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Muller Probe Report Release; Trump Tax Returns Requested; Tim Ryan Holds Rally; Joe Biden Faces Fallout About Making Women Feel Uncomfortable by his Behaviors Toward Them; Biden: "I Would Be the Last Person to Announce"; Trump Touts Jobs Report Bounce Back; Mueller Team Investigators Frustrated Over Barr's Summary; FBI Investigates Alleged Mar-a-Lago Breach Was Espionage Report. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired April 6, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with President Trump facing battles on multiple fronts. The first, the fight brewing on Capitol Hill over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report. The president now confirming, via tweet, he is not read the report but says, quoting now, "He has every right to do so." He says this despite the Justice Department saying there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review.
And the second battle, the showdown over President Trump's tax returns. His lawyers have been preparing for this moment for months. And now the democrats have formally requested the documents from the IRS, and administration official says they are willing to take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. That official saying this quote, "This is a hill that people would be willing to die on it. We will see you in court." End quote.
Let's start first, with the fight to see the Mueller report. CNN's White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez is live for us in Los Vegas where the president will be speaking in a couple of hours. So tell us more about what Trump has been saying regarding the Mueller report.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred almost two weeks since Attorney General William Barr released his synopsis of the Robert Mueller's report, his findings on allegations of the Trump Campaign in 2016 colluded with Russians. President Trump is still focused on Robert Mueller. He tweeted out earlier today, writing quote, "I have not read the Mueller report yet even though I have every right to do so. Only know the conclusions and on the big one, no collusion, likewise -- recommendations made to our great attorney general who found no obstruction. Thirteen angry Trump-hating dems later brought to 18, given two years, $30 million and they found no collusion and no obstruction."
The president goes on to say that no matter what his administration would give democrats, they would never be satisfied. The president obviously admitting he has not read the Mueller report. It's unclear if he has actually read Barr's synopsis because in there Robert Mueller clearly states on the issue of obstruction that he made no conclusion, that he did not offer any findings to Barr or recommendations to Barr I should say, regarding the issue of obstruction. And that he did not exonerate President Trump, though that is a claim that we've been hearing from the president and his surrogates over the last two weeks.
As you said, the president is speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition here in Las Vegas in just a couple of hours. I suspect we're probably going to hear him say something about the Mueller report. Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, and then about the request of his tax returns, the president's lawyer sending a letter to the Treasury Department pushing back on the democrats' request for those returns over the last six years. What more can you tell us about what was said?
SANCHEZ: That's right, Fred, a senior administration official confirming to CNN that they're willing to fight to the end on this, to not release the president's tax returns. As you said, that letter sent to the Treasury Department. The attorney writes quote, "If the IRS acquiesces to Chairman Neil's request - Chairman Neal of the House Ways and Means Committee, it would set a dangerous precedent. As Secretary Mnuchin recently told Congress he is not aware that there has ever been a request for an elected official's tax returns for good reason.
It would be a gross abuse of power for the majority party to use tax returns as it a weapon to attack, harass and intimidate their political opponents. Once this Pandora's box is open, the ensuing tit for tat will do lasting damage to our nation. Really important to point out for context here Fred, President Trump is really the one who has set a precedent or rather broken a precedent.
He's the first president or the first candidate for president in more than 40 years to not share his tax returns with the American people. And according to recent polls, it's something the American people want to see. Look at this, CNN poll conducted in mid March. It shows 67 percent of those asked would like to see the president's tax returns. But again, this is something that the administration is going to fight for until the end. Perhaps we may see a Supreme Court fight, yet another front in the battle between democrats and this White House. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right Boris and while the president is there in Las Vegas we're hearing that the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is convening a meeting at Camp David this weekend. What are you learning about that?
SANCHEZ: That's right Fred. It's a bit of a curious development considering that President Trump had backtracked on earlier announced plans to push for yet another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. Remember that the administration tried to do this twice and failed. The president and some of his surrogates had suggested that they might present a plan to Congress before the end of the year, and ultimately the president had to relent and say he wouldn't be forcing this push on health care or a republican health care plan until after the 2020 election. We've just learned from my colleague, Sarah Westwood, that the Acting
Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney is now hosting a White House staff and some other cabinet members at Camp David this weekend to talk about health care, to come up with some sort of plan.
