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Summary of Mueller Report, Trump says no collusion, total exoneration. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 24, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

REP. DENNY HECK (D) WASHINGTON: Eighty percent of the American public wants this to happen including Republicans. U.S House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution calling for the report to be released in its entirety. So --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. We've just lost our connection with Denny Heck, but a very important development is unfolding right now. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We're following major breaking news. Only moments ago, President Trump reacted to the summary of Robert Mueller's findings, claiming he was totally exonerated, calling it an illegal takedown, the entire Russia investigation that failed. That's from the president of the United States.

Robert Mueller did not find that President Trump, his campaign, or his associates conspired with Russia according the attorney general, William Barr. Barr also says Mueller did not have enough evidence to prosecute what's called obstruction of justice, but could not exonerate the president completely. Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill where we're getting more reaction. It's rather intense right now, Manu. What's the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Democrats in the House are making it very clear that they are not satisfied with this four-page letter from Bill Barr. They are demanding the full release of the entire Mueller report.

They also want the underlying evidence that has led to Bob Mueller making these conclusions. They want that provided to Congress, provided to the American public, and you're hearing from top Democrats on down, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer just putting out a statement, demanding full release of the report.

And the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, made it clear he wants to bring Bill Barr before his committee to hear his public testimony. He said, "in light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the justice department following the Special Counsel report where Mueller did not exonerate the president, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before House Judiciary in the near future." Now, it's still unclear exactly how much of the report Bill Barr plans

to release. He said in that four-page letter that he does plan to release -- his goal was to release as much as I can consistent with applicable law regulations and departmental policies. He doesn't say how much that's going to be, but Democrats clearly are not satisfied, pushing for much more.

Republicans say this is a complete exoneration for this president. They're saying that Democratic efforts to probe into Russia collusion, probe into obstruction of justice, which House Democrats are planning to do, should be abandoned now that the Mueller investigation exhausted -- did not find any crimes that were committed in those regards.

Nevertheless, Democrats say the first step here is to get the full Mueller report. That will be their road map going forward. The question is will the department comply, and if not, will subpoenas come? Democrats are warning that's the next step, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. I want to play for our viewers who may just be tuning in here in the United States and around the world, the president's reaction only moments ago, just before boarding Air Force One on a flight from Florida back here to Washington. He stopped and made less than a minute statement. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction and none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration. It's a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it's a shame that your president has had to go through this for before I even got elected, it began.

And it began illegally. And hopefully, somebody is going to look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed. And hopefully somebody's going to be looking at the other side. So it's complete exoneration, no collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin is with us. Let's get your reaction, Jeffrey. These are historic moments right now.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly is. And, you know, the allegation that the Trump campaign, that Donald Trump himself worked with Russia, supported Russia in Russia's efforts to elect him president has been repudiated by this report. I mean, that is an unambiguous conclusion.

Now, what started this investigation, what prompted Rod Rosenstein to name Robert Mueller as the Special Counsel in the first place was the firing of James Comey as director of the FBI in 2017. The question of whether that was obstruction of justice, whether the president was firing James Comey in an effort to hinder or stop the investigation of him. [17:04:55] That has been resolved in an ambiguous way in this report,

frankly, because under circumstances that are frankly unclear, Mueller turned that question over to his superior in the Department of Justice. It does not appear that he concluded one way or the other about whether the president obstructed justice.

The attorney general did conclude that there was no obstruction of justice. But as he said in this letter, it did not -- it absolved him of that and that is certainly worthy of further investigation.

BLITZER: Very important, indeed. Our political contributors are here. Let's go down the line and get your reaction because it's pretty stunning, all these developments.

AMANDA CAPENTER, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think there's a lot of Democrats that wrote checks about campaign collusion that Robert Mueller did not cash. So I have questions for the Democrats and the Trump campaign. For the Democrats, namely people like Adam Schiff and Senator Blumenthal, who said they have evidence of criminality and wrongdoing.

What set of facts were you looking at that Robert Mueller did not? Let's be out with this information already. And then for the Trump campaign, why all the lies? Why all the lies regarding contacts with Russian officials? In the Bill Barr memo, it says that many Russian affiliates made offers of campaign help to the Trump campaign that they did not act upon.

Maybe that's why they lied or maybe it's the reason Michael Cohen is going to a jail cell and that they're trying to protect his business interests. I want answers about that too.

BLITZER: Jen?

JEN PSAKI, CNN COMMENTATOR: Wolf, I think this is going to be deeply disappointing and unsatisfying to a number of Democrats, but I think it's important to remember that this is not how Democrats won in 2018. Nobody ran on impeachment. Nancy Pelosi is not saying we should impeach. She wasn't saying that a week ago, wasn't saying that two weeks ago.

But there are a lot of questions that are unanswered coming out of this four-page document that we've seen Democrats clearly indicating they're going to pursue. Including the fact that he was not exonerated, President Trump was not exonerated on obstruction of justice.

There are also a lot of questions that I think Democrats have about the lack of explanation for the Trump Tower Moscow meeting, for the sharing of polling. So, this will continue as it was going to before. The obligation or the role of Mueller was always to investigate and then pass it along. That's exactly what's going to happen.

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: There has to be a credibility reckoning. I agree with Amanda for these Democrats, Adam Schiff especially, Blumenthal, Swalwell, Nadler, Waters -- all assured the American people they had evidence. You know, it's been fashionable lately to say they came with receipts.

They promised this for two years, and it has been completely blown up today by the Special Counsel's report. That's number one. Number two, it strikes me that what Mueller has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Russia interfered with our election, that Trump had nothing to do with t and it all occurred on Obama's watch.

We need an accounting of how we failed at this at the end of the last administration and how we're going to stop it in the future. I think that's what a lot of folks want to know. How did we fail? How do we stop it?

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY CLINTON 2016 CAMPAIGN: You know, I agree with you. And actually number one on my list of questions is why then did Mitch McConnell be -- did he obstruct the idea of a bipartisan notification to the American people? You like to make this talking point about how it happened on Obama's watch, so I'd like to know --

JENNINGS: It's not a talking point.

FINNEY: It is a talking point --

JENNINGS: It's a fact.

