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Mueller Report Does Not Exonerate Trump, Unable to Conclude No Obstruction Took Place; House Judiciary Chairman to Subpoena Full Report, Calls on Mueller to Testify Before Committee; Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA); Mueller Report Catches Press Secretary Sanders in Multiple Lies. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 18, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:24] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
Finally public. The groundbreaking report by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, 448 pages long. And although it contains redactions, tonight, we're learning plenty about the conclusions Mueller reached in his investigation into Russia's interference with the 2016 election.
And we're learning much more about President Trump's behavior and all of his lies. Despite what the President and his attorneys and aides say, the Mueller report did not exonerate him on the question of possible obstruction of justice.
Mueller writing, the evidence about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Going on to say that if his team had confidence the President clearly did not commit obstruction, they would say so.
Mueller goes on to say that it's really up to Congress to investigate President Trump for possible obstruction, writing, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit our President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.
Congressman Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is saying Mueller was likely giving Congress a roadmap if the House decides to open impeachment hearings. Nadler is also saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: Even in this incomplete form, however, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So a lot to get to this -- ahead in this hour. I want to bring in Shimon Prokupecz and also Sara Murray and Carrie Cordero. Thank you so much. We've got the experts here. I appreciate it.
Shimon, I'm going to start with you because Chairman Nadler, you saw him there, he thinks that Mueller wrote a roadmap to provide to Congress. And he points out 10 instances where he thinks that that may be fair game that Congress should explore.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: And he could be perhaps right, and we'd have to hear from Mueller. You know, certainly, the Attorney General has not given us any indication that that's what Mueller intended to do here, but perhaps when Mueller does appear, if they do bring him in -- they said they will -- and if he does testify, there is a lot there for members of Congress to work with.
Whether or not we head towards impeachment, that's an entirely different story. But it is something that they can, at the very least, begin hearings on, begin investigating, start subpoenaing people, start trying to talk to people, and put together their own story and their own narrative as to what was going on here. There's a lot in this report from what we know (ph).
LEMON: Yes. When you look at it, you don't see, in fact -- like, how much, 400 pages?
PROKUPECZ: I mean --
LEMON: When you -- I mean, it is a monster report and we were -- and last night, we were talking in our reporting that it -- our reporting was that it would be likely redacted. Now that we have it, what can you tell us about the redactions?
PROKUPECZ: So it's heavily redacted on the collusion side. On the obstruction side, it's exactly as we expected, it would be lightly redacted. So we're talking, in total, about 946 unique redactions. The bulk of it is -- a lot of it has to do with pending investigations, right?
And this is what we expected, that the Mueller team and the Barr team did not want to release information about pending investigations. So that was the big concern, and that's what we're seeing. We saw stuff about grand jury information and other redactions concerning investigative techniques, and that's how they obtained some of this information.
PROKUPECZ: So it went along as we expected it in terms of the redactions.
LEMON: Let's talk about the reporting part of this and also about Barr because the reporters were there, many of them dumbfounded because they were there to ask questions about a report that they hadn't seen. Talk to me about the Attorney General's actions and how he conducted himself.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's really interesting and, I think, jarring to a lot of people because Bob Mueller was so apolitical and so quiet in his process to now see this very political spin that the Attorney General, who is, of course, a political appointee, has put on the process.
And the sort of rosy assessment that we got from Bill Barr today, you know, an hour and a half before we got the actual report, could be in a different universe than the details that we see in this report. You know, Bill Barr took the things that were the most complimentary to the President, and he highlighted those in his announcement today.
He used the President's own words in saying, you know, as President Trump has been saying, there is no collusion. He left out, you know, the fact that there were all of these different instances, nearly a dozen instances painstakingly documented, where the President may have been obstructed justice that ran hundreds of hundreds of pages.
LEMON: You say that it's almost as if he thought that we wouldn't read the report?
MURRAY: It felt like -- you know, like he didn't think that we were going to see this sort of an hour and a half later to see the gulf between what he was saying publicly versus what the report says.
I mean, he was out there saying I really had no indication that Mueller wanted to leave this to Congress. And we don't know what their conversations were privately, Bill Barr and Robert Mueller's.
[23:05:06] LEMON: It's in there (ph).
MURRAY: But in the report, Mueller makes it very clear, you know, there's plenty here for Congress to continue investigating, and it's Congress' sort of duty to do that.
LEMON: I want to bring in Carrie now. Carrie, the President's -- here's what Mueller says, OK, and I'll read it. I'm going to quote -- the President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.