It's unclear what the details of those plans may be or when we might see them, Fred. But again, given the context of what we've seen the last couple of weeks, it is interesting to note that the White House is still moving forward on this effort, at least behind the scenes, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez in Las Vegas. Thanks so much.
All right, let's talk more. Joining me right now Tennessee's Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Good to see you, Congressman.
REP. STEVE COHEN, (D) TENNESSEE AND MEMBER OF HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Thank you, Fredricka, nice to be with you this morning.
WHITFIELD: All right, so let's begin with this fight for the president's taxes. This is a fight that's really being launched by the House Ways and Means Committee but Trump's lawyer says the request, and I'm quoting now, "an effort by democrats to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech." What's your understanding about the purpose behind a requesting these tax returns for the last six years.
COHEN: It's to learn whether or not the president has business interests that would affect the policies that he's implementing as President of the United States that adversely affect the public and interfere with his position of trust that he has with the public as president. He's the only president who has not divested himself of his business interests and he has quite a few business interests around the globe including just as close to the Capitol as the Trump Hotel and in New York in the Trump Tower where he rents to foreign countries. I sincerely believe that's a violation of the emoluments clause but we want to look at those things and see if it's affecting our policy.
If he owes a lot of money to Russian Oligarchs or if he's gotten money from Russia. That might affect our foreign policy with Russia and explain why he's so (inaudible) to Putin - obsequious I guess.
WHITFIELD: Obsequious, yes. So a source is telling CNN that the administration is willing to take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that really does say, you know, years perhaps, right, or at least months of a battle, maybe even years. Do you see that potentially happening?
COHEN: Yes, he's not going to give in. There's something about his taxes that he doesn't want the public to know and he's made a point of getting the IRS to hire a director and a legal counsel that would support that. That's been a priority of his even more so than having the head of the State Department or Defense Department or anyplace else. Whether it shows his income isn't as great as he claimed it is, it's been shown over the years he's lied about his income, both for his ego and - and to get loans.
Or whether it shows he doesn't give to charities and it's been shown that he uses his foundation in ways that are improper and not charitable. Or whether it shows that he's had deductions that are improper. Or he has loans from people that would interfere with his particular duty of trust as leader of the country and in foreign affair affairs, so he's not going to stop and he's not going to want those taxes released.
WHITFIELD: And now a couple of weeks after the completion of the Mueller report, President Trump tweeting this morning saying, "I have not read the Mueller report yet even though I have every right to do so." So Trump making the case that democrats will never be satisfied no matter what kind of information they get. What's your reaction to his thoughts?
COHEN: Well I'm sure he hadn't read 400 pages cumulatively in his life so I'm sure he hasn't read the Mueller report. He, you know, he doesn't have a right to, in my opinion, to read it. That should have gone straight to Congress. It should have been there by now. Because it's about the president and Congress is the body that has a right, according to the constitution, to look into the president's misdeeds to see if there are misdeeds that worry Congress to the extent that they would look into actions to protect the constitution.
So Congress should have gotten the report. According to the stories written, there have been synopses of sections that could have been released two weeks ago which would have given a different story than the one that Mr. Barr gave the public. That's a line that the president wanted released and Barr is his guy. He wants his guy at Justice; he didn't life Jeff Sessions. He wants his guy at the IRS. He doesn't know the truth. He's not tethered to reality even, let alone the truth.
WHITFIELD: So the Attorney General Bill Barr has said he'll release the redacted version of the Mueller report in a matter of weeks. You know that you know Congress is still pushing for the whole unredacted version. Which do you think you'll see first?
COHEN: I think we'll see the limited amount that Barr gives us of course. That's his, what he's there put in the position for. And I'm sure there's a lot of information there that would show the president has done things that are, if not illegal and it could be illegal, that are impolitic and maybe unpatriotic, and we should be able to see those, the American public should be able to see much of it if not all of it.
And you know, Barr is just operating strictly as somebody to protect Trump and - and that's not right. That's not the way our government is supposed to be. It's supposed to be transparent. It's supposed to be open. It's supposed to be, you know, the first republican president was Lincoln and he said the government is of the people, by the people and for the people and nothing this president does in terms of disclosure, in terms of election processes, is of, by and for the people. They should go back to the roots of Lincoln and understand that.
WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks so much for being with us this Saturday. I appreciate it.