FINNEY: -- because we know that it was Mitch McConnell who stood in the way of notifying the American people. Look, I think this is, on the one hand, this is good for the country, frankly, because as someone who participated in this election and worked very hard in this election, the idea that the Russians, we know they obstructed, you know, all of our hard work, that was very troubling.

So I think for America, this is a good thing, but certainly there are a number of questions that remain. And I think the most important thing, frankly, is what happens next. I mean, Barr has left very much open how much information he will now give to Congress.

And I think, not to make a pun, but the bar is very high for him because if you believe that the president has been exonerated, then there is absolutely no reason to give Congress everything they've asked for so this that they can answer both Amanda and Scott's questions.

BLITZER: Pamela, you're getting new information.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. We're learning that the process of scrubbing Mueller's confidential report has already begun at DOJ to see what else could be provided in this memo released today by Bill Barr.

He did say he wanted to work with the Special Counselor Mueller to figure out what else could be released while keeping, you know, an eye on grand jury information, sensitive classified information. So that process is under way according to my colleague Laura Jarrett. And you were saying the next phase, I mean, that is important. Yes, he is going to be potentially releasing more information, but this enters a whole new chapter.

One chapter is closed. Definitively we know today Robert Mueller found no collusion. That is something the president had been saying for nearly two years or nearly two years as long as this investigation has been going, the Mueller investigation has been going on for. It is a win for the president. Obstruction is a little messier when you read this.

[17:10:00] However, Bill Barr, his attorney general, essentially exonerates him saying we --

BLITZER: And Rod Rosenstein --

BROWN: -- and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who I was told is staying on as sort of a heat shield to help Bill Barr through this because of the -- for the politics of this. Bill Barr is his hand-picked attorney general who wrote a memo saying that the obstruction probe was fatally misconceived.

So now this new chapter is a fight over disclosures from the report. The White House has been bracing for this. It knows the order of battle and is preparing for a subpoena fight with the Democrats who have already threatened that.

Also, pardons. What is the president going to do? His attorneys have said that once this probe is over with, that is when he's going to look at pardons, consider them. You heard him today say a lot of people were hurt through this investigation, as Shimon pointed out. It raises the question, what's he going to do next?

BLITZER: Yes, the whole issue of pardons clearly coming into focus right now. The president said a lot of people have been hurt in this illegal -- he kept -- using the word illegal takedown, this whole investigation.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think one of the important points here for the president certainly, even people around him in late 2016, early 2017, advised him to accept that the Russians did interfere in the election and what you've heard for the last two years is his refusal to even budge on admitting that.

Now, we have yet another finding here from the Special Counsel that did, again, says it did happen. And I think one of the reasons why the president did that, he didn't want to give an inch because he did not want to essentially concede that he had any help in the election and put himself in a place where, again, what we'd find in this investigation would essentially undermine his election.

But here, we have another finding from the Special Counsel that it did occur. Obviously, nobody according to the Special Counsel -- no Americans were involved in that process according to -- as part of a conspiracy. But I think, again, the president at some point might want to have to admit that it did happen. He was elected. We don't know, obviously, what role, what difference it made to have the Russian interference, but it did happen. DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is such an important

point. And, you know, you said that no U.S. person or somebody related to the Trump campaign knowingly coordinated. And that is such an important point because one of the reasons why everybody has been thinking that there was fire with the smoke is because of the president's actions or inaction.

Yes, he's been tough on some issues related to Russia, but rhetorically, the bully pulpit has been absent with regard to Russia. Absent in the face of Russia meddling in American elections. You know, the statement here says that they actively were able to get into the DNC's e-mails, that they were actually able to meddle more effectively to hurt Hillary Clinton.

Republicans who worked in and along the Trump campaign, they say that Russia tried but just weren't successful on their side. Regardless of how you look at it, they are the ones who should come into focus now, particularly as we go into the next election.

BLITZER: Abby Phillip is getting some more reaction. She's over at the White House. What else are they saying, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, for months and months, the Trump campaign has been essentially waiting for this moment to figure out how they are going to use -- deal with the Mueller report as they go into 2020. And now today they have issued this statement calling it a total vindication for President Trump and suggesting that the Democrats have lied to the American people.

Wolf, the last line of their fairly lengthy statement on this, really, I think, encapsulates the message from the Trump campaign to the American people going into the 2020 election. It says, "The American people should take notice the Democrats have lied to you while President Trump has been hard at work building a booming economy and making you safer."

So, there is a twofold argument here. The president has been focused on the economy, focused on safety and security. Democrats have been pushing collusion, what they called a collusion conspiracy. And this is how they are going into 2020. One of my colleagues, Betsy Cline, just spoke to a senior Trump campaign official a few moments ago who said this is going to be one of the tools that they use to try to woo moderate voters going into this next election.

Moderate voters have been pulling away from President Trump for a long time, particularly in the suburbs. It's one of the factors that helped Democrats win the House of Representatives. It's really an open question right now whether that will actually be effective. But from the Trump campaign's perspective, they believe this is an open door for them to say the president's been treated unfairly these last two years.

There was no underlying crime of collusion, and they're going further on the obstruction issue, as you all have been discussing. That's not as clear in the letter from Bill Barr. But they're saying this is a total vindication from the president, and they want to use this as a way to restart a conversation with moderate voters about what President Trump has been up to as president and perhaps push those moderate voters away from Democrats.

[17:15:02] They're suggesting that Democrats have been blindsided by their inability to deal with the 2016 election and have been pushing conspiracy theories. So, a really interesting window into how they are already, as of this very moment, pivoting to 2020 and feeling very hopeful about what it means for President Trump to move over this hump of the Mueller probe that he's been kind of waiting for all these months and these last two years, Wolf.

BLITZER: Significant development, indeed. James Clapper is joining us right now, the former director of National Intelligence. Anxious to get your reaction. You've had a chance to go through this 4-page document. What do you think?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN ANALYST: Well, it's actually more forthcoming than I thought it would be, but it certainly leaves a lot of unanswered questions. And of course, like everybody else, I'm curious about Mueller's decision to defer to the Department of Justice on a determination about exoneration. Clearly the White House and president already are, you know, spiking the ball in the end zone and I guess with some justification.

