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SMERCONISH

Barr May Give "Principal Conclusions As Soon As This Weekend"; Thank You, Robert Mueller; Mueller Probe Ends: Impact Affected By Incremental Release?; Special Counsel Completes Russia Investigation; Mueller Submits Report; No Additional Indictments; Will It Hurt Dems To Keep Pursuing Russia Probe?; U.S.-Backed Forces Declare Victory Over ISIS In Syria; Special Counsel Ends Russia Probe. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 23, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Yes. And a source tells CNN House Democrats have a conference call scheduled for 3 o'clock. It's happening this afternoon. Our breaking news continues now with "SMERCONISH."

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. By now you know that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election has been delivered to Attorney General Bill Barr. Reports that there will be no further indictments suggest that the President's often repeated claim of no collusion will soon be validated and presumably that there will be no case made for obstruction of justice or at least not now.

No wonder then that the President was said to be celebrating quietly last night at Mar-a-Lago. Meanwhile, Democrats are now channeling their energy toward demanding release of the full report and it's supporting evidence.

Here's something about which we should all be in agreement. Robert Mueller is deserving of our gratitude. The former director of the FBI has dedicated most of his professional life to government service. He wore the nation's uniform in Vietnam where he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart and did it again figuratively over the span of the last two years, keeping his head down and his mouth shut while doing his job and taking never-ending fire from those who didn't want him to finish his task.

That no one knew the outcome up until the time he delivered the report is a tribute to Mueller and to his staff. There's no evidence that Mueller leaked. Ever. None. Mueller himself has been so silent that Robert De Niro wasn't sure how to imitate his voice on SNL. That he presumably didn't construct a case for conspiracy or collusion or obstruction doesn't mean that his efforts were in vain or that they weren't fruitful. First, by investigating the President and reaching conclusions, he did us all a favor. He's been the sunshine that will be a source of disinfectant for years to come.

Of course, that Mueller recommends no indictments doesn't mean that he didn't find the President committed crimes. Remember that he's operating on the disputed premise that the President can't be indicted, but more importantly, we would have no idea as to the mechanics and depth of the Russian hacking and meddling in our election without his investigation.

Thirty-seven people and entities were charged as a result of the Mueller probe, seven guilty pleas, one conviction at trial. About two- thirds of them are Russians charged with hacking and meddling in the 2016 election. Some of those entangled in the investigation are individuals from the Trump orbit, largely charged with lying and other non-conspiracy offenses, but that's all stunning and it would have been earth-shattering if announced all at once.

Last month, Philip Bump from "The Washington Post" made this brilliant observation. He wrote, quote, "President Trump has benefited enormously from the frog in hot water nature of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into his campaign and possible overlap with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Imagine if instead of Mueller releasing new public indictments as he went along, leveraging criminal charges to obtain more information from the targets of his probe, he instead had kept his information private. Imagine if he and his lawyers have been working in quiet for 20 months, submitting expenses to the Department of Justice and suffering the President's tweeted ferocity.

And then after all of that they suddenly produced a dozen indictments and plea deals running into the hundreds of pages detailing former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's illegal and questionable financial dealings, those of his deputy, Rick Gates, full details of Russia's alleged efforts to influence social media and to steal electronic information from Democratic targets and detailed a half dozen people who admitted to lying to federal investigators. Imagine if that had landed with a thud on the attorney general's desk."

Well, Bump is right, of course, that in the end, there was no case constructed against Donald Trump for conspiracy or obstruction is good news for the President of the United States, but let it not mask that our nation was the victim of a hostile effort by a world power to disrupt that which we hold most sacred -- free and fair elections. That happened regardless of whether the Russians were aided and abetted by members of the Trump campaign or the President himself and that is something about which we should all be mindful. So thank you, Robert Mueller.

Joining me now, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chris Coons the Democratic senator from Delaware. He's also on Foreign Relations Committee and vice-chair of the Ethics Committee. Senator, 37 people or entities charged, seven guilty pleas, one conviction at trial, five sentenced. Was the impact of Mueller's work lessened by the incremental release? Would we, on any other day, had it all dropped at once, be floored by the outcome?

