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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Attorney General Reportedly Preparing Summary of Principal Conclusions from Mueller Report for Congress; Jared Kushner Agrees to Provide Documents Requested by Congress; Rep. Chris Stewart (R) Utah is Interviewed on Congressional Requests that Full Mueller Report be Released Publicly; U.S. Led International Coalition Declares Complete Victory over ISIS; North Korea Removes Representatives from Office Designed to Ease Communications with South Korea. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 23, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:9] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Principal conclusions, the attorney general is now preparing a summary of the Mueller report for Congress. He may deliver it as soon as today. We're standing by for details on what the Special Counsel uncovered.
Waiting game. President Trump is in Florida, huddling with his lawyers, gaming out responses once the headlines from Mueller's probe are revealed. Will he claim vindication or complain of a hoax?
Demanding transparency, top Democrats are pushing for the full Mueller report to be made public and for the underlying evidence to be presented to congress. House Democrats are getting ready for a briefing on this turning point in the Russian probe and what lies ahead.
And unanswered questions, Mueller's work is done but the scrutiny of his investigation is just beginning. We'll breakdown all of the unresolved legal issues and the new information we're looking to get in the coming hours.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are following the major breaking news on Robert Mueller's final report now in the hands of the attorney general, William Barr. We could learn crucial new details about the nearly two-year long Russia investigation at any moment. Barr has told Congress he may share the principal conclusions of the Mueller report as soon as today. We expect those conclusions to be made public. Top House Democrats have scheduled a 3:00 p.m. eastern briefing for their caucus on what they know at that hour and what they do next.
President Trump is at his home in Florida, surrounded by his lawyers. They're all waiting to learn specifics about the investigation into possible collusion and obstruction that has hung over Mr. Trump for most of his presidency. This hour, I'll talk with House Intelligence Committee member Chris Stewart. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by for this special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
First, let's go to our CNN political correspondent Sara Murray who has covered the Russian investigation from day one extensively. Sara, all eyes are on the attorney general, Bill Barr. We saw him leave his home just a little while ago. We are told he has just arrived over at the Justice Department, where sources say he is reviewing the report. Sara, he is preparing to prepare Robert Mueller's key findings, principal conclusions, as he calls them, and that presumably could happen very soon.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. A very busy weekend for the attorney general. It all began yesterday when we saw prosecutors in Mueller's office leaving unusually early. Just hours after that the attorney general announced that Mueller had completed his nearly two years of work. Now we wait to hear what the main conclusions are that Mueller reached.
MURRAY: Attorney General William Barr announcing the end of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 22-month Russian investigation in a one-page statement Friday evening. Barr wrote to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that he is reviewing Mueller's report, and "I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend." A Justice Department official tells CNN those conclusions are expected to be made public. A senior Justice Department official also added there will be no further indictments from the Special Counsel.
In a major victory for the president, Mueller ended his probe without interviewing Trump. The president answered only a set of written questions about Russian collusion, none about obstruction of justice. In the hours before Mueller officially ended his work, Trump continued railing against the Russian probe.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion, there was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax. I call it the witch hunt. It's all a big hoax.
MURRAY: Friday evening, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a more muted response. "The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel's report."
While the formal investigation is over, speculation about what it found is only just beginning. Barr told Congressional leaders there were no such instances during the Special Counsel's investigation in which Mueller's proposed actions were overruled by leaders at the Justice Department. Barr plans to consult with Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller to determine how much of Mueller's confidential report can be released publicly and to Congress.
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: All I can say right now is my goal and intent is to get as much information out as I can consistent with the regulation.
MURRAY: But Democrats quickly demanded the report be made public in its entirety.
CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Now that Special Counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the attorney general, it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public, and provide its underlying documentation and findings to congress.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA: Trust, but we have to verify. So we will ultimately see the full report because the president is outnumbered. We have now the subpoena power.
[10:05:05] MURRAY: Since being appoint in May of 2017, Mueller has remained silent and out of the public eye.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the United States.
MURRAY: Mueller's investigation has led to charges against 37 defendants and netted seven guilty pleas, as well as one conviction at trial. And Trump's longtime political adviser Roger Stone is set to go to trial in November for lying to Congress. Also among those charged, 26 Russians and three Russian entities, many of whom Mueller says worked to manipulate social media and hacked Democrats to benefit Trump in the 2016 election. Mueller's probe has also swept up several key Trump allies and confidantes, including his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I am ashamed of my own failings.
