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Critics Question Bill Barr's Summary Of The Mueller Report; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) California Interviewed About The Mueller Report And Its Results; Jussie Smollett Case Recently Dropped; James Comey Weighing In On The Mueller Report; Trump Administration Calls For The Shutdown Of The Affordable Care Act. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 26, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I know, slightly so. Exonerate especially of an official body absolves someone from blame or a fault or wrongdoing especially after due consideration of the case.
And the second, it says, to absolve, clear, acquit, to clear, innocent, find innocent, pronounced not guilty, discharge or release from a duty or obligation. So, is that what we have in a lot of cases going on? I don't know. I mean, I seem to -- I gave you three.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: No, almost never. Prosecutors almost never use it. You get guilty or not guilty. We either made the case against you or we didn't make the case. Innocent means, you did nothing wrong, which is often a different standard and often a different reality than not being guilty.
People keep using O.J. an as example of that. You know, they didn't make the case against him, but does that mean he is innocent? And that's just because he's infamous. There are many, many cases like that. You didn't get them but it doesn't mean they didn't do anything wrong.
Here it takes on a different context, because criminality was never our standard here. Not yours and mine. You know, felony or it's fine is not a standard of government governance. What did they do that was wrong? Why did they lie about all of these things? What did the president know? I'm not saying to be obsessed about it. I'm saying, people should know and use it in their political judgment.
LEMON: And the American people have the right to know. We paid for it. We've gone through this for two years. We have been reporting on it again, we asked the questions. Folks delivered those questions to us. This is an unprecedented investigation going on. And so, you know, we did our jobs.
Here's the thing that I brought. You know, I always talk about consistency. Be consistent, if you're a Republican or Democrat, independent, whatever you are, some of the same voices who are saying, well, what do you need to know about the Mueller report, you know? Barr has already made his judgment and the president is completely exonerated.
But yet those same voices are calling for complete transparency when it comes to the case in Chicago against Jussie Smollett. If you want transparency in Chicago, you should want transparency in Washington, you should want transparency in California. You should want it in New York, you should want it everywhere. Am I wrong?
CUOMO: No, you're 100 percent right. Look, people are saying to us right now. This is why people don't trust the media. That's a bunch of baloney. Listen, whether it's the media or politics, I have congressmen on, they don't even -- they're not even aware that when they say, well, then, we need a special counsel for Hillary Clinton and what about what she did and what about the FISA application?
Well, hold on a second, you're saying to stop chasing down these questions about the president because you don't like them, but you want the same types of questions chased down about other people.
LEMON: But they have already been investigated.
LEMON: How many Benghazi investigations did we have, how many other investigations did we have into Hillary Clinton and what were the results? Listen, I'm just saying after a while, you have to have the same standard. If you're going to say if you're going to ask and have a number of investigations for Hillary Clinton or whoever it is, right? Then you should hold the same standard for Donald Trump.
CUOMO: Yes. And that's why people hate politics. That's why the standard of integrity is seen to be so low. That's why people demand so little from the men and women in public service. Because they're sick and tired of hearing this kind of stuff.
No matter which side it is, they have the completely opposite feelings than they did when it was the other side that they were going after.
CUOMO: And it happens again and again. And we're doing it now. You just can't let it fatigue the efforts. This is never been our obsession. I cover it all the time because the questions matter. Now I've got a set of conclusions. When I get the report, I'll have more. And I'll be able to make better judgments about what is worth the attention.
CUOMO: Because I don't know the information. This is a closed process.
LEMON: I've got to tell you, though, what, you know, what caught the nation's attention today, I do have to say, I think the Mueller report of course is important.
CUOMO: Sure. LEMON: Barr's letter is important, but I think this case in Chicago really caught people's attention. And there are a lot of questions. I mean --
CUOMO: Very odd.
LEMON: Innocent until proven guilty. Innocent until proven guilty. I'm not sure if that was the outcome in this case. If guilt or innocence was necessarily proven, even though prosecutors still believe guilt, but dropped the charges.
And, you know, not many people saying, involved in the case saying innocent, just saying, this was the best way to bring this case to a resolution.
LEMON: That's not saying innocent. Am I wrong?
