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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) Texas Was Interviewed About The Congress' Move To Get The Full Unredacted Mueller Report; The Mueller Report More Damaging To President Trump; Some Mueller Investigators Believe Findings Are More Troubling For Trump Than Barr Indicated; Key House Democrats Sends Letter To IRS Demanding President Trump's Tax Returns From 2013-2018. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 3, 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] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And there is precedent for more coming out. The only time we had a special counsel under Janet Reno, Branch Davidians, go look at what she did, she had the report go right to the public. There were redactions, but not much.
No matter how this goes if it comes out it will be in a better situation and put us in a better place than the way we're headed right now and headed fast.
Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, a couple things.
LEMON: I told you that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee -- I'll just give you a little bit.
LEMON: I don't want to give away too much. And she made a point to me and I thought it was accurate. She said members of Congress have the highest levels of security.
CUOMO: Security clearance.
LEMON: Top secret. They see sources and methods all the time. They take an oath not to reveal those sources and methods. So, they're pushing back on that whole thing about, you know, not -- about redacting a lot of it, concerned about there will be pages and pages of this, that's completely redacted and what good does that do for them or anyone?
So, you know, and I get your point on that. And also, again, if you're concerned about sources and methods, this whole thing that you hear, this whole aboutism, well, let's go back and investigate the investigators and then we'll go back and investigate the administration before that and investigate somebody who was there before that about the FISA and all of these things, all these things have been investigated already.
President Obama is not the president anymore. The people who were there are not in office anymore. We need to hold accountable the people who are in office. Many of those things, all of them have been investigated.
Most of it has turned out not to have any degree of truth to them at all, that whole thing, Uranium One, let's go to FISA, and all that things, it's just pure and utter madness and hypocrisy on top of it and not serving the American people well at all.
CUOMO: Well, the last part is the worst, right, is that the people paid for this, we need to get some clarity on it. Remember where this all started. This started so counterintelligence investigation, to figure out what the Russians did, who may have helped them and how we can fix it.
Two out of these we haven't done a damn thing on. You know, the government hasn't really changed our election structure to make it better. You know, are harder for them to do it right now. They're probably out there doing the same trolling exercises right now.
CUOMO: We've only scratched the surface of getting the ISP's, you know, Facebook and the other big social media platforms to have more responsibility to help police this. They don't have regulations about it yet and then you get to the politics of this.
But here's the truth. If the president wants this to go away it will never go away if it doesn't all come out.
LEMON: Yes. I want to move on and ask you about something else. But I just said the other conspiracy theory is the whole idea that the Mueller investigation started with the dossier. It didn't, it started with the Australian --
CUOMO: That's right.
LEMON: -- ambassador or whatever, a foreign official bragging that he had information on Hillary Clinton.
LEMON: That's how it actually started.
CUOMO: Yes, it's true.
CUOMO: And, look, the idea that the dossier was all junk is also not true.
LEMON: It's also not true.
CUOMO: Some of it was corroborated, a lot of it wasn't corroborated. LEMON: That it was paid for by Hillary Clinton, yes.
LEMON: But it was initially paid for by a conservative group.
CUOMO: Yes. I think it was the Free Beacon.
LEMON: The Free Beacon in Washington -- the Free Beacon and the Washington Free Beacon.
I wanted to talk to you, I really enjoyed the conversation, I had been fascinated with everything that's happened, the conversation that you had with Angela Rye and with Scott Jennings regarding Joe Biden.
It's interesting that Joe Biden is -- and, you know, I give Meghan McCain credit for this because she opened my eyes to this as I was watching her the other day. She said, Joe Biden, by the way she defends Joe Biden. She says he's a nice man.
She said, Joe Biden is an old school retail politician who likes to get out and, you know, be among the people and touch people. And when you take away -- not that he should be in anybody's face but if he's going to be the strong or the straight- arm politician then he's no longer Joe Biden, you've taken away the characteristic that people like about him, that he's a man of the people that he's caring and that, you know, he wants to be among the folks.
CUOMO: Right. Look, I hear what you're saying. I read it. I see it this way. OK? Joe Biden is not too old to change.
CUOMO: What he's doing he does because he thinks it's effective and helps him to connect. If he is told, or made aware or told directly that what you are doing is not doing that, it's doing the opposite of that, his instinct should tell him to stop.