[09:05:02] SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): That's right, Michael. If this had been released as one, great, final report and spray of indictments and then proceedings in terms of both guilty pleas and convictions, it would have a stunning impact. The fact that it has happened over nearly two years, I think, has lessened the impact as most Americans have absorbed what is a really stunning story. First, that there was an intentional effort by a hostile power to interfere in our presidential election, but second, that there were a dozen senior people in the Trump campaign seeking help from Russia, trying to connect and coordinate with them and trying to have some influence that runs well outside what we would expect from patriotic folks pursuing election or supporting a candidate.

Whether or not Bob Mueller has ultimately made some case for conspiracy, we don't yet know. As you pointed out correctly, it rests with the Attorney General, but the leak by a senior Justice Department official that there will be no more indictments coming strongly suggests that, at least for the narrow charge that Robert Mueller had, there may be no more evidence forthcoming.

SMERCONISH: Well ...

COONS: I'll join you, if I can briefly, Michael, in just thanking Robert Mueller ...

SMERCONISH: Yes. Please.

COONS: ... for his remarkable service and the professional way in which he's conducted himself.

SMERCONISH: The fact that there will be no further indictments, does it necessarily mean that there was not a cognizable claim against the President or ...

COONS: Correct.

SMERCONISH: ... is that a reflection of that Justice Department policy that says you can't indict a sitting president? And I guess what I mean, Senator Coons, is this. Might there nevertheless be evidence in that report that rises to the high crimes and misdemeanors standard for impeachment?

COONS: That's possible and that's why the report needs to be released as fully as possible as soon as possible to Congress because it's our job to conduct oversight. It's entirely possible that there was evidence of misdeeds, of inappropriate, even unpatriotic behavior that did not rise to the level of a chargeable offense either because the President, under DOJ policy, cannot himself be indicted while serving in office or because these were, you know, untoward, inappropriate things that deserve oversight and sunshine, but that did not rise to the level of a crime.

I'll just remind you, Robert Mueller's charge was quite narrow and where he found things that seemed to be indicators of crime, he fairly quickly shed them to other jurisdictions, to the Southern District of New York, to the state of New York, to the Eastern District of Virginia. So this does not mean the end of investigations into the Trump campaign, Trump organization, Trump Foundation and so forth, but it may well be the end of any prosecution that might come out of Robert Mueller's narrow investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 and the possibility of conspiracy with the Trump campaign.

SMERCONISH: Is your demand and the demand of other Democrats to see it all born of a distrust of this process?

COONS: It's born out of a concern for transparency. The good news here I think, Michael, is that we're all aligned on this, meaning President Trump is publicly saying the report should be fully released, Rudy Giuliani said within the last day that the White House should not get an advance peek look at it, it should be released to the Congress and the White House at the same time. Lindsey Graham, Chairman of Judiciary, is saying that it should be released as fully and as quickly as possible.

The few legitimate reasons why there might be a narrowing of all the investigatory materials and the report delivered to the Attorney General and what comes to Congress would be threefold. First, interference with ongoing investigations. We know there are several. Second, classified information ,which of course Congress is qualified to handle in our intelligence committees and third -- excuse me -- grand jury information today (ph). There's a long-standing role that without a judicial order, grand jury information is not shared.

So that's the three areas where I think Attorney General Barr and his team may well be reviewing the report and it's work product to see what is appropriate, but frankly, I'm expecting this weekend, given the Attorney General's letter, that Congress will get notified of the principal conclusions of the report and then I hope as soon as next week that we'll be seeing the vast majority of the report with only minor redactions.

SMERCONISH: We showed on a split screen, Senator Coons, while you were speaking, the President on the move right now in West Palm Beach. He's been unusually restrained and quiet. I want to ask you a political question about all of this. Do you have any concern that your party will overplay its hand? Look, the reality seems to be no collusion, no obstruction of justice. If this now tees up a series of never-ending investigations by Democrats in the House or the Senate, will you not play into his hands that it was a witch hunt?

[09:10:07] COONS: Well, we have to be careful to use the resources and the abilities of the House majority in a -- in a focused and a responsible way. I think there were 13 investigations by the House Republicans of the Benghazi incident. I myself sat through, I think, three different hearings in the Senate and the Republicans, in that instance, demonstrated overreach.

I'll remind you that the phrase move on, the organization move on, was coined late in the impeachment process against Bill Clinton because the average American had gotten tired of special -- excuse me -- Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigations that went on for years and then the impeachment process.

So I'll agree with you, Michael. We need to focus on things that are relevant and matter to the average American. I support Speaker Pelosi's view that we ought to be able to explain what we're investigating and why. There's lots to go after. There are lots of issues that we've known over the last two years, whether it's Trump's taxes and the allegations of some impropriety there or it's ways in which his decision-making and policy is unpredictable or even inappropriate.