CUOMO: Stinky, stinky, like a basement with a dead rat in it that you can't find.
LEMON: Chris, I'm going to move on and talk about all of this. Thank you so much. I enjoyed the program. I'll see you tomorrow.
CUOMO: Don't forget the big interview. We all have to watch it tonight. You've got Smollett's attorney.
LEMON: I have his attorney.
CUOMO: Big deal.
LEMON: She's coming out soon. She's standing by now, so everyone, stay with me. I have a lot to talk about. So, we're going to get to that. Chris, thank you.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
It seems like everybody's not being charged. But not being exonerated, either, these days. That's the truth. Everybody from the president from "Empire" actor, Jussie Smollett. That's the honest truth.
We're going to get to the stunning developments in that case in just a moment. His attorney is here, so stick around.
We've got to talk about the president, though. What the president said today about the Mueller report. The report that, let's remember, none of us have seen.
[22:04:59] We only have the attorney general's summary, with just a handful of quotes from Mueller to go by. But that didn't stop the president from saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said, no obstruction, no collusion. It could not have been better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: On the question of collusion. The attorney general quotes Robert Mueller saying "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
That's unquestionably good news for the White House and for the country. But let's remember, Mueller did not say there was no obstruction. In his letter, William Barr quotes Mueller stating, "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
And when he says, so the president was not charged, but not exonerated. So, when he says this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was proven very strongly, no collusion, no obstruction, no nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It's just not true. We're learning today that it's expected to take weeks for the attorney general to make a version of Mueller's report available to the public. So, let's be honest here. The longer Congress and the American people have to wait to learn what Robert Mueller actually said rather than a few quotes contained in the attorney general's letter, the more unanswered questions there are.
We worked today trying to get answers on some very basic questions about the Barr letter and the Mueller report. Questions like, how many pages in the Mueller report? The DOJ declined to comment on that. How many DOJ officials and lawyers are going through the report to provide a full and accurate copy to Congress? And how many hours per day are they spending on that effort?
A DOJ official said they don't know specifically how many people are working on it or how many hours a day are being spent. But the report is being kept to a small group including William Barr, Rod Rosenstein, and a former member of Robert Mueller's team.
Do they intend to meet the April 2nd deadline for the release, and the full report requested by the House committee chairs? A Justice Department official confirmed today, it is expected to take weeks, not months, for the report to be ready, but would not say whether the department can meet that April 2nd deadline. And also, would not say whether they would be asking for extra time. When the report is released, will it include the full report with
redactions of any sensitive tor or grand jury information or will only selected portions be released? A DOJ official confirmed they are scrubbing for material on ongoing investigations, on grand jury information and national security information.
But we don't know whether we'll get a blackout report or whether the report might be released in pieces. And that's one of the biggest questions. What does Robert Mueller think about Barr's letter? Does he think it actually reflects his work? Well, we don't know that.
But CNN reports that Mueller was not consulted by Attorney General Barr on the letter, the letter about Mueller's report. The letter that is all we know about a two-year investigation. A DOJ official telling us it was the product of the attorney general and deputy attorney general.
So, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, even though the Barr letter was released more than 48 hours ago. An administration official says the White House has not yet seen the full report. But I want you to just listen to what the president's attorney general, Rudy Giuliani, told Wolf Blitzer tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I have a pretty good idea of the rest of what they have. And what you're going to find out with obstruction is, this is a matter of interpretation. There's not some new fact, some new startling fact about it -- about you know all the facts about obstruction. You can interpret them several different ways, which is why it was a difficult question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, he says, he has a pretty good idea of the rest of what they have. So, you have to wonder how, since none of us has seen the report. And what may be the biggest unanswered question tonight is this.
Do they or do they not believe that the American people should see Mueller's report? A new Quinnipiac poll it finds 84 percent say the report should be released to the American public. We'll see what happens.
And remember when I said that it seems like everyone's not being charged, but not being exonerated these days? Not just the president. It's also Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor. A case that's been full of shocking turns, took another one today when all the charges against Smollett, who had been accused of staging a hate crime against himself, all the charges were dropped.