MURRAY: But Mueller never brought charges against anyone in Trump's orbit for colluding with the Russians to influence the election. It remains to be seen if Mueller found any direct evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice that may be detailed in the confidential report he delivered to the attorney general.
MURRAY: Now, Justice Department guidelines say you cannot indict the president of the United States, but of course we don't know what all that is in Mueller's report. We don't know if the president could have been implicated in inappropriate behavior, Wolf, or even illegal activity. That's going to be the position Barr is in now, figuring out what he is going to divulge to Congress. And maybe it won't be that difficult a decision. Maybe he will find that the president did nothing wrong.
BLITZER: We'll soon find out, at least these principal conclusions that are about to be released. Sara, stay with us.
Our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash is with us, our CNN reporter Kara Scannell is with us. So Kara, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. How much are we going to learn about the Mueller report once the so called principal conclusions are released, and the new attorney general Bill Barr says they could be as soon as this weekend. They might be released later today.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right. Wolf, all eyes really are on Bill Barr. He is just a few weeks into this job. He has this historic decision before him of how much information he's going to release to not only Congress but the American public.
He got the report from Mueller's security detail yesterday just before 5:00 p.m. He was reviewing it last night. He just arrived at DOJ to continue to review it, as did Rod Rosenstein. And one of the things in this one page letter that we have notifying Congress about the report being finalized, Barr said that he would consult with Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein about how much of this the can make public.
One wrinkle, though, of course in this report is this is a counterintelligence, it's also a criminal investigation, so there are issues about what can be made public, both grand jury material and classified material. And as Sara was saying, I think once they get their arms around what is in the potential realm of something that they believe that they can make public, all eyes will be on what does that say about what the president did, about any his actions, the big looming questions of collusion and obstruction of justice.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers video of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Bill Barr, the attorney general, Dana, arriving over at the Justice Department. There are a lot of incredible details that Mueller over these nearly two years has collected, especially about Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, which the U.S. intelligence community has concluded there's no doubt that the Russians tried to do that. Presumably, if all of that information is released, it could prove to be somewhat at least politically embarrassing for the president.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And that's an important point. Look, we have already seen by way of indictments the accusations and the evidence that Robert Mueller's team believes that it has about how aggressive Russia has been and was in 2016 to influence the election. And we should see more details about that in this report, assuming we see the details.
I just also want to note that the fact that we saw both the attorney general and the deputy attorney general arriving today is another indicator that today is an important day, just like yesterday was, as you guys were saying, and Sara, you reported, that they are on high alert on Capitol Hill to get the so-called principal conclusions.
I spoke to a source this morning, a congressional source, who has every expectation that that is going to come. Maybe in an e-mail, maybe it will be hand delivered. And that will be, now we have a one- page letter from the attorney general, that will be the first real substance that we are going to have on what this is, and the most important maybe, the conclusions. After all that, what did you learn, why does it matter? BLITZER: And Bill Barr, the attorney general, says he will consult
with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is about to leave that position, and the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leaving that position, about how much he can make public in all of this. Let's not forget, Sara, and you've been doing a lot of reporting on this as well, that in addition to the Mueller investigation which we've spent so much time focusing in on, there are a whole bunch of other investigations not involving Mueller that are continuing.
[10:10:04] MURRAY: Yes, I think that's an important point, and a point that's probably more concerning for the president in the long term. We have in New York, they're looking into Trump business, they're looking into the inauguration, they're looking into the presidential transition. And the thing to know about the Southern District of New York, and Kara knows this very well, is they're not just going to close up shop and say we have been looking into this for a month or two, haven't found anything, let's shutter this investigation.
These investigations will be ongoing. They will probably be ongoing for the duration that Donald Trump is president, and so that means that when he is no longer president, when he is back to being a normal human being that could face indictment, that's certainly a possibility on the table down the road. We can't forget what Dana was pointing out, the president has already implicated in a crime, and that's what Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to, this illegal campaign finance violation in which he said and which prosecutors agreed was done at the direction of Donald Trump. So I think there's a lot for the president to still worry about, even if he does feel vindicated by the end Mueller's investigation.