Just yesterday, there was an incident where the Trump administration rolled out significant new sanctions against North Korea and then abruptly, in a tweet, President Trump reversed them. Even as his own cabinet leadership Secretary of the Treasury, National Security Adviser were trumpeting these important new sanctions, the President, apparently without consultation within his own administration, abruptly reversed them out of his affection for Kim Jong-un.

I'll remind you Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, resigned in protest over Trump's abrupt change of our direction in policy in Syria before Isis was -- the Isis Caliphate was defeated. There's plenty of things for us to be debating in terms of policy and there are a few things that deserve focused and ongoing investigation. We should not overdo it.

We have to remember that there's a 2020 election coming up, Michael, and the question the average American is going to ask is not about any of these investigations. They're going to ask what would you do, Democratic Party, that would make a difference in my life that would help my family, my kids, my immediate community, deal with opioids, deal with healthcare, get a better job? Those are the things that I hear in Delaware on the minds' of the average American. I'm not saying we should abandon our responsibility of oversight and investigations, but we need to be focused.

SMERCONISH: Final question, you referenced Isis. Are you willing to give the President credit for the defeat of Isis, the Caliphate, in Syria?

COONS: Absolutely. I'm willing to give credit to our armed forces who have fought bravely alongside our Syrian partners, Kurds and Arabs in the Syria democratic forces. This was begun by Barack Obama who pulled together an international coalition. It was continued by President Trump. His gut instinct seems to be to pull us out of all foreign conflicts, but his national security team prevailed upon him to stay engaged and to finish the fight.

It's my hope that he really has changed what was that abrupt policy decision I referenced a moment ago and that we will retain 1,000 American troops for the near term to make sure that Iran does dot take advantage of the vacuum created by the defeat of Isis on the ground and given that our military leaders estimate there are tens of thousands of Isis fighters remaining embedded in the community.

But of course, I'll give credit to our commander-in-chief and troops for the success in the fight against ISIS.

SMERCONISH: OK. Me too. Thank you, Senator Coons. I appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you, Michael. Always good to be on with you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine? "Watching you on CNN. Are you that delusional? Thanking Mueller? How about acknowledge the President actually won fair and square? No indictment recommended. You stating that there is still crimes that could have been committed, poisoning minds' of viewers and this country."

Hey, Deso, maybe you've read the report. I've yet to read it. I fully acknowledge the advance reporting that there will be no further indictments. I do raise the legitimate question that perhaps a reason why there'll be no indictments is the Justice Department policy that you can't indict a sitting president. I think that's entirely fair and reasonable, but if you listened to the totality of my commentary, I fully acknowledge that it appears to be a win for the President and I don't begrudge him. I'm happy for the country.

If, in fact, Robert Mueller's finding is that there was no collusion or obstruction, I, for one, as an American, am happy with that outcome. But I want to salute Robert Mueller because the President that you're praising by implication has been kicking his butt for the last two years and Mueller hasn't said a word. He's just toiled ahead and gotten the job done. I think we need to single that out.

[09:15:00] I want to know what the rest of you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this question. Will the full Mueller report, will it, will it be released to the public? Vote at Smerconish.com.

Up next, "Russian Roulette" author Michael Isikoff is here to weigh in on the end of the Russia probe. You'll want to hear what he has to say.

Also, we just saw the President is on the move in West Palm Beach. So how is the President reacting to the report? We'll have a live report from West Palm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has ended the Russian probe, turned over his report to Attorney General William Barr with no further indictments. Barr is saying he hopes to turn over the conclusions to Congress as soon as this weekend. So what does Michael Isikoff think? Joining me now is the chief investigative correspondent at "Yahoo! News." He's also the co-author of the book "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump." Michael, what's your headline?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, the headline is I think going to be superseded by whatever we learn later today or tomorrow in terms of the principal conclusions and I have to say, beyond the obvious fact that there are no more indictments, which is something that a lot of people were speculating about.