CUOMO: The only thing I didn't get out of that video was if somebody thinks that what you did was wrong, and if they took it negatively, apologize. If that wasn't your intention, just apologize.
I know all the experts and big brains around you are telling you not to apologize. Show no weakness, which works for Trump. Doesn't matter what you accuse him of, he'll never admit a damn thing. Eventually the media will go away. Eventually they'll move on to something else. It's good advice. Look what happened down at Virginia. Eventually we go away.
[22:04:57] However, if he didn't mean anything, I know the man, I know the man personally, I know him well, I know his family.
LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: They are all about integrity of service and how they are. Nobody is perfect. Nobody is even close. But that was the one thing. I think that if you were to apologize, if I didn't mean it that way, if you took it that way, then I was wrong, I'm sorry, I've learned better going forward, now I think it's complete.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, the people who have accused him have said that non-sexual, it just made them uncomfortable. If that counts for something else --
CUOMO: But that counts.
LEMON: -- then, you know, then you change with the information that you have. But that does count. He said similar in the first response. I'm not one -- listen, I'm not one that I don't believe in -- I don't really believe in boycotts, I don't really believe that everyone should be apologizing.
I think sometimes you explain to people why you did something and that is absolutely good enough. If it is something that is so that is that egregious, I absolutely believe that you should apologize.
But sometimes, you know, I just don't like the apology tour for anybody, and I'm talking Democrat, Republican, whoever. I don't just -- explain why you did something and move on and stand by.
CUOMO: Well, look, I mean, the Democrats have created their own bar.
CUOMO: I mean, they got rid of their own -- one of their own, they god rid of Franken, Gillibrand is running for president. You know, she was the head of that movement, you know, and she's opened about that. Well then how is Biden different?
LEMON: But Chris, listen. I understand what you're saying. But this is different, I said if someone comes forward and says that it was inappropriate somehow touching and that they felt it was sexual --
LEMON: -- that is a different story.
CUOMO: I agree.
LEMON: Because the people -- the people I believe, most of the people they set the bar on there were accusations of actual assault and possible --
CUOMO: I agree.
LEMON: -- sexual assault and abuse. CUOMO: Yes.
LEMON: That is a whole different thing.
CUOMO: A 100 percent.
LEMON: And we cannot keep categorizing these things the same way. No one should be in anyone's face. No one should be touching anybody inappropriately, but it is real -- you know, what's her name? Alice Stewart said there's a difference between going five miles over the speed limit and 50 miles over.
CUOMO: Fair point.
CUOMO: Joe Biden is not Al Franken, is not Donald Trump.
CUOMO: I think that the relativism matters. And also, I mean, look, this can only be about how the Democrats right now decide to see it. Let's also be honest, right, Don. You know, I'll get beat up for this, but what makes Wednesday any different.
This is what the media does, man, it loves people up and it tears them down. You know, Joe Biden should run, we love Joe, Uncle Joe, and then as soon as he's a step away from deciding to run, bam.
CUOMO: Here it comes.
CUOMO: And it's like that for everybody. Beto O'Rourke. Beto O'Rourke, he's the man, you know, he's the White Obama, here he comes. You know, first of all, and then what happens? He gets out there a little bit now they want something new.
CUOMO: He raised money but not as much as they thought he would --
LEMON: It's all platitude. Why is he standing on the bar?
CUOMO: Bam. Now it's Mayor Pete.
CUOMO: Mayor Pete, hurray.
CUOMO: Look, good for all of them, ride the ride, but know that the hill has two sides.
LEMON: One thing that I have been screaming at the television about, because you don't know, Joe Biden -- I mean, not Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders denies that he had anything to do with this, right, with this Joe Biden thing.
CUOMO: As opposed to what? Who's going to come out? I'm not saying that Bernie Sanders had anything to do with it --
LEMON: Well, we don't know.
CUOMO: -- but who would say they did?
LEMON: Most probably it -- well, I shouldn't say probably, we don't know who it is, it could be some -- it could be a Trump supporter, it could be a Republican.
CUOMO: It could be there is no woman coming forward saying that if he's going to run for president --
LEMON: Yes. No one -- exactly
CUOMO: -- I want people to know this.
CUOMO: And that's what she said.
LEMON: Well there you go. But everyone is saying Democrats this -- we don't know.
CUOMO: But look, they created a standard --
LEMON: We have no idea.
CUOMO: -- that is very exacting.
CUOMO: And I have to tell you, I didn't have any problem with that at the time because the only way culture changes is if you force it to change.