[22:10:06] But the first assistant state's attorney, assistant state's attorney told "The New York Times," quote, "we didn't exonerate him," and went on to tell CNN affiliate WBBM this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Mr. Smollett did what he was charged
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It was just last month that police alleged that Smollett hired two acquaintances to attack him on the street, faking a hate crime and allegedly filing a false police report about it.
All, they said, in an effort to promote his career. That's what they say. The prosecutors in the case said that he understood that people would question dropping the charges, but that thousands of cases have similar resolutions. That didn't exactly sit well with the Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: This is without a doubt a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you're in a position of influence and power, you'll get treated one way. Other people will be treated another way. There is no accountability in the system. It is wrong, full stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Just listen to police superintendent, Eddie Johnston.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: This Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax, period. If he wanted to clear his name, the way to do that was in a court of law so that everyone could see the evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But, in the face of all the outrage from the mayor and police superintendent, Jussie Smollett said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I've been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I was accused of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Like I said, not charged, but not exonerated. You heard the Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel. He called the dismissal of charges against Jussie Smollett a "whitewash of justice." That's a quote, that's his words. I'm going to ask Jussie's attorney what she thinks of that, next.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: So, lots of questions tonight after Chicago prosecutors dropped all the charges against Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a hate crime against himself and falsely reporting it to the police.
So, I want to talk about this case now, with Patricia Brown Holmes, one of Smollett's attorneys. You saw her today during the proceedings. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. We know that you're very busy.
PATRICIA BROWN HOLMES, JUSSIE SMOLLETT'S LAWYER: Thank you. I appreciate being here.
LEMON: So, we have a lot of questions. So, if you will allow me -- again, this is not an interrogation, but people are asking me so many questions today, and only you and Jussie can answer them. So, let me just tell you, the prosecutor, first assistant state's attorney Joseph Magats does not believe Jussie is innocent. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH MAGATS, FIRST ASSISTANT STATE'S ATTORNEY: This was not an exoneration, to say that he was exonerated by us or anyone else is not true. I call it an alternative disposition in that he agreed to do community service, he agreed to forfeit his bail to -- the remainder of his bond to the city of Chicago, and in return for him doing those things, we agreed to dismiss the indictment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, he says, Ms. Holmes, this is not an exoneration. So, what did you tell the state or what did you work out with the state to get it to drop a case that seemed that it was an airtight case?
HOLMES: Well, let's first go back. It seemed like it was an airtight case. Why did it seem like that? Because from the beginning, inappropriately, individuals were talking to news media, were leaking information that was incomplete and not accurate and that when taken in the totality of circumstances, was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The public then took that information, treated it as if it were true, and then moved from there. You had, I think it was the police chief who said, why doesn't he want his day in court, so that he can exonerate himself. That's not our system.
Our system is, you are innocent. In fact, there is a jury instruction. That jury instruction is read to every criminal jury. And it says, you are innocent until proven guilty. And that the jury is to take the presumption of innocence, even into their deliberations. And they are only to find someone guilty once they have deliberated.
HOLMES: So, there is no way --
HOLMES: So, there's just no way that anyone could think he's guilty --
HOLMES: -- without a trial.
LEMON: Well the people who dropped the charges are saying, I mean, am I wrong, are saying he's guilty. Explicitly today, I did not hear you say that he was not guilty. You said this is the best way to bring -- I'm paraphrasing it.
HOLMES: He's not guilty.
LEMON: OK. So, he's not guilty. So, you're saying that now. But this is --
HOLMES: Nobody has found him guilty. He is not guilty. He is innocent.
LEMON: OK. All right.
HOLMES: You have a prosecutor who said he thinks that he's guilty. Now, how that is proper, I don't know because in our judicial system, the prosecutor's view and opinion means nothing. It is the jury's view and opinion that matters.
LEMON: But didn't the grand jury --
HOLMES: Or any case.
LEMON: But didn't the grand jury -- weren't they the ones that brought the 16 charges? The grand jury?
HOLMES: A grand jury -- well, a grand jury did not find him guilty. A grand jury found that there was probable cause. All probable cause is, is the state, who was the only one in the room, presented them with specific information.
HOLMES: We don't know if it was a complete picture, you know.
