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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Mueller Completes Russia Probe, Submits Confidential Repor; White House Lawyers Are With Trump At Mar-A-Lago; Attorney General Tells Lawmakers He May Be Able To Release "Principal Conclusions" This Weekend; Source: No Further Indictments; Rep. Steve Cohen (D) Tennessee is Interviewed About the Mueller Report. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 22, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: Important breaking news that we've been following. I want to thank all of our viewers for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. Our Breaking News coverage continues with ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT right now.
ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, the Mueller report is done, finally complete, after 675 days of investigation. Here's what we know, the report is 'comprehensive' and tonight it is in the hands of the Attorney General Bill Barr who is still at the Justice Department right now reading the report.
Barr released this letter to the Judiciary Committee chairs and ranking members in the House and Senate. I want to just read some of the crucial parts for you here. The letter says, "The Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters." It then continues, "The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions he has reached as required. I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend."
That's obviously crucial. "Separately," Barr continues, "I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations and the Department's long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review."
We have a team of reporters standing by. Evan Perez is with us, Abby Phillip live outside the White House, Laura Jarrett live at the Justice Department, Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill, and I want to start with Evan. Evan, a couple of crucial things. You're being told there are no more indictments coming from the Special Counsel, but Barr is saying we could see some of these crucial results or at least they could be given to Congress as soon as this weekend, but he's not done reading the report itself at this hour.
EVAN PEREZ, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right, Erin. He's still working through the actual report which sources have told our Laura Jarrett there at the Justice Department is a comprehensive report. There's a lot of information in this. So the question is how much detail is Barr going to be able to get into when he provides his own, what we call, the Barr report essentially to members of Congress and this weekend is the first time he's going to be able to brief them on some of the principal conclusions of this report, how detailed will that be.
It's important to underscore that big headline that you just said, no more indictments. And that's an important thing for the President after 675 days of this investigation, after an investigation that has frankly clouded his administration since the beginning of his presidency. The President can begin to probably breathe a little easier that the idea that his vindication is coming.
He knows that so far from the Mueller investigation, the public information that's been released by Robert Mueller, there has been nothing that comes close to what looks like in collusion or a conspiracy which has been the focus of this investigation. The idea that there was somebody in the President's campaign who was colluding with the Russians. None of that has come forward in any of the public court documents and indictments that have been brought.
This has been a very comprehensive investigation. It's been a very fruitful investigation, 37 individuals and entities have been charged, including six Trump associates. But the central question of Russian collusion has not so far been proved in any public document and so the question is, Erin, does that report that is now in the hands of Bill Barr, does it say anything about that, did they find any proof of that, that's the big question that remains unanswered at this point.
BURNETT: Right. And obviously the crucial reasons of the American public want to see this report and to your point, we don't know what may have been passed off to other jurisdictions like the Michael Cohen and the campaign finance possible crimes and who knows what else there could be that could have been passed off. All right, Evan is going to be with us for the hour as news continues to break here.
As we've said, Bill Barr is reading this as I speak. I want to go now to Abby Phillip. She's live outside the White House. Now Abby, what's the response from the President? We know that the White House found out about this just about 20 minutes before everyone else did and all they knew was Mueller is done. What is the response that you're hearing now from the White House?
ABBY PHILLIP, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right, Erin. The White House at this moment knows about as much about this as we do. They found out exactly the same information that we did about a half an hour before we did.
And the President who's been down in Florida all day hasn't said anything yet. As of right now though what we are hearing from aides privately is a sense of relief. This two-year investigation is over and it's now over with word that there will be no more indictments. The President has been saying repeatedly over the last several days, "No collusion. No obstruction." That this is all a witch-hunt.
And I think White House aides and the President's allies are already beginning this process of saying that the fact that there are no further indictments to those points, as Evan just pointed out, proves that the President was right about this all along. That's the narrative that I think we're about to hear from the White House and from the president's supporters.
He's down there in Florida. We don't know when he is going to weigh in. But the White House has said that we're not going to see him again tonight. They've called what we call a lid here, meaning that the President is not going to be in front of the cameras, but he's at his club where a lot of his friends are, where a lot of his aides are right at this moment. He's surrounded by two of the top members of his legal team, by two of his top press secretaries and I think you can bet that there's going to be quite a bit of strategizing happening over this weekend.
And particularly as the members of Congress are being briefed by the Department of Justice, that's going to be a critical point. I think the White House is expecting leaks as that process continues and I think they'll be expecting also to combat those leaks with their own narrative as this goes along, Erin.