BLITZER: Sara, Kara, Dana, don't go too far away. I know you're working sources, you're getting more information. At this pivotal moment, President Trump, he's down at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Florida. He's also meeting with his lawyers and aides close by, awaiting the big reveal of Mueller's so-called principal conclusions. Let's bring in our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, we saw the president go golfing earlier today. He is at his golf club now. Does his team see the Mueller report as victory based on what they at least know so far?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It depends on who you ask. Some of the president's allies outside the White House are already framing this as vindication for the president. But some inside the White House are being a little bit more cautious. They know they still haven't read the report, and they're still waiting to see what Bill Barr has to say about this.
But it's noteworthy that we haven't heard anything from the president yet since Mueller submitted that report to the attorney general yesterday. And he is down in Palm Beach at his golf course where the temperature is in the 60s. And we saw him this morning on his way to the golf course reading the newspaper. So presumably, Wolf, he's still paying attention to headlines and what's going on, even if he's not tweeting about them yet. We also know that not only is the president in Palm Beach, but he is
also joined by several members of his legal team, including not only White House counsel Pat Cipollone but also Emmet Flood, who has been charged with really handling the response to all of this. and Emmet Flood is the one who got the call from Bill Barr's chief of staff yesterday to tell him that Mueller had submitted the report.
Sources who talked to CNN saw the president and Emmet Flood talking yesterday at his Mar-a-Lago resort where they said the president seemed to be in a spirited mood as he was being kept updated on all the developments that were happening yesterday after Mueller submitted that report.
Now, one thing that allies are framing this as a victory is because there were no more indictments. There had been widespread speculation, Wolf about people, not only including the president's son, Donald Trump Jr. He was not indicted, obviously, they said no more indictments are expected. And Donald Trump Jr. was just a few tables away from his father last at Mar-a-Lago resort, and he has been tweeting several times today, essentially framing this as an exoneration for the president here. So continue to expect to hear more of that, Wolf. And we'll be waiting to see what the president's initial reaction to all of this is going to be.
BLITZER: Just curious, Kaitlan, we saw the president reading a newspaper on his way to the golf course. Do we know which newspaper he was reading?
COLLINS: You couldn't tell exactly. We zoomed in on the president there, as you see him holding up the newspaper in the backseat of his motorcade on the way to the golf course. But we know based on what people who talked to the president have said, he reads "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The New York Daily News," several newspapers every single morning, and looks at the headlines. And of course, this is a president who watches television constantly.
And Wolf, you've seen the president tweet so many times over the last week and a half, and behind the scenes he's been quizzing those members of his legal team, some of the ones who were down there with him about what the status of the Mueller report was. So he is very interested. We can predict what the president is going to say about this, but we're waiting to hear from him in person.
BLITZER: He has been silent so far, including on Twitter. We'll see if that continues. Kaitlan, thanks very much. I know you're working your sources as well.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now where Democrats are demanding that the entire Mueller report be made public, and they want to see all of the underlying evidence for themselves. Our Congressional Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is joining us. Sunlen, Democrats are threatening subpoena power to get answers. House Democrats, they will be holding a call later this afternoon. Will there be a push to start that process?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There very well could be, Wolf, up here on Capitol Hill. Democrats have certainly been waiting for this moment, they have been preparing for this moment, and they're already signaling that they are certainly ready to fight for the information that they want. In just a few hours, the entire House Democratic Conference will hop on a conference call. That will happen at 3:00 p.m. eastern, not only getting prepared for potentially receiving that anticipated new information from the attorney general today, but also preparing essentially for what will likely become a very fierce, intense battle on Capitol Hill over access to this information.
[10:15:06] Democrats have already been very aggressive and very clear already that they are pushing not only for the full Mueller report to be released, but, as you said, the underlying evidence that Mueller used in the investigation.
Jerry Nadler, he's the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he said in a statement last night, quote, "We look forward to getting the full Mueller report and related materials. Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less. The need for public faith is the rule of law, must be the priority."
And notably, this is also a sentiment that many Republicans up here on Capitol Hill also share. The Ranking Member on that same committee, Congressman Doug Collins, he has called for the entire Mueller report to be released. He says, quote, "I expect DOJ to release the Special Counsel's report to this committee and public without delay, and to the maximum extent of the law."
