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THE SITUATION ROOM
Michelle Obama Compares Trump to a "Divorced Dad"; Source: Prosecutors to Seek Up to 10 Months in Jail for Actress Felicity Huffman in College Admissions Scandal; Interview With Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA). Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 16, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: New precautions tonight at all Denver area schools, including Columbine High School, after what the FBI is calling a credible threat. Authorities now searching for a woman described as armed and dangerous.
Dread on arrival. As the release of the Mueller report is about to become a reality, we're getting word from inside the White House about staffers who are sweating it out right now. Will their testimony about the president blow up in their faces?
And star behind bars? After Felicity Huffman's guilty plea in the college cheating scandal, we're learning how much jail time prosecutors want the actress to serve. Stand by. We have details.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news in Paris tonight.
Hundreds of people turn out to pay their respects to the charred remains of Notre Dame. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, says he wants to fire-ravaged cathedral to be rebuilt on an ambitious timetable, within five years. Authorities say the blaze was likely accidental, but the investigation is only just beginning.
Also tonight, there's growing anxiety among current and former White House officials less than 48 hours before a redacted version of the Mueller report is released. We're told administration insiders fear their testimony in the special counsel's investigation may be exposed publicly, potentially enraging President Trump.
I will talk with Congressman Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat. He serves on two committees investigating the president, Oversight and Ways and Means.
And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go straight to Paris. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is on the scene
Nic, we're getting a clearer picture of what was lost, what was saved, and the monumental task ahead to rebuild Notre Dame.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Wolf, monumental is the word here.
The walls are still standing. And as I stand here now, we have been able to see on the top of one of the bell towers a searchlight, the investigation into what caused the fire ongoing, the checks to make sure the building is actually physically safe. That's the priority at the moment.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Tonight, all efforts are under way to keep what is left of Notre Dame intact, as authorities work to determine the cause of what is believed to be an accidental inferno.
In an address to the nation, French president Emmanuel Macron said:
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): We will rebuild Notre Dame, even more beautiful. And I want that to be done in the next five years.
ROBERTSON: This as we get our first look inside the world-famous cathedral, sunlight shining down upon the cross and charred remains of the collapsed roof. Water is pooled between the pews. All of it evidence of the grand effort to save the grand dame of Paris.
The fire raged for nine hours, as some 400 firefighters fought to ensure all was not lost. Earlier, priceless relics plucked from the flames were loaded up for transport to the Louvre Museum, the mayor of Paris thanking those who formed a human chain to save them.
ANNE HIDALGO, MAYOR OF PARIS, FRANCE (through translator): A human chain immediately sprung into place. When the threat of fire on the belfries became more important, we were very, very scared.
ROBERTSON: Among the retrieved relics, the cathedral's crown jewel, the Crown of Thorns, thought to be worn by Jesus himself. The iconic 13th century rose-stained glass windows and twin bell tower survived, too. The grand dame's voice has not been silenced either. Both the organ and the main bell, known as Emmanuel, remain intact.
But hours after the shocking loss of Notre Dame's spire, the fire brigade says the blaze began in the cathedral's attic, quickly engulfing the 13th century roof, an intricate wooden structure known as the Forest.
Experts say France no longer has trees large enough to replace the 800-year-old beechwood beams.
Citizens stunned by the loss eager to help. France's wealthiest families and business owners have so far pledged more than $700 million towards the effort to remake the landmark, among them, LVMH, the company behind brands such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Marc Jacobs.
ANTOINE ARNAULT, LVMH GROUP: You never know what's going to happen during this reconstruction. Sometimes, the private sector can help and have even more ideas.
ROBERTSON: So, this money seems to be flooding in very fast.
President Macron says, don't rush, don't make it too fast, let's get it right. But he is pitching the recovery and repair in five years. That's how quickly he says it can be done.
Other experts are saying -- they're more cautiously outlooking, maybe 10 or 15 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that sounds probably more realistic.
Nic Robertson in Paris, thank you.
Let's stay in Paris, get some more in the breaking news right now.
CNN's Michael Holmes is on the scene for us.