But he still tried, didn't he? Does he still have any legal exposure, or is that it?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he certainly tried. And what the Special Counsel's report -- you know, now that as the days go on, I've been able to make my way through it.
And what the Special Counsel wrote was that just because an individual tries to obstruct justice, even if they are not successful in ending up being able to obstruct or shutdown the particular investigation they're trying to affect, that doesn't make it not part of the activity that normally would constitute obstruction.
What I think is the most interesting thing about the obstruction part of this report is how severely it contradicts or places in a different light what the Attorney General did in his March 24th letter on obstruction specifically. The Attorney General gave a very misleading view of what this report
was. He inferred, and many of us thought from reading his letter that the Special Counsel was -- didn't make a recommendation on obstruction because the Special Counsel team was wrestling with the facts. In other words, that they couldn't necessarily find that the facts met the statutory definitions and elements of obstruction.
And that's not what the report says. What the report says is that the Special Counsel didn't make a recommendation because they thought that they were legally constrained from even doing so based on the department's legal opinion that a sitting president couldn't be indicted. So they never even tried to get to that point. And they laid this all out in the report, and Barr completely left it out of his letter.
PROKUPECZ: Look, I totally agree here. When I listened to the Attorney General today, you know, he came out, he started speaking. OK, there was a couple of lines that just really bothered me.
You know, having sat through many of these press conferences listening to Attorney Generals, U.S. attorneys all across the country give press conferences, I've never heard someone in that position defend, essentially, someone that's being investigated.
And that's what he did here. I mean, he sounded, in many ways, more like Trump's attorney than anything else. I mean, think about the lying, like -- and what Sara was pointing out that was about how he's talking about collusion, and then he says yet as he said from the beginning, meaning the President, Trump, there was, in fact, no collusion.
I mean, it just seemed a little inappropriate for him to go in that direction, standing before the American people, the public, people who've been waiting for this report.
LEMON: Well, really, the legal term in -- here is conspiracy and coordination on something, yes.
PROKUPECZ: Right. And also, just give us the facts.
LEMON: Yes, just give the facts and let the public listen. Look, this is -- three weeks ago, Barr gave us a fragment of a sentence from the report saying that the Trump campaign didn't conspire or coordinate with Russia. OK, so here's the full sentence here and I want you to analyze this.
Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
That gives us a much fuller picture when it comes to this quote/unquote collusion.
MURRAY: Yes. It turns out Bill Barr left some pretty important parts out from that sentence. And when you read, you know, the full sort of collusion section, you're right.
You know, Bob Mueller reached this decision that there was not criminal conspiracy here to conspire with these Russian officials, but he also documents that there were all these occasions where the Russians approached the Trump campaign and said we want to help you. We want to give you dirt, we want to give you this, we want to give you that. And the Trump campaign sort of eagerly said, well, what do you have to provide? How can you help us?
Just because it didn't reach the level of criminal conspiracy does not mean that the campaign did not act improperly or do things that were completely out of normal behavior for what you would expect in a presidential campaign.
In a normal campaign, something like this happens and you call the FBI. You don't say we're going to set up the meeting over and over and over and over again and expect that when, you know, you find out that your opponent is being hacked by the Russians, that you're going to benefit somehow from that interference in the process.
LEMON: So, Carrie, I want to -- I think it's important and it goes along with what Sara is saying because Mueller considered campaign finance charges for Don Junior and others in the Trump Tower meeting but here is what he concluded. He said a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that campaign officials or individuals connected to the campaign willfully violated the law.
[23:10:02] But before this came out, he also -- in his press conference, he sought or tried to blunt that, saying, well, they didn't -- what is it? They didn't break the law or maybe they didn't know that they were breaking the law.
The next time, you know, I get stopped for a speeding ticket, I'm going to say, well, officer, I didn't know I was breaking the law, so therefore you cannot charge me and you cannot write me a ticket. But does that exonerate, you know, Team Trump?
CORDERO: So, no. First of all, I mean, just not knowing what the law is, we know that that's not a defense to it. On the campaign finance violation, I think the Special Counsel's report is they analyzed it. With respect to Donald Trump, Jr., they just felt that the particular facts that they had would not support a use of that particular statute, which was, you know, written for a certain time and not necessarily to fit this factual scenario. They just didn't think it would fit.
And so what I think the Special Counsel's report shows is, number one, it goes a step farther than the public reporting in that it shows that the Trump campaign was not just targeted by the Russians. They weren't just approached. They were openly willing to receive assistance, and they knew that it was coming from this foreign government and foreign government surrogates. I think that goes a step farther.
