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Official: AG Wants to Release Russia Meddling Conclusions Today; Hundreds of Passengers Airlifted to Safety; Inside the Final Fight to Dismantle the ISIS Caliphate; 18 State Attorneys General Urge Public Release of Report; Rep. David Cicilline (D) Rhode Island is Interviewed About Dem's Warning of Subpoena if Mueller Report Not Turned Over to Congress. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired March 24, 2019 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:03] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, if you have information about these cases from 1997 so 1981, officials want to hear from you. Just this morning, they have released a new number for a hotline. Here it is, 404-546-2603.

Leave them a message. If no one answers, they will continue to look into these child murders.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is absolutely imperative that the Trump administration make that full report public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To simply say, well, there is nothing and, therefore, there's no information. That is not acceptable.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let it come out. Let people see it. It's all a big hoax. I call it the witch hunt. It's all a big hoax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard Nixon said it was a witch hunt in July of '73. This is the defense of somebody who is guilty, not an innocent man. Shakespeare said a lady doth protest too high. Trump is the lady.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A massive cruise liner lost power. The ship called the Viking Sky pitching and rolling in the waves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ship was heading to western Norway on a 12-day trip until treachery seas turned its passengers' vacation into a nightmare.



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. We're so grateful for your company, as always. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. We are joining you live this morning from Washington. A source with the Justice Department is telling CNN that the attorney

general wants to deliver his principal conclusions on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election by the end of the day.

PAUL: Also ahead, we have more incredible video to show you that has come into us overnight. Hundreds of passengers have been airlifted from this stranded cruise ship and you see how it's tossing everything around. This is off the coast of Norway, but there are still hundreds of people on that ship right now.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to the anticipation here in Washington and with a lot of people across the country, the attorney general has set this timetable, saying he wants the principal conclusions given to lawmakers by the end of the weekend. Well, that's today.

PAUL: CNN's Sara Murray joins us.

So, this is a self-imposed deadline. It's ambitious some might say. But I would think it gives us some insight into the fact that if he is saying he can do it by the end of the day, he should be able to do it.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, it was a self-imposed deadline and it was a surprising one for those of us who were kind of waiting for this moment in the Mueller investigation and waiting for the statement from Bill Barr. We were anticipating that he would, you know, provide some kind of timeline from when he would brief Congress and we're not anticipating that he would say as early as this weekend.

So, you know, that suggests that when Robert Mueller was compiling his report that he did reach some of these top line conclusions of his own and so, now, what you have are William Barr and Rod Rosenstein huddling together. We know they were at the Justice Department all day yesterday, going over these conclusions and trying to determine how they sort of want to rewrite those or change those before they submit them to Congress and then share them publicly.

So, now, we're just waiting to see what those top line results are. And again, this is just kind of the beginning of the end, whatever they decide to release is sure to spark more questions from lawmakers and, you know, probably an extensive political and legal battle.

BLACKWELL: So is there any indication, any insight -- and I'll accept there isn't because we don't know anything about the report, right? About the form in which this first disclosure will come? If they are bullet points, if it's going to be a short narrative with more to come with the full of Barr report, anything on that?

MURRAY: So, we don't know exactly the format it's coming. We expect top line conclusions, whatever that means.


MURRAY: Whatever those conclusions are. As of yesterday, the Hill was expecting they would be receiving those in some kind of a written format, that they were not get an oral briefing. Now, it's been a day so Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr, like I said, were huddled together yesterday and maybe that will change over the course of the day. But at this point, we don't know. I mean, we are told that the Mueller report is comprehensive and we have seen that until all of Robert Mueller's indictments, you know, sort of these story lines essentially leading to the fact in their case.

I don't know that that is what we will get out of the top line conclusion. This may be a briefer executive summary and essentially jumping off point. Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein both have watched what is going on in Washington. They've seen lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say we want to see the Mueller report in full.

So, again, I think this is going to be really a starting point of what we see publicly but probably not in the end point.

BLACKWELL: All right. Sara Murray, we have a countdown clock if we knew what time the principal conclusions were coming. But thank you so much.

PAUL: Sara, thank you.

So, Washington, of course, is speculating about the contents of this. President Trump, however, well, there he is, in his flag pants, golfing yesterday.

