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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Boeing Issues Statement on Air Crashes; Congress Requests Trump's Tax Returns; Did Barr Mischaracterize Mueller Report in Letter?; FBI: DNA Test Disproves Story of Young Man Who Claimed to be Boy Who Vanished in 2011; Inside Russia's Military Buildup at Bases Closest to U.S.; Dem's Rep. Jerry Nadler (D) New York Demands DOJ Release Communications Between Attorney General And Mueller's Office. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 4, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Under pressure. The president is lashing out, as we're learning that the complete Mueller report is more damaging to him than the attorney general led on. Mr. Trump feeling even more heat tonight, as Democrats go after his tax returns.
Our responsibility. Boeing is now admitting that an automated flight system played a role in two crashes involving its 737 MAX jets that killed more than 300 people. The company's CEO declaring it a new video, "We own it."
And Putin's Arctic play? CNN has an exclusive look at Russia's intensifying military buildup on America's doorstep. Why are Kremlin forces strengthening their presence in the frozen north?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the investigations of the president.
Mr. Trump dodging questions tonight about a top Democrat's new demand for his tax returns, telling reporters that the parties involved will have to speak to his lawyers, this as the House Judiciary Committee chairman is asking the attorney general, release all -- any summaries of the Mueller report prepared by the special counsel's office, a source confirming to CNN that Mueller's team wrote summaries of the investigation and expected Barr to use more of that material in the four-page letter he sent to Congress.
Also breaking, Boeing is now accepting responsibility for fixing the problems that caused two crashes involving its 737 MAX jets, disasters that killed 346 people. The company's CEO declaring, "We own it."
This hour, I'll talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee member Richard Blumenthal. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, we heard from the president just a little while ago, as the pressure clearly builds for the release of the Mueller report and his tax returns.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, two fronts, Wolf, that the president is having to play defense on tonight.
President Trump is blasting reports that special counsel Robert Mueller's team and members of his team are unhappy with Attorney General William Barr's summary of the conclusions contained in the report, CNN confirming that reporting as well.
But that's hardly the end of the president's headaches, as you mentioned, as Democrats are now making a move for Mr. Trump's tax returns. The president just a short while ago telling reporters, talk to my lawyers.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Now that investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller's office are complaining that Attorney General William Barr's letter on the investigation's findings go too far in clearing President Trump, anger is building at the White House.
The president tweeted his fury: "There is nothing we can give to the Democrats that will make them happy. This is the highest level of presidential harassment in the history of our country."
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lashed out at news reports about the frustrations inside Mueller's team.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You mean the anonymous sources that allegedly leaked confidential information? Look, I have full confidence in the attorney general and his assessment.
ACOSTA: But up on Capitol Hill, support is building to reveal Mueller's findings, with Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley tweeting: "I support release of the Mueller report."
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): There's an easy answer to this. Release the Mueller report as soon as possible. And let me just say, the Mueller report will be released. It's a question of, to us, it is inevitable. To them, it is inconceivable.
ACOSTA: Convinced Mr. Trump is hiding something, House Democrats are also making an historic request for six years of the president's tax returns, a secret he has closely guarded since the campaign.
REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA): This is likely to wind its way through the federal court system. And we wanted to make sure that the case that we constructed was in fact one that would stand up under the critical scrutiny of the federal courts.
ACOSTA: Asked whether he will release them, the president sidestepped the question.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will speak to my lawyers. I will speak to the attorney general.
ACOSTA: The president has repeatedly beat back efforts to obtain those tax returns, claiming they're under audit.
TRUMP: I'm audited every single year. And when it's under audit, you don't discuss anything. I'm releasing when we're finished with the audit. I have to say the IRS has been very professional. When the audit is complete, I will release my returns, I have no problem with it.
Well, I'm not releasing tax returns because, as you know, they're under. As I have told you, they're under audit. They have been for a long time. They're extremely complex. People wouldn't understand them.
ACOSTA: But fellow Republicans are starting to break from the president on that issue, too.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I think, all things being equal, I would like to see presidents' taxes. I wouldn't be adverse to turning over my taxes. I don't have anything to hide.
ACOSTA: The president is backing down when it comes to his warning that he will shut down the border. Now he says he will give Mexico one year to crack down on the influx of migrants crossing into the U.S.
TRUMP: We're going to give them a one-year warning. And if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ball game is cars. It's the big ball game. With many countries, it's cars. And if that doesn't stop the drugs, we close the border.
ACOSTA: The president is allowing Mexico more time to solve the problem, despite calling the situation a national emergency once again.
TRUMP: I hate to see it, but at least I can say I was right. I told everybody this is -- you have a national emergency at our border.
