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STATE OF THE UNION

Mueller Report Turned In; Interview With Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) New York; Interview With Sen. Ted Cruz (R) Texas; Ahead Of Report, O'Rourke Accuses Trump Of Trying To Collude; "Tricky Dick" A CNN Original Series. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 24, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:20]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Case closed -- 675 days later, Robert Mueller's work is done. What will his report say about President Trump, and what did it find about potential conspiracy with Russia?

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler joins us in moments.

Plus, principal conclusions. The Justice Department plans to share the report's key findings with Congress, while Democrats look ahead, demanding transparency.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: It's imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public.

BASH: Will Attorney General Barr agree?

And political fallout. Could the Mueller report flip the script? Republicans suggest the findings could clear the president, while Democrats say there are many more questions to be answered.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have a president who, in my opinion, sought to collude with the Russian government.

BASH: Is this just the beginning of the beginning? Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz joins us exclusively.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper here in Washington, where the state of our union is on the edge of our seats.

And minutes ago, a brand-new tweet from the president: "Good morning. Have a great day."

And today may certainly be one of the most significant days in the Trump presidency. We could learn what special counsel Robert Mueller's principal conclusions are. Right now, only Attorney General William Barr, Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein and select aides have reviewed the report.

And in the coming hours, they could send a summary of the main findings to Congress. We do know the special counsel is not planning to issue any more indictments, according to a senior Justice Department official.

The conclusion of the report, which has cast a shadow over the first two years of the Trump administration, is already shaping new political battles.

The president's allies are signaling he is vindicated, as Democrats demand full transparency and vow to press forward with their ongoing investigations into the president, his administration and his businesses.

Let's get straight to the man at the center of things, the Judiciary chairman in the House, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York.

Thank you for joining me this morning, sir.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Good morning.

BASH: First, on our reporting that there will be no further indictments in the Mueller probe, that means, in the end, no member of the Trump campaign was charged with conspiring with the Russian government to influence the election.

Do you accept that no member of the Trump team engaged in that kind of criminal conspiracy with Russia?

NADLER: Well, I don't know.

First of all, we don't know what indictments are forthcoming from other investigations that have been spun out by the special prosecutor to the Southern District of New York or the Eastern District of Virginia.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Right, but his main mission was about Russia.

NADLER: Yes.

BASH: Do you think he would -- do you think he, Mueller, would send that to other parts of the Justice Department?

NADLER: I don't know. That's one of the things we will have to see when we read the report.

And that's one of the reasons that I think it's so crucial that the entire report and the evidence underlying it be released to the public. Transparency is key here.

I mean, obviously, we know there -- we know there was some collusion. We know that the president's son and campaign manager were involved in a meeting with the Russians to receive stolen -- what they thought was to receive stolen information -- information stolen from the Russians by the Democratic National Committee, as part of the Russian government attempt to help Trump in the election.

That's the way the e-mail inviting them to the meeting put it.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: But none of what you just said has risen to the level of a criminal indictment by the special counsel.

NADLER: No, it hasn't, as far as we know.

But we know there was collusion. Why there's been no indictments, we don't know.

Let me say further, we know a number of things. We know what I just said. We know that the president pressured the FBI to go easy, to stop investigating Flynn and various other people. We know that he fired the FBI director, as he put it to the -- to NBC, to take care of the Russian thing, in order to stop the investigation of various people associated with him.

We know that he concocted the lie about the purpose of that Russian meeting. We know that he -- that a lot of his top associates have been indicted and convicted, and we know that he has engaged in a relentless two-year attack against the FBI, various law enforcement agencies.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: So, on that note, Mr. Chairman, what you are describing is evidence to back up what you said before, that you believe the president has obstructed justice. You still believe that?

[09:05:03]

NADLER: Well, there have been obstructions of justice.

Whether they are -- clearly. Whether they are criminal obstruction is another question. But we have -- the special prosecutor is limited in scope. His job was limited in scope and limited to crimes.

What Congress has to do is look at a broader picture. We are in charge -- we have the responsibility of protecting the rule of law, of looking at obstructions of justice, at looking at abuses of power, at corruption, in order to protect the rule of law, so that our democratic institutions are not greatly damaged by this president. And that's what we intend to do.

