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U.S. Attorney General Preparing Summary of Principal Conclusions from Mueller Report for Congress; Jared Kushner Agrees to Provide Documents Requested by Congress; U.S. Led International Coalition Declares Complete Victory over ISIS; New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Releases Statement on Arrest for Solicitation of Prostitution; Kidnapping Survivor Heads Foundation Dedicated to Preventing Child Abduction. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 23, 2019 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Barr said that release could come as early as this weekend. Right now, he is still reviewing the report and deciding what parts to release to Congress and to the public.

Next hour, House Democrats will hold what they are calling an emergency caucus conference call to discuss the latest developments. Right now, President Trump is golfing in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, surrounded by top staffers, key members of his legal team, family members. So far there has been an unusual silence from the president on the Mueller report. But the White House is already privately framing it as a win for President Trump.

CNN's team of reporters and analysts have been covering this story closely for 22 months now, and they are standing by to bring you details of everything you need to know.

So let's begin with Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. So Manu, you just got the new reporting on the A.G., Barr deciding not to release the report today. Why? What's going on?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They didn't explain to Congress exactly the rationale for not providing the principal conclusions to the key committees, that's the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, other than saying that it is not coming today. There is an expectation it could very well land tomorrow. Bill Barr himself said in his letter to Congress last night, that as soon as this weekend they could get briefed, lawmakers could get briefed on the principal conclusions of the Mueller report.

Now, there's still a lot of questions about what that means. Will they be summarized anyway by the Attorney General? How much detail will the lawmakers get? But nevertheless, today people were awaiting in anticipation of learning what Bob Mueller found. It is not going to happen today, according to multiple Congressional sources and a Justice Department official, and perhaps because Bill Barr is still going through the report, as he did today. We will see if the lawmakers learn tomorrow, there is a lot of course high anticipation here on the Hill, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Manu, we know that apparently coming out of the Mueller report, there will be no further indictments, and now House speaker Nancy Pelosi has sent a letter to House Democrats ahead of this caucus-wide phone conference later on just about an hour away. And what is she saying? What is she wanting to make clear?

RAJU: Well, she wants to get her caucus all on the same page. There's a lot of anxiety among Democrats now that this investigation is over. Democrats want to know what the next steps are for their new majority, how they plan to pursue it, and essentially try to keep everybody on the same page.

What Nancy Pelosi said in this letter today was that she expects, she was demanding the full report to be released to the public, as well as to provide the underlying evidence that underpins the decisions by Bob Mueller to prosecute and not to prosecute, to be given to Capitol Hill. She said this in the letter, "Even if DOJ chooses not to prosecute additional individuals, the underlying findings must be provided to Congress and the American people. The Attorney General's offered to provide the committees with a summary of the report's conclusions is insufficient. Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise."

And one of those committees is the House Judiciary Committee, which has launched this investigation into potential obstruction of justice. They are demanding documents from a range of individuals close to the president. And we're now learning that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, has agreed to provide some documents to the committee answering a range of their questions about what happened in the campaign, the inauguration, the transition, and in the White House. We'll see what they learn from that. But Democrats are trying to make the case, this is just the beginning of their investigation going forward, but they need to see what Mueller has as a roadmap of sorts for how they plan to proceed, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Manu Raju, thank you so much from Capitol Hill, appreciate it.

So now let's go to CNN's Jessica Schneider who is at the U.S. Justice Department. So right now the Attorney General still reviewing the Russia report. Is this an indication that perhaps he is changing the approach of what conclusions would be presented, needs a little bit more time?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, overall, Fredricka, this is really a process. We know that the Attorney General sent this letter to Congress pretty quickly yesterday after receiving this confidential report from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That reception of the report was around 4:00 yesterday afternoon. Shortly thereafter, around 5:00 p.m., that's when we saw the letter that he sent to Congress advising them that he would be reviewing this report, and then advising them of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions. So today, we're getting word from the Justice Department confirming

that those principal conclusions will not be transmitted to Congress today. However, in that letter, the Attorney General said that he expects it as soon as this weekend. So we're still on standby perhaps for tomorrow.