[07:05:04] BLACKWELL: That's Kid Rock in the flag pants.

PAUL: Oh, I'm sorry, that is Kid Rock in the flag pants. I see that.

This was yesterday as he was on the golf course with him.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is with us from West Palm Beach.

We haven't heard from him which I think surprises so many people. Here's my question to you: is there any sense as to whether he is intentionally staying silent of his own accord or is there a lot of pressure from the president's people because we know he is surrounded by a lot of people down there right now to just hold steady for a minute?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: By our count, Christi, it's been almost 39 hours since his last tweet. We don't know if that is a record or not. Maybe we should be keeping up with that. There are a number of individuals here with him at Mar-a-Lago that would have some influence, if you will, in terms of whether or not he would speak out, whether or not he would tweet.

He does it on his own as you know but there are advisers that are with him who definitely are looking at this and saying, let's take this wait and see mode. One of the attorneys who was responsible for the rollout, the response of the White House, Emmet Flood, who really travels with the president is by his side at Mar-a-Lago. So, you can get a sense here that there are people who are trying to manage this and at least take a measured approach before they actually find out what is in this report. We have been told by sources that there is not a war room that has

been set up for rapid response. There is no panic among the team of attorneys and advisers who are here with the president. And as we know, there's no comment and no tweet from the president, outrage or a celebration here. What we saw yesterday was the president on the golf course, yes, as you noted with Kid Rock. He sent out a tweet gushing how Trump was a great man and is very down to earth.

One of the things the advisers and those that are allies of the president are putting out there talking points to the RNC is that this is a victory for the president, before even seeing the report, because there is not -- it did not produce an indictment of the president conspiring with Russia over the election there. So, those talking points saying, you know, it's been two years. Millions of taxpayer money spent, no indictment, no collusion, we are happy that the report is done.

But, I mean, one of the signs really that they are not dancing on the tables yet is that the president has not spoken about this and he waits like the rest of us, wait to find out what is really inside this report -- Christi.

BLACKWELL: I don't know if 39 hours is a record but it feels like one.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: It feels like one.

Suzanne Malveaux for us there in West Palm Beach.

MALVEAUX: Everybody is checking.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we are. Thanks so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Suzanne.

BLACKWELL: All right. Lauren Fox is here with us in Washington.

And the Democrats, talk about them. They are now drawing these virtual battle lines, not just to get beyond the Barr report, but to the Mueller report, but also to get all of those underlying documents and the findings that went into the writing of the Mueller report. Tell us about that.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's right. We have gone from spring boarding off what is each in this report to a fight about actually getting it on Capitol Hill. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house, held a conference call yesterday with more than 120 members of her caucus and her instruction to them was, look, we are about to fight to get the full Mueller report and those underlying conclusions like you just said. So, that is the fight that we will see on Capitol Hill in this next week and regardless of what these top line conclusions from the Mueller report will be and whatever Barr sends over to the Hill today, expect that is not the final word and that Democrats are not going to be satisfied with it. I also, you know, want to sort of explain that, you know, top

Democratic chairmen are already sending letters basically telling the whole Trump administration to preserve anything they have about the Mueller report and not destroy any kind of evidence, that that could potentially be a crime. So, Democrats clearly setting up the table here for a long extended fight to get that full Mueller report.

PAUL: I'm wondering where they are of how long this fight is going to be. I know that Delaware's Chris Coons yesterday during this conference call said, listen, we have to be prepared for the fact this report could make the White House and president very happy. Did the Democrats maybe put a little bit too much emphasis on what they expected from Mueller?

FOX: Well, certainly, the political fight here is interesting to watch because in a way there is less than two years until the next election. So, while you have all of these freshmen Democrats who may be hungry to have a fight about impeachment very vocal freshmen, the fact is you only have a couple of months until another re-election so you have to be careful how you proceed here. And, you know, a lot of those Democrats who were freshmen, who won and made this happen in the House of Representatives, they are from districts that, you know, Democrats easily have won in the past.

[07:10:00] These are Democrats who won in states and districts that Trump actually won.