BURNETT: Right, of course, and the more they perceived a vindication perhaps the more the President is saying it's illegal, the hole Mueller report a hoax. Then that becomes a little problem, but all right let's go now to John Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel, Garrett Graff, Author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War On Global Terror, an Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama, also with us James Trusty, former Chief of the Organized Crime Section at the Department of Justice and a longtime friend of Rod Rosenstein who, of course, has overseen this entire thing.
John Dean, anything surprise you here?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Not so far. This has been right by the letter of the Special Counsel's charter. He's released the document. What I'm looking for is release and understanding that there's no witting or unwitting likelihood that the President is an agent of Russia. That's when I'll feel comfortable and no evidence that even hints at that. We don't have that yet. We're still in the process of unfolding the report to look at it and it's, as I say, if Barr honors his word, we'll know more soon.
BURNETT: Now, Garrett, Barr said he wants to put out as much as he can. Barr is obviously very respected lawyer and became Attorney General. He's now reading the report as we speak, so he's not even through the whole thing himself but he did say from what he knew he was already able to say he thought some principal conclusions he'd be able to make those to Congress as soon as this weekend.
The report is comprehensive. When you put all of that together what do you take away from it, Garrett? GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, THE THREAT MATRIX: INSIDE ROBERT MUELLER'S FBI
AND THE WAR ON GLOBAL TERROR: Well, so the challenge with the comprehensive phrasing is the extent to which it gets into non- criminally charged conduct which presumably a comprehensive report would, but that's been one of these lightning rods as Bill Barr has been talking about it. Everyone is very concerned about the Jim Comey example from 2016 with Hillary Clinton and her emails about sort of getting deep into the weeds on why the Justice Department didn't pursue criminal charges in certain cases.
But if Mueller is supposed to tell a comprehensive narrative here, he is surely going to be talking about information that doesn't rise to the level of criminal charges particularly in regards to the President himself. And as John Dean was just saying, we don't yet know that the President has gotten a full clean bill of health from Robert Mueller's investigation here because one of the complicating factors is this Justice Department guideline that says the President cannot be indicted.
So it is possible that the President might not be out of the woods legally yet and certainly not politically yet, depending on what's in this report.
BURNETT: So Juliette, I know you have always said that is the narrative here that is so important, but when John Dean references things like unwitting agent or relationships with Russia, you could obviously have a situation like that which would not be indictable in any case, which theoretically could be a part of this narrative in this report, so it's not indictable, it's not a crime, but it's still be a pretty terrifying thing.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Oh, absolutely from the perspective of the United States sort of democracy it would be. So let me just try to help out here, because it's going to be a lot of news coming over the next 24 to 48 hours. Think of it in terms of four different buckets that are going on here.
One is the criminal investigation that Mueller just closed and that was a significant investigation with lots of people in jail, lots of people who pled and lots of indictments still out there.
There's the criminal investigation that's not with Mueller that is now in New York and elsewhere. Those will continue and those will raise news. The third piece is as Garrett was just saying, the counterintelligence National Security piece. It does not need to rise to the level of a criminal indictment, but it could still be pretty bad. It could show a President compromised.
We don't know what we'll see over the next couple of weeks and then there's the fourth which none of us can control which is, of course, the political piece which is the fight with Congress, how much is going to be disclosed, what is Trump going to tweet. That's how we should be thinking about it over the next couple weeks, those four different buckets we've resolved. One or one was closed today. A lot else, a lot more - let's just say the fat lady has not sung yet.
BURNETT: I mean and obviously there are so many questions, but on this issue of indictments themselves, James, Barr informed Congress tonight, the Judiciary Committee's that Mueller never tried to indict the President. Now, of course, that would be against Justice Department policy. But even though it was against policy, Mueller, of course, could have felt that the President had committed an indictable crime and felt like in any other situation he would have moved forward with an indictment.
But in his letter today Barr said Mueller had never proposed an action that was 'so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental procedures that it should not be pursuit' and he was clear there were no such instances during the Special Counsel's investigation. It was very black and white. How big of a deal is that, James?
JAMES TRUSTY, FORMER CHIEF OF THE ORGANIZED CRIME SECTION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Well, that last part is a real interesting bit of process here. There's a secondary requirement that the Department of Justice report to Congress under the Special Counsel law if they have one of these fundamental disagreements with Special Counsel. It's effectively having Congress oversee the process of Special Counsel by making sure that an attorney general or a deputy attorney general doesn't basically quash or squash their investigation.
So he made that point to say there is no second report coming out. There were no fundamental disagreements between DOJ leadership and Special Counsel. That doesn't mean they didn't have disagreements that were kind of more amicable or they were more collaborative in their approach to it, but it does show at least a certain professional relationship that didn't create big problems for the Special Counsel team.
BURNETT: So, John, the report was submitted without a sit-down with the President, as we all know, that was over a year of back-and-forth and arguing and instead it was submitted, written answers which were lawyered up and vague where they needed to be. Does this prove to have been a great decision for the President?