CUOMO: Our problem is, we can only have this conversation with half the side.
CUOMO: The Republicans can't talk about this with Donald Trump as president.
CUOMO: You know, I mean, look, Scott Jennings on the show tonight gave a good faith effort. He was like, look, you know, if he grabbed her and I was like, you can't use that verb.
CUOMO: Every time any supporter of the president used grab as a verb it's going to take people right back to the Access Hollywood tape and the 20 women or the dozen plus women who came forward and said the president assaulted them.
CUOMO: So, they can't talk about it and that's the shame. Because this should be something that is consensus, everybody's on the same page. What's that cup say? Is your cup nicer than mine? Is that a "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon cup? It's just CNN.
LEMON: I don't need to see my name on everything.
CUOMO: I do.
CUOMO: I want it on everything.
LEMON: I'm not that insane.
CUOMO: I'm going to have it written on my tea.
LEMON: Does that say Cuomo?
CUOMO: They're so big.
LEMON: Does it say Cuomo on both sides of that cup?
CUOMO: It says Cuomo, not Lemon, no, it says, let's get after it.
LEMON: Listen, when you're a star, they let you do anything.
CUOMO: That's what he said.
LEMON: Grab them.
CUOMO: And that's a shame. I don't have any problem with Joe Biden having to answer for what he did. I think he's handling it the right way.
CUOMO: He's addressing it. That's what you should do if you're a leader.
CUOMO: What are you laughing at?
LEMON: We're going to get -- we're going to get ourselves in trouble here. Good to see you.
CUOMO: Listen, I think it's good to have this conversation.
LEMON: It is.
CUOMO: Everybody hides behind things.
LEMON: My producers are like, we've got to go.
CUOMO: All right, all right. I'm sorry.
LEMON: See you tomorrow. Good to see you. This is CNN -- that went on a long time, right? That's good conversation.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.
We've got a lot of news tonight. It's a busy news night. Storm clouds gathering again over this White House. Thought it was all over, well maybe not.
[23:09:56] Because the latest and this is big that we're learning tonight that some of Robert Mueller's investigators say their findings are more damaging for the president than the attorney general has revealed.
Again, this is all -- this is according to "The New York Times". Not CNN's reporting, it's "The New York Times". They're reporting that because the A.G. has written the first narrative of Mueller's finding that some of his team, well, they're worried that Americans will have already made up their minds before the full report ever becomes public.
So, when anybody tries to tell you that they know what is in Mueller's report, when they try to tell you it's all over, you've got to wonder why. Why they want you to think that.
All this makes it that much more important for Americans to see it for themselves. You have to see it for yourself. We've got a lot more on that tonight. And it comes as the House Judiciary Committee today approved a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report. The Chairman, Jerry Nadler saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D), NEW YORK: This committee requires the full report and the underlying materials because it is our job, not the attorney general's, to determine whether or not President Trump has abused his office. And we require the report because one day, one way or another, the
country will move on from President Trump. We must make it harder for future presidents to behave this way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And there's more. If there's anything this president really does not want to hear right now as he battles to keep Americans from seeing Mueller's report, it is this, OK.
CNN, first to report tonight that the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee is requesting the president's tax returns from the IRS for the years 2013 to 2018. The president, who has consistently refused to release his returns says he's not inclined to cooperate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Until such time as I'm not under order I would not be inclined to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Let's remember, there's absolutely nothing that bars the president from turning over his returns while under audit, even though he's used that as a smoke screen over and over and over and over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When the audit is complete, I'll release my returns, I have no problem with it.
I'm releasing when we're finished with the audit.
It depends on the audit. Not a big deal.
I will release my tax returns against my lawyer's wishes, when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted.
I've been under audit for many years because the numbers are big, and I guess when you have a name, you're audited.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Even that show that has some fact checking, but I don't have all night. But I want you to listen to what the president's former fixer and keeper of secrets, Michael Cohen, said when he testified before Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: So that's an interesting point that basically has said he didn't want to release his tax returns because he might end up in an audit. So, could you presume from that statement that he wasn't under audit?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I presume that he's not under audit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: A lot more on that story too. And in the face of all this, the president doubling down on his favorite strategy, lies, misstatements and what sometimes sounds like just saying whatever pops into his head. I want you to listen to what the president said just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As we went through two years of the Mueller investigation, we have -- I mean, not only that, you read the wording, it was proven, who could go through that and get wording where it was no collusion, no nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Remember, the attorney general's letter about Mueller's report said he did not establish that anybody on the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government. He explicitly did not exonerate President Trump on obstruction.