And there certainly will also be a push up here on Capitol Hill to bring not only the attorney general, Barr, but Robert Mueller himself to testify on Capitol Hill. At this moment, though, Wolf, it is fair to say that Capitol Hill is essentially stuck in a waiting pattern. They are waiting for any information, that new information that the attorney general will ultimately share, as he promised to do in that letter he sent to Capitol Hill last night. Notably, members and their staff are back in their home district. They have been out on recess all week, so very unclear at this point how and when that information will be communicated. Wolf?
BLITZER: We're learning, Sunlen, that the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be handing over documents to Congress as requested by Congress. What's the latest on that front?
SERFATY: That's right, this is new information coming from my colleague, Gloria Borger and Manu Raju, the headline being that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and top senior adviser, he has said that he will hand over and provide the documents that the House Judiciary Committee have requested of him.
Keep in mind, you remember when that original request was made, that was from Jerry Nadler, he requested information from over 80 people in Trump's orbit. And so certainly significant that now Jared Kushner has agreed to comply, that's related to his time in the campaign, his time in the White House during the transition. So potentially a huge amount of information coming from Jared Kushner. And again, it all underscores that while we're talking about the Mueller report and what it could say or could not say, Capitol Hill has their own investigations going on right now, and they will continue doing that.
BLITZER: That's a significant development. The president's senior adviser, son-in-law Jared Kushner, getting ready to cooperate with Congress on this front. Thanks very much, Sunlen. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.
Joining us now, Congressman Chris Stewart, he's a Republican. He serves on the Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in on this Saturday morning. So let's get your reaction to what's going on. I know you have been watching it closely as anyone. The principal conclusions, as Bill Barr says, could come out at any moment. He said sometime as early as this weekend, could be today, could be tomorrow. We're anticipating it will be today. What are the most important questions you're hoping he will answer?
REP. CHRIS STEWART, (R) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We look forward to seeing the report, obviously. We haven't seen it yet. I don't think we're going to be terribly surprised by anything in that report. I guess my initial response is, first, I'm relieved. I'm relieved for the president. I'm relieved, importantly, for dozens of people who have had this cloud hanging over their head for two years now. Remember, we know that innocent people have been accused of treason, essentially. And I think in fairness to them, it is important to get this report out, and let the American people know that. I am relieved for the American people.
But, again, Wolf, I'm not surprised. We have the House Intelligence report, the Senate Intelligence report. We had FBI agents themselves who were no friends of the presidential. Mr. McCabe has said he doesn't think there's anything there, and now it appears that Mr. Mueller has drawn the same conclusions.
BLITZER: But who has been accused of treason? Mueller hasn't accused -- he hasn't said anything except for the formal indictments that he's leveled and the convictions, he hasn't accused anyone of treason.
STEWART: He has not. He has acted very responsibly. But there have been dozens and dozens of politicians and other people and people in media who have made very serious accusations against Carter Page, for example. He's a great example of someone who has had the cloud of very serious accusations against him, and others as well, including the president and his own family.
BLITZER: And we learned yesterday there will be at least from Mueller's standpoint no more indictments coming forward, which is a very significant development.
The Democrats, as you know, your Democratic colleagues, and they're the majority in the House of Representatives, they're not threatening to subpoena the full report if the new attorney general doesn't provide it to you and your fellow members of Congress. Would you support such a subpoena?
STEWART: Yes, I think the public has been clear on this, and we voted on this recently in the House, and I think it was unanimous.
BLITZER: It was 420 to zero.
STEWART: Yes, exactly. And I have been saying it for months, Wolf. National security isn't endangered here. These aren't nuclear codes, we're not revealing any sources or methods. This is a political conversation, a political debate. And I've always said this should be released. All of this information should be released. Much of our committee work should be released. I think it is important for the American people to have access to all of this.
[10:20:00] And one of the reasons is, if the Mueller report were redacted, if any paragraph or any sentence in that were redacted, I'm afraid that people would point to that and say, look, that's where the collusion is, they're not showing it.
BLITZER: Because you did tell me last month, and I'll quote what you said, I hope they don't redact a single sentence, a single paragraph. And you still stand by that?
BLITZER: What if they decide they are going to hold back on certain sensitive information for whatever reason?
