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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
AG Barr to Hold News Conference at 9:30AM ET Tomorrow, Before Redacted Version of Mueller Report is Released; Nadler Questions Barr's Planned News Conference on Mueller Report. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired April 17, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Is the country now just hours away from getting spun on the Mueller report?
Good evening from Washington where some key signs are pointing to perhaps a troubling answer. In a moment, we're expecting to hear from a leading critic who does not like what he has seen so far, Democratic congressman and House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler. He is expected to hold a live press conference, unhappy about what the attorney general has decided to do holding his own press conference tomorrow around 9:30 a.m.
We'll bring you Congressman Nadler's remarks as they happen. He'll be speaking out, raising concerns about exactly what will happen tomorrow morning, 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
The attorney general scheduled to go before cameras, give some sort of an overview of the Mueller report, and then take questions. But, of course, given that the report will not have been released by then, it's not sure -- not clear how informed those questions can actually be.
President Trump says he might also hold a press conference a short time later, but something CNN quickly learned, as I just said, the report won't be out until hours after the Barr press conference. Meaning no one will have seen it when Barr takes questions on it. Meaning he can say anything he wants about the contents, no one can challenge him with facts, just as it was when he released his four- page summary of it, which was highly favorable to the president.
So for a period of time tomorrow, in this case hours, not weeks, the attorney general's take on Robert Mueller's report will be the only take and it will all be hitting with Congress out of town.
As for the special counsel himself, perhaps the best person available to characterize his own findings and decisions, he won't be in the room. His spokesman would not say why, but his absence certainly raises questions, as does late reporting in "The New York Times" by CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman and others that Justice Department officials have spoken with White House lawyers about the report providing information potentially helpful in crafting a rebuttal to it. In essence, the people charged with administrating justice for all Americans helping out lawyers defending the president.
So, there's plenty to investigate tonight. And as I said, we're going to bring you that press conference from Democratic side, from Jerrold Nadler, as soon as it happens this evening.
We'll start with CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House right now.
Jim, just walk us through how all of this is playing out.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we heard from the president earlier today say in that interview with a local radio station here in Washington that there are going to be very strong things coming from the attorney general, William Barr. That gave everybody some indication like, OK, wait a minute, what's happening here? How is it that the president knows or has some idea as to what the attorney general is going to say?
Keep in mind, Anderson, for the last couple of weeks when we pressed White House officials whether or not there have been conversations between the Justice Department and the White House, they have basically said we cannot answer that question.
Now, I will tell you, Anderson, I just talked to a senior White House official in the last 30 minutes who said that this person had been around the president earlier this evening and in the words of this official, he is not fuming, he is not worried, and according to this official, these attacks that we're starting to see from some Democrats on the attorney general will, quote, back fire.
So they are feeling confident over here at the White House. At least that's the face they're putting on this evening, Anderson, that they're confident in terms of what the attorney general is going to release tomorrow in terms of this redacted Mueller report. Obviously, that is a very big different change in tone and change in attitude versus what we heard earlier today from people who have spoken to the Mueller team.
There's a sense of dread from those folks, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, it seems somewhat contradictory. If there's people in the White House who have spoken to the Mueller team, we don't know exactly who it is who has concern about what they may have said or how the president may react to it.
COOPER: The idea that the president may give a press conference tomorrow after the attorney general, is that for real? Is that just something he off-handedly said? Is there any movement on that?
ACOSTA: Yes, I talked to an administration official this evening who said, listen, if the president is saying he's probably going to talk to reporters, you can probably bet that he is going to be talking to reporters. Part of this is because the president wants to reshape the narrative of all of this after the attorney general takes a crack at this tomorrow morning.
And as we've seen so many times before, Anderson, what the president often does is he returns to these talking points, sometimes incorrect talking points when he says there was no collusion. OK, yes, that was in the Barr letter in terms of the findings in the Mueller report. But when he goes on to say there was no obstruction, that is not what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, told the attorney general.
[20:05:01] They did not reach a determination on that. It was the attorney general who reached a determination on that.
And, Anderson, one thing we should also point out is that there are people who have spoken to Robert Mueller's team who are filled with some dread tonight. I talked to one individual earlier today who talked about spilling his guts to the special counsel's team and was essentially regretting it and now wishing that this person had talked to the grand jury instead of going into special counsel's office.
So, there is some concern, Anderson, while the White House is trying to sound confident tonight that some of these individuals who talked to the special counsel's team may actually get named in this report and that there might be some embarrassing revelations about the president, which is why I think -- part of the reason why you saw the president start to go on the attack again about this investigation. He tweeted about it this morning, calling it a witch hunt and then also was airing some of these suggestions that former President Barack Obama without any evidence might have had a hand in this investigation.
It is a return to some of the talking points that this White House has used to undermine the public's confidence in this investigation. It's interesting that they're going back to those talking points when they were doing the touchdown dance just a short while ago when the Barr letter came out.
So, Anderson, I think there is going to be immensely interesting and fascinating to watch all of this unfold. But make no mistake, inside the White House, while they claim they're feeling okay about this, there are people who have spoken to the investigators with Mueller's team who are not feeling very good tonight, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House -- Jim, thanks very much. We've got reporters and analysts and every angle of the story tonight.
Let's start with CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.