BLITZER: Well, because they're making the point that there was no collusion, and in the Mueller report, there clearly is evidence that there was no collusion, that no one from the Trump campaign conspired or colluded or cooperated with the Russians to interfere in the U.S. election. That's pretty significant. Forget about the obstruction of justice for a moment.

CLAPPER: It is significant. And you know, I think in a way, even if you're an opponent of Trump, that is reassuring. That's a good thing for the country in any event.

BLITZER: I'll read another line that makes that point. In the -- and Bill Barr, the attorney general, in his letter to Congress, he quotes from the Mueller report saying, "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

And it's also significant, as you well know, you were the director of National Intelligence at the time, there was a lot of evidence that the Russians at the highest levels were trying to interfere in the U.S. election.

CLAPPER: Yes, exactly, and one of the things that this Mueller -- this summary does, I don't know about the actual report, but the summary does makes that point, reaffirms once again and it discusses the Russian interference and the two dimensions of it, which was the disinformation campaign and the hacking.

And it's a shame that the president continues to refuse to call that out or to acknowledge what the Russians did. And he's been consistent about that since we briefed him in the last administration on the 6th of January 2017 about the Russian interference. And this report reaffirms those findings.

BLITZER: Because I went back and re-read just before earlier this afternoon, that report that you released on January 6th, 2017, during the transition that you made available to the then president elect Donald Trump. And you concluded in that report that U.S. intelligence, with high confidence, said that the Russians had three goals in mind in interfering in the election.

One, to denigrate Hillary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. Two, help Donald Trump's election chances. And three, undermine public faith in U.S. democracy, to sow dissent, in effect, here in the United States. Looks like the Russians, from their perspective, they got what they wanted.

CLAPPER: They did. They were imminently successful. And that kind of interference is continuing and we can look forward to it again in 2020.

BLITZER: Yes, your successor, Dan Coates, the director of National Intelligence, he told Congress a few months later that the Russian cyber operations will continue to target the United States and its allies. So, it's still going on as we speak right now. And that was the whole investigation.

The Mueller investigation was designed to determine what the Russians were up to and then also go into whether or not Americans were helping the Russians and apparently the bottom line is there was no evidence that criminally Americans were helping the Russians.

CLAPPER: That appears to be the case. I know when I left the government in '17, we certainly didn't have any direct evidence of collusion then. And I think, you know, we all had faith. I certainly do, did in Bob Mueller, that if there was evidence there, he would report it, and there wasn't. And that's a good thing. It's a good message for the country.

BLITZER: James Clapper, thanks so much for joining us. Always important to get your perspective. Appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's continue. Amanda, what do you think? This is going to be a political issue. There's no doubt about that. The Republicans and Democrats, you know, on conclusion, the Democrats have a weak case but on obstruction, they may have something to argue.

[17:20:03] CARPENTER: I think there is also something to explore when it comes to the way that Donald Trump governs. He's had a strangely positive relationship towards Russia. Now we know it's not because there was collusion, but this memo does state there were multiple offers from Russian affiliated individuals to assist with the Trump campaign.

Here's why I want the report to come out. What knowledge did Donald Trump have of those offers of assistance? And did those offers, although not acted upon in a cooperative way, influence his policy towards Russia?

BLITZER: Jen?

PSAKI: Look, I think to the point that a lot of people have raised, there's a fitness of his role as president here that we should question because over the last two years, he's done absolutely nothing to prepare for the intervention of the Russians that is ongoing, that will likely be a part of 2020.

That speaks to whether he is behaving as a president should, never mind speaking positively about Vladimir Putin and having secret conversations that aren't read out. I do think there's an important warning for the Democrats here. Abby was reporting on how the White House is thinking about this.

The reality is Russia and this entire probe did not even register on internal polls for Democrats across the country. There was not an issue that anybody was talking about on the campaign trail who won tough races. Elissa Slotkin and Abigail Spanberger, calling all right, you name them all.

We should not change that now. And that is a warning to presidential candidates, other people running in tough elections. There are other issues to be running on. Let this play out on the Hill with the judiciary committee. That's where it should sit for now.

BLITZER: The president made a 50-second statement that we all heard before boarding Air Force One to fly back to Washington. It may still happen, but I was sort of surprised. You would think after two years of this kind of investigation he wouldn't alert the T.V. networks and say, I'm going to address the nation from the Oval Office later tonight.

JENNINGS: Yes, and my suspicion is they're getting their ducks in a huddle to make a big splash this week. I mean, the campaign, the White House, there's no question where they're going to head with this. It's going to be, how can you trust a word these Democrats say when they so willingly and recklessly lied to the American people for two years about collusion when you've got a president here who's delivering on jobs, who's delivering on this, who's delivering on criminal justice and that.

It's a very simple argument. I suspect they're going to start making it tonight, Monday, and they won't stop making it until this campaign is over. And guess what, you raised the word fitness. A lot of Americans are going to say, how fit are the Democrats to run the country if we can't even trust them to tell us the truth about something so serious.

PSAKI: I hope they use Adam Schiff in ads and that's the best thing they have because we'll win in 2020.

FINNEY: But to this fitness question, actually I think the answer to that is Nancy Pelosi was very wise to take a step back some time ago and say, talk about what she was going to do, what the agenda was going to be and to show that frankly, on Capitol Hill, Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time.

All these other investigations, I mean, this is my advice to the Democrats, you know, have the fight about getting the evidence. Let those investigations continue, but show that your agenda is for the American people. I think Nancy Pelosi was very wise to sort of put that out there particularly knowing that the way this was going to come down is exactly what I would have predicted, which is what happened.

On Friday, we learned that we were going to get a summary, which meant that from the beginning, Barr was going to be able to set the narrative in the first -- the critical first 24, 48 hours of this story. We all have lots of questions, but most Americans, when are they going to tune in and hear those questions?

What they wanted to hear was, was there collusion? What did the Russians do? Something about obstruction of justice, right? So for the Democrats to stay focused on the issues, I completely agree with Jen, but that doesn't mean -- remember, we still have, what, 10 other investigations that are still ongoing.