STEWART: I would ask what is that information? and we should have access to that, especially those on the Intelligence Committee and members of Congress, we should be able to look at that and make a judgment. But I'm telling that almost in its entirety, this isn't anything endangering national security. This is just a political debate that we have been having.
BLITZER: Forget about the president, for a moment. As you know, the U.S. intelligence community, and you're on the Intelligence Committee, has agreed unanimously that Russia did interfere in the U.S. presidential elections. This is something that your committee is investigating. Do you want all the information that Mueller collected on Russian, this was his main charge, on Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election with the hope of helping Donald Trump as a candidate, that's what the U.S. intelligence community concluded, do you want all of that to be made available, not just to you and your committee but to the American people?
STEWART: Absolutely. Again, for the same reasons I've already expressed, all of that should be available. And for a couple of reasons. Number one is the American people want to know and deserve to know. Number two is they're going to do it again. When I say "they," I mean Russia. They're going to try to interfere again. And by the way --
BLITZER: You accept the intelligence community's conclusion, even though the president very often expresses doubt about it.
STEWART: Yes. And I think there's some nuance there, but in its entirety, in the whole of it I do. But again, it is not just Russia that seeks to interfere. Other nefarious players do as well. China certainly has. North Korea and Iran certainly would try. And I think part of preparing on how to protect ourselves is to have a very open conversation about this is what we know happened, this is how they did it, this is how we think we can protect ourselves in the future, because, once again, we have an election coming up, we have this president who will be up for election. They'll certainly try to interfere once more.
BLITZER: Would you want Robert Mueller to appear before your House Intelligence Committee and testify in open session about what he's learned?
STEWART: Yes, I think that probably is a good idea, although I don't think it may be necessary.
BLITZER: He knows more about it than anyone.
STEWART: He does.
BLITZER: About his own investigation.
STEWART: And I think there's an implication in this, and that is for the last two years we have been told trust Mr. Mueller, trust Mr. Mueller, and I have, by the way. I have always said that I trust him, and I hoped he completed the work and I hope he did it quickly. But in some cases I think people are implying we don't trust him now. We want him to come before the committee and justify his conclusions. And I think that's unfair to him to think, OK, you didn't give us what we wanted, so now we're going to dive into it.
But I think, again, on the whole, I think it is good for us to have him before the committee and be able to answer some of the questions --
BLITZER: You know who said some of most nasty things about Robert Mueller over these past two years.
STEWART: Yes, I do.
BLITZER: That would be the president of the United States, very often tweeting about a hoax and a witch hunt and all of that kind of stuff, and that he just hired a bunch of Democrats to be his prosecutors.
STEWART: He's had concerns about him, no question about it.
BLITZER: Congressman Chris Stewart, as usual, thanks very much for coming in. Appreciate it very much. Chris Stewart of Utah.
Up next, the attorney general is over at the Justice Department right now. He could share Robert Mueller's so-called principal conclusions with Congress soon. We're standing by for that.
[10:27:28] BLITZER: Breaking news. Both the attorney general, Bill Barr, and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, they are over at the Justice Department right now. Sources say Barr is reviewing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation. Let's bring in our experts and our correspondents. And Dana, the report is in. the Trump team, they seem to be at least celebrating a bit down at Mar-a-Lago, the president's resort in Palm Beach. The president is out there golfing right now. But is this just the beginning of the next chapter?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is very much the beginning. It is actually not even the beginning of the chapter. I think we're still in the preface of this new book, because what we still even have to know is what the general conclusions are, which hopefully we will find out today when the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, send that information to Capitol Hill. Again, we expect it today. It could go later. They said publicly it will be over the weekend.
But then, obviously, there's going to be a fight over whether the full report will be made public. And then the whole fight over who, what, when, where, what happened in the past. Already I'm hearing from Republicans, and you heard some of it today, how did this happen, and why did the FBI launch the investigation in the first place if there was no real evidence of collusion?
Now, I think that's -- I know that's premature because we do have to wait and see what exactly Robert Mueller finds, because collusion is not a crime. And so I think that they're all preparing to celebrate. But the fact that we haven't heard from the president on Twitter or anywhere else lets you know that even he has been convinced, take a breath, let's just wait to see what it actually says.
BLITZER: He has been thunderously silent, at least so far.
BASH: Well said.