So, your reporting and the reporting of others at "The Times" there has been -- any idea of a firewall between the Department of Justice and the White House, that does not seem to be the case?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. There is -- and ABC reported on this as well. There have been a number of discussions between DOJ officials and White House officials and the counsel's office, as we understand it, about not just the mechanics of the report, how it will be rolled out, but some, what was described to me as top line understanding, possibly more than that, of what will be in the report. A sense of how much will be redacted, what to expect.
You know, so I don't know why officials couldn't just say that. I don't know why there was all this discussion about a firewall. I think you have seen the attorney general take a pretty expansive view of executive power. I think it is not a surprise everything that he's doing is within that framework.
I think that it is going to raise optics questions when they have made such a display of saying there's no contact, when of course there's been some contact.
COOPER: And is -- is it known how much of this cooperation or this contact is about helping -- giving the White House a heads up so that they can craft a response in advance?
HABERMAN: I don't know that it's about that, but I think that that is -- the after effect is that it ends up helping them figure out how to handle it. It ends up helping the president figure out how to handle it and people who the president talks to how to handle it.
You saw the president actually got ahead of the department of justice announcing Barr was going to have a press conference.
HABERMAN: So there obviously has been a fair amount of conversation about how this is going to go. I think the optics of this, for Bill Barr in particular, have been problematic.
It doesn't mean the reality is problematic, we don't know until we see the report. But it does mean he's having a press conference. He's going to have this press conference with Rod Rosenstein, the person who appointed Robert Mueller, standing next to him.
There has been some discussion about it with the White House. They have already had a PR blow on this at minimum, and we've had people from the Mueller team express albeit privately concerns about how Barr described their conclusions. So I don't think heading into this press conference before people get to see the report that that's going to be helpful.
COOPER: I'm trying to think of sort of an equivalent press conference. The only one that comes to mind is Comey giving a press conference on the investigation on Hillary Clinton, and obviously that did not -- was not interpreted as reflecting well on him.
HABERMAN: Right. Look, I don't know enough about -- I'm not a DOJ reporter. I don't know enough about what the guidelines allow for in a case like this or the special counsel regulations allow for a case like this.
And we don't know what's in the report. We don't know whether names are mentioned. Just like all these White House officials and whoever, campaign officials who spoke to the special counsel, they don't know how they're going to be presented either. So I'm loathe to criticize without knowing that, but that having been said, I do think that, you know, there is a concern, I think, based on things that Barr has done and said so far among critics, among some of the media, about how this will be handled tomorrow. COOPER: Maggie, stay with us.
I want to bring in the rest of our team tonight, investigative reporter and author, Carl Bernstein. He's also a CNN political analyst. CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger. Our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is here. So is "USA Today" columnist, and CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers. With us as well, former Republican National Committee chief of staff, Mike Shields.
Jeff, does the attorney general need to have a press conference before the report which he has been in charge of redacting is actually released?
[20:10:01] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: He certainly doesn't. In fact the tradition at the Department of Justice is quite the opposite. I mean, many of us here are professional journalists and we go to press conferences. And the way press conferences work everywhere is they hand you a document, whether it's an indictment or a report, and then the public official speaks about it.
Here, there's no -- the reporters in the room will have no access to what he's talking about. So, it seems to be a transparent attempt to spin the report, to again, like he did on that Sunday, to characterize it in a way that is favorable to the president without just showing us the report.
COOPER: Kristen --
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the other thing is if you really want people to understand something, what you usually do is you embargo it so you get it ahead of time and say you can't discuss it until the press conference so people actually have time to pore over it, understand it, ask questions and be informed and actually go to write their stories quickly with time to process it.
This is intentionally being done so people will not have time to process it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you look at Barr's history, he's kind of positioned himself as Trump's Mueller translator for America. And what he's done is, first of all, he releases his summary, which a lot of people would say was very favorable to Donald Trump, in which he declared that there was no obstruction.
Then he's redacting what he needs to redact here. Then he's talking to the White House and letting them know potentially what might be in it. We don't know how much. And then he's going to have a press conference about this, all before Congress gets hold of the report.
So, the question is why does he feel the need to do this? Why does he feel the need to come out in advance and spin?
And, Mike, I know you work for the RNC and you know all about the spin. But this seems to me to be more political than anything else right now. In a way to kind of protect the president from an onslaught that may occur after what we see is in the Mueller report.
COOPER: I just want to point out to our viewers, we are awaiting this press conference from Congressman Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the judiciary committee, has already tweeted out today clearly he and other Democrats are concerned, upset, and angry, I would imagine, about -- I think it's fair to characterize it as that -- about how the attorney general is rolling this out, particularly the idea as we've been discussing about the attorney general having a press conference when the public, reporters, and from Nadler's perspective just as importantly if not more so members of Congress have actually been able to read any of the report.
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and those are all questions that members of the media can ask the attorney general and Rosenstein tomorrow. And so, there is transparent -- when you're going in front of the press, as journalists, people want public officials to come talk to them.
COOPER: Why not later?
SHIELDS: But I'm sure they will later.
HABERMAN: Why are you sure of that?
SHIELDS: Because you guys will ask them question after question after question. If they don't, if it's just a stone wall then you're going to report they came out beforehand, they didn't answer any questions on the process. You're going to write stories on that.
In which case, having the press conference will just generate bad coverage.
BORGER: Trump has said he's going to come out after that. Not Barr.