Michael, the before and after pictures of this fire are truly remarkable. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, as you just heard, he's vowing to rebuild this cathedral in five years, Nic suggesting other experts say it could take maybe 10 or 15 years.
What are you hearing?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we actually just spoke to a preservation architect, Wolf, in the last hour or so, and had a good conversation with him.
And he was saying it could take five years to have a discussion about what to do in terms of restoration and rebuilding, five years incredibly optimistic. Emmanuel Macron hopefully hasn't painted himself into a corner with that sort of outlook. It's a very rosy one.
The before and after pictures are extraordinary. But the damage inside, as we know, is horrible. It is terrible. So much has been destroyed. But the stone remains. Victor Hugo, the author of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," once called this place a symphony in stone.
And you still do have that shell that they are going to be able to work with. It could take years and years and years to do that. And, as I said, they have got to work out how they're going to do it. And that's going to be a discussion. This is France. Nobody's going to agree -- Wolf. BLITZER: What do we know about some of the truly priceless artifacts
that were fortunately rescued from this fire?
HOLMES: Yes, and extraordinary reports of people literally forming a human chain and getting stuff out as the fire burned, yes, moving out there priceless artifacts, paintings, this Crown of Thorns and the like, that have been really revered by Catholics around the world and also lovers of history, people who've come to Notre Dame and looked at it.
The French ambassador to the U.S. coming out in a tweet just in the last couple of hours and saying, there was a copper rooster on the top of that spire that toppled. They found that intact, largely undamaged.
I don't know if you would call it an artifact, but certainly a significant piece of history for Notre Dame. And it contained items that were protective of Notre Dame. So they're very pleased that that has been discovered.
Now, a lot of the priceless artifacts have been moved, initially to the town hall here. And then many of them are going to be taken to the Louvre stored there, most undamaged, apparently, by fire, some perhaps smoke-damaged. And they're going to be restored and treated and repaired and hopefully one day put back on display in this magnificent cathedral behind us.
BLITZER: Truly magnificent.
Michael Holmes in Paris for us, Michael, thank you very much.
Other important news we're following, let's go to the White House, where stress levels are clearly rising tonight just ahead of the expected release of the Mueller report Thursday morning, some administration insiders living in fear that their testimony won't be redacted.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, secret testimony about President Trump could soon be made public.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
We're going to wait to see what it is that Bill Barr's redacting in this. And though the president is confident that when it does come out on Thursday, it's going to back up his claim that he's been exonerated, the people around the president are not so sure, Wolf.
Instead, they're worried about the details that are going to be revealed in this report, details that they say are going to be difficult for the White House to deny, since they were made to federal investigators under the penalty of lying to them.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is telling allies he's ready for the release of the redacted Mueller report. But inside the White House and around Washington, current and former officials say they're dreading it.
The president believes Thursday's release will clear his name, but former aides fear it could be politically damaging.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: There's 400 pages of information. And somebody like the president would have the sense to know that, in 400 pages, there's more than syllables. There's likely paragraphs that probably are going to look not great for him or people in the administration or people in the transition.
COLLINS: While they aren't expecting bombshells, sources until CNN the damage will likely be in the details.
The almost-400-page report won't be based on anonymous sources, but instead come from hundreds of hours of interviews with people who are closest to Trump, including statements made and details given under the penalty of perjury.
Trump is trying to define the report before it comes out, tweeting today, "No collusion, no obstruction," even though the attorney general said Robert Mueller didn't make a decision on whether Trump obstructed justice.
For weeks, Democrats have called for the release of the full report.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have very smart people who will be reading it, from the standpoint of our committees and the rest, and we will go to the next step. It depends on what is in there.
COLLINS: They're now in wait-and-see mode, but they don't sound hopeful about what they will see.
PELOSI: I respect protecting sources and methods. I don't support hiding the truth from the American people.
COLLINS: As Washington counts down to Thursday, the White House is escalating its fight with Capitol Hill over the president's finances.
Multiple House committees issued subpoenas this week to financial institutions as part of their investigations. And Trump is preparing to fight back. His attorneys told an accounting firm yesterday it would be improper to turn over the tax documents that Democrats want.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I guess the president watches your network a little bit, right?