DEAN: Well, it may. Again we're shooting a little bit in the dark here as to what actually is concluded in the report. But I think that probably was a smart decision on any count because this is a President who is often very challenged by telling the truth. So filtering it through lawyers and doing it in written form is about as safe of a way as you can do it. So I think they're probably celebrating that fact tonight.
BURNETT: So Garrett, Barr writes that he may be in a position to advise Congress of the conclusions, the principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. Now, I'm just curious of your take away from that given that Barr has not finished reading the report.
GRAFF: Well, so presumably Barr has been briefed on this investigation since he stepped into office that he's been probably kept up to date. Remember, Rod Rosenstein was closely involved in monitoring this investigate when he was the person overseeing the investigation. And so Barr probably has a pretty good idea of what is going to be in this report. I would sort of add one thing that we haven't talked about so far that Juliette's very smart analysis of the different buckets.
There's also the obstruction question which is we've seen sort of all of the other aspects of Mueller's investigation come out in court charges at some point, the GRU, the internet research agency, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, other cases, but we haven't seen sort of this core question, the original sin that begat the Mueller investigation in the first place which was the firing of Jim Comey and sort of the actions that grew out of that, which again focus on the President wouldn't have necessarily led to criminal charges under the Justice Department guidelines.
GRAFF: But that collectively might be the biggest part of this report that we haven't seen and that we just have no idea where Mueller is heading.
BURNETT: Now, James, we don't know what Mueller - I mean like as part of his mandate, it included any links and coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. Obviously, that is stuff that could have been handed off.
He could be handing things off. But James, what I'm getting at is, is the President's within the remit of this to get to the bottom line in a comprehensive report, is the President's historical relationship with Russia, his monetary interactions with Russia in any sense he was ever seen as a trusted person by Russian intelligence, would that be within the scope? And if so, is that something that's going to ever see the light of day? Because if you're not going to indict someone but you're going to put things like that in there, it's still pretty damning.
TRUSTY: Right. Well, look, I mean we're obviously guessing with maybe some knowledge of a bottom line but none of the substance behind it.
TRUSTY: The problem with the scope issue is that scope can change. When Special Counsel gets appointed, there's a very clear mandate but over the course of the investigation Rod Rosenstein was in a position to approve or reject certain changes to the scope of that investigation and that's when you might start seeing handoffs like Michael Cohen (testing NY).
So we don't really know fully what the scope is, I'm hoping that the process becomes a little more illuminated from this report as well. But you're right, there's certainly an opportunity for factual assertions to be put in this report that make it at least politically harmful even if not legally harmful.
BURNETT: All right, so I'll stay with me. I want to bring in Laura Jarrett here, she's got more information. She's at the Justice Department and Laura, you've been doing so much reporting on this. You're now reporting that he is in his office, the Attorney General Bill Barr reading the report as we speak. So tell me what you know about him and what he's going to do next.
LAURA JARRETT, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Erin we know that he started right away this afternoon digging into the details, getting down to what's in this report, poring over it and we're told just a few close advisers have actually seen this. Just a few officials are going to be the ones that actually review the confidential report that Mueller delivered just earlier this afternoon. We're told the White House has not seen that report, still TBD whether they do get to review the principal conclusions before those go to Congress.
My colleague Pamela Brown has, of course, reported that they do expect to receive some awareness of the substance before that goes to the Hill. As for those principal conclusions in a letter to lawmakers this evening, the Attorney General Bill Barr said that he expects to be able to provide those principal conclusions as soon as this weekend and I am told that those principal conclusions which you should essentially think of as a summary or a distillation of the core findings of the Mueller report. But that's Barr's distillation that that will be made public as well, so it is not as if that is only going to the Hill.
And then as a second step, Barr outlines that he's also going to be in consultation with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as well as Mueller himself trying to figure out what else from the report can be made public. But we should think of that as certainly a ways off. The principle conclusions are the thing that we should look for next, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Laura. Juliette, principal conclusions, how much is that really going to give us? We already know, for example, no more indictments. So I would presume that would be one principal conclusion.
KAYYEM: Right. And I think a lot - I've been saying along - I know people who want everything and I'm watching some of the tweets on the Hill. So there's a lot going on here. There are cases going on. There are investigations still going on. I am much more sympathetic to Barr taking his time and protecting those investigations than - because we know a lot of what animated Mueller was, of course, Grand Jury testimony and other things that we ought not to see because those cases are still going on.
