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Dems Promising Fight to See Full Mueller Report; Putin: Mueller Investigation a 'Dark Page' in U.S. History; Massive Wintry Storm to Hit Western U.S; Netanyahu and Gantz Both Claim Victory in Israeli Election; E.U. Expected to Propose up to One-Year "Flextension". Aired 12p-1a ET

Aired April 10, 2019 - 00:00   ET

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


[00:00:00]

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- votes were -- more votes and more seats, it looks like, that he's ever had before in 13 years of governing.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Oren Liebermann, joining us live from Jerusalem, thank you very much for that.

Before we leave you tonight, I want to remind you that we have two more CNN presidential town halls live from Washington. There's Governor Jay Inslee tomorrow night at 10:00, moderated by our very own Wolf Blitzer.

And then I'll be right after that at 11:00 pm. Then I will moderate the town hall with former HUD secretary Julian Castro Thursday night at 10:00 pm only here on CNN. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And the winner is, no one. At least not yet. Israel's election remains too close to call despite claims of victory from the leaders of the two main political parties.

If you liked season one of Brexit then, good news, the horror show is set to be renewed for another 12 months with the E.U. leader proposing a yearlong extension.

And the U.S. president has finally had the attorney general he's always wanted. William Barr appears before Congress and stonewalls Democrats and makes it clear he plans to never release a full, unredacted version of the Mueller report.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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VAUSE: Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's won a great victory in this Israeli election. His chief rival, Benny Gantz, says he's the real winner. With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, both candidates are hovering around 26 percent but Netanyahu may have the edge in forming a workable coalition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE (voice-over): If Netanyahu gets a fifth term he could be the longest serving prime minister. Also could see a boost as he fights corruption and possible indictment. But it's still too early to count out Gantz. He is proving to be one of the toughest political opponents the prime minister ever faced.

He's a former military chief of staff and he leads the centrist Blue and White Party. This as Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party has moved further to the right. CNN's Michael Holmes live this hour for us from Jerusalem.

Michael, good to see you. It's not so much a horse race between Likud and Blue and White Party.

What matters now is who can build the workable coalition?

The majority in the Knesset and the math does seem to favor the prime minister.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're right. More than 90 percent as you said of the votes tallied. Netanyahu ahead of Gantz. It's about 12,000 votes we're talking about. Israel's channels 12 and 13 say the Right has a 65 to 55 seat advantage. They're making assumptions of which parties will go with the main party and not everybody made his position 100 percent clear.

For Benny Gantz, he would have to get defections from smaller parties more traditionally aligned with Netanyahu. It could happen and deals are done. But it's fair to say it's a long shot at the moment.

VAUSE: Results came in last night. We heard from both of them claiming victories. Here's part of what Gantz told his supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENNY GANTZ, BLUE AND WHITE PARTY (through translator): As he said, the biggest party is the one which will be forming the government. In elections, there's losers and winners and we are the winners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: At that point in the night the exit polls have his party slightly ahead in the Knesset seat count. But hanging over all of this coalition building, you have the indictment charges over Benjamin Netanyahu and so now it goes to the president to decide which out of these two parties -- which of these two leaders has the best chance of putting this coalition together.

How does it actually work?

What is the process here? HOLMES: What is interesting, too, we're still waiting for confirmation of who makes the threshold. You have covered this place for a long time. That 3.25 percent that you have to get to get any seat. One right-wing party missed that threshold as it stands now. One Arab Israeli party is only just above the threshold.

As you say, the president will now call representatives from each party that got seats, call them in and ask who they would support and then he does the math and it is entirely up to him. He will then invite the leader who --

[00:05:00]

HOLMES: -- he thinks has the best chance of forming a government and that person has 28 days to make it happen.

One little twist in this, Reuven Rivlin and Benjamin Netanyahu are not friends. Rivlin no fan of Netanyahu. So if it's a tight call one way or the other it will be interesting to see which way the president jumps on who he makes that offer to.

