Return to Transcripts main page


Top Judiciary Democrat Issues Subpoena for Full Mueller Report; Mueller Report Shows Trump's Efforts to Get Officials, Allies to Lie, Sabotage Mueller Probe; A.G. Barr Under Fire for Mueller Report Spin. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It has been 24 hours since the release of the redacted Mueller report and it has taken just about 24 hours to fully digest the details inside. After reading all 448 pages, here is what we know. We know the special counsel did not find evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. On the question of obstruction of justice, we also know, while the special counsel understood a sitting president could not be indicted, Robert Mueller could have cleared the president of any wrongdoing, and he did not do that. That decision clearly now left to Congress.

After reading the report, here is the take from the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Based on the reading, 180 pages of evidence or so, do you believe the president committed obstruction of justice?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I believe he committed obstruction of justice, yes.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with more.

Manu, Chairman Nadler is not just talking. He's demanding more and pretty much right away. What do you know about the subpoena he issued this morning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Saying May 1st is the deadline. He's demanding the full Mueller report and the underlying information to be turned over from the Department of Justice over to Capitol Hill. And if there's not a response to Nadler's satisfaction, there could certainly be a court fight. What Nadler has been asking for is everything, including grand jury information.

Now, the Justice Department came back yesterday and said that they would be willing to show a small group of members a less redacted version of the Mueller report, but they were not willing to turn over that grand jury information. And that is what Democrats say they are entitled to, and they want to use that information as a road map for their own investigation up here on the Hill about potential obstruction of justice.

Now, Kate, that is not the only subpoena that will likely be issued by this committee. There are five subpoenas that have been authorized for former White House officials who cooperated with the Mueller investigation. That includes Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, who the Mueller report said was ordered by President Trump to fire the special counsel. He did not follow those orders. Expect a subpoena for people like Don McGahn and other White House officials to be issued also in the coming days.

But nevertheless, this is a fight that could very well end up in court. We'll see how it turns out. But May 1st, a new deadline for the Justice Department to provide Congress with everything that Democrats are seeking -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, let's see where the fight goes. This is the first step in what is a long road ahead.

Thanks, Manu.

This morning, President Trump is literally calling the testimony in the Mueller report B.S. In a series of tweets, the president says that the accounts of some of his closest, now former advisers were, quote, "only given to make the other person look good or me to look bad."

That reaction from the president may not be surprising since the Mueller report lays out multiple instances where the president directed White House officials and others to take actions in order to sabotage Mueller's investigation.

CNN's politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is here with much more.

Chris, lay it out for us.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: OK, here's the thing. You can debate about what the Mueller report proved or didn't prove. It proved one thing clearly that you should have already known, Donald Trump lies, and he does it and I think he makes it OK for people below him to do so, Sarah Sanders and others.

Let's run through it, Kate. Here are a few examples from the Mueller report. Trump directs Don McGahn to tell Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. McGahn refuses. Trump calls him back in when the "New York Times" breaks the news that this actually happened and says that McGahn, why is McGahn taking notes? McGahn is talking to Mueller. He was told to talk to Mueller by the White House. Again, McGahn sticks by his story. It shows you that Donald Trump, telling Don McGahn to deny something he knows is true, which is that he told Don McGahn to fire Mueller.

OK, next one. Because there's plenty. OK, Trump tries to get Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to take responsibility for the James Comey firing. You'll remember, Kate, when that went down, spring of 2017 -- getting my dates mixed up -- spring of 2017, Trump initially tries to say that the memo that Rosenstein wrote is the impetus for firing Comey, that Comey had broken the chain of command repeatedly during the 2016 election. He had seen this memo and Trump reacted to the memo. But we of course know even though Trump said that publicly, that that was the reason he fired Comey. We know that's not true. Rosenstein refuses to do so and says he's not in favor of putting out a false story. Trump, no problem with passing on the story.

This one is my favorite one. OK, Trump asked Corey Lewandowski, remember him? He was the campaign manager before Paul Manafort. What a life. He calls Lewandowski in on two occasions and asked Lewandowski to basically say that Jeff Sessions should un-recuse himself. Jeff Sessions recused himself during the early 2017 because he had been a surrogate for Trump during his confirmation hearings. He had not told the whole truth or all of the truth as it related to his dealings with the Russians. He recuses himself, makes Trump angry. Trump tells Lewandowski to tell Sessions to un-recuse himself. He says to tell him, if he does so, he will be a hero. Sessions doesn't know about this. Why? Because Lewandowski is afraid to tell Sessions Trump wants him to un-recuse. Lewandowski tells another White House official, hey, you should tell Sessions to un-recuse. That guy refuses to tell Sessions so Sessions is not aware of it.

[11:05:45] But the point of all of this, Kate, Donald Trump is someone who is totally and completely comfortable not only not telling the truth publicly but pressuring and cajoling the people who work for him in the White House to do the same. And in some instances, like Don McGahn, the resistance to following the president's orders may have saved Donald Trump's presidency.

Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: May be the one and only thing here.

Great to see you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for laying it out. I really appreciate it, man.

There's clearly, as Chris lays out, a lot to look at here and more.

Let's do that. Let's do that with CNN's team that has logged countless -- I tried to count. I'm kidding, I did not -- countless hours reporting on this investigation, broke stories on every twist and turn, sat outside courthouses, town houses, special counsel's offices for months. Chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here, senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, and reporter, Kara Scannell.