And we're likely to learn a whole lot more about Mueller's report in the days and weeks to come, not to mention the multiple congressional investigations and what comes out of the Southern District of New York. The American people deserve to know the truth. About all of this. Even the president used to think so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the American public have a right to see the Mueller report?
TRUMP: I don't mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House if you want, let them see it. Let it come out. Let people see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you want to release the report?
TRUMP: It's up to the attorney general, but it wouldn't bother me at all. Up to the attorney general, it wouldn't bother me at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, the Attorney General said today that he intends to release the Mueller report in full to Congress and to the public. Do you agree with that decision? Do you want the White House to take a look over it for privilege?
TRUMP: Well, I have great confidence in the attorney general, and if that's what he'd like to do, I have nothing to hide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they do vote out the authority for subpoenas will the White House fight this?
[22:14:57] TRUMP: Well, I think it's ridiculous. We went through two years of the Mueller investigation, so there's no collusion, there's no obstruction, and now we're going to start this process all over again, I think it's a disgrace. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mueller report, as you can see, it's not the end. It's just the beginning. And Americans deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The report that some of Robert Mueller's investigators see their findings as more damaging for the president than the attorney general revealed raises even more questions tonight and it comes as the House Judiciary Committee has approved a subpoena for the unredacted report.
Next, I'm going to talk to a member of the committee about all of that, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
LEMON: So, here's our breaking news tonight, "The New York Times" reporting that some members of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, they believe that their report is more damaging to the president than the Attorney General William Barr has indicated.
So, let's discuss now with Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She's a member of the Judiciary Committee which today approved a subpoena by the way for the unredacted Mueller report.
Congresswoman, thank you so much. First, I have to get your reaction to this Times report. And if it's true, this is not CNN's reporting. This is the Times reporting.
[22:19:56] The reports says that some members of the team feel that Mueller's findings are more damaging to the president than the attorney general let on. What do you say to that?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Don, I think that's what Democrats have been saying, but particularly that's what the judiciary committee has been saying. As you well know when General Barr issued his letter it was framed as the conclusions of the Mueller report. His summarization of the actual conclusions, it was the truth, it was a narrative, that is unfortunate.
And even in the document that Director Mueller had he indicated that he did not exonerate the president. But within minutes, hours of the Mueller report, but more importantly, the letter from General Barr, the president and his team were celebrating that he'd been exonerated.
Let me explain just briefly, the Mueller report was done by a lawyer, a former FBI director, a person that works for the DOJ that's used to dealing in criminal language, meaning in language dealing with criminal indictments.
That is the only thing that might have been restrain by Barr's letter, meaning that Mueller did not do this in a criminal format. He didn't use traditional prosecutorial judgment. But the narrative was that this is a complete exoneration. We didn't believe it and we wanted this full report for the American people.
LEMON: You're sounding an awful lot like an attorney, and you are. So, and that's why you're sounding like one.
Listen, I have to ask you, because according to "The New York Times", Mueller's team, Congresswoman, wrote multiple summaries of the report. But the DOJ believes that they contain sensitive information. So, you know, speak a little bit more about this. Do you think that Congress should have these summaries?
LEE: Absolutely. We have the highest level of classification of security classifications, top secret, we see documents every day that deal with life and death and war and peace. We have very strict procedures. We have to sign a document when we review classified documents that we will not release them. Since I've been here in the United States Congress, I've seen members of Congress be held to a penalty for what they believe was released. They take this very seriously.
LEMON: Congresswoman, can I ask you something?
LEMON: You see information, you see Congress people see sources and methods before, right?
LEE: And we see it every day. And so, for that to be a reason, Don, is why today we proceeded with the authority to issue subpoenas because the narrative was completely conflicted by General Barr's summary and as well now with this breaking news, knowing that other summaries that could have been utilized were not added to his.
LEMON: The White House calls this overreach, not oversight. The top Republican in the committee Doug Collins says what the A.G. is doing what the regulations say. So, give me your response to those who say nothing will be enough for the Democrats.
LEE: Well, my good friends have, you know, their talking points. I don't have any talking points. I simply ask for the Mueller report to be released. And if you want to know what the special counsel regulations actually say, they say to release the document in the interest of the public, in the interest of the public's ability to know.