So I think this idea of sort of sunshine goes - I'm sort of not there with a lot of the critics of the Trump administration. On the other hand, to the extent that Barr wants the Justice Department to be relieved of being viewed as political, he should explain and I kind of like what I heard when he said he was going to consult with Mueller, why certain materials would not be released and provide as much information as he can. So maybe I'm splitting the difference here, but I do think just given
what's going on in the indictments and the counterintelligence and all that stuff, I've never anticipated that we would see the document that Barr is seeing. Barr on the other hand has an obligation and he seems to be giving a little bit of a nod to it by invoking Mueller that he needs to explain why it is he's not releasing certain information, so that the conspiracy theories go away and then this just becomes a political impeachment or whatever else fight or a legal fight with the White House. Barr should get the Justice Department out of this and it sounds like he wants to.
BURNETT: John Dean, do you think that we're going to end up seeing all of it? I mean in a sense Barr is saying principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. It certainly does add to at least the perception that he wants full transparency which he had indicated during his confirmation hearing.
He wanted to the extent he could consistent with the regulations.
DEAN: Barr seems very much like an establishmentarian, that he wants to do it in a way that will not harm the Department of Justice or his own career and his own reputation for that matter. And they know the eyes of the world are looking at them right now.
If indeed the White House has not been informed, if there's been no back-channel to the White House, that's extraordinary and they might be asked this question under oath at some point. So I think if they're not doing that, they're playing it very smart and keeping the White House at arm's length. That was the post Watergate rule that was established and it was breached early by Trump and I think that Barr is putting it back in place and that's a healthy sign.
BURNETT: So Evan, what's the timing you think that we're looking as the public?
PEREZ: Well, I think for the public first of all I think there's a couple of steps that Barr has introduced here, that Laura Jarrett just outlined. First I guess we're going to have this weekend - he might give members of Congress the principal conclusions. But then beyond that, it appears he's going to take some time, perhaps weeks before he prepares what we'll call the Barr report which is going to distill what Robert Mueller has found and so that's going to be an additional amount of time.
He looks like he's trying to figure out a way to not release the full Mueller report. We don't know how many pages it is, we don't know how comprehensive --
BURNETT: So that's how you see it, that he is trying to avoid putting the whole thing out there.
PEREZ: It appears he is trying to avoid it. Now the question is, Erin, will he be successful in that. Look, you've seen over the last couple of years right the Justice Department has sort of established a little bit of a precedent on releasing information, the underlying information evidence found in an investigation to Hillary Clinton email investigations. The Republicans were so mad that there were no charges brought and they were very suspicious they said that Hillary Clinton should have been charged.
Now Democrats who have subpoena power are going to be able to fight the same battle in the Justice Department. I can tell you, Laura and I have talked to senior officials in the department over the last few months who have worried that that precedent was going to weaken their ability to stop exactly that happening in the Mueller investigation.
BURNETT: James, so I'm trying to understand is if they're going to say as they have said, no more indictments are coming, and we didn't have any massive disagreements on that. In other words, Mueller didn't say he wanted to indict the President or he thought the President should be indicted is the takeaway. How can they justify not seeing the whole report? I mean if it's politically damning or even damning to the this presidency but not criminal, how do you not put it out there?
TRUSTY: I think there's layers of reasons why we're not going to see the full report. I mean there's going to be classified kind of counterespionage type international information that's in there. That's not going to see full daylight. That might be disclosed to Congress behind closed doors and God knows they may leak a lot of it, but I don't think we're going to see the report in an unredacted form for that. There's Rule 6(e) Grand Jury material that unless duplicated by FBI interviews is also off-limits without a court order and I'm not sure this is really a basis for a court order for public release.
And then you have executive privilege fights and then good old- fashioned concern about what I've called the Ray Donovan effect which is you don't want to have people to get trashed who can't defend themselves. So there's a whole bunch of notions and laws that come together that make it, I think, unlikely that a full scrub is going to reveal every part of this document now or in an immediate future.
BURNETT: So John Dean that means it sounds like - what does that - he's going to try to pull for executive privilege, I would imagine, on everything he could. They've already indicated that they're going to try to do that.
DEAN: I think they will try to do that. They agreed to cooperate and turn over documents on the condition that they would reserve the right to invoke executive privilege. I'm sure they're going to take the same reaction with people who testified from the White House before the Grand Jury or just informally in front of the Special Counsel. The President has got a lot of advantages in keeping things secret when he wants to and I certainly think he can probably block a lot until after the 2020 election, which is what he's most worried about.
PEREZ: Hey, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes. PEREZ: If I could just interject one quick thing. If you look at
Bill Barr's letter, one of the most important parts of it is he talks about how - that there was nothing - here we go, he talks about how one of the responsibilities here was that - any proposed action by the Special Counsel that was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Department practices that it should not be pursued. Essentially, he's saying there was nothing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller asked for and was denied to do.