BASH: So, on that very note -- right.

And on that very note, if Robert Mueller comes out in his report and suggests very strongly or states flat out that he agrees with you that the president obstructed justice, or that the president may have committed some crime that DOJ guidelines don't allow to be indicted, will you begin impeachment proceedings? NADLER: It's way too early to speculate about that.

Remember, the -- it is true that the Justice Department thinks that they cannot indict a sitting president, no matter what the evidence, as a matter of law. And that's what makes it even more important that all the evidence be given to Congress and the American people, because, while the normal rule is -- and it's a good rule -- that if you aren't indicting someone because you don't have enough evidence, you don't then smear their name by saying they did these terrible things.

If you aren't indicting someone because you can't as a matter of law, then you can't hold the president accountable. The only institution that can is Congress, and you should not hide the evidence, because that converts it into a cover-up.

BASH: Right.

NADLER: Congress needs that evidence, and the American people need that evidence and information to make judgments.

BASH: Well, let me ask you about that, because I'm glad you brought that up. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has made clear that he wants to -- quote -- "prevent the disclosure of information that would unfairly tarnish people who are not charged with crimes."

But we just heard you saying that people should see the entire report, that evidence underlying it. Democrats were pretty upset in 2016 when then-FBI Director James Comey publicly accused Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing, but then said, well, she shouldn't be indicted.

So, why shouldn't allegations that don't reach an indictment threshold -- I'm talking not about the president, but on everybody else -- stay confidential?

NADLER: Well, because we need to know what was going on here.

And it's not just the question of indictments. It's a question of protecting the rule of law and of obstruction of justice and abuses of power and protecting our government and our whole system.

And it's been subjected to an unprecedented attack. Law enforcement agencies have been subjected to an unprecedented smear campaign by the president against the FBI, the special prosecutor, other law enforcement agencies. We have to know the facts, so that we can protect our institutions. We need to know.

BASH: You have to know the facts, but do you want the American public to know as well?

NADLER: American public -- yes., the American public has to know the facts, so they can make judgments.

BASH: And you are not worried about the underlying notion of the protocol of not giving -- putting out evidence on people that are not indicted is to protect reputations and so forth? That was the concern again about Hillary Clinton. You don't think the same should be applied for Trump officials?

(CROSSTALK)

NADLER: Well, we're not talking about indictments. We're talking about what -- about the American people finding out what went on and what has gone on. It's a very different question. We have to know.

BASH: OK.

I want to ask you about Robert Mueller's report overall and the whole notion that you and other Democrats, including the House speaker, talked about with transparency. If the Justice Department is not going to hand it over to you fully and say that it can be fully put out to the American public, are you absolutely sure that you will issue a subpoena?

NADLER: Well, we will try to negotiate. We will try everything else first.

But if we have to, yes, we will certainly issue subpoenas to get that information.

BASH: And you're going to be willing to take that all the way up to the Supreme Court, if you have to?

NADLER: Absolutely.

And, by the way, the -- the -- we are already hearing that the president may want to claim executive privilege on some of this. And -- but the fact is, he has no right to claim executive privilege on any evidence of wrongdoing. Executive privilege cannot shield evidence of wrongdoing.

And that was made very clear by the 9-0 decision of the Supreme Court in the Nixon case, where they ordered the tapes revealed, even though those tapes were personal conversations with the president and some of his advisers. Executive privilege cannot be used to shield wrongdoing.

BASH: How long are you going to give the Justice Department to turn it over?

NADLER: I can't give you a specific answer to that. We will talk to them, and we will see.

BASH: But, I mean, days, weeks, months? Can you give the general notion of where you're going?

NADLER: It won't -- it won't -- it won't be months.

BASH: It won't be months. OK.

So you were likely to see the main conclusions of the Mueller report as soon as today. Will you accept them at face value? [09:10:02]

NADLER: Well, we're likely to see what Barr characterizes as the main conclusions of the Mueller report.

And we will accept them, but subject to seeing all the underlying data. We have to make judgments, the American people have to make judgments as to how founded those conclusions are or Barr's summary of the conclusions are.

