Return to Transcripts main page


Analysis of the Barr Summary of the Mueller Report; Rep. Karen Bass (D) California Is Interviewed About Bill Barr Impartiality; Second Suicide at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School This Week. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 25, 2019 - 10:30   ET


SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, I think it's an extremely important distinction. I mean, Mueller answered the question of whether or not there was collusion between the president and his administration -- or his team and the Russians.

What that does not account for is something that we already know, and that is that there are individuals who were associated with the campaign, who were working on the president's election effort, who did have relationships with Russian individuals.

And I think that what we will ultimately find, Jim, is we will find that those individuals -- people like Paul Manafort and Page and others -- we are likely to find that they leveraged those relationships on behalf of the campaign. And I think that what Mueller found was that that was -- involved individuals who were acting on their own but still in support of the campaign.

TEXT: Trump associated with Russian contacts: Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Jeff Sessions, Carter Page, Felix Sater, J.D. Gordon, Roger Stone, Michael Caputo, Rick Gates, Erik Prince, Avi Berkowitz

TURNER: And so that's why this did not rise to the bar of collusion between the official campaign or between the president as they look into what happened with regard to Russia's efforts.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Steve Hall, not to minimize this. The special counsel said that Russia -- as the intelligence community had found, Russia interfered in this election to help Donald Trump win.

Here we are, a year and a half away from another presidential election. Does Russia do the same thing again? There have been some consequences, there have been some sanctions. But fact is, Russia has continued on, interfering here and in Europe. Should we presume they'll attempt the same in 2020?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. It's only a question of whether or not we're going to catch it, and how they have shifted to try to avoid us detecting it. But, again, if you sit back and look at what the Russians have learned here -- and I like the phrase, you know, "leveraging relationships." The Russians now understand that as part of their future hybrid warfare, they can continue to leverage people.

Because, remember, leveraging somebody -- or blackmailing somebody, for lack of a better phrase -- you know, you don't need their participation in -- you know, freely, as in collusion or conspiracy. When you're blackmailing somebody, when you're leveraging somebody -- which the Russians, I think, will probably try to do in 2020 -- you don't need their cooperation.

You simply say, "Hey, whatever politician -- whatever aide, whatever campaign person -- remember the information that we have on you, and make sure you do the right thing vis-a-vis Russia."

That's why, in my view, one of the reasons that we don't have rising to the legal level of collusion. But you still have the Russians -- and, I think, members of the Trump campaign who had relationships that, the best explanation for is, the Russians had information that they could leverage.

SCIUTTO: Shawn Turner, Steve Hall. We're going to keep following it. Thanks very much to both of you.

If some Republicans were wary of throwing full support behind the president before this report came out, does Barr's interpretation change their minds?


[10:37:15] SCIUTTO: President Trump and his Republican allies, not surprisingly, are celebrating the end of the Russia investigation. This, after Attorney General Bill Barr says that the Mueller report clears the president on collusion. But does it clear the way forward for a more united Republican Party? Let's speak now to Doug Heye, Republican strategist and former communications director for the RNC.

Doug, always good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: Thanks for the time this morning.

So, prior to the release of this report, in the last couple of weeks, you've had moments where Republicans, lawmakers, have challenged this president. They disagreed with him. A number on the emergency declaration, on the Yemen war, U.S. support for Saudis in the Yemen war. Also talk of defying this administration on the Khashoggi killing.

I wonder if the results of this report, in your view, will likely unify the party or at least make Republicans less likely to challenge the president.

HEYE: Well, I think it depends on what they are challenging him on. As Republicans have learned, if you challenge Donald Trump as Donald Trump, there's a really big backlash. It's why Mark Sanford lost his congressional primary, for instance.

But if you take a principled stance on an issue and disagree with administration policy, that's a different issue where Republicans are able to have more success. The difference with the wall and the emergency declaration is there's no issue that really combines the personality of Trump and the policy of Trump more than the wall. And so that's why you saw a lot of backlash on those Republicans who voted no, or even talked about voting no.

But this party's united behind Donald Trump. And following the great news of the Mueller report for the administration, it's even more so now.

SCIUTTO: It's our -- "The Wall Street Journal," reporting rather that the Trump campaign plans to poll soon on whether attacking Democrats on the Russia probe works for them as an issue in 2020.

But I want to ask you this question. Because I've asked the same question of Democratic lawmakers. And we'll throw this up on the screen.

This is the list, prior to the most recent election, of voting issues, and I believe this is across party lines. But look where the Russia investigation is there, down at the bottom, well below the economy, health care, corruption, gun policy, immigration, President Trump himself, trade policy and taxes.

TEXT: "Very important" issues for voters, November 1-3, 2018, CNN/SSRS poll: The economy, 80 percent; health care, 80 percent; corruption, 78 percent; gun policy, 77 percent; immigration, 77 percent; President Trump, 70 percent; trade policy, 68 percent; taxes, 66 percent; Russia investigation, 48 percent

SCIUTTO: I wonder if Democrats are in danger of overplaying the Russia investigation, are Republicans in danger as well, if the president just goes down this attack line on the Mueller probe?

