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House Democrats Currently Holding Hold Call on Mueller Report; Jared Kushner Agrees to Hand Over Documents in House Obstruction Probe; Many Surprised Barr Could Brief Lawmakers on Mueller Report this Weekend; Will White House Try to Exert Executive Privilege over Some Evidence in Mueller Report; Trump Silent on Mueller Report During Mar-a-Lago Weekend; Trump's Legal Woes May Not Be Over; Rep. John Garamendi (D) of California Discusses the Mueller Report, Democrat's Conference Call; 1,300 People Being Evacuated from Crippled Cruise Ship. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 23, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:52] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

Right to the breaking news this hour. The fight to see the full report from Robert Mueller kicking into overdrive. House Democrats are holding a conference call right now to strategize. They're not satisfied that Attorney General William Barr may only give them the principal conclusion this weekend, basically, a summary of Mueller's findings on possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats and many Americans want all of it, whatever it is.

Now the attorney general is at the Justice Department right now pouring over and continuing to review Mueller's report. DOJ officials tell us it is comprehensive. But as of right now, no one outside the Justice Department knows what is in it, how long it is, or how much it deals with the president's own actions.

Here is what we do know. Mueller ended his investigation yesterday without further indictments, and without ever doing a sit-down interview with the president. So remember this moment, because no matter what this report actually says, when we look back at the Trump presidency, we'll likely draw a line, before the Mueller report, and after. The before was about a report of almost mythical proportions, built up over 675 days, where the country wondered, would it solve all of the mysteries of Russian election interference and collusion. Would it damn a sitting president or exonerate him? So far, the after has brought more questions and the hard reality that we may not get all of the answers.

We have reporters at the Justice Department, with the president at Mar-a-Lago and on Capitol Hill.

And we begin with CNN's Manu Raju. Manu, Democrats are holding this conference call right now. I will be

speaking to a prominent Democratic lawmaker as soon as he is off that call. But what can you tell us about what they're hoping to accomplish?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of anxiety among the Democratic caucus right now about what is in the Mueller report and what Democrats want to do in the days ahead to put the pressure on the Justice Department to get what they want. And what they want is a public release of the full report, as well as the underlying evidence, the findings in the report, and the decisions about it, that led -- the findings that led to the decisions by Robert Mueller to prosecute and to not prosecute, that would call for hearings, including unclassified hearings, with Robert Mueller, other senior officials, to make clear that the American public understands exactly what happened over the past 675 days.

Now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter just moments ago to her caucus making it very clear that she expects and expects her caucus to push very aggressively for the full Mueller report. She said this. She said, "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 offer to provide the committees with a summary of the report's conclusions is insufficient. Congress requires a full report and the underlying documents so that committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise."

So, Ana, we expect in this call that is happening right now that the members who chair the key committees, Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will brief members or explain what they've been told so far is very little. They have only been told they could get briefed as soon as this weekend about the principal conclusions and what to expect going forward. But a lot of questions. We'll see how the members answer the private calls that is happening right now.

CABRERA: As the Mueller report is done, there are still multiple investigations into the president and his inner circle going on in the House. And today, we learned the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has agreed to hand over documents in the obstruction probe. Give us an update on that, Manu.

RAJU: Yes. That's the House Judiciary Committee's investigation that is looking into a lot of aspects that Bob Mueller has looked into as well, potential obstruction of justice, potential abuse of power, as well as things that are occurring during the Russian interference campaign back in 2016.

[15:05:00] Jared Kushner is one of the 81 individuals and entities that have been targeted by this committee to provide documents to the committee. Now we have learned from a source familiar with the matter that Kushner, in fact, is providing documents related to the questions that Jerry Nadler has. He has asked questions about Russian interference, the Trump Tower Moscow Project, the firing of James Comey, as well as the hush money payments that occurred back in 2016 to silence those alleged affairs involving the president. How Kushner responds to those remains to be seen.

But, yes, Ana, a sign that these investigations on the Hill only are just beginning as one major one coming to an end.

CABRERA: They're not going anywhere.

Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill, keep us posted for any new developments there.

I want to go to CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, now.