Secondarily, no, I disagree that it's overreach or we'll never be satisfied. We've asked for one set of documents, and that is the Mueller report with all the supporting documents and we have five individuals listed who may have had access to those documents, or have access to information necessary for us to further understand the Mueller report.
There are limits to the subpoena. And, again, as I said we were willing to go with Attorney General Barr to the federal court to have them participate. That was done before in other investigations. He has yet to give us any indication that he's willing to compromise, to work with us, to have a federal court intervention.
To the president's overreach, absolutely not. What happened is we had two years of complete deadly silence, and it was his attorney general, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who viewed it crucial and important to appoint a special counsel. That's his appointee. And he thought to do so because he was aghast at some of the actions that might have contributed to an obstruction of justice charge.
LEMON: Congresswoman, always a pleasure. Thank you for your insights. I appreciate it.
LEE: Thank you for having me.
LEMON: So, what might be going on inside the Justice Department tonight in the wake of the report that some of Mueller's investigators see their findings as more damaging for the president than the attorney general revealed?
I'm going to ask a former DOJ senior official next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back with breaking news, "The New York Times" reporting tonight that members of the special counsel's team believe that the Mueller report is more damaging to the president than the Attorney General William Barr has revealed.
This as a battle between Congress and the DOJ is really heating up right now with the House Judiciary Committee authorizing a subpoena for the full report, no redactions, the full report.
Let's bring in now Matt Axelrod.
Matt, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it. This is a very important subject. So, I'm ready to hear it from you. You were a senior official at the Justice Department, give me your reaction to this reporting from "The New York Times" tonight.
MATTHEW AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Yes, so I think we now have seen William Barr's characterization of the Mueller report. And if the Times reporting is accurate, we have a characterization of the Mueller report from one or more members of the -- who were close to the Mueller investigative team or on the team.
But I think what's important is for Congress and the American team to see the report itself, right? The characterizations are just that, characterizations. And I think for everyone to have sort of confidence and knowledge about what the Mueller investigation found we need to see the report.
LEMON: So, listen, Mueller's team, the special counsel's team has been tight lipped through this entire investigation. What does it say to you that some of the members of the team now are expressing frustration to associates? AXELROD: Yes. I mean, I'm of two minds about it, Don, on the one hand
I think it's unfortunate that information is coming out this way. As you said the members of the team have been incredibly tight lipped, nothing has leaked for the entire course of the investigation and I think it's unfortunate now that stories like this are appearing.
[22:30:01] But on the other hand I think what it's reflective of, I would assume, is some real frustration and disagreement with how-- if the reporting is accurate on how the Attorney General has characterized the principal conclusions of the report.
LEMON: And, again, we should always lead with a caveat, if this reporting is true, again some "New York Times" reporting, very reputable, but they are, you know, reportedly expressing their frustration of their associates right now.
Matt, another question for you. If multiple summaries were already written, why would Barr write a letter characterizing the report as the principal conclusions without using any of the summaries that were already written?
AXELROD: Yes. I believe what "The New York Times" is reporting is that there was concern that the summaries that were prepared by the Mueller team were themselves contained information that had to be sort of redacted. It was deemed either classified information, grand jury information, or other sensitive information.
But, you know, what strikes me as a little bit odd here is that there weren't conversations between the Mueller team and DOJ leadership as to how this was all going to be handled on the back end. You would expect that, you know, in an ordinary manner, and granted this is no ordinary matter, that there might have been some conversation about how this was going to roll out.
And if the Mueller team intended for one of their summaries to be the summary that got released publicly, or sent to the Hill or anything like that, that there be some conversation with DOJ about that. We of course don't know whether any conversations like that occurred.
LEMON: Listen. I want to read you something of what the Times is reporting now. It says, Mr. Barr and other Justice Department officials believe the special counsel's investigators fell short of their task by declining to decide whether Mr. Trump illegally obstructed the inquiry according to the two government officials. What do you make of that, Matt?
AXELROD: Yes, so I'm glad you asked. I am reserving judgment until I see the full report, and I think we all should, so we can make up our own minds, but I have some doubt as to whether the way the Attorney General characterized it in his four-page summary of the principal conclusions is the way Mueller intended.