HEYE: Do (ph) that in the short term. There is going to be a victory tour. I think it's going to start in Michigan. We'll see how many other stops it makes, like it's a concert tour of sorts.

But if this is the message moving forward for the next year and a half, that could become problematic, not just for President Trump and his re-election (ph), but also congressional Republicans. This is time for Republicans to put together a positive legislative agenda to move forward.

They're having some trouble, getting Democrats to work with them, even on bills that Democrats and Republicans have worked on before. But that shouldn't hold back Republicans on putting forth votes -- and -- or, excuse me, putting forward bills and talking about those issues that affect Americans most directly.

[10:40:14] America's -- most Americans are moving on from this report now that it's been done. That's part of the political vindication. SCIUTTO: Yeah -- and a lot of them might have been moving on before

it. I mean, I'm sure you've talked to people out there in the country that haven't been paying as much attention as you might imagine.

Final point, if I can. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he says, quote, the following in response to this report. "This is a complete home run for the president. There should be no more talk of Russia, going forward."

Now, we should note that the report also found, as the intelligence community had prior, Russia interfered in the 2016 election. It did so to help Donald Trump. And as you know, this president has repeatedly questioned those findings.

And we also know that Russia's going to attempt again, or it's believed to attempt again, to interfere in 2020. Should it really be the end of the talk of Russia? Or should Americans not still call on their president to challenge Russia on this?

HEYE: Yes. I think it should be the end of the word "collusion." It's very clear. And obviously, we need to see the full Mueller report. Not just a four-page summary from the attorney general. But it -- this is the end of collusion.

We should be talking about Russia. How they try and interfere with our elections. And with the whole host of issues that we've seen play out.

And often, unfortunately for President Trump, as the Helsinki --


HEYE: -- matter showed. But the word "collusion," essentially should be banned from the political jargon at this point. And that in and of itself is a huge home run for the president.

SCIUTTO: Doug Heye, thanks very much.

HEYE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Robert Mueller has finished his report. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say that their investigation, though, is not over. Could that hurt them in 2020? We're going to ask a member of that very committee, coming up.


[10:46:09] SCIUTTO: Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee had a conference call last night to discuss their response, their next steps to the end of the Mueller probe. One plan? A subpoena for attorney general Bill Barr.

This is happening as a former aide says that President Trump will likely use the Mueller findings as, quote, "a political bludgeon" for the 2020 election. Could Democrats make the damage even worse by continuing to investigate the president on Russia and other things? Joining me now, Congresswoman Karen Bass. She's a Democrat of California and a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, first, let me begin on the general question. The special counsel has cleared the president on the most central question of this investigation. And that is, did he or his advisors collude, cooperate, conspire with Russia to interfere in the election. Did Democrats, in your view, unfairly hang that allegation over his head without evidence sufficient to support it?

BASS: No, I don't believe that we did at all. And, you know, this, to me, is a very important step, that the report is done. But now we need to see the report. What we have seen is a four-page memo from the attorney general. But we need to see all of the report, and we need to see the underlying evidence. So to me, this is an important milestone but we still have a long way to go.

SCIUTTO: But Robert Mueller -- and granted, I will grant you that the obstruction question, it's unclear. And he cites evidence on both sides. But Robert Mueller was very clear on the question of collusion, laying out in the language quoted by Bill Barr there.

And yet hours before that summary is released, you have Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of course, one of your colleagues, saying the he has seen, quote, "significant evidence of collusion." If that's true, the Democrats have seen that evidence, should they not release that evidence to back up that allegation, despite what the special counsel has now found?

BASS: Well, first of all, Chairman Schiff is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. And you know a lot of what happens in that committee happens in a classified setting. So I certainly cannot speak to that.

But I will tell, you though --

SCIUTTO: I'm aware. But what I am saying is, if you're demanding the full Mueller report, isn't it --

BASS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- only fair to say, "Well, if Democrats are saying there's significant evidence that we have, we're holding close to our vest" -- I mean, to back it up. If you're making a public allegation, shouldn't the public see that as well?

BASS: I think the public should. And we will see when that happens. But we do need to see the full report.

And then on the issue of obstruction of justice, remember, according to the four-page memo, it says that Mueller could not make a decision or did not make a determination --

SCIUTTO: Yes. BASS: -- one way or another. There was evidence there was, there was

evidence there wasn't. He did not make an opinion. The attorney general basically said, after 48 hours of reviewing the documents, said that there was no basis for obstruction of justice.

But you do need to remember that almost a year ago, the attorney general -- current attorney general -- in an unsolicited manner, sent a 19-page memo saying that there was no basis for obstruction of justice.


BASS: So one absolutely has to weigh his credibility in that matter as well. He seemed as though he was clearly auditioning for a job. He got the job. And he comes up with the same opinion.

So we still have a lot of work to do.