SANDERS: Hey, President Trump, my wife and I just released 10 years. Please do the same.
COLLINS: The White House also facing a another fight on immigration. Today, the House Judiciary Committee requested information related to a CNN report that Trump told now acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan he would pardon him if he was sent to jail for breaking immigration laws.
Trump made the comment during a trip to the border earlier this month. And now House Democrats want to know who was there and what was said. In a letter to McAleenan, Jerry Nadler wrote: "These allegations, if true, would represent a grave breach of the duties of the president."
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, many West Wing officials said that they will likely read the Mueller report, because they're also interested about what's in it.
But, Wolf, they also said they're probably going to wait until after they have left the office to do so.
BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you.
Also tonight, as the White House braces for the Mueller report, the administration is fighting multiple congressional subpoenas for information on the president's finances.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.
Manu, what's the latest?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the White House and Congress battling on all fronts, fights that could end up in court, fights that could test the role of Congress in overseeing the executive branch.
On one front, the fight over the president's finances. There are at least six different lines of inquiries asking for information related to the president's finances, including a subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee chairman, Elijah Cummings, for 10 years of finances from the firm Mazars in the aftermath of allegations that were made by the president's former attorney Michael Cohen that the president may have improperly inflated his net worth in order to try to buy the Buffalo Bills football team.
Now, the -- Trump's attorney that actually sent a letter to Mazars warning not to comply with the Democrats' request and warning that it could take legal action to prevent that from going forward.
Now, also two different congressional committees have sent subpoenas to a number of financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, which was a major lender to the Trump Organization, as part of what Maxine Waters, the Financial Committee's Services -- Financial Services chairwoman, who said that -- that this could be illicit activity taken by President Trump as an individual, something they want to look into. Now, Wolf, other non-financial matters also subject to a fight between House Democrats and the White House, the White House denying the request for information that the Democrats have asked for regarding the president's reported efforts to try to block the merger between AT&T and Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.
The White House saying that this information is confidential. They will not turn this over. Democrats demanding all of this, latest sign of an escalating tension on Capitol Hill and between House Democrats as their investigations take shape -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, these congressional investigations continuing nonstop.
Manu Raju, up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
Joining us now, Congressman Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat. He serves on both the Oversight and Ways and Means Committees.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Let's get right to the impending release of the Mueller report. Sources tell CNN there's right now a lot of anxiety inside the White House about some of the details that may be revealed. What will you be looking for in these 400 pages?
REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D-CA): First, Wolf, I want to just say to the people of Paris that my hearts go out to them.
I actually proposed to my wife in Paris. So it's a dear place. And, actually, today's my anniversary. So, I'm -- but I'm here with you.
I just want to say...
BLITZER: Happy anniversary.
GOMEZ: Thank you.
I want to say this. I'm not looking for anything in particular. What I'm trying to do seeing what is in the report. We have no idea what's in the report. So, that's why the Democrats have been calling out that this report should be released with no redactions, with supporting documents, so the American people can see and read for themselves what Mueller found in his investigation, and then draw their own conclusions.
BLITZER: What about classified information?
GOMEZ: I think that we should -- we should unredact as most of -- as much as possible. And if there's some stuff that's redacted, I will -- I can understand that.
But if it's 90 percent of the report, then something is wrong, something is fishy. And it's because everybody -- first, I don't trust this administration. And whenever they have a chance to protect the president or to side with the American people, they always choose this president.
BLITZER: You sit on the House Oversight Committee, which is also digging right now into the president's finances, including documents from the president's accounting firm when he was a private citizen.
What specific information do you want to see?
GOMEZ: Well, one of the things that we have -- when we had that hearing with Michael Cohen, he really kind of spelled out how this president manipulated his wealth in order to get a better financing or to reduce his penalties when it came to insurance.
So, we have always had a lot of questions about how this president was using his financial statements. And then, at the same time, do they match up what he was reporting on his taxes? We don't have access to his taxes yet. And we don't have his financial statements.
So, if we can get a hold of both, that will tell the American people a whole lot.