ACOSTA: Now, as for the Mueller report, one administration official expressed some frustration with Democratic demands to see as much as possible of that report.
The official complained that the report should not reveal information that is embarrassing about the president, if he's not being accused by the special counsel's office of committing any crimes. In the words this official, that possibility rhymes with the word gritty. Wolf, I can't say the actual word on TV, but they're pretty upset about that possibility over here at the White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are.
All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Let's get some more now on the House Judiciary Committee chairman's demand for communications between the attorney general and the special counsel's team.
Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is joining us right now.
So, Phil, what is the chairman, Jerry Nadler, looking for?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it seems like each day up here on Capitol Hill, the tension between the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and the Justice Department only seems to grow.
The latest escalation coming in the wake of those news reports about frustration from some special counsel investigators, and the revelation that they had prepared summaries for the Justice Department that they wanted to be used or potentially sent out to characterize the report.
Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the committee, the chairman, saying in a three-page letter to the Justice Department and Attorney General Bill Barr today -- quote -- "These reports suggest that the special counsel prepared his own summaries intended for public consumption, which you chose to withhold in favor of your own. We also request that you produce to the committee all communications between the special counsel's office and the department regarding the report."
Now, the big issue here, Wolf, is whether or not the Justice Department will respond affirmatively to what the committee has asked. Keep in mind, the Justice Department has made clear for days that they are essentially scrubbing the report, trying to take out grand jury information, trying to remove anything the Intelligence Committee has a problem with.
What Democrats are saying now is, they want a response immediately. Now, the Justice Department did put out a statement this morning, saying the reason that they didn't release any more information than the four-page letter from the attorney general was because each page of the report was marked confidential and therefore could not be released.
But that has not been enough for Democrats. And it just continues, what we have seen over the course of the last couple days, Democrats continuing to put pressure on the attorney general, trying to get some sign that they will get the full unredacted report, plus all the underlying investigative material.
Jerry Nadler, keep in mind, just yesterday was given the authorization to subpoena the report, something he said he's willing to do in short order, but at the moment is willing to give the attorney general time to try and comply without that subpoena. I will note, Wolf, as you look at the just sheer scope of the
investigations that are going after the Trump administration from House majority Democrats here, there's also one other thing you need to keep in mind with the Mueller investigation, the special counsel and whether or not he will testify.
Take a listen to what Jerry Nadler told my colleague Manu Raju earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): And, yes, I think it's inevitable that Mr. Mueller is going to testify at some point.
But the first thing we need is all the -- is the release of the report and the documents.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You think it's inevitable that Mueller is going to come before your committee?
NADLER: At some point, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, that tracks with what I have been hearing from Democrats, not just in the House, but also in the Senate. It's not an if the special counsel will come testify publicly. It's a matter of when.
Whether or not that will happen, how it will happen, that's still an open question. But just add that to the list of pressure Democrats are putting on the Justice Department, putting on the administration on the whole, to get as much clarity and the public release of that Mueller report, that 400-plus-page report, as soon as possible.
As we know, at this point in time, the special -- or the Justice Department has made clear they believe the report in redacted form will be released at some point in mid-April. The attorney general says he's going to testify. We will see if the special counsel will as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will.
Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
And now just into CNN, a new move by Michael Cohen. The former Trump lawyer and fixer is offering additional assistance to Congress as he's preparing to go to prison next month.
Our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here.
Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned from this letter that Michael Cohen's attorneys have sent to Hill committees that Michael Cohen has testified to that just before he is to report to jail, Michael Cohen has found a hard drive with millions of files, according to this letter from the attorneys we're just obtaining.
And here's what this letter says: "Mr. Cohen was only recently able to access a hard drive with important documents. Said drive contains over 14 million files, which consists of all e-mails, voice recordings, images and attachments from Mr. Cohen's computers and phones. Mr. Cohen has only had the time to go through less than 1 percent of the drive, or approximately 3,500 files.
"Mr. Cohen needs time, resources and assistance to separate out privileged and personal documents from these 14 million files to make the rest available for review by various congressional committees that have sought his help."
So, in this three-page letter, Wolf, Michael Cohen's attorneys are trying to make the case to these congressional committees, asking them to write a letter on Cohen's perhaps saying that they need his continued cooperation, that he has already been cooperative voluntarily, and that these committees still need his help.
And this is a bid in order to delay his jail time, Wolf. It lays out here right on the last page of this letter that Michael Cohen wants SDNY to advocate for him to delay the jail time. Of course, he is supposed to report early in May.
And also Michael Cohen's team is asking for reduced jail time. As we know, his sentence has already been delayed one time, his three-year sentence. And so now this is an effort to try to get Congress to get to his side to help him reduce his sentence.
