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William Barr Says To Expect The Release Of Redacted Mueller Report Within A Week; Barr Asked About Lawsuit To Overturn Obamacare. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 9, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


REP. ROBERT ADERHOLT (R-AL): Persons to the FBI for an investigation concerned in alleged misconduct during the Russia investigation, including the leak of highly classified material and alleged conspiracies to lie to Congress and the FISA Court in order to spy on then candidate Trump and other persons.

[10:00:18]

I would hope the Department of Justice will be giving these referrals appropriate and prompt consideration.

My question is, now that President Trump has been exonerated of Russia collusion, is the Justice Department investigating how it came to be that your agency used a salacious and unverified dossier as a predicate for a FISA order on a U.S. citizen?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Office of the Inspector General has a pending investigation of the FISA process in the Russian investigation. And I expect that that will be complete in probably May or June, I am told. So hopefully we'll have some answers from Inspector General Horowitz on the issue of the FISA warrants.

ADERHOLT: Go ahead.

BARR: More generally, I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all of the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016.

ADERHOLT: Are you investigating who leaked the existence of the FISA order against Carter Page?

BARR: Who what?

ADERHOLT: Are you investigating who leaked the existence of a FISA order against Carter Page?

BARR: I haven't seen the referrals yet from Congressman Nunes, but obviously, if there's a predicate for an investigation, it will be conducted.

ADERHOLT: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): Attorney General Barr, reports suggest that Special Counsel Mueller's report is anywhere between 300 and 400 pages long. I'd be interested in knowing how many discussions did you have with the Deputy Attorney general and other staff between receiving the report and releasing the memo. Was there discussion or debate about the evidence and conclusions? How many staffers assisted you in digesting so many pages of complex information in such a short period of time?

Let me tell you what I'm getting at that I find quite extraordinary. You received a very serious detailed report, hundreds of pages of high-level information, weighed the factors and conclusions at length, outlined, prepared, edited and released your memo in less than 48 hours. To me, to do this, it seems your mind must have been already made up. How did you do it?

BARR: The thinking of the Special Counsel was not a mystery to the people at the Department of Justice prior to his submission of the report. He had been interacting -- he and his people, had been interacting with the Deputy Attorney General and lawyers supporting the Deputy Attorney General in his supervision of the Special Counsel. And in that context, there had been discussions. So there were some inkling as to some of the thinking of the Special Counsel.

Furthermore, on March 5th, I believe, the Deputy and I met with Special Counsel Mueller and his team and had a preliminary discussion about the report. So we had an inkling as to what was coming our direction. And so even more thinking within the department was done about that over that time. That was a matter of weeks. And then when the report came, and it came approximately midday on Friday, the Deputy Attorney General and I and our staffs worked closely for the balance of that day, Saturday and Sunday.

LOWEY: I didn't want to interrupt you.

Did the White House see the report before you released your summarizing letter? Has the White House seen it since then? Have they been briefed on the contents beyond what was in your summarizing letter to the Judiciary Committee?

[10:05:00]

BARR: I've said what I'm going to say about the report today. I have issued three letters about it. And I was willing to discuss the historic information of how the report came to me and my decision on Sunday. But I've already laid out the process that is going forward to release these reports hopefully within a week. And I'm not going to say anything more about it until the report is out and everyone has a chance to look at it.

LOWEY: I think there is some relevant questions that I do hope you could answer today, sir. On the question of obstruction of justice, your memo stated, quote, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. Yet President Trump has publicly stated that this report is a complete and total exoneration. Can you tell us who is factually accurate and will the released report include details on the obstruction issue and why, as you noted, the President is not exonerated or will that information be redacted?

BARR: I've already explained the information that's going to be redacted from the report, the four categories. That is what's going to govern the redactions. And, in fact, the Special Counsel and his staff are helping us select the information in the report that falls into those four categories.

But, again, the report, I'll be in a position, as I said, within a week to release the report. People can then read the report. I have already promised the judiciary committees that I would appear as soon as they're able to schedule a hearing after the report is released. So I'm not going to discuss it any further until after the report is out.

LOWEY: Could you just explain for us, I understand that you were going to appear before the Judiciary Committee. But in that short period of time, it is very puzzling to me that the 400 pages could have been reviewed and the President states that this report is a complete and total exoneration. Who's factually accurate?

BARR: As I say, it's hard to have that discussion without the contents of the report, isn't it? And that's why I'm suggesting that we wait until the report is out, and I'm glad to talk to people about it after then, and I'm already scheduled to testify about that.