SHIELDS: My point is we're sort of preflighting something without knowing what it's going to be and assuming it's bad when in fact they're coming out to transparently answer questions from the media. That will be tough questions. The media have been collecting -- you guys have been collecting questions on this for two years that you can ask him tomorrow.
BORGER: But we haven't seen the report.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Let's see the report. I mean, that's what this is all report.
SHIELDS: You'll see the report.
BERNSTEIN: It ought to be rolled out in full. Unredacted.
SHIELDS: Why is that (INAUDIBLE) unredacted?
(CROSSTALK) BERNSTEIN: -- is the report. So that the Congress of the United States -- we've had the most important investigation in our public life in 40 years. And it ought to be the property of the American people, the property of the Congress of the United States, and all of this process and all of this arguing in a vacuum without being able to see the full unredacted report is a kind of nonsense.
And there ought to be agreement among the political parties and among those involved in the political process, as there have been on other occasions in our national life. We need to see this. This is important for the nation, for its people, and enough of this nonsense. Let's get on with the report.
SHIELDS: Look, I agree that there should be transparency. I think --
BERNSTEIN: I'm glad you agree.
SHIELDS: But there are legal reasons why you redact something.
SHIELDS: -- they have said we're going to try and take it a step further and said, we're not just going to redact, we're going to try and take a step further and explain why some of the redactions happened. I'm sure they will be asked tomorrow before the report comes out to explain that at the press conference.
So the idea that this is just completely untransparent I think is a little too much of an extreme description.
[20:15:01] BORGER: But I think what Carl is saying is give it to Congress.
BERNSTEIN: That's right.
POWERS: So, we understand why it can't be released to the public, but there should be some accountability here. It can't just be one version coming out from one side. There needs to be accountability and Congress can see unredacted information.
TOOBIN: And remember too that when Barr speaks tomorrow, he will be speaking with the knowledge of having read the whole thing. And he will be -- his people will have talked to the White House, having seen the whole thing.
But none of us will see the whole thing. And so he can -- he can speak with an authority that no one else will be able to. And I think that's not transparency. That's something very different.
BORGER : Well, what Barr may be trying to do, and I don't know this, is that he may be trying to explain the process, which is the different colored redactions and how we should look at all of those things before we get to look at the report and how we should read the report. But journalists like to read things for themselves and are quite
capable of understanding a code, if they say to us this is redacted for national security.
TOOBIN: We're good at colors.
BORGER: Very good at colors.
COOPER: We are just minutes away from this press conference by Congressman Jerrold Nadler. It's coming out of New York. A number of members of Congress are also in attendance there.
But we expect Nadler to be the first speaker, and he has been the most vocal today about his concerns about what the attorney general of the United States is doing.
Maggie, I mean, is there -- is there -- I mean I think I saw one of your tweets. How would you describe what the attorney general is trying to do?
HABERMAN: So I'm not sure. I think -- I honestly don't understand what the goal is here.
I agree with aspects of what Mike is saying, that there isn't an effort to explain things. I think Gloria is correct, some of this is about explaining process. I still don't know why you do that ahead of time. Why can't -- I have not heard if there is a logistical reason why the report couldn't be released at 6:00 a.m. We're all pretty capable of getting up and getting through it before the press conference.
Also, again, they're doing this not just when Congress is in recess but they're doing this when all of the world is about to celebrate -- not all of the world, parts of the world is to celebrate the holidays. And certainly, much of D.C. is about to be emptied out. The president is going on vacation. The markets I think are closed for part of the day on Friday.
There is an optics issue --
COOPER: Is that a coincidence?
HABERMAN: Or maybe it is. But normal practice is you try to avoid these appearances. And I don't understand -- I still have not had anyone explain why this has to be done in this sequence. Why the press conference cannot be done two hours later and have the report come out at 9:30?
BERNSTEIN: The fact that Mr. Barr has talked to those in the White House at some length and on many occasions about what is in this report --
HABERMAN: Or someone has.
BERNSTEIN: Well, I gather it has been many occasions. The fact that this has occurred taints what we're seeing tomorrow. Even if Mr. Barr is coming out to be helpful, the fact of this almost collusive, to use that word, interaction between the attorney general of the United States, is he the attorney general of the United States or is he the attorney general of Donald Trump? That's been the case through all of this.
I'm not sure Mr. Barr knows the answer to the question. I can only imagine the pressure that Mr. Barr is under from the White House and the president of the United States, which -- look, we're all in a vacuum. We're all waiting to see and I don't want to speculate too much. But what seems to me apparent is that part of this process is backwards because we need to see the report.
BORGER: I mean, there was some good news today for congress, which is that the Department of Justice said that Congress is going to get a different report.
COOPER: A less redacted version.
BORGER: A less redacted version. Clearly members of the Intelligence Committee, et cetera, et cetera, which is something they had been asking for. They wanted a totally unredacted version. But at least they're not going to get the same version that the public is getting and that the DOJ may trust them enough to give them that, which is progress from their point of view.
BERNSTEIN: Or it's a dog and a bone.
TOOBIN: Questions about that other report, the less redacted report, I read some of the analysis of that. One thing that confused me was, is that only the Roger Stone material that is going to be --
BORGER: Don't know.
TOOBIN: -- included in that? Because there is -- you know, he is coming to trial.
COOPER: They don't want to prejudice that.
TOOBIN: They don't want to prejudice the trial, so they are going to give some of the Roger Stone material --
TOOBIN: -- to Congress. But is there other material --
BORGER: We don't know.