BLITZER: Yes, he's got a three-year sentence that is supposed to begin next month.
BLITZER: Stand by.
I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, get some legal analysis.
Jeffrey, you have had a chance to go through this letter. I have read the letter now too. What do you think?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the key thing to remember about Michael Cohen's legal situation is that he is going to prison for crimes he committed for the benefit of Donald Trump.
I mean, if you look at what he pleaded guilty to, lying about the timing of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations, the illegal campaign contributions to Stormy Daniels, the situation with Karen McDougal and "The National Enquirer," all of those crimes were not for him, but for the benefit of Donald Trump.
And he's making the point that, if you want me as a witness, you need me here in New York or in Washington, not locked up in prison, because I won't have access to those computers. And I don't -- and I can't help you.
Now, the complexity is, it's not up to Congress when he has to surrender. It's up to the Southern District of New York and the court who is supervising his case. But it is a pretty compelling case that, if you want the information, I can only get it for you if I'm out of prison.
BROWN: And I also think we should just make clear, if I may jump in with -- to what Jeffrey said, we don't know how helpful these 14 million files are going to be.
Correct me if I'm wrong, Jeffrey. I mean, he is saying, look, I have found this hard drive with all these files. We don't know if this information might be helpful to investigators. They are making the case, though, that, look, he's only been through 1 percent, and he doesn't have enough time before his jail -- before he supposed to report to jail to go through the rest of this. So, please, give him more time to do so.
Also, let's not forget Michael Cohen didn't have a cooperation agreement with the SDNY. So, in essence, and correct me if I'm wrong, Jeffrey, his team is sort of trying to get the benefit of a cooperation agreement here without actually having one, it seems.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: I think that's one way of looking at it.
I mean, look, like every person sentenced to prison, he wants to be sentenced to less time in prison. And three years for a crime -- a series of crimes like he pleaded guilty to, that was a stiff sentence, if you look at comparable situations, although nothing is precisely comparable to this.
It was a stiff sentence. And there is the possibility of a reduction. And it is true, as Pam says, there is no guarantee that these documents will produce important or incriminating evidence. But the one thing for sure is that, if he sitting in Otisville or one of the other federal prisons, he can't go through it and Congress is guaranteed that they won't learn the contents of what's inside.
BLITZER: As you know, Jeffrey, the last time Cohen testified before Congress, and we were all watching, and he seemed to open up several new potential areas of inquiry.
Do you sense that -- do you believe the Congress would be interested in going through this additional information he's now himself going through?
TOOBIN: I am certain Congress is interested in following up on information like the possibilities of bank fraud, of insurance fraud, which he very explicitly raised before Congress.
The issue and the complexity for Michael Cohen is that it's not up to Congress when he reports to prison. That is an issue for the Southern District and for the courts. And this is not an abstract discussion. He's do on May 6, just about a month -- a month from today.
So all of this, if anything is going to change, is going to have to change quickly.
BLITZER: Well, the two things he wants, he would like to get a reduced prison sentence. He's about to go start three years in jail. He also wants the beginning -- it's supposed to be next month -- to be substantially postponed.
Would a letter from Congress to the Southern District, to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York help Michael Cohen in those two objectives?
TOOBIN: One, but not the other.
I think there is a realistic possibility that the sentence could be delayed. Lots of people who are sentenced to prison managed to put off their sentences for several -- for several months. That is not all that unusual. A reduction in a prison sentence is a different story.
And that's something that would -- that would absolutely have to come from the Southern District of New York and not from Congress. So that's the audience that he really needs to persuade on reduction. But delay does seem to me a reasonable possibility.
BLITZER: All right, we will see what happens.
Good reporting. Pamela, Jeffrey, thank you very much.
There's other breaking news we're following, this time on the Boeing 737 MAX disasters. The company's CEO now admitting that an automated flight system known as an MCAS played a role in both the Ethiopian and Lion air crashes.
Boeing's chief says it's the aerospace giant's responsibility to eliminating this risk, adding -- and I'm quoting him now -- "We own it."
Remember, 346 men, women and children were killed in those two crashes.
Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, is in Renton, Washington, state for us just outside Seattle, where MAX airliners are being built.
Drew, an important new admission by Boeing. What else are you learning?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: And the admission came after that Ethiopian preliminary report, Wolf, that really pointed the finger at Boeing, its new plane and the design of that plane, which needs to be fixed.
According to the Ethiopians, no 737 MAX should go up in the air until Boeing fixes its software problem and proves to the world that it won't happen again.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Tonight, the CEO of Boeing making a rare admission, accepting blame for two of its airliners that crashed.