But again, this is a process. The Attorney General has to go through this confidential report from the Special Counsel. He reviewed it for a few hours yesterday and was back at work this morning, coming here to the Justice Department just before 10:00 this morning.

[14:05:10] But he has to review the report, and then after that he has to write his own report to Congress, where he advises them of these principal conclusions. And no doubt, there will be a lot of scrutiny on this report, that the Attorney General issues to Congress, because it will be made public. So no doubt that is on the Attorney General's mind as well as he's working through this throughout the day today.

Something important to note here, Fred, the Attorney General isn't doing this on his own, he made it clear to Congress and we've heard here at the Justice Department obviously that he is in consultation with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rod Rosenstein front and center here, because of course Rosenstein is the one who appointed the Special Counsel way back 22 months ago in May, 2017, and who oversaw this entire process, while the Attorney General at the time, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself from the Russia investigation.

So they're essentially working in tandem. And to that end, from this letter to Congress, that is something that Bill Barr made explicit. He told Congress "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 longstanding practicing and policies."

So Fred, not only talking with Rosenstein, but also perhaps consulting with the Special Counsel here, the one who drafted this confidential report, but now we're in this holding pattern. It looks like it will not come to Congress today. So of course, with that expectation that it could be as soon as this weekend, we stand by and see what happens tomorrow. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Barr consulting with the principals involved. It has been a 22-month investigation after all. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

So as all of this unfolds, President Trump remaining silent as he spends the weekend at Mar-a-Lago. And this afternoon, we did see the president golfing at his club in West Palm Beach. CNN White House Reporter Boris Sanchez joining us right now. So Boris, no comment from the president so far, but his actions come across as rather relaxed.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. We actually just heard from the deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley. He was with a group of reporters where the president was golfing today at his golf club here in West Palm Beach, and he was asked what the president's mood was. It was a bit of a short response. All he said was that the president is fine and good, and he pointed to a statement put out by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders yesterday, via Twitter, responding to this news coming from the Department of Justice, where she says that she is looking forward to the process taking its course.

So the White House at least publicly has been restrained in its response. Privately, though, it's a bit of a different story. One White House source telling CNN's Pamela Brown that the fat lady has sung. They were suggesting that Democrats and the press should be embarrassed by this news that Robert Mueller had wrapped up his investigation without any further charges, and that no one, no Trump associate was ultimately charged with collusion or conspiracy, either during the campaign or his time at the White House.

Another source on the Trump campaign telling CNN that yesterday was a good day for America. So there's certainly a sense of vindication. As to whether we will hear directly from President Trump on this or not, that has yet to be seen. We know that he is surrounded here in Mar-a-Lago by top aides, including two of his top attorneys, Emmet Flood and Pat Cipollone. So whatever the White House says, you can bet they will weigh in and have some input on what the president's response will be.

WHITFIELD: And Boris, the White House has announced who will represent the U.S. in Beijing, looking ahead, because the White House is trying to do that, when trade talks resume next week. And give us details on that.

SANCHEZ: That's right. Sarah Sanders put out a statement today confirming that Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will be headed to Beijing next week to try to finalize these trade talks in some form of a trade deal with China, something that the president has long been working toward. We have been hearing from sources that there was potential that he would invite Chinese President Xi here to Mar-a-Lago to sign off on that deal at some point this month. That ultimately had to be delayed as the talks are still ongoing. White House sources indicate that may actually happen next month, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

Let's talk further on all of this. With me now, CNN senior White House Correspondent Pamela Brown, CNN Crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz, Jeff Mason, a White House correspondent for Reuters, and Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of Russia operations. Glad you could all be with me.