COHEN: You're welcome.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, President Trump already preparing to fight democratic demands to see his tax returns. Is the law on his side? And former Vice President Joe Biden making jokes following allegations of inappropriate touching. But he's not apologizing for his intentions.
WHITFIELD: After months of preparing for a fight over President Trump's taxes, the democrats have made their move. The House Ways and Means Committee has formally requested six years of the president's returns from the IRS and now - and back during the campaign Trump had argued that he could not release his returns because he was under audit. Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen was asked about that during his Congressional testimony.
REP. JIMMY GOMEZ, (D) CALIFORNIA: Mr. Cohen, do you know whether President Trump's tax returns were really under audit by the IRS in 2016?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I don't know the answer. I asked for a copy of the audit so I could use it in terms of my statements to the press, and I was never able to obtain one.
WHITFIELD: The White House says they are prepared to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. With me now is Shan Wu, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst. Good to see you.
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, so would an audit of some or all of the president's taxes actually protect against any such release?
WU: It doesn't appear to. No one has been able to come up with the rule that says if you're under audit, you can't release the returns. I mean there's some sort of a common-sense notion that if they're auditing me, I wouldn't want other people seeing the material. But no one has really come up with a rule that says that and of course, it seems to be one of the great unanswered questions of our time if he really is under an audit or not so we don't even know that.
WHITFIELD: So the committee's request, you know, is based on the 1924 tax law that allows Congress really to be furnished the records. And it doesn't leave the IRS much room to really maneuver. Here's what Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal said about the timing of this demand.
REP. RICHARD NEAL, (D) MASSACHUSETTS AND CHAIRMAN OF THE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: We followed IRS guidelines. Which suggest to taxpayers that six years is generally the measurement that they use for advising taxpayers on how long to keep their forms. So we didn't want to have the case perhaps dismissed on a technical glitch. So again I think as I've said to you now, for a long period of time, we've - we've taken a very methodical approach to what will likely be an established court case.
WHITFIELD: And what do you see in the road ahead on this matter?
WU: I think he's right. It's certainly going to be an established court case. The Trump lawyers are going to fight very hard. They're going to have to make new law because on the face of it that provision seems like a no-brainer. It's an open-and-shut case, there's no threshold that needs to be established. They can simply request it.
And so the letter that his lawyer wrote is kind of a grab bag of sort of weak legal arguments to me. I mean it starts off saying you need a legitimate legislative purpose. Then he says, even if you have one, I think it's pretextural. It moves to sort of a First Amendment argument that they're punishing the president's speech and then lastly, it throws in as a kicker, in any event this would be all unconstitutional because it's a Separation of Powers violation. So it's kind of like pick your shot there. And I -- I think it's weak. I don't think they really have much leg to stand on. However, it's wise to put out those arguments, because as always, the team may be playing to the court of public opinion.
WHITFIELD: And you argue the letter that came from the president's lawyer really is kind of a grab bag. It doesn't make a good, sound argument as to why the president should not acquiesce.
WU: Exactly. I don't think there is a sound argument to make. If I were representing the president, I might try to make some kind of an argument along the lines of the president's returns are different than other people's returns. It could be very disruptive to the presidency. Kind of like the argument they make that the president shouldn't be sued civilly. I think can you make such an argument, but the assortment of issues that he puts forth in the letter just - it appears to be a shotgun approach.
WHITFIELD: So who is to entertain, you know, this request by the White House? Is it strictly up to the IRS to say, "We're not going to hand the material over?"
WU: That's a very good question, Fred. If I were Trump's people, I would want the IRS to say that rather than the White House counsel's office saying it and perhaps that's why he was so prioritizing the confirmation of the IRS general counsel. It seemed more important to him than even appointing the attorney general. And you would want from a defensive point of view to have the agency back you up that way. But I think they're going to be hard-pressed to do that and if the agency internally tells them we can't turn it down, then they may have to weigh in -- in more heavier fashion from the White House counsel's office.
WHITIFIELD: And then quickly, what would be answered from these tax returns that the public needs to know?
WU: Among the answers would be whether or not from a criminal standpoint, whether it's fraud in terms of these inflated values we've heard from the Michael Cohen testimony.
It would also answer a lot of questions that suggest where his business interests are, you know foreign entities, foreign investments. Those will all be very helpful to know because that's really been very well hidden by his....