So, this is still going to hang over the Trump administration, no question. And again, the Democrats are going to have to just show they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

BLITZER: But Karen, everybody -- the Democrats, the Republicans have the -- and still have the highest regard for Robert Mueller.

FINNEY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Everybody was saying, let's wait to hear what Robert Mueller has to say. Let's not come to any conclusions. Robert Mueller has now completed his nearly two-year investigation and he's come to conclusions.

FINNEY: Well, we don't know what those conclusions are. We know what Bill Barr says those conclusions are.

BLITZER: We know one of those conclusions is there was no collusion.

FINNEY: Well, again, this is a memo. I mean, Jeffrey Toobin made this point. This is a memo that was created by Rosenstein and Barr, two people who we already know were implicated in parts of the obstruction. I mean, Rosenstein was implicated in the firing of Jim Comey. So, this is their read of what is in the report. We have not seen the full report. And there are still, I mean, we've been talking about some of the questions.

JENNINGS: Are you alleging that they were lying?

FINNEY: No, I'm saying that this is their spin on what's in the report. I want to see the report.

JENNINGS: They actually quote -- they actually quote from the report.

BLITZER: Right. The quote from the report, I'll read it. I have it right here. This is from the Mueller report that the attorney general quoted in his letter, page two, in the section Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

[17:25:02] This is a quote from Mueller, "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." That's a direct quote.

FINNEY: OK, but there's also the direct quote that says, "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

BLITZER: That's on obstruction of justice, not on collusion. On collusion, Mueller is firm, no collusion, as the president has said for two years. No collusion. On that, right,

(CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: Right exactly. And look, it is black and white. There was no collusion. And I don't, you know, I don't think you can be clearer than that. He's quoting directly from the Mueller report. Now, obviously --

BROWN: He knows it could be made public one day. I mean, Bill Barr wrote this knowing full well a federal judge one day if it gets to that, could demand that the report is made public. So Bill Barr, I imagine, was mindful when he wrote this. And that is probably part of why even though he, as we were talking about the Department of Justice.

He and Rosenstein basically cleared him on obstruction, saying that his conduct wasn't obstructive. They put in that line there that Mueller didn't feel that way, that he wasn't exonerated on Mueller's part, which raises a lot of questions.

PEREZ: Look, I mean, I think a lot of people are going to raise questions about Rod Rosenstein and starting from the beginning. He wrote the memo to explain the firing --

BLITZER: But in fairness to Rod Rosenstein, when he wrote the memo saying Comey should be fired, he was referring to what Comey did to Hillary Clinton.

PEREZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: He wasn't referring to what the president of the United States was doing. He was saying what Comey did was disgraceful to Hillary Clinton, saying he wasn't going to charge Hillary Clinton, but here's all the dirt on Hillary Clinton, and to do that only days before a presidential election.

PEREZ: And in violation -- right, and in violation --

BLITZER: That's what Rod Rosenstein was saying at that point, which the Democrats totally agreed with him at that point.

FINNEY: And we know he was directed to write that memo. You're right, we agree with that. Jim Comey did us no favor.

BLITZER: He was asked to write a memo. He clearly was citing what James Comey, the then FBI director, did to Hillary Clinton and damaged her campaign.

FINNEY: But we also know directly from President Trump, who said that he fired Jim Comey in part because --

BLITZER: That's what the president said, but I'm just trying to be fair to Rod Rosenstein, what he wrote in that memo.

FINNEY: He said it.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. And also you have to think about this. If there was some kind of, I don't know, conspiracy let's say, at the Department of Justice or the FBI to not bring charges and kind of word it this way, I think there would be ways that people would come out and talk about it certainly.

Look, I think we saw that during the Clinton investigation. The FBI, there were people at the FBI, they were very unhappy that she wasn't going to be charged, right. We saw that. And here was a process. The Department of Justice did not feel that there was enough to pursue charges against her. What Comey did, you know, much different than what we see here from Bill Barr.

BLITZER: Against Justice Department regulations.

PROKUPECZ: So Bill Barr found a way to tell us the findings of this investigation without giving us the dirt. And we know there's plenty of dirt in this report that they could have expressed. He found a way -- and I do think that credit needs to be given to Bill Barr for doing it this way.

There were a lot of questions about whether or not he was going to release information. He told us on Friday he would. He kept his word. This is pretty detailed.

PEREZ: And as far as Rod Rosenstein is concerned, you also have to give him credit for doing what he had to do. To appoint a special counsel to make sure that there was, you know, given the fact that there was so much confusion about the way the president carried out the firing of James Comey.

He did create this whole suspicion that he was trying to obstruct, he was trying to essentially bury the Russia story. And I think Rod decided to do the right thing, which is to appoint someone independently to look at this. The president said it was 13 angry Democrats.

It turns out these 13 angry Democrats, as he likes to call them, did an honest investigation and found that there was no collusion. And you know, the president, in some ways, brought this upon himself with the way he conducted himself at the beginning of --

PROKUPECZ: I just want a quick point where there are issues and where there needs to be further investigation on issues that the Special Counsel came across. We've seen that being farmed out. It's been handled by other U.S. attorneys, other FBI agents, so those are not going away.

As far as this investigation, for Mueller, it's done. There are no more indictments. This idea that there may be sealed indictments somewhere, that's over with. And now we look forward to what is next, how much more information gets out, and what's going to happen in New York --

BLITZER: Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president over at the White House just tweeted this and we will put it up on the screen, "Congratulations, President Trump. Today you won the 2016 election all over again. And you got a gift for the 2020 election. They'll never get you because they'll never get you." That was the tweet from Kellyanne Conway. Let's get Jen Psaki --

PSAKI: It felt like an inside joke between them. A little awkward. Look, I think the important thing as sort of what I've already touched on here, which is that if they want to run on this report, the Democrats should still run on health care and the economy and other issues that helped them win in 2018. They may try, but we didn't have success in trying to do that early on in 2018.

[17:30:02] So that continues to be an important warning. I think as much as we can applaud members of the Department of Justice, and that's good for the institution and good for America and we should have a moment on that, but there also is a role and obligation and a responsibility by Democrats who are leading the committees in the House to leave no stone unturned and to try to answer some of the questions that are unanswered here. And that's an important part of the process as well.