BLITZER: As you know, the president's personal attorneys, they have threatened legal action if that accounting firm he used to work with cooperates with you in Congress.
Do you worry that's going to be a major hurdle for your committee?
GOMEZ: I'm not sure if anybody is surprised that he has attorneys threatening not only his financial firm, but also trying to bully Congress.
We're not surprised. So, is it going to be an obstacle? It's just part of the course when it comes to this administration. They -- when we call for transparency, they say it's presidential harassment. When we actually try to hold this administration accountable through investigations and oversight, they attack us.
And then, at the same time, they resort to name-calling when they feel cornered. So, I'm not surprised about this -- this latest attack.
BLITZER: Is there anything you can do to protect the entities like this accounting firm, for example, that decide to cooperate fully with your committee?
GOMEZ: Off the top my head, I'm not sure.
But I know that Chairman Cummings is probably looking at all options. I trust his expertise and I trust the committee staff. We don't know. First, they haven't come forward. So we're going to push it as much as we possibly can.
BLITZER: The president's attorneys have also raised concerns about weaponizing the IRS in order to get his tax returns. Do you think there's potential for Congress down the road to abuse that power?
GOMEZ: I want to be very clear. We wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for this president not releasing his tax returns when he was running for president.
It's something that has been done by Democrats and Republicans alike for the past 40 years. So, we wouldn't even be in this situation if the president would have just followed custom and practice and did the right thing.
At the same time, this is not something that has never been done by Chairman Neal or the Ways and Means Committee. We have asked for documents in the past. It's never been denied, not once in the history of this law and the statute, which is 6103-F.
So, no, it cannot be weaponized if we do it in the appropriate way. And that's what Chairman Neal is doing.
BLITZER: Congressman Jimmy Gomez of California, thanks so much for joining us.
GOMEZ: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Just ahead, a search is now under way for an armed and dangerous suspect after what's being described as a credible threat to schools in the Denver area, including Columbine. We have new details.
Plus, will the actress Felicity Huffman wind up in jail for her role in the college cheating scandal? And, if so, for how long? We're getting a preview of the sentence that will be recommended by prosecutors.
BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight on a credible threat to schools in Colorado, included Columbine, the scene of a horrific mass shooting some two decades ago.
Authorities are now searching for a woman described as armed and dangerous.
Let's go to CNN's Scott McLean. He is joining us from Denver.
Scott, what can you tell us about this threat?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.
So authorities in suburban Denver are looking for this 18-year-old woman that they say is a credible threat to this area, based on information that they got from the FBI.
And so last hour, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office put out her name and her photo. Her name is Sol Pais. She was last seen wearing a black shirt, camouflage pants, black boots, and they say that she traveled in to Colorado last night.
They say she is armed and extremely dangerous. As you mentioned, they are not telling people to stay indoors, but they are saying that people ought to be on the lookout for her and obviously call police if they see her.
Now all of this, this afternoon prompted Columbine and nearly 20 other schools to go on something called lockout, which essentially means the school is business as usual on the inside, but no one is allowed to come or go. When they released the schools, it was on time, but it was a controlled release, with much more security than usual.
That means more police, more deputies. School resource officers were there obviously as well. Now, as for the nature of this threat, authorities are saying that it was a credible threat, but she didn't make it directly. And so it's unclear exactly what or who she may have wanted to target.
What's also interesting, Wolf, is that as they let these schools out, they said that after-school activities would still be on, with one exception, and that is Columbine High School.
Now, this woman was last spotted in the foothills. Columbine, for anyone familiar with this area, knows it's not located in the foothills. The reason that they treated it differently, at least the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office suspects, is because of the amount of threats that Columbine specifically has gotten over the years, credible or otherwise.
Of course, as we know, Saturday is the 20th anniversary of that horrific school shooting the killed 13 people here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I remember it, an awful, awful moment in our history.
Scott McLean in Denver, stay on top of this story. We will get back to you when new information emerges.
Also this hour, we're following growing concerns among White House insiders before the Mueller report is expected to be released Thursday morning.