VAUSE: It's amazing how quickly those friendships can be reformed. We also saw a record low turnout among Israeli Arabs. And seems to have an impact on both sides of politics.

HOLMES: One of those Israeli Arab parties hovering above the threshold might not get any seats. Earlier in the evening there was great concern among Israeli Arab parties that they going to not get any seats in the Knesset turnout. At one point it was hovering around 25 percent. That is crazy low.

There was a lot of pleas to get people out to the polls. It rose into the 40s. Still very low. One of those two Israeli Arab parties has made the threshold; the other one is hovering just above the line.

When I spent time with one of the main Palestinian politicians here, he was saying that the notion that Palestinians, Israeli Arabs do not have faith in the government, faith that they're being represented.

And when you hear what Netanyahu said about perhaps claiming sovereignty around all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, they feel they have no say in what's happening to them.

VAUSE: Yes, it's been a long time coming, this decline in the Israeli Arab vote there.

Michael, pulling an early morning shift for us there in Jerusalem, thank you.

For more let's go to reporter Raoul Wootliff.

Raoul, it's been a while. Good to see you. I want you to listen to the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu last night, as he was claiming victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): I want to clarify that this will be a right wing government, that I will be a prime minister of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, left or right, all citizens. And I will take care of all of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That promise or statement stands sort of in stark contrast to the campaign which Netanyahu ran. There would have to be a good deal of skepticism that he has any intention on actually making good on that promise when you consider what he'll have to do to win the support of some of those smaller, very rightwing parties.

RAOUL WOOTLIFF, "TIMES OF ISRAEL": Yes, indeed. He did make that promise last night to be prime minister of all Israeli citizens. It's a message said by all Israeli election (INAUDIBLE). At the same time he said he would not make efforts to form a national unity government with the Blue and White Party.

He said the government from last time, that was described as the most right wing government ever, will be the same, more or less the same government this time and potentially with very similar ministerial roles for the parties that remain in it.

And also he made a number of comments hinting at the potential efforts to save himself from those criminal cases that are currently against him. So although he said he would represent all this, rather, there was still some hints that the divisiveness we've seen, particularly through this last -- these three months of this campaign, may continue.

VAUSE: At the last election day, Netanyahu warned that Israeli Arabs that were turning out in great numbers to vote against him, this time it was a video message from the prime minister reporting what he said were audio reportings and conversations between senior opposition lawmakers discussing plans to form a government with the support from Arab Israeli parties.

All that was denied by all parties involved. Arab parties have never been part of a coalition government. And then there were the 1,200 hidden cameras that Netanyahu said were there to monitor the vote. All of them were put in Israeli Arab voting areas.

This seems to have had the effect of turning out support on the Right and at the same time sending the Arab vote to an all time low.

WOOTLIFF: Yes, exactly. I mean, it was -- a lot was made of Netanyahu's call on Election Day in 2015, complaining, in his words that the Arabs are coming out in droves and being bused by the Left to the polling stations.

We didn't hear the same stark message this time but it was a very similar underlying message, which is there is a danger of the left wing parties coming to power, being backed by the Arabs and --

[00:10:00] WOOTLIFF: -- it's a disenfranchising message, one that suggests there are groups within Israeli society that have a less legitimate claim to representing the people or the Knesset, less of a claim to government and, of course, it has a knock-on effect on those voters that hear those messages.

And obviously, as we have seen from the result, some sense of despondency and have responded by not coming out to the polls and not casting their vote, even for Arab Israeli parties that represented them in the past.

VAUSE: You know, the narrative is out there right now that this result is either a huge blow to Netanyahu of it's an incredible success. You could argue economy is doing so well, the security situation is relatively stable and there's the support from Donald Trump and with all that he should have done better.

On the other hand, liked is set to win more than 33 seats, making it the party's best showing since 2003.

So how do you see it?