And that's one reason we have to see the entire report and the evidence underlying it.

BASH: Are you suggesting that Barr might mislead about what those Mueller conclusions are?

NADLER: No, there are judge -- no, I have no reason to say that.

But I am suggesting that people make judgments, and those judgments could be right or wrong, in other words, in making a judgment as to how to characterize an observation.

BASH: And what about when you get to the point where you actually do see the whole report from Robert Mueller? Will you trust those results? Do you have full faith and confidence in the way the Mueller investigation went?

NADLER: I assume -- I have a great deal of confidence in Mueller and the people who work with him. I think they have done a -- they are very good people.

So I my expectation is that, yes, I would trust that, but, like any other product of human hands, we have to look at the underlying evidence and make our own judgments as to their judgments.

BASH: So, on that note, let's say he doesn't find that the president obstructed justice. Will you stop your investigation in the House on that issue?

NADLER: Well, he can -- he cannot find that the president did or did not obstruct justice, because his mandate is to look for crimes, and the policy of the Justice Department is that you cannot look for any criminal acts by the president. So he cannot make that judgment.

He can give evidence one way or the other. And that evidence is useful.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Yes, exactly, because you don't...

NADLER: But he can't reach that conclusion.

And the other point is, our mandate, as a Congress, and as the committee, for that matter, is much broader. The special prosecutor is looking only at crimes. We have to look at protecting the rule of law, at obstruction of justice, at abuses of power on a much broader level than simply crimes.

BASH: Chairman Jerry Nadler, thank you so much. You're going to have a very busy morning, probably, and afternoon ahead. And feel free to come back as soon as you get those conclusions. We're here.

NADLER: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

Republicans are already taking a victory lap, saying the president could be vindicated. Are they celebrating too soon?

We will talk with Republican Judiciary member Senator Ted Cruz next.

And one Democratic presidential candidate says the Mueller report is not going to change many voters' minds, so why has the party been so focused on it?

That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:16:35]

BASH: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

President Trump has called the Mueller probe a witch-hunt more than 170 times on Twitter.

Now that it's over, the president has been silent on the investigation. In fact, he's been with Kid Rock on the golf course, and he just arrived this morning at that golf club again.

But how are his allies responding?

Well, joining me now for an exclusive interview, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who actually worked at one time for Robert Mueller at the Justice Department.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

First question is, do you think the public should see the full Mueller report?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Absolutely.

I think the report needs to be made public, it need to be released to the Congress, and it needs to be released to the American people. This has consumed two years of the American people's time, and we need to have full transparency. We need to know the special counsel's conclusions.

BASH: OK.

And the president has continued to unleash attacks on the special counsel investigation, even in the probe's final hours, calling it a big hoax, a witch-hunt.

Do you agree with the president that the Mueller investigation was a witch-hunt?

CRUZ: I think the Mueller investigation went on far too long.

And I think Bob Mueller made a serious mistake when he brought together the team of investigators and lawyers and selected so many partisan Democrats who had been longtime Democratic donors. I think that was unfortunate, because, by doing that, it undermined the credibility and impartiality of the special counsel's office.

BASH: Do you think it went...

CRUZ: That being said, we're being -- go ahead. I'm sorry.

BASH: Do you think -- would you go as far, though, as the president has in calling it a witch-hunt?

CRUZ: You know, I will leave that language to the president. I will say I'm concerned that it may have become a fishing expedition.

We will see when we see the report. We will see what's in the report. But I do think it's striking that at least the early indications are, there are no further indictments, which means, as you pointed out at the top of the show, that not a single person was indicted for colluding with the Russians to influence the 2016 election.

If that's right, that there are no indictments for collusion with the Russians, that's good news for the American people. Those were serious charges when they were raised two years ago. And if the special counsel concluded that there is not evidence that that occurred, that would be very good news.

BASH: So, as you mentioned, a senior Justice Department official is telling CNN that he's not recommending any further indictments.

But we do know that there are other investigations going on elsewhere in the Justice Department into the president's businesses, his inaugural committee, his charitable foundation. Are Republicans right to be popping the champagne right now?