So Pamela, this is something else, that the president has not said a peep. So the whole team is there in support of, and likely controlling him from tweeting out, commenting. How hard are they working to do that?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're trying to. I think we've seen the president kind of does what he wants to do. [14:10:01] It's clearly a wait and see approach by President Trump.

He was very vocal before this news came out yesterday in that interview, where he said, look, Robert Mueller didn't even get votes, and now he's going to write this report on me. Now that the report has been delivered, the president has a muted response. He is not really saying anything. Even the White House response yesterday was pretty restrained, saying basically we will leave this up to Bill Barr.

And I spoke to a source close to the president's legal team who said look, this is a wait and see approach. We feel confident, but let's get the plane on the runway and see what we got. Let's see what is actually in this report. So while privately, White House officials, as Boris said, are framing this as a win, as vindication, there were no more indictments, there were no charges on collusion, the president never had to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller, there is a level of anxiousness about what could be in the report. Is there any conduct written out in the report about the president that is unseemly, or concerning? They don't know. And so I think you're waiting, what you're seeing from the president is, he is waiting and see, to see how he should respond.

WHITFIELD: And then I wonder, Shimon, this is the president's pick, Bill Barr. Perhaps this is also deferring to giving him some respect to do his thing. I'm going to refrain from commenting, and I'm hoping that, to a degree, he's going to shape the narrative.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So, I don't think Bill Barr is going to shape the narrative here. What I do think is you do make a good point, that this is his pick. The people certainly around the president really like this Attorney General, that's why he was there. He also made certain requests before he went in and took the nomination, so they know he's a serious guy. They trust him. I do think that there is a lot of trust there with him.

And so far, I think what we've seen from him, we all should have a little trust in him. I think we've seen all more than we expected in the early stages of this, that letter that was sent to members of Congress yesterday indicated things that we did not expect to see, like the issue about the principal conclusions, the idea that he was going to work through this weekend and get this out as quickly as possible. I think those are positive signs. And they're working through it. They're trying to be transparent, they say. We'll see.

WHITFIELD: And perhaps Barr trying to be rather honest today by saying I need a little bit more time. Not going to release that information today. It may come tomorrow. The letter said sometime this weekend. So Steve, while we do know that there are no new indictments, what does this mean for all of the Russian nationals who have been connected, upwards of 29. Is there really any hope, or thought that they would ever be prosecuted, brought to the United States, to talk?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, I don't think so, Fred. Those people are unlikely, as has been said many times, to see the inside of an American courtroom. It is no small thing that these Russians will pretty much, in perpetuity into the future will not be able to come to the United States, and many of them like to travel internationally.

As frustrating as it is, Fred, we just don't know yet what the full report says. And even deeper than that, as part of the entire process that Mueller was the head of, he spun off, we know, several things to places like the Southern District of New York, which are very, very well equipped to do counterintelligence investigations. And those are the longest and most complex types of things that go on that sometimes have very difficult legal and, of course, national security implications.

So we really don't know yet what is going on and when it is going to go on and where it is going on. We have to remember that some very notorious spies, not that I'm saying that any American is a spy, but guys like Ames and Hanssen who were spies for Russia were prosecuted in the Eastern District of Virginia. So these directs have a lot of, districts have a lot of ability to continue counterintelligence investigations, which is my main concern.

WHITFIELD: All right, and Jeff, the president has a few reasons to feel some vindication, right. He escaped a one-on-one face to face interview and probing from Mueller. We are since learning there are no more further indictments. However all of this could still shape his tone for his reelection, might it?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Oh, totally. I think if the report comes out and the optimism that seems to be coming amongst some Republicans and maybe in the White House now, because of the fact that no more indictments are coming, yes, that could turn out to be really good news. On the other hand, we don't know what's in that report. There could be --

WHITFIELD: But there will be details.