And one of the big questions we've been wondering is whether Mueller wanted to subpoena the President. We know that he never sat down for an interview which is a huge victory for the President. You and I know both that a lot of the lawyers were very concerned because they thought if the President sat down with Mueller, that he would probably get himself in trouble. He managed to end this investigation, get through this investigation without sitting down. That was a huge victory for the President.
And what Bill Barr is telling everyone is that Mueller never asked essentially to subpoena the President which would have been another battle royale in this investigation. That's a huge moment here for President Trump. It means that Mueller never went to that extraordinary step and I think that's going to be something that I think will make a huge difference in how the perception of this investigation going forward.
BURNETT: Right. I guess, of course - I'm sorry, Juliette, a quick final word. I mean, I guess it depends also on the motive. I mean he could have not gone with the subpoena, ask for subpoena because he knew he wasn't going to get one and won another round.
KAYYEM: Right. And I think that's right, I think - so why wouldn't Mueller have done that, it is because the ultimate question about what happens to the President, let's just put it very bluntly, is not Mueller's to decide and he never wanted to decide it. He is not going to get - the third rail is going to be owned by Congress not by Mueller and that, depending on who you are is a good or a bad thing, but if you're Mueller, that is exactly what he want.
This is in courtrooms, but the ultimate question about is where is Trump is going to be a political one and that is what he always wanted and it sounds like that's how he played it.
BURNETT: And, of course, you have Nancy Pelosi saying it's got to become clear and bipartisan to even move ahead with any sort of an impeachment proceeding. So obviously this is really going to change the metrics on that. All right, thank you all very much.
Next, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for the findings to be released. They want all of the report and they want all of the documentation behind it. And the President today is at Mar-A-Lago, his legal team all there, they're all together. We are learning more about his response tonight. We'll be right back.
[19:31:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight. The Mueller report in the hands of the Attorney General Bill Barr who we understand is reading it at this hour. Barr has come out with a letter to Congress saying he could be ready to notify them on the, quote, principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.
The reaction from Capitol Hill has been swift and Manu is there.
What are you hearing, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are demanding, Erin, the full report as well as the underlying evidence that underpins the decisions that Bob Mueller made to prosecute and not to prosecute. And that could be one area of a fight going forward between Democrats and the Justice Department depending on how much Bill Barr ultimately decides to provide to Congress and to public.
Now, Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that the Justice Department set a precedent in the last Congress by providing information to Republicans who ran the House a the time as they were investigating the FBI decisions not to prosecute Hillary Clinton in 2016 elections. He's saying because of that decision, that means that Congress should at least see the underlying decisions for the Mueller investigation.
Now, on top of that Democrats in the House saying this is the beginning of their investigation going forward. They want to see areas that were not fully explored, investigate those further, expect Bob Mueller to be called to testify at least before the House Intelligence Committee. Bill Barr before the House Judiciary Committee potential, as well as other public hearings potentially on the Senate side.
Republicans tonight, Erin, say they are happy this is over. They want to hear what Mueller ultimately found. And they expect some, both Republicans and Democrats, get some readout at least of a principal conclusions this weekend. So, we'll see how they react afterwards and we'll see what Bill Barr ultimately releases, but this is going to set the stage for a bigger fight forward, between probably Democrats and the Justice Department, depending on what Bill Barr ultimately decides to release.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.
So, I want to go to Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
So, of course, you were the first committee to be notified of the report. You got the letter here from Bill Barr, and he is now saying, Congressman, he could brief you as soon as this weekend.
So have you heard anymore? What are you expecting from the attorney general?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don't expect a great deal. This is basically his Elliot Richardson moment. He has to decide whether he wants history to judge him as one of the good guys who stood up for the Justice Department and rule of law, or really does he want to be seen as a by-product of the president who appointed him, and Richardson decided Richard Nixon, the nation needed an independent attorney general and not Richard Nixon, so he resigned.
Bill Barr can make the entire Mueller report public. The public paid for it, the public wants to see it, the public deserves to see it. In the interest of transparency, in the interest to the rule of law, and interest of just fair play. We need to know whether or not our president or anybody in his campaign or his family was involved with the Russians in affecting the 2016 election.
We know the Russians did it. The question is what degree of proof do they have? They may not have had proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They may not have looked at that because of old Justice Department regulations that say you can't indict the president. There's a different standard of proof from impeachment and I think we need to see as much as we can.
I understand sources and methods. I understand grand juries, but that's a limited amount of evidence that probably would be restricted.
BURNETT: If the take away here, though, and obviously some of this stuff could have been off-loaded to other jurisdictions. We know Michael Cohen, for example, was, campaign finance was. There could be other things we don't yet know about. Obviously, we're going to talk about that.