PAUL: It is very interesting. Lauren Fox, appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Well, it was supposed to be a fun vacation but, my gosh, look at what it turned into.

BLACKWELL: A cruise ship with 1,300 passengers ran into some really rough seas off the coast of Norway. More of this in a moment.


PAUL: Right now, there is some dramatic rescues going on. Take a look what we are talking about here with this cruise ship.


[07:15:L17] PAUL: I mean, did you see the ceiling fall on that woman's head?

BLACKWELL: Yes, hit her right on the head.

PAUL: This is what was happening onboard the Viking Sky cruise ship. It lost engine power, became stranded off the coast of Norway. And you can see just how the furniture and people are tossed around.

BLACKWELL: But there is nothing to hold on to. Everything on the floor is moving.

Overnight, the crew was able to restart some of those engines and ship is now being guided back to shore. Rescue helicopters have been working through the night to get those passengers to safety, but even as the ship slowly makes its way back to shore. Those helicopters are still pulling people off of this cruise liner.

Let's go now to CNN producer Salma Abdelaziz. She's joining us now live with the latest.

So, tell us about how many people are still left there and what's going on?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: So, we have new information this hour. We understand there's about 800 to 900 passengers still on board and still stranded, but now, that cruise ship has been turned around and it is making its way to shore. It is expected to hit calmer waters soon and the captain has suspended those helicopter operations in the meanwhile. He said he wants to see how far long the ship gets, so let's stop the helicopter operations and focus on getting the ship to shore and getting it docked.

But those helicopter operations overnight were absolutely dramatic. You could see people being plucked up in the middle of a storm when they are supposed to be on a cruise. Take a listen to what two Americans said about their rescue.


JAN TERBRUEGEN, AMERICAN PASSENGER: Furniture would slide across the room and slide back and with it came people and glass. It was very dangerous situation, frankly. A few people got hurt. We could see that we were getting blown into some rocks own that was the most frightening thing, I think. Luckily, that wasn't our destiny.

BETH CLARK, AMERICAN PASSENGER: The guy came down from the hospital, one of the coast guards, snapped my belt and said, hold it. Shot me up about a hundred feet in the air and on to the helicopter.


ABDELAZIZ: You can hear how intense those moments were for those passengers. And, of course, you're also hearing the dangers. We've just heard from the Norwegian right across and they are saying they're seeing bruising broken bones and cuts, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Oh, my goodness. Do we know -- I think there's a window here, isn't there, to get these people back in terms of the weather? Because it's clear now but is there another storm coming, I hear?

ABDELAZIZ: That's absolutely right. Time is simply not on their sign. We had terrible weather conditions over the weekend. Waves as high as 25 feet, 55-mile-per-hour winds rather. We understand that slowed down now, but there is another storm coming tomorrow.

So this is a very short window to rescue 800 people still stranded, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Salma Abdelaziz, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

We'll keep you posted as we continue to hear about that.

Listen, more than a to see state attorneys general are urging Bill Barr to release the findings of this Mueller investigation. We're going to talk to one of them about what they'll do if it does not happen.


[07:22:51] PAUL: Twenty-two minutes past the hour right now.

A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vowing to continue the fight against any part of ISIS. They claimed sleeper cells are still a great danger there.

BLACKWELL: Now, despite territorial loss in Syria, the terror organization is now waging a guerrilla campaign in northern Iraq. More than tens of thousands of civilians have left ISIS. They now live in what can be described as internment camps. Although they're in the custody of Syrian Defense Force, there are warnings this ISIS ideologies continue to live on.

PAUL: CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, I mean, he's been on the ground in Syria for the past two months, and he's going to give us here a firsthand look at the final weeks of the fighting.

BLACKWELL: Yes, here is a look from his perspective how the U.S.- backed forces in Syria took control of the area and what's next for ISIS.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a sniper in an ISIS building just 200 meters from where we are. So, if we were to go around this corner here, we'd be exposed.

The destruction is massive. I'll tell you story of why I'm here.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.

WEDEMAN: Everybody saw this, yes, back in January, that ISIS' days as a territorial entity were numbered.

In fact, I told my wife I'll be out of here in maybe three or four days. What happened was after the initial assault on the town of Baghuz (ph), the Syrian Democratic Forces came to the realization that there were far more civilians than they had estimated.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great nations do not fight endless wars. Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these blood thirsty monsters.