LOWEY: I appreciate that. In closing, I just hope that we as members of Congress are going to have the complete report and have discussions with you as to the accuracy of some of the statements. Thank you for appearing before us today.

And will we, in closing, will we have the complete report or are you going to be selective as to what you give members of Congress?

BARR: You mean the un-redacted report?

LOWEY: Yes.

BARR: No, the first pass at this is going to produce a report that makes these redactions based on these four categories. And that's something that I am hoping will be available to the public. As I said, I'm glad to talk to Chairman Nadler and Chairman Graham as to whether they feel they need more information and see if there's a way we could accommodate that.

LOWEY: Well, I do hope you can accommodate members of Congress who feel it's our responsibility to see the complete report, and I look forward to continuing this discussion. Thank you again for appearing.

BARR: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Mrs. Roby.

REP. MARTHA ROBY (R-AL): Attorney General Barr and Assistant Attorney General Loftus (ph), thank you for appearing before this committee today to discuss the President's FY '20 budget request. I would like to focus on the department's efforts as it relates to sex and human trafficking.

In the fiscal year 2018, the Justice Department initiated a total of 230 human trafficking prosecutions --

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Chris, what do you want to do?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. So the Attorney General, Bill Barr, just made a lot of news there in the past ten minutes or so, saying that the redacted Mueller report will be released to the public, so you would assume Congress and the public, obviously, within a week's time. There is also a really critical question that he did not answer that was asked by the Democratic Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee when she asked, did the White House see the report before you released your summarizing letter, has the White House seen it since then? He said, I've said what I'm going to say on the report.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I imagine he'll be pressed on that.

Some other headlines from this, he was asked if the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, played a part in the summary, that four-page summary that Attorney General Barr put out.

[10:10:03]

He said, not only did Mueller not play a role in that report, but they asked him to review it and he declined, which is interesting. So his fingerprint is not on that interpretation of it. But he also said, because he was pressed on how quickly he came up with that summary, and he said in his words that the thinking of the Special Counsel was not a mystery to the Department of Justice prior to the summary. In other words, they had been in touch about Mueller's findings. He was communicating them back and forth, so they kind of knew the direction he was going in.

HARLOW: Yes. All really interesting as well as color coding of redactions and reasons why --

SCIUTTO: Like a high school book report.

HARLOW: -- the redaction is made, maybe a little more complex than that. Our experts are back with us. We also have Evan Perez in Washington.

So, Elie Honig, with your attorney lens on, what struck you the most?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Two things jumped out at me, two dodges, right? Any time you see a dodge, I think we all recognize it. You don't have to be a trained prosecutor. The first question, did you run this letter by the White House before you sent it out? And he said, I said what I'm going to say. That's not an answer. Then he tap danced for 30 seconds. But I'd like to see the members of Congress go back to that and drill down it, ask specific questions. Yes or no, Attorney General Barr, did you send this to the White House first? Make it harder for him to tap dance.

And, similarly, Representative Lowey, I think, was getting at this, but essentially, there's a good question of the President has claimed that he was completely and totally exonerated by the Mueller report. You have seen the Mueller report. Is that true? One question at a time, make it harder to tap dance.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you need that answer. Jennifer Rodgers, the other thing, and again, there's some politics involved here, different questions from republicans and democrats. You heard from the republican lawmaker, the ranking republican, Robert Aderholt, repeat this claim from Trump world, hey, when are you going to investigate the investigators, in effect. What about the spying on Donald Trump, candidate Donald Trump? What about this FISA warrant on Carter Page? That's clearly going to be part of the republican pushback, not only today, but I imagine when the full redacted report is out.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, this is a classic diversion tactic, right? The report is coming out. No question the report is going to contain information damaging to the president, and so what are they going to do? Well, one thing they're going to do is to try to push everyone's attention in another direction, which, of course, investigate the investigators. We saw that start just as soon as the Mueller report was out and Barr issued his summary. So I think that's going to continue.

But, hopefully, if these redactions are not too extensive, and it was interesting that he won't separate out what's going to the public versus what's going to Congress. Those really should be separate and congress should get a lot more.

HARLOW: That made me think a lot of members of Congress in both parties might be mad that they are going to face, John Avlon, potentially many more redactions. And, clearly, Nadler, the democrats don't think they should have any redactions. I'd assume many republicans as well, they would like to see it at least internally.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And what Barr basically indicated is Congress is going to get what the public gets. And it's going to be a redacted document. And he makes a good case about the things that should be redacted to not compromise sources and ongoing investigations. But that's going to really frustrate folks who hope that in privileged positions that they'd be able to see a less redacted report. That does not seem to be his intention at all.