I'm not saying you are, but others are. Or is it premature?

CRUZ: Listen, if anyone thinks that the Mueller report being concluded is the end of the Democrats' attempt to take down President Trump, they haven't been paying attention the last two years.

It was striking, as I listened to your interview with Congressman Nadler, that he was immediately pivoting away. OK, fine. Yesterday, the Mueller report was the end-all and be-all. It was going to be the salvation for the Democrats and destroy President Trump.

Now you can already see the Democrats pivoting away, saying, OK, but well, we need to do other investigations. It's got to be someone else. It's got to be the Southern District of New York. [09:20:03]

BASH: But, Senator...

CRUZ: It's got to be the New York attorney general. It's got to be Congress.

BASH: But, Senator, it is the Justice Department.

CRUZ: And...

BASH: It's the president's Justice Department that is continuing to investigate those other things that I just mentioned.

Democrats are one thing, but I'm talking about...

CRUZ: But...

BASH: Go ahead.

CRUZ: But, Dana, my point is, you asked Congressman Nadler whether the House is going to impeach the president.

I will answer that for you. Yes. They fully intend to impeach the president, and they don't care about the basis. Twice, Congressman Nadler said something remarkable. He said, listen, the special counsel is focused on crimes. We're not all that concerned with crimes. Our focus -- this is Democrats in the House -- is much broader than crimes.

What they are basically saying is, they are going to impeach the president for being Donald Trump. And they don't care about the evidence. They don't care about the substance.

BASH: But you know much better than I that the Justice Department can't indict a president.

CRUZ: And every presidential candidate ought to be asked now...

BASH: It's against their guidelines. So, is that a bit of a red herring?

CRUZ: Well, we will see what's in the report.

And, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, I'm going to read the report. I want to give it a fair consideration. And I hope and expect the American people to have the chance to do the same thing.

But my point is, the extreme left in the Democratic Party, they have so much anger and hatred directed at the president, that we're going to see the Democrats moving forward with impeachment, whatever the evidence. That's why you're seeing Democrats like Congressman Nadler saying, don't worry about crimes. Our focus is not just crimes. That's just Bob Mueller's focus. Our focus is broader.

What their focus us is, is politics. And they need to set aside the rage and anger. Listen, I disagreed with Barack Obama on a host of issues, but I didn't believe he should be impeached. The extremism that we're seeing in the Democratic Party, their focus is obsessively on trying to destroy the president and this administration.

That's not good for the American people. We ought to be coming together and solving the real problems in this country...

BASH: OK.

CRUZ: ... not just engage in relentless political warfare.

BASH: OK, Senator, I want to turn to a couple of other topics I know that you would like to talk about.

One of them is the Middle East, because the president made headlines...

CRUZ: Yes.

BASH: ... by tweeting that it's time for the U.S. to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

It seems like the president is really putting his thumb on the scale for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the final weeks of the elections over there. What would you do if a Democratic president made a move that helped a Labor prime minister in Israel?

CRUZ: Well, I -- I think your focus is off slightly.

Listen, what the president did this week was tremendous. He recognized that the Golan Heights is legitimately now part of Israel. That's something I have been pushing for, for over a year.

BASH: And you don't think doing that weeks before an election in Israel puts his thumb on the scale, regardless of the substance of it? Talking about the timing.

CRUZ: I think it is good foreign policy for Israel and it's good foreign policy for the United States.

In December, I introduced a resolution for Congress to recognize the Golan Heights was part of Israel. Just a couple of months ago, I introduced legislation for Congress to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

And, indeed, that legislation, a number of Democrats in the House have spoken out in favor of that legislation. There's bipartisan agreement to do that.

And the reason is simple. The Golan Heights were taken in 1967 during the Six-Day War, a defensive war where Israel was attacked. If you look at what's happening in the Middle East, no one in their right mind would want to see the Golan Heights goes to Bashar Assad, go to Syria, or go to Iranian proxies or the Russians.

It's legitimately part of Israel. I'm glad the president took my counsel and the counsel of others and recognized this. And, indeed, I hope that Congress will take up the legislation I have introduced and put the president's determination into U.S. law, because that is in the security interest of Israel. And, critically, it's in the security interest of the United States.