LEMON: I understand. I get where you're going with it. I get where you're going with it. HOLMES: Yes.
LEMON: But this is what I want to say, because it's unprecedented, you have the police chief, you have the mayor, and then you have the, again, the office who was prosecuting him saying, and this is what, again, this is from what the Associated Press reports.
A prosecutor says a stunning decision to drop the charges against Jussie Smollett does not mean they no longer believe he staged a racial and homophobic attack against him in January.
The first assistant state's attorney suggests to reporters that he believes that Jussie Smollett filed a false police report. He says prosecutors stand behind the investigation and the facts and added that this was not an exoneration. A minimum requirement of dropping of charges is typically that a defendant respects some responsibility and offer an apology.
[22:20:04] But speaking after prosecutors told a judge they were dropping all the charges, Smollett conceded nothing and did not apologize. He insisted he had been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.
A minimum requirement for dropping of charges typically that a defendant accepts some responsibility and offer an apology. So, what is this some responsibility that he accepted in exchange for dropping of the charges?
HOLMES: Jussie Smollett did not speak once in court today. The prosecutor made a motion. Her motion was to dismiss the case, to nolle prosequi the case, to forfeit the bond.
I made a motion to seal the matter, so that the records would be sealed, because now the case is dismissed. And we walked out of the courtroom. He didn't agree to anything, he didn't plead to anything, he didn't, you know, offer up any information. He never spoke once.
LEMON: OK. So clearly, here, as you say, officials, they still believe that Jussie is guilty, got away with a colossal stunt, that's what they're saying, one that cost Chicago taxpayers a small fortune. Listen to Rahm Emanuel and then the mayor and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: This is a whitewash of justice. A grand jury could not have been clearer. To then say, not only is the cost of $10,000 doesn't come cost financially, but all the other repercussions of this decision is made, to me, where is the accountability in the system?
You cannot have, because of a person's position, one set of rules apply to them. And another set of rules apply to everybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I've got to tell you, after, you know, you spoke and they dropped the charges, I was stunned to hear that press conference and to hear the police superintendent and the mayor and their tone there. I mean, they were livid. Your client had to forfeit his $10,000 bond, did a couple of days of community service. So why is the mayor wrong? And why would he forfeit a bond for --
HOLMES: So, you're asking two questions.
HOLMES: The first question is, why are they livid? I don't know why they're livid. I can only imagine that for some reason that is unbeknownst to me, they were not told about what was going to happen in court today.
Jussie doesn't control that. I don't control that. I have no idea why they didn't know or were not consulted. I don't even know if it would have been the process to consult them and give them information.
A state attorney has sole discretion in whether to bring charges or to drop charges. In this particular case, they were convinced to drop the charges. That was the right and just thing to do.
LEMON: OK, and then so what about forfeiting the bond, Ms. Holmes?
HOLMES: Right, so, here's the issue. He has a $10,000 bond up on a $100,000 matter, 10 percent. Do you, on principle -- because he wanted his money back, don't make any mistake about that, he wanted his money back. But do you make a principle out of that over the next two years, drag his name in the mud, have him have to pay lawyers, you know, select a jury, go through a jury trial, have the state's case fall apart, like it was falling apart, just so he can get $10,000 back? On my life --
LEMON: So why was the case falling apart in your estimation. You said the case was falling apart, why was it?
HOLMES: Right, so you had information. I mean, you only have to watch the social media, unfortunately, and watch television, you had folks talking about the matter and saying inconsistent things.
So when you have one person who talks on two or three different television shows and says two or three different things on each show, that becomes evident, in my case. I would have called those individuals to testify. When you have what happened here, the police chief is on television before he's even charged.
LEMON: So were they giving false information, you're saying?
HOLMES: Right or giving explanations that don't match up. So, if you get three explanations for one thing --
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: If you can be -- like social media is -- you know how social media is, but if you can just be specific about exactly who you're talking about and what were those false claims or what were the inconsistencies?
HOLMES: Well, so let's talk about the $3,500 check. You had the police chief saying one thing, then you had the lawyers say something different, the lawyer for the Osundairo brothers. She said something one time, then she said something another time.