Joining us now, the former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. He's a CNN senior legal analyst. He's also the author of a brand-new "New York Times" bestseller, "Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law," an excellent, excellent new book.
Preet, the president's allies inside the White House are really nervous, apparently, about the impending release of the Mueller report on Thursday. What kind of damaging information could be lurking inside those 400 or so pages?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It could be all sorts of information. And it also depends on what is redacted and what's not and how much protection the special counsel wants to give to people who are concerned about that.
And the reason they're concerned, obviously, is because they know the volatile nature and temperament of the president of the United States. He gets really angry at people who he thinks are disloyal. And he passes out favors in some form or another to people he thinks are his allies.
I think, most importantly, there might be information about meetings or conversations or phone calls that happened where -- on the obstruction side, because that's, I think, what people are most expectant about, the obstruction side, not the conspiracy side, that made it appear that President Trump had an intention to block the special counsel's investigation in some way or form.
We know that Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel, cooperated extensively, gave hours and hours of testimony to the special counsel's office. When you give much testimony, there's likely to be snippets of things that are probably damaging.
And I guess we will see what happens.
BLITZER: We will see on Thursday.
Some current and former administration officials, Preet, they're clearly afraid of retribution, as you point out, from the president, once the extent of their cooperation with the special counsel and his investigators is made public.
You're a former U.S. attorney. As a prosecutor, what kind of protection could you offer witnesses who might suffer personal or professional damage as a result of their testimony?
BHARARA: Well, I mean, it depends on what kind of damage is being -- is being put forward.
The odd thing about people now being concerned and worried about what information they gave that's damaging to the president, they gave to the special counsel, what's odd about that is, my understanding is that the former administration officials or current ones were asked by lawyers for Donald Trump to be cooperative with the special counsel.
So it would be an odd thing to come forward, tell the truth, do what you're supposed to do, and then be concerned about retaliation. Look, there are various ways that we have seen that the president retaliates. He takes away people's security clearances, he denigrates them on Twitter, he calls them out, he makes fun of them.
Any one of those things, depending on the nature of it, maybe you could take some -- some action in favor of the person who's being retaliated against.
But unless really the president or someone close to the president, his lawyers, or if he still has fixers, people like that, takes some action that crosses a legal line, like obstruction -- in other words, someone says something damaging, and it looks like there might be subsequent follow-on congressional testimony of some sort -- and then makes it clear that, if that witness does anything further, there might be repercussions, well, then that gets you into obstruction of justice and witness tampering territory.
But beyond that, if it's just going to be bad-mouthing of these people by the president, which he does with respect to authors, which he does with respect to television anchors and politicians alike,there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about that.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you're right.
We expect the attorney general to release the this redacted version to Congress and to the public Thursday morning. A lot of Democrats, as you know, Preet, they want to see the entire, the entire report, no redactions.
But there are some serious questions about what to do with classified material, for example, that could reveal sensitive information, sources and methods, as the intelligence community, law enforcement point out.
Could we see different versions of the report for different congressional committees?
BHARARA: I would think -- I don't know the answer that off the top of my head, but I would think that, in a normal universe, where the attorney general is trying to be as transparent as possible -- and that's what would match his rhetoric -- that you would see that.
I think there are arguments to be made, depending on what the material is, that the public sees one version and then Congress sees a different version, and, in particular, the Gang of Eight, people on the Intel Committee of both houses and on the Judiciary Committee of both houses, who have been privy to and are required to be told about all sorts of classified information and other national security matters, so that they can help monitor and oversee those things, as important officials in the United States government, in a co-equal branch of government.
If they can be privy with that information and those other contexts, which I think they're, in some ways, much, much more sensitive, there should be a version that they can see in mostly unredacted form.
I got the sense from the Attorney General talking about a slightly different context that he doesn't see things that way, but we'll see, and the other context is when he talked about grand jury material. If the Attorney General really wanted the public and the Congress to see a lot more, he could have made an application to the court to say it's appropriate to put this grand jury material into the report. And basically said in the testimony I showed last week, well, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee can do the same and has the same authority and power to do so, and so I leave it to that person. That does not give me a lot of confidence that we're going to see different reports, as you suggest.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: On another sensitive matter related, the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed four financial institutions that have done business with President Trump when he was a private businessman. What information might they uncover? And we're showing, these are major financial institutions, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, they've all been subpoenaed by the Intelligence and Financial Services Committees.