The president did the right thing here.

BASH: Senator, one last important question. We learned this week that the Justice Department issued subpoenas in a criminal investigation into two Boeing plane crashes.

You chair the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation. You are going to have a hearing this coming week, on Wednesday. Do you think that Boeing is criminally liable? And, also, do you think the FAA was negligent here?

CRUZ: Well, the first question is going to be a determination initially for the Justice Department and ultimately for the criminal justice system.

I, like everybody else, am deeply concerned about these two crashes that took over 300 lives. And so I'm chairing a hearing this week with the acting head of the FAA and the relevant government officials to inquire really what went on here, what we knew, when did we know it, and what caused this crash.

There are early indications that a system on the plane called the MCAS system, which adjusted -- adjusted the altitude of the plane, may have contributed to the crash. We don't know that. We shouldn't jump to conclusions.

[09:25:03]

But when you have over 300 people whose lives have been taken, it was the right thing to do to ground the planes. I called for them to be grounded early on. And the FAA ultimately agreed with that determination.

But our priority has to be the safety of the flying public. You and I, we're on planes all the time. Our families are on planes all the time. And Texas, Texans are on planes all the time. We need to have the confidence when we get on a plane that there is not a problem, mechanical system or software system that endangers the lives of passengers.

And so this hearing this week is going to be the first step for the Senate to begin inquiring, what are the facts here and what do we need to know to be confident that the flying public is safe? That's our responsibility.

BASH: Well, Senator, it is.

And we look forward to seeing that, both on the side of Boeing and on the side of the FAA and whether the oversight on their part was lax.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it. CRUZ: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

And President Trump admitted he fired his FBI director in part because of the Russia investigation. Did Mueller decide that was not obstruction of justice?

We will go behind the scenes with a former DOJ insider next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:30:30]

BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

As we await the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, it's worth underlining the most significant things we have already learned, that the Justice Department, for example, does not plan to indict anyone else after the 22-month investigation. That's according to a senior DOJ official.

Well, joining me now is a former senior DOJ official, former U.S. attorney of the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who is also the author of a new book -- check it out -- "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law."

Congrats on the book.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you for joining me. I can't wait to get your insight on everything as we wait for this.

Let's just start on the indictments, or the lack of indictments. I mean, think about it. Even after that infamous Trump Tower meeting, you aren't seeing any indictments, and other things that we have heard about, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., nothing.

I mean, the Justice Department guidelines are that you don't indict a sitting president. That's one thing. But what about his family? What does it tell you that, despite all of the conversations, all of the information we have heard about things like that infamous meeting, no indictments?

BHARARA: Yes.

So, the first thing I would like to say is, people owe a debt of gratitude to Robert Mueller, who did a thankless job over the course of two years, and has had to endure invective and criticism and obnoxious commentary and a sort of swift-boating of sorts just to do his job, which he didn't have to do after a long and illustrious period of time in service to the country, both in the military and in the Justice Department.

So, it's significant, I think, that you're not seeing any more indictments out of the special counsel's office. And some people who have a certain particular point of view, I think, who want damage to be done to the president or want some other consequence, are looking towards the SDNY and the District of Columbia U.S. attorney's office and other offices.

And there are continuing cases there. Rick Gates, his case in which is cooperating with respect to multiple investigations, will be ongoing in the District of Columbia.

But, to me, the fact that the Mueller folks have said no more indictments forthcoming means you're not going to see an American charged in some form of conspiracy, otherwise known as collusion, if you use the layperson's term, which is not really a crime.

But you're not going to see a crime of conspiracy to hack or to interfere with the election in this investigation.

BASH: That's a big deal.

BHARARA: It's a big deal politically, I guess.

I don't know how big a deal it is otherwise. I mean, the goal of the Mueller investigation, which people seem to forget, and his mission was not to get someone and not to bring out -- bring about a particular outcome or result.

That's not how it works. His job was to be as thorough as possible and as fair as possible and investigate all the facts. And if he doesn't come up with something, then so be it.