But if the take away here is no more indictments from Bob Mueller but this report gets into the president's historical relationship with Russia, and, you know, there is quite a bit there that would be quite damaging or damning, but there are no indictments to come with it or no recommended indictments to come with it, do you still think that should be put out there?
[19:35:12] COHEN: Yes, because the president -- because of past Justice Department guidelines, which are from 40 some odd years ago and many people think they were improper, cannot be indicted. That's not a reason not to give the public that information since he can still be impeached, and the fact of impeachment is a different standard of proof. And that's the last resort.
If the Justice Department based their opinion on the fact he could be impeached and shouldn't be indicted, that they're remedy for any improper activities was impeachment and if they have any evidence that could lead us to think he has obstructed justice, abused his power, then they should release that information to the authorities that can take action which would be the House judiciary in an impeachment resolution. BURNETT: OK. So, I want to ask you about impeachment in a moment,
but first, Bob Mueller himself, do you -- if he does not provide -- if we don't get the full report and we don't get all the information behind it, will you go ahead and subpoena him before your committee? Will you call him there?
COHEN: Well, Chairman Nadler would make that decision. And he's made it clear he would do that.
COHEN: And I think his committee -- I know his committee will strongly support him in that. So, I think that he will be -- if we don't get the report in full to our satisfaction, then Robert Mueller will be subpoenaed before the Judiciary Committee.
BURNETT: All right. So, you would support that. On the issue of impeachment, Nancy Pelosi has made it clear she doesn't want to do it anything with it unless there's something that is so clear and so bipartisan that she could get GOP and the Senate to support it, right? She doesn't want to just impeach the president in the House for show. If she wants to impeach him, she wants him removed from office. That means Republicans must be onboard, at least 12 of them in the Senate.
They're going to look at this and say no more indictments. Does mean this whole conversation is over?
COHEN: As far as impeachment you mean?
COHEN: I don't think it is. You need more than 12 Republicans. You'd have to get not 60 but 66 Republicans to convict in the Senate. So you'd need about 18 of them. That's going to be real hard to find.
COHEN: But nevertheless, there have been situations where folks in the Senate weren't there when the impeachment resolution process started, and once the impeachment process went on, proof came out that made it clear that the votes would have appeared and did appear, and that's the Nixon situation. He saw the votes were going to be there and that's why he resigned.
But before the hearings started in the House, there were not the votes in the Senate. But once information came out and a lot of it was Rose -- Ms. Lincoln's (ph) 22 minutes, the tape recordings from the White House, that was kind of the smoking gun.
BURNETT: Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Congressman.
COHEN: You're welcome. We paid for it. We need to get it.
BURNETT: All right. And I should point out by the way, so everyone watching knows, yes, the taxpayers, we paid for it. Because of the money that Mueller has recouped from people like Manafort, this whole investigation is actually in the grains. Taxpayers have made money on it, pretty incredible.
OUTFRONT next, President Trump tonight with his legal team. We're going to go to Mar-a-Lago. New details of his response we're gathering today, and we are watching all that go down.
And Mueller may be done, but the investigations into President Trump are not, and this is a crucial part of the story. We're going to explain. That's next.
[19:42:39] BURNETT: Breaking news, the Mueller report has been submitted to the Attorney General William Barr. The president is not in Washington tonight. He is at Mar-a-Lago surrounded by aides, White House lawyers, all of them were there today when they got word.
Tonight, Trump's advisers are already saying they won. Zero indictments means we are clear. That's a quote from one of them.
Suzanne Malveaux is OUTFRONT in Florida tonight.
And, Suzanne, they haven't seen it yet. There could be a lot of damning stuff in there, but they are seizing on no indictments and saying this is great news for them.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The spin machine has already started in full force here, Erin. As you can imagine, yes, they have not seen a report. We have heard from the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders who says the White House has not yet received this report, so this has to play out first. But they are certainly putting that message out there.
This is not going to be a quiet weekend at Mar-a-Lago here for the president. As you have mentioned, he has a full entourage, two press secretaries, his legal team including Emmet Flood who had been part of his strategizing for how they will move forward in the messaging, whether r not this is damning or there's exculpatory type of information in this report. So, they're still trying to game that out. We're told it's going to be a quiet evening in terms of small dinner, the president and his wife, the first lady, Melania, and their son Baron on the patio.
But after that, after they get this report and sort this out, we do expect that they are going to have to really work hard and work hard on the messaging very quickly. And what we have seen from my colleagues Pam Brown as well as Jim Acosta, those campaign advisers and aides already weighing in. Already saying, look, if we don't see indictments and conspiracy and obstruction of justice and things of that nature, then perhaps this is big win, we can move on. It is going to be a pivotal time.