WHITFIELD: Yes and how any of that would potentially influence policy that the president would be driving.
WITFIELD: All right, Shan Wu, thanks so much. I appreciate it.
WU: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, Vice President Joe Biden visits his hometown. Did he slip up and reveal his intentions on a potential 2020 White House bid?
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Several democrats looking to unseat President Trump in 2020 are out in full force today including Congressman Tim Ryan. He will hold his first rally of his campaign in Youngstown, Ohio, about two hours from now. We'll bring it to you live once it begins. Meanwhile, potential democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is facing more fallout after allegations of making women feel uncomfortable. Days after responding to the allegations, and saying he gets it, Biden was seen hugging people during a speech and then making light about it.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I just want to you know, I had permission to hug Lonnie.
He gave me permission to touch him.
(Audience laughter) (END VIDEO)
WHITFIELD: After the speech Biden had this to say.
BIDEN: Look, it is, it is important that I and everyone else is aware that any woman or man who feels uncomfortable should have the right to just say, "Hey, I'm uncomfortable with that," or hopefully we'll get to the point even before anyone has to say, "I'm uncomfortable," no matter what and I - I -- really do understand that. And so but it's you know, one of the things that like for example, what made me say it, I wasn't joking.
WHITFIELD: CNN Political Correspondent Arlette Saenz is now following the story for us. Arlette, what is his team saying?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it was a very clear that both Biden's team and the former vice president needed to come out and kind of clean up those jokes that he made on stage. While people were laughing in the room it didn't sit well outside of that room on social media. It really lit up right after the former vice president made those comments. You saw him surprise reporters; we didn't expect him to come out and say that he didn't mean to make light of those comments.
We've seen these varying statements from the former vice president over the course of the past week and on Wednesday, he released that direct-to-camera video saying he's going to be more mindful of people's feelings and experiences going forward. But the first woman who accused him of making her feel uncomfortable, Lucy Flores, she pointed out afterwards that Biden hadn't actually issued an apology so I had the chance to ask the former vice president that direct question. Take a listen.
SAENZ: Some women who want to hear directly I am sorry. Are you sorry for the way that you (inaudible)?
BIDEN: I'm sorry I didn't understand more. I'm not sorry for any of my intentions. I'm not sorry for anything that I have ever done and I've never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman. That's not the reputation I've had since I was in high school, for God's sake.
SAENZ: Now Biden acknowledged that going forward his behavior on the campaign trail is going to have to change and it's going to affect the way that he campaigns. He is a hugger, he shakes a lot of hands so this is something that the former vice president is going to continue to grapple with as he gets closer and closer to the 2020 bid. Yesterday it was basically all but announcing, basically saying that it's not a matter of if, but when he enters the race, Fred.
WHITFIELD: OK then Biden just reacted right to the passing of the former South Carolina Senator Ernest Fritz Hollings. What did he say?
SAENZ: That's right, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Fritz Hollings were very, very close friends and Biden issued a tweet just a few -- within the past hour saying that Fritz Hollings was a good man, a patriot who fought for this country in uniform and elected office. A friend who lifted me up when it mattered the most early in my career. One thing to note about the former vice president, Fritz Hollings. Fritz Hollings was instrumental in getting Joe Biden to stay in the Senate when his wife and young daughter passed away or were killed in a car accident just a few weeks after Biden was elected. He was 29 years old.
He didn't want to go to the Senate after enduring such a loss and still having to take care of his two young sons, Hunter and Beau Biden and Fritz Hollings and his wife, Peatsy, were two of the people that really encouraged him to stay in the Senate and kind of took him under his wing so Biden has enjoyed a very close relationship with Fritz Hollings.
One question going forward, is will he maybe deliver a eulogy at his funeral? Biden has done that for a lot of his former colleagues. That's something we'll be watching in the next week.
WHITFIELD: All right, Arlette Saenz, thanks so much.
All right, let's talk more now about all that's going on involving Joe Biden. CNN Political Analyst Nathan Gonzalez and Patrick Healy are with me now.
All right, so good to see you both.