Jessica, all eyes are on Attorney General William Barr. We spotted him leaving his home earlier today on his way to the Justice Department. And a lot of people were really surprised when we heard that Barr could brief lawmakers on his take-aways from the Mueller report as soon as this weekend, even though the Mueller report was described as comprehensive. So what is he doing right now? Do we know?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Those are the big questions here. So we know that Bill Barr is in the building. He is just a few floors above me here at the Justice Department. Presumably, he has been working diligently for the last five hours or so. We saw him arrive here at the Department of Justice just before 10:00 this morning. And now, of course, we know that any report he submits to Congress with these principal conclusions, it will not come today.

So the question really is, how comprehensive is this confidential report from the special counsel. We know that Bill Barr reviewed part of it at least yesterday. He referred the report sometime around 4:00, and then he notified Congress right around 5:00. He did spend a few hours reviewing it yesterday, was back here at the Department of Justice today. But there could be a lot to go through here. We don't know the length or the complexity of the special counsel's confidential report. But we know that he has to go through the report, and then the attorney general has to write up this summary, in a sense, for Congress.

So we know that he will be here throughout the day today. Don't know how long he will be working into the night. But we know that he won't be giving any report to Congress at least until tomorrow. Because it was, in his own word, Ana, that in that letter to Congress, he says he expects or hopes that he could have something to Congress this week, meaning maybe we'll see something tomorrow. But of course, these deadlines shift and we don't know for sure.

CABRERA: I just look back down at his letter that he gave to Congress, saying, "I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend." So he is the one who really put the pressure on himself to get the answers sooner rather than later.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. CABRERA: There has been this kind of ongoing question about whether the White House would attempt to exert executive privilege over some of the evidence spelled out in the Mueller report. What could that potentially include?

SCHNEIDER: So any executive privilege would really pertain to these official communications with the president about official business. But it remains to be seen exactly when and in what form the White House would try to exert this privilege. Because we do know from Pam Brown's reporting of just about a week ago, that the White House expects to see any report that's submitted to Congress and the public from the attorney general. It's unclear if the White House will get a chance to see that report, but that was their expectation.

So as for this executive privilege claim, this could come in any form. The question is, could it come before Bill Barr submits this to Congress, possibly by the end of the weekend, or would this be more an exertion of executive privilege as it pertains to the entire special counsel's confidential report. Because obviously we know that the Congress is pushing to get that released in its entirety as well. So that is a big question, as to what the White House will exert here.

CABRERA: Jessica Schneider, thank you.

And in a rare moment of presidential silence, there's still no word from President Trump on the conclusion of the special counsel's investigation. The president has been spending the day golfing. He is now back in Mar-a-Lago with his lawyers nearby gaming out responses as to whatever headlines come out of the Mueller report.

Trump's lawyers released this statement yesterday, saying, "We are pleased that the office of special counsel has delivered its report to the attorney general pursuant to the regulations. Attorney General Barr will determine the appropriate next steps."

CNN's Boris Sanchez is live from West Palm Beach where the president is spending the weekend.

Boris, take us inside the atmosphere there at Mar-a-Lago since this news has dropped.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana. Yes, according to guests and aides that were around the president last night, as he was being updated by some of his attorneys and White House officials as to the news coming from the Department of Justice, the president was in a spirited mood. He took part in the Lincoln Day Dinner where he gave a short speech, introducing his friend, the congressman from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham. But in the president's three-minute speech he spent more time talks about the first lady's approval ratings. He didn't actually mention the Mueller report, as you noted.

The White House pointed back to the statement coming from the legal team saying they look forward to this process being carried out, that all decisions are now in the hands of Attorney General Barr.

[15:10:13] Privately, though, some White House officials apparently feel vindicated. One of them telling my colleague, Pamela Brown, that the fat lady has sung, that Democrats in the media should be embarrassed for their role in reporting this story. Further, another official, one with the Trump campaign, suggested that yesterday was a great day for America.

So even though there's still many questions out there about what is actually in this report, some inside the White House and around the president are happy about this.

The president himself, as you noted, has not said anything publicly yet. We're waiting to see ultimately what he comes out and says -- Ana?

CABRERA: OK, Boris Sanchez, thank you.

So after 675 days, what's next for Robert Mueller?

Stay with us. Our special coverage continues after a quick break.