TOOBIN: -- Congress is going to see?
BORGER: We don't know. We know that the intelligence committee chiefs, maybe the Gang of Eight, you know, the leaders of the Congress may see an even less redacted version. One could hope that the Department of Justice would trust the leaders of the Intelligence Committee and the leaders of Congress with classified information, which they look at all the time.
[20:20:10] So I'm assuming they're going to get that. But the question is when? We don't know.
SHIELDS: OK, so let's just take -- if that happens, if the Gang of Eight gets a less redacted version, is that enough? At some point, it's never going to be enough. No matter what happens here, there are going to be critics of the president and Democrats on Capitol Hill --
COOPER: I'm sorry to interrupt. The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, is speaking right now. Let's listen.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): With me are four members of the committee, Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, Ted Deutch of Florida, Val Demings of Florida and Hakeem Jeffries of New York who is chairman of the Democratic Caucus.
The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of president Trump, the very subject of the investigation at the heart of the Mueller report. Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller's nearly two-year investigation.
One, he summarized the report and cherry-picked findings in his March 24th letter to Congress. Two, he withheld summaries written by the special counsel that were intended for public consumption. Three, he has briefed the White House on the report before providing Congress a copy, which has helped them prepare a rebuttal response for the president. And now the evening before the report's scheduled release, the Department of Justice has informed the committee that it will receive a copy between 11:00 a.m. and noon, well after the attorney general's 9:30 a.m. press conference.
This is wrong. It is contrary to the attorney general's own words to the committee. Quote: I do not believe it would be in the public's interests for me to attempt to summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion, close quote.
It now appears the attorney general intends to once again put his own spin on the investigative work completed by the special counsel and his team. The fact that the attorney general is not releasing even the redacted report to Congress until after his press conference will again result in the report being presented through his own words rather than through the words of Special Counsel Mueller.
The central concern here is that the Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House. Of course, he's doing this just before the holiday weekend so it's extraordinarily difficult for anybody to react.
This is wrong. It is not the proper role of the attorney general.
I should add one other thing. The Department of Justice in a court filing in the roger stone case today said that some members of Congress may get access to some of the redacted information, only for use in secret. The Judiciary Committee has no knowledge of this and this should not be read as any agreement or knowledge or assent on our part.
Thank you very much.
Oh, we'll take a couple of questions. That's right.
REPORTER: Are you satisfied with the DOJ saying that there will be two versions, one with fewer redactions for a limited number of members of Congress?
NADLER: We are certainly not satisfied with that. We have repeatedly said what is demanded by the situation and that is that the Judiciary Committee be given the entire report and the underlying evidence so that we can make those judgments for ourselves and the Judiciary Committee can, as has been the case in prior situations, decide which limited portions of the report might have to be kept secret so as not to reveal sources and methods of intelligence or for some other legitimate reason.
But that's a decision for the committee to make, not for the attorney general or the administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take one more question.
REPORTER: Congressman, when do you plan to issue subpoenas for Mueller or anyone else for that matter?
NADLER: Well, we'll have to take the time over the next couple of days to carefully read the redacted report so that we don't find out that in fact there's very little left out. But on the assumption that it's heavily redacted, we will most certainly issue the subpoenas in very short order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, everybody.
REPORTER: Will you ask Mueller to testify?
NADLER: I'll answer that. We probably -- I assume we'll probably find it useful to ask Mueller to testify. I assume we may ask members of his team to testify.
[20:25:01] But we'll have to make those decisions after reading what we get as inadequate as that may be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
COOPER That was Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, laying out his problems with what has transpired since Robert Mueller's team finished their report, and the problems he has with the way it's being rolled out tomorrow, accusing the attorney general of essentially cooking the process to favor the president. Back now with the team. Mike Shields raised the notion will it ever
be enough for Democrats even if they get a less redacted version, the leadership get a less redacted version. There are Democrats who want the original underlying documents for the investigation.
POWERS: Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with them wanting to have those underlying documents and trying to get them, but I do think that sort of talking point of Democrats will never be happy, it's not -- I don't really think it's that accurate because the Democrats are asking for something pretty basic, which is to just get the report ahead of time and have time to read it and for it to be unredacted at least for a certain number of people who can be trusted with it. That's a pretty reasonable thing to do.
And I'll just go back to when you want people to understand what you're talking about, you embargo it. You can take any pr person off the street and ask them how you do that and they will tell you that you give people time to read it, process it, ask informed questions. You don't come out and start talking about something that people don't have time to think about.
You don't -- and if you really want accountability, you share it with the people who are supposed to be helping hold the White House accountable, Congress. I think it's just basic.
COOPER: Right. Mike, what I don't understand is if the president has said this report fully exonerates him, he's been completely exonerated on collusion, completely exonerated on obstruction -- if in fact that is the case and he really believes that, although we know some of a little bit, one line or not even a complete line of what Mueller said that doesn't seem to support the notion of exoneration on obstruction of justice, isn't the attorney general acting as if there is something to hide?
I mean, if you are the attorney general and this exonerates the president and the president says, you know, nothing to hide here, no problem here. Why would you go about this from pretty much every step the way the attorney general has? I mean, he essentially writes a four-page -- just to review. He writes a four-page summary that is clearly favorable to the president. Could have quoted the Mueller report more but he chose to write in four-page summary the way he did. There's complaints from the Mueller team about some of the emphasis he put on it, the twist he gave to it.