WOOTLIFF: Well, it's interesting. What this is, is Netanyahu's best showing. Up until now, (INAUDIBLE) the Likud Party lowest number of seats it's ever received without Netanyahu was 32 and the largest with Netanyahu was 30.

Despite his election success in the past, in terms of leading the liked, he has actually produced the worst result of the party in its history. This result is its best under Netanyahu and Netanyahu's best.

So he has a claim of having strengthened the liked under him for at least the last two elections now, bringing the liked up, getting more seats each time. And, look, nothing is certain at the moment but it seems very unlikely that anyone but Netanyahu would form a coalition.

And it seems like he may be able to wrap it up fairly quickly by utilizing the same small right wing coalition parties that were in his last government.

VAUSE: Benny Gantz started about three months ago, his party, the Blue and White Party is now the major alternative to the right wing. Labor is nowhere to be seen so it's a big achievement for Gantz if he doesn't quite get to the prime minister's office. He has a political career in front of him, I guess.

Raoul, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

WOOTLIFF: Thank you.

VAUSE: If you thought the Brexit roller coaster was nearing the end of the line, buckle up, E.U. leaders want to go around again for another year.

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VAUSE: How to spend your days post Brexit, if you're worried how you'd find a regular dose of drama and cliffhangers once Britain leaves the E.U., don't worry. It all looks set to continue for another year.

European Council president Donald Tusk is expected to propose a flexible extension for up to a year so British lawmakers can have more time to agree on a Brexit deal.

Ms. May on Tuesday looking for a delay until June 30, she received support from Angela Merkel but others in Europe say there's really little point to believe another few weeks would make any difference.

Donald Tusk's flextension would let Britain leave as soon as lawmakers agree on a deal. Others, including France, may agree if Britain's influence in the E.U. is restricted during that transition period.

We get a report now from CNN's Atika Shubert, reporting from Berlin. But we start with Jim Bittermann in Paris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: It now appears Theresa May is going to get what she asked for and maybe a little bit more. When she came into France, it was said she was looking for an extension in the Brexit process.

But now it appears that the extension may be much more than that if the other members of the European Union agree. President Macron was the one that said they didn't want the European Union to be held hostage to the Brexit process.

He was one of the major opponents to any kind of delay but just before he sat down with Theresa May for their 1.5 hour talks this afternoon, in fact, a spokesman came out for the presidency and said that there was now a change of attitude and that they would be happy to grant a delay if the other members of the European Union agree.

A delay which could go as long as to the end of the year. More than that would be too much, said the spokesman but it would be with some stipulations. One is that the British would have to come up with a regular reporting procedure, a review on what was going on and exactly what was being discussed and the reason why the delay should go on.

So going into the meeting in Brussels, it appears as if the British would get an extension for the European Union -- Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, social media have called it Theresa May's begging tour. It did get off to a bit of an awkward start. The British prime minister was just a few minutes too early and there was no German chancellor on the red carpet to welcome her.

So after a few long moments of waiting in the lobby, Angela Merkel did arrive and swept Theresa May outside for a handshake photo-op before getting down to business.

Now the two talked for about two hours and both leaders agreed on the need for an orderly Brexit, which is a positive sign for anyone that fears that the U.K. might crash out at the end of the week but we don't know if the prime minister was able to convince the chancellor to give the U.K. an extension or for how long.

Germany previously indicated it may be willing to extend but it needs some kind of assurance, some kind of guarantee that the prime minister can actually deliver on the withdrawal agreement and isn't just extending indefinitely.

Now for her departure, Theresa May said goodbye to Angela Merkel, was waved farewell but somebody actually shouted out, outside of the chancellory, "Just cancel Brexit." Those are perhaps not the departing words she wanted to hear as she headed to Paris -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Journalist Josh Boswell joins us now from Los Angeles.

So Josh, you know, all of Theresa May's going about between capitals, meeting with leaders of France and Germany, all but nothing it seems in light of this letter from the E.U. leader, Donald Tusk. He wrote to the 27 member states, he argues against that short-term extension to June 30.