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[15:15:07] CABRERA: Welcome back. The breaking news we're following, Attorney General William Barr could deliver the principal conclusions of the Mueller report to Congress this weekend. Although, we don't know just when that is going to happen. We learned it won't be today.

The Mueller report was submitted yesterday, after a nearly two-year investigation that included charges against 37 people and entities, search guilty pleas, and one conviction at trial, Paul Manafort, of course. Now a DOJ source tells CNN there will be no further indictments from Robert Mueller. But it may not be the last we hear from him either.

Joining us now, CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, CNN legal analyst, Ross Garber, who has expertise in political investigations and impeachment law, and federal criminal defense attorney, Caroline Polisi.

Evan, let me start with you.

We don't know how much we will see of Mueller's report but there have been calls of him to testify before Congress. And executive privilege wouldn't stop him from doing that, right?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, absolutely not. Look, what executive privilege will affect is how much information he is able to provide, whether there's anything that the White House believes is protected by executive privilege. That's stuff he won't be able to discuss with members of Congress, at least until the White House withdraws that, or if there's a judge perhaps that rules that that executive privilege doesn't apply. So, look, I think you're going to see for some time, some wrangling between the two ends of Capitol Hill over exactly what can be and what cannot be discussed about this report. But also, Ana, I think one of the things that we have to wait for is

to see exactly how detailed this report is. One of the things that we know from our own reporting before the report landed, as Bill Barr got -- took the chair over at the Justice Department, became attorney general, in the past month, one of the concerns people around him have had was that the more detailed the Mueller report was, the more problematic it was for Bill Barr, the more difficult it would be for him to be able to distill it, for him to be able to condense it into what essentially will be a Barr report for members of Congress. The more detail there's, then that stuff is going to be more complicated for him to try to fight off from members of Congress.

CABRERA: Ross, the DOJ has always operated under the belief that a sitting president can't be indicted. I know it's not technically law, but it is DOJ policy right now. And there's also the guidance that we've heard attorney general -- rather, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein bring up, which you don't tarnish somebody's reputation if they're not charged with a crime. So we may not see what underlying evidence there was as part of this investigation if there are no more indictments. So does it stand to reason that even if the president committed political offenses, relevant to the question of impeachment, for example, we may never know that?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That is entirely possible. And remember, back when this came up in the Clinton administration, there was an independent counsel law, and that independent counsel law said, if the independent counsel found evidence of potentially impeachable conduct, the independent counsel had to turn that information over to Congress. And after the Starr investigation, seemingly both parties said, you know what, we don't like how that went down, and that law lapsed. That's no longer the law. And so now, we've got this situation where the Justice Department, through a special counsel, can do an investigation, can turn over those results, confidentially to the attorney general, and it's totally up to the attorney general to decide what to disclose and what not to disclose, as the attorney general has noted, within the law. So right now, it's up to the attorney general. So you're exactly right. We might not know a ton after this.

CABRERA: So what do you expect to learn, assuming Barr follows DOJ policy?

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, assuming -- so, two question, assuming Mueller follows DOJ policy, the question is on his declinations. What's the reasoning behind his declination? For example, if he feels like if found enough evidence to, say, charge the president with obstruction of justice in any other circumstance when he wasn't the president, but because of the Office of Legal Counsel memorandum which says you can't indict a sitting president, that's why he declined to prosecute, that will tell you something. But suppose it is that he declined to prosecution because there wasn't the evidence. I think that's the key question we have to ask now. But you're right, the catch 22 is that we may never know from a transparency standpoint, because this is not the Ken Starr report. We are in whole new unchartered territory here.

CABRERA: I see you shaking your head.

GARBER: That's right.

CABRERA: I want to bring Shimon Prokupecz into this conversation, too. Because Mueller never tried to subpoena the president, as far as we know, and the president was never interviewed in person. And that has, you know, a lot of people asking why.

[15:20:00] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. It certainly does. But if you're the president's lawyers, and if you're the president, you are very relieved that this investigation has now come to an end. It's over. There's no possibility now that Robert Mueller is going to want to subpoena him, ask him any more questions. It's a huge win for the president and his team. They fought very hard to make sure that he was not interviewed by FBI agents, by the special counsel team, because there was always this concern that they could possibly catch him in some kind of what they called a perjury trap. So it is a huge victory for the president. It is a huge victory for his attorneys. This was a big issue for them. They did not want him sitting down before prosecutors.