SCIUTTO: Right. Evan Perez, you have been covering this just for a little bit. So a report out within a week. I have been hearing in Washington that Bill Barr is feeling some pressure following the summary to be more forthcoming, right, to minimize redactions so that he doesn't come under further criticism that again he's running defense for the President there. Do you have a sense -- again, we don't know, but do you have a sense of how far those black lines are going to go when we do see the redacted report?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jim, I think that's one of the big mysteries going on behind the scenes at the Justice Department. I can tell you one thing. Bill Barr felt that pressure even before he came back to the Justice Department to take the reins as Attorney General. We know that Rod Rosenstein, from his own public comments, had been suggesting that there should be less information in this whatever is released. He believes a lot of this information should never be let out. And so there's a lot of back and forth inside the department.

And one of the most interesting things at the beginning there, Jim and Poppy, the way you guys highlighted the fact that he said that Mueller was offered the chance to review the two letters. It appears he did not. And why I find it interesting is that Bill Barr, so far, politically has been trying to play a game of wrapping his hands around Robert Mueller, around Rod Rosenstein, sort of locking arms, saying that they have a unified front. And there, we're beginning to see perhaps that there might be a little daylight. And we know, obviously, from our own reporting and from reporting from The New York Times that there is some dissatisfaction among members of the Mueller team about how this report so far has been characterized.

So it will be interesting to see whether members of Congress can maybe shine a little more daylight into that aspect of what's going on behind the scenes.

[10:15:02]

SCIUTTO: That's an interesting point. I mean, Mueller offered the chance, basically said, I don't want my fingerprints on this.

HARLOW: Well, you wonder what though whoever the members of Mueller's team were who spoke to The New York Times and The Washington Post and to say that we don't agree with what's in this summary, how do they feel now knowing that Mueller didn't look at it.

Evan, did it strike you the way that the Attorney General explained how quickly he could write that summary in 48 hours, because it was not news to them, the thinking of Mueller? Meaning inside the Department of Justice with Rosenstein, et cetera, they had been discussing this for a matter of weeks. Surprising?

PEREZ: Yes, no. I think, yes, that's the reporting we also had from talking to folks behind the scenes. I think it's exactly what the --

HARLOW: Evan, I'm so sorry. Hold that thought. Let's get back to this question and answer session of Bill Barr.

REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): -- in the Senate, Senator Collins put it best when she wrote to you last week. Her letter was dated April 1st. Did you get her letter?

BARR: Yes.

CARTWRIGHT: Okay. Then you saw that she wrote, your decision to pursue this course of action in the federal courts puts at risk not only critical consumer protections such as those protecting individuals suffering from pre-existing conditions but also other important provisions of that law, such as the Medicaid, expansion, independent coverage for young adults to age 26, coverage for preventative services and the regulatory pathway for FDA approval of biosimilar drugs, unquote.

The Department of Justice's refusal to defend our law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is distressing because of the harm that it poses to the physical and financial wellbeing of millions of Americans and also because DOJ's refusal appears to be driven by political considerations rather than healthcare policy discussions or sound legal arguments.

Attorney General Barr, you're not a healthcare policy expert, but your department is taking the lead on attempting a massive overhaul of our American healthcare system. So I want to make sure we agree on a few of the top line facts and let's go through a couple quick yes or no questions at the outset.

Number one, have you conducted or viewed an analysis to evaluate the effects of DOJ's litigation position to overturn the ACA, the effects on consumer costs and coverage? Have you done that analysis or have you reviewed one?

BARR: Well, when we're faced with a legal question, we try to base our answer on the law.

CARTWRIGHT: On the law. So the answer is no. And here's the thing. I can't imagine that you would take that kind of a dramatic, drastic action without even trying to evaluate the consequences for the American consumers, the people using the healthcare, the people for whom these premiums are paid. Now, let's start the process to think through that, if we may.

BARR: Well, did you mean in the event that the law was struck down?

CARTWRIGHT: If you're successful in this lawsuit that you're supporting and the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is struck down, millions of Americans who currently receive health insurance coverage under the law are at risk of losing that coverage. Am I correct in that?

BARR: I think the President has made clear that he favors not only pre-existing conditions but would like action on a broad health plan. So he is proposing a substitute for Obamacare.

CARTWRIGHT: The one that's going to come after the next election, you mean?

BARR: The one that will come down if and when Obamacare is struck down.

CARTWRIGHT: Well, let me be the one to inform you, should the law be struck down, millions of people who get their coverage through the ACA marketplace would lose their coverage and tens of millions more would see their premiums skyrocket.