[09:20:05] You know, as recently as the last few days, you heard people suggesting that Mueller would go out with a flurry of -- you know, a grand finale with indictments of perhaps the President's son or Jared Kushner or others. He obviously hasn't done that. That's a win for the President. No question about it. But what really struck me most in Barr's letter that was released late yesterday was the fact that there are principal conclusions from this report. A lot of us thought that Mueller's report would be minimalist. He would say here's who I've indicted, here are the areas that I investigated. It wasn't clear to me that he was going to reach conclusions about some of the core issues, obstruction of justice or, you know, the extent to which there may have been collusion or conspiracy that he didn't charge and put in indictments.

Mueller is a by-the-book guy that, you know, I thought that it was likely that the report would be very narrowly focused and simply state, you know, what he did, who he charged, who he didn't and then supporting evidence.

The fact that he reached conclusions, which is what Barr said in his letter yesterday, you know, raises a whole host of questions to me that go beyond where I thought Mueller was going to go. So we'll have to wait and see what those conclusions are, but that's the ball game.

SMERCONISH: But Michael, I'm mindful of Attorney General Barr's confirmation hearing where, without referencing Jim Comey by name, I think he made very clear his distaste for the Comey announcement where he lamb basted Hillary Clinton, Secretary Clinton ...

ISIKOFF: Right.

SMERCONISH: ... and didn't indict her. So I would be surprised if the President were publicly taken to the woodshed in any part of what's to come given that he's not going to be indicted or there'll be no recommendation that he be indicted in the future.

ISIKOFF: Right, which is, again, why that phrase "principal conclusions" leapt out at me because you would, if you read what Rod Rosenstein, the speech that he gave the other day in which he reiterated that principle of we don't opine on uncharged conduct, you know, that was almost -- it's been a mantra of Rosenstein from the beginning. That was the grounds upon which he wrote his memo that led to the firing of Comey.

So what sort of conclusions are we talking about? You know, I would suggest that's probably tends to more exonerating the President than implicating him because if they were implicating him, they would be opining those conclusions, would be opining on uncharged conduct. We're just going to have to wait and see. We're speculating here.

SMERCONISH: Of course.

ISIKOFF: I don't -- I don't like to do that, but I do think it's ...

SMERCONISH: OK, but don't take the fun out of this.

ISIKOFF: OK.

SMERCONISH: Michael, there's so many aspects of it that intrigued me because, like you, I've been -- I've been eat, sleeping and drinking it for the last two years. I have to hit you with one of the more bit players in all this ...

ISIKOFF: Yes.

SMERCONISH: ... but Jerome Corsi, what are you making of the fact that Corsi, at the end of the day, wasn't indicted when, in fact, we were told that he was presented with an indictment that they wanted him to agree to?

ISIKOFF: You know, I got to say that that is a surprise because if you talk to veteran prosecutors and you saw the chain of events, including the draft plea agreement, guilty plea, that they gave to Corsi and then they didn't deliver. They didn't take it to the next step ...

SMERCONISH: Right.

ISIKOFF: ... and actually charge him. You know, most prosecutors I talked to said of course Corsi's going to get charged. You know, you don't -- you don't go that far and then not indict somebody.

So it does indicate that, to me, what I suspected for awhile, that all the time and attention that Mueller put into the Roger Stone case was because they were convinced they were going to be able to show that Stone was in direct communication with WikiLeaks, that that was the, you know, the pot at the end of this rainbow that they were going to be able to prove, you know, is something that did amount to collusion with at least -- at least an entity that was linked to the Russians, WikiLeaks, which got its e-mails from the Russians.

And at the end of the day, if you read the Stone indictment, you don't see that. They did not accuse Stone of being in direct communication with WikiLeaks. I think they were trying to prove that. I suspect that they were frustrated that they could not prove it and that's why they were going after Corsi.

[09:25:05] They thought they could lean on Corsi and get him there and at the end of the day, they didn't have it.

SMERCONISH: Michael Isikoff, thank you as always.

ISIKOFF: Sure. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: More reaction now from the Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have? "Smerconish, anything short of releasing the full Mueller report to the public is a statement of guilt of Trump. Claiming executive privilege is very telling and just an excuse. If Trump is totally innocent, prove it."

I don't -- Mob Boss Trump, your moniker, I don't know that anybody's saying he's totally innocent. You know, it's not guilty that comes out of a criminal trial, right? The jury has to determine guilt or not guilt, but not innocence and I think it's the same sort of thing here. I want to see it all. Of course I want to see it all. Just like you, I feel like there's a transparency aspect of this that we have a right to demand it.

One more if we have time. "Smerconish, funny liberals say they are for laws and procedures, but want Mueller report which to be completely release and ignore the procedures and process. Wow."