BASH: But I -- when I said it's a big deal, it's a big deal, in that if that is true -- and it seems like it is, since there are no more indictments -- he has found the answer is no, not that Russia was trying to meddle.

BHARARA: Yes.

BASH: We know that he found the answer is yes, yes, yes, based on the indictments that he's made of Russian companies and individuals, but not about American interaction with Russians.

BHARARA: Well, he's made a determination, as prosecutors do, that there's not sufficient evidence to indict someone for that conduct.

Now, as often happens -- and in my experience that I outline in the book in great length, sometimes, you walk away. We don't know what the quantum of evidence he had was. Maybe he was close. Maybe it was a close question. Maybe there was no evidence at all.

Some people know, in the public record, there's some reason to think that there was involvement. But he's made a determination, not enough to charge. The prosecutor's burden is high, and I think we have to accept that.

BASH: Attorney General Bill Barr told Congress he's going to release these principal conclusions probably as soon as today. Those conclusions will not be Mueller's conclusions. They will be

Mueller's conclusions interpreted by Barr. Does that matter?

BHARARA: Yes.

Obviously, you want to see the underlying document to make sure that it's not summarized in a way that's misleading or omits things that are harmful for political reasons and it's a straight-shooting summary.

I think you can have a fair summary. Reports are done all the time. The inspector general does a 400-page report. There's an executive summary at the front which gives you a pretty good guideline and map to what the findings are.

I would hope and expect, since these folks know each other, that Bill Barr will consult with Robert Mueller and say, look, here's the summary we're planning to put out. Are you comfortable that this is an accurate small version of your big report?

BASH: What do you think about the fact that we have come to an end here, and there was no oral interview with President Trump?

[09:35:03]

BHARARA: So, different people have different opinions about that.

BASH: What's yours?

BHARARA: I don't know.

I think it's not a crazy thing, knowing that you want to wrap up your investigation at a certain period of time, you have an election coming up, the mandate was to look at some narrow things, knowing that you're going to get some information from the president in written answers, and that to have a protracted fight about forcing someone, compelling someone through subpoena process to testify, when he's the sitting president, I don't think it's crazy to have decided not to go down that route.

BASH: So, before I let you go, your old office, the one that you ran, the Southern District of New York, among others, is, as you mentioned, investigating things like the president's inaugural committee, other issues relating to the president's charitable foundation and so forth.

Is that an investigation -- or investigations -- are they things that the president should be worried about still?

BHARARA: I mean, I have no personal knowledge about those things, but sure.

I mean, look, I think it's very significant, and we have to wait. I think people shouldn't be taking victory laps or jumping off bridges, depending on their political viewpoint, based on the fact that a Mueller report has been concluded and there's no indictments. But Donald Trump is not out of legal jeopardy. And the Southern District of New York did not have the narrow mission that the special counsel had. And they are aggressive and tough and independent and fair and apolitical.

And if there's things that they think are worth pursuing and charging, they will do so. And if that means that there's legal jeopardy for people around the president, then we will, I guess, have to see.

BASH: Preet Bharara, thank you so much.

BHARARA: Thanks for having me.

BASH: Always good to talk to you, learn from you. Appreciate it.

And a reminder, his book is "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law."

Up next -- one Democratic presidential candidate isn't waiting to read the report to declare there was definitely collusion. Our political panel will weigh in on the political wisdom of that claim, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: But I'll tell you what I see from my perspective. You have a president, from my opinion, beyond the shadow of a doubt, sought to, however ham-handedly, collude with the Russian government, a foreign power, to undermine and influence our elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke making a stark claim despite not having seen or read the Mueller report yet. A sign the Democrats especially those running for president aren't going to just drop the connection between the president and Russia.

Let's discuss with our panel. Jen Psaki, what do you think about that move?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There are some things we know, regardless of the report. The Russians did intervene with the direction of Putin to help President Trump. The Trump team welcomed in terrible e-mails or e-mails that would be damaging about the Clinton campaign and they had meetings. So there are a lot of things we know.