In other words, in my time at DOJ, I worked there for over 12 years, not once in a single case can I recall a prosecutor ever saying, you know, this decision is hard, this is a close call. I'm not going to make a decision, and I'm leaving it up to you, boss. And so I suspect, although I don't know, because I haven't seen the
report, that that is not what happened here and this isn't, of course, any ordinary case. It's one of the most consequential investigations going on in a long time.
And so, my sense is that it may be that what the special counsel did on the on obstruction question, knowing that DOJ policy is that you cannot charge a sitting president, even if there was sufficient evidence, he didn't make that determination, because it's not his determination to make and he intended, whatever information he developed, to be handed over to Congress, because that is the proper forum to evaluate what possible remedy there might be.
LEMON: Mr. Axelrod, I appreciate your time, thank you so much.
AXELROD: Thank you.
LEMON: ""The New York Times"" is reporting that some members of Mueller's team worried about how Americans already having made up their minds about the report based solely on William Barr's letter. Should we be concerned?
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: All right, you (inaudible). The conversation already started and to try and calm these folks down in the break, because they were ready to talk. So, more reaction to tonight's bombshell report from New York Times that some of Robert Mueller's investigators believe their findings were more damaging for President Trump than what has been revealed by the Attorney General.
So, here they are, Chris Cillizza is here, Margaret Hoover and Frank Bruni. OK, carry on, you guy are --
We're coming out of break. We are coming out of break. Let me read some of it, OK? And get your response. Good evening, everyone, thank you for joining in.
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.
LEMON: So, Frank, I'm going to read this from the reporting. Some members of Mr. Mueller's team are concerned that because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel's findings American's views will have hardened before the investigation's conclusions become public. So it did contain little from the actual report, a very few quotes. Was this setting the narrative?
FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, ""THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, no, I mean, I'm really glad you read that part. That was the part of the story that jumped out to me, because I don't know about -- about what all of you -- my parents always said to me first impressions are the most important. Because you can never undo them and they're the most lasting ones.
Our first impressions of this report, based on four pages -- only four pages by the Attorney General is, hey, it's not so bad and I think we all knew that with nearly 400 pages there were going to be other interpretations to come, but the narrative has been set, this sort of first shot out of the cannon is this one and a lot of Americans don't pay the amount of attention, daily, hourly that we do to this. And you're laughing because --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said a lot which is kind. Well, it's the most.
BRUNI: So a lot of them heard the first day story, the second day story. They won't hear the 12th day story when we will probably get to a much more nuanced and accurate estimation of what's in this report.
CILLIZZA: And just very quickly to add to Frank's point, what did Donald Trump do the second that the Barr summary came out? No collusion, no exon --
LEMON: He didn't say anything for a while and everyone was like, wow, he is being restrained.
CILLIZZA: But then, no collusion, total exoneration, no obstruction. So even though we would, of course, say, we in the media would say, well, you know, I mean, again, yes, no established collusion, no recommendation on obstruction, but not fully exonerated.
[22:40:05] The truth of the matter is, and Frank's right, it's one of those things fits in a five second soundbite on a bumper sticker, theoretically (inaudible) -- well, maybe he'll put no collusion, total exoneration.
Don't want to rule that one out, but the point is like that is what people -- he will have spent a month minimum repeating that. And for all of our fact checks -- I mean, it's frustrating candidly, because people always say to me, why don't you fact check him more.
A guy came up to me on the street today and said why don't you fact check him more? Give your e-mail -- literally, give me your e-mail address, I will send you the pieces that I write. What you're really asking is, why don't -- when you try to correct the facts, why doesn't it have more of an impact and that's a harder thing.
LEMON: I said that last night and I was talking to Chris, I said it's really exhausting fact checking this president because -- he called it Tedium. I call it exhausting, but we have to continue to do it. Margaret, the report says that members of Mueller's team are frustrated because they said there were already summaries that were written.
LEMON: And Barr did not use them. Isn't that the whole reason why Democrats are demanding unredacted, fully transparent, hand it over immediately?
HOOVER: Depends which Democrats, right?
HOOVER: Some Democrats are just -- are hounding this because for political reasons. And the real argument, and this is a fair one, is the American people paid for this investigation. And ought to know what's in the report.
And certainly there is, I think, a reasonable degree to which some information can be redacted, probably should be redacted for national security purposes, to secure the identities of people who are innocent, that is entirely reasonable, but we'll know what's reasonable when we see it, right?