BLITZER: Well, does that mean if the Democrats are going to run on other issues, not only should they forget about impeachment -- Nancy Pelosi as the speaker already said forget about impeachment. There's got to be bipartisan support. That clearly is not going to happen especially after this report has been released.

But does it also mean the Democrats should forget about all the other investigations that these various committees, oversight, foreign affairs, intelligence, all these other committees, should they forget about that and focus in on substantive issues where they can work with the president, infrastructure for example, and get things done for the American people?

PSAKI: Not exactly that, but I think we can -- I think a lot of Democrats should take a page from the Mayor Pete play book where he talked about issues that we should really focus on that the American people care about. And the reality, and I live through this in a different way than Karen, that many people looked at Donald Trump, thought he was gross and disgusting, and still voted for him any way.

And that still may be the case today, so let's focus on what we're strong at, which is health care, the economy, and a lot of these issues where we can have a good battle. Now, there are questions about his fitness to be president, to be commander-in-chief, to deal with foreign policy issues, his morality, those are character issues that I think are still part of the argument.

BLITZER: Scott.

JENNINGS: Wolf, you raised the issue of whether they should continue other investigations. I'm sure they will, but the anchor around their necks now is whatever they do on other investigations is always going to be clouded by the fact that they got this one so wrong.

Promising evidence of collusion for two years, having Mueller blow that up, now all the rest of these investigations, a lot of people are going to say, well, are you selling us a bill of goods on that the way you did on the collusion statements you made? I think the rest of their investigations are going to be really tainted moving forward.

PSAKI: I think, but who's a lot of people though? Because I think the American people, let's treat them with intelligence. If the president broke the law, they're going to want to know that, regardless of how he broke the law or what the law was. And I think they deserve to know that.

JENNINGS: Well, I think they're going to find out he didn't --

CARPENTER: We can talk about the politics of this, but Kellyanne's tweet congratulating the president for winning. Let's look at how he won. He blasted, he weaponized the investigation. He refused to sit down for an interview. And now we'll have consequences for every president under investigation to come.

And so yes, it is a political decision. Do the Democrats give up on the obstruction ball, so to speak because Bill Barr essentially says that's wide open? We didn't make a determination on that, but there is evidence, so Democrats, if you want to pursue it, go ahead. But are they so burned on this, they give it up and say we're not going to play that game because we can't beat the president?

BLITZER: Let's ask an influential Democrat in the United States Senate. Chris Coons is joining us on the phone right now. He serves on the judiciary committee. What do you think now that this report is out, now that Robert Mueller himself, aman you know, has concluded there was no collusion? Is it time for the Democrats to curtail or at least step back from all these other investigations?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE (via telephone): Wolf, I don't think that should lead us to the conclusion that other investigations into misconduct by the Trump organization, the Trump campaign, the Trump Inauguration are invalid or should be curtailed, frankly, if anything.

I think the fact the Special Counsel refused to reach a conclusion one way or the other about whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice means that more than ever we have a responsibility to get access to those materials and to conduct a thorough review of it.

I'll remind you, Special Counsel Mueller and Congress have different charges. Mueller's charge was very narrow. And frankly, I think it is a good thing that, you know, Mueller did not conclude that our president conspired with a hostile power in the conduct of his campaign.

But Mueller's report, at least the summary we've gotten from Barr, leaves wide open both the question of obstruction and I think makes it clear that other investigations should proceed. I'll remind you, the Mueller investigation led to 37 indictments and a series of guilty pleas and convictions, including the president's campaign manager, national security adviser, and personal attorney.

It's hard for me to see how that is a complete exoneration. It strongly suggests that at the most senior levels, folks in the Trump campaign had a whole series of inappropriate contacts with Russians and then lied about it. If there was nothing for them to hide, why did they do so much lying and misrepresenting? And why do that to the extent that you've now got a half dozen senior people with convictions or guilty pleas?

[17:34:59] I do think -- I have trusted all along that Special Counsel Mueller would conduct a fair investigation and I look forward to getting access to the report and investigatory materials so that we in Congress can do our job and make sure we know what were the troubling facts that Mueller uncovered and that led him to decline to reach a conclusion about obstruction.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. He said the president was not completely exonerated on the issue of obstruction, but he also said, and the report quotes Mueller, a man you greatly admire as saying this -- this is from Mueller, "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." That's a fast -- a hard and fast statement.

COONS (via telephone): That's right. That's how I read it. And I think that's a significant conclusion, but given the open question about obstruction, I still think Congress needs to have access to the full report.

BLITZER: So are you ready to say, senator, there was no collusion?

COONS (via telephone): I want to see the full report because at the very least, the Trump campaign at the highest levels had unprecedented and inappropriate contacts with the Russians. But I do think it is a good thing for the country if the Mueller investigation concluded that our president didn't directly conspire with a hostile foreign power.

BLITZER: It wasn't just the president. Bill Barr was quoting from Mueller himself saying there was no collusion, there was no coordination, no conspiracy between the Trump campaign that means others too, besides the president and the Russian government in these illegal -- in Russia's election interference activities. I guess the bottom line is, do you still have complete confidence in Robert Mueller?

COONS (via telephone): I see nothing that would undermine my confidence even though this is a striking result. And I think, you know, there was abundant evidence or suggestions of high-level, frequent, and inappropriate contacts with Russians in the comic (ph) of a Trump campaign. But, you know, I think Robert Mueller is a career professional in law enforcement and someone who I have no reason to doubt or question.

BLITZER: And specifically on this whole point when he says there was no collusion, the president says it goes way beyond that, saying no collusion, no obstruction. But the president also said, we just heard him say that this whole investigation was an illegal takedown that failed. That's the president's words.

And he said it was a shame that the United States had to go through this. It was a shame, he said, that he had to go through this and he felt badly for all these individuals who have already been charged and convicted, potentially hinting at a possible series of pardons. What's your response?

COONS (via telephone): I could not more strongly disagree. I don't think it was a shame that the country had to go through this. I think if anything, it shows our commitment to the rule of law, that no one, including the president, is above the law.