In addition, if you're successful, 12 million people nationally and 750,000 people in my home state of Pennsylvania who have coverage under the Medicaid expansion would also likely lose their coverage. Am I correct in that, sir?

BARR: Do you think it's likely we are going to prevail?

CARTWRIGHT: If you prevail. Well, you're devoting scarce resources of your department toward that effort, are you not, Attorney General?

BARR: We're in litigation. We have to take a position.

CARTWRIGHT: The answer is yes.

BARR: We take position in litigation.

CARTWRIGHT: So you're trying to get it validated (ph). And if you succeed, that many people will lose their coverage nationally from Medicaid and 750,000 from Pennsylvania alone, right?

BARR: If you're saying it, if you think it's such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about. Let the courts do their job.

CARTWRIGHT: If you -- well, my time is out. We'll come back to this.

[10:20:00]

I yield back, Mr. Chairman.

REP. STEVEN PALAZZO (R-MS): Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, Mr. Attorney General, thank you for being here today.

For a couple years at the end of the Obama administration, violent crime in America started to tick up. That means more robberies, more murders, and more assault. I'm encouraged to see that the FBI's preliminary crime statistics --

SCIUTTO: With who?

HARLOW: All right. So there was just a really key moment there that really stopped all of us here on set, and that was when the Democratic Congressman Matt Cartwright was questioning Bill Barr about the administration's case, siding with that Texas judge, to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act. And --

SCIUTTO: Right, and the administration's efforts to block ACA, Obamacare, in court. And Attorney General, who is basically America's top lawyer, just said they're going to lose. John Avlon?

AVLON: He seemed to insinuate that. So Cartwright asked him, did you look at the impact on Americans and healthcare if the case is won. And he's been pushing Barr. And then, Barr, and we'll play the clip in a second, seemed -- you're reading a little into his body language, but he seemed to say, do you think it's likely we'll prevail? And I think our reading, watching it closely in real-time was, is he insinuating that this was a political decision he was pushed into by the President and doesn't think it's a case that's likely to win?

HARLOW: Yes. So some important background on that is reporting from Politico just a few weeks ago that he and Secretary Azar were the two in the administration, the cabinet, who were pushing back internally saying to the team, don't do this, don't do this.

AVLON: Yes, because the DOJ is reversing its policy to date on this by backing this case, which is a play to the base case but contradicts the positions they have taken, let alone the implications for the people (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: And timing is key here because that decision was made after the Mueller summary came out when the President was feeling empowered, he's on top of his game. He's like, you know what, I'm going to take another crack at Obamacare.

The lawyer is present. I think we've got a couple. You guys have got degrees, right on this. Is he right that this case doesn't -- has a low shot of succeeding?

RODGERS: Yes. I mean, that was my assessment before. I mean, I thought that the Department of Justice's position before was the right position. They supported it well in the briefs that they filed, which is one of the reasons it's hard to turn around and try to argue contrary to the citations you made before. So I think it was a political decision. I think Bill Barr kind of tried

to spin it as, look, I'm new, I came, I looked at some things and that's how this happened, but it may very well be the President just changing his mind.

HARLOW: People who were just joining us, guys in the control room, just let us know when we have that so we can play for the people, so the American people can watch and judge for themselves.

Elie?

HONIG: I agree with Jennifer. That's how it should come out on the law. But let's play devil's advocate for a little bit here. The district court, the trial level court in the federal courts has said Obamacare should be struck down entirely. Now, that's on hold. They're now in the circuit Court of Appeals in the fifth circuit, which is one of the most conservative districts. They may well take the same position. The entire ACA needs to fall. If that happens, then it's going to the Supreme Court, we've now got Justice Gorsuch, we've got Justice Kavanaugh, we've got Chief Justice Roberts playing that swing role. Last time in 2012, Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the ACA, but the basis that he did that on, which is the individual mandate, is now gone. So there is a realistic chance that the ACA gets struck down.

SCIUTTO: Because we don't know. We're watching this hearing. News is coming across the transom every few minutes here. There was another moment that goes to a question that attracted your attention earlier, John. I believe we have the tape for this. If not, tell me in the control room. But the question about did the White House see the report before the summary came out. Do we have that sound? If not, I'll just read it. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LOWEY: Did the White House see the report before you released your summarizing letter? Has the White House seen it since then? Have they been briefed on the contents beyond what was in your summarizing letter to the Judiciary Committee?

BARR: I've said what I'm going to say about the report today. I have issued three letters about it. And I'm --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: There was an easy answer to that question, yes or no. He didn't answer the question.