If I were advising a presidential candidate I would say stay away from this. Just let it play out. Go run your own campaign, go talk about jobs and the economy. Let this play out in Washington and do that for the coming months. So that's the one piece of advice I'd give to him and any other candidate. BASH: Well, it's interesting. It sounds like maybe you're channeling or Mayor Pete Buttigieg is channeling you because that's basically the gist of what he's doing in terms of his approach. Listen to what he said to CNN yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND: I think where we might be making a mistake in our party is if we think that this is going to change everything in terms of how the president is viewed. A lot of people have made up their mind about this president, and a lot of people who voted for him already understand that he is not a character of great integrity. They voted the way they did to send a message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Karen you and Jen are among the best, most experienced communicators in the Democratic Party. So the fact that you are all saying take a breath?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think I'm not going to say anything with that compliment. No, absolutely.

BASH: No, I'm saying, it's the expect -- my point is it's the expectation game.

FINNEY: Absolutely.

BASH: And most of the people are not playing it so well.

FINNEY: But I think Mayor Pete made a really important point which is at some point in the 2020 election, Democrats should make the election about integrity. Because we know -- we do now have a record from Donald Trump on his integrity. How he has comforted (ph) himself as president in addition to whatever we may learn from the Mueller report, the things that we know about -- what Jen mentioned but also that while all these other things were happening, he was pursuing business deals.

Let's let that play out. Let's let Congress do its part, but stay focused on the issues that people care about but, yes, the integrity of the president and the -- and by the way, how this president and Republicans, how vigorously the Republicans will fight to make sure that we get to see the whole report will say a lot about the integrity of the Republican Party.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I expect some of the reporting from the last couple of days from reporters covering Democratic candidates in various town halls and Q and A sessions. The questions from Democratic primary voters are the ones who come to these sessions were not about the Mueller report and not about Russia collusion. It was taken for granted that if you're running for a Democratic nomination you probably don't think Donald Trump has done a good job as president. And they were about health care and about a million different issues which I think does suggest that if you're trying to distinguish yourself within the Democratic field, you want to find an issue or two to run on that you're going to address better presumably than your rivals.

BASH: You are the Trump supporter at this table and I see you nodding and smiling.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I'm not going to take a victory lap because to take a victory lap in the fog is a good way to crash your car. We don't know anything yet and I'll wait to do that this afternoon when we find things out.

Two things strike me about all of this. Number one, unequivocally, the fact that there are no more indictments coming is a good thing. And so it's absolutely appropriate, I think, for the president and his people to tout that.

But it strikes me that Democrats had so emotionally invested over the last two years in this narrative that Robert Mueller was going to come along and end their nightmare and wish this presidency into a corn field.

[09:45:03]

And now that that's not happening they have to make a strategic choice. Are we going to just continue to plow down that road the way we saw Beto O'Rourke do? Or are we going to deal with the reality that this presidency isn't going away and over half of Americans are probably going to say, OK, fine, let's move on and talk about something else?

The other thing that I think we should focus on today is, we talked about collusion. I don't think we've focused enough on the fact that at the end of the last administration, Robert Mueller has already told us he's already indicted 25 Russians. People that work for a hostile foreign power. They came in here and interfered in our democracy. And it may not have had a darn thing to do with Donald Trump but it did happen on the previous administration's watch and we've not had a full accounting of how that failure occurred.

PSAKI: First of all, Scott, I think the danger that you're running down even if you're not taking a victory lap is that right now might be the high water mark for President Trump and this entire episode because coming out of here there's a dozen investigations that are happening.

As we know from history, what will happen now is the Democrats will have hearings. They have an obligation and responsibility to do that. And that's when people will start to pay attention. People are going to see a full accounting of what happened over the last several years that they have not seen presented. So you're not taking a victory lap, but a lot of other Trump supporters are and there's a danger there.

I'll also say on your last point, what President Obama did, and I was working in the administration at the time, was he asked the intelligence community to put forward every single thing they knew so that could be presented to the next administration. Even though it was not an administration we supported. President Trump has been president for two years and has done basically nothing to protect us from the Russians. That's where your focus should be.

JENNINGS: The election happened while Barack Obama was the president. I'm constantly go back to this in my browser on my computer. The story in "The Washington Post" where the unnamed Obama administration official said, I feel like we sort of choked.