BHARARA: Well, I mean, I think they could be looking at all sorts of different things, and I hate to speculate. But one thing that I think there's been a predicate laid about in some of the congressional testimony in the last few months is whether or not Donald Trump, according to Michael Cohen, varied what his assets were, either increased them or decreased them when it helped him, whether it's related to taxes or some getting some loans or loan guarantees from Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions.
And from there, the sky is the limit. Congress is not limited in the same way that Bob Mueller's investigation was. And so there may be whistleblowers who were talking to them, there may be things that they have discovered from talking to other witnesses who have come before the Congress that lead them down the road to ask questions to these financial institutions.
But at a minimum, I think this question of asset valuation representation about them is something squarely in their abbot (ph).
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thanks so much for joining us.
BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And once again, to our viewers, don't forget Doing Justice, Preet's new book, a prosecutor's thoughts on crime, punishment, the rule of law, is now a major best seller, as it should be.
Stay with us. We're monitoring breaking news. A search is under way right now for an armed and dangerous suspect after what's being described as a credible threat to schools in the Denver, Colorado area, including Columbine.
Also ahead, will the actress, Felicity Huffman, wind up in jail for her role in the college cheating scandal? We're getting a preview of the sentence that will be recommended by the prosecutor.
BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight. Hundreds of hours of interviews with people closest to President Trump possibly about to be made public with Thursday's expected release of the redacted Mueller report. Sources are telling CNN there is deep concern among current and former White House officials that the President will be enraged if he reads what they told the Special Counsel's investigators under oath.
Let's dig deeper with our experts and our analysts. Susan Hennessey, what sort of damaging information potentially could be released?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Well, we know that Robert Mueller believes that there is at least some significant evidence related to obstruction of justice. Now, Mueller declined to reach a traditional prosecutorial judgment about whether or not it was criminal or not. But we can assume there is going to be at least some body of damaging information.
Keep in mind, the President is still denying some of the most basic facts here. He is still saying that Jim Comey was lying whenever Comey said that Trump told him to see his way to letting Flynn go. The Mueller report might and likely will lay out which story Mueller finds more credible, Jim Comey story about what happened or Trump's denials.
Also setting aside sort of questions of legality on this criminal conspiracy collusion element, we know that Mueller's team didn't find a chargeable criminal conduct. With that said that there still could be really damaging information. To what extent do the President and his associates know about this Russian conspiracy to interfere in election? Did they warn the American public? What was the nature of those conducts?
And so I think it's all but certain that there is going to be substantially damaging information here.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey Toobin, did White House officials who cooperate and spoke and gave hours and hours of testimony, Q and A, with Mueller and his team, did they suspect, did they know that eventually what they said could be made public?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if they didn't know, they should have. Because if you just look at the history of big Washington scandals, whether it's Watergate or Iran-Contra or this, the testimony always comes out. There is a report filed. You can argue about the precise legalities of Special Counsel versus Independent Counsel.
But given the political circumstances, they had to know it was likely that their testimony would come out in one form or another. And I assume they operated accordingly although they had to tell the truth, which was a much bigger obligation. So I think they just -- anyone who agreed to testify had to recognize the chips were going to fall where they may.
BLITZER: And, David Swerdlick, after hundreds and hundreds of hours of individuals, current and former officials giving answers to questions by Mueller and his team, we're about to learn presumably going to learn some new inner workings, tumultuous inner workings, how things unfold inside the Trump White House.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that's right. I mean, at a minimum, the report is going to shed some light on those blanks that were not covered in Attorney General Barr's initial letter. It's situation where he set the conclusions but there are a lot of details which even if they don't add up to criminality or add up to wrongdoing on the part of the President or anyone in his circle, they could definitely be embarrassing and they could shed light on the way the President does business.
BLITZER: Well, Jackie, as part of the politically damaging information, forget about the criminal for a moment, how politically damaging could this be?
JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST POWER UP: Well, even just looking at the President's public station, we have seen an evolution, from complete and total exoneration, which is false, that's not what Barr concluded, to now, okay, guys, do we really need to re-litigate this? Let's move onto most recently today, staffers being pretty worried about what's going to come out, former and current.
And if we know one thing about this President is that he cares about public perception and he's all about the politics here. And no one wants to incur the wrath of the President, and that might be exactly what's happening.
On the other side of this, I think what also will be significant in these details is the distance that is shown between Barr's initial preliminary summary of the Mueller report that really neutered the 400-page novel that we're going to be seeing on Thursday and how Barr is actually going to explain the discrepancy there and explain himself for why he concluded that there was no obstruction of justice.
BLITZER: He's already telling his supporters, Susan, that this whole investigation was, in his words, the greatest scam in political history. If the mainstream media were honest, which they are not, this story would be bigger and more important than Watergate. So he's basically telling his supporters, don't believe anything you're about to see.
HENNESSEY: Yes. I mean, look, the President has been sort of telegraphing this strategy from the beginning, that his plan here was to openly attack the investigators, attempt to sort of impugn their integrity, such that whenever the report was actually released, his supporters wasn't going to believe it.
Now, Trump didn't invent that strategy. It's the similar one to the strategy that the Clinton -- President Clinton used before the Starr report came out. It is certainly going be an effective one, and has been an effective one, with extent to the President's very narrow base. The question is whether or not that message carries to larger audience at all.
BLITZER: And remember, Jeffrey, if the President doesn't like what he's going to be seeing, he's going to blame either 13 or 19 angry democrats who were part of Mueller team.
TOOBIN: Right. And I don't know how narrow the President's base is. I think it's at least 40 percent in the polls and it was enough to get him elected President of the United States. Plus, he's got an entire cable news network that is going to elaborate and repeat and guarantee that Trump's message gets out there. I mean, Fox News will be an incredible asset to the President that Richard Nixon didn't have in the 1970s, that Bill Clinton didn't have in the 1990s. And that echo chamber is going to announce this as a vindication regardless of what the 400 pages say.
BLITZER: Do you agree? SWERDLICK: I agree. And the Attorney General's letter is also an asset along with Fox News and other right wing echo chamber sort of outlets because it set the narrative. Now, House Democrats are rebutting the presumption that there's nothing to see here, everybody can move on, even if they subsequently come out with damaging information or embarrassing information, even if it's just politically damaging, they are going against a narrative that's already been set.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's more news we're following. We're also monitoring the breaking news, the ongoing search for a woman that police are describing as armed and dangerous after what they are calling a credible threat to schools in the Denver area, including Columbine.
[18:48:26] BLITZER: We're back with our experts and our analysts.
And, David Swerdlick, I want to get your reaction to some comments that the former First Lady Michelle Obama made while promoting her book. She's being criticized by some after she compared President Trump to divorced dads. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: We come from a broken family, we're teenager, we're -- you know, we're a little unsettled, and, you know, having good parents is tough, you know. Sometimes you spend weekend with divorced dad and that feels like it's fun, but then you get sick. That's what America is going through. We're kind of living with divorced dad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, she's trying to make this point that, like, you know, the divorced dad is the dad that the kids go to on the weekends and that they are fun to take to miniature golfing, but they don't know what to do if you get the flu or, you don't make to eat vegetables.
That being said, I think it's an inartful and probably inappropriate way to come at her criticism of President Trump. She got a ton of unfair criticism over the last decade, she'd probably some mulligan. But if I were her, I wouldn't go back to --
BLITZER: What do you think?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: She probably get she's attempting to make a point and connecting this particularly political moment with sort of the -- with an analogy about family, you know, to the extent that divorced dads of America are offended. Michelle Obama has been a very thoughtful commentator and I'm sure regrets those words, but I think sort of her core point about the ways in which we interact with one another in sort of a situation in that family metaphor, there's obvious parallel.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Put me down as not outraged. I didn't even get it, to tell you the truth.
You know, it seemed -- I don't think it matters. I didn't get it at all. The sound quality was terrible too. So, that's a problem.
JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST "POWER UP": I think a more appropriate metaphor, at least in light of these past few weeks is that the president just seems to be a one-man wrecking ball, taking down anyone who stands in his path to the whatever spaghetti on the wall policy approaches he has, you know, thrown off the cuff. Whether or not it breaks the law or not
BLITZER: Yes, but -- I guess, Jeffrey, there are a lot of divorced dads out there who work hard to take care of the kids, they don't just show up once in a while on the weekend. And it made it sound like she was suggesting these divorced dads are missing in action.
TOOBIN: Now I get it. Now I'm outraged.
BLITZER: Yes, that's the criticism.
BLITZER: That's the criticism that it was a slight -- not necessarily the president as much --
TOOBIN: I appreciate that.
BLITZER: -- as the divorced dads who are saying, you know what, maybe these divorced dads aren't as bad as people say.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we're following right now. We're learning how much jail time the actress Felicity Huffman could be facing in the college admissions scandal.
[18:55:50] BLITZER: We're learning now information tonight about what the actress Felicity Huffman could be facing for her role in the college admissions scandal. The law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN prosecutors plan to seek a sentence of four to ten months of jail for the "Desperate Housewives" star. Huffman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by paying $15,000 to bribe an administrator to inflate her daughter's SAT scores.
Let's bring back our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, does four to ten months seem like appropriate in this case, especially someone who's pleading guilty and cooperating?
TOOBIN: It certainly seems in the ball park. But Felicity Huffman has done everything exactly right for a defendant who's trying to avoid jail. She pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. Her statement of contrition was absolute.
It wasn't one of those "I'm sorry you were offended" kind of statements. I mean, she took all responsibility for her -- for her guilty conduct.
Now, this request is only the government's request. It's not -- it doesn't mean the judge will accept it. Four to ten months could be zero to six months, and in terms of the federal sentencing guidelines. And it's entirely possible that she could get probation, not any sort of custodial jail sentence.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, the actress Lori Loughlin and her husband have pleaded not guilty to two conspiracy charges. Are they likely to face stiffer sentences if they're convicted?
TOOBIN: Absolutely, and by a lot. I mean, the government did what they often do in multi-defendant complex cases. They basically seems like they set a deadline. And they said, if you don't plead guilty by this date, we're going to add more charges. And that's when Felicity Huffman and a bunch of other parents and other people involved in the scandal pleaded guilty.
The others, they rolled the dice. Now, you know, I think we need to acknowledge the possibility that they go to trial and they're acquitted, in which case any don't get any jail time. But if they do go to trial and get convicted they are certain to get at least a year in prison and even now if they decide to plead guilty, they will look much worse, especially since they spent a great deal more money than the Felicity Huffman family did to get their daughter into USC.
So, you know, the individual facts matter. And Felicity Huffman's misconduct -- at least based on the indictment, seems -- I mean, it's bad obviously, but it's not as bad as some of the other families.
BLITZER: Is that common for prosecutors to add charges if someone decides to plead not guilty?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, they are well within their rights as long as the charges are supported by the law to say, look, we are going to supersede, we're going to add more charges. We are giving you a chance to cut your losses and -- but if you don't, we're going to add. And that's what they did in adding money laundering accounts to this larger indictment.
BLITZER: Federal prosecutors, they've also now been sending out what they call target letters to people associated with the college admissions scandal, including some of the students and graduate -- graduates what is that intended to do?
TOOBIN: Well, it's designed to scare up some more guilty pleas and possibly lead to more indictments. It's a very dicey situation with the children. Obviously, if they are
actually children under 18, I think it's unlikely that the government will move -- will indict them. However, you know, many of the kids applying were 18 or older. And, you know, in much less tony parts of the United States, 16, 17, 18-year-olds are indicted and incarcerated all the time.
So, I don't think there is any automatic immunity for these kids if they knew that they were engaging in fraud. Felicity Huffman said her daughter was not aware. That's going to be a key factor, obviously, whether the kids knew.
BLITZER: We'll continue to watch the story unfold. It's dramatic indeed.
Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.