There's a happy medium there. I think there probably are some legitimate grounds of privilege that apply to this case, but not a justification for the public to be shut out entirely. That's what I would say. I want to remind you, make sure you're answering the survey question at my website, Smerconish.com. Will the full Mueller report, will it, not should it, will it be released to the public? Go vote.

Up ahead, President Trump got additional good news on the international front as U.S. backed Syrian democratic forces have defeated ISIS and fully liberated its last stronghold in Eastern Syria. Ben Wedeman will join us from Syria.

Plus, the President just arrived at Trump International Golf Club. So how is he reacting to the end of the Mueller probe? We'll get a live report from West Palm Beach.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:31:14]

SMERCONISH: Trump has got some good news from the Middle East. U.S.- backed Syrian Democratic Forces have defeated the ISIS caliphate and fully liberated Baghouz in Eastern Syria.

Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF Press Office tweeted this, "Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and 100 percent territorial defeat of ISIS. On this unique day, we commemorate thousands of martyrs whose efforts made the victory possible."

Joining me now is CNN international correspondent Ben Wedeman. Ben, the question they say I think that success has many fathers what was the role of the U.S., how much credit does the U.S. rightly claim for the defeat of ISIS in this latest chapter?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, I think there is no question about it, the United States was key in making this victory over ISIS possible. We have been watching as almost daily U.S. aircraft along with, we believe, French aircraft as well have been striking the ISIS positions in this last strong hold of the terror group in this part of the country. But going beyond just that, they have been providing support and training and weapons and ammunition to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces now for many years. Going back, of course, to the Obama administration.

There are now about 2,000 U.S. troops and other personnel in this part of the country. Where we were, we saw that there were -- there's an American artillery battery. There are French and British special forces in the area as well. And their help was critical.

Without them, without that kind of air support and support on the ground, a victory simply wouldn't have been possible and going beyond Syria, Iraq is the same case. The Americans as well as their coalition allies, supported, trained, armed the Iraqi forces and the Kurdish forces in the northern part of Iraq and their air cover and the presence of U.S. special forces and others in British and Italian and Spanish and French forces were key to this victory, so, yes, in this case, the United States can rightly claim credit for this final victory over what is the so-called or was the Islamic State -- Michael.

SMERCONISH: What's the future now of the Assad regime? What's the future for Syria as you see it, Ben?

WEDEMAN: The Assad regime, separate from ISIS, is actually probably looking more likely to survive than it has in many years. They have established, re-established the regime, their control over major parts of the country, not this one, of course, this is run -- this part of the country is run by the autonomous Kurdish authorities, with their Arab allies in northeastern Syria.

So the Assad regime, thanks to the Russians, the Iranians and Hezbollah, have managed to survive. And that's a major reversal. I remember covering the conflict in Syria in 2015, until the Russians intervened in September of that year, it did look like the Assad regime was starting to teeter. As far as Syria -- this part of Syria is concerned, victory over ISIS doesn't bring any sort of prospect of long-term peace and prosperity. The worry in this part of the country is Turkey has ambitions to crush the Kurdish forces in this part of Syria because the Turks believe that they are simply, a, the Syrian wing of the PKK.

[09:35:06]

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, that in Turkey has been waging a separatist war against the Turkish state since 1984 so there is no confidence that things are going to -- that everything is going to become rosy now that ISIS has been defeated -- Michael.

SMERCONISH: Ben Wedeman, stay safe and thanks for an excellent report.

We'll check in now with your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have, Katherine (ph)?

Smerconish, it's refreshing to hear someone give credit to anyone from the opposing party as Chris Coons just did in giving the president credit for the defeat of ISIS in Syria. We need more of this from both sides (ph).

And, Steve, you just heard me ask Ben Wedeman, "Ben, what was the U.S. role? How much credit does the U.S. rightly deserve for the fall of the caliphate in this latest chapter from Syria?" He laid out chapter and verse, absolutely, credit is deserving of the United States.

I will just add my own two cents that what a case of strange bed fellows, because when you look at this recent result in Syria, you've got the United States pleased, obviously, you've got Putin pleased, Assad pleased, the Iranians pleased. On this one thing there is some commonality. That one thing being ridding the planet of ISIS.