We have so invested all this time and resources into the collusion narrative and so little into the how did we fail at this at the end of the last term.

FINNEY: Well, to that point, and to Jen's point, so we have had, you know, the national intelligence apparatus come forward and say, guess what, this problem is still ongoing. And to Jen's point, we have not seen any action by the Trump administration.

So if your concern is what happened and why didn't we do anything then, I hope you're equally concerned that we're not doing anything right now and we're heading into a very important election.

JENNINGS: I am.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: As interesting as this discuss is I just want to -- not let this panel end without paying tribute -- I defended Robert Mueller for a year and a half against really reckless demagogic attacks by the president. And I think pretty reckless attacks by the president's enablers. And I'm going to continue to defend him.

I happen to live with whatever the report says. And I think we owe him a debt and his team a debt, and the people of the Justice Department who resisted all the efforts which were well documented by this president to impede and perhaps end this investigation.

So in that respect the system so far has pretty much worked, I think, and I hope that the attorney general, I think he is and the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein right now are acting responsibly in terms of the summary they're going to present and ultimately releasing the report sooner rather than later.

BASH: That's a fair point. How do you spend two years attacking Robert Mueller and then if he gives a report that isn't so hard on you say, oh, look how great Robert Mueller's report is. How do you do that?

FINNEY: The president does (ph) it all the time.

JENNINGS: I have believed Robert Mueller was the right choice for this from day one. I thought it was appropriate.

I agree with Bill. This is a good day for good government. We had a two-year investigation. It was all done by the book. He was not fired. He was not silenced. We have a letter that says nobody was interfered with. He is going to turn in his findings according to all the applicable rules and regulations.

I mean, all this is happening the way you would want it to happen in a properly functioning government. So hooray for normalcy.

BASH: Let's look ahead a little bit because this is just the beginning of Democratic control of the House, of their oversight investigations. Jerry Nadler, the judiciary chairman told me earlier this hour, no way are they going to give up. Lots of other committees feel the same.

But is there a public relations kind of how much the voters can stomach it risk there? Or should they just keep going because that's their duty?

PSAKI: Well, I think the challenge that they're all digging out of, and I remember talking to staffers who are working for the Senate and House Intelligence Committees at the time who were worried that this bar that collusion is the only way that we should move forward was a dangerous bar two years ago or a year and a half ago. But they don't control the entire Democratic Party narrative. So they're digging out of that right now.

This was always going to be a case where Mueller's report was going to be a starting point to look into, to launch hearings. That's how it's always worked and how it was always going to work. And so it's a more of an educating the public on the process and I think that's what -- something that the Democrats need to spend time doing.

BASH: What a great discussion. We are all waiting. We are not going anywhere. We will be here and hoping that we get news about those principal conclusions.

We talked about the fact that this feels like it's gone on forever. But was it the longest special counsel investigation in U.S. history?

[09:50:03]

The answer to that might surprise you. Behind the scenes of another presidential investigation, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: As we wait for the conclusions of one president's special counsel investigation, our CNN series "TRICKY DICK" explores another, Watergate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't give a God damn what the story is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard M. Nixon has lied repeatedly.

NIXON: No reporter from "The Washington Post" is to ever be in the White House again. Do you understand?

The tougher it gets, the cooler I get. I have what it takes.

CROWD: Impeach Nixon now! Impeach Nixon now!

NIXON: And I want to say this to the television audience, because people have got to know whether or not their president's a crook.

[09:55:04]

Well, I'm not a crook.

This crap about Watergate --

Let others wallow in Watergate. We're going to do our job.

I'm going to kick their ass.

Nobody's going to package me. Nobody's going to make me put on an act for television. I'm not going to engage in any gimmicks or any stunts or wear any silly hats.

If people looking at me say that's a new Nixon, then all that I can say is, well, maybe you didn't know the old Nixon.

ANNOUNCER: "TRICKY DICK" a CNN original series. Tonight at 9:00.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And coming up one of president Trump's closest allies in Congress and one of his biggest opponents, a special edition of STATE OF THE UNION continues in minutes.

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