Frankly, I think the president would have been well served not to have spent so much time in the last year criticizing, critiquing, harassing Robert Mueller and his investigators. He would have been better served to let it play out, as his own attorneys initially advised him.

And I do think the president may be claiming complete exoneration, but the folks who have had to plead guilty or who have been convicted I think speak loudly otherwise.

BLITZER: The president clearly feels sorry, feels sad about those individuals. I don't think any of us should be surprised if eventually at some point down the road people are pardoned as a result of all of this. Senator Coons, thanks so much for joining us.

COONS (via telephone): Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Elie Honig is joining us right now. He used to work at the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York. So the Mueller investigation, Elie, is finished right now. That's over with. Mueller has concluded no collusion. As far as obstruction of justice, he's left that whole issue up to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general.

He says there's not complete exoneration, but he deferred to the attorney general, Bill Barr, and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. A lot of other investigations though in the meantime are continuing including in New York where you used to work for the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. What are they up to?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So Wolf, there's no question about it, nobody should be spiking the football just yet. As you said, there are many pending investigations and I think by far the most potent threat to the president and the people around him comes from my old office, the Southern District of New York. We already know the Southern District has convicted Michael Cohen.

[17:40:00] We already know they're deep into the hush money payout, the campaign finance case. We saw that search warrant earlier this week or last week which reminded us just how much the information the Southern District has on that. We know the Southern District is digging into the inaugural committee, the Trump org.

And there are a couple of important advantages I think that situate the Southern District differently than Robert Mueller. First of all, there won't be any political blow back on the Southern District like there may be on Congress as I think Scott noted earlier. It was a good point but that's not going to apply to the Southern District.

Second of all, Mueller had a narrow mandate. Southern District can go anywhere the evidence takes them into the finances. Wherever the evidence goes, the Southern District will go. And last, the Southern District has a long and well-deserved reputation for being nonpolitical, for being relentless, and for being tenacious. So, this is the no over for the Southern District by any means.

BLITZER: But if the U.S. Attorney and the Southern District of New York, Elie, and you know this well, decide that they want to charge the president of the United States with a crime, wouldn't they first have to go to at least the deputy attorney general and probably the attorney general himself to get authorization for that?

HONIG: Yes, Wolf. I don't think the Southern District will try to indict the president directly while he's in office. That is a long- established DOJ policy. As much as the Southern District prides ourselves on being independent, they will not openly balk an existing policy.

Now, if we're talking about people around the president, high-ranking people in the Trump org, I do think that would have to go up the chain to the deputy attorney general and probably the attorney general. We're talking about a different set of crimes here. We're talking about primarily financial crimes. I think the evidence will be a lot more black and white than it might have been on collusion, corruption, obstruction. So you could well have a different outcome.

BLITZER: Did Mueller do the right thing in deferring to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to decide whether there was enough criminal intent, enough hard evidence to go after the president on the issue of obstruction of justice?

HONIG: I'm not entirely sure, Wolf. Look, I have the highest regard for Robert Mueller that I could possibly have for any prosecutor. I was surprised that he punted. Look, there's no other way to put it. He punted the obstruction of justice decision. And what prosecutors do all the time is we make very difficult razor-edge decisions.

Now, he could have at least gone to the attorney general with a recommendation. I'm surprised he just went to the attorney general and said, I have no recommendation, you decide. And let's remember, William Barr has a very specific, and I think, extreme view of obstruction of justice. And he said in his memo that he submitted to DOJ unsolicited before he

was attorney general that Mueller's theory of obstruction was fatally misconceived and he had said in a prior interview that Mueller's theory of obstruction was, and I quote, "asinine. So, I don't think we should be surprised that William Barr came out where he did, given that he had openly stated he completely disagreed with Mueller's view on obstruction.

BLITZER: So let me get more legal analysis. So, Carrie Cordero is with us as well. So Carrie, from a legal perspective, where do we go from here?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think these other investigations will obviously continue, and I would just say with respect to the Southern District of New York, they do report to the attorney general.

And so whether or not they have additional evidence that is against the president or his inner circle, that information, if they're going to prosecute, that's going to go up to the attorney general, certainly if it involves the president.

And so I think we just need to keep in mind that the Southern District of New York still does reside within the Justice Department. As far as the two matters that are described in the attorney general's letter, I think we have ongoing Senate intelligence investigations that still are looking at Russian influence.

I think the conclusions drawn by the Special Counsel's office will perhaps help Chairman Burr if his report is leaning towards also identifying that there was no so-called collusion or connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian government or Russian surrogates who were involved in influencing the election.

And I think on obstruction, there's going to be a big fight with the Hill. On obstruction, Congress is going to ask for certainly the report but also more underlying information. I also just want to comment for a minute, Wolf, on the interview that you had with Senator Coons.

Just to draw the distinction between the way that Senator Coons characterized Bob Mueller and his investigation, Senator Coons was probably surprised by some of the result that was in this letter, but he still exhibited a respect for the process and respect for the Special Counsel's investigation.

Contrast that with the president's statement that it was an illegal take down that failed. And so even though there are circumstances and there is favorable information in the attorney general's letter to the president, he still can't stop himself from attacking the justice system and attacking the process in an independent review of activities.

BLITZER: Yes, he said the whole thing was basically illegal. Elliot, let me get your sense where this all is heading in the immediate future. [17:45:00] ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL

AT JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, I think what we really need, though, is we really need to see Robert Mueller's underlying findings because I think there are a number of unanswered questions here.

Many people, many Americans, many lawyers, people who run investigations are curious as to why, for instance, the president wasn't interviewed or even, you know, Donald Trump, Jr. or other individuals who were close to this. So that's one fundamental question that I think, you know, that we really need to think about here.

Why, you know, ultimately, this question to not address -- for Mueller not to address the obstruction question and to echo Elie's word, punt it to Barr, and actually I have it in my notes, Elie, punt is the word that I have as well because it's an odd decision, you know, when he could have just remained silent on it rather than, or the attorney general could remain silent on it.