MASON: Yes. He has a story to tell in that report, and we don't know what that story is yet. But whatever it is, certainly if it is more positive towards the president, then he's going to use that as he goes out into the reelection campaign. And the other side of the aisle, the Democrats, are going to use it, too, if it goes more the way that perhaps they were expecting it to go.

WHITFIELD: So Pamela, there is a pretty good chance that they would -- the White House would exert some sort of executive privilege to try to contain any of those details from that report from getting out. How might we see that?

BROWN: That's right. And I'll tell you, the White House has been bracing for a fight over the report, over the disclosure of it, and the expectation is this very well could end up in a federal court, with a judge deciding who gets to see this report.

[14:15:05] While the president outwardly says, yes, I'll put the report out there, let the people see it, the White House lawyers have been strategizing how they're going to deal with this, because it wants to have, the White House wants to have the opportunity to exert executive privilege before it goes to Congress. That's one of the big questions right now, will Bill Barr share what he is going to share with Congress with the White House beforehand. We don't know the answer to that yet. But the expectation is they will have the opportunity to do so, and they're going to try to shield as much information as possible, particularly if it is unseemly or looks poor for the president.

Now, if it is exonerating, if it is exculpatory, they may take a different tact. They are also waiting to see.

WHITFIELD: Right. And then of course, Steve, shielding some information because it is classified information is also a measure that just might be taken.

HALL: Yes, this is always a really tough thing when you're talking about again, counterintelligence and foreign national, and you're talking about sources and methods. And although I very much want to see what's in the report, because I still have some significant counterintelligence questions that I would like to see answered, you do have to worry about the sources that were used, the methods that were used. And of course from a legal perspective, you also got to be careful about people who might have been investigated but ended up not being guilty or involved in any way, shape, or form. So that is always a tough line to walk.

WHITFIELD: And there was an expectation of who might be the big fish, more indictments. It turns out it really could have been Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, right? Roger Stone, the trial coming up.

PROKUPECZ: I'm going to tell you who the big fish is. The big fish is the Russians in the end, right. They're very much responsible for what happened here in terms of the interference. And I think that has always been the main concern for the FBI, and really the Special Counsel team. It's the Russians. What were the Russians doing? It is why they wanted Paul Manafort's cooperation in many ways. I know we were very much focused on the president and whether or not his cooperation was going to somehow harm the president, but if you look in these hearings, what the questions that they wanted from, and the answers that they wanted from Paul Manafort, was like this meeting that he had with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian agent, which they said goes to the heart of their investigation.

That part of this is not going away. They're going to continue, the FBI is going to continue doing that work, trying to figure out exactly what the Russians were doing here. And we have other people, obviously, that are still cooperating, like Rick Gates, who is probably cooperating with the Southern District of New York, other U.S. attorney's offices. From everything I can tell and from what I have been told, he is a star witness for the Department of Justice. He is bringing them a lot of evidence. They're not ready to finish with him. They don't want it out there publicly what he's doing. Michael Flynn is kind of done with. We're just waiting for one case.

WHITFIELD: But if reportedly there are no more indictments, then what's the cooperating?

PROKUPECZ: Other cases.

WHITFIELD: What more information could come that would be helpful?

BROWN: Yes, so other cases. We know the SDNY is investigating the Trump Inaugural Committee. Rick Gates was a senior official on the Inaugural Committee, so presumably he's helping on that case. But clearly there are not going to be indictments, according to our reporting, related to the central mandate for Mueller, which was collusion with Russians in the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice. So that in and of itself, we're done. That's basically what we learned yesterday.

WHITFIELD: So then one has to wonder, Jeff, potentially whether it is these other offshoot investigations, will that help explain all of the lying. What's with all of the lying with so many parties in all of this, if it doesn't come from the Mueller report, then when will we ever know?

MASON: Not to mention the instinct by the president and people around him to undermine the investigation, by calling it is a witch hunt, by saying it wasn't necessary. I'm just very curious to see how the president will react, if in fact the report comes out and does exonerate him. Will there be any sort of backtracking from some of that effort to say this was a ridiculous process, or will it be sort of a turnaround and say he did a good job, that he really is a respected person, and I'm glad he is the one who was leading this. We'll see. We'll see.