Up ahead, we'll go to Mar-a-Lago, where the president and his lawyers are waiting for Robert Mueller's report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:40:35]

SMERCONISH: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has delivered his report and while Attorney General William Barr is reviewing it the president and his lawyers are now ensconced at Mar-a-Lago waiting to do the same.

Joining me now with the latest from West Palm Beach is CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne, last night a big night seemingly for the president. How did he take it in?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a very big night and it is playing out today as well. We just saw the president about 9:08 arrive at his golf club there with a newspaper in his hand, looking at it, he was reading that newspaper. So we assume that he is going to be playing golf potentially with his regular golf buddy Senator Lindsey Graham who attended a big GOP fundraiser last night.

The way that this played out is what we saw. The president rather quiet. We haven't really heard from him in the Twitter world yet. But we did see at this fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, he introduced Lindsey Graham. And Lindsey graham went in full on.

He went after this investigation, a document that was really an integral part of the investigation, calling it a piece of garbage. He mentioned Hillary Clinton and classified intelligence and the fact that he felt that the election and the campaign was not treated fairly between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

When he mentioned Hillary Clinton, the audience at that private fundraiser went broke out into the chant, lock her up, lock her up again. So those are the kind of things that we've seen play out potentially hinting at the messaging that is taking place.

He has his team here. His legal team as well as two press secretaries who are hunkered down. They are strategizing, trying to figure out how to respond. And I think one of the challenges is going to be here as you've got campaign advisers who are saying, yes, this is good news, this is a win, because potentially no more indictments.

But you've had a president who has been saying time and time again for the last two years, that this is a hoax, that it's a witch hunt. It's an illegitimate enterprise, it was last weekend that he went after Mueller in a Twitter storm.

And so they're going to have to do some sort of pivot if you will, if there is exculpatory information out of this report. If they want to present this as a winning situation. And that's what Emmet Flood wanted the attorneys here in Mar-a-Lago is tasked to do, to try to figure out what is the best strategy, what's the best messaging and perhaps even changing the tone a little bit in from the president in responding to this report. SMERCONISH: The restraint is so out of character for him. I mean, it's as if he misplaced his iPhone today. I wonder, Suzanne, if they fear that even though there won't be an indictment that's recommended, that the report is nevertheless ugly with regard to what Mueller found?

MALVEAUX: Yes. And it is quite amazing that we have not seen a tweet from this president so far. Everybody has been watching kind of to see what happens and what he says next. And there is quite a number of people who are in his world that are here, present at Mar-a-Lago, perhaps to try to make sure that that doesn't happen and it really is a very delicate balancing act.

Because on the one hand you have some people who believe that this could be a turning point for his presidency, that it could be a sense of relief. But on the other hand, you do have these other congressional hearings and investigations, unanswered questions that will continue to dog him as he moves forward. And we still don't know.

There still is a process that has to play out with the attorney general. It's interesting that the president praised his attorney general yesterday as being someone who was credible. And they are going to have to work with the White House lawyers and with the attorney general in trying to sort out what is admissible and what is not admissible in moving forward to give that to the Congress and the public, whether or not there is some executive privilege, some concerns about information coming from officials or documents that they want protected from the public to see, and that, too, will be a very delicate balancing act, if you will, this White House having to prove that it is transparent and at the same time really take on some of these investigations that are looming in the future.

SMERCONISH: It's going to be fascinating to watch all day long. Thanks for a great report, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, have a good day.

[09:45:00]

SMERCONISH: For more on the Mueller probe, joining me now is Elie Honig, the former prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. His latest piece, by the way, at CNN.com, a multi-front battle is coming just behind the Mueller report.

Elie, I don't want to lead you. Go ahead, take it. Tell me what you most want to say.

ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: So, I think there's two categories, big questions in my mind. I think everyone has got a million questions.

One is the procedural. How is this going to play layout as between DOJ, the White House and Congress? And that's sort of what the piece I wrote is about. But we can see a real sort of collision here between the branches, between the executive and legislative branch and within branches, between the White House and DOJ.

So there is a lot of questions. How much detail does Mueller go into it in his report? Does he send the report over to the White House first to give them a chance to object for executive privilege? What if there's a disagreement about executive privilege? That can land this in the courts.

And a big one that I think is looming is what's going to happen when the House tries to either subpoena the report or subpoena Robert Mueller, and what happens if the executive branch resists? We could then be in court on a really unanswered legal and constitutional question.