CABRERA: Ross, should Mueller have interviewed the president?

GARBER: Here is one thing that I think we may be able to tell about Mueller. He moved pretty fast. A lot of times, you know, prosecutors, in general, and special counsel and independent counsel, in particular, they make a career out of these kinds of investigations. They take years and years and years. And they go off into all sorts of tangents. The fact that Mueller finished this up in about two years, and said I'm done, is incredible. And I think, in a way, that may be part of the reason why he decided to not try to force the president to testify. I think he realized that it would be a multi-year battle and, in the end, he might not be successful. No president has ever been forced to testify before a grand jury before.

CABRERA: Everyone, stand by. Much more to discuss.

The Mueller report may be done but the investigations into President Trump certainly are not. So what legal peril remains? We'll continue our discussion in just a moment.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera. Don't go anywhere.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:26:09] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC.

How many times do I have to answer this question?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.

This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

The Russia story is a total fabrication.

Russia did not help me. OK?

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: I call it the Russian hoax.

They made up the whole Russia hoax. That was a Democrat hoax.

It's a Democrat hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Robert Mueller is done. Zero new indictments as he finished his report. President Trump is golfing this weekend in Florida at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But the legal peril is not over for the Trump family, not by a long shot. Mueller's decision does not issue any new indictments. We're told, it does not mean, though, that the president did not commit any crime. It only means that Mueller may have followed the long-standing protocol that prohibits the Justice Department from indicting a sitting president.

Everyone is back with me now.

Caroline, Trump's former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, still hasn't been sentenced. We know Roger Stone's case continues. And last week, Mueller's team told a court that Manafort's right-hand guy, Rick Gates, was still cooperating in several ongoing investigations. Now we're learning today that Gates' case has been handed over to the D.C. U.S. attorney's office. But why would Mueller bring his investigation to a close with all of the loose ends still out there?

POLISI: Right. One reason certainly could be, like we've seen his behavior throughout the entirety of the process, he is very keen on farming out those instances of potential criminal conduct that he sees that fall outside of his core mandate. So if it falls outside of the Russia collusion and the potential interaction between the campaign and Russians, that he is going out. So the financial fraud of Michael Cohen, for example, and you know, the SEC Violations that everybody was so amazed at, that came out of the Southern District. Rick Gates, what he is like little cooperating on in D.C. is the investigation of the Trump Inaugural Committee. So it is very big news that there will be no indictments of Americans for conspiracy with the Russians. I mean, if Trump is saying it is a hoax, it's a hoax, the Russia thing is certainly not a hoax, because we saw several rounds of indictments from Robert Mueller indicting Russians. But the bread crumbs that he left saying potentially Americans were involved, it is just not happening.

CABRERA: Evan, does this now put to bed the cloud over the president, Mueller's report being concluded? PEREZ: Look, I think for the president, it's a big deal that this

investigation ended. It does begin to lift the cloud over the president. But I think you also have to acknowledge that the president -- all of those clips you showed of the president saying Russia didn't help me, there was no Russia thing, that is not true. Robert Mueller's investigation affirmed what the Intelligence Community found, which was that there were these efforts by Russia, by the intelligence -- the Russian intelligence agencies, to help Donald Trump get elected. That is undeniable. So that will forever hang over Donald Trump's presidency, whether he wants to admit it or not, right?

The fact is, the fact that there's nobody else close to this campaign, or if it was within his family, that's going to be indicted, as a result of any part of the Russia ties, it is a big deal. And I think everybody's breathing a sigh of relief. But there are a couple of other investigations that are still ongoing that may touch his family, his company, in New York, for instance, where the Southern District of New York continues to look into whether or not anyone else was involved in the election fraud -- I'm sorry, the campaign finance fraud violation there. All of those things will remain ongoing. And of course, the members of Congress, the Democrats, are going to keep investigating.

[15:30:04] CABRERA: Right. You mentioned that the SDNY investigation, there's the New York State investigation. There are additional investigations, as we know, looking into Trump's inauguration, looking into the Trump Organization.

PEREZ: Right.

CABRERA: So those haven't ended yet.

