question is on the issue of obstruction. So we seem to think that across the investigation there was an investigation into whether or not the president obstructed justice. That is something if the special counsel has written a prosecutive memo that he would have then said, here's what we investigated because of the legal opinion, prevailing legal opinion of the Justice Department, we did not indict on it. But here's all the facts supporting that obstruction, and that's something that would have to be --
CORDERO: I think the obstruction piece is one of the big unanswered parts we haven't seen in any of the indictments that the special counsel --
COOPER: Just the fact a justice department official has said to our Laura Jarrett I think it was, that there's no more indictments, that doesn't mean that there's not damaging information or even potentially indictable offenses in the report but not indictable because he's a president?
CORDERO: Right, well, I think there's two pieces to that. So if Laura Jarrett's reporting is there's not going to be anymore indictments by the special counsel's office, that leaves two open opportunities. One is there's a factual scenario that would lay out an investigation against the president. But that would have to be referred to impeachment if they follow DOJ policy which it looks like they will.
The second piece is what are the other pending potential prosecutions that have been farmed out to the districts, Eastern District of Virginia, in particular Southern District of New York, D.C., which would be on all sorts of different things, could be on -- campaign finance violations, foreign money coming into the campaign, could be on other referrals that were made for lying to Congress. So, I think there are -- COOPER: And that wouldn't be in the report itself, what they farmed
out, would it?
CORDERO: It may or may not. I think that's one question we can't answer yet. I expect and I think the attorney general's memo today confirms that this report is going to be prosecutive memo. Meaning, it's going to be a description of what charges were looked at and could be included and what they investigated but did not rise to the level of prosecutable conduct. That is also an area that I think potentially is going to be the factual gray area that Congress is going to dive into.
Were there facts that were developed in the course of the investigation that indicated communications with Russian surrogates or indicated something around the conspiracy that did not rise to the level of chargeable conduct? And that's an area I think Congress is going to be interested in and why they're probably going to call the attorney general and/or special counsel Mueller.
WU: Just to follow up on the indictments issue I think if the president and his team are sitting around having drinks tonight celebrating, no more indictments, meaning his family is clear, I think that's a bit premature, because the spin-offs (ph) have been handed off, the Southern District could easily bring charges against his family members for Trump-related issues.
So I think we've got to read these things in a narrowly if there's no more indictments for the special counsel --
COOPER: You say they easily could if they found wrongdoing. Not saying that they have found wrongdoing?
WU: Right, and that would necessarily be in the report. I mean, a report may talk about conduct that's been handed off. I'm just saying that these other entities may have still some other work --
TOOBIN: I really disagree with that.
COOPER: OK, Jeff, go ahead.
TOOBIN: The Mueller investigation has been going on for two years. And, you know, there's been a tremendous amount of public attention on it, and he's had enormous resources, and the fact that he hasn't indicted Donald Trump, Jr. and hasn't indicted Jared Kushner, I mean, that's good news for them.
I mean, the idea that maybe, well, some other case will be brought, I mean, sure maybe. But by and large, you know, this has been the main investigation. And, you know, a lot of attention has gone, and a lot of critical commentary has been about, you know, these people around Donald Trump. And the fact they are not indicted and are not going to be indicted by Robert Mueller and his grand jury is unambiguously good news for them.
Does that mean Donald Trump is in the clear? Absolutely not. But I think the sort of swirl of suspicion, you know, is not really justified.
PROKUPECZ: I was just going to make the point about the hush money payments. That's actually a legit crime that the president has been implicated in and no one seems to want to focus on it. It doesn't seem like -- even members of Congress care that much about it. And we know in a lot of the reporting that we've been doing, the hush money payments and what's going on in the Southern District of New York in that investigation has worried the lawyers for the president because that is crime.
And if Southern District of New York could find creative way to possibly pursue charges whether it's against the president or his family, that's where the issue is. But it just seems that no one wants to pay a lot of attention to that. It's been a lot of focus on the Russia collusion, but what about these hush money payments?
CORDERO: Because they're never going to impeach on it. That's why. I mean, members of Congress are never going to impeach on specific payments to the women in my judgment, number one, because there haven't been a solid record of charge cases and convictions on that specific issue, whether or not a payment to a woman before the campaign constitutes a campaign finance violation.