He writes, In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates. This in turn would almost certainly overshadow the business of the E.U. 27 in the months ahead. The continued uncertainty would also be bad for our businesses and citizens.

"Finally, if we failed to agree on any next extension, there would be a risk of an accidental no-deal Brexit. This is why I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension. One possibly would be a flexible extension which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year."

So Tusk wants the U.K. to have this year to get an agreement through Parliament. If it happens any time before the 12 months is up, happy days, wheels up, goodbye, see you later. It seems France is now on board with this because they were the only ones playing bad cop here, opposed to a longer extension. So this seems to be the only game in town now.

JOSH BOSWELL, JOURNALIST: That's correct. It does seem to be the only game in town and I think that's because Theresa May failed to do what she had promised the E.U., which was to have some serious developments. She had been having these cross-party talks with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. But those didn't come to anything.

She went to Europe empty-handed and so --

[00:20:00]

BOSWELL: -- they're going to offer her probably this one year or so extension, which leaves her in a very difficult position with her party because the E.U. may offer this tomorrow but that's not to say that the British Parliament will accept it.

Her own MPs are very concerned about a long delay. Anything longer than June 30th, which they've agreed to, that could cause a real split in the Conservative Party and possibly the end of her premiership.

VAUSE: Let's assume this goes ahead. You have the situation that the U.K. will remain a member state of the E.U. with full rights and obligations but it's actually one foot in the E.U. and the other one out the door.

BOSWELL: That's right. There's limits that people like Macron have suggested, which is to stop the U.K. being able to influence long- term European policy by putting limits on the U.K. role in the European Council and the European Commission.

But also there's a worry that if we stay in for a year that means that we're going to be in there for the European elections coming up on May 23rd. Now Brexiteers in the U.K. have threatened the E.U., saying if you keep us beyond that date, we're going to field all of these Brexiteer candidates. We're going to send them into Brussels and they're going to wreak havoc for the next year or longer. As long as you keep us in, we're going to be a Trojan horse, one particular conservative MP described it as.

VAUSE: So dozens and dozens of Nigel Farages heading to Brussels would put the fear of God in anybody.

There seems to be a lack of humiliation for the British prime minister, we heard from Atika Shubert reporting; the German media had described her trip to Berlin as her begging tour.

The leader of Northern Ireland's minority DUP which props up the Conservatives in Parliament put it this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARLENE FOSTER, NORTHERN IRELAND DUP LEADER: Someone who passionately believes in the United Kingdom and its capacity and potential, I find it quite painful to watch what's going on at this present moment in time. It is rather humiliating that we are having to go to beg so that we

can leave. It's nearly three years since the nation voted to leave the European Union and we're now pleading to stay in so that we can deal with matters that should have been dealt with before now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: She makes a good point but any extension here, it must be a unanimous decision by all 27 E.U. members. One state could sink it all. So if Brexit was all about Britain taking back control away from Europe, so far this process has been anything but.

BOSWELL: There is a deep irony there, yes. The other thing is Arlene Foster, she propping up Theresa May's government at the moment. There's this confidence in supply agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP.

That's breaking down as far as we can see with Arlene Foster making these comments. You also have Theresa May's apparent win today in the House of Commons. MPs approved her delay to June 30th so she can say to the European Union, hey, today, until June 30th, our MPs have approved it.

However, if you look at who voted for and who voted against the government's proposition there, 12 ministers didn't vote with the government and 42 percent of her own party voted for -- only 42 percent. So you can see not only is she being criticized by her own confidence in supply supporters, she's also losing control of her own party.