BLITZER: Let's see if that stays. Susan Hennessey, Justice department official here says there will be no more indictments from the Mueller team, which is a significant statement. So does that mean neither the president nor his immediate family are under any legal jeopardy any longer?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: There's no more legal liability out of this investigation. That's not particularly significant with respect to the president, because of course the DOJ guidelines say he can't be indicted. That said, for individuals like Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., individuals who are deeply involved in having contacts with Russian officials and had questions about whether or not they have potentially made false statements to investigators, I do think they can all breathe a little bit easier, but only with respect to this limited mandate of the Mueller investigation.
[10:30:11] There are other investigations ongoing. The Southern District of New York has a very broad inquiry launched now. That appears to be focused on the Trump Organization. We know that they're looking into the Trump inauguration, campaign finance violations. The New York District Attorney's Office is itself looking at launching an inquiry. So all of those questions remain very much on the table, but legal liability wouldn't be involved for any of those.
BLITZER: The attorney general in New York state is looking into several other personal matters involving the president as well. Shawn, Barr says he'll release Mueller's principal conclusions this weekend. He only received the report yesterday. So does that mean that Mueller may have already prepared a summary of principal conclusions that he should be able to make public?
SHAWN TURNER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think there's no doubt that Mueller would have prepared a list of conclusions based on what the evidence that his investigators looked at told them and what the ultimate investigation found. If the reporting is correct on this, this report is comprehensive. And what that means is that what Bob Barr has in front of him is he not only has that set of conclusions that Mueller would have come up with, but he also has all of the evidence to tell him how Mueller came to those conclusions. What's unclear is whether or not Bob Barr is going to look at the information in the report and he's going to agree with the conclusions that Bob Mueller ultimately came up with, or if he is going to look at those conclusions, and based on what he sees in the report, release or pass onto Congress a different set of conclusions.
BLITZER: Bill Barr.
TURNER: Bill Barr, yes.
BLITZER: Two different guys.
BASH: Can I just throw one other thing with this letter that you have there that we got yesterday from Bill Barr, maybe small, but I thought significant, where he goes out of his way to say that there were no differences between the Mueller team and the DOJ. Incredibly significant. The Trump DOJ, no differences between his Justice Department and the investigation the president calls a witch hunt.
HENNESSEY: So that's actually one of the only pieces of information he was required under the regulations to disclose.
BLITZER: He had to disclose it to Congress.
BASH: He could have disclosed that there were problems.
HENNESSEY: Exactly. But he had to answer the question of whether or not they had ever overruled him. I do agree it is incredibly significant that DOJ at no point impeded Mueller in his investigation.
BLITZER: As you know, Jackie, the president has always said no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. But in recent weeks he's also said no obstruction, no obstruction, no obstruction. It clearly is very much on his mind.
JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST" "POWER UP": That's right. And I think there's a lot of shifting of the goalpost on both sides here. But I just want to stress that these are uncharted waters. I spoke with a bunch of prosecutors who have worked with Mueller over the past few days, and they have said that it is really possible that there is evidence of crimes here. And as Susan has pointed out, the policy of Department of Justice is not to indict a sitting president. That does not mean that the president has not exhibited criminal conduct here, which is why I think it is so important to Congress right now, to Republicans and Democrats, for the full report to be released.
It's also unclear, Mueller's really authority going forward to recommend impeachment proceedings which, again, are political, and the conduct exhibited by the president doesn't necessarily have to reach a criminal statute. So there are really so many questions here. Collusion is out of the question, as you have all pointed out, for people like Jared Kushner, Don Jr., and other people that were pulled into this investigation.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's a lot more we are awaiting, the so-called principal conclusions from the Mueller report. We'll have much more on all the breaking news right after this.
[10:36:13] BLITZER: We are back with our reporters and our experts. And Jackie, I just want to pick up on a point that Shawn just made, I think it was a very important point. In his letter to Congress yesterday, the attorney general said I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. So these are the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller's conclusions, what he prepared as opposed to something that Barr is going to come up with.
ALEMANY: That's exactly right, and it is up to the attorney general to decide what in this report can be disclosed to Congress. But he is required to provide a summary as soon as possible. And I think it is also really important to note the breakneck pace of all of this overall. I think it is unprecedented to complete a Special Counsel investigation in two years. But obviously Barr is trying to push it forward as quickly as possible, and it remains to be seen what exactly he is going to summarize. And it also remains to be seen what input the White House is going to have here, what executive privilege that they're going to assert, and argue that the attorney general cannot disclose to Congress, which is really setting up the big battle that we're going to see play out.