Clearly, the Justice Department takes the position that it is, but there's not a clear legal precedent, and as far as impeachable behavior I just don't think members of Congress want to go there. So, they're going to have rely on something on conspiracy or obstruction, which seems to be sort of the clearest political jeopardy that the president --
BORGER: Congress is going to have a hard time now. The Democrats are going to ask for these documents. They're probably not going to get all of them, and then you're going to have the Republicans saying -- it's a flip. You're going to have to Republicans saying, oh, Mueller did a good job, leave him alone. And Democrats saying, no, no, no some of this was a whitewash and we need to get to the bottom of it.
And I think what happened here is that Mueller who was not born yesterday has probably -- and this is just surmised -- has probably written a pre-scrubbed -- or this report is pre-scrubbed. May not have any privilege issues for the White House to complain about it, hands it to Barr. Maybe they talked about -- maybe he talked with Rosenstein informally about subpoenaing the president and, you know, he didn't want it seen in a report that he tried subpoena the president but he was turned down and maybe he decided it just wasn't worth it on obstruction.
So, you know, these are things I think Mueller has thought about way in advance. COOPER: But I remember -- we've heard a lot over the last two years
and I remember -- I'm one of the group of people I was talking to, Republicans on the panel were saying, look, Democrats are going to move the goal posts. If this report comes out and there's no collusion, there's no new indictment, Democrats are suddenly going to shift and say, look, it wasn't really about collusion. What we're really more concerned about is what's happening over here.
Doesn't it seem like Democrats are already doing that?
BORGER: Absolutely. And you heard the congressman, you know, saying, I want to get -- we need to get all these documents, because there are some things that are important to them politically that are not prosecutable. And that may be it. Shan, you were --
WU: I think that's why I asked the congressman, does he want Mueller's strategies and thoughts? Like why didn't you call the president, and that is exactly the kind of thing the judges and the White House is going to argue about. They're going to say, you don't have any business asking our prosecutors about what they're thinking is.
And I think in that letter we saw earlier today that Rosenstein had written to Grassley, he's really laying the groundwork for saying the special prosecutor is one of our prosecutors.
There's history of us not liking Congress interfering with those strategy kinds of decisions. So, there I think there will be a fight.
COOPER: But just to be clear, I mean, Pamela, what the Democrats on the Hill are asking for is not just the full Mueller report, it's also all the underlying documents. I mean, that's -- again, that's a moving of the goal posts.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Which is freaking because you have sensitive grand jury information and so forth. Now, Democrats will say, "Well, look, DOJ has already set the precedent for this and how it handled the Clinton investigation turning over all these 302s to FBI interview notes and so forth, and there were no charges." Hillary Clinton as we know was not charged.
So we should be given the same kind of treatment. We-- the Department of Justice should hand over all of these documents, everything they can, because they did it before on Hillary Clinton.
But to your point about moving the goal posts, we heard from the congressman when I asked him, "Will Democrats move on if the report exonerates President Trump," and you heard what he said. He said, "Well, we still want to look into corruption and obstruction." I mean, this fight is not over. The Democrats clearly are not just going to throw towel.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And that could go to court. SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: And I think the DOJ is going to fight quite hard not to release a lot of this information. Remember, there's still a counter --
COOPER: You mean the underlying document.
PROKUPECZ: There's a counter intelligence investigation. There's a lot of Russian involvement on this that's not going away anytime soon, and the FBI needs to continue to investigate that. That, I think, is going to be one of the reasons why the FBI, the Department of Justice is not going to want to release this.
BROWN: And just to explain that is important because you don't want to give away sources and methods of what they've learned about the Russians and how they were able to interfere in the election. You don't want to tip off the Russians. This is all we --
PROKUPECZ: That investigation is not going away. And I think that's important for the American -- for the public to know certainly that there are still an ongoing counter intelligence investigation of the Russians and what they were doing because there are continued concerns for 2020 and other elections and that the FBI is going to continue to chase these leads.
BORGER: Well, and they have to brief on a counter intelligence investigation, the chairman of the two intelligence committees, so they will know. They will know more than we will know and they will make judgments themselves. So it'll be interesting to listen to Senator Warner for -- well, he's the vice-chairman. But Senator Burr and Congressman Schiff --
PROKUPECZ: Schiff too is going to get brief. Yes.
BORGER: -- who came out today and said, you know, we want all the underlying documents. We're going subpoena Mueller if we have to. And so did Mark Warner say, we need -- nothing short of the full disclosure, a declassified version, we'll suffice for that.
COOPER: Shimon, I think it was you -- you and I think both Pamela last night saying --
PROKUPECZ: Well, this is -- listen, this has been a big issue because I think a lot of people who've been out there speculating that there are going to be more indictments didn't want to believe it. And it got to a point where we've been about three weeks into this now where we had heard that this was wrapping up, this was done.
