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Release of Mueller Report Expected By Mid-April; Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) Illinois; Trump Threatens to Close Border. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 29, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Human rights groups have called the new set of laws draconian, and they're particularly concerning for Brunei's non-Muslim population, who make up 30 percent of the country.

But it's also worrying for the region at large. Brunei's neighbors, Indonesia, Malaysia, are considered moderate Muslim countries. But there's also been a rise in extremism.

The Philippines recently had to fight an ISIS insurgency. For its part, the Brunei government has called on the international community to respect its new laws. But activists say this will take the country back to the Dark Ages.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me on this Friday afternoon.

President Trump is once again threatening to close the U.S. border with Mexico, but this time he is adding a deadline and to his threat. The president says he will act by next week if Mexico does not step up.

Speaking just recently, just two hours ago in Florida, he told reporters that he's ready to close the border completely, including to all trade with Mexico, if the country does not immediately stop all immigration coming into the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have the strongest immigration laws anywhere in the world. And we have the weakest, the most pathetic laws. Number one, Congress has to act. And, number two, Mexico, they make so much money from the United States and so many other things, so many other assets.

They have to grab it and they have to stop it. And if they don't stop them, we're closing the border. They will close it. And we will -- we will keep it closed for a long time. I'm not playing games. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Earlier this week, the country's top border security official warned that the country's immigration system has reached a -- quote, unquote -- "breaking point."

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is with me now.

And so we have heard these the threats before from the president. He says he's not playing games. Talk to me about the significance of the timing of this particular threat.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the timing is what's interesting here, because you're right. The president has made this threat before and he's never followed through on it, particularly back during the government shutdown.

But what seems that actually may be imminent here is that the president is not only putting a deadline on this, but also what other administration officials have been saying. We know that there were 76,000 border crossings in February, which was an 11-year high and rankled some administration officials, because they felt they had put off this idea that their administration policies regarding immigration weren't working.

And then just a few days ago, we heard from the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, who essentially said that immigration enforcement was at a breaking point. He said there'd been this crush of asylum-seeking families coming up from the border. And that was essentially what was leading them to that.

But then you have to look at what the president said last night when he was in front of a crowd in Michigan, one of his first rallies since the Russia investigation ended. And the president essentially said that he thinks that some people who are looking for asylum are faking it.

And then he had to say this about the caravans:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They set up these caravans. In many cases, they put their worst people in the caravan . They're not going to put their best in. They get rid of their problems. And they march up here. And they're coming into the country. We're not letting them in our country.

Our Border Patrol, the job they have done is incredible. The job that ICE is doing is incredible. And we have run out of space. We can't hold people anymore, and Mexico can stop it so easily.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So that comment there at the end seems to be the president touching into that frustration that you have heard from those immigration enforcement officials in recent days. And that seems to be why -- a big reason why the president has renewed

his threat to close that border. Whether or not, Brooke, he follows through on it this time, that's something we're going to have to wait to see.

BALDWIN: We wait for that. Let me ask you while I have you about another Trump appointee, Linda McMahon. We have learned she's stepping down from the Small Business Administration, but she's not exactly leaving the Trump orbit, Kaitlan. Where is she going?

COLLINS: No one ever leaves the Trump orbit, Brooke. I don't know if you have noticed that with the past departures.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: But Linda McMahon especially, she's someone that the president greatly admires. He greatly likes each other -- likes her. They have known each other since the 1980s.

And we are now being told by sources that she's expected to step down from her post, a position she's held as the small business administrator for two-and-a-half years, this afternoon -- as early as this afternoon, but certainly in the coming days.

The president seem to hint at that earlier today, saying that there would be a news conference down in Mar-a-Lago talking about her departure, but we do know where she's going. She's going to America First Action, which is the president's outside political group, and she's expected to play a big role in fund-raising there.

That was a role that she had before she entered the administration. She's a big donor, a big fund-raiser, and that's what our sources are telling us they expect her to keep doing, but certainly, Brooke, you can expect her to stay in the president's circle.

[15:05:00]

BALDWIN: Got it. Kaitlan, thank you at the White House for us this afternoon.

The Mueller report, one week later, remains under wraps. The only person who knows, who's seen the full 300-page document, is the attorney general, Bill Barr, not Congress, not the public, and not even the White House, mind you.

Despite all of that, President Trump insists on saying things like this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead, total exoneration, complete vindication.

The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

Robert Mueller was a god to the Democrats, and they don't like him so much right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's talk to one of those Democrats.

Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois is with me. He is a member of the House Oversight and House Intelligence Committee.

So, Congressman, a pleasure to have you in person. Welcome to CNN.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Yes. Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So let me ask you about what we just heard from the president there.

And just reminding everyone, Barr's letter on the Mueller report is merely a summary, right?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Right.

BALDWIN: That is it.

Secondly, Barr's summary quotes Mueller this way: "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Right.

BALDWIN: Nevertheless, how convincing, how effective do you think this messaging is from the president, from Republicans to convince the American people that the four pages from Barr and the 300 pages from Mueller are one and the same?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't think it's very convincing...

BALDWIN: You don't?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: ... to the American body public, the entire population.

BALDWIN: They're trying.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: But, certainly, to his base, they might be listening to him.

But it is quite shocking that he would say that he's completely exonerated, totally vindicated. And then right next to that, you show up a paragraph from the summary saying that basically Mueller says he's not exonerated.

All that being said, I think that's unfortunately the new normal in Washington right now.

BALDWIN: What do you say to your colleagues across the aisle who do not correct the president's mistruths?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it's time for them to speak up. I have been saying this for two-and-a-half years.

Our national security depends on it. I'm on the House Intelligence Committee. I think you saw the theatrics yesterday with regard to Adam Schiff. And the whole hearing was focused on the Russian threat to the United States. How do we prevent it from happening again?

Unfortunately, the Russians are going to come at us again in 2020.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to that...

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes.

BALDWIN: ... and those comments, the defense from your committee chairman, but, first, just a couple of newsier questions, being, A, do you think that Bob Mueller, the special counsel, should testify in front of your committee, either before closed doors or publicly?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Quite possibly, yes.

I think Chairman Schiff has said that he believes it's appropriate to have Bob Mueller before us, because, at the end of the day, this -- we don't want the Barr report. We want the Mueller report. And the Mueller report is 300-plus pages, and the Barr summary doesn't even amount to a CliffsNotes version. It's like four pages.

BALDWIN: So you believe that that will happen?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I hope so. I think it would happen voluntarily, if it does.

BALDWIN: OK.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And having him in will answer a lot of questions.

BALDWIN: Do you think you will get a counterintel briefing to get details on the Mueller investigation?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'm hoping. I'm hoping, yes.

And thank you for bringing that up. I think the counterintel, counterintelligence, aspect of this is something that hasn't been covered as much.

BALDWIN: Explain what that is.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, counterintelligence goes to the issue of, what did the Russians do to potentially manipulate or take advantage of information that they have on American officials that, if revealed, would be very embarrassing to those people?

So what they do is, they use that information as a basis for leverage or manipulation or exploitation. And that's something that we have to uncover, even if the ties themselves are not criminal in nature.

BALDWIN: So, you're hoping that will happen?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: We have to.

And that one is very important, because that's how the Russians operate. Yesterday, at the hearing, what we learned is that this is the M.O. for the Russians throughout the world. They basically collect this kompromat, this compromising information on numerous officials throughout the world.

And then they use that as a basis for manipulating their public policy and other public actions.

BALDWIN: Broadly, more, just on the investigation, we heard Ty Cobb, a former White House counsel, saying recently that -- today, attacks on Mueller by the president and his allies -- quote -- "drove up the negatives" on the special counsel specifically and may have been beneficial to the president.

And Ty Cobb went as far as saying that he regrets that. Do you agree?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I agree that, if you did it, they should be regretful.

I mean, Bob Mueller is somebody that is held in high regard. And attacking the prosecutors, attacking the investigators has been kind of the president's -- the Trump administration's M.O.

But I'm very hopeful that people can see through it and go to the truth. But the truth lies in the Mueller report. And we have to have the Mueller report ASAP.

[15:10:07]

The fact that they're dragging their heels begs the question, why? What's in there that they don't want us to see?

BALDWIN: Lastly, you alluded to Chairman Schiff and the tense moments yesterday in committee.

In case you have missed it, roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: My colleagues may think it's OK that the Russians offered dirt on a Democratic candidate for president.

But I don't think it's OK. I think it's immoral. I think it's unethical. I think it's unpatriotic. And, yes, I think it's corrupt and evidence of collusion.

And the day we do think that's OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We saw you just sitting right in front of him as he spoke those words.

I was talking to our CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero yesterday, who was remarking about what people thought about the committee under Devin Nunes, but she made the point, it looks like your committee is imploding.

Is your committee imploding?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I hope not.

I think that what Adam said yesterday, what Chairman Schiff said yesterday is so important, which is, you have to be a truth-teller at this time. When the other side wants to deny that there were any connections or ties that pointed to evidence of collusion, Mr. Schiff is basically saying, no, there is evidence of collusion, even at the same time we're going to respect Bob Mueller's conclusions about whether there was criminal conspiracy, which is a different issue.

But the fact that there are these ties, there are these meetings goes to this whole issue of counterintelligence that we have to uncover. I'm hoping, down the road, we can join hands and do this in a bipartisan way, but at the present, we Democrats are going to fulfill our duty nonetheless.

BALDWIN: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, a pleasure.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We got to get that report.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes. Yes, ma'am.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Speaking of the Mueller report, we will have some breaking news on that Mueller report up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:16:30]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Here's the breaking news. We have just learned the Department of Justice expects to release the nearly 400-page-long Mueller report by mid-April, if not sooner.

CNN's Laura Jarrett is with me now with this letter here from the A.G., Bill Barr.

And, so, mid-April.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke, we have got a date.

It's been only a week since the special counsel wrapped up his probe. We remember last Friday, as we were all anxiously awaiting to find out the news of whether it was actually done. And we now learn that both Congress and the public will see a redacted version of that report that the special counsel's team and a small team of Justice Department lawyers over here are working on, trying to redact for grand jury material, as we have reported, as well as ongoing investigations.

The attorney general, Bill Barr, saying in this letter, April, if not sooner, and he also adds here, Brooke, I want to point out, that the president obviously has the right to exert executive privilege. And there have been questions about whether the White House would see it.

We reported that he was going to actually defer to Bill Barr on this. He said that publicly. And the attorney general says that the president has publicly stated he intends to defer to me. And, accordingly, there are no plans, no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.

So that should certainly speed things up here. As you mentioned, the report is nearly 400 pages' long. Now, that doesn't include appendances and the like. Now, that's something we had -- again, had reported previously, but Bill Barr confirming here that his letter that went out last week was really just supposed to be the principal conclusions.

He takes care here to point out it was not supposed to be some exhaustive review of everything the special counsel found. He says he couldn't possibly have done that. It was a summary of its principal conclusions, that is, its bottom line.

And he goes on to say, Brooke, interestingly, here, "Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own." That's something of course, we have heard a lot for the past couple of days, everyone clamoring to get their hands on it, to read it themselves.

And, finally, I should point out, he offers two dates to come testify, clearly willing and obviously knows that he's going to be hauled up to Capitol Hill there to say exactly how all this came about and, of course, to provide some more context for all this.

So the news, Brooke, is April, if not sooner. Bill Barr willing to come and testify. He offers two dates the first week of May.

BALDWIN: And one follow for you, Laura. And that is this first line of the second graph from the A.G.: "As we have discussed, I share your desire to ensure that Congress and the public" will have this opportunity to read the special counsel's report.

So, Congress and the public. So, again, just to make this crystal clear for everyone watching, wondering, all right, who's going to, how much transparency, do you read that as everyone gets to see this?

JARRETT: I do. And I think that's part of what it's been taking so long here, is that they don't want to have a sort of a piecemeal process, where members of Congress come over here and read it in a SCIF, and then pieces of it leak out.

They actually want to do this in tranche.

BALDWIN: All together.

JARRETT: And they recognize -- they recognize the public interest in this.

The public paid for this report, as many people have pointed out time and time again, $25 million. And so I think the attorney general is very well aware of the public interest in it, but also well aware of the fact that there are ongoing investigations that have sort of been spun off from Mueller's work. There's grand jury material. It's illegal to disclose that.

So they're taking care to do this the right way. And they're trying to get it out.

[15:20:03]

BALDWIN: Appreciate it.

Laura Jarrett, thank you very much for the news on the letter.

And let's get a little analysis from Gloria Borger, our CNN chief political analyst.

And hard to think it was a week ago where everyone was sort of like, all right, is it today, is it today, is it today? And it was 275 days that Mueller had been authorized to do the job. Comes out that Mueller had concluded.

Fast-forward just a week later, and now we're learning we have got a date. It sounds like they want this all out there, minus the redactions, 400-some pages, by mid-April. What do you think.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Mid-April.

I think they're working hard at it. It's interesting that the attorney general says he is working with the special counsel. So, clearly, Bob Mueller and Barr and the attorneys over at DOJ are working to see what can be released.

As Laura was saying before, there are difficulties with grand jury testimony, with classified information, with information that may affect ongoing investigations that they don't want to release at this particular point.

But the interesting part, the most interesting part to me is that Barr said, well, since the White House said that they're going to leave the question of privilege up to me, the attorney general, I don't tend to send any of this over to the White House. He said there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review, thank you very much.

So he left it up to me, and I'm saying, OK, we're not going to do that. So there isn't going to be any privilege review.

BALDWIN: Here's my other question. This is what I was just talking to the congressman about, because there's also this line from Bill Barr: "I'm aware of some media reports and other public statements mischaracterizing my March 24, 2019, supplemental notification as a summary."

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: He goes on, it was a summary. It was really -- quote -- "principal conclusions."

It's the president -- it's the president of the United States who is essentially trying to convince the people it's the same thing.

BORGER: Right.

And Barr says, look, it isn't. What he says is that this is the bottom line. There are two things that were investigated. There was collusion and there was obstruction. And here are the bottom lines on both of those. But there -- it offered no explanation. It offered no real summary, as he points out, of why Mueller did what he did.

So we're going to -- we're going to get to see that. And it's clear that this really rankled Barr, because he said that Chairman Nadler refers to his notification as a four-page summary. And then he went on to correct him and said, that's not what it was, and that perhaps once you read all of this, you will understand that.

But it's clear to me that Barr has decided that he wants to fast-track this, and that, working with Mueller, here's our timetable. We're getting it out by mid-April, if not sooner, by the way. So it could come -- it could come earlier than that. And then I'm going to testify on May 1 and May 2, and then I'm going to be done with this.

BALDWIN: There has been a lot of frustration towards this A.G., though, to the fact that Mueller did not sort of rule or decide on obstruction, for example.

BORGER: Right. Right.

BALDWIN: And it seemed that Barr had. And everyone's pointing to that 2017 or 2018 summary he'd written about obstruction with regard to this president.

BORGER: Right. That's right.

BALDWIN: And I'm just wondering, the fact that he is fast-tracking this, he is saying, hey, and here are two dates, by the way, where I'm happy to show up and testify, what do you make of that?

BORGER: Well, he's going to be asked a lot of questions about why he and Rod Rosenstein decided to say, OK, it's up to us. There's -- we're not going to -- we're not going to charge any obstruction.

And the question, I think, that we're all asking is, did Bob Mueller intend for the attorney general to make that decision, or did he intend for that decision to be made by Congress and not the attorney general?

Obviously, the special counsel knew exactly what the attorney general thought about any obstruction charges, because he had written about it, as you point out, in that 19-page memo in June of 2018. So the question is, what did Mueller intend?

And so now we may have to hear from Mueller. It seems to me that Jerry Nadler has made the case that maybe you need to hear from Mueller and Barr and Rosenstein as well.

BALDWIN: When we do see this report, and within the next month, Gloria...

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: ... what are the specific things you will be looking for, other than what you just mentioned?

BORGER: Right.

I think the big question here is why Mueller decided that he couldn't decide on obstruction, right?

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: That he couldn't say if there was anything criminal, but he couldn't say that there wasn't something wrong, and that he couldn't exonerate. But there was something wrong, but maybe it wasn't criminal. Maybe it was abuse of power.

We just -- we just have no idea. And maybe we will learn a little bit more about what the both sides of the argument were, and whether perhaps the attorneys working for Mueller could not agree.

[15:25:08]

I mean, I don't think Mueller is going to write a report and say, this attorney thought this and this other attorney thought that. But he will give, I believe, both sides of the argument.

And we will be able to see -- sort of lift the veil a little bit on the struggle they were having inside the special counsel's office about how to decide that. And we will also learn, I think much more specifically, about why they decided there was -- there was no collusion here.

BALDWIN: Right.

BORGER: Was it because that these people were unwittingly used by the Russians? He did conclude that the Russians were trying to influence the election on behalf of Donald Trump. We know that already from a lot of indictments that have come down against the Russians.

But we will learn a little bit more about what specifically the Russians were trying to do with people inside the Trump campaign, and it may tell us more about the Russian M.O. than we have already known.

BALDWIN: Gloria, thank you very much for analyzing that with me really quickly.

BORGER: Sure.

BALDWIN: We didn't let the congressman go too far, so we're going to get Congressman Krishnamoorthi to react to this letter. He's been reading it as well.

Stand by for that. Also, we will get legal reaction to this letter from the U.S. attorney general, Bill Barr.

We're back in a flash.

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