SCIUTTO: We've had lawyers on this broadcast, including in the last hour, say that they read Mueller's statement on obstruction of justice, in effect, as not punting, as it were, to Bill Barr. But handing this to Congress, to say --

BASS: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- "This is the evidence. And I have evidence on both sides." Is it your view that the attorney general is attempting to, or has, usurped a congressional decision on obstruction?

BASS: Well, I think that's very possible. And that's one of the reasons why our chairman said he wants him to come before the Judiciary Committee. We need to know why he came up with the conclusion that there was no obstruction. But, again, I will remind you, he came to that conclusion over a year ago.

[10:50:03] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you a final question. Because there is the issue of law. But there's also the issue of politics here. And this is, in part --

BASS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- or perhaps in large part, a political question here. In your view -- and I wonder if this came up on the call of Judiciary Committee members last night -- is there concern in your party of overplaying, now, the Russia investigation, going forward? That patience is running out.

And, fact is -- I'll throw this up on the screen again, because I think it's indicative -- that the Russia investigation ranks very far down in CNN polling on voting issues running into the midterm elections, with the economy, health care, other issues --

BASS: Well -- right.

SCIUTTO: -- far above it. BASS: Well, let me --

SCIUTTO: What's your view, going forward?

BASS: Well my view going forward is, is that we won the House of Representatives in November because our candidates talked about health care. They talked about the price of prescription drugs. They talked about economic issues that are important to the American people. So we do understand that.

And, frankly, the Democrats have been very active on an agenda for the people: voting rights, corruption. We have passed a number of pieces of legislation that are very significant, that have nothing to do with the Mueller investigation.

But let me just tell you, though. There are other issues for us to look at. There is the obstruction of justice. There's conflict of interest. There's corruption. There's a variety of things that we do need to investigate and provide oversight for.

You have to remember that, for the last two years, when the Republicans were in charge, they basically provided no oversight of this administration. And that is our constitutional duty.

So are we going to continue with our responsibilities? Absolutely, yes. It is not all about the Russia investigation. But the first step is, we have to have the full report and the underlying evidence. And then we will take it from there.

SCIUTTO: Representative Karen Bass, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

BASS: Thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: Well, right now, inside the Department of Justice, the Mueller report is being scrutinized, line by line, page by page -- there are hundreds of them -- when will we be able to see that full report, or most of it? Please stay with CNN.


[10:56:26] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

SCIUTTO: A second student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has died in an apparent suicide. As if the school hasn't suffered enough. The student's name has not been released. We don't know for sure if this apparent suicide was related to last year's deadly massacre at the school.

We do know, however, that just one week ago, a survivor of that shooting also took her own life. Sydney Aiello graduated from Stoneman Douglas last year. Her mother says that she suffered from survivor's guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins us now from Parkland, Florida. Dianne, you know, the suffering extending for a whole -- well, beyond

a year since the shooting. How's the community, how's the school responding to these deaths now?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, they are doing what they have been able to do best, really, in the past 14 months. And that is trying to react quickly, swiftly and as a community.

Yesterday, after word got out about this latest suicide, they came together. We're talking community leaders, we are talking parents of current students. And parents of victims, of those students who were killed in the February 2018 shooting.

They got together, they held an emergency meeting to discuss making sure that mental health resources were readily available for everyone here in the Parkland community, to make sure that they were speaking openly about what has happened, and about how people feel.

I want you to listen to Ryan Petty -- he lost his daughter Alaina in that shooting -- and what he says is most important for parents to do.


RYAN PETTY, FATHER OF SLAIN PARKLAND STUDENT: I think we knew that some of our students were suffering. But sometimes we don't know which ones are suffering because they pretend things are OK.

Whether or not you believe your child's at risk, they are at risk. Take it seriously. Ask them the -- ask them the questions. Understand how they're feeling. And then get them the help they need.


GALLAGHER: And most importantly, they say to ask direct questions, specifically about suicide. Sometimes that is an uncomfortable conversation. People don't think they should approach it directly.

Experts say quite the opposite. Ask very direct questions. And if you are suffering out there, if you feel these thoughts, if you are having ideation, you can reach out, either to someone you know, to hotlines, to text them. They are telling people, now, that if any of this is triggering for you, to reach out. There is help out there.

Now, Jim, they're on spring break right now, which sort of adds another layer of concern here. There are three different centers that are open, just around the Parkland area. And they've scheduled activities. So that if students are out of school and they feel like they need somewhere to go just to be around people so they don't have this idle time by themselves, that there is that resource in this community.

They're trying to work with lawmakers in the state of Florida now, to potentially get additional funding to help with the recovery process here in the Parkland area. But, Jim, this goes to show that, look, it is not over for them. This community sort of feels retraumatized right now.

This is a difficult week for them all over again. And they are trying to work together. And want people out there to know that if you are struggling, that there is help and it does get better.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Just the last thing anyone would wish for this community. Dianne Gallagher, thanks very much for staying on top of it. And, please, take this number down.

TEXT: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255; For support internationally: https.//

[10:59:55] SCIUTTO: If you or someone you know might be at risk -- any risk -- of suicide, here is how to get help. In the U.S., call this number, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, 1-800-273-8255.