And, you know, I think that it's very important to tell people, you know, as honest as we can be, we hear a lot of information that's not always reportable, it's not things we can always put out there. But, you know, for three weeks we have been hearing that they were done. We do think that there was hold ups in the report because they were going through it for classified information and other -- they didn't want to release the information. I do think Mueller and the Department of Justice do believe this entire thing is going to be public one day, 10 years, five years, within a year. And they were thinking of that and what information do we want to put in there that could potentially hurt sources, could hurt information on investigation.
BORGER: That's what Mueller did.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. A lot more to discuss on the moment many Americans have been waiting for to see for nearly two years. Preet Bharara and Maggie Haberman join us with their reaction next. What's next beyond this crucial night, our breaking news coverage continues.
[20:37:33] COOPER: So the Mueller report is in. The nation is waiting to see exactly what comes out of it and exactly what's in it. Tonight, a Justice Department official tells CNN that lawmakers will get the so-called principal conclusions this weekend, which will then be made public.
The probes in comes on the same week that Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, debuts a new book. It's called "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and the Rule of Law." Preet joins us tonight along with "New York Times" White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman.
This letter, Preet, from the attorney general -- from Attorney General Barr, I'm wondering just what stands out to you in it.
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the fact that he wrote it, the fact that he made clear that there was no instance in which a decision or a proposed action by the special counsel was overruled by anyone in the Justice Department, and that had been a concern for a long time among a lot of folks.
And then, second, I think that the fact that -- I don't want to read too much into this or we're going to engage in all sorts of speculation. The fact that he says that he may be able to be in a position to give the principal conclusions to committee members as soon as this weekend, may, again we're speculating, indicate that it's, you know, not so terrible for the President.
And you might have thought that they would want to spend more time taking stock of the principal conclusions even if they're not detailed and wait and see if there's a strategy for not providing some of it or all of it. But can I make one larger point before we get to the --
COOPER: Of course.
BHARARA: -- minutia? And that is -- so this is an inflection point in the investigation. Some might say the ending I don't think quite it's the end because there are other cases other offices are dealing with that were signed by the special counsel's office.
But this is a moment where I think a lot of people should take a moment before we know the details of the report and give some thanks to Robert Mueller who did a thankless job that no matter what the conclusions are that there are going to be tens of millions of people who are going to be angry with him after he lived a -- and spent most of his life in public service representing the country both in war and in court.
And, you know, we used to have a practice in the Southern District where, you know, after someone has tried a good case, you want to give them the compliment before you know what the result is because a jury can sometimes go, you know, the other way that -- in a way different from how you wanted and take that home and say, "You know what, you did a good job. Thanks for your efforts and for your work," because I worry and fear that depending on people's political perspective, they're going to take issue with what is what is not in this report."
[20:40:02] And so on the even of knowing what's in it, I just want to join with others to say thanks to Robert Mueller.
COOPER: That's a good point. I'm glad you make it. Maggie, I'm wondering what you're hearing tonight about the White House, about where they -- I mean, they have not seen this obviously. The President -- there would have been some talk whether the President might even call up Attorney General Barr, but that has not happened.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And the President as you guys have reported as well is having dinner with his family I think on the Patio at Mar-a-Lago. He is said to be in a very good mood. He's very happy that this part of it is done, which I think is not a surprise.
They are trying to keep quiet right now because they don't know what's in it. And even if -- well, we don't know how long it is, we don't know how much of it is about Russia versus other issues, maybe there's nothing much about the President's conduct or maybe there are many paragraphs about the President's conduct that are pretty damning. And without knowing that, they don't want to rush out and say anything.
There is some concern for people around the President that he won't be able to help himself and will say something. But they want to wait and see what happens over the coming days because they're flying as blind as we are right now.
COOPER: Preet, I mean, according to the current DOJ guidelines, you can't indict a sitting president. It's also DOJ policy not to release information about anyone not being charged. So, is it possible then there could be nothing at all about the President in the conclusions or at least in the -- whatever information Barr gives to Congress?
BHARARA: Yes, I mean, that's up to Bill Barr. My guess is that Bob Mueller put together in his report all relevant things, and he was thorough about it because it doesn't fall to him. It's not in his lap to decide whether or not he makes something public. So, he can put as much derogatory information as he wants about private citizens that he came across, members of the administration and Donald Trump himself and leave it to Bill Barr. And Bill Barr could take the position that there's derogatory information about the President that that should not be revealed base on some general Department of Justice policy.