And then with respect to the law, I think the problem and the thing that all of us need to be thinking about for the next year as we approach 2020 is the law obviously doesn't cover this type of activity, a campaign seeking and being willing to receive assistance from a hostile foreign power as an intelligence activity to help them in the campaign. What's to stop this from happening again?
LEMON: We've got a lot of work to do.
LEMON: We've got a lot and a lot to mull over. Thank you. I appreciate it.
CORDERO: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: I want to bring in now Matthew Axelrod. He was a former senior Justice Department official during the Obama administration. Thank you so much, Mr. Axelrod. I appreciate that.
First of all, I want to get your take. Almost two years after Mueller's investigation began with all the President's attacks on the intelligence community and the DOJ, we got the report. What do you think of it?
MATTHEW AXELROD, FORMER PRINCIPAL ASSOCIATE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Yes. So I think the report is scathing, not in its tone but in its substance. I think if you read it, it is meticulously documented professional work by a group of talented and nonpartisan prosecutors. But the substance of the report is incredibly damning, and I would say, in three ways.
First, the report makes entirely clear that the Russian government attacked our democracy and interfered, and it took efforts to help elect President Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Second, in terms of collusion, the report found that there was no criminal conspiracy by the Trump campaign along with the Russian government in those efforts but also documents how the Trump campaign failed to notify law enforcement or take other appropriate measures that you would expect from someone who received those types of inquiries and reach outs from the Russian government.
And third, the report documents, in somewhat stunning detail, the efforts by the President to shut down the investigation and stifle it into his own behavior and essentially place himself above the law.
LEMON: So, Matt, is this the way it's supposed to work, or did we only get this far because a few people stood their ground on principle? I mean, James Comey, your old boss, Sally Yates, or -- decided not to go along with the President and fire Mueller like Don McGahn?
M. AXELROD: Yes. Look, so I think -- so to answer your question, no, this is absolutely not the way it's supposed to work, and I think that's really important for the American people to understand. The portrait of this White House that is painted in this report is not normal.
It's not the way the Obama White House worked. It's not the way the Bush -- either the Bush White Houses worked. It's not the way the Clinton White House worked. There is not, usually, this level of carelessness when it comes to obeying the law and telling the truth.
I think most people here in Washington, you know, despite occasional popular opinion to the contrary, take the rule of law incredibly seriously and try to do their jobs the right way with integrity and honesty. But the portrait that is painted in the Mueller report is distressingly quite different than that.
LEMON: The President has blasted Comey as -- he's called him a liar and a leaker, but this is what Mueller has to say about Comey's interactions with the President's interactions, including his one-on- one dinner with the President where he demanded loyalty.
[23:14:57] He said -- but substantial evidence corroborates Comey's account of the dinner invitation and the request for loyalty. There also is evidence that corroborates other aspects of the memoranda Comey wrote documenting his interactions with the President.
Is this a vindication for Comey?
M. AXELROD: Well, I would say this, when you're trying to make a credibility assessment as a prosecutor like I used to be or a defense attorney as I am now, you take a lot of factors into account.
And one of those factors here is James Comey was willing to be interviewed by the Special Counsel team. Lying to federal investigators is a crime. James Comey testified under oath in Congress about these events. The President was not willing to be interviewed under oath about these events. He was not willing to talk to federal investigators.
And so when you're making credibility assessments, I think that's a really important thing to consider. This is not just a he-said-he- said. This is a "he said under oath and to federal investigators where the risk, if you lie, is you get prosecuted" versus "he said through lawyers on T.V. and has said a bunch of different, shifting things."
So I think as you're making -- and, look, the American will make their own credibility assessment, but it's clear that the Mueller team made their credibility assessment, for all those reasons, in favor of James Comey and against the President.
LEMON: As always, we appreciate you coming on, Matt Axelrod. Thank you so much, sir.
M. AXELROD: Thank you.
LEMON: Democratic presidential candidate and House Judiciary member Congressman Eric Swalwell is calling on the Attorney General, Attorney General Barr, to resign. Does he think Barr will actually leave his job? I'm going to ask Congressman Swalwell, next.
[23:20:48] LEMON: Members of Congress now pouring over the redacted version of Robert Mueller's report which details Russian interference with the 2016 presidential campaign.
In the report, the Special Counsel states this, that Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President, such as suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses, or fabricating evidence, because those prohibitions raise no separation-of-powers questions. Now the question is, will they?