[22:24:54] So every time she makes a comment about that check, that becomes evidence in our case, that it's inconsistent. Jussie always maintained that that $3,500 check was for his workouts and for nutrition. Those Osundairo brothers also supported that. They said the same thing.
But then you had their lawyers say something one time, then correct it, then adjust it and nuance it even more.
LEMON: OK. So --
HOLMES: And you have the police chief say something even different.
LEMON: OK, so, then, the brothers -- so did the brothers recant what they said, or you don't think they were consistent? Because I understand that they think that they were -- they said they've been consistent the entire time. No? So, did they recant?
HOLMES: Well, the evidence that was presented to me was that they supported what Jussie said,that they said that the $3,500 was for the workouts and nutrition.
LEMON: Did someone potentially, you know, very important or influential do a favor, make a call on Jussie's behalf, because you know someone, you know, who is connected with the former first lady and the chief of staff or what have you, made a call and then the case was dropped and there was some sort of political influence here, Ms. Holmes?
HOLMES: No, there was no political influence in this case. There were a team of lawyers. I was one of the members of that team. I did my job on my end of this matter. They did their jobs. We all collectively worked on this case and researched every single detail and every single fact.
We communicated with the state's attorneys. And we convinced them that the right thing to do in this case was to dismiss the charges. No one political called that I know of. I don't think anyone political reached out to anyone. I don't think they would have allowed anyone political to reach out to them.
I think this is a situation where the mayor and the police chief are upset because they didn't communicate or have communications with the state's attorney. That's not our issue.
LEMON: Then why do this in secrecy, then? Why seal it? Why not led the information come out so that people can see Jussie's innocence and whoever's -- whoever else is guilty?
HOLMES: Well, first of all, the court file is just a court file. It contains information that the state puts in that court file. Because there was no trial in this case, and because Jussie has no obligation to prove his innocence, he doesn't have information in that court file.
So why should that court file be out there for the public when the case has been dismissed? I wouldn't be doing my job if I allowed that to -- if I didn't make that motion. I would not be doing my job.
HOLMES: Once that case is dismissed, any defendant who has charges dismissed against them or is found not guilty has the right to make a motion to seal the record and they have a right to make a motion to expunge their criminal history.
In this case, the judge granted the motion to seal the records and I will be making a motion to expunge his criminal history, because that is what any individual would do in this circumstance.
LEMON: Can --
HOLMES: It has nothing to do with trying to hide anything.
LEMON: Do you have any information on possible federal charges. Because you know they're saying, this letter that was sent to the Empire set, that would be mail fraud and there has been talk that it was, they believe that the letter was sent, Jussie sent it to himself and when it didn't get enough attention -- you know what I'm saying, then this whole alleged hoax was created.
HOLMES: Right, another situation where information is just floating around and people are trying to make it sound like what they want to make it sound like. But one thing that I know is that --
LEMON: So, you don't think there will be federal charges in this case?
HOLMES: I have no idea. The one thing that I know as a federal prosecutor is that they don't talk about cases that are ongoing. They don't opine about information that comes to them. They act on facts, once they have those facts, and once they know that, they can move forward.
And in this case the only thing I do know is that the last communication we had, the U.S. attorney was treating Jussie as a witness.
LEMON: OK. So, if officials are saying that this claim of a hate crime is a hoax and it's not the case, then what happened? Whose lying? And if someone it would seem like the brothers are lying? And do you expect charges against them? Because no charges have been filed against the brothers. Who's lying then?
HOLMES: I'm not the prosecutor in the case. I have no idea what they're doing. As in any criminal matter, people operate behind the scenes. That's how it should be. All I do know is that Jussie was attacked that night, that it was someone else who called the police, and that things went downhill from there.
[22:30:01] I have no idea why or what the motive would be behind a situation like this. We don't know. There's just no -- it doesn't make sense that Jussie has to be the one to come up with an answer to why someone attacked him.
LEMON: You've seen everything on social media. You said it was a rush to judgment. What do you say on your client's behalf to that, people who said -- who put out what you believe is false information about him?