We saw the president earlier today, and there are some indications of how he will respond. We know and we've heard before his alleged that this is not a real legitimate endeavor, that it's a hoax and those type of things. But he is also going to be talking about working with the attorney general to see what he gets out of this report -- Erin. BURNETT: Suzanne, thank you very much.
And I want to go to now to Harry Sandick, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, and Jack Weiss, formal federal prosecutor.
[19:45:03] All right. Harry, so, obviously, the big question here is what's next? This is the end of Mueller but perhaps the beginning or the beginning of us finding out about other things.
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Absolutely. So there's the sort of look back. I think particularly the obstruction investigation would be interesting to know about. People are going to want to know what happened in terms of meeting on the airplane to construct the statement for Don Jr. People are going to want to know what about whether there was any connection between the Trump administration and the false testimony given by Michael Cohen and Congress and was there any conclusion there.
But then looking forward, we know Mueller has taken a very narrow view of his authority and has not hesitated to kick out to other components of the Department of Justice aspects that really don't fall within the core of the Russia election story. And so, it wouldn't be surprising if in this report, he detailed that there were other investigations being sent out and still being conducted in the Southern District, Main Justice, or elsewhere.
BURNETT: So, Jack, I know you thought there would be indictments prior to this coming out. Obviously, there aren't. So what now?
JACK WEISS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I did think that because they certainly seem to be righteous targets and we had learned a lot about the conduct of say Don Jr., and we wonder about whether others lied to Congress.
What I would add is it's not just obstruction we need to know about. It's evidence of compromise. That evidence of possible compromise of Trump and those close to him would be contained in a foreign counterintelligence report that should be delivered somehow or other to Congress. Unless and until we know that, we won't know the full story of Trump's personal involvement, his personal culpability here.
It may not rise to the level of criminal, which is really the ultimate thing we do in America to deprive someone of their liberty, but it could still be quite significant. And so, we need to wait until we learn more about that.
BURNETT: Harry, to be clear, it would be incredibly significant, right, if there was a conclusion that the Russians had compromised or perceived as compromised for Donald Trump.
SANDICK: Absolutely. I mean, I think based on the indictments because Mueller has told us a lot through the indictments and information that have been filed, I sort of predict through this report he tells the story of the government of Russia, Vladimir Putin and his associates pushing an effort to elect Donald Trump as president. And then the question is why did people lie about connections between Russia and the Trump circle, and did Trump have any knowledge of what Russia was doing? Did he encourage Russia to do this? Was there any suggestion made?
BURNETT: And just to be clear, he could have done some of those things and it not be something Mueller chooses to indict.
SANDICK: That's right, just because the evidence isn't there. There isn't strong enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Or maybe because for whatever reason, it doesn't fit the elements of a federal crime.
BURNETT: Tim, you know, you obviously as presidential historian with the Nixon Library, what -- when you look back at that moment and you look at where we are right now, what do you see?
TIM NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Well, I see this is not a parallel at all. The Watergate special prosecution force's final report came out a year after Richard Nixon had resigned. It was the end of the process. And right now, we're at the end of the beginning of the process.
In the Watergate period, Congress did some of the most important, with the help of the press, did some of the most important investigations before the special prosecutor began prosecuting the president's men. In this case, it's the other way around.
And so, if indeed there is more misconduct surrounding this administration, expect more investigations. They just won't be led by Mueller.
And there's one other point I wanted to make. The Watergate special prosecution force was very careful not to suggest criminal behavior by those who had not been indicted, because under our system of government, under our system of laws and justice, that wouldn't be fair.
But that doesn't mean that the Mueller report won't talk about unethical and suspect conduct. It won't suggest criminal conduct, but it may put together narratives, chronologies that suggest bad behavior.
BURNETT: Well, and again, when you talk about compromise in foreign governments, you're talking about things that should -- you know, all Americans will have to think deeply about the significance of that.
We don't know what we don't know right now, Jack, but when it comes down to indictments. If you are Jared Kushner or you are Donald Trump, Jr., or Ivanka Trump, are you done? Are you in the clear now?
[19:50:01] WEISS: It's a fair question.
And I think it's fascinating to hear a Nixon expert tell us that based on what we know so far and what we've seen so far, this is arguably much more consequential and much more concerning than what happened in the Nixon presidency.
Are those people in the clear? I don't think they're in the clear. They may well have continued wrong -- we just -- the silly news this week about WhatsApp. Those could be serious violations of federal law. For all we know there could be a special counsel appointed to investigate Jared Kushner.
When it comes to is Trump in the clear, as Harry has pointed out and others have, the Southern District is clearly doing, you know, a very serious autopsy of all of his financial dealings. And Michael Cohen alluded to a lot of that in his testimony. That could very well result in criminal charges, and we'll see this sort of, like, interesting pardon end game perhaps unfold in the next year of whether Trump wants to pardon associates of his, whether he wants to pardon himself.