Then takes weeks while the president is out there speaking about how this is completely exonerated, the White House clearly has a message on this. You know, three weeks go by and now he wants to give a press conference before it's even released so that he can continue whatever narrative he wants to give, assuming that's one of the things he plans to do, and then a redacted report is released.
Does that sound like somebody who's --
SHIELDS: Yes, I mean, look, I said to you many times that the president should not shut down the Mueller investigation when that was the thing that kept getting rumored over and over again and never, ever happened, because he should want the truth to come out. And I think as much of this that legally can be possible should be made public. I mean, you redact things for legal reasons.
I'm sure Democrats will go to a judge and try to get things unredacted that they can and they should follow that process. As much publicity --
POWERS: Why do you have to go to a judge to it?
SHIELDS: Because you legally have to. It's Department of Justice standard operating procedure under legal guidance to not -- I mean, Jeffrey can explain this better than I can as to why you have to redact certain things.
POWERS: It doesn't have to be redacted -- the point is if it can be revealed to certain members of Congress, why make them jump through the hoops of going to a judge?
SHIELDS: Well, that's my point. They may unredact as much as they can and there's a question about will you unredact everything.
To get to the question, look at the circus that we're watching. Jerrold Nadler just had a press conference where he's saying the attorney general is going to spin at his press conference, so I'm going to come out and have my own press conference where I only take three questions and I'm going to pre-spin and say, how dare he treat this process this way?
BORGER: Do you blame him?
SHIELDS: Of course I do.
SHIELDS: Because it's a circus. It's a political circus from the beginning.
BORGER: Wait a minute.
SHIELDS: Jerrold Nadler has no idea what the attorney general -- all the attorney general tomorrow may say is at 11:00 the this thing is coming out. Here's the process we went through and here's Rod Rosenstein, here's what's going on.
BORGER: And he could be changing that at this very moment.
COOPER: It's not as if this is in a vacuum. The attorney general has testified in front of Congress and many of the things he said certainly alarmed Democratic members of Congress in terms of the way his truthfulness, the way he was characterizing spying, things like that. SHIELDS: And I'm sure that will be something that they look at
throughout this entire process and the Democrats will go crazy on Capitol Hill and keep investigating. They'll keep issuing subpoenas. That's what it will fall into.
TOOBIN: The world is full of intractable problems. This was one with a solution. This report was handed over to the Department of Justice on, I believe, March 4th. Just release the thing and then everybody doesn't have to have press conferences, prejudging, or post-judging.
I mean, it's a very important interest (ph) to a great number of people. The Mueller people wrote this report -- was handed over to the Department of Justice on, I believe March 4th.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
TOOBIN: Just release the thing.
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right.
TOOBIN: And then everybody doesn't have to have press conferences predate, you know, prejudging or post-judging. I mean, it's a very important subject. It's of interest to a great number of people. The Mueller people wrote this report in order to inform people what happen, release the report so we can talk about the substance --
BORGER: And by the way --
TOOBIN: -- instead of this ridiculous procedural, you know, process nonsense.
BORGER: -- he House voted unanimously, might I remind you, to release everything in the report. They don't vote unanimously on anything. The President was out there saying, after the Barr's summary letter, which he doesn't like to call a summary, after that letter said let it all out there.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Nadler used some very interesting --
SHIELDS: -- it will get out.
BERNSTEIN: Nadler used some very interesting language there. He referred to the summaries intended for public consumption by the special prosecutor. I'm going to assume that that was not said accidentally, that that presumes some knowledge perhaps that they have talked to people around speculating here, around Mueller and the investigation that indeed it was intended that those summaries be released.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We don't know.
BERNSTEIN: But I'm saying that interests me that Nadler used that language.
HABERMAN: But we also don't know -- we don't -- just to come from the other side here. We don't actually -- I'm willing to believe that this might be less redacted than we think it's going to be tomorrow.
TOOBIN: That's the other possibility.
HABERMAN: I mean, I think it is -- the President has made so many comments about let it all out there that it's going to be really hard for them to assert executive privilege on certain things after he has done that. So, I think it is possible we will actually, you know, be sitting here tomorrow and we will be talking about how much of it we got to see. We don't know.
My issue is -- I'm not taking advance issue with what may or may not be visible because I don't know yet. I am questioning why you need to hold a press conference to explain to us methods and how to read a color coding chart before we read it, because you could actually probably put that out in a document and then we could ask questions. That's what I'm talking about.
BORGER: I think Barr has also said, to Carl's point, I think he said that some of those summaries and this testimony were not completely vetted, and that's in his eyes. I mean in Mueller's team eyes maybe they were, maybe Barr saw it differently.
BERNSTEIN: Well, he was also asked and indicated that Mr. Mueller might not have agreed with the process that Mr. Barr is going through. This is all speculative and we all need to sit back and wait until tomorrow. At the same time, I think everybody at this table, including Mike, has agreed, this thing ought to be out there in full.
SHIELDS: Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that Mueller should come testify about this as well.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Let's take a quick break. There's more breaking news also to talk about on the Barr press conference. On the second less redacted report, Congress will apparently get and how Congressman Nadler will determine whether to subpoena the unredacted version and more. We'll talk to a congresswoman on his committee, next.
[20:35:08] COOPER: A moment ago you heard House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler register his complaints surrounding tomorrow's release of the Mueller report and the press conference or the announcement that Attorney General Barr is expected to make tomorrow at 9:30.