It's like the joke about pornography, I guess, you know, when you see it. But -- so there are 400 pages in this report and it's certainly understandable, believable that there are details in the report that might be and feel and give texture to not just a more nuanced, but maybe even a more incriminating idea of the president's posture and his approach to the investigation.
LEMON: That is why I was always surprised that he is saying -- and everyone's saying, you know, let the whole thing and now people seem to be (inaudible).
HOOVER: Nobody said the same thing about his tax returns, didn't he?
LEMON: How do you think -- hold on, how do you think Republicans on the Hill are going to react to this? Because this is new tonight. We haven't heard much.
HOOVER: Well, the story itself really doesn't have a lot of details. There's nobody on the record, so they'll probably hashtag fake news it.
HOOVER: The failing "New York Times."
BRUNI: That is the whole problem, this is -- we live in such a partisan environment, right? That until we see as much of the report or the whole report, it's going to be interprecation (ph) versus interpretation. It's going to be that is ""The New York Times"," you can't trust them, or that is the summary from Barr, you can't trust him. That is why we have to see as much of it as possible, because otherwise it's just a battle of interpretations.
CILLIZZA: One thing that we do know, just to pick up on Margaret's point, one thing that we do know and it was in the Barr's summary is that Mueller found evidence on both sides of the obstruction -- no obstruction. That is literally in there.
LEMON: She said that in the break, by the way.
CILLIZZA: Right. I mean, that is in there, right?
LEMON: That is the important part and we have an election coming up, yes.
CILLIZZA: We know there's going to be some evidence that -- unfortunately I'm kind of with Frank, I wrote a piece a while back that said, what if the Mueller report doesn't change anything, right? We all looked to it as the Mueller report, it's going to decide everything. We're going to know --
LEMON: You did. I didn't. I did not.
CILLIZZA: OK, I think many people thought well, this would be the neutral arbiter we need to either clear Donald Trump, but more and more likely it's not going to be. Because again, I think you will find, assuming most of it comes out, you will find things where Donald Trump acted in ways that may not have been clearly illegal, but are ways that you would not want a president to act.
BRUNI: The way he is been acting for two years.
CILLIZZA: People are going to seize on that, right? And the other people say, well, he didn't charge him so who cares? It's very frustrating day in and day out.
LEMON: I always say it was going to be a political war shock to us, because, right, people are going to say well (inaudible), other folks are going to say it didn't clear him. But -- one has to look at the people around him and what they have been charged with. And you know, what they say, what mama always said, birds of a feather, flock together, right? So you wonder why that is, but again --
BRUNI: And there's some bad birds.
LEMON: -- I actually think, people out there actually think, even if the report was incriminating, that that was going to remove a sitting president from office? It is not going to happen. Do you know what it takes to remove a president? He -- I mean, he probably could shoot somebody.
BRUNI: In this environment --
CILLIZZA: Not 53 Republican Senators.
BRUNI: It takes a much different Republican Party than we have and some really bad birds are flocking with this peacock.
LEMON: All right. Everybody stay with me. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is formally requesting the president's tax returns. Will he get them?
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight a major move by House Democrats is likely to spark a giant battle with the White House. Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee making a formal request to the IRS to see President Trump's tax returns from 2013 thru 2018. Back with me now, Chris Cillizza, Margaret Hoover and Frank Bruni. Chris, listen, key house Democrat demanding these tax returns.
They're saying they want six years. Are they going to be able to obtain these, do you think?
CILLIZZA: This is a political move that will trigger a legal fight, right? So, this is based on a 1924 provision in IRS tax code that was basically put there to try to mitigate the executive power over the legislative branch. To really create more sharing of power.
[22:50:00] In that 1924 law it says that if the Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Richard Neal, requests them of the Treasury Department, he can request any member -- any American's tax returns that the Secretary of Treasury shall turn it over.
Now, the issue is, well, is this a legitimate above board investigation, or are Democrats just trying to score political points and that is going to come down, I think -- Trump is not turning these over. Steve Mnuchin is not really (inaudible). I mean, it's just not going to happen. So, it will become a legal fight, and then it's a question of what court does it end up in, and how do they feel about it?
LEMON: You mentioned Mnuchin, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Based upon the request we'll examine it, and we will follow the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
MNUCHIN: I would expect that we would -- I'm not aware if there's ever been a request for an elected official's tax return, but we will follow the law, and we will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The president is not in the individual taxpayer. I mean, what do you guys think of that response?