VAUSE: However, there's one very senior British politician that has sympathy for her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: She has been dealt a very difficult hand. The Conservative Party is pretty ungovernable.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're still saying you don't think she's doing a good job --

(CROSSTALK)

BLAIR: Simply with her at personal level, I understand how difficult the job is and how tough it is to do. But I think the key challenge for her -- let's leave aside all the criminals up to now -- the key challenge for her now -- and I think what she can do and should do -- because I don't, by the way, think a change in prime minister at the moment is in the interest of the country or a general election, by the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Former prime minister Tony Blair speaking with Hala Gorani.

Probably the last thing Theresa May wants now is support from Tony Blair and there are many who disagree with Blair when it comes to this question of a general election. There's a belief that it might just be the only way to sort this mess out once and for all.

BOSWELL: In the long-term, I think you're absolutely right. We're at an impasse in Parliament at the moment. There doesn't seem to be a majority for anything and I think we need a general election to try and recast that balance, change the parliamentary --

[00:25:00]

BOSWELL: -- mathematics and make sure that we can actually have some kind of majority for some kind of deal, albeit a second referendum or maybe even cancelling Brexit. Who knows?

I think that Tony Blair is probably getting concerned that we're edging close to a no deal Brexit and that's why he made the comments.

VAUSE: He also made the point that Theresa May is just given up on leading Conservatives, act more as a referee at this point because that's pretty much the only option because the Conservatives just cannot be led on this issue right now. So, Josh, good to see you, thank you.

BOSWELL: You too.

VAUSE: India's prime minister talking tough on national security ahead of elections, claiming he is the only leader capable of standing up to Pakistan. Tensions between the two countries have escalated recently over the disputed Kashmir region. We get more now from Nikhil Kumar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): In the shadow of the line of control, the de facto border that divides the disputed Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, a protest.

These locals in Indian controlled Kashmir want bunkers to protect them, as the two nuclear powers continue to fire artillery shells at each other. Just weeks after an aerial dogfight, the first such confrontation in almost five decades threatened all-out war.

KUMAR: The driving impulse behind these protesters, kilometers from the de facto border, it's fear, fear of cross-border shelling. That's already maimed or killed innocent citizens.

KUMAR (voice-over): Innocents like the 32-year-old Mohammad Riyad. His voice cracking, he tells me a shell struck his border home in late February. Shrapnel ripped open his abdomen, his intestines spilled out.

And 16-year-old Mohammad Ansar, the fear in his eyes, this black head wound the result of shelling in mid-March. His brothers, both 10, and his mother were also injured.

KUMAR: Are you still scared? "We're still very scared," he says.

"Every time I hear a loud noise, I panic."

India and Pakistan have already fought multiple wars over Kashmir and now as India prepares for general elections, the renewed conflict here has become a major campaign issue.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is a new India.

KUMAR (voice-over): India's nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, is holding up the recent air skirmishes as proof that he's strong on defense. The tensions were sparked by February car bomb attack on Indian forces which India say Pakistan had a, quote, "direct hand."

Pakistan rubbishes India's claim. As politicians grandstand, fear stalks ordinary Kashmiris.

KUMAR: For people here, violence is nothing new. The line of control, the site of so many armed showdowns between India and Pakistan, is right there, nestled in those mountains. But residents say the shelling hasn't been this bad for several years.

KUMAR (voice-over): Riyadh and his family fled the border earlier this month. Shells drove them out. Huddled together in temporary housing in the biting Kashmiri cold, they tell me they don't know when they can return home.

"We were having lunch when the shelling started. The children were terrified. We had to flee," he says.

"We had to leave our home, our possessions, everything. We had no choice."

With Kashmir still tense, they have become refugees in their own land -- Nikhil Kumar, CNN, Indian-controlled Kashmir.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: U.S. lawmakers will see the Mueller report within the week. But the U.S. attorney general says some of it will be blacked out or redacted. That's setting the stage for a great big legal showdown.

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

[00:31:10] With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, the race to be Israel's prime minister is pretty much a dead heat. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Benny Gantz, both hovering around 26 percent. Both have claimed victory, but Netanyahu may have the advantage when it comes to building a workable coalition. British Prime Minister Theresa May set to make her case to the

European Union to get another Brexit delay, and she could get much more than she was hoping for. One plan would grant a flexible extension of up to a year, with France pushing for strict limits on Britain's influence in the E.U.