WEDEMAN: They originally told us there is perhaps 1,500 civilians and maybe 500 jihadis inside the town.

[07:25:05] What happened was thousands of people came out every day. There were many foreigners among them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do I regret coming, you mean? No, no, I don't.

WEDEMAN: The wives of ISIS fighters.

God is testing us, this woman says. The unworthy will leave and the righteous will remain.

And it's been a pattern. The morning began with heavy exchange of machine gun fire and loud explosions and there are fighting and allow the civilians to come out when they think they are all out and they will have another offensive and then they will halt it again and we have done this three times. So it's sort of a pattern that everybody thinks it's about to end, it's about to end and it just goes on and on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ben, why didn't you hit the deck there?

WEDEMAN: Because I know this. We hear it all the time. These are just soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearing their weapons.

WEDEMAN: Clearing their weapons.

TRUMP: We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent the caliphate in Syria. Now, it's 100 percent we just took over.

WEDEMAN: The women and children have two big camps in this part of Syria where they are sent. They are essentially internment camps because of their affiliation with ISIS. The local authorities don't trust them to be able to move freely. So, they are taken to these camps. One of the camps called Elhud (ph) now has more than 70,000 people in it.

Many of the wives and ISIS jihadis are now imposing the social norms in place under the Islamic State. They basically reconstituted their societies inside these camps.

ISIS is not going to disappear. This is not the last we hear of ISIS. When you hear that final victory has been achieved, that just means final victory over the so-called Islamic State, but ISIS as a terrorist organization is still very much active. ISIS is going to ground, but it's still there.


BLACKWELL: All right. Attorney General Bill Barr, he hopes to release the findings, at least those principle conclusions of the Mueller investigation sometime today.

PAUL: What is the likelihood of that actually happening? We are going to talk about it.


[07:31:57] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney General Bill Barr hopes to deliver his conclusion, those final -- the principal conclusions I should say for the Mueller report to Congress today. That's according to a Justice Department source.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spent yesterday at the office. They were reviewing and analyzing the report.

Now, as lawmakers wait, Democrats are demanding the release of the full report and supporting evidence therein. If that doesn't happen, they are vowing to subpoena Robert Mueller himself. So, within hours of hearing the news that Mueller had finished the report, there were 18 state attorneys general who released a statement, urging U.S. Attorney General Barr to release the report to the public.

BLACKWELL: Here is a quote, a part of their statement. They write: The American people deserve to know the truth.

Joining us on the line, one of those 18 state attorneys general, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

Good to have you, sir.

Let's start here. We don't have much time with you, so let's get to the news first. You have, on behalf of the state of Maryland, filed lawsuits against the administration over claims of Emoluments Clause violations, the National Emergency Act for border security. Do you plan with or independent of these other states attorneys general to file a lawsuit to get the Mueller report?

BRIAN FROSH (D), ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND (via telephone): I don't think we are at that point yet. We have the ability through the lawsuit to get evidence of Donald Trump's violation of the clause with subpoenas but up in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals at the moment. Congress has the most direct route I think getting the full Mueller report and I understand they plan to issue subpoenas if General Barr doesn't imply. So I think that's the first thing that has to happen.

PAUL: So, if he does not imply. There is the issue that many people agree of some sensitive information that cannot be released in that, particularly grand jury material. How do you balance what you want to see with material that can't be released and still call it transparent?

FROSH: I think the most sensitive pieces of the Mueller report are likely to be pieces that relate to intelligence sources. They may want to redact information that would put at risk somebody who is working on our intelligence services. That seems to me to be reasonable.

Most of the rest of the information, I believe, ought to be disclosed and I think can legally be disclosed. BLACKWELL: Well, a source tells CNN that 80 percent of those

underlying documents are grand jury testimony or information or documents that were received through the grand jury. Of course, that's not released. So, that makes up 4 out of 10 of the documents, that would not reconcile with what your claim is the rest of it can be released.

[07:35:00] Is that not a problem? I mean, as a state attorney general, I expect you to have a sensitivity to that.