DENNIS MUILENBURG, CEO, BOEING: It's apparent that, in both flights, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information.
It's our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it, and we know how to do it.
GRIFFIN: The video message from Boeing comes after a devastating preliminary report released today laying out that a software issue apparently caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight last month. The report also suggesting the same issue may have caused a Lion Air flight to go down last year.
The preliminary report finds the pilots did everything required to try to bring the plane back safely, but ultimately couldn't control it. Former Boeing operations analyst Rick Ludtke says, during development of the 737 MAX, Boeing had a mandate. Make sure any changes to the plane would not require additional pilot training in a simulator.
RICK LUDTKE, FORMER BOEING FLIGHT CREW OPERATIONS ANALYST: Unprecedented, never happened in the past that I'm aware of. We were very uncomfortable with this.
GRIFFIN: Ludtke says Boeing managers told him they even sold the plane to Southwest Airlines with a guarantee, a rebate of a million dollars per plane, if simulator training was required.
The flight control analyst says the demand to avoid simulator training known as Level D took over design of the aircraft.
LUDTKE: Throughout the design iteration, all the status meetings with managers is that was something that was always asked. Are we threatened, are we risking Level D? And if you are, you got to change it.
I think, philosophically, it was the wrong thing for the company to do to mandate such a limitation. To strongly avoid it makes sense, but to prevent it, I think you can see the line from that to these accidents.
GRIFFIN: Federal investigators are now trying to determine if Boeing's cost-saving moves could somehow lead do criminal charges.
GRIFFIN: Wolf, neither Boeing nor Southwest Air would respond to questions about that business deal raised in our story.
As for the software fix itself, Boeing was expected to deliver that to the FAA last week. It didn't happen. Now we know why. There was an integration problem, a minor problem, a glitch, if you will, that Boeing is now trying to fix, but any delivery of that software is still apparently weeks away -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Drew Griffin, reporting for us, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a top Democrat on both the Judiciary and the Armed Services Committees.
Senator, thanks so much for coming in.
You were one of the first U.S. lawmakers to call for the grounding of that Boeing 737 MAX plane here in the United States. You just heard the Boeing CEO, chairman apologize. The CEO apologized, saying they now own this crisis.
How significant is this?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): This preliminary report from the Ethiopian authorities is profoundly significant and left the Boeing CEO with really no choice, but to acknowledge that it is on them.
And it reaffirms the reason that I sought the grounding right away. These pilots did everything they were supposed to do. They did everything possible. And they struggled with the software.
And the fault really is not only on Boeing, but also on the FAA which outsourced safety, did it on the cheap, neither cheap, nor safe, and in effect put the manufacturer in charge of certifying airworthiness for this software and every other safety feature, which they made optional, not mandatory.
BLITZER: Because that cries out for congressional oversight. You got to figure out what happened. I assume you're going to be engaged in that.
BLUMENTHAL: I am offering legislation that will reverse that outsourcing, that will take back to the FAA the responsibility for airworthiness certification, require that all the safety features be mandatory.
In other words, the software that listened only to one of the sensors and therefore went awry should have been listening to both of them, that kind of safety feature ought to be made mandatory.
And one more point, Wolf, very importantly. Before these 737 MAX 8 are allowed to go back into the air, there ought to be an independent authority, someone or some entity independent and separate from both the FAA, which has so lost credibility here, and from Boeing.
BLITZER: Who is that independent authority, that outside entity that has that kind of credibility?
BLUMENTHAL: There has to be a consensus on the part of Congress and the FAA as to who it is, someone unconnected with either the agency or the manufacturer.
There's too much agency capture here, too many revolving doors, too many conflicting interests. That's what the Congress has to prevent going forward.
BLITZER: They have got to learn the lessons from what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again.
Let's get to the other breaking news we're following, and I know you're following it very closely. Your colleague in the House, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, now calling on the attorney general, Bill Barr, to release the summaries of conversations, anything that -- the summaries of conversations, communications between the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller, including the summaries of what Mueller's team themselves, what they had prepared.
Those were not released. Where is this heading?
BLUMENTHAL: Where it heads is to know what Bob Mueller thinks about the Barr summary.
There have been very credible reports that Mueller's team is deeply dissatisfied. After being discreet for so long, the fact they're now speaking out is really profoundly important. And they're saying there is alarming and significant evidence -- that's the quote from your report -- that there was obstruction and compelling evidence, possibly even of collusion, even if it doesn't rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
So where it goes now is that these subpoenas need to be enforced. The legislation I have offered with my Republican colleague Chuck Grassley of Iowa should be adopted requiring full disclosure, not only of the report, but all of the facts and findings.