Just to recap, the report was finished weeks ago. It took weeks to redact. The process on a former DOJ official yesterday told us should only take a few days, although there are counterintelligence issues as well. It arrives after the press conference on it and with Congress out of town. Chairman Nadler accused the attorney general putting the President's interest above those of the American public. Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is on this committee. She joins me now from Miami. Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us. Does it make any sense to you that Attorney General Barr is giving these press conference hours before either Congress or the public will have seen the report?
REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): Absolutely not. If anything, it just raises so many more questions and concerns that he is actually using the spotlight to mislead the American people before providing Congress the full Mueller report, which is what we have requested from him. If you remember, Anderson, this investigation started about 22 months ago. It's an independent investigation that was conducted by Mueller.
We've seen 37 indictments, some of which are the people closest to this President during the campaign and after, the national security advisor, Michael Flynn, his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and -- which is why it is so important to make -- to not make this a political show, which is my suggestion to Attorney General Barr. This is very important for this country for him to conduct his job in an independent fashion, so I'm very concerned.
COOPER: You're assuming, though, that he is using a press conference tomorrow to manipulate the process, to give a narrative out there and plant that in people's minds. We don't know what he is going to say. Is it possible you're underestimating him?
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, I go by the facts and by everything that I've seen so far. And I was very troubled when he was -- during the hearing a couple of weeks ago in Congress when he made suggestions that we're not based on any facts or evidence that what -- you know, what's interesting to me is that now my Republican colleagues want to invite Mueller for a hearing to question him as well.
And I am assuming that they're going to be using this narrative that it's just not based on any evidence or facts that the Trump campaign was being spied on. And so after I heard him make those comments, I am assuming, Anderson, you're absolutely right, we won't know until we hear, but I just think that there's no precedent for this.
[20:40:00] The attorney general works for the American people. The attorney general does not work for this President. We have not seen the report yet. He's going to have a press conference before releasing this report to the judiciary committee, which has complete jurisdiction, not only over this investigation, but also over any questions of obstruction of justice --
MUCARSEL-POWELL: -- or any wrongdoing by this President.
COOPER: We just had a Republican analyst on the program, you know, before the commercial break, who was saying will this ever be enough for Democrats. That essentially the Democrats are going to be moving the goal posts. Even if a less redacted version is shown to Congress, they're going to push for completely unredacted version and then the original document and that it will never be enough. It's something we've heard from a lot of Republicans. I'm wondering what your response to that is.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, I think that we will know what we will do once we get that information. We don't know yet. All we're doing is requesting the report to be released so that we can take a look at that. I don't think that he's right. I think that if it was a Democrat in office, I know that my Republican colleagues would be pressing for the exact same thing.
So, we shouldn't make this into a political game or a political show. This is about the American people. It's about transparency. It's about protecting the office of the president.
And just to remind everyone that's watching, we had a Department of Justice that worked with Congress to get from the courts paperwork when we were undergoing an investigation under the Nixon and Clinton administrations, so this shouldn't be a political issue. It's not a Democratic issue. This is an issue of patriotism. It's an issue of transparency. It's an issue of protecting this country and our democracy and our foundation.
COOPER: Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell, appreciate your time. Thank you.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Back now with the group. Joining us, two more legal experts, CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero and Shan Wu.
Carrie, I'm wondering what you make of what now. Nadler is saying about the attorney general's press conference tomorrow and the way the attorney general is going about releasing this.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, I have been one who has been giving the attorney general the benefit of the doubt up until the report actually comes out.
COOPER: You said that last night a lot.
CORDERO: And I am holding out to see what he actually releases. So my best explanation of why he might be doing it this way is that he doesn't want to talk about the content of the report.
In other words, he doesn't actually want to answer questions about the substance of the report and get into whether the report says things that are different than what was in his letter or it's characterized differently and what he wants to do in the press conference is talk about the process.
Now, I'm speculating. I don't know if that's actually what he'll do, and maybe he'll get up and reiterate everything that was in his four- page letter and talk -- you know, and talk about the questions even though then reporters won't have the benefit of seeing the report.
COOPER: Shan, does it make sense to you that, A, what Carrie is saying and that Barr would feel the need to inform people about the four-color coding method that he used?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the only reason he wants to do that is just to kind of obfuscate and delay things further. I find it very alarming, the reporting that he's been briefing the White House counsel because I'd like to know whether he shared grand jury information with them, whether he assumes that's OK to do because it's the President. And did the grand jury information even go to the private attorneys. I'd like some answers to that.
COOPER: Maggie, I mean, I know that you did the reporting on that. Is there another possible explanation for what Barr is doing?
HABERMAN: I think that what Carrie suggested is also a possibility. In terms of the talking to the White House counsel's office, I think that it is understandable that they would want to let them know some of the mechanics of the report. What we don't -- we also know that they talked about some of the findings and we don't know the extent of that, right? So I don't want to suggest we know more than we do.
We do know that they had made an effort to suggest that there were no communications and I think they could easily have just said, you know, we're having conversations to inform them of X, Y, Z.
There's a lot about how they have handled this that -- and I know we talked about this during the break. It has been pointed out on Twitter by Matt Miller, a former DOJ official during Democratic years, that Barr's been out of the game for a very long time. And I think that's actually serve an important --
COOPER: Out of the political media.