BROWN: And he could also say, look, I said it was a witch hunt. It was a witch hunt, there weren't any other charges brought, on collusion. It will be interesting to see how he tries to frame this.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: We'll see. All right, thanks to all of you, appreciate it. Thank you, Steve Hall from far away, but there you are now close again. All right, thank you to everyone.

Still ahead, even though the Mueller report is complete, there is still potential for legal jeopardy for the president. The other investigation swirling around the White House, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:23:34] WHITFIELD: The Special Counsel's Russia investigation may be over, but the president's legal troubles are not necessarily finished. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have already issued a broad subpoena to President Trump's Inaugural Committee. And there is also an investigation into campaign finances, including the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. New York prosecutors were also the ones to obtain a guilty plea against Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

I want to bring in CNN's Erica Orden. Erica, glad you could be with us, there you are. Hi. So what can you tell us about some of the other investigations now, particularly SDNY? ERICA ORDEN, CNN REPORTER: So there is a broad array of

investigations regarding Trump and those in his orbit, mostly coming out of New York, New York-based agencies and offices. You mentioned some of them out of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office that involve the Trump Organization, including an inquiry whether there are reimbursement efforts towards Michael Cohen. There is also the New York Attorney General has a civil lawsuit against the Trump Foundation. There's an inquiry from the New York State Department of Financial Services into the Trump Organization's insurance practices. And there's several other beyond that as well.

[14:25:00] WHITFIELD: So if there is a kind of collective relief that President Trump and those close to him are feeling as a result of the Mueller report not promising any more indictments, is there a way in which to measure a way these other lower district, or state cases, are they less serious than any kind of federal prosecution that could have come from a Mueller report?

ORDEN: I wouldn't say they're less serious. Some of them are federal inquiries. All of the Manhattan U.S. Attorneys cases, it is a federal prosecutor's office, so those would be federal charges if they were to bring cases involving them. In addition, the other inquiries could have significant impacts for the Trump Organization business. It's also, the attorney's lawsuit has also has already impacted the president's, what is now his former charity. The charity has agreed to dissolve. And so there could be various other consequences for the organizations and people close to the president.

WHITFIELD: All right, Erica Orden, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Let's talk further now. I want to bring in Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI supervisory agent who worked for James Comey, and former New York City prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan. Good that you both could be with me as well. So Josh, let me start by asking you about some news that we are getting, that Rick Gates case before Judge Amy Berman Jackson will be handed off to the D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office now. Is there anything you can share about that?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So this shows that there is still work to be done in a lot of these investigations. Now, if you were in the White House, or you're part of the Trump family, obviously we've heard some reports that they're celebrating a little bit in the sense that there won't be any additional indictments. But there is still work to be done, and if you look at just the sheer number of cases that Robert Mueller has brought since the beginning of his investigation, it shows that there was righteous criminality here that he was charged with investigating.

WHITFIELD: There was 199 charges in all.

CAMPBELL: Yes, 199 charges, that's right. And that's just Bob Mueller. And you asked Erica a very good question just then about whether the state charges and all of these other investigations that are under way, whether that is any less serious than what Mueller has done. I have to tell you that jail is jail, and whether the bars in front of you are funded by taxpayers at the federal level or the state level, jail is jail. And this family is facing serious legal jeopardy with investigation on top of investigation.

So bottom line here, I don't think that there should be champagne corks popping down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I think that there are still all these other investigators doing this work. This is, as I've likened to, it's like putting out the fire in your kitchen only to then remember you have this termite problem. It is good to have that out of the way, but they are not out of the woods yet when it comes to people that are looking into their lives.

WHITFIELD: So Josh, is there a feeling even if the Mueller probe is complete, that the expansion of these other cases could actually deepen or even widen?