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell. He serves on both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. He's also running for president. Congressman, thank you for joining us, I appreciate it. So what questions --
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course. Good evening, Don.
LEMON: What questions do you have tonight now that we have seen the redacted version of this Mueller report?
SWALWELL: Well, first, will the President finally acknowledge that the Russians interfered? Will Republicans join Democrats to make sure that this doesn't happen again? And third, can we put in place laws to hold criminally accountable anyone who ever conduct themselves like the campaign did?
I mean, sure, the President was not criminally liable for the laws we had on the book, but I don't think anyone can look at all the multiplicity of contacts his campaign had with the Russians as they interfered and say, oh, hey, let's that happen again.
No, we should actually put in place laws that require you to tell the FBI if you're approached by a foreign adversary trying to interfere. And we should make sure no country, Russia or anyone else, is able to interfere in the way that they did.
LEMON: Do you have any indication on when you'll see the unredacted report and underlying evidence?
SWALWELL: We're asking for it. We're asking on the Intel Committee for Bob Mueller to come in. We're also asking on the Judiciary Committee for him to come forward.
Again, and I'm looking at this about the future. We can only protect our democracy if we know how the Russians worked with the Trump campaign, what our vulnerabilities were. We should be honest that our response was not the greatest. We should have responded earlier and in more dramatic fashion that got the Russians' attention.
But, Don, we also are going to have to have a real serious conversation about, how do you hold this president accountable for the way that he lied and, as the Special Counsel said, materially impaired the investigation?
LEMON: Yes. I've got to ask you about this because this stuck -- this stood out to many people, I'm sure, but didn't get a lot of play at least from the Barr and the Trump side, OK? Because the Mueller report explicitly dictates that Congress -- Congress -- should determine whether President Trump obstructed justice, and here is the quote here.
It says -- the conclusion that Congress may apply obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of the powers of the office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle no person is above the law.
So in this report, this -- it points out 10 specific instances where possible obstruction of justice occurred. Mueller gave Congress a roadmap. I mean, what are you going to do with it?
SWALWELL: We're going to follow it. He pointed to us a double-digit obstructer, someone who he and his team sought to destroy evidence, lied to investigators, tampered with evidence, and they have to be held accountable, Don.
LEMON: But Bill Barr and Rod --
SWALWELL: And so then again, I don't think we should take
LEMON: Bill Barr said he and Rod Rosenstein made the decision on obstruction when this thing says that it should be Congress.
SWALWELL: Yes. Yes, and that's not how it works. Bill Barr can either be the President's defense attorney, or all of our attorneys is the Attorney General. He has shown that he's on the President's side here. I think he should resign. I've lost confidence, and I think the American people have lost confidence in his ability to be impartial.
LEMON: You said earlier today that you would not rule out impeaching the President. The House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN earlier that going forward with impeachment is not worth it at this point. Does it seem to you that there is a divide among Democrats on impeachment?
SWALWELL: Well, I think we want to hear from Mueller, right? You know, he has to come before Congress, lay it all out as this report has, you know, take back and forth questioning from members of Congress. But I certainly don't think this report takes us farther away from impeachment, Don. I think this, you know --
LEMON: So you're not ruling it out?
SWALWELL: No, absolutely not. Again, it's a conversation we have to have, and what we do today will set the standard of conduct for future presidents. And that's how I look at this, not, you know, whether it's popular or not. Of course, I think we need to seek bipartisan buy-in, but we set the future conduct of future presidents because they're going to look at how we acted right now. [23:25:13] But what I would like to hear, Don? I would like to hear a
single Republican who's elected to Congress, who's in the Senate, at least say, this is wrong, Russia attacked us, the President should never act the way that he did. And I'm not hearing that right now, and that really bothers me.
LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, thank you. Appreciate it.
SWALWELL: Of course. My pleasure, Don.
LEMON: So let's talk more about the conclusions of the Mueller report with Walter Dellinger, he's a former Assistant Attorney General; John Pistole, who was a deputy to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and is now the president of Anderson University; and Elie Honig, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney.
So good to have all of you on. All of you have major expertise. It's a pleasure.
So, Elie, I'm going to start with you. I want to talk more about Bill Barr because he sounded a lot like a personal attorney for the President instead of the Attorney General for the United States. He says this about what Mueller thinks about the Office of Legal Counsel's opinion that you can't indict a sitting president. Watch this, Elie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But that is not what is outlined in Mueller's report, Eli.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Great example, Don. Look, I think Attorney General Barr's credibility and independence have been trashed by his own actions today. He got caught over and over again either shading things unjustifiably or just outright misstating things, and the clip you just showed, Don, is a perfect example.