The American people, Wolf, want us to deal with infrastructure and taxes and health care and veterans issues. But they also want overwhelmingly full disclosure and transparency, as reflected in the rallies that are going on right now across the country.
BLITZER: I know you participated in one just before you came here.
In his four-page letter to Congress, Bill Barr, the attorney general, he used Mueller's own words that he quoted did not establish conspiracy or coordination, what they call collusion, but on obstruction, the attorney general wrote that the report -- quote -- "sets out evidence on both sides of the question" -- close quote.
Where do you think the discrepancy is between the summary and the report?
BLUMENTHAL: The discrepancy is in the apparently compelling evidence of possible culpability for criminal acts on the part of the president of the United States.
The standard for a prosecutor is always prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And that standard applies to the element of intent. Bill Barr is providing a really elegantly, but brazenly devious version of the Mueller report.
That's the reason for the Mueller team's disquiet.
BLITZER: But would he risk his reputation, the new attorney general, at this stage in his life and his career, by mischaracterizing what the Mueller report says?
BLUMENTHAL: He's acting as the president's guy here, as his lawyer, rather than the people's lawyer, in my view.
And that's at least the appearance of it. Would he risk his reputation? Well, he hasn't necessarily misstated directly what's in the Barr report by -- but failing to provide a full and fair version of it is apparently what the Mueller folks are saying that he did.
BLITZER: The Justice Department in a statement today, they're defending how the attorney general has handled this.
In their statement, the Department of Justice said: "Every page on the Mueller report was marked as containing confidential grand jury information."
Are Democrats right now, like you and your colleagues in the House, rushing the process, the redaction process, to make sure that details that could compromise other investigations or compromise national security, that those kinds of details won't be released?
BLUMENTHAL: There should be discretion here exercised to protect ongoing investigations, but those are separate from the Mueller investigation. They're in New York, where the president has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
In fact, the special counsel or Attorney General Barr should petition the court for release of the grand jury materials, which can be done on a public interest standard. And as for that information that may be derogatory to people who are uninvolved, before that report is made public, it too can be redacted.
BLITZER: But to release grand jury information, don't you need a separate court order?
BLUMENTHAL: And that's why the attorney general should petition or the special counsel, based on the public interest here, but the Congress can see classified material.
We do it all the time, top-secret material. There's nothing there that should be redacted from Congress. All of the report should go to Congress. The American people deserve to see as much as possible or all of the report. They paid for it. They deserve to see it and all the facts and evidence.
BLITZER: You're on the Judiciary Committee. Your chairman, Lindsey Graham, says he doesn't need to see the unredacted report. What do you say to him?
BLUMENTHAL: I think Lindsey Graham, being a really astute and insightful lawyer, eventually will conclude he needs to see more, rather than less.
And others on the committee, including Senator Kennedy, who has joined our bill -- he's a Republican -- along with Senator Grassley, in this bipartisan effort to see all of the report. So I think there's building momentum across the country.
The polls show it. But even more, the energy and passion that we're seeing at these rallies and other events show it too.
BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks for coming in.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
Just ahead, there's more breaking news.
The House Judiciary Committee chairman demands the Justice Department turn over communications with Robert Mueller's office, release any summaries containing Mueller's report.
And a CNN exclusive, as Russian forces beef up their presence very close to the United States, building bases in the frozen Arctic.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: We're following the breaking news of the battle over the Mueller report. The House Judiciary Chairman is now demanding that the Attorney General turnover his communications with the Special Counsel's office. Let's bring in our analyst. And, Bianna, do you think Bill Barr is going to grant this latest request from Jerry Nadler?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, there's definitely more pressure on him to do something. And the most ironic part of this all, Wolf, is that we were expecting some resolution out of the Mueller report. And here, we get just more confusion. I will say that the reporting from Mark and others at the New York Times sort of answered the question that many had after we got the initial Barr memo, and that is what does the Special Counsel, what are the prosecutions team, what are they thinking. What do they think about how Barr has analyzed the Mueller report? Has he done it properly? Was it too quickly?
And I think it's interesting that for two years, we've seen no leaks, nothing come out of the Special Counsel. And now, all of a sudden, we're at least hearing from those that are in the know about how they are interpreting Barr's report, and many of them clearly have a lot of questions. The longer Barr waits, I think the more pressure will be on him to make clear that he's not only somebody who is representing the President's interests but obviously the country's.
BLITZER: Yes. Good point there. Mark Mazzetti, you were -- a couple of your colleagues at the New York Times, you broke this story about some members of the Mueller team now feeling that they have to raise some alarm bells in the way that the Attorney General is handling this.
MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And we are getting the first signs of real tension that were there between the Special Counsel's office and senior Justice Department officials in how this ended, how the Mueller investigation ended and the report -- the letter by Barr went out. Clearly, there is a sense that the Barr team didn't capture the extent of what Mueller had put together over 22 years. And --
BLITZER: 22 months.
MAZZETTI: Sorry, 22 months. And it felt like that. And the tension about, you know, how much he has framed the debate going forward, about -- that something that the President himself crowed about that day, a complete exoneration. And I think that is some of what has led to this frustration and this tension among the Special Counsel's team that that first effort to shape this narrative was done by Barr.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, in his summary of the so-called principal conclusions that the Attorney General wrote on that four-page letter, he was very clear on the issue of conspiracy or coordination or collusion but less so on obstruction of justice.
He wrote this. He said, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question. So where do you think the report and the summary might have diverged?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I'm going to answer that question with the three words you never supposed to say on cable news which are, I don't know. But the answer exists in the world. We -- the Mueller report is a document that exists. And by writing that in his four-page letter, Barr all but demands that he release the report because you can't characterize something and then say, well, I can't show you what I'm characterizing. I mean, that would be both intellectually dishonest and factually misleading.
So I think, you know, the question you're asking, which is obviously a very good question, is an important one to resolve, but it should be resolved by the report not by my speculating about what's in the report or anyone speculating about what's in the report.
BLITZER: You know, David Swerdlick, how damaging would it be to the Attorney General if it's discovered that he was mischaracterizing the Mueller report? DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, to Jeffrey's point, we'll see. I think one of the thing that Mark's story today in The Times points out is that this did allow the administration, the Justice Department, the White House to set the initial narrative. But if you look at that letter, as you just pointed out, Wolf, there's at least two instances where Attorney General Barr says no conspiracy, no coordination. They are a little more vague about lower case C collusion.
So I took from that that, look, they are saying, and I'm sure they have grounds for this, that there is no crime committed, no affirmative actions taken by the President or on his circle to work with foreign entities. But that's different than playing Footsie with foreign entities. The Trump tower meeting with Veselnitskaya, Trump Tower Moscow negotiations, on and on.
BLITZER: You know, Jamie Gangel, the President's own advisers could have told them maybe they did tell them that the full report, if and when it is completely released, will not be nearly as exonerating as the President has claimed.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they did tell him. And if not privately, we know that they told him publicly. How long ago did Alan Dershowitz say publicly that the report was going to be devastating? Rudy Giuliani is still picking away at the Mueller team.
To go back to what Bianna has said, the word pressure. There is now what we are going to see day-by-day, with Jerry Nadler today, is pressure on the Attorney General. The question is what impact will it have. Will he do something sooner, will he do it at all, how much will he do it, and to the point about his reputation? Friends of his in Washington, D.C. say he is a straight shooter and that he will do the right thing.
BLITZER: We shall see soon enough. Go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And if I could just add one thing that we didn't see in that four-page report was the Attorney General say explicitly that Robert Mueller left it up to me to decide on the issue of obstruction of justice, right? That was vague. So that, in and of itself, raises the question of was it up to him or did Robert Mueller intend for Congress to make that decision, yet another reason to see the full report.
BLITZER: Well, Jeffrey, go ahead and tell us, and don't give me a three word answer.
TOOBIN: You know what? The important thing on cable is to be emphatic even if you are wrong. But, you know, I think -- you know, the important point to remember here is that Barr has a lot of leeway and those four categories are very broad potentially. And, you know, the Congress says they're going to subpoena the report. I don't know that any court is going to order that to be turned over. I mean that's -- there is not a lot of law on that subject. So what Barr says, for better or for worse, may be the last word here on disclosure. BLITZER: Do you think, Mark, we can expect some of the Mueller team to continue at least to speak out privately if they're not happy with what the Attorney General does?
MAZZETTI: I mean, sure. We're going to see this going forward. I mean, the report coming out may just be the beginning of the narrative going forward and people will speak out. I mean, take Barr on his word that the report will come out in some capacity, we will see the extent that it's redacted. But this is a very, very high stakes battle and it's going to go on for some time because the -- you know, it matters a lot to a lot of people.
BLITZER: And the President would call -- they'll call them 13 -- the President will call them the 13 angry democrats. Go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, you know, one of the things about the redactions that we haven't talked about is, you know, will we see how much is redacted, will there be black lines or will they retype the whole things So that we don't know how much is redacted, will we know what grounds each redaction is based on, is it based on classified information grand jury material? All of that is going to very important.
Not just what's redacted but how it is redacted and on what grounds, and whether we see that.
BLITZER: That's a good point indeed.