FROSH: Right. The Justice Department has the ability and discretion to release that information.

BLACKWELL: And your desire to see it outweighs the sensitivity and the secret nature of a grand jury?

FROSH: It's not my desire that outweighs it. It's the right of the American people to see what has gone on. I think the whole point of a special prosecutor investigation is to do an independent look at charges against, in this case, president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, and they take the position -- and this is not based on the Constitution or the law -- there is nothing in the U.S. Code or the Constitution that says you did not indict a president.

So, to undergo this investigation and we know the president has engaged in multiple kinds of misconduct. To undergo the conduct and say in the end, number one, we're not indicting him, and number two, we're not going to tell you what we found. It's absurd.

The whole point of the investigation is to get the information and tell the public what's happened. And if Donald Trump has committed crimes, to spell it out.

BLACKWELL: All right. Maryland Attorney Brian Frosh, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

FROSH: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in our guest this morning, Eliza Collins, politics report at "USA Today", and Daniel Lippman, reporter and co-author of "The Political Playbook".

So, let's start here with what we are hearing from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and members of the Democratic Party there in the House, that they want not just the Mueller report but these underlying documents, and 4 out of 10, according to sources, telling CNN are these grand jury, the testimony, those documents.

According to the explanation from Mr. Frosh, we want to see it any way.

DANIEL LIPPMAN, REPORTER & CO-AUTHOR OF "POLITICO PLAYBOOK": Yes, they want to use it for their own investigations and they want to particularly see what were the underlying reasons that why President Trump was not charged with obstruction of justice. He fired James Comey, he attempted to fire Attorney General Sessions, and was told by his advisers not to do that.

And so, if you're not able to see exactly what Mueller found, then how can the public judge based on if Mueller was right in not charging or if he could have gotten charged if he was not president, you know, that Justice Department guidelines saying a sitting president cannot be charged and they want to see does he have the evidence it back up what Mueller found?

PAUL: Is there a risk of the Democrats going too far with this?


PAUL: Politically or otherwise?

COLLINS: I think absolutely. And we have seen Nancy Pelosi, so far, and Democratic leadership basically saying let's hold back, let's see what's in the report before we talk about impeachment. They're saying that right now, they have to see what the public -- you know, they want to see the full report so that the public can decide how far they want Democrats to go.

And I think they are very aware of this, at least Democratic leadership does understand that they can overstep this. I mean, in the '90s, its' a totally different special counsel report, but Bill Clinton became more popular after he is impeached. So, I think Democrats are aware, at least Democratic leadership.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about testimony. We have heard from several Democrats that they want to hear from Bob Mueller, they want him to testify. Potentially the A.G. to testify as well. What about Rod Rosenstein?

LIPPMAN: I mean, that would be a likely person to testify as well. Rosenstein will probably write a book eventually. I would not be surprised about that.

But they want everyone who's involved in the investigation to come on Capitol Hill and say exactly what they found and if they are not going to release the report or much of the report, then they are trying to get basically an oral report from the main players and they are going to go through a list of questions, everything that is an outstanding matter that has not been addressed.

We don't know exactly what Trump knew about the WikiLeaks disclosures, about Trump Tower meeting. No charges seems to have resulted from that as well, and we're also going to see some of those kids, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and they're going to get hold up and they're to get asked tough questions so that they can basically give what the grand jury, whatever they told Mueller's investigators, Democrats are going to ask similar questions to get that on tape and in the public record.

PAUL: Jared Kushner is providing records for the House Judiciary Committee right now. How vulnerable -- at the end of the day, we know that if it weren't for the Mueller investigations, a lot of these other investigations that are out there may not be going on as well, specifically there is the big question of what's going to happen in the Southern District of New York.

[07:40:00] How vulnerable is President Trump's family beyond this argument and outside when you get to the Southern District of New York?

COLLINS: Well, I think they are vulnerable. The Southern District of New York City is looking into them, they're looking at the businesses and that's where Trump's family is really involved. So, I think they are absolutely vulnerable.

That being said, what Republicans and allies of the Trump family will point out is that this Mueller report is done, there are no more indictments, and they feel like that's a good sign for other investigations. If Mueller finished his report and didn't indict anybody in Trump's family, they feel like that's good news for them.