CAMPBELL: They could, because if you remember, Robert Mueller's mandate was very limited, and in the sense that it was two prongs, the first being trying to determine whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and then that second prong, if he identified any other crimes during the course of investigation. But those were the guardrails.

Now, compare that with what state prosecutors can do, compare that with what federal prosecutors in New York can do, and then lastly, what the Democratic investigators can do in the House of Representatives, they don't have those same constraints. So it is going to get worse before it gets better, in my judgment.

WHITFIELD: OK. And then, Paul, what do you think is going on with the Attorney General William Barr? We understand as he is pouring over all these details in what has been called a comprehensive report from Bob Mueller, the Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein is there, that Barr would say yesterday that these principal conclusions would come this weekend, but apparently, we're getting word it's not going to happen today. What do you suppose is happening? Is he reshaping? Is he simply just trying to read through all of this?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he's got a tough job, Fred, because we know that Mueller is very detailed and very thorough. Look at some of the indictments that were handed down. They always lay out in enormous detail the facts of the case with exhibits. So you can imagine, since there have been dozen, literally dozens of indictments and more than, I think around 10 guilty pleas in the case, there is an enormous volume of information that Barr could be looking at in this report.

And he's got a choice. He can rewrite and submit a shortened version of the report. Or he can use his troops in the Justice Department to go through the entire report, and try to redact references to secret grand jury testimony and counterintelligence, classified information. We just don't know what he is doing at this point and what he means by "principal conclusions."

WHITFIELD: Yes, so that's a lot. So redacting is one thing.

[14:30:00] And then if you are shortening or coming up with your own version of conclusions, you're not going to do that unless you've read through all of it. And 22-month investigation, that, I can't imagine how many pages we're talking about, Paul.

CALLAN: It could be an enormous report. And I'll tell you something --

WHITFIELD: Books.

CALLAN: -- the thing that I'm looking at is the president is hardly a recluse in terms of his wanting to trumpet that this is a witch hunt and that he has been exonerated. And now we're only hearing what he is doing on the golf course. So this report has to be so detailed that even his White House lawyers are saying, you better hold back until we have a complete picture of what's there, because I'll tell you, even if Trump is exonerated on the Russian connection, it is bound to be filled with embarrassing statements, embarrassing evidence. And the one thing I think we'll take away from the report is that Mueller has opened Pandora's Box against the president, because when he started looking at the Trump Organization, he just set off a whole new inquiry that could go on until the end of the Trump presidency.

WHITFIELD: Right. So Josh, the president and those close to him, perhaps even his family, they're not necessarily out of the woods just because the president may feel some level of vindication from the ending of the Mueller report. All those other cases that you have been talking about, that that graphic showed us, ongoing investigations that have come from the Mueller report, they're still a lot of potential, isn't there, of charges and probes?

CAMPBELL: Yes, absolutely. And if you think about it, too, these investigations don't have the same constraints in the sense, not only substantively, I mentioned what Mueller's mandate was, but also, federal prosecutors in New York, their investigations can go on and on and on until they have that sense of confidence that there is no criminality or they've really finished their investigation.

So, as Paul mentioned, this is going to go on for another couple years. And with respect to the president himself when it comes to the Mueller report, which obviously we don't know what is in it. We are still waiting to hear that. But although we've seen the signaling that others won't be indicted, there is still that looming question out there. This is very much a political question. We have seen the collision of politics and the law in the last two years, but the question will come down to, will Mueller say that the president has been involved in criminality, but Mueller and the Department of Justice chose not to prosecute him by the nature of his position as president.

That doesn't mean the president is innocent. That means that they're not moving on him. So that then turns this into a whole new phase, if you will, on Capitol Hill. What do they do with that, when a prosecutor says the president committed wrongdoing but procedurally we can't move on him. Again, that's why I go back to, and I agree with Paul, this is going to be a tough couple of years, and things are not going to look good in my estimation based on the number of investigations that are under way.

