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White House Deputy Press Secretary Discusses Mueller Report; Rep. Madeleine Dean (D) of Pennsylvania Discusses Barr Memo on Mueller Report Results, Continuing Investigations on Everything Trump; The Unanswered Questions from the Mueller Report Summary. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired March 25, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] STEVEN GROVES, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It's good that Robert Mueller indicted those Russians but it's clear that he and no one on his campaign colluded, conspired or coordinated with those Russians.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: When you talk about approaching this issue of Russian meddling, is it fair to say that you -- so you're saying that the president has accurately made -- that he has appropriately made this a priority to combat Russian meddling in American elections, and that that is what is going to -- the attention that he's given it so far is the attention he's going to continue to give it?
GROVES: Well, it's one of the things that he works on. I mean, he does lots of other things. He's meeting with the Israeli prime minister today. There are a lot of things on his foreign policy agenda. It's something that his people are seized on, especially at the Department of Homeland Security. They are watching these elections.
KEILAR: Steve Groves, thanks so much for coming into the studio. We appreciate you being here with us.
GROVES: Thanks for having me, Brianna.
KEILAR: Among the unanswered questions, what about the Trump Tower meeting? What about Paul Manafort sharing polling data? We're going through those issues and see where they land after this summary.
Plus, more on our breaking news. Lawyer Michael Avenatti charged with extortion. We are learning new charges in a separate case now.
[13:35:49] KEILAR: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation may be over, but several other investigations surrounding the president's orbit are just starting to ramp up. Still under scrutiny by New York prosecutors as well as Congress, Trump's inauguration, the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, the Trump administration, the Trump Foundation. And House Democrats have a laundry list of investigations that they are pursuing, from the pre-election hush money payments to the two women the president allegedly had affairs with to Donald Trump's family separation policy, everything in between, as you can see by this list on the screen right now.
House Democrat Congresswoman Madeleine Dean is joining me now from Capitol Hill. She is a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Financial Services Committee.
Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us.
Just give us your reaction to, it's not the Mueller report, it's a summary from the attorney general, four-page summary of this report. What's your reaction?
REP. MADELEINE DEAN, (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My reaction is a couple of things. We ought to recognize something good. Number one, Special Counsel Mueller completed his investigation with a team of able investigators and prosecutors, and I'm thankful that that investigation has come to a close. Number two, we should be glad that the preliminary finding that we know of the Mueller report is that there was no coordination, no conspiracy. Notice the words that they used. No coordination, no conspiracy of the Trump campaign with Russia's known interference with the 2016 election. Number three, there was known interference by Russia in a very serious and grave way with the election of 2016. I hope this administration, and I'm certain Congress will take that very seriously, as we head into the next election. But in terms of Barr's letter, what I hope people will recognize is that it's only a very partial summary. It summarizes that first point. The second point that it makes is that Mueller was unable to say -- to exonerate the president from obstruction of justice. That's a very important telling second part.
KEILAR: Not unable as much as he chose not to, Congresswoman.
DEAN: He said he would not, you're right. So he said --
KEILAR: He laid out the facts and he left it to the attorney general.
DEAN: And what you notice is the attorney general, in the four-page letter, offers only partial quotes, very little evidence of what that evidence was. All of that leads me to say we need to see the report. Congress needs to see the report, and the American people need to see the report. Even the president has said that.
KEILAR: He said he wouldn't be bothered by it coming out.
What the attorney general is doing right now is, with respect to the law, he's making sure that he can release what he can release. That's what he says in this, respect of the law and some of the facts that were before the grand jury. Do you agree that that is important? And how concerned are you, especially -- we just heard from a deputy White House press secretary that if there's issues when it pertains to executive privilege, the expectation would be that the attorney general would touch base with the White House and then the White House would be able to make its opinion known about information going to Congress and what should and should not be going to Congress. Do you have concerns about that process?
DEAN: I do have concerns about that. Certainly, grand jury testimony would have to be asked of the judge if that can be released. I understand we have to follow the laws there. In terms of executive privilege, I don't see where executive privilege falls in here. The other thing I think people do not understand or haven't had a chance to read is that Attorney General Barr does not just summarize these two larger portions of the Mueller report. He comes to a legal conclusion. He says, after weeks of talking with Special Counsel Mueller, he and Rod Rosenstein have decided there was no obstruction of justice. He comes to a legal conclusion in this four-page letter. That's a leap that I think is very puzzling.
KEILAR: So you have concerns about that. What do you need to allay those concerns? Do you want to hear from Bill Barr? Do you want to hear from Robert Mueller? And what questions do you need answered?
[13:40:01] DEAN: Number one, we would like to see the entire report -- that's where we would have to start -- and the evidence that underlies it. Number two, we absolutely should take the chance and the time to talk with Attorney General Barr. As you know, he wrote about a 19-page memo prior to being considered for attorney general, and you see echoes of the very arguments he made there in this four- page letter. I've compared the two. We would like to talk to Barr. I'm hope our chairman, Jerry Nadler, will call him.