My view is, and I think as a view of lot of people, that the President stands alone in that regard and that you can't on the one hand have a policy and practice handed down by the Justice Department to the President even if he's committed crimes that could be prove beyond a reasonable doubt can't be prosecuted because he's the president.
Now on the one hand, the one investigative agency that has taken a look and might have information that shows either a crime has taken place or an abuse of power, that you keep that secret and you don't give it to the Congress, which is the one body that actually has the ability to hold a president who has strayed accountable. That doesn't mean that any of that stuff is in there, but I think that's the way that it should be thought about.
COOPER: So do you have any sense tonight, Preet, of what the American people will end up seeing in the short-term?
BHARARA: No. And I'm one of those people who didn't think we're going to get the report today. So, I was right a few weeks go when I was skeptical about the (INAUDIBLE) reports and I was wrong today. Everyone said it was coming out by noon, I guess I was right about that. But I don't know.
I think we'll get a sense of how the -- as Maggie was saying a second ago, it sounds like the President is trying to, you know, remain calm and not be very vocal. But as she also said that's not a customary practice for the President.
And I think once we get a sense and once he gets a sense of what's in the report, if he gets one, I think we'll know from tweeting, I think we'll know from his generalized behavior how bad it is and how, you know, good it is for him.
COOPER: Maggie, though, the fact that a Department of Justice official did, you know, leak out that there are no indictments, no new indictments coming, certainly, you know, for a President who has been saying, "Look, no collusion, no collusion this is witch hunt," I mean that headline alone, it backs up what he's been saying.
COOPER: I mean it is hard to see this in any other way than a good night for the President, for, as Jeff Toobin said, Donald Trump Jr., for Jared Kushner, for --
COOPER: -- everybody around the President who hasn't already been indicted.
HABERMAN: Right. I agree with everything Jeffrey Toobin said. I think that was right. I think what we -- the thing that I'm still not sure of and why I'm hesitating a little bit is we also know that Mueller was investigating the President for obstruction of justice.
And so I don't know what this report will say about that. Maybe it will say nothing. Maybe he will agree with the President's team view that everything that he did was out in the open and within his purview anyway and so therefore didn't matter. But I would like to know a little bit more what he found there.
That said, the President has set the bar publicly in everything he has said as, you know, no collusion, that is his statement. Collusion is not actually a thing in this context, but that is what he has set the bar at and none of it touches me. There's always indictments of people around me, but it doesn't come to me directly.
That's obviously not the case in the Michael Cohen case in the SDNY and that's a different issues and that's going to keep going as far as we know, for now, I don't know how long. But if it goes to that bar without those two things being met, I think the President will take this and he will wave it and he will say, "You guys went after me for two years and this is all you came up with."
[20:45:04] And I think even if it has, you know, stuff about obstruction of justice, he'll still say that. And I think a lot of his supporters are going to agree.
COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, thank you. Preet Bharara, as well, thanks so much. And, again, Preet's book, "Doing Justice," is out and it's getting a lot of great reviews and I'm enjoying it. I'm like halfway through.
Coming up next, I'll talk with legendary journalist Carl Bernstein and Sam Donaldson about today and what lies ahead.
COOPER: Despite President Trump's claims that the Mueller probe was illegal and unconstitutional, it repeatedly withstood court challenges. Seven federal decisions backed Mueller's appointment, his authority and his actions. The judges in those cases were appointed by Democrats and Republicans, including -- excuse, President Trump.
And tonight the breaking news that the report is finally in the hands of Attorney General Bill Barr, with me now two top journalists known for their work covering presidents, Car; Bernstein and Sam Donaldson.
So, Carl, you've been very bullish on the possibility that Mueller's investigation would yield more indictments, more trouble for the President. Are you surprise that this concluded without anyone else being charge?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought that there would probably be more indictments. Look, there is no question certainly in the short-term and maybe beyond, this is very good news for the President, for Donald Trump especially because members of his family and his top campaign aides were not indicted.
The question is that we now have going forward is what is the connective tissue of this investigation, particularly as it relates to Donald Trump. And hopefully that's what we're going to see provided to the Congress, this connective tissue that might have to do with the investigation of possible obstruction of justice.
[20:50:05] And also whatever dealings there were with Russia, with Russians by the President, by his organization. And there is going to be a counter intelligence summary at some point, an annex to this report or separate report. We need to know what that shows in terms of what actually happened, a real narrative. And I suspect we're going to get it. It could take awhile.
Certainly the Democrats are going to demand it and hopefully the President here has a great opportunity actually to say, "Hey, release everything. Let's see all there is here now there seems to give me a pass if that's what he believes. Let him call for real openness.