But back to the Mueller investigation, Shimon, do you think we will hear from Mueller himself? Because we've talked so often about how close to the vest he has kept all of this, how quiet he has been, not a peep throughout the last 675 days.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, isn't it pretty remarkable that we haven't heard anything from him? And I think it will not come to surprise anyone who has been covering Robert Mueller, who knows Robert Mueller. If it is up to him, he will never speak about this, we will never hear from him, we may hardly ever see him again. The only way perhaps that we may hear from him is if he is forced to come before Congress. It is not something he wants to do. It's not something he is going to do voluntarily. He is probably going to be forced to do it. He may work something out. But he definitely does not want to speak about this publicly. We've never seen him talk about this. There were a few press conferences concerning this investigation and we've always seen the deputy attorney general stand before the microphone without Robert Mueller. And what is the way he is. That is the way he was when he was running the FBI. Assuming that's the way he was when he was at the Department of Justice. We may never hear from him. That's the bottom line.

CABRERA: Ross, Garrett Graff has written a whole book on Mueller and how he operates. And he pointed out in the past how we already have seen hundreds of pages of the Mueller report, because of all of the indictments that have come out, all of the other court documents pertaining to plea deals that have come through. And what we kept on hearing is he's given these plea deals to people, there must be a bigger fish that is coming that he is after. And here we are, no more new indictments. What do you make of that? Why would he give these plea deals to see if there was no bigger fish?.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Here is why. We're both defense lawyers. What we often see are plea deals given to people who will flip on somebody, who will cooperate against somebody. Well, another reason to give a plea deal to somebody is because you want information from them. You want them to be -- perhaps even testify, and that might be because you're looking for them to incriminate somebody. It could also be because you want them on the record exonerating somebody. And so that may be part of what is happening here, is he's given plea deals, he's gotten their cooperation, and they provided information that he's decided is truthful, but it just doesn't incriminate anybody.

CABRERA: Shimon?

PROKUPECZ: What I want to add is I think people need to not forget that while there has been this large focus on the president as being perhaps the big fish, there are Russians that the government has been investigating, that the FBI has been investigating, that ultimately would be the big fish in all of this. Remember, this was an investigation into Russian interference. Relationship with the Russians was a key part of this investigation. And that is what Paul Manafort was partially -- they wanted him for that cooperation. Because, remember, it was he who shared campaign polling data. Remember, the special counsel's office said that was at the heart of their investigation, that relationship that Manafort had with this Russian intelligence official. So that is what I think people need not forget. That is still going on. That is going to keep going on. And if the government, if the FBI could get people to cooperate in these investigations, they're going to do it. And I think that's ultimately is where Paul Manafort's help is what the FBI wanted. They wanted his help in that part of this investigation.

CABRERA: Quickly, Caroline.

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, also, hindsight is 20/20, so it could have been that, maybe, yes, they were looking for a bigger fish besides the Russians, and so they wanted to get these cooperation deals early on. If you look at the deals that were cut, they were early on in the investigation. That was probably, you know, a tactic to just sort of see if there was anything out there, potentially, and use the information to their advantage.

CABRERA: All right, everyone, thank you so much for being with us, walking us through all of this.

As we await the Mueller report and the conclusions that have now been turned over to the attorney general of the United States, our correspondents continue to work their sources on the Mueller report as we follow this breaking news.

[15:35:17] Also, just hours ago, U.S.-backed fighters declared total victory over ISIS in Syria. A huge story, obviously. I'll get reaction from a top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: We're keeping our eyes and ears on the Justice Department right now. That's where Attorney General William Barr is going over the Robert Mueller report and will reveal the principle conclusions possibly this weekend. Stay with CNN. You'll hear it at the same time we do.

In the meantime, congressional Democrats have just wrapped up a conference call as they ramp up their fight to see the entire Mueller report, not just a summary of the findings.

And with us now is someone who was on the conference call, Congressman John Garamendi, of California.

Congressman, thanks for taking the time.

Any update on when William Barr plans to provide his principal conclusions?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI, (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, he said this weekend, and so we'll wait. We will wait for the final chapter in what is a very fascinating and extremely important process here. We've seen chapters. We've seen Manafort. We've seen Cohen. We've seen the Russians. We've seen indictments. We've seen guilty pleas. And now we're going to see the conclusion. We can be patient for a day. But really it is the American public, it's not the Democrats that are demanding that everything is made public. It is really the American public. Everyone wants to know what this is all about --

CABRERA: Right.