KEILAR: When you say the entire report, just to be clear, what you hear in this letter, Bill Barr talking about pulling out of the report any information as it pertains to that which should not be released, maybe negative information about folks who were not charged, some information that may have been before the grand jury but would not go before Congress, are you OK with that? Do you agree with that?
DEAN: One of the things I think you're thinking about, and I'm concerned about and I'm mindful of, I understand we should not put out information about people who are not going to be charged, but that there just wasn't a body of evidence to charge them. There's one problem with that. The Department of Justice has already put out its policy that the president cannot be charged. So I think he should be the one exception to that warning and that I think exact barrier, appropriate barrier to those who are not going to be charged with any crime. By accepting the president and by saying the president is in a special-privilege place, we still need to see all the evidence as to the president.
KEILAR: Congresswoman, thank you so much. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean joining us.
DEAN: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: We really appreciate it.
Still ahead, we have much more on our breaking news. A second state is now charging attorney, Michael Avenatti, with some pretty serious crimes. And among the unanswered questions in this Mueller report summary, the
four-page summary from the attorney general, what about the Trump Tower meeting, Paul Manafort sharing polling data? We're going to go through some of these.
[13:46:38] KEILAR: The summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report concerns the mantra by President Trump, there was no occlusion. But a lot of questions are left unanswered by this four-page summary.
We have Mark Mazzetti and Shimon Prokupecz here to discuss with us.
So one of the lingering questions is, why so many people lied about contacts that they had with the Russians. What were they thinking?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: I think that's going to be an ongoing question, certainly, for all of us to try and get answers for. Why did they spend all of this time lying? What were they afraid of? In the end, I think what it was about is just really, yes, it was protecting themselves, people like Michael Flynn, people like George Papadopoulos, but also protecting the campaign, protecting the president. They knew the FBI was in the middle of this counterintelligence investigation, trying to figure out what the Russians were doing, and they were trying to hide it from investigators.
MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. And there's the actual criminal lies that have been charged and things like the misleading statements that were put out, for instance, the Trump Tower meeting. Initially, the Trump campaign said it was about adoptions or mostly about adoptions, it had nothing to do with dirt on Hillary Clinton. The stories kept changing on all of these things and sometimes they actually got caught.
KEILAR: There seemed to be a fear of being interested in some sort of behavior that could be tied to colluding, right?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, there certainly was. And that was a lot, in part, because there was so much attention. Everyone was doing stories about it, about possible collusion with the Russians, possible -- if they started admitting that they were communicating with the Russians or there were people that were offering dirt, it would have created problems for the campaign. I think that was one of the central things here, they wanted to hide it so they didn't hurt the campaign.
MAZZETTI: Right, and then the individual decisions that were made by people when they were talking to the FBI certainly seemed puzzling in hindsight, and maybe they didn't think they would actually get caught, they didn't think they would get charged, some lying to Congress. Mueller showed that was a road they were going to go down and now these people are having to pay.
KEILAR: You guys, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about. I want to ask about the open-ended cases involving Rick Gates and Roger Stone. Where are those? We'll be right back.
[13:53:15] KEILAR: Mark Mazzetti and Shimon Prokupecz are back with us to talk about the Mueller report.
And a lot of this, sort of, I guess, the spin off series of the Mueller report. There are, Mark, a lot of sort of open-ended cases at this point, Rick Gates, Roger Stone. What's going to happen there?
MAZZETTI: Rick Gates will get sentenced. And we heard recently that his cooperation is ongoing in various investigation, so we have to see what he's been providing. Roger Stone will go to trial, planned for later this year, for what he is being charged. There are these ongoing spin offs in Virginia, New York. Obviously, the Michael Cohen that was case spun out of the Mueller investigation. What we saw over time was actually Mueller got narrower and really very focused on these core issues, conspiracy with Russia and obstruction. And anything that came in their path, they farmed out. So Gates, Stone, we're still going to be hearing about them into the future.
KEILAR: Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, one of them, at a very critical time during the convention and prior, we found out he had actually shared polling data, internal polls, which is pretty -- is the information you hold close to the vest and he had shared that. Whatever came of that? Because there was a question of, was that used to target perhaps and influence voters in certain areas. It seems like maybe not. Do we know?
PROKUPECZ: We don't know. Here's the problem. The prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann, made this allegation in court in a sealed proceeding, then Manafort's attorneys accidentally put it in court documents and we were able to read it. But the problem is the way the prosecutor described it. This was at the heart of the Mueller investigation. And really, by that point, I would think that they knew they were not at a point they could argue there was collusion. Some of us have been questioning, well, why would he bring that up in those court proceedings and leave it hanging like this. It's a good question to ask. We don't know.
[13:55:16] KEILAR: We don't know.
OK, Shimon, thank you so much.
Mark, really appreciate it.
Lawyer Michael Avenatti has been arrested and charged in two separate cases. We have live pictures here. Prosecutors are going to be speaking any moment. We'll bring that to you as soon as it begins.