BLITZER: There could be a huge legal battle over if the White House says you can't release certain information.
HENNESSEY: There certainly will be a legal battle, to the extent the Justice Department attempts to reserve even one single word of the record, that is going to be fully litigated by Congress, questions of executive privilege, and not just executive privilege, the underlying investigative materials. And this actually goes back to a fight from a couple months ago when Devin Nunes was still the chair of the Intelligence Committee, litigating over trying to get these materials from DOJ related to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. At the time Adam Schiff warned you're setting a precedent here. When it is our turn, we're going after investigative materials as well. And it's clear that's exactly what they're going to be doing now.
BASH: That is such an important point, because we're going to get the top lines, the Mueller conclusions, that is an important thing to underscore, what his team concludes is most important from this two- year long investigation. Then, hopefully, in the vain of transparency, we will all see the actual report. And then the question is what led to you saying x, y and z in the report? What are the investigative details that you all picked up?
And you're exactly right. The Republicans have been screaming from rooftops about knowing that information about the Hillary Clinton investigation, and it is not a past tense thing. They're doing it now. They're reupping their calls for an investigation as we speak of Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: Because, Shawn, you worked in the U.S. intelligence committee, so you understand the sensitivities involved. But you heard Chris Stewart, the Republican member of the Intelligence Committee, just say when it comes to Russian interference in the election, he accepts the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community as opposed to the president who raised lots of questions about whether he accepts that conclusion. He wants to see every sentence, every paragraph, because it will help them better appreciate what the Russians were up to in trying to interfere in the election with the aim of helping Donald Trump win the election.
TURNER: And he is absolutely right. No matter what the Mueller report says, it still remains the case that the intelligence community found without a shadow of a doubt that Russia sought to interfere in our election. And what we still don't know is, we still don't know the full nature of not only what Russia did, but also what, if anything that anyone in the United States did to facilitate their interference in our elections. So what this Mueller report has done is even if he has not found anything that rises to the level of a crime, there's still lots of information in there that might help inform what others did around the Trump campaign, and what the Russians did. So Congress needs to see all that information. We're going into the 2020 campaign, and there are still questions that are unanswered from 2016.
BLITZER: And you heard Manu Raju, Gloria Borger, their report that Jared Kushner now is willing to cooperate with the Congress, with the House Judiciary Committee, provide information. This seems to be a pretty significant development right now.
[10:40:09] HENNESSEY: I think it remains to be seen how significant. The House Judiciary Committee has requested documents. Of course, the House Judiciary Committee has subpoena power. So the fact that Jared Kushner has essentially decided to hand these documents over instead of attempting to fight, his team clearly wants to couch that as him being cooperative and transparent.
BLITZER: Do you think he is doing this now, willing to cooperate fully because the Mueller report is over with? HENNESSEY: I think that's possible as to the timing. However,
legally because the Congress has subpoena power, he was going to have to hand those documents over eventually. So certainly there might be --
BLITZER: It's significant because he is not just the president's son- in-law. He is a senior White House official who works with the president right now.
BASH: Yes. I'm just going to add, the legal perspective, the political perspective, what's better knowing that you are -- sounds like you're in the clear obviously from an indictment from Robert Mueller, but depending what's in the report, maybe even more than that, from being a participant inclusion, what's better politically than saying I'm not going to wait for a subpoena. I'm going to make a big announcement to say I am going to cooperate voluntarily.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. Our correspondents are continuing to work their sources on the Mueller report.
We're also, by the way, following other important news. Just hours ago, U.S. backed fighters declared total victory over ISIS in Syria.
[10:45:30] BLITZER: We are awaiting word on when the attorney general, Bill Barr, will brief lawmakers on Robert Mueller's Russia report. Stand by for that. We're also following breaking news in the fight against ISIS. U.S. backed Kurdish and Arab forces in Syria, they proclaimed victory today. Let's go to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He is in eastern Syria for us. Ben, so what are you seeing right now?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now the situation is very quiet, but overnight we saw intense U.S. aircraft conducting air strikes on that last bit of territory held by ISIS, which was basically on a hillside overlooking the town of Baghuz. We heard the aircraft overhead, but they had stopped bombing. Within just a few hours, there was announcement for spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, Mustafa Bali, saying that the battle had come to an end, that ISIS had been 100 percent defeated.