GARAMENDI: -- and draw their own conclusions.

CABRERA: For sure.

What does principal conclusions tell you, though, about how much of Mueller's report Barr plans to reveal?

GARAMENDI: Well, whatever he plans to reveal, I will just assert that the American public will stand for nothing less than the total report, with the exception of the things that show how they, through the intelligence sources, gathered information. But the American public will not be satisfied. Democrats or Republicans will not be satisfied. And all of the American public out there, who has worked on -- listened to this for more than two years, really wants to know what the details are. And so, eventually, it may be a fight, it may be a struggle, but eventually, the story will come out, and whatever Barr says tomorrow, or the next day, will simply be chapter headings. [15:40:33] CABRERA: And we do know that, as you point out, all of

the American public wants to know, Democrats and Republicans, I know the House took a vote on just that, and it was unanimous, when 400 people said that full report should come out.

But here is the argument from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, quote, "Punishing wrong doers through judicial proceedings is only one part of the department's mission. We also have a duty to prevent the disclosure of information that would unfairly tarnish people who are not charged with crimes."

So do you disagree with Rosenstein on that point?

GARAMENDI: He apparently has a very short memory. Do you remember what the Justice Department did to Hillary Clinton during the campaign? She was never charged.

CABRERA: That was not Rosenstein though, and everybody was critical --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: -- about how the Justice Department handled her case.

GARAMENDI: No, what I'm saying is he has a short memory, not of his own work, but of what the Justice Department did two years ago, two and a half years ago. So the facts are the public really needs to know all of the information. This is not about protecting people. This is really about our democracy. There's no doubt that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. There's an open question about, what was the president's involvement in that process. Perhaps the Mueller report will get to that. But to simply say, well, there's no crime and, therefore, there's no information, that is not acceptable. We need, the American public needs, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and the American public, and in fact, our democracy, needs to know the details.

CABRERA: The numbers are impressive, 37 people and entities --

GARAMENDI: Yes.

CABRERA: -- who face criminal charges. We know 199 overall criminal counts are part of this. All the indictments, the plea deals, the person convicted at trial, Paul Manafort. Now, if these final numbers are what's it, and they equal no collusion, then is this still a big political victory for the president?

GARAMENDI: We don't know. We do know that each one of those indictments, each one of those people that have been charged, those are the opening chapters in what is the biggest scandal that the American public has endured in its presidency forever. Now, whether the president is involved or not, we don't yet know. Perhaps the investigation, the final chapter that Mueller has now given to the Justice Department, that at least the headlines will be revealed by Mr. Barr, maybe, or maybe not, it will implicate the president. We don't know. But what we do know is that this is an incredible scandal. And this

is a real shot into the very heart of the American democracy that has gone on during the 2016 campaign and beyond. Clearly, there was an effort to stop this investigation. There's no doubt that that was -- that that happened. Was that a cover-up? Was that a crime? Well, perhaps the final chapter in Mr. Mueller's report will reveal that.

But in any case, we do know that there was a serious effort, by Russia, and by people that were involved in the Trump campaign, that were working with the Russians or their people that were associated with Russia --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Or in communications with Russia.

GARAMENDI: Yes.

CABRERA: Right. We know there were at least 16 communications --

GARAMENDI: That's correct

CABRERA: -- 16 people who were part of the Trump orbit who communicated with Russians that doesn't initially disclose those communications.

GARAMENDI: Yes.

CABRERA: So I hear what you're saying on that point.

But you have this call with the Democratic Party leaders today. What did you learn? And what is the next move by your party after you see Mueller's conclusions?

GARAMENDI: Well, the next move is demand transparency. Demand that all of the information be forthcoming. At this point --

CABRERA: Does that mean you're going to subpoena people or documents? What does that mean when you say demand transparency?

GARAMENDI: It is the American public that is demanding transparency. It's not just the Democrats in Congress or the committee chairman. It is the American public. And we will do the best we can to make all of the information available. Would subpoenas be necessary? We would hope not. We would hope that the Justice Department would make all of the information available, much as they did with the over 800,000 pages of information that was made available to the committees when the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives. They asked for it. They, the Republicans asked for it. They got over 800,000 pages of information. That -- whatever information is out there, that should also be made available.