Donald Trump praising Egypt's president as a "great person who's doing a great job." Abdel Fattah El-Sisi visited the White House on Tuesday. Critics accuse his regime of rampant human rights abuses, including torture of political prisoners. Egypt's government denies the allegations.

The long-awaited Mueller report into Russian election interference could be released to Congress within a week. Attorney General William Barr set the time line during a hearing on Capitol Hill but added it won't be the entire report. Barr outlined four major areas which will be redacted.

As Pamela Brown reports, though, Democrats are now warning of a legal fight to see the entire report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Attorney General William Barr setting the stage for a showdown with Democrats on Capitol Hill who are demanding the full Mueller report.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't intend, at this stage, to send a full, unredacted report to the committee.

BROWN: Barr insisted redactions are necessary to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, grand jury and sensitive intelligence materials, and individual privacy. The attorney general told Democrats they'll only get explanations for any blacked-out section.

BARR: We will color code the excisions from the report, and we will provide explanatory notes describing the basis for each redaction.

BROWN: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler now promising a fight if his committee doesn't get the full report.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I presume we're going to get the redacted report within a week. When we do so, if we don't get everything, we will issue the subpoena and go to court.

BROWN: Nadler has demanded that Barr go to court to seek the release of grand jury material, but today Barr said he sees no exception in the rule to allow him to release that material to Congress.

BARR: Unless there is a provision that permits it. And the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable.

BROWN: Barr faced criticism from Democrats over his letter summarizing the main Mueller findings, submitted less than 48 hours after he received the over 300-page Mueller report.

REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): All we have is your four-page summary, which seems to cherry pick from the report to draw the most favorable conclusion possible for the president.

BROWN: Barr defending his work and his intentions.

BARR: I was not interested in putting out summaries. I felt that I should state the bottom-line conclusions, and I tried to use Special Counsel Mueller's own language in doing that.

BROWN: Though only about 100 words of Mueller's report are used in the four-page letter. Barr downplayed reports that prosecutors for the special counsel are frustrated with his summary of principle conclusions.

BARR: I suspect that they probably wanted, you know, more put out. Any summary, regardless of who prepares it, not only runs the risk of, you know, being underinclusive or overinclusive, but also, you know, would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should await everything coming out at once.

BROWN: And the attorney general revealed that he offered the special counsel a chance to review his summary letter before sending it to members of Congress, but Mueller declined, though Barr did not say why. And the White House, he said, did not make any changes to his letter. But Barr wouldn't say if the White House has been briefed on the full report.

[00:35:10] BARR: I'm not going to say anything more about it until the report is out and everyone has a chance to look at it.

BROWN (on camera): And the attorney general also said that he doesn't plan as of now to withhold any information in the Mueller report on the basis of executive privilege; but he also wouldn't say whether he has consulted with the White House on that matter since he released that four-page memo to Congress.

A White House official declined to comment.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, the president described the Mueller report as a dark page in American history. That would be the Russian president, who's made his first comment since the investigation was closed. Oddly enough, his comments are strikingly similar to the U.S. president, Donald Trump.

Our man in Moscow is Matthew Chance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first time Vladimir Putin has even mentioned the Mueller report in public since the Russia probe was brought to its anti-climactic end. Unsurprisingly, the Russian president was scathing in his condemnation.

"The investigation was a dark page in American history," he told a televised panel discussion in St. Petersburg. He also reminded the audience it found none of the collusion, as he put it, Mueller was trying to find.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The collusion delusion is over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, stop --

CHANCE: This is not the first time Moscow has seemed in lock step with the White House.

(on camera): Are you concerned that the investigations into Russia are going to turn up more secret meetings?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please stop spreading lies and false news.