Barr stood in front of the American people and said the fact the DOJ has this policy against indicting a sitting president, that did not play into Robert Mueller's calculation at all. He came out sort of on the fence on obstruction just based on the strength or lack of evidence. Then you read the report, and it's page after page of Mueller basically saying the main thing that's tying me up here is the DOJ policy.
And I think he makes pretty clear, and this is why I think he refers it to Congress, that our -- my hands are tied because of the DOJ policy. But it think the implication of what he is saying is Congress is the only entity that can take actions. So that's a pretty clear misstatement by William Barr. LEMON: Wow. Walter, in a lengthy section of Mueller giving the legal
justification for the investigation even if they can indict, I want to read this.
He says -- while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting president may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President's term is permissible. We conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.
The whole idea of not being able to indict a sitting president serves as a -- as, really, the framework of this report.
WALTER DELLINGER, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: That's absolutely right, Don. And not only did it mean you couldn't indict the President, but Mueller concluded that since you couldn't indict the President, he should not say that.
The President should have been indicted or could have been indicted were it not for this policy. But that's the clear implication of his report, every bit of it, before Attorney General Barr swooped in and intervened to assert contrary conclusions.
The report is intended to submit to Congress the fact that there are 10 examples of obstruction of justice by the President that the Special Counsel is submitting to Congress. And he's saying we could not find that the President and did not find that the President was innocent.
LEMON: John, we heard this from Barr. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel's investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK, John, but Trump never sat down for an interview with Mueller. And here's what Mueller has -- Mueller said about Trump's written responses, OK?
He said -- we viewed the written answers to be inadequate. He also went on to say that he didn't want to slow down the investigation, right?
JOHN PISTOLE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Right.
LEMON: By, you know, subpoenaing the President. So what Barr says about fully cooperating isn't quite accurate.
PISTOLE: Well, no, and I think Bob Mueller is trying to balance the equities here for not only the investigation but, really, for the American people and trying to come up with something that threads the needle of finding, did the President obstruct justice and was there sufficient information? You know, the 10 acts are almost like overt acting in furtherance of a conspiracy, and yet they're not directly related other than through the person of the President.
[23:29:57] And so the question about what the A.G. is saying, you know, it would be interesting to see what he would be saying if he was under oath and testifying -- would he be saying the same things that he said in the press conference today -- and how he would interpret or describe his four-page memo that was initially released with the full Mueller report now.
And how do they comport or how are they distinguished in terms of those, again, overt acts, I'll just refer to them as, establishing the obstruction charge but for the fact that he is a sitting president, is the way, I think, most people would read it.
And the good thing is it provides context and it provides clarity as to what the President was doing and when he was doing it and how he was doing it and then just being in receipt of all the Russian information, you know.
OK, so there's no collusion or conspiracy, if you will, but the clear import of all that was, did it impact the election? And I think that the report demonstrates that was the case.
LEMON: Does he really think that people are that dim, that they're not going to read this and -- I mean, seriously, that's a serious question. And some people, I would imagine, are buying it, but go on, John.
PISTOLE: Well, yes, I think so. That is question, you know. You have a 448-page report. How many people do read the entire report, or how many look to their news source?
And that's the one thing about this, Don. I think it really comes down to the lens that you look through all this. So if you're looking through the lens of a Trump supporter, you're going to read that information in a certain way. If you are not a Trump supporter, you're obviously going to read it in a different way.
PISTOLE: So there's something for everybody in that sense.
LEMON: All right. I've got to get some more stuff in here. So, Walter, then there is this. I want -- this is an exchange with Barr when he testified on Capitol Hill last week. He says that this was about -- he says this about Mueller's decision on obstruction. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Did he express any expectation or interest in leaving the obstruction decision to Congress?
BARR: Not that -- he didn't say that to me, no. LEAHY: So he said the obstruction decision should be up to you?
BARR: He didn't say that either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So here's the thing, Mueller talks about in Congress -- about Congress in the report. He mentions Congress. He said -- the conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law. So Barr is being misleading here.
DELLINGER: Oh, absolutely, he is misleading. For the last four weeks, he's been misleading about it. Of course, if you read this, you can see that Mueller is leaving it up to Congress.
And if you look at the first pages of Appendix C on why he didn't go to court to demand Trump's testimony, he says we had enough evidence without Trump's testimony. And the clear implication is enough -- you know, enough evidence to conclude that he obstructed justice or for Congress to reach that conclusion.