SMERCONISH: You and I sort of game theories this on radio yesterday. Are you surprised when all is said and done, are you surprised that seemingly the result will not involve any additional indictments for conspiracy, collusion, call it what you will or for obstruction?

HONIG: I'm surprised about a couple things, I'm surprised in a good first of all that the report came through yesterday that there were no events where Mueller wanted to do something but was overruled by the A.G. That was a very important thing I think to watch for. Were there things Mueller wanted to do where the A.G. said no and the answer we now know is no. That was a surprise there were no further indictments.

And the big question I have is, how does Mueller frame his findings in his report? The fact that there is no further indictment is important. And it's undoubtedly a win for Trump and the people around him. But it's not the whole ball game.

I don't see any reason why the report couldn't say, Congress, here are my findings. Robert Mueller saying, here are my findings, I find significant evidence of collusion or perhaps obstruction, I think there is more smoke around obstruction and I refer to you for further proceedings as you see necessary, especially given the DOJ policy against the existing -- a sitting president -- indicting a sitting president. And I think a key question is going to be, did Mueller hold off on further action because of that policy or because of the quality of the evidence?

SMERCONISH: You know, I'm so glad you brought that up. Because in my discussion earlier this hour with Senator Coons, that's what I was getting at, should we really be surprised that the Mueller report will not recommend an indictment of President Trump when, in fact, the Justice Department policy says, you can't indict. It's not a law, but it's a policy.

And I don't mean to suggest that that's what the finding will be. But there really couldn't have been a different outcome today, right?

HONIG: Yes. There is no possible way that Mueller was going to indict the president. And look, if you look back at the Kenneth Starr report, which I was reading through yesterday. He doesn't indict the president, of course, Clinton. And he doesn't recommend indicting the president. What he does is say, here are my findings, and now Starr goes -- step that I don't think we will see Mueller going, but he says, here are some grounds for impeachment that you Congress may want to consider but look throughout the report. Essentially all of the recommendations and all the findings relate to obstruction of justice. So I wouldn't be spiking the football just yet if I was in the president's orbit. And that may be why we've sort of seen a measured quiet response thus far from the White House team.

SMERCONISH: And all focus seemingly will shift to your old venue, the Southern District, when we get past this, right?

HONIG: Yes. No doubt about it. That's where the focus can and should turn.

Look, we already know that Mueller has sent significant portions of his work to Southern District, the Michael Cohen case, which has led to the campaign finance case. We saw the search warrants earlier this week. It's clear, Southern District is still digging in hard on that campaign finance case, which leads to the Trump org, which leads to the inauguration. This is how things work in the real world. This is how things work in the Southern District.

They follow the chain where ever it may go. And remember the Southern District is not constrained in substance. Mueller had a core mission to investigate Russian interference with the election. Southern District can go wherever the evidence takes it.

SMERCONISH: No limitation. Thank you, Elie. As always, we appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have?

Smerconish, Coons, what a bunch of liars. No collusion means no collusion. Spin it anyway you want but the intention of this investigation was to find collusion and there was none found. End of story.

Brenda, again, have you read this report? I've not seen the report. All I know is that which was announced yesterday, but shouldn't we all take our time and read it? Mine is not an idea logically based focus. It's an evidentiary based focus.

I want to see what they came up with. Remember, you have got to go answer the survey question. Do it right now at Smerconish.com.

[09:50:01]

Will the full Mueller report, will it, not should it, will it be released to the public? Go vote.

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SMERCONISH: So how did you vote? The survey question at Smerconish.com today.

Will the full Mueller report be released to the public?

Survey says, 7,137 votes, 69 percent say no. Gosh, I hope you're wrong. About a third say, yes.

What else has come in during the course of the program?

Smerconish, thank you Robert Mueller for reelecting President Trump for 2020 -- six more years.

John, your implication is that he just guaranteed the president's re- election.

[09:55:02]

Whatever the facts are, that's what Mueller should have been presenting us without any eye toward the political calendar. And there's no evidence to suggest that that he was dissuaded in doing it just that way.

One more if I have got time.

You surely don't think President Trump hasn't already read every word?

No, Eddie, I don't think that he has been given it. I have more regard for Mueller and Bob Barr. And they're the only ones that who have it in their possession right now.

Remember, join me for the continuation of my American Life In Columns tour. Wilkes-Barre, P.A. April 7, New York City the 22nd, Atlanta April 29, and then Nashville April 30.

You can catch up with us anytime on CNN Go and On Demand. See you next week.

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