PAUL: They feel the other investigations are going to follow suit, that there's not going to be something there?

COLLINS: That's how they feel right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes --

COLLINS: We haven't seen the report. But they're really hopeful --

BLACKWELL: Those investigations, that we know as well, they have much broader parameters. They can look into many more things that the Mueller was not able to do.

LIPPMAN: That is totally true. I think a lot of Republicans are celebrating this weekend because there were no further indictments, but that could be premature celebration because we don't know what's in the report.

We had a funny line in our "Politico" lead yesterday that Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lawyer, he didn't seem to be very worried about it. He was found shopping at Brooks Brothers in downtown D.C. So --

PAUL: All right.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the celebratory environment around the president, because, yes, there are no further indictments but we have seen the last 670 plus days, 199 criminal counts, 37 people who were indicted. People go to prison, a conviction in Paul Manafort. If that had happened all on the last day, this would have been a blockbuster. But because it happened incrementally over the course of a year and a half or nearly two years, they are celebrating.

COLLINS: Absolutely. I think you're right. I think it had to come out all on Friday or over the weekend, this would be a blockbuster news. But we have become conditioned to this new reality. People going to prison over this. But what Republicans will say is that everybody who went to prison did

not prove Russian collusion and what they have zeroed in on and what the president has zeroed in on. They're saying that these are unrelated -- that's their argument -- unrelated crimes and it was of broad scope. But the president, they are saying is -- no more indictments for the president or his family and they feel that is a win.

BLACKWELL: All right.

LIPPMAN: It also, like, the question of who Trump surrounds himself if he has good judgment of picking --


BLACKWELL: All the best people he said during the campaign.

All right. Eliza Collins, Daniel Lippman, thank you both.

PAUL: Thank you.

So, Democrats say that they want this full report released as we have been talking about. We are going to talk to one of them about what they say comes next, how deep could these subpoenas go? We're going to talk to Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island who would be on their list.


[07:47:10] BLACKWELL: President Trump and his team plan the White House's response to the Mueller report, Democrats are also planning their strategy. But they say that step one is actually reading the full Mueller report. Not just the Barr report.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she expected more than a briefing on its conclusions alone and if that briefing is classified, she says she will reject it because lawmakers should be able to discuss the report publicly.

Joining me now is Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So, let's first start here with this assertion from Speaker Pelosi and I want to talk about executive privilege, that she is going to reject any classified briefing for the Gang of Eight on the report because she thinks it should be public.

Is she setting up a straw man there? Has anyone there you know offered a classified briefing?

CICILLINE: I don't know if anyone has, but that is very often the case if there is classified information that they might offer a classified briefing to the Gang of Eight. But I think the speaker's point is this document needs to be made public. The public has a right to know the truth.

We should not forget, this investigation began at the, you know, sort of on behalf of the American people, our democracy was attacked by a foreign adversary, the Russians. The special counsel was appointed to investigate any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians engaged in this activity. And the American people waiting two years, we worked hard to protect the integrity of this investigation.

The American people have a right to know what the special counsel found, the decisions that he made, the evidence he collected, as does Congress. And we are going to fight as hard as we can and use all of the tools at our disposal to make sure the American people get to see the truth.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, let's talk now about executive privilege which will be the big fight between the White House and Congress. The Democrats want all of the underlying documents that could include, as sources tell CNN, 80 percent of them through the grand jury, that testimony, those documents as well, maybe secret intelligence sources.

Should that be released as well which typically isn't released publicly, especially if Speaker Pelosi is not willing to go to a classified briefing to get any of it?

CICILLINE: Well, we should remember, the Democrats acknowledge that if there are things that protect sources and methods that are classified, of course, that can't be made public. But the vast majority of the materials can be.

With respect to grand jury proceedings, there are exceptions to the general secrecy requirements when there's a compelling public interest. The Department of Justice has the authority, as does the courts.

So, this is not an ordinary case. Remember, this is a -- Department of Justice has taken the position -- I think, erroneously -- that a sitting president can't be indicted, so that special counsel's report may contain lots of information about the conduct of the president that he considered unchargeable because of that memorandum, but they certainly -- Congress and the American people -- have a right to know.