HOLMES: I say don't rush to judgment, innocent until proven guilty. I say support him, support others. I say let's keep our judicial system and the tenants of our judicial system, and not fall to a public forum for trials. That is inappropriate. It's not constitutional. It's not fair, and it's unjust. Jussie deserves justice. Today's result was fair and just. And I say let him move on with his life.
LEMON: Patricia Brown Holmes, thank you so much for your time and for answering all of my questions. I appreciate it.
HOLMES: Thank you. I appreciate being able to be here. Thank you.
LEMON: Absolutely. We've got much more on the charges against Jussie Smollett being dropped today. There's a lot of controversy over the decision. Do people believe him even after the interview? The attorney there explaining, is all of that warranted?
LEMON: We're back now. All charges dropped today against Jussie Smollett. Yet, when the prosecutor was asked if he believes the Empire actor is innocent, he gave a one word answer, and that's no. So let's discuss now with Joey Jackson, Midwin Charles, and Charles Ramsey, by the way. The police chief in a couple of different places, so Joey, you say that what occurred today with Jussie Smollett is virtually unprecedented. What happened?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what happened was is that you had literally the police chief and you had the mayor completely railing against what occurred. Now, it's not unusual for there to be a disagreement between what ultimately happens or how there's a disposition. This was beyond a disagreement. And what the feeling was from the police's perspective was that the community was done a disservice.
[22:34:55] And here's what my thing is at the end of the day. If you want to call this an alternative prosecution, then call it that. The prosecution felt that this was a just and proper disposition. And perhaps it was. I think they were running too hard against him. You know, should he swallow a felony, as an African-American, who's starting out, you know, who's doing great work for the community, who has a long background and a long history of being liked and well respected.
But if that's going to be the disposition, just be transparent and say it. Don't disguise it and say, well, you know, he may not be innocent. He could be innocent. So ultimately, I think while the disposition, should he have swallowed a felony? No, but I think that they were not transparent with the American people.
LEMON: Did you think the attorney was convincing?
JACKSON: I think the attorney did what she did. Look, she's a very well-respected attorney, and what is she going to do? She's there to represent her client. She's there to fight for her client, and that's what she did on your program. But ultimately, I just think that you have to be fair. You have to be honest. And I think there was little honesty that was done today.
LEMON: OK. I have got to ask you, Chief Ramsey. Because you were -- the mayor was indignant, the police chief indignant. You were -- I think you were, as well, when I watched you earlier. Why is law enforcement so upset about this?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean first of all, I am not upset with the defense counsel. She did what she is paid to do. But the prosecutor in this case, I mean it makes absolutely no sense. In one sense, you're saying that I believe he lied about the entire thing. I believe the police did a thorough investigation. I believe the charges were appropriate. But we're going to drop it.
And it's a $10,000 thousand fine essentially as a result of it. It just makes absolutely no sense. To me, it stings. And I just don't like the way it was done. Not even a phone call to the superintendent? Hey, superintendent, I am about to drop a bomb. I apologize for the collateral damage. I mean do something.
I mean this was a very high-profile case. It makes absolutely no sense to me to be handled that way.
LEMON: You've been concerned about police tactics.
MIDWIN CHARLES, CONTRIBUTOR, ESSENCE MAGAZINE: I have. I have. And I have said that before on your show. I think that what I found most interesting about all of this is the Chicago Police Department, unfortunately, with no disrespect, has not been the shining example of credibility when it comes to telling the truth. There are various cases that they have dealt with where they have been caught lying. And so I think that that's something that was disturbing about this matter from the very beginning.
There were a lot of leaks throughout the entire process. But does that mean that what the prosecutor did here is a little bit odd, to say the least, and perhaps bizarre? Yes, it is. But also I think one of the reasons why Joey is concerned about transparency. I think the reason why they're not being transparent is because it's obvious that they perhaps overcharged this case.
And so they are trying to walk it back and they're trying to do it in the best way possible to save face.
LEMON: You say overcharge, but then you think that there's political influence.
JACKSON: I think there had to be. Look, at the end of the day, it's nice to know people. And let's be clear about it. The prosecution has come out and said that in effect, he did what they said he did. And it's not unusual for a prosecutor in the interest of justice to believe that they do the right thing at the end of the day. But why go through the charade?