Then we were actually able to get inside the ISIS encampment itself. What we saw was just a scene of utter wreckage where that area had been under bombardment for weeks and weeks. What we saw were dead bodies. Our camera woman Mary Rogers saw a suicide vest by the side of the road. We did see the U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces raising the large yellow flag that they have over the largest building in the village, proclaiming victory, a victory that they have been fighting hard for, for the last four and a half years, with the backing of the United States and other members of the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ben Wedeman on the scene for us. Thank you so much. Stay safe over there.
Also, we're awaiting word, once again, on when the attorney general will brief Congress on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report. We'll have details right after this.
[10:51:57] BLITZER: As we await word of what's in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report, we are also following very troubling developments concerning North Korea. Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, what are you hearing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, over the past several hours, we have seen the North Koreans walk away from an important part of the diplomatic process. We have seen a very confusing tweet from President Trump about sanctions, and it's all left veteran diplomats worried right now over whether this groundbreaking opening with Kim Jong-un's regime is unraveling.
TODD: It appears North Korea's ruthless young dictator just pulled a powerplay against his neighbor to the south, sending an ominous signal to America. Kim Jong-un's regime, according to South Korean officials, is withdrawing its representatives from an office it created with South Korea near the DMZ, designed to help the two countries communicate with each other. It was set up just seven months ago after Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The move comes after the U.S. leveled sanctions on two Chinese companies doing business with North Korea, the first action Washington had taken against North Korea since the failed summit in Hanoi.
PATRICK CRONIN, HUDSON INSTITUTE: The unraveling started at Hanoi. Kim Jong-un miscalculated. He's dug himself in a hole, and now he is trying to dig himself out by escalating the tension.
TODD: But just hours after it was announced that North Korea was pulling out of the diplomatic office, President Trump appeared to continue to court Kim Jong-un, initially signaling he could be reversing his own administration's policy. In a tweet, Trump said the Treasury Department had added additional largescale sanctions to those already existing sanctions on North Korea. Trump then said "I have today ordered withdrawal of the additional sanctions." Trump's aides struggled to explain the tweet, saying the sanctions on two Chinese companies would remain, and the president may have been referring to additional largescale sanctions that have been in the works. Analysts saying taking any sanctions off the table is risky.
AMB. JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA: That would be the wrong message to send to North Korea. If that is the message, then the North Koreans will assume that they can continue to make decisions along these lines and that the U.S. will continue to back down.
TODD: The opening between the U.S. and North Korea, which showed such promise not long ago, has been fraying. Since President Trump walked out of the Hanoi summit without a deal, North Korea has whipped up concerns about a possible missile or satellite launch, with activity at a key missile assembly site. And one of Kim's top diplomats threatened to suspend nuclear talks with the U.S., a far cry from Trump's declarations about his friendship with the North Korean leader last fall.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then we fell in love, OK? No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they're great letters.
TODD: A key question now, can the personal dynamic between Trump and Kim Jong-un save this relationship and save the denuclearization process?
DETRANI: Yes, the personal relationship at this stage can save the whole issue. The fact is, we didn't have it before, and things escalated. We have it now. So hopefully it will prevent escalation, but it has to be done quickly.
TODD: Experts say the personal relationship could be even more crucial now because they believe failure to reach a deal in Hanoi left Kim with some wounded pride, a dangerous proposition.
[10:55:08] CRONIN: Kim Jong-un thought he had a deal and could get a deal from President Trump. When he didn't get a deal, he had a very long 60-hour train ride back to Pyongyang. And so he wants to show he is tough, he's not going to compromise, and you are not going to win if I lose. That's his attitude now.
TODD: Analysts now warn we are at a strikingly important crossroads, that if Trump and Kim cannot rekindle that personal dynamic and start to make progress again towards denuclearization, we could be headed back to the brinksmanship of 2017, nuclear tests, missile launches from North Korea, personal insults between the two leaders, and the threat of some kind of conflict. Wolf?
BLITZER: Significant development right now. Thanks very much, Brian Rodd, reporting.
Stay with us. We're standing by for word on when the attorney general of the United States will brief Congress on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report.