HABERMAN: He's been out of the media realm. And I think he doesn't really understand necessarily how some of this is playing. He is not used to all of us sitting here for as long as we are talking about this.
COOPER: But he hasn't been in the game.
HABERMAN: He hasn't been in the game but, you know, something people who are not in our business don't necessarily follow it.
TOOBIN: I have an alternative. That's a very plausible scenario.
CORDERO: I actually subscribe to that.
TOOBIN: Oh, really?
COOPER: So the notion base on that that he was attorney general in, you know, decades ago, it's a different time.
HABERMAN: I just think it is possible he doesn't understand the speed of how this all travels. TOOBIN: You know what, here's a different theory, that he spent the last 20 years watching Fox News and he's become a real Trump supporter. And he's like everyone else in the Trump administration.
HABERMAN: It's also -- I was asked if there's another explanation. I gave what the other explanation.
TOOBIN: Yes, OK. But, I mean --
HABERMAN: I'm not saying it is the explanation.
TOOBIN: You know, I just think -- you know, if you look at his behavior, it is not that of a geriatric, it is that of a partisan. And I think that to me --
[20:45:09] HABERMAN: Well, one, it doesn't have to be geriatric to not understand the modern media moment, with all due respect, Jeff.
HABERMAN: I mean, you can also just kind of not be part of this milieu and not recognize how certain things are going to play.
TOOBIN: And we can't forget that the way he got this job was by volunteering --
TOOBIN: -- to write a 19-page --
HABERMAN: That I think is the most important point. That is a vital.
TOOBIN: Right, a 19-page --
HABERMAN: I agree with that.
TOOBIN: -- paper that said the President is not guilty of obstruction of justice. And then in his four-page letter to the public, he said the President is not guilty of obstruction of justice.
HABERMAN: He takes a very expansive view of executive power. There is no question about that. And I think that that's important to bear in mind.
BORGER: And I think he did see how -- what the reaction was to the four-page letter, which shall we say was decidedly mixed. And so, after he put that out, maybe --
COOPER: Yes. I mean, it depends who, where, what side of the aisle you're on.
BERNSTEIN: There also is his record during the Bush administration when he was the attorney general in which, as Bill Safire of "The New York Times" wrote in a series of columns, now whether it's accurate or not I don't know, called him the cover-up general. So I think we've got to look at all aspects of this record. But also I think we're all coming back to the same thing. We need to hear him.
COOPER: But, I mean, he clearly -- I mean, you look at the testimony that he gave just recently in front of -- on Capitol Hill, he's certainly not naive to many of the talking points that, you know, uranium one, you know, the spying. I mean, buzz words that are thrown around a lot by this President, by, you know, right-wing outlets.
TOOBIN: He's not naive about them, he's using them.
TOOBIN: I'm sorry, go ahead.
CORDERO: I mean, on spying -- no, that's OK. On spying, I do think that he should have known as the position of attorney general. I think that that word was in the question. And so I do think there was a possibility he parroted what was in the question. But, he should have had the presence as the attorney general, everybody in the Justice Department and the FBI knows --
COOPER: Unless he intentionally used that word.
CORDERO: -- that that is a pejorative.
CORDERO: And so it's certainly from anybody on the national security side who works in the lawful legal regime that implements and the legal framework of surveillance and counterintelligence investigations and criminal investigations knows that that's a pejorative.
COOPER: Unless, Shan, your objective is to -- your audience is an audience of one, the President of the United States, and you want him to know that you are -- you hear him saying about spying and you are repeating those words.
WU: Absolutely. I mean, don't mean to be too pessimistic about this, but I really think all signs point to him being very partisan in this. I mean, his track record, as Carl has said, he's reaching out to decide the obstruction. I mean, there's an easy way to have done this.
Let's say you need to redact, you firmly believe that, release the redacted report, say nothing about it, no summaries, and then you can take questions, then you have your press conference. But everything else is a spin.
COOPER: Do you think, Maggie, the President will speak tomorrow after the -- I mean, like the President said on radio that maybe he'll speak after Barr.
HABERMAN: Well, I don't know, Anderson. He tends to really -- COOPER: He's under --
HABERMAN: Now, I mean, he said on a radio show that he might hold a press conference. I think that he's in his mind any time he talks to the press is a press conference, so I don't think this is going to be some formal press conference.
I suspect we will see him say something as he's heading out to Marine One to depart for Florida and that will, again, be the effect of a press conference, a report that most of us have likely not either finished reading or even begun to read yet, depending on what time he leaves. And then he is going to have his say and then that's going to be what's on the news for a very long time.
COOPER: Is there -- I mean, is the -- there was some reporting about whether or not he would actually read. I mean, it's doubtful he would read 400 pages, right?
HABERMAN: I think he's going to get briefed by the White House counsel. And I think that he will have discussions with his personal lawyers about it. And I suspect he will still say no collusion, you know, total exoneration.
BORGER: I think he's already been briefed probably to a certain degree. He came out on a radio show today and said there are very strong things in the report. Well, he didn't just pull that out of thin air. He knows.
HABERMAN: No, hence, reporting about the conversation.
BORGER: Exactly, exactly. So he already knows and probably thinks -- well, we know he thinks he's his own best spokesperson so if he needs to go out there, he will if he thinks he needs to defend himself.
COOPER: It's hard to know what he means by strong things.
TOOBIN: Yes. I was just going to ask the same -- I mean, Maggie knows more about Donald Trump than anyone. What is very strong thing mean?