You know, note one thing though, Don. Remember all the talk about 17 or 13 angry Democrats and Mueller being on a witch-hunt and being unfair? Every single debatable issue, Mueller resolved in favor of deference to Trump personally and to the Trump campaign and to the individuals. Every discretionary decision, he made on the side of caution.
LEMON: Elie, final word. What's your reaction?
HONIG: Yes, Don, that last clip you showed is another great example, and that is the biggest one. William Barr basically got caught lying through his teeth there. He -- Senator Leahy asked him something like, did Mueller intend to send this to Congress? And you saw Barr go, uh, uhm, huh (ph), well, he didn't say anything to me.
I mean, he wrote it, though, pretty clearly. And look, a partisan the other way could have just as easily have written William Barr's four- page letter and rather than giving the conclusion of I'm getting rid of the obstruction, could have said Mueller refers obstruction over to Congress. That would have been, I think, a more accurate reflection of Mueller's letter, but think of how different the world would've looked in that scenario.
LEMON: Interesting. Thank you, gentleman, I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
[23:34:13] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A stunning report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller saying he cannot conclude that President Trump did not obstruct justice. I want to bring in now Dan Rather, the host of AXS T.V.'s "The Big Interview," and senior political commentator David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Obama. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.
Mr. Rather, I'm going to start with you. This is a historic day for the President, for the Justice Department, for America. What's your reaction?
DAN RATHER, AXS T.V. HOST: Well, first of all, it's stand up and face it time. Look, if this had been you or me or David Axelrod or anybody except the President, we would've been indicted. And Mueller makes that pretty clear. In fact, I think very clear. So that makes the -- and as of this moment, Donald Trump walks. He walks only because he's president.
So the key question for us now is, what do we do? Do we shrug our shoulders and say, OK, that's just the way things work out? It's OK for a president to be above the law? That's the question here.
Is even a president above the law? Is a lawless president allowed to walk? That's what we're faced with, the country is going to be faced with. In the end, the public will decide this.
Congress has a heavy role. It's true Mueller has laid out a roadmap for Congress, but will Congress stand up and do it? I think people ought to be a little bit concerned for those congressmen who are now saying, well, it's too close to the election. In effect, it's not good for our party.
To hell with that. It's not a question of what's good for the party. It's what's good for the country. And that's what we have at stake here, that the President Trump and, I'm sorry to say, Attorney General Barr -- and I'm rather surprised -- they dealt repeatedly in delay, distraction, denial, and deceit.
[23:40:02] And if we, as a people, decide that's OK, we'll let that pass, then that tells the world a lot about who we are. But I will say, Don, that I think this has a long way to play out yet. Keep in mind that this was a censored report.
I know you prefer the word redacted, but it's a censored report. As bad as it was what we got today, there's a lot in this that we still have not seen. We need to see that. We need to see the full report, and we need to hear from Mueller.
LEMON: David, I want to ask you, listen -- you know, you heard what Dan Rather just said. He said, you know, because there have been -- Nancy Pelosi is saying it's not worth it.
You know, there are a number of people who are saying, oh, it's not worth it, no, don't go down this impeachment road. And then there are some Democrats who are saying go down the impeachment road. But he says to hell with the party, this is about the country. What do you make of his assessment?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I think they also said, if you listen to Adam Schiff today, for example, that there is a cost to the country of going through an impeachment proceeding that you know is not going to end in anything but being dismissed because of the partisan divisions in the Senate and that you need to reach a point where Republicans in the Senate are willing to walk across that divide and cast a vote on the evidence. And we're not at that point.
That is an argument for not doing it, at least not yet. It doesn't mean they're not going to investigate it. I don't see how they can't not investigate this. I think the really stunning thing about all of this today was we had the spectacle of the Attorney General essentially doing a prebuttal on behalf of the White House, and then we see the report and it completely contradicts his characterization of what Bob Mueller said.
What Mueller said was very significant evidence here. We can't indict a president, but Congress certainly can look at this evidence of obstruction. And the evidence of obstruction was substantial.
I mean, the President tried and tried to get rid of Mueller, to curtail the investigation, and it was very clear why. He said from the opening gun, you know, this is the end of my presidency, the Mueller investigation. So there's plenty to investigate here. Whether it goes to impeachment or not, we'll see.
I want to say one other thing. They had a strategy from the beginning, the White House, which was to try and avoid as many indictments as possible, try and avoid the President perjuring himself so don't let him sit down. Throw this thing into the House. And when the report came, to say, and they would have said it no matter what the report said, nothing to see here, move on, this is over, we won.