[15:45:18] And let's keep in mind -- I've said it three times, I'll say it a fourth time -- this is the American public that wants to know. We're simply instruments in that process of making that information available to the American public. It's about transparency. And it is about our democracy. At the beginning and the end of this process, it's about how can we protect our democracy from foreign influence. And perhaps from Americans that chose to be involved with that effort by a foreign government to influence the election.

CABRERA: All right, Congressman John Garamendi, good to have you with us. Thank you very much.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

CABRERA: Also, breaking, a terrifying rescue at sea. More than a thousand people are trapped on a crippled cruise ship. Much more ahead in the NEWSROOM, right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:50:30] CABRERA: We're following more breaking news involving a stranded cruise ship off the coast of Norway. You can see the ship in the distance in this video. Helicopters are now hovering above, airlifting passengers one by one in the rain, 39 degrees temperatures. Multiple boats are also taking part in the efforts to evacuate some 1,300 passengers and crew members. So this will take some time. Norwegian Emergency Services says the crew sent a mayday distress signal reporting engine problems and bad weather. There were reports of high winds in the area when the ship's engines experienced problems. The "Viking Sky" is owned by Viking Ocean Cruises and just took its first trip in 2017.

Joining us now by phone is Borghild Eldoen, with the Joint Rescue Center for southern Norway.

Thanks for being with us.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: What can you tell us about the ongoing evacuation, what is the process?

BORGHILD ELDOEN, SPOKEWOMAN, JOINT RESCUE CENTER FOR SOUTHERN, NORWAY (via telephone): We are having -- leading the evacuation process, and 115 of the passengers have been lifted off the ship. But --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: How are you going about --

ELDOEN: -- why we're using helicopters, because of the rough weather.

CABRERA: So you're using helicopters because of the rough weather. You said rough weather. Describe for me the conditions that are making the evacuations challenging?

ELDOEN: The waves are around six to eight meters high. And as close to storm. But the ship is laying steady, so we can lift them up with the helicopters, and we will do that through the whole night --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Through the whole night?

ELDOEN: -- through to Sunday.

CABRERA: How long do you anticipate the entire process then to take?

ELDOEN: Well, parallel with lifting off and evacuating people, we are trying hard to get the engines to work again so the ship can go by its own machine to a safe harbor. It's two operations in parallel. Right now, we hope -- we can't say how long it will take.

CABRERA: We do know, and correct me if I'm wrong, there were 1,300 individuals on board the ship when it started to suffer and he mayday call went out. You say 115 people have been evacuated so far. That means there are a lot of people still on board. How are the people doing who are still on board?

ELDOEN: We have no information on that, but as far as we know, they are -- it's good, and they are in good conditions. And we have only had eight people with injuries and they have been brought ashore. As far as we know, it's OK.

CABRERA: You said, light injuries. What does that mean?

ELDOEN: Yes, maybe a broken bone or something like that. But nothing seriously.

CABRERA: OK, so not life-threatening injuries. We're seeing some --

ELDOEN: No. No, not at all.

CABRERA: We're seeing some of the video. And you talked about the wind and the waves and those very cold temperatures. We also reported that it was raining. How often are you having to make a rescue like this? I can't imagine it's very common, which makes this a pretty extraordinary circumstance, right?

ELDOEN: Yes, it is. Of course, it is. So many people, and so close to shore, and in such bad weather. It's a special situation for all of us.

CABRERA: We wish you luck. We know you have a lot of work to do, I don't want to keep you longer.

Thank you so much, Borghild Eldoen, for joining us. Again, with the Joint Rescue Center for southern Norway.

[15:54:04] We'll stay on top of that story and be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Our 2018 "CNN Heroes" keep making the world a better place. And we checked in on some of them as they reach even more people in need. Here's your feel-good moment today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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ABISOYE AJAYI-AKINFOLARIN, FOUNDER, PEARLS AFRICA YOUTH FOUNDATION: So many of us (INAUDIBLE) outdoors. Normally, we look for partners. Now partners are looking for us. Before CNN, there were 600 girls in three years.