So why was that decision made? Now, that might have been, as we talked about in the last hour, Wolf, perhaps a sign to Congress, opening the door to Congress investigating this. And, you know, as Senator Coons had said a moment ago, Congress has a different charge than law enforcement. Congress -- pardon me, than the legal system.

Congress, number one, isn't held to the reasonable doubt standard. But number two, they are assessing the propriety of the conduct. They are assessing fraud, waste, abuse, and all other things in the administration. And again, before you even get to this lofty question of impeachment, just what's appropriate for the president of the United States?

And so I do think -- you know, we should -- the American public people may not see this, but we should split this out into two different things. What happens in courts and what happens in Congress? But again, there's a huge public interest in the findings of this report being made public.

Congress itself has voted 422 nothing, I think 90 or 80 or 90 percent of Americans have been polled to say they support the public release of the findings. And so for all of those reasons, I think many of us just need to see what's in -- rather than the shorthand four-page document that we got from the attorney general.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. Shimon, you used to be in New York. You know a lot about the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Attorney there. Where is this heading?

PROKUPECZ: So, I would say, and as we've been reporting, I think this is something that still consumes the president and consumes the president's attorneys. They are concerned about the Southern District of New York. They are still in the middle of this campaign finance violation where the president's been implicated.

It is the Department of Justice, just for everyone to keep in mind, that has implicated the president in that crime, right. It's not like it's some other -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- unindicted co-conspirator.

PROKUPECZ: He's an unindicted co-conspirator. Department of Justice that just now made a decision not to bring any charges essentially against him on the obstruction issue. Those investigations are very much still ongoing. That is going to be a big focus going forward I think for all of us, certainly a lot of reporters, certainly the American people are going to want to know what's going on there.

They're a tough office. They do not let things go. The FBI in New York, they're tough. They have certainly investigated a lot of political corruption, local political corruption, state political corruption that we don't hear about. Those FBI agents are the ones that are doing this investigation in New York and they're a tough group.

So, you know, the other thing I want to make one point is I do think more is going to be made public. I think Bill Barr is showing us what he intends to do, what he did today. The other thing that's probably going to hold some of this up are those other investigations like in the Southern District of New York.

I think once we start learning about those and those charges are brought forward and there are indictments, then I think we may start to learn more about what's in this report. But keep in mind, there are still ongoing investigations and Bill Barr is saying this is one of the reasons why he needs to wait to make a lot of this public.

BROWN: I mean, remember, in the documents that came out this past week I believe on Michael Cohen, there were 20 pages of redactions related to the hush money payment scheme where the president is an unindicted co-conspirator. So certainly the legal troubles or cloud, legal clouds sort of still hangs over the president.

But certainly this was a huge cloud lifted today for the president and his team, his legal team, who have been fighting until the very end for the president not to have to sit down with Robert Mueller, and they won on that.

BLITZER: Yes. Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. He's got a statement from the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate. What are they saying?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer just issued a joint statement about the Mueller report. They said that the fact that the Special Counsel Mueller's report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay given Mr. Barr's public record of bias against the Special Counsel inquiry.

He is not a neutral observer and he is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report. They're referring to the fact that Bill Barr he has been critical of the obstruction aspect of this investigation. He wrote a memo before he became attorney general about the obstruction of justice aspect when he was asked about that during his confirmation proceedings.

[17:50:02] He said he wasn't ready (ph) fully to exactly what Bob Mueller was looking into. But nevertheless, that's what they're saying here. The Democratic leaders say that the letter that Barr sent to Capitol Hill today "raises more questions, raises as many questions as it answers."

And they say that obviously for the president to say he is completely exonerated contradicts what Mueller said. And Mueller said according to Bill Barr's letter, was that he was not completely exonerated even if they were not going to move forward with prosecuting a crime.

Nevertheless, the point of the Democratic leaders here are making is that they want the full report public as soon as possible without delay. That is their underlying message and they're trying to say they're not putting much stock into what Bill Barr is telling Congress.

BLITZER: Dana, a very strong statement from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

BASH: Very strong and it underscores a point that Karen was making here and earlier today, which is a really important one. Maybe it goes -- it's obvious but we should underscore it. What we have here is the Trump appointed attorney general setting the narrative. I mean, he literally wrote it so he's literally setting the narrative with of course quotes and other parts of the Mueller report.

But the idea that he sent it to Congress, he put it out in the public. He's making clear that this is what he wants everybody to come away with. And we don't know the substance underneath all of these conclusions. We don't know how they got to these conclusions, because we haven't seen the report.

And so what you just heard from Manu with the joint statement from the Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill is an attempt to pull back control of that narrative. It's in the going to be easy. I mean, let's be honest. It is not going to be easy for Democrats to do this because of -- this is, right, it's, you know, a conclusion and it could be a while before we see the full report and the hope among Republicans is by the time they get there, everybody will have moved on.

PEREZ: I think Bill Barr wrote this letter with exactly that in mind. Look, I mean, this is the process. This is a law by the way that Congress passed.

BASH: Exactly.

PEREZ: This is a law. This is a system. This is a process that the Congress established. And so it is up to the discretion of the attorney general to distill and summarize what Robert Mueller found in his investigation. And you can bet they wrote this letter.

You know he wrote this letter knowing that in the end, at some point, Mueller's findings are going to be made public. He wants to make sure this can be supported by that. And I think just knowing how Bill Barr operates, I think that's exactly what was his guiding force.

That might have been why we've been waiting a few extra days than what we initially anticipated and I think it's a very important thing. I think members of Congress have every right to ask for this and to bring him up and to bring Robert Mueller by the way up to testify and explain perhaps why he stopped short of reaching a conclusion on obstruction.

We will find out whether or not what was the discussions behind the scenes about that. And I think that's a very important part of the process as well.

BLITZER: And you know, Scott, the bipartisan overwhelming unanimous vote in the House of Representatives, 420 to zero asking for the Mueller report to be made available to Congress and to American the public. Where is that headed?

JENNINGS: Yes, I don't know a Republican who doesn't want this whole report to come out. They all want it to come out. And in fact, Bill Barr says, "It is my intent to release as much of this as I can applicable with all the laws and regulations.