And they executed on that strategy today with the help of the Attorney General, and they're hoping that no one looks any further into the very substantial and disturbing evidence that's in this report. I don't think the Congress can avoid that, and I don't think Congress should. And I agree with Dan on that. Whether it takes the form of impeachment or not is a different issue.
LEMON: Yes. I want to read something really quick from the report because it paints a chaotic picture of what's happening in the White House about the President's scheming, how he tried to scheme, too, in the investigation, aides refusing to carry out his orders.
Mueller states this -- the President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but this is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.
Do you think the intrigue is continuing? How long can this go on?
RATHER: Well, a lot of that depends on, one, the Congress, and in the end, the public. And by the way, I agree with David that the Congress needs to investigate, and the public needs to keep in mind that an impeachment doesn't mean the President's convicted.
To vote for impeachment is to vote for a trial in the Senate. So what needs to happen here, and we'll see whether it does happen or not, is those committees in Congress who are charged with the responsibility of investigating should hop on this like a duck on the water (ph). You know, just get all over it. I'm sure there's a duck on a June bug, I'm (INAUDIBLE) exactly, but nonetheless, they should get all over it.
RATHER: They should get all over it and investigate, Don. And if the investigation shows that there's a reason to put the President on trial, then impeach. Because that's what impeachment means. Impeachment means we vote to put the President on trial in the Senate.
Now, I agree with the assessment that there's very little chance, if it reaches the Senate, that the Senate would convict the President. But it's very important that the public have confidence in our dedication, our whole government's dedication, the country's dedication, to no one is above the law. Everybody has to answer.
[23:45:01] A lot of it now, Don, is up to Congress, and not just Democratic congressmen. There needs to be some Republican congressmen who'll stand up and at least say, we need to get to the bottom of this, see the whole report, hear from Mueller, and then make a conscious, thought-out decision.
LEMON: Well, we appreciate your Ratherisms regardless. It's good (ph).
LEMON: I've got to run, David.
D. AXELROD: Yes.
LEMON: If you can do it in just a couple of seconds.
D. AXELROD: OK, yes, I can. We should note that there were those people who stopped the President from acting on his worst instincts, and I think they should be praised for that. They understood that it was not in keeping with our systems, not in keeping with our laws and rules and norms, and they refused to act on his orders.
I hope there are other people around him who continue to do that when he suggests extra-constitutional steps.
LEMON: Yes, they should. But they're still apologists and will rarely, if ever, criticize the President or lie that the President even said, ordered them to do what they refused to do. So we have to remember that as well.
Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
D. AXELROD: OK.
RATHER: Thank you.
LEMON: We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders didn't escape Robert Mueller's investigation unscathed. She was named in the report for using made up information in press briefings like this flat out lie. This was in May of 2017 after President Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What led to you and the White House to believe that he had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI when the Acting Director says it's exactly the opposite?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I can speak to my own personal experience. I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the President's decision.
And I think that, you know, we may have to agree to disagree. I am sure that there are some people that are disappointed, but I've certainly heard from a large number of individuals. And that's just myself. And I don't even know that many people in the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:50:05] LEMON: Joining me now, Brian Stelter, Joe Lockhart, and April Ryan. April's the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House." OK, OK. So --
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: OK.
LEMON: -- that was Sarah Sanders. And good evening, everyone. This is an excerpt of what Sanders said to Mueller's investigators.
So it says -- Sanders told this office that her reference to hearing from countless members of the FBI was a slip of the tongue. She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank and file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made in the heat of the moment that was not founded on anything.
So she literally made it up, not founded on anything.
STELTER: Made it up.
LEMON: Does she have any credibility at this point?
STELTER: She does not.
APRIL RYAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Lied.
STELTER: She does not and yet she does remain in the job. I know earlier tonight April Ryan said she should be fired. The odds of the President doing that, however, seem slim because she's out there defending the President at all costs. This case proves, as if we needed any more proof, that lying is the
through-line of the Trump presidency. And that is not criminal, it's not illegal, it's just shameful.
STELTER: And I really hope, in the days ahead, we really think more about the morality and the ethics of what's been exposed here today.
LEMON: Yes. April, you jumped in. You said lied.
LEMON: And I didn't hear you earlier too -- you know, I have a lot of stuff, a lot of reading to do -- but you think she should be fired. I understand your frustration. I hear it from people who are there at the White House every day.
LEMON: Or whenever there is a press briefing.
STELTER: Right, right, right.