WHITFIELD: So Paul, that sounds a lot more Comey-esque, post the Hillary Clinton probe, but do you see Mueller taking that kind of tactic, injecting, we wish we could, but then we didn't, and we couldn't? Or just be a little bit more pragmatic about his conclusions?

CALLAN: I don't know. That's a great question, Fred, because when you look back at Comey, when Comey had that press conference, where he exonerated Hillary, but was highly critical of how she had had handled classified information, many people think that cost her the presidency, and of course it cost Comey his job in the long run. So is Mueller going to go down that same road?

The Justice Department has always had a policy that if they do an investigation that does not result in criminal charges, they generally don't make detailed public statements about such investigations. But here, of course, we have an investigation involving the president of the United States. So I'm not so sure that the same rule book will apply.

WHITFIELD: All right.

CAMPBELL: If I could just add there.

WHITFIELD: Yes, real quick.

CAMPBELL: That's the key difference, right, between the Hillary case and the president.

WHITFIELD: A candidate versus now sitting president.

CAMPBELL: Right. The FBI didn't have to describe her actions, whereas with the president, if he is off limits because of the nature of his job, what do the American people do with that information if there is criminality out there but they're not allowed to do anything with it?

WHITFIELD: All right, Josh Campbell, Paul Callan, all fantastic thoughts. Thank you so much.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, coalition forces say they have defeated ISIS in Syria, driving the terror group from its stronghold. How weeks of fierce fighting finally came to an end, and what happens next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:38:55] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The White House just released a statement after the U.S.-backed forces in Syria announced the final ISIS stronghold there has fallen. The president says in part, "I'm pleased to announce that together with our partners in the global coalition to defeat ISIS, including the Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Force, the United States has liberated all ISIS- controlled territory in Syria and Iraq -- 100 percent of the "caliphate." But as the Syrian Defense Forces raise liberation flags over the final ISIS stronghold, it's a victory that can only resonate so far. The breeding ground and ideology of ISIS still thrives. CNN's Ben Wedeman has been on the ground in Syria for the past 50 days now. Ben, how exactly did this historical territorial victory happen?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it happened as a result of a confluence of interests between local forces, whether that be the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, and the Shia in Iraq, and ironically, Iran, the United States, the western powers, all coming together, realizing that ISIS was a very broad threat, threatening the regional order here in the Middle East.

[14:40:13] So for instance, I was in parts of Iraq when American and Iranian force, they weren't working together, but they were working in parallel to bolster Iraqi forces. So one of those rare moments in history where enemies come together to defeat an even worse enemy, in this case, and that of course, was ISIS, which was the sort of regime the sorts of which had not been seen here in the Middle East. Utterly sectarian. It had no qualms at mass murder and reviving the institution of slavery in the 21st century.

But of course, now that ISIS has been completely eliminated, we're already beginning to see the old tensions coming to the fore. Saudi Arabia versus Iran, Iran versus the United States, those tensions are rising at a moment when ISIS has disappeared. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Ben Wedeman, fabulous job you've been doing all of this time, 50 days and counting.

Much more ahead in the Newsroom right after this.

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[14:45:37] WHITFIELD: Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots owner, caught up in a sex sting in south Florida, is speaking out today. The billionaire is apologizing in a new statement, saying this, quote, "I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my coworkers, our fans, and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard." Kraft is charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution, but sources tell CNN that Kraft will not accept a plea deal offered by prosecutors. CNN's Polo Sandoval is standing by with more details on this. Polo, what else is Kraft saying today?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, this statement is significant. I'll tell you why. This is the first time that we're hearing publicly from the Patriots owner since the announcement by Florida prosecutors that they would be pressing these charges against not only Kraft but at least 100 other so-called Johns.

I will read you more of that statement here where Kraft essentially apologizes. He writes "Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women. My morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years," Mr. Kraft referring to his late wife there.