I mean, these are chapters that are yet to be written.
BURNETT: And, Harry, when it comes to the special counsel, we know things have been handed over to the Southern District, for example, and other jurisdictions. Could they have handed things off right now at the final hour or do you think it all would have been done in prior weeks and months?
SANDICK: I think almost certainly things were handed off in the final hour. We know this mystery case involving the foreign corporation that's going up to the Supreme Court.
BURNETT: Because they don't want anyone to know who they are.
BURNETT: Foreign government controlled company.
SANDICK: That case isn't ending, and to the extent there's evidence that that company produces, some prosecutor somewhere is going to do it. The lawyer who's handling them of the Supreme Court, Michael Dreeben, he was a member of the Mueller team, he's also has been deputy general of the United States for many, many years.
And so, he's not leaving. Those that evidence was still be considered by some prosecutor.
BURNETT: Well, interesting when you say things could have been just been handed over literally in these final hours we're going to talk more about that, as our breaking news coverage continues. So, here we are 675 days in, and the big question is what and who is next.
[19:55:51] BURNETT: Breaking news. Bob Mueller is done. The attorney general is reading the report and making a big decision. What's he going to release to Congress and the public?
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT live in Washington. Even, as you're -- we're going through this and trying to understand
what's next and what's in this report that we understand is comprehensive, the big question here was collusion, right?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BURNETT: And there are so many questions about that. Right, polling data shared with Russians. All these things we found out in the Manafort trial. Where are we now with that?
PEREZ: Right, exactly. I mean, look, one -- that's certainly one of the burning questions we still have at this hour, Erin. Just in the past month in the Manafort case for instance, we saw prosecutors say in these sealed court hearings that there was certainly still a big question at the center of this investigation about what we might call collusion, this idea that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, this shadowy figure in the Ukraine who according to the special counsel has all these ties with Russian intelligence services.
So, what we did see, though, just in the past month, that whole allegation just kind of disappeared. In the end, when they went to try to sentence Paul Manafort, none of that came up in any of the prosecutors memos. So, the question we all have is what happened to that.
Certainly five, six weeks ago, they were still saying that and suddenly they weren't anymore. So we certainly have a lot of questions about that. Whether or not the prosecutors decided that this is something they didn't have enough evidence to bring, but that they still are investigating. Certainly, one of the possibilities remains that the FBI is still investigating, and there's a counterintelligence investigation part of this that will live on. And we may never see the fruits of that, obviously.
BURNETT: I mean, Tim, the big question here especially when you think about that and all those things as Evan points out was out there, and then it sort of went away. Evan says some of that, right, may be in the hands of the FBI. We never know, counterintelligence. But some of it may be in this report.
NAFTALI: Yes, and I look to, for example, I think we'll see a history of the FBI's investigation of the Russia intervention. I think we'll learn something there. I fear there'll be a lot of black spots where things have been redacted, but I suspect we'll learn a lot more there.
I think we're also going to learn about the extent to which the White House cooperated with the investigation. These final reports generally talk about their cooperation or lack of cooperation with other institutions. So we should actually learn why President Trump never sat down for an interview.
So I think there's a lot to be expected that will pea interesting and will shape our political dynamic. I think there's a lot yet to come, really. BURNETT: Harry, will Congress get everything they want, which
Democrats in Congress who, of course, control the investigations right now have made it clear they don't just want the report, they want all the information that was used in preparing the report and coming to its conclusions.
SANDICK: I think all the underlying may be a tough ask. I think the report they should get, but the real question I have is one of timing. Because we heard some people say today, there could be a defense based on the idea this is an executive privilege that Trump is going to invoke and that executive privilege should allow him to withhold some of these things, even things they've already turned over to Mueller. And there's some very complicated separation of powers arguments.
We know that Barr has a very sweeping view of what the executive's authority is, and we know that Trump has appointed two justices to the Supreme Court who share that view. I think they will ultimately get what they want but it may take some time to play out.
BURNETT: And, Jack, when do you think we'll find about other cases that have been handed out to Southern District of New York or other jurisdictions?
WEISS: It's anybody's guess. The case that is coming up that we need to keep an eye on, though, is Roger Stone. He's the connection between the campaign and WikiLeaks that's more than alluded to in his indictment. Michael Cohen made it very clear in his testimony.
Let's keep our eye on that ball because that is the connection between the campaign and the Russians.
BURNETT: So many big questions tonight. As we have the big headline and then the big empty void of not knowing.
Thank you so much for joining us. Our breaking news coverage continues now with "AC360".