GOLODRYGA: And also it makes it much more important what we heard today compared to what the President said yesterday that the democrats will just ask for it no matter what, nothing will satisfy them. Remember, he said if it's an 800-page report we hand over, they won't be satisfied. Because of the reporting today especially from the The New York Times, there is much more pressure to release that memo than there was yesterday.
BLITZER: Good point. All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we're following, including a stunning development in the case of a young man in Kentucky who showed up in the street saying he was a little boy who had been kidnapped eight years ago. Tonight, the FBI says he's not a little boy at all. He's not even a teenager. Was it all a sick hoax?
[18:45:27] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We have more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. A shocking announcement late this afternoon, the FBI revealed a DNA test shows the young man's astonishing claim that he is the same boy who vanished nearly eight years ago is simply not true.
Our national correspondent Athena Jones is covering the story for us.
Athena, tell us more about the astonishing twist in the story. ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this truly is a
stunning development. It has been a whirlwind story. It all began Wednesday, just yesterday morning, when a young man showed up here at the intersection behind me, claiming to be 14-year-old Timmothy Pitzen who had gone missing back in 2011.
So this led to cautious hope among his family members. Police began to look into it with the help of the FBI, various police departments, multiple agencies considering Timmothy Pitzen was from Aurora, Illinois, and we're here at the border of Kentucky and Ohio.
All day, we were asking the authorities for information about the testing, how far they had come in identifying the person. They've been cautious all along and they had privacy and family concerns to think about. Now, we know why.
It turns out this man is not -- not only is he not Timmothy Pitzen, he's not even a teenager. His name according to Newport, Kentucky, police is Brian Michael Rini of Medina, Ohio. He is 23 and he has a prior arrest record, and a pretty long one at that.
We looked it up. Here are just a few of the crimes he's been accused of in the past -- theft, burglary, vandalism, disorderly conduct, making false alarms and passing bad checks.
Now, Rini has not yet been charged, but this is truly a stunning development. And, you know, we've heard from Timmothy Pitzen's family. His uncle says that I'm floored who the bleep would do that, his father according to Timmothy Pitzen's aunt is just devastated all over again. You had this brief moment of hope, of cautious hope, as his grandmother had put it, and now shattered once again to learn that this is not their long lost son or relative, Timmothy Pitzen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones on the scene for us -- Athena, thank you.
Also tonight, an exclusive look at Russia's military buildup near America's doorstep. President Vladimir Putin's forces strengthening their presence in the strategically important Arctic.
Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen travelled to the region. He is back in Moscow tonight. Fred is joining us live.
You got to see this military expansion, Fred, up close.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Wolf. And the Russians are making a huge push to boost their presence in the Arctic economically but also militarily as well. You're absolutely right. They took us to one of their newest but also one of their most remote bases, which is very much state of the art.
Here's what we saw.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Racing north across the frozen Arctic Sea on a Russian army chopper.
(on camera): The Russians are making a huge effort to upgrade their military infrastructure in the Arctic. Several of their bases are already fully operational and right now, they are flying us to one of their most modern ones.
(voice-over): They call this base Northern Clover.
The Russian army has already deployed coastal defense rockets and Arctic anti-aircraft system built to perform in the cold.
CAPT. EGOR OGARKOV, RUSSIAN ARMY (through translator): This complex has adopted for much harsher weather conditions in the Arctic. I works in temperatures as low as negative 50 degrees.
PLEITGEN: It's all part of Vladimir Putin's long-term strategy to dominate the Arctic.
(on camera): This base has a clear mission, to defend and enable Russia's interest in the Arctic North. And as the ice here becomes weaker because of global warming, those economic interests are becoming more important.
(voice-over): The Northern Clover base is in a strategic location in Russia's Arctic Far East. It seems remote until you look at the world from the top and see that this base is one of Russia's closest to U.S. territory. The base can house up to 250 soldiers. Aside from its weapons arsenal, it also has high powered radars to make sure America and its allies don't come close.
Russia is pouring major resources into its Arctic endeavor. It's the only country with a fleet of nuclear icebreakers to open up and control Arctic trade routes that could make trade between Asia and the West much faster and cheaper.
And Russia is already tapping into natural resources in the Arctic like liquid natural gas, even deploying floating nuclear power stations to fuel its Arctic ambitions.
[18:50:08] MAJ. VLADIMIR PASECHNIK, BASE COMMANDER (through translator): Our base performs radar control, monitors the air space, secures the Northern Sea route and eliminates damage to the environment.
PLEITGEN: The Trump administration seems woefully inequipped to counter Russia's Arctic endeavors, while Moscow was expanding and fortifying its position in this vital area, America and its allies lack even the same ice-breaking power of Russia's fleet.
PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, the Russians show no signs of letting up. They're actually building even more ice breakers and even developing a whole new class of even bigger ice breakers. In total, the Russians say that since 2012, they put in place more than 470 pieces of military infrastructure in the Arctic -- Wolf BLITZER: Wow. Very significant. Fred Pleitgen, great reporting.
Thank you very much.
Just ahead, President Trump feels the heat as Democrats go after his tax returns. Will he tell the IRS to comply with the request?
[18:55:42] BLITZER: Tonight, as Americans grapple with the division of the Trump era, there is renewed in the Bush political dynasty, including the woman who was a wife of one president, mother to another. We're talking about Barbara Bush.
Before her death, the former first lady gave extensive interviews for a new biography entitled "The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of An American Dynasty".
We are joined by the author Susan Page. She's also the Washington bureau chief for the "USA Today" and a good friend.
Susan, thanks very much for coming in and thanks for writing this book which is fascinating.
What were Barbara Bush's biggest fears about President Trump and the direction of the country?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": You know, she didn't like the rhetoric. She didn't like the tone. She didn't like the fact that he attacked her son Jeb Bush during the 2016 primaries.
BLITZER: Low Energy Jeb.
PAGE: Low Energy Jeb.
She worried about the tone of our politics generally. And when I -- in the final interview I did with her, I said, do you still think you are Republican? And she said, no, I have to say I don't.
BLITZER: She doesn't think she's a Republican. Did she give you the explanation because of President Trump?
PAGE: Yes, because of Trump and the tone the party had taken. Now, it's not that she considered herself a Democrat. She didn't vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She wrote in Jeb's name. But she felt the party left her.
BLITZER: You also reveal a lot of amazing details of how Barbara Bush tried to give her own son, President George W. Bush, some advice on his presidency. How did that go?
PAGE: Well, not so -- from his point of view, I think there was a time he didn't want to hear from his mother. She had concerns about the Iraq War. She thought he was listening too much to Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, and not enough to people like Brent Scowcroft who advised his father. And George W. Bush told me in an interview I did for the book, that he finally told his mother, look, I'm the president, I'm making these decisions. And at that point, she backed off.
BLITZER: Her advice to the president, to her son at that time, may have been right.
PAGE: It may have been right, yes.
BLITZER: Yes, knowing what we obviously know right now, no weapons of mass destruction and all of that. And the -- and the developments that unfolded.
PAGE: Yes. It's true.
BLITZER: Well, she was obviously a smart lady. Is the Bush dynasty from your perspective -- you have written a whole book about Barbara Bush -- is it going to continue with the new generation?
PAGE: You know, one thing I concluded by the time I finished this book was that for the Bush family you shouldn't define dynasty as just elective office. Now, George P. Bush, her grandson, has been elected and re-elected to statewide office in Texas. But I think that she thought of dynasty as more public service written in a broader way.
You know, for instance, her namesake, Barbara Bush her granddaughter, helped cofounded the Global Health Core. Another granddaughter helped launched a global feeding program. One of her grandsons left a corporate job to run a boys club, girls club of Greater Texas.
So, another grandson -- this was not publicized at the time enlisted in the marines and served in Afghanistan. So, I think -- she didn't like the word dynasty but if you define it, she thought this was okay.
BLITZER: How do you think she would feel about the Trumps now at least thinking about a Trump political dynasty?
PAGE: Well, you know, she was I think skeptical that Americans wanted dynasties. That's one reason that she and the President George H.W. Bush I think didn't like the word. It sounds like entitlement.
And remember in 2013 when Jeb Bush was thinking about running, she was publicly skeptical of the idea, saying the public had had enough of the Bushes and Clintons. As it turned out on that issue as well as the Iraq War, she turned out to be correct.
BLITZER: You learned a lot about in remarkable woman in the course of the interviews and research you spent time with letter. Is there one nugget that stands out that our viewers would be and surprised to learn?
PAGE: So, she didn't like the name of the book, "The Matriarch: The Making of an American Dynasty". And I said, well, OK, what would you name the book? She said "The Fat Lady Sings Again".
BLITZER: She had a great sense of humor. And she was tough. She was a tough lady.
PAGE: She -- you know, people thought of her, I think a lot of Americans thought of her as a kindly grandmotherly figure. And she was, because she could be warm and she loved her grandchildren. But she was tough and smart and caustic and every once in a while, she could be a little mean.
BLITZER: I had a pleasure of spending some quality time, not a lot, but some quality with her and I admired her a great deal.
Susan Page, "The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty", brand new book -- thanks so much for writing it. Thanks so much for coming in.
PAGE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And remember, don't miss CNN's original series, "The Bush Years", this Sunday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.