If you have a prosecutor presenting it to the grand jury, getting 16 counts on an indictment, suggesting he lied about every single thing to the police and then reiterating the lie to the detective --
CHARLES: And having a press conference to announce those charges.
JACKSON: Only to then dismiss the case in a shroud of secrecy. We don't know about the community service until after the fact the initial statement didn't even reference the community service. If you're going to do it this way, just be fair. Just be honest. Just be decent and say it's a deferred prosecution. This is the best --
LEMON: At the same time, he's out maintaining his innocent as he has all along, innocent until proven guilty. But do you think the state just couldn't prove?
RAMSEY: No. I don't think that's the case. I think there's something else behind the scenes. And as far as Chicago Police Department goes, listen, they've had their issues. There's no question about that. But it doesn't mean that every case they handle now is a lie. It doesn't mean that.
CHARLES: I am not saying that. I am not saying that.
RAMSEY: But that is what you said.
CHARLES: No it is not what I am saying. It is not what I am saying.
RAMSEY: I mean no disrespect.
CHARLES: No, it's not what I am saying. What I am saying is there is irony here and there's a backdrop with respect to the way that they handled this case. From the very beginning, there was information leaked from inside the police department -- (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: Do they know it was inside?
CHARLES: Yes. Unnamed sources from the Chicago Police Department discrediting his claim, and that is not how it's done. Victims of crime walk into police departments all the time. It is the police department's job to investigate those allegations. The idea that a police department would leak information that would counter, that would discredit a victim is not professional.
RAMSEY: Leaks come from every place. I mean that's just a fact. Mr. Smollett went on national TV to tell his story.
CHARLES: Yes. And that's not a leak.
RAMSEY: He's the only person that was talking about this thing. I am not here to try to just defend the department. What I am telling you, what happened today was wrong.
CHARLES: I agree with you. It's bizarre.
RAMSEY: Because I don't want to be totally negative. At least we know now how much a get out of jail free card cost in Cook County, because that's exactly what happened today.
[22:39:59] LEMON: I got to go.
JACKSON: Look, at the end of the day, I think that the disposition of holding him accountable for a felony, under the light of circumstances for what he did, perhaps was an overreach. But to resolve it in this particular way, to not be transparent with everyone else, I have been practicing as a defense attorney for 20 years. I've never seen a case just disappear like this.
I think there was some influence there that we were going to find out about that we don't know about now.
LEMON: Fascinating conversation and more to come, of course, in the coming days. We'll be right back. Thank you, all.
LEMON: Former FBI Director James Comey weighing in on the Mueller report tonight. And I want to bring in now Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you for joining us. I just want to get your response to this report that NBC News has. The former FBI Director that James Comey told an audience in Charlotte, he says I have great faith in Bob Mueller.
[22:44:57] But I just can't tell from the letter why didn't he decide these questions when the entire rationale for his Special Counsel is to make sure the politicals aren't making the key charging decisions. Does the former director have a point?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, yes. He's got a big point, Don. And good evening. And the point is this. The Special Counsel was brought into the case because we believed and the Department of Justice believed that you should take away this type of decision- making authority from politically-conflicted officials, like the president's appointed attorney general.
Especially an attorney general who submitted an unsolicited letter to the Department of Justice about the credibility, what he believed was undermining the credibility of the Mueller investigation. And so it's a very fair point. I will just say this. What concerns me is that the Barr opinion letter that was issued chronicles a two-year investigation where there were 500 search warrants, 2,800 subpoenas, 37 indictments, 6 guilty pleas.
And he only quoted 84 words from Bob Mueller. And actually, his letter was about 15 pages shorter than the letter that he sent to the DOJ to ask for the job.
LEMON: Interesting. OK, so I am looking now because there's another quote that I want to read here. He spoke about the attorney general's decision against obstruction of justice, all right? And he said this. He said the notion that obstruction cases are somehow undermined -- excuse me, by the absence of those undetermined -- undermined by the absence of proof of any underlying crime.
That is not my experience in 40 years of doing this, nor is it the Department of Justice's tradition. Obstruction crimes matter without regard to what you prove about the underlying crime. What do think of that view? Do you share that view?