CHANCE: Facts, similarities in messaging, even language probably helped fuel collusion suspicions in the first place.

But the allegations of Russian interference in U.S. politics remain, like this secretive troll factory in St. Petersburg, where online attempts were made to amplify social discord in America.

And the Democratic Party e-mail hacks, allegedly carried out by Russian military intelligence and released by WikiLeaks in a bid to influence the 2016 presidential election campaign.

But the U.S. attorney general's recent summary of the Mueller report, in which he said it didn't find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the U.S. president and the Kremlin, has left both Trump and Moscow feeling vindicated. And like the U.S. president, the Kremlin is on the offensive against Trump's enemies.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): See, what is happening is that those groups that attack the legitimately-elected president do not agree with the choice of the American people. We have never seen this in the history of the U.S.

TRUMP: Wouldn't it be great if we actually got along with Russia? Am I wrong in saying that?

CHANCE: Russia has already been sanctioned by the United States for its election interference and could face more in the weeks ahead. But it continues to cast itself and President Trump as victims of the same political foes.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, when we come back, an update on deadly weather in Brazil as heavy rains pound Rio de Janeiro, and it's not letting up any time soon. Also, in the coming days, a massive storm system set to pummel much of the U.S. Details in just a moment.

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[00:40:31] VAUSE: At least seven people have died during torrential rain in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's public news agency says three bodies were found in a car buried by a landslide.

The intense downpour has hampered rescue efforts, with some areas receiving more than 21 centimeters of rain in just a few hours. More is expected.

And in the coming days, a massive storm system is set to impact much of the United States. It's sweeping in from the West, bringing blizzard conditions, as well as heavy snow.

For the forecast, the very latest, let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri with all the details. Pedram, what are we looking at?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, John.

It's pretty impressive here, when you look at the amount of real estate this storm covers here. Just about every single state from parts of Texas westward into parts of California covered by watches, warnings and include wind advisories, wind warnings, blizzard warnings that are in place here into the heart of April.

And really, an impressive system for any time of year but in particular, of course, for the heart of the spring season, because the central pressure for this system, which really indicates how strong a storm is, could be among the lowest we've seen for any storm across this particular portion of the United States. And the snowfall amounts could also be among the highest we've seen when it comes to this particular region, as well, for this time of year.

But there goes the system itself, pushing right through areas of Colorado. That's where upwards of 40 million Americans underneath wind advisories, wind warnings, wind alerts that are in in place here. Winds as high as 120 kilometers per hour. So hurricane-force winds possible across portions of the Western Plains.

And then an expansive area here, which includes the Denver metro, home to over 4 million people across this region, underneath blizzard warnings.

So this goes through portions of the Dakotas, where we have not only powerful winds in store but significant snow from Wednesday night through Thursday morning. Officials telling everyone to stay off the roadways across this region, as it's really going to be impassable when it comes to the blinding snow, in addition, of course, the powerful winds that are going to be across this region.

But notice the perspective here. The system really takes shape this time tomorrow going into Thursday morning across portions of the plain states of the United States. And the totals, as far as snowfall amounts, as impressive as you will see, because amounts could exceed 60 centimeters.

And John, temps across this region have already climbed into the 20s in recent days. So it's been spring-like, widespread across parts of these areas. A lot of the snow that's been in place has begun melting across this region. So flooding had been an issue. And now, on top of all of this, we go right back into a winter pattern with 60 centimeters of fresh snow, John. So pretty impressive storm.

VAUSE: I was just looking at the date. It is April, right? I mean, I got that right?

JAVAHERI: Yes, it is. Incredible.

VAUSE: Crazy. Thanks, Pedram.

Now to an amazing discovery off Turkey's Mediterranean coast. A university research team has reportedly found a merchant ship which sank 3,500 or 3,600 years ago, loaded with pieces of copper believed to have gone down in a storm. One Turkish official says the discovery is a breakthrough in underwater archeology.

How about that?

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next. You're watching CNN.

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