Biden said yesterday, you know, that he is close to making a decision. And he told the reporters that he wants to be the last candidate to announce. So Patrick, you know, is waiting hurting his chances despite being really at the top of the polls without ever getting into the race?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it has hurt him somewhat, Fred. He hasn't been able to hire some of the staffers that he thinks he was hoping to. Donors have been sort of, you know, raising questions about, OK, how serious are you, do you have enough of political operation in place to get this off the ground. But, you know, mostly, Fred it's a loud kind of a drip, drip, drip of both questions and stories to come out about Joe Biden's past record on abortion rights and sort of his unevenness in supporting that. On some of his early comments about bussing and race in the 1970s.
And his advisers who are kind of a campaign in waiting and Biden himself haven't really shown agility to deal with this. I mean, the crisis now that he's facing now a week into these complaints from women was totally foreseeable by Biden and the people around him. This behavior of his was out in public for many, many years.
And the degree to which they weren't able to deal with it, contain it, and instead made three statements in a video and then these jokes, you know, sort of suggest at least right now, kind of a flat-footedness by a candidate who would be facing a very nimble president who doesn't really have any shame in launching attacks about another person's treatment of women? You know, he's in sort of a tough place.
WHITFIELD: Yes. However, you know, Nathan, it does appear, you know, the president sees Biden perhaps as a real viable threat, you know. On the other hand, you know, Trump has the strong economy in his pocket. The U.S. economy added a hundred and 96,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent, a level near historic. So, you know, is that something that the Dems, you know, really are unable to attack? What will be the focus?
NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what's fascinating about Vice President Biden and figuring in the economy is that, when you look at Vice President Biden, I don't think he demographically fits the party anymore. Ideologically, he doesn't fit the party anymore. The stories about past behavior with women and other -- that doesn't fit the party anymore.
But yet, if he is viewed as the Democrat who is most able and likely to defeat President Trump by going up through the upper Midwest, you know, including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and winning those states, some Democratic voters I think are willing to look past that if he's able to defeat President Trump. But I think going back to -- adding on to what Patrick said that one of the cases for him to announce his campaign is it would allow him to go on offense more rather than being on defense where, you know, what is his -- what's the campaign message and kind of go out there rather than just being in this defensive posture based on past statements and past actions.
WHITFIELD: And Nathan, isn't it enough that, you know, we heard from Biden yesterday who said, you know, he's going to make some changes as it relates to, you know, his demeanor or, you know, how some people feel uncomfortable with his behavior?
GONZALES: Well, I think his actions going forward are only part of the story. I mean, he says he's going to change, we'll see. Because there's going to be a ton of events in the next year plus. But that doesn't change what's happened in the past. And are there more women who have felt uncomfortable with how he's treated them in the past or?
And so, it's going to be this confusing mix of things and that's why I think having a campaign message is just launching I think might be the better option for him.
WHITFIELD: And -- so Patrick, you know, Trump, you know, tweeted, he's boasting about this, you know, jobs report, the economy and he even tweeted this, you know, if the Democrats win, it's all over. Is that the greatest leverage that perhaps the president has as the incumbent?
HEALY: Well, he'll try to make that case in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, those three key states that he was able to flip from President Obama. But the thing that we saw in the midterms that was so interesting, Fred, was that as much as President Trump and Republicans had, you know, a growing economy to run on, President Trump kept going wildly off-message and focusing over and over again on the caravan that was coming up from Central America and making comments about immigrants.
[12:35:02] Reminding people kind of the cultural divisiveness that he feels like, you know, energizes his base so well. But did so much damage to Republicans House candidates in swing, you know, counties and suburbs in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan. And that certainly didn't help the Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker who ended up -- you know, tried to run on the economy and ended up losing to a very progressive Democrat.
So as much as President Trump wants to run on the economy, he still is so drawn to what he sees as his best strategy to rally his base which are these cultural issues which really turn off, you know, a lot of swing voters in the states he'll need.
WHITFIELD: All fascinating. Patrick Healy, Nathan Gonzales, thank you so much. Good to see you.
GONZALES: Thank you.
HEALY: Thanks, Fred.
WHITFIELD: So it's been nearly two weeks, but the Mueller report still under wraps, even President Trump says he has not read it. So what's holding up its release?
And, is the fight to see what's in it just really getting started? We'll ask our legal experts, next.
[12:40:24] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.
President Trump says he still hasn't read the Mueller report. Trump tweeting this morning that he has yet to see the full report. Even though he has, quote, every right to do so.