SWALWELL: I do share that view. And the reason is this. We do not reward you in America if you bury the evidence deep enough that investigators can't find it. If we find you with a shovel in your hand and dirt on your boots, we're going to conclude that you were burying something really, really important. So if you lie to investigators, if you tamper with witnesses, if you make it harder for them to get to the truth, then there's a penalty for that.
And other witnesses in this investigation have already paid the price for that penalty. And so I don't agree with that at all. It seemed like Barr went through a lot of gymnastics to get to that conclusion. That's why I think the most important thing we can do now is see the full Mueller report, not the Barr opinion.
LEMON: Do you think we'll ever see the full report and get the full picture?
SWALWELL: Yes, Don. You're going to see it. The president is outnumbered. The American people, when they went to the polls just back in November, they gave us the power to see that report. We have the subpoena power in Congress. We've asked to see it by April 2, which is next week, or we will subpoena for the report. And we have a judiciary that will back us up because of the precedent from the Nixon Watergate litigation.
LEMON: Congressman, as always, thank you for time.
SWALWELL: Of course, thanks, Don.
LEMON: The president says the GOP is going to be the party of healthcare. Then why is his Justice Department saying the Affordable Care Act should be struck down? I'm going to ask Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper that, next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The Trump administration is telling a federal court that the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down. The administration said last year that protections for people with preexisting conditions could not be defended. But now they want the entire law scrapped, which would leave some 20 million Americans uninsured. Here's what the president said this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of healthcare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now what? What happens now? Let's discuss with former Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, a Democratic candidate for president. Thanks so much for joining us, Mr. Hickenlooper. Listen. If the ACA is struck down, about 20 million people would be left uninsured. As a former governor, now a presidential candidate, talk to me about the impact that this would have on people and on states.
JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, when you start -- especially people -- I mean this goes beyond just turning back the Medicaid expansions and the overall coverage issues. But when you start taking healthcare away from people who have preexisting conditions, it upsets -- I mean whole family structures. We saw a tremendous decline in bankruptcies after the Affordable Care Act really got implemented.
This is going to put all that anxiety and financial pressure on families that have preexisting medical conditions. And then look at the 20 million people that are, you know, suddenly going to be without healthcare. Is anybody thinking about that does to their lives?
LEMON: You know, the president has said again and again that he wanted to protect preexisting conditions. Is this yet another lie from the president?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, let's -- you know, I mean it's like going to a fancy golf course. I'd say it is par for the course. You know, it is something we've come to expect, that he will say one thing and then when the circumstances suit he'll switch.
LEMON: So I have heard others say that this is a gift possibly to Democrats. Is this a winning issue for Democrats?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think it's absolutely a winning issue for Democrats. And I think you're going to see Republicans backing away from this as quickly as they can. But that doesn't in any way minimize what this does to people, to working people that are trying to, you know navigate generally difficult lives, right?
You saw a statistic a few weeks ago that 75 or 80 percent of American families are having a hard time balancing their household budgets at the end of every month. Why heap more trouble on people that are already working so hard?
[22:55:05] LEMON: I want to switch gears now. I want to talk about the Green New Deal. It stalled in the Senate today. No one voted for it. You have, you know, a new op-ed criticizing this (Inaudible) plan to fight climate change. Tell us why you're not in favor of it?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, I am in favor of the urgency that is in the Green New Deal. I mean I look at climate change as one of the defining issues of our time. But there's so much more in the Green New Deal than just climate change. And some of things like, you know, the mandatory full employment by the federal government would have huge costs, and almost certainly would mean that the Green New Deal would end up in -- get tied up in Congress and probably end up in the courts.
And that's a distraction we don't have time for, right? I mean I think what we've been working for in Colorado is to get the oil and gas industry and the environmental community to eliminate methane emissions. And we've done that, right? And we're out closing a couple of coal plants and replacing it with wind, solar, and batteries, and actually having the monthly utility bills go down. That's the kind of stuff we've got to be doing.
LEMON: John Hickenlooper, thank you.
HICKENLOOPER: You bet. Thank you.
LEMON: Should we be taking the attorney general's letter on the Mueller report at face value, or could there be a lot more that he's not telling us?