What is interesting here obviously is this is coming a week after his attorneys announced that they would seek a protective order that would essentially block the release of the surveillance videos that police are considering evidence in the case. And this is also happening as a source close to this investigation announces does not intend to take up prosecutors on their offer to dismiss the misdemeanor charges in exchange for his admission that he would have been convicted had this case gone to trial, and as well as various other consequences like a fine and community service.

So one thing that we did notice in that statement, the very last part of the statement that was released was he also writes that as he moves forward, essentially, that he would like to use his platform to try to make a difference. So we'll have to see exactly what more he could possibly mean by that, if there could be a possible reconsideration of that plea deal. But at this point, of course, nothing has changed there. And finally, we should note the timing of this is fairly interesting, on a Saturday afternoon, on a very busy news weekend.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

Still ahead, a terrifying rescue at sea. More than 1,000 people are trapped on a crippled cruise ship. They're being plucked to safety in boats and choppers. Much more straight ahead in the Newsroom after this.

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[14:52:36] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're following this breaking news involving a stranded cruise ship off the coast of Norway. You can see the ship in the distance in the video here. Helicopters, in fact, covering above the ship, airlifting people off the ship one by one. Multiple boats are also taking part in rescuing the 1,300 passengers and crew on board. So this is going to take a bit of time. Norwegian emergency services say that the crew sent a mayday distress signal reporting engine problems and bad weather there. This is all happening off the west coast of Norway. The rescued passengers are being flown to a nearby town.

And there were reports of high winds in the area when the ship's engines experienced problems. The Viking Sky is owned by Viking Ocean Cruise Ships. And we have not received any reports of injuries, thankfully, at this time. But it does look pretty harrowing and frightening, and the weather is not cooperating.

All right, here is a look at other top stories for you. Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched shoulder to shoulder today in the streets of London. They are demanding a second referendum ahead of crucial Brexit deadline. And right now British Prime Minister Theresa May has until April 12th to get British lawmakers to agree to her Brexit deal or leave the European Union without a deal. And if parliament agrees to a deal, the European Union will give the U.K. until May 22nd to leave. A petition calling on the U.K. to cancel Brexit has reached over 4 million signatures. Meantime, the search is on for two men in the deadly shooting of an

off-duty Chicago police officer. Police say two off-duty officers and two others, were leaving a nightclub in downtown Chicago early this morning, and that's when two men approached them. One of them pulled out a gun and started shooting. Two people were shot, including one of the officers. Chicago's police superintendent says it appears the attack was unprovoked. First responders lined the streets in a procession for the deceased officer. He has been identified as a two- year veteran, John Rivera.

And imagine being kidnapped as a young girl, and then surviving. One woman is fighting for missing and exploited children. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has her story in this week's Turning Points.

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[14:55:00] SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: On the way home from school to celebrate her eighth birthday, Midsi Sanchez was abducted by a stranger and sexually abused by nearly three days.

MIDSI SANCHEZ: I knew I was going to die.

GUPTA: But Midsi managed to escape.

SANCHEZ: I went to school, just two weeks after.

GUPTA: When she was nine-years-old, Midsi was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. By the time she got to high school, she quit therapy and turned to drugs and alcohol.

SANCHEZ: I couldn't deal with the trauma resurfacing.

GUPTA: Then in 2009, Midsi learned that another girl had disappeared. It hit close to home.

SANCHEZ: She was eight-years-old, Latina, from a family of five just like mine. And I took that little girl's flyer home and had 3,000 copies printed.

GUPTA: Midsi says she went back to therapy, and realized her purpose. It prompted her to start a foundation that offers child safety programs to prevent abduction and abuse.

SANCHEZ: I was being kidnapped every time. It was like I was retraumatizing myself. But I was willing to do it to help those families. I get to turn my traumatic situation into something powerful. This is why I'm still alive.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And thank you so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.

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