Meantime, there are reports of growing frustrations from Robert Mueller's team according to associates after U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr released a four-page summary of the 400-page report. Sources familiar with the conversation say investigators felt Barr didn't completely describe President Trump's actions.
I'm joined now by Garrett Graff, author of "The Threat Matrix" and back with me former federal prosecutor Shan Wu. Good to see you both.
So Shan, you first, you know, was this bound to happen when the president's appointed attorney general got to craft his own summary? SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it was bound to happen, some of us feared it would happen. It's particularly troubling now in terms of the reports we're getting that the Mueller people had prepared summaries. And given their work history, you know, I've been in court with these folks on the other side of the table, they are very, very careful wordsmiths, very meticulous. They would not, in my opinion, have written their summaries and then left it to someone else to have to completely sanitize them. They would have been written with an eye towards presumable public scrutiny.
WHITFIELD: So then Shan, what would be the grounds in which the attorney general says instead of releasing if you're going to release summaries why not, you know, the investigators or the team members' summaries, why would he feel compelled to summarize the summaries?
WU: Well, he has a lot of legal grounds for speculating about why his intent -- what his intentions are. It would seem though he's trying to slow-walk the release of potentially negative details and also to kind of lay some atmospherics ahead of time. He spewed out so many exceptions to what should be disclosed. They almost swallow the rule.
There's the grand jury scrubbing. There is his feeling about classified sensitive information, and then his sort of catch-all area which is anything that could potentially be embarrassing. So he's giving himself an enormous amount of discretion on that point.
WHITFIELD: But, Garrett, you know, House Democrats are -- have been arguing, wait a minute, we've handled classified material before responsibly. I mean, this is something they are sworn and expected to do. So why is this occasion any different?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The big exception obviously is this grand jury testimony. The so-called 6(e) exemption because that's not material that can be released publicly unless a court says so. What is unique and what is puzzling in this is that that permission has been requested and given in places like Watergate and Whitewater before. So the fact that Barr is proceeding with trying to redact that information rather than asking for permission from the court to -- for it to be made public, it is potentially troubling and puzzling.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So what could be behind that, if not to protect or pledge a certain allegiance, Garrett, you know, to the president?
GRAFF: Yes. And this is where I think we're seeing the split between Barr's team and what Mueller's team thinks that they did which is, you have a criminal component to this and a political component. And on the criminal side, it's entirely possible and even likely that Barr's summary is correct. The president did -- the Mueller's team did not find that the president participated in a provable conspiracy with the Russian Government and that he did not get over the criminal line to obstruction.
Now, that doesn't necessarily though clear the president politically. And it seems like sort of Mueller's team is looking at this and saying hey, look, guys, it's entirely possible that the president has committed behavior here that we don't think is something that we should be encouraging in our Democratic system. That the bar for the president of the United States should not simply be we're not able to definitively prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he's an active asset of Russian intelligence. That we should hope to hold our president to a higher standard than that.
WHITFIELD: Shan, at the same time, could it be that the Mueller team did not, you know, assess that there was any wrongdoing or criminal activity by way of the president because they knew that it -- you know, there was that DOJ policy that he could not be indicted? However, it was the Mueller team that perhaps thought this report is going to go to Congress, and if there are grounds for impeachment and they want to use this report, then that's their responsibility to do so.
[12:45:02] WU: They certainly could have factored that in and exactly whether or how much they factored that it is again something that Attorney General Barr is kind of blurring for us at the moment. You know, to follow up on the point just made about the criminal aspect of it, I think I would make the distinction, we actually don't know on obstruction whether or not it reached the criminal threshold simply because of the one quote that says it does not exonerate and Barr's conclusion that the Special Counsel Mueller chose not to give or reach an opinion on that.
Now, that is, of course, puzzling since they seemed OK with reaching an opinion with regard to the conspiracy, i.e. the collusion and they're saying it doesn't exonerate him. So obviously there's going to be negative information in there. But we don't know if they said attorney general, this is above our pay grade, you make the decision. We don't know if they said we think this does belong in the political scheme. And that's part of the problem here, of course, is those details are so critical, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Garrett Graff, Shan Wu, we'll leave it there for now. Thanks so much.
WU: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: All right, coming up next, a security breach at the president's favorite getaway. Why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now says a recent guest at Mar-a-Lago could be a Chinese spy.