AVLON: And so it's notable that he decided to punt and not answer it. Previously, before the summary was released from Barr, people had said pretty categorically that the White House had not seen the full report. So the open question revealed by his non-answer to that is whether the White House has seen the report since. And I think that's significant.

HARLOW: Evan Perez is also with us. Evan, I'd love for you to weigh in on both of these things. Let's start with that non-answer on whether the White House saw the report, the Mueller report, before the summary was finished and distributed by Bill Barr.

PEREZ: Well, we've heard from White House officials that they did not see it. The President's lawyers have also said the same thing. So it may well be that Bill Barr is trying to keep within the lines. He's trying to make sure he doesn't go too far in answering questions that he says.

[10:25:00]

He's trying not to answer today because he wants people to read the report.

But on the healthcare, on the Obamacare decision, I can tell you a little bit of what's been going on behind the scenes at the Justice Department. For instance, the decision to no longer, to essentially side with the lower court and ruling that Obamacare is unconstitutional, has caused a huge ripple effect inside the Justice Department, guys.

I can tell you that there was a trial going on in Miami where someone is accused of a massive, one of the biggest healthcare frauds in the country. And in the middle of that, the Justice Department decides to change its view of Obamacare and they essentially had to stop that and deal with the ripple effects of that in that trial. And I think you're going to see that around the country. There are going to be trials and cases that are based on parts of the Obamacare law that has to do with healthcare fraud, and the Justice Department is going to have to issue new decisions on how to defend those cases.

So I think that -- I think one of the questions is whether Bill Barr did any analysis and the Justice Department did any analysis before they changed their position. And I can tell you behind the scenes that that scramble happened after the White House essentially ordered the Justice Department to change its position.

SCIUTTO: It's interesting. There's a lot going on in this hearing as we go through, and also on issues. Listen, the issue of the day is his handling of the Mueller report. But also, he's now been charged with a new administration effort to strike down what is probably going to be the key voting issue in the 2020 cycle, which is healthcare.

HARLOW: Which the President has said he wants to make it that.

Let's move back to the Mueller report just for a moment here. And I'm interested, Elie, on what you thought about the way that Bill Barr laid out how they will handle the redactions. Color coded, we kind of joke about it. But in all seriousness, he's going to at least tell us why things are redacted in that manner.

HONIG: Yes. I thought that was interesting. And I think it's a good thing that he's going to specify the four areas of redaction. What I want to see somebody ask him now is about the grand jury topic, because we know Mueller served 2,800 subpoenas. All the responses they got from that count is grand jury material. That's a lot. And I want someone to ask him, will you be redacted grand jury material and will you even try, will you even go to the courts and ask for permission to disclose grand jury material?

SCIUTTO: Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng from New York asking questions of the Attorney General now.

BARR: I'll be testifying and I'll be glad to discuss all aspects of the process and also explain the decisions I have made.

REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): Did you or anyone on your team consult with anyone in the White House in the crafting of that letter?

BARR: Are you talking about the March 24th letter?

MENG: Yes.

BARR: The answer to that is no. But, as I say, I'm not going to discuss this further until after the report is out.

MENG: Okay, so they did not have to approve for you to release the letter, the White House?

BARR: No.

MENG: Thank you. I do want to ask my second question, and if you could answer yes or no just in the interest of time, I'm running out of time, does the DOJ under the Trump administration consider enforcement of the Voting Rights Act a priority? Chief Roberts himself has stated that voting discrimination still exists. No one doubts that.

BARR: Yes, we do. We consider voting rights a priority.

MENG: Has the DOJ, the civil rights division, brought any cases under the Trump administration to enforce Section 2 of the VRA? BARR: No. But I would point out that during the first four years of the Obama administration, one case was brought. So --

MENG: Well, according to your website, the Department of Justice under Obama, both President Bushes and President Clinton, had brought at least over 30 cases and enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Secretary Ross credits the Department of Justice's need to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act for the reason why a citizenship question is needed on the census. The DOJ has been enforcing the Voting Rights Act for over 50 years without the need for a citizenship question. Is there -- what are your thoughts on that?

BARR: My thoughts are that it's being litigated right now and I think oral arguments on April 23rd, so I'm not going to discuss it.

MENG: Okay. I wanted to also ask about zero tolerance policy. Do you agree with your predecessor's zero tolerance policy memorandum issued last year, April 2018?

BARR: Well, there's a lot of misunderstanding about the zero tolerance policy. The zero tolerance policy is that the department would prosecute cases that are referred to the department. And the thing that caused family separation was the referral.

[10:30:00]