BRUNI: Translation we will litigate this to smithereens, and he'll be long out of the White House before this ever gets resolved. I have come to regard the president's tax returns the way I do big foot. I've hear tale, but I can't reason if he had this (inaudible).
And I have about as much hope of laying eyes on his tax returns as I do of getting a really good shot of big foot coming out of the forest.
LEMON: Some have seen pictures of big foot, I mean, kind of.
BRUNI: Right next to the lock ness monster.
CILLIZZA: There is one part -- again, I'm with Frank. I don't see this happening anytime in the future, but I do -- there is one part in Richard Neil's letter to the IRS commission in which he says and I really would hope that this would get answered, though it won't, is has he ever been under audit during this period. You remember that Donald Trump's answer has always been --
LEMON: And you know, Michael Cohen in his testimony says that he doesn't believe that the president is under audit. If the -- when we find out if the Democrats if they're successful?
HOOVER: Look, here's the thing about the tax returns. I think the president has probably gotten very solid legal advice from his different legal teams that he can continue to say I can't give them away. I'm so sorry knowing full well that he is never going to be forced to overturn them, knowing full well that they'll probably win if they have to go to court and knowing full well they're going to go to court, because Democrats won the House of Representatives and we all knew the subpoena was coming.
What we need to do as Americans, if we believe there is a sacred precedent, and an important rule of transparency that we should see with our elected officials tax returns, we need to pass a law. You need to pass it through the House of Representatives and the Congress and the next presidency and get the next president to sign up and frankly we should do that and we've done it before when sacred precedents have been broken.
When the two term rule of governance from Washington's two terms in office was broken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, frankly, when we decided that nepotism in the executive branch, not the White House, just appointing your brother as Attorney General wasn't acceptable anymore we passed a law. We don't do that anymore. And so that is how we make our country better.
BRUNI: There's no nepotism around.
HOOVER: There's no nepotism at least in executive agencies.
LEMON: This has been a red line with the president forever. Go on and make your point.
BRUNI: First I was going to say, you know, we're talking about this as a political move by Democrats, yes. We are saying there should be a law, yes. But can we not lose sight of the fact that Democrats are in the moral right here. We as Americans deserve to see our president's tax returns. We will never know whom he owes, where he is getting his money from and where the conflicts of interest are.
LEMON: And if he is compromised.
BRUNI: And until we see this, and he's hiding them not because he's under audit, because he doesn't want us to see those very things why.
CILLIZZA: And that is important. Because I think so many people have pushback I always hear this, what do you care how rich he is. Most people the common sense is well, he might be a little less rich, but he is still very rich. All you reporters are out to get him. That is not really the point.
I'll grant, Donald Trump is a billionaire. Even people who are critical of him say the guy is worth probably less than he says, but he is not worth say Chris Cillizza amount, so, you know, but the key is, who does he owe money to?
HOOVER: How did he obtain his wealth?
CILLIZZA: How did he get his money, like, there's a lot in there, despite his assurances that the financial forms he files say more than the tax returns, folks, they don't. Ask any tax attorney, any accountant, they will tell you. You don't need to trust me.
BRUNI: Chris, they are too his tax return is a four page summary as to a 400 page --
LEMON: I just want to get to this reporting. Because Chairman Neal also requesting administrative files as the Washington Post (inaudible) -- she points it out that could potentially include financial statements to bank or underlying loan documents, closing statements for purchases of sale of real estate and on and on and on. We don't know what's in there, and a lot could be revealed.
HOOVER: A lot could be revealed. I mean, the Senate select intelligence on the Senate select committee on intelligence has also obtained several financial documents as well.
[22:55:02] And by the way, we all had been talking about the Mueller report, but their report will be coming out in the next few months as well. And that will have a degree of disclosure and transparency on the president's finances as well, which will shed light on this conversation.
BRUNI: We do know one thing when it comes to the president's finances. We know that he doesn't tell the truth, right? And so that is why --
BRUNI: Oh, I'm sorry. I shattered your innocence Don Lemon. That is why we need to see documents.
LEMON: I didn't even get to oranges and oranges. So, sorry.
HOOVER: We're 20/20.
CILLIZZA: Great tease though for the future.
LEMON: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.
"The New York Times" is reporting that some of Robert Mueller's investigators think their report is far more damaging for the president than the Attorney General has made it out to be. Congressman Denny Heck reacts, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Here's our breaking