Every Republican I've spoken to says we should have the report. Ted Cruz said it on CNN this morning. I suspect it will come out. I don't actually have a problem if Mueller goes up answers questions. W0e spent two years and a whole bunch of money on this. I think the American people want a full set, you know, of answers and that's totally appropriate.

BLITZER: So Scott, on this you agree with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer when they say we want everything?

JENNINGS: Yes, but here is one thing that we have to watch out for. It says in this letter 500 witnesses were interviewed. I do not agree that this Congressional process should be allowed to drag innocent people through the mud. There's a reason they weren't put into a real court. And we shouldn't use the court of public opinion to besmirch the reputation of otherwise good people who cooperated.

FINNEY: But I don't, I mean, there some 10 other investigations ongoing so, there maybe, I mean, that Mueller refers so, we may still see some folks in court, Scott.

PSAKI: I think it's important to remind people that the reason that the statute was changed was because there were intimate details about Bill Clinton's and Monica Lewinsky's relationship at least which was just a lot for everybody including the public. That's why it was put in place.

That is different from whether the public deserves to know the details of whether or not a president obstructed justice, all the discussions and conclusions about the Russia investigation. There should be redactions for sources and methods not to put people at risk.

BLITZER: For classified information. PSAKI: For classified or some classified -- yes, some classified

information. They can declassify others, but there's no reason for not the rest of it to be released. When Barr says he wants to release as much as possible, Democrats are skeptical because again, he's a Trump appointee.

[17:55:02] He's already endorsed the firing of Comey. We don't know how long the report is. Mueller wasn't consulted in the letter. There are reasons that there's questions being raised and that's part of the role of the opposing party. That's what they're doing.

BLITZER: Amanda?

CARPENTER: Donald Trump is the "catch me if you can" president. He engages in a lot of questionable unethical behavior when it comes to the Russia investigation. But we found here it was not criminal. But this isn't over as Karen suggested. There are prosecutors chasing down virtually every organization he's been a part of, and somehow through bluster, blockading, politicizing the investigations, he won this one. We'll see if he gets away with it again.

FINNEY: Well, and I think it's fair to say, I mean, he talked about this quite a bit on the campaign trail in 2016. This is how his business career has played out as well. When someone is going to sue him, he countersues and he drags it out, right? This is very much as you said, this is the "catch me if you can." This has been his strategy for a very long time and it's worked for him. So the question becomes will it continue to work for another two years.

PSAKI: Well, the White House has a lot of power here which I think is important for people to remember because even though the Democrats are going to push and they're going to subpoena, the White House has a lot of control over the time line, and they can push and just wear out the clock. And that's probably what I've (inaudible) to do. BLITZER: Pam.

BROWN: And they've been doing that already with Congressional investigations. They've been slow-walking. You know, their responses to the request, they haven't been complying with the requests.

PEREZ: They slow walked the request for an interview with the president.

BROWN: Exactly.

PEREZ: So I mean, look, and they've been undermining the process. I think that is something we should take away from all this entire process, which is that the president essentially was trying to undermine and trying to impede this thing even though obviously there was no finding of on obstruction.

I think we should look back and look at exactly the way the president behaved during this entire process, and it was not good. It was not a good way for a president to behave when you have a legitimate investigation that needed to get some answers. And all he did was try to find ways publicly to obstruct it. Again not

in a criminal way, but in ways that we all could see. Those are not -- that's not a way for a president to behave to undermine his own government.

PROKUPECZ: You know, and reading this and seeing all this and the whole obstruction issue, now you understand why the president's team did not want to fire Mueller, why did not want him to do anything that would -- they were very concerned. It's clear about the obstruction issue.

BLITZER: The president's lawyers?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, the president's lawyers. And now we understand why. They didn't want him answering questions about that. And remember, there was all this talk. Is he going to fire Mueller? Is he going to fire Mueller? Now we understand why.

BASH: Well, that and as we talked about -- the last hour when we got to talk with Rudy Giuliani and Jay --

PROKUPECZ: Sekulow.

BASH: -- Sekulow, thank you. It's been a long day. I almost said Sheller (ph). That they -- that the notion of stopping the president from doing an interview, written or otherwise on obstruction was a game changer. And it was. It was a game changer.

BLITZER: Are the Democrats on the Hill, and you know the Hill well, going to be sort of gun shy right now about going too aggressively against the president given this report?

BASH: You know, the Republicans are in a posture to try to make them gun shy, but absolutely they came out aggressively saying you were wrong. You know, you were completely out over your skis from the beginning, and you just need to stop in order to try to make clear to the American public and also to the Democrats who now have the subpoena power in the House, OK, just take a breath before you do that.

But there's no indication that Democrats in the House are going to do that for the reasons we were talking about with SDNY. The things they're looking at following the money, other issues related to the Trump administration, the inaugural committee, the charitable --

PEREZ: And Bill Barr's own letter today -- Bill Barr's own letter I think gives the Democrats a little bit of wiggle room here. It gives them enough runway for them to continue to do some of these things.

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: Because of that one line that the Special Counsel states, "that while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." And that's the specific line from Robert Mueller. BRWON: We know that they deliberated for nine hours yesterday and

today and if I was, you know, putting a bet on it, I would think page three of this memo was what a lot of that deliberation was about because -- and including that line, because if you read it, it's sort of messy the way that this is.

I mean, look, it's basically saying that the Special Counsel didn't exonerate him on obstruction of justice, but then if you continue reading, basically Bill Barr, his attorney general and Rosenstein, did exonerate him. They went on to say that his behavior outlined by Mueller did not constitute obstructive conduct. That is significant.

BASH: And Pam, your recording on Mueller not having anything to do with what we're reading here, I think it is really important.

BROWN: I think that's really important too.

PROKUPECZ: They wanted to keep him separate.

BLITZER: And why would they want him --

BRWON: They want to keep it separate even though he said in the letter on Friday --

BLITZER: -- because you are reporting is he didn't actually read this letter and approve it before Bill Barr, the attorney general sent it to Congress.

[18:00:02] BROWN: Which is interesting because in the letter, Friday, he said it would be Mueller's principle conclusions. Well, that's not the case here.