[12:50:31] WHITFIELD: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now suggesting a security breach at Mar-a-Lago could be linked to Chinese espionage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: But I think this tells the American people the threat that China poses. The efforts that they're making here inside the United States not only against government officials but more broadly.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: The FBI launched an investigation into possible espionage after a woman was arrested on the Mar-a-Lago property last week. She was allegedly found with Chinese passports, four cell phones, and a flash drive containing malicious software -- malware. Pompeo's comments are a stark contrast to President Trump who dismissed concerns about the breach calling it a fluke situation.
Let's bring in former Secret Service agent under President Obama, Jonathan Wackrow. So, Jonathan, you know, how does something like this happen?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LEGAL ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen, I think it was important to let everybody know is what did not happen. The president was never in any physical danger because of this incident. There is no, you know, breach, security breach of physical security measures. What did happen is that the Secret Service protocols worked. Their security plan worked and that a potential threat was actually thwarted as, you know, planned under the security protocols.
WHITFIELD: OK. However, the U.S. Secret Service does say that the club management actually determines who has access to Mar-a-Lago. And is that the way it should be when you have a president even though he has a separate, you know, residence wouldn't Secret Service still be in charge of security even at the president's secret -- you know, private residence I should say?
WACKROW: Well, they are in charge of security. But it's important to note that, you know, Mar-a-Lago's often referred to as the winter White House. It's not the White House, it's not a government, you know, facility. It's a private commercial, you know, a location that the president, you know, goes to temporarily.
The security structure that set up at Mar-a-Lago is the exact same as any other temporary facility that the president goes to. So take today for instance that the president is traveling to Las Vegas, the security structure that is set up for that event mirrors that methodology that is at Mar-a-Lago.
So to your question, you know, should the Secret Service, you know, be, you know, vetting everybody that comes onto the property? They are in a sense. They are screening everybody that comes on for physical security threats.
Now take that --
WHITFIELD: Except too, what's different here is there was membership. I mean, it isn't just exclusively a private residence but he does sell membership for people and perhaps they can extend an invitation and that further complicates matters, doesn't it?
WACKROW: So perfect point, Fred. You know, this comes down to a level of access control to the president. And the risk here isn't just the president himself, it's his entire entourage that goes along with him. So, you know, members who, you know, invite a guest to Mar- a-Lago, you know, can actually give, you know, access to the chief of staff to senior White House members. And that allows for, you know, potential for intelligence to elicit information not directly from the president but from the president's, you know, support staff.
WHITFIELD: Do you see changes afoot as a result?
WACKROW: Listen, I think that what will happen is that there will be closer coordination between the FBI and Secret Service on a go-forward basis as to critical locations where the president is known to go time and time again. So whether that's Mar-a-Lago, you know, hotels up in New York City during the U.N. General Assembly. Any time that the president is going to those locations, it's put out in advance. I think you'll see greater coordination with the intelligence community and the physical security planning by the Secret Service.
WHITFIELD: All right, Jonathan Wackrow, thanks so much. Good to see you.
WACKROW: Thank you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, tomorrow night on the final episode of the CNN original series, "The Bush Years: Family, Duty, Power", we'll see how George W. Bush secured his second term in office in the midst of the war on terror. Here is a sneak peek.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA PIERCE BUSH, DAUGHTER OF GEORGE W. AND LAURA BUSH: Dear Dad, at around 9:30 a.m. I give the order to execute the war plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The decision was an emotional one. I know I have taken the right action and do pray few will lose a life. I know what you went through. Love George.
It was a very difficult decision for my dad to invade Iraq. I remember being at dinner with my parents in D.C. and my dad left the table.
[12:55:03] And my mom told us after he left that he had just received word that a helicopter had been shot down and there were no survivors. That is the repercussion of choosing to go to war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Don't miss the final episode of "The Bush Years" tomorrow night, 10 Eastern only on CNN.
WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me. It's Saturday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin with the showdown over President Trump's tax returns. His lawyers have been preparing for this moment for months. Now, the Democrats have formally requested the documents from the IRS. And administration officials say they are willing to take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
That official said, quoting now, "This is a hill and people would be willing to die on it. We will see you in court."
And we are just learning that Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is holding a meeting at Camp David this weekend to discuss health care.