LEMON: So go on, tell me why.
RYAN: All right. Well, first of all, Sarah Huckabee Sanders should get the words that then-Donald Trump, who was a civilian, with the show "The Apprentice," gave to those contestants, you're fired.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the presidential mouthpiece. She's a spokesperson of the President of the United States. I've said this before -- Joe Lockhart knows this. I mean, I worked with Joe. We might have gotten into arguments, but at least one thing, we knew that Joe wasn't lying.
I will say this. Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets there and says things that are not true. Everything comes to the White House, from water piece and everything in between. It is serious at that White House. You have the words of life and death spoken and written in that place. And for people not to believe what is coming out of the people's house, something is wrong.
And then, Don, let's go even further, her words calling us fake news. There's nothing more fake than what she has pushed out from her mouth at that podium. Her words have caused you, me, Chris Cuomo, and others to have to have security, to have to deal with issues of maybe moving residences and things of that nature. This is serious. She needs to go.
LEMON: Wow. Joe, jump in here.
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK, what April said. Listen, you know, it's -- we found out in the White House that the only time that you know they're telling the truth is when they're under oath. And when they're not under oath, they're not telling the truth.
I mean, Sarah went on "Sean Hannity" tonight and basically backtracked on what she told the Special Counsel and said, you know, it was a slip of the tongue, but it was basically true.
RYAN: Too late.
STELTER: Yes, that's what she said.
LOCKHART: And I mean -- and so it's -- again, Trump is not going to fire her because Trump is the center of the lying. And, you know, he appreciates it. I am -- I knew at the time that she was lying because the White House Press Secretary doesn't talk to FBI agents.
LOCKHART: It's -- there is a process. And if you're talking to FBI agents, you're going to get in trouble. So I said at the time, she's lying. But I think, on a serious note -- and I take this very personally -- that job is a place where the public depends on you to get up there and tell the truth. And it's hard.
RYAN: Yes. Exactly.
LOCKHART: There are days where you're under attack. You can't tell the full truth because things are developing, people's lives may be at risk. But, you know, if you can't depend on that person to tell the truth, then you can't believe anything.
And it's really sad. It's -- I think it's embarrassing for the office, and it debases the office. And it kind of debases the work that a lot of us tried to do.
LOCKHART: And April and I would fight all the time, but there was never a point where I thought --
RYAN: Yes, we did.
LOCKHART: -- she was fake news, and she never, I don't think, believed that I wasn't doing my best to tell the truth.
LEMON: OK. Let me just go -- there are a number of sound bites. We're not -- we're not going to be able to take it for their word. We've got the sound bites here. But there are several more instances here, Brian, where you talked --
LEMON: We're talking about multiple occasions. In late June and early July 2017, the President directed aides to not publicly disclose the e-mails and then dictated a statement about the meeting -- about the Donald -- the Don Junior meeting in Trump Tower that it was about adoption. She lied about that. [23:55:03] And then in another document where they were lying,
instances of the President lying, Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during the campaign. Trump denied that in a tweet, calling the Russian connection nonsense.
Another instance where they lied, this is from May of 2017. "The Times" headline, in a private dinner, Trump demanded loyalty from Comey, right? Then we found out -- he called it fake news. It turned out he was -- Comey was right.
And then the big one, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a systematic fashion. It's a stark contrast to the President's statements about Russia.
LEMON: I don't see why it would be. And on and -- so one after another after another after another after another.
STELTER: I'm so glad you're reading these off because people need to recognize that the times that they've been told there was fake news, the news was not just real, it was very troubling. And Mueller has provided evidence, page after page, backing up the real reporting that was going on over the past two years.
Were there mistakes? Of course, there were mistakes. Everybody makes mistake --
LEMON: And apologized for them.
STELTER: -- but journalists were pointing the way forward and showing what Mueller was finding. That is a remarkable finding from today.
STELTER: If you want to prove it, take a look at the report. It's all detailed in the report. And it goes to show that these fake news smears are nothing more than a marketing tactic. The President, of course, will keep using them, but they've been shown to be hollow.
LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it.
LEMON: We're out of time. Here's what I will say. If someone tells you, "take my word for it before you read something or don't read -- you -- don't read it," or someone who says, "don't take my word for it, read it," who are you going to believe?
So what I'm saying to you at home -- Trump supporter, not Trump supporter -- don't take my word for what I said to you tonight in this broadcast. Just go read the report for yourself. It's all in the report.
LEMON: Thank you for watching. Our live coverage continues with Poppy Harlow right after this.