COOPER: Sam, I mean, one White House official is telling CNN that the fat lady has sung, I suppose they mean Robert Mueller. But -- so I'm wondering what do you make of it at this stage? And again, a lot we clearly don't know.
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: If she sung, she sung at dirge. I think it's imperative that this could -- this report to be made public, all of it.
DONALDSON: And I know there are problems with that. But the American public is out there and he, the president, is in the court of public opinion. I don't think there's going to be an impeachment investigation that succeeds unless there's something in this report that's a smoking gun, right, Carl? You know about that.
But I do know that there's a decision to be made in 2020 and the American public, the voters have a right to see all of the evidence. No, I trust Bob Mueller. I know this man. I think he's going to be a straight arrow forever and I think we can see that if he explains in the report and we can see, well, I couldn't indict here because I didn't have the evidence.
Yes, the president's son went to a meeting with Russians at Trump Tower, we have that. We know from one of his e-mails that he said, "Oh, boy, I'd love to get the dirt for -- on Hillary Clinton from these people."
But, Mueller wouldn't perhaps say in his report there was not evidence and the criminal intent was there or anything that we could prosecute for. I'll accept that. I think that's fine. As far as the President is concerned, I'll accept the fact that he couldn't indict even if he wanted to.
But if there's anything in the report that suggests that he will tell us the things he found on obstruction of justice, not just the firing of Jim Comey but other things, I think the voters have a right to see that and I think the pressure should be put on every possible lever to get that report public. COOPER: You know, Carl, I mean normally one would say, you know, if a report like this shows no -- nothing no new indictments and it's good for the President, and so it can potentially clear the deck for the President. And, you know, this has been hanging over the White House now for two whole years.
But at the same time, it seems like the Democrats -- I mean, you know, some will argue they're moving the goal post already, but they're going to fight this. This is going to drag on even though the report itself and the Mueller investigation is done.
BERNSTEIN: I think it's more than drag on. I think there is a necessity to find out what happened here and what the investigative decisions were based on and what did Bob Mueller, who I think we all have great faith in his ability and trust in what he's done here, what did he find, what were -- what is the evidence that lead him to the conclusion that he did, but especially we're facing this point that the President cannot be indicted.
If the President cannot be indicted, then it becomes absolutely necessary in a democracy for both the Congress and the people of the country to understand all of the investigation as it relates to the President of the United States, except for sources and methods that might reveal national security secrets. So it's imperative that the -- that Attorney General Barr make that information public because indeed there is still a big story here that we don't know that needs to be told.
COOPER: Yes. Sam, though, you know, we are hearing now from Democrats on Capitol Hill, it's not just the full Mueller report that they want that was sent to Barr, it's also the underlying documents, which I understand for an investigative purposes they would want that and perhaps for political purposes as well.
But, isn't that essentially now Democrats saying they want to investigate the investigation and if they have faith in Mueller, which they've been saying all along, they have faith in Mueller, should they be doing that?
DONALDSON: Well, I think underlying documents are not the thing. Now, Congress has the right to investigate on its own even though others have done so. But in the previous impeachments, and I've covered two of the three impeachment movements against President of the United States, the special prosecutor or the special counsel, the report, the road map in the case of Mr. Nixon from Leon Jaworski, the road map has been taken, for instance, by the House Judiciary Committee which preferred three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and they have not investigated their own -- with their own staff.
[20:55:14] I would think it would be smart for the Democrats to take Nancy Peolsi's advice, defeat this man at the polls, work as hard as you can now. Yes, with all of the information, including this report, people can make up their minds about that.
I mean, the President's son went to that meeting. We have the e-mail. And what was the meeting about? Well, he said he's going to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. But the President of the United States himself aboard Air Force One, cooked up the cover story, wrote it out and said, "No, this is something else."
BERNSTEIN: We also have as part of Mueller's strategy, and I think it was strategic, was to farm out aspects of his investigation at a time when he and his aides thought that he might be fired by the President of the United States to farm out important parts of this investigation to other jurisdictions, including jurisdictions responsible for foreign interceptive conversations by the national security agency, by the Southern District of New York where the Trump Organization operates. So, all of these figures in a larger context but immediately there is this imperative that this connective tissue be revealed.
COOPER: All right, Carl Bernstein, thank you, Sam Donaldson, always great to have you on as well. Thank you very much.
Still ahead, more in the historic breaking news we're following. Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference to 2016 election now in the hands of the attorney general and its principle conclusions are expected to be released to Congress this weekend as early as tomorrow. Latest developments when "360" continues.