HABERMAN: I mean what I assume that that meant was that there are going to be some I don't think strong for him, I think he thinks that there are going to be some details that are not great for him. And I think the point was, and look, I'm, you know, I'm going to suffer while you're all looking at this, I think was the point, because what people around him are anticipating. And then, look, to be clear, we don't know what's in it.
But, what people around him are anticipating are potentially details about either additional contacts or more detailed information about contacts between Russians trying to infiltrate the campaign, which has been alluded to before by DOJ officials. And then possibly more instances of, you know, debatable obstruction of justice. [20:50:03] Remember, the President's -- during the whole Michael Cohen thing, and I don't know why I put it that way, during the whole Michael Cohen case and the prosecution, the thing that alarmed the President's lawyers the most was that they knew that the President was never going to tell them everything. So they are going into this as blind as pretty much anybody.
CORDERO: And this is the most important thing substantively, is that is the report actually going to include substance --
CORDERO: -- that is more expansive on the issue of conspiracy or collusion and on obstruction.
COOPER: Right. I want to check in quickly with Chris to see what he is planning for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour, although I kind of have a good guess of what you're going to be talking about, Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Coop, I'm just trying to carry the water that you set me up with every night. Look, there is "Washington Post" reporting out right now that the redactions are expected to be light. Now, this could be a spin coming from the AG's office because what is thin redacting, what is thick redacting? You know what I mean? This is a very subjective judgment.
CUOMO: But let's hope it's true because the product should be as complete as possible. And supposedly the discussion of obstruction that's going to become very volatile very quickly is if Mueller argued I couldn't make a decision on obstruction because it's an intent-based crime and I couldn't get to the President's intent when we know he wouldn't even answer written questions that were doctored by his lawyers about that topic, there is going to be a problem.
But the good news is, if it's not that heavily redacted, that is a step in the direction of transparency. So let's hope these new "Washington Post" reporting winds up being true in terms of how it feels when we see it tomorrow and not just literally true.
COOPER: All right, a lot more on "Cuomo Prime Time" in about nine minutes. Chris, I'll see you then.
Just ahead, what a key member of the House Democratic leadership has to say about tomorrow's press conference, the release of the redacted Mueller report and what could be next.
[20:55:47] COOPER: Whatever your take on it is, Attorney General William Barr's holding a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Eastern tomorrow to discuss the release of the redacted Mueller report. And after that, well, it's going to get interesting. I spoke about it earlier with House Majority Whip James Clyburn.
COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, two days after the Barr letter was released, you said that you believe that, "The Mueller report is done. It's a chapter that's closed." I wonder if you still feel that way now.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Sure, I still feel the same way. The report is done, but the reaction to it is still before us. I am hopeful that irrespective of what the report says that we will move forward as a united country dedicated to keeping this country together, whatever it may be. Now, that is I'm hopeful that the attorney general will share the report with us in the Congress. We are deserving of seeing that report.
CLYBURN: At least those of us in the Congress -- unredacted, yes. You've got people sitting on the intelligence committee. They're seeing all kinds of stuff from all over the world. Why shouldn't they see this as well?
So I may not be one to see it, but anybody sitting on the intelligence committee, on the judiciary committee, on the government oversight committee, they should all get this report and they should all be able to sit down and determine whether or not Congress has a role to play going forward.
COOPER: I'm wondering what would be the first thing that you would be -- you will be looking for tomorrow, the first thing that you'll want to see in the report when it comes out.
CLYBURN: Well, the thing I am interested in is whether or not anything akin to the obstruction of justice is there. I've never been all about this collusion stuff. You talk to one lawyer and he will say there's no violation of law, there's nothing illegal about collusion. Somebody else says, well, there is a preface to a conspiracy. I don't know about any of that.
What I'm particularly interested in is whether or not this President has done anything to obstruct justice. To me, that is what I'll be looking for and I hope we'll get an answer to that.
COOPER: Even if it's not something that is legally -- that can be remedied through legal means or it can be addressed through a legal mean?
CLYBURN: Well, you know, all the points to congressional action as it relates to a president is not necessarily legal. Some of it has to do with morality. Some of it has to do with integrity. Some of it has to do with ethics. You can't just be a President of the United States being unethical and immoral.
I think that those are things which may not be illegal but which may be impeachable, and that's what we ought to take a look, to see whether or not there is anything here that should cry out for impeachment. I'm not for impeachment just to be impeaching, but if there is something there in this report that is immoral, unethical, I think we ought to take a hard look at that.
COOPER: There's obviously has been concern amongst some Democrats about going down the road of impeachment, not something that could pass through the Senate. Is there -- do you see a risk for Democrats in that?
CLYBURN: Well, there is a risk. But the fact of the matter is these are some of the same people who say we ought not be passing legislation in the House until there is some guarantee that it will pass the Senate. I don't think that's what the people sent us here to do. We are the body that's closest to the people. We run for re- election every two years. We ought to be responding to the will of the people.
And you look at all of the surveys, the people think that Congress should get this report, and I know that they would expect for us to represent them, to protect the constitution of the United States of America and to help preserve this great country that all of us have sworn to uphold.
So if we are going to do that, we have to do our jobs irrespective of what the other body may do once they get their chance to look at it.
COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, appreciate your time. Thank you.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
COOPER: The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time" on this Mueller report eve.