[07:50:10] So, look, this is an unusual circumstance but if you look at the Republican behavior after the investigation, the Clinton emails, they released over 800,000 documents including grand jury proceedings relating to her e-mails and no charges were brought in that case. So, there's precedence for this. The only other time the special counsel regulation has been used is the Branch Davidian case. And in that case, the special counsel released its interim report and the full report.

So, there's lots of precedence for transparency in this area. It's particularly important in the work of this special counsel because it involves the kind of integrity of our democracy, you know, whether or not we can adequately protect ourselves from an attack by a foreign adversary. This is, you know, a very long investigation. The American people have been patient. They've paid for this investigation. They have a right to know the conclusions of it.

BLACKWELL: Are you willing to support holding the attorney general in contempt if he refuses to release all of that underlying information, those documents?

CICILLINE: I'm really hoping it will not get to that, Victor. I'm hoping the attorney general will do what he said at his confirmation hearing, do everything he can to be transparent and that he'll work with Congress to make sure this is done quickly. But I know members of the committee are fully committed to making sure that the American people see the Mueller report, not the Barr report, not his summary of what he wants to share but the full report and the supporting materials. There's precedence for it.

And the American people, this was done on their behalf, this investigation. They have a right to know what the conclusions were, what decisions were made.

BLACKWELL: Understood.


CICILLINE: In fact, I think Mr. Mueller should come before the Judiciary Committee and walk through the report, walk the American people through the report and explain what he found.

BLACKWELL: Understand, Congressman. Let me come back around on that question. You hope he would release that information.

But typically, grand jury testimony and the documents that are gathered through the grand jury subpoenas, those are not released. So if he holds to what is the typical guidance, the typical M.O. of the Department of Justice, that is not going to happen.

In that case, would you support holding him in contempt for not meeting the demands of --

CICILLINE: Again, Victor, I want to push back. I disagree. It is certainly the general practice that grand jury proceedings are secret, but there are lots of situations in which they have been released and they ought to be. So, the Department of Justice has the ability to do it.

If, in fact, he's issued a subpoena and doesn't comply with it, it won't ultimately be my decision, I certainly hope we'll vindicate the authority of Congress in this area and compel the disclosure of these documents. We have to go to court and litigate it. If that's necessary, we will.

But we are committed to making sure the American know the truth and get these documents, whatever tools are available to us. I have full confidence the chair of our committee will use and committee members will support. BLACKWELL: Let me get to, before I let you go, one more opportunity

here for executive privilege to be asserted by the White House. Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have both said the White House should not get a sneak peek at the Barr report. They call it a sneak peek. The White House would say it's their opportunity to assert executive privilege.

Is that not the president's right to see this, this document before it's released?

CICILLINE: No, absolutely, it is not the president's right. Look, the president and his administration were targets or subjects of this investigation. It would be highly unusual to let the target or subject of the investigation have a sneak preview and then decide what to share with the American people. So, I think that would be completely inappropriate.

This notion of executive privilege is also very questionable in my mind. Executive privilege can only be asserted by the president for communications that he wants to protect. If the special counsel has collected that evidence from other sources, or someone has waived executive privilege, you can't retroactively go and claim it in hopes of covering up what the investigation revealed. So, I think this is specious claim --

BLACKWELL: Is it your understanding the president has waived executive privilege because Robert Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein and reports to the attorney general who is a part of the executive branch and they can't assert executive privilege.

Are you claiming they have, as some are, that they have waived executive privilege? Because if not, they get to see the report, do they not?

CICILLINE: I think it's clear when the president has spoken about a subject matter that he has waived executive privilege. You can't make your claim, make your statements and say you can't check the veracity of my statements by talking to anybody else.

BLACKWELL: All right.

CICILLINE: That would make the invocation a mockery. So, I think the president may well have waived it, but this is an effort just to stall and delay and prevent the American people from knowing the full truth and we're not going to let that happen.

BLACKWELL: All right. Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, thanks for being here.

CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: We appreciate you being with us as well. Thank you so much for your time and sharing your time with us. We hope you make great memories.

BLACKWELL: We have the latest on the Mueller report is coming up next on "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING".