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Justice Department Says the Mueller Report Is Nearly 400 Pages, Will Be Released by Mid April; Interview with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D), Illinois. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 29, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here's breaking news. We've been covering. We just learned the Department of Justice expects to release the special counsel report to Congress and to the public by mid-April if not sooner and Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi has stayed with me here. He's a member of both the House intel and oversight committees. You've read this two-page letter from Bill Barr we were just talking about it with Gloria, what's your biggest question?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Well, we see in this letter that Attorney General Barr intends to redact certain material before presenting it to the public by mid-April, and some of those categories --

BALDWIN: Four categories.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: One is grand jury material, which makes sense. He also talks about information in ongoing investigations, that also makes sense, and methods -- methods and sources information that could compromise our intelligence communities' efforts --

BALDWIN: It's this one you have an issue with.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: There's a fourth category that's just weird. I haven't seen this before. Any information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties. I don't know what he's talking about.

BALDWIN: What could he be referencing? Would it be third party to the President?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know. It could be other members of the cabinet, it could be Jared Kushner, it could any number of people who they think is somehow peripheral to this investigation. The other thing I wanted to just point out is, although he's not going to submit this report to the White House for executive privilege review, basically he says that the President has publicly stated he intends to defer to Attorney General Barr with regard to this review.

BALDWIN: What does that tell you?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Attorney General Barr is going to make his own call about executive privilege. I personally executive privilege doesn't apply to the vast majority of what's in this report, certainly nothing that would be involved with any wrongdoing or potential misconduct. Privilege never covers stuff like that. The bottom line is, let's get the report. Hopefully they'll keep the redactions to a minimum and to categories that are usually acceptable, but not to ones such as this fourth category where I'm hoping they don't just redact huge portions of the report.

BALDWIN: Sure. What is your -- of the multitude of big burning questions you have for this as we've learned nearly 400 pages long piece from bob Mueller, what is your top question you want to see in this thing?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'd like to see the evidence on both sides of the question of obstruction of justice which Attorney General Barr referred to in his four-page letter. I'd like to see why Bob Mueller decided not to pursue criminal conspiracy charges with regard to those different incidents that Adam Schiff had gone into yesterday in his speech, and third I'd like to see that counterintelligence information that we talked about before that's vital to understanding, you know, what do the Russians have on us or our public officials and how do we protect ourselves in 2020 and beyond?

BALDWIN: Congressman, thank you.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will have much more on this ahead. A former U.S. attorney joins me to weigh in on the legal angles of this including how much of the report may actually be redacted when it becomes public. We'll be right back.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Back to the breaking news this afternoon. Just days after he released that had four-page summary of the Mueller report, the Attorney General Bill Barr says the Department of Justice expects to release the nearly 400-page report to Congress and to the public by mid-April if not sooner. Gloria Borger is back with me and also joining us Harry Litman and so Harry, I've got a bunch of questions for you just on the legal pieces of all this so I'm going to fire away. Number one, you having read this two-page letter from the AG, your first -- first your take on it.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: A lot of potential redactions. That is big fight over all this kind of evidence starting with grand jury material on that. There are exceptions in the rule but I think the department will say, none of them let's them give material to Congress. Lots of redactions on the evidence there.

BALDWIN: What about -- so this is what the Congressman was just pointing out who also got a law degree from Harvard Law. On Barr's -- we're well along in this process of identifying redacting the following and one through three makes sense and was questioning number four, information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties. Who would that be in reference to? [15:40:00] LITMAN: Well, I take it to be but peripherals an

interesting word and unduly is an interesting word. This isn't a hard and fast rule. It's the principle that Comey stepped in when he talked about Hillary, uncharged persons, what about Kushner and Trump, what about Corsi, it's all of that. By the way, he gave up a lot, I thought, when he said one, two, three makes sense. There's precedent for Congress getting grand jury material. There's precedent on the other side, too, but there's a potential for a legal battle on that very big category.

BALDWIN: Are you saying and this is your interpretation that those peripheral parties, Kushner, maybe Don Junior, that would all about blacked out?

LITMAN: Well, it would be the question of what he means by peripheral and what he means by unduly. Maybe peripheral goes one level to the peripheral people at Deutsche Bank. We know Anthony Kennedy's son worked there, is that peripheral? It's a very much a wiggle word. One thing, though, the most important thing for them to get now is not the evidence, it's the reasoning why Mueller decided not to bottom line on obstruction and second, why Barr decided too? That's what they need. Everything else will be a big fight line by line on the evidence. It's going to go to court and it's going to take a while.

BALDWIN: OK. Gloria, I know you and I were chatting when it was first breaking but on the executive privilege piece of this, Barr says that there are currently no plans to submit this to the White House for that privilege review and that, quote, everyone will soon be able to read it on their own. Should that remove any concerns about transparency or does this all put the pressure on Barr?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Look, Barr is the Attorney General and he can decide what's privilege or not. The White House, the President himself has clearly said let Barr handle that and it's totally within his purview to so. The question is -- and I'm just asking this because I know Mueller is involved, Mueller's not going to be deciding privilege issues here, it's going to be Barr but Mueller may be involved in all the other issues too and I'm wondering whether, you know -- whether there could be any disagreements about what ought to be redacted and what ought not to be redacted between Mueller and Barr. Barr is the boss. Mueller acts just as a prosecutor here, but if Mueller wants to err on the side of divulging more of his work and Barr decides to add -- to err on the side of divulging less, they could be having some difficulties there --

BALDWIN: Who Trumps whom?

BORGER: The Attorney General. The Attorney General, correct me if I'm wrong, the AG is the boss.

LITMAN: Especially with Mueller. Mueller's likely to salute and say, OK, and never mention a word of it publicly.

BORGER: Exactly.

BALDWIN: What do you make, Harry, of Gloria's point of privilege and the pressure being on Barr?

LITMAN: It's kind of a bizarre process, actually, because you want to hear from the President's lawyer about what they think about executive privilege and once the cat's out of the bag on privilege, it is. I do think there's little that should be privileged here because we know about it already and it involves criminal conduct, but it is unusual that Barr rather than the White House counsel would be making the first calls. In general, Barr is really taking control of this process and I think Congress -- it would behoove them to try to be pushing back just on who's in charge here.

BALDWIN: Harry, what about this whole burning question on, you know, obstruction and that it baffles everyone, you know, that he left that, you know, without being decided and will that answer be clear when Congress, when you read this 400 page Mueller report, will you definitively understand why he didn't rule on obstruction?

[15:45:00] LITMAN: It better be. It is burning to 10,000 degrees and nothing about it is privilege. This is what Mueller decided. There's no reason his mindset should be privilege and there's some real concern about why Barr would have gone in the other direction, so it should be and I think it really has to be and it has to be from the report because, again, if they call Mueller to testify, Mueller will just, you know -- just the facts, ma'am, he will not have any kind of public dispute with Barr in public. It is the number one point for Congress though because if he did it for that reason, so Congress could decide, we are arguably back at square zero. It's in their lap rather than in the Department of Justice.

BALDWIN: Barr also used this word "mischaracterizing." He said his four-page report had been mischaracterized and his letter did not purport to be exhaustive accounting but that's how it's been used by not only Republicans but the President himself, so should Barr have skipped the summary and waited to release the whole thing?

BORGER: Right. He said he would do the top line conclusions. It's to be made into political football and the Trump team in particular have called it total exoneration. It really raised many more questions than it answered. Should he have done it? People were so hungry last Friday, you can understand why he did, but there were so many things that screamed out that in many ways, you know, the heat was on him severely and that's why we saw this two-page letter today.

BORGER: I think what Barr is doing here is what we call in politics a pre-buttal. He wants to make it clear before this almost 400 pages or whatever it is or most of it or parts of it are released that what he was doing was bottom lining it, not summarizing it because when we see it, we will understand that it was not a summary of what was included in the report, so I think he's doing this to kind of protect himself in advance from the charges that he was mischaracterizing anything in the report.

BALDWIN: Got it. The pre-buttal says Gloria Borger. Thank you, Harry, as well.

The alleged Russian spy who pleaded guilty to infiltrating Republican political circles, the Department of Justice wants to send her back to Russia. More on that next.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Staying on this breaking news this afternoon we have got this two-page letter here from the AG Bill Barr. The Department of Justice expects to release the Mueller report to Congress to the public by mid-April if not sooner. Let's go up on Capitol Hill for us this afternoon here. Democrats threatened to go to work over the release of this report. Will this two-page letter satisfy them?

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Probably not. A lot depends how many redactions. They have been making the case the last several days there have been minimal to no redactions to get access to the grand jury information. This is pointing to the Watergate which Congress did have access grand jury information. They say that is a similar situation here. Bill Barr sited that as one of four areas of redactions they make to the report that he along with special counsel are looking at. That's a question of how they pursued as well as that last category. Information that would infringe on the personal privacy of third parties. That's what Barr told Congress he would redact. What does that mean and who does that impact? Members of Congress want to look at this as their own investigations. They don't have that information. So still a big question how much.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Any moment President Trump will likely be asked about this news on the Mueller report. He will be alongside ahead of his small business administration leader, Linda McMahon, who just announced she is stepping down. First, here is a sneak peek of this week's episode of the CNN original episode "THE BUSH YEARS" which airs Sunday night at 10:00 p.m.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I George Walker Bush do solemnly swear.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT ELECT: I George Walker Bush to do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, so help me, god.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time since John Quincy Adams in 1825, a President's son reaches the White House.

NEIL BUSH, BROTHER OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH: I know that mom and dad expressed that even greater than being President is watching your own son being sworn in as President. It was a joyful moment for the whole family but especially for mom and dad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: they reach that iconic photo where he goes to the Oval Office for the first time as President, and his father joined him, and his father said, hello Mr. President. And he said back to his father, hello Mr. President. It was an extraordinary day in that family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: I want to take a moment to honor "CNN HERO."

[16:00:00] Kerry Brodie helps refugees in the United States launch culinary careers and get one step closer to the American dream.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY BRODIE, FOUNDER, EMMA'S TORCH: What we are teaching our students isn't just nice skills, and it is not just cooking. It's the idea that you are human and you have value. And that is something that people have tried to strip away from others for such a long time.

What's the dream team looking up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Summer cake.

BRODIE: Awesome.

That experience of watching our students transform of seeing our students really come into their own inspires me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I would love for you to nominate someone for a CNN hero. Go to CNN heros.com. CNNheros.com.

Thanks for being with me on this Friday afternoon. Stay right here.

[16:00:00]