Now this is not the total. We could not fit them all in the room.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Gloria sat outside the special counsel's office.

BOLDUAN: Yes, right.


BOLDUAN: Hours. Hours.

BORGER: These are hours we will never get back.


BOLDUAN: Hours well worth the work. And there are so many other people in front of the cameras and behind. I love the opportunity to get you all together.



BOLDUAN: Gloria, I have been wondering, as we digest the report, from all of your reporting, what is the most important question, do you think had, and has it been answered or has it still not been answered?

BORGER: Well, there were so many questions, and there are so many answers in this report. I think, first and foremost, the question we were all looking to get answered was the depth of the Russian campaign to sabotage our election. And we found out about how deep and broad it was. And we also found out that Trump was clearly helped by a foreign entity. And we also found out that why there was no so-called collusion or conspiracy, that the Trump campaign was willing to accept this help when it was offered to them.

And the second thing -- and I think we would all agree on this because we have been trying to report it -- is the extent to which Donald Trump really tried to undermine the special counsel investigation. And it is all laid out, as Chris Cillizza just did, in chapter and verse in the report. And it really kind of lifts the veil on the president himself and on how the people around him were trying to save him from himself. And you know, Mueller made it very clear, I think, that we're not for the office of legal counsel and the decision you can't indict a sitting president, I think we would have been looking at some indictments right now.

BOLDUAN: Pamela, so many times you had stories detailing parts of the investigation, detailing some of the things we read in detail and in testimony in the Mueller report. And the president over and over again in his office over and over again throughout this had called it fake news and denied things. And so I think one thing that we definitely learned from this report is, by and large, the reporting has bared out. I wonder now, what do you do the next time the president denies a story?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Ignore him like we have been. That's just par for the course. Along the way, the president would attack the media, call the media fake news, say the media was making up sources. Well, guess what, all of these stories he was attacking, so many have been borne out. The reporting has been born out in the report, not with anonymous sources but White House officials, former White House officials on the record, speaking under penalty of lying to the FBI in this report, corroborated.

It is true, as Bill Barr said, that a lot of the obstruction case laid out in the report is already publicly known because it was publicly reported and corroborated in this report. What Robert Mueller did and his team was piece it all together and show a pattern of behavior by the president and a motive of why he was trying to, you know, obstruct justice, according to the report. And so I definitely think that it just backs up the reporting along the way was solid.

BOLDUAN: Shimon, yes, go ahead.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: The thing is, you also can see that -- I don't think this is going to happen, no one does. The president is not going to learn his lesson here. If I was the White House, if I was the president, I would be worried because investigators are clear clearly paying attention to everything they're saying, everything they're doing, certainly as it relates to investigations. There are still ongoing investigations in New York, in the Southern District of New York, that the president potentially has exposure on.

[11:10:19] If the White House thinks they can continue to lie to us when we come to them with questions about the investigation, and the president thinks there aren't going to be repercussions for it, but when you see what Mueller said in his report about the lies that they gave publicly about the statements concerning the statements they made, they should be concerned. I know they won't, but they should be.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, that's a really good point because Mueller explicitly stated, because of the power in his office, being the president, that his public statements hold weight, particularly as they were examining witness tampering, pressuring witnesses.

BOLDUAN: Honestly, what a lot of folks have been trying to say even about tweets from day one, it's different when it's coming from the president of the United States.

SCANNELL: Yes, whole archive.

BOLDUAN: Manu is laying out that Jerry Nadler is not satisfied. He wants to see the full unredacted report. The redactions equal out to, what, in totality, about 36 pages, maybe 8 percent of what we are looking at. Can you guys, have you been able to glean or learn anything from the redactions, the context the redactions could offer?

SCANNELL: I mean, Caroline Kelly, one of our colleagues, has done a great job going through line by line of the report and was able to see that, like Barr said, much of it has to do with ongoing investigations.


SCANNELL: And we have seen that a chunk of that is Roger Stone. That's pretty clear. Barr even acknowledged that. And a piece of it is also the Russian social media influence campaign. But there are other redactions in there, and a lot of those relate to

these referrals. There are 14 referrals that were made, 12 of them are redacted. We don't know exactly what they are.

BOLDUAN: Two cases we knew about.

SCANNELL: Only two case.

BOLDUAN: The 12 --

PROKUPECZ: Michael Cohen is the big one.


SCANNELL: Michael Cohen and Greg Craig. There are 12 we don't know about. And then there were also, as Mueller has been wrapping up, he's been transferring cases out. And there are two pieces of that that are also redacted that we don't know what those are. So there's a lot more activity that's happening here. And that is something that we don't learn from this report, and we won't learn because they're ongoing investigations.

BOLDUAN: And, Gloria, one thing that you did a lot of reporting on was on the conversations, the back and forth about, will he, won't he sit down for an in-person interview, the president, with the special counsel. I'm still stuck this morning. And I read through the special counsel's maybe the shortest thing you could read, why they didn't pursue the subpoena. I'm still stuck on it.

BORGER: Well, first of all, Pamela and I -- talk about hours we'll never get back -- it was trying to decipher these conversations between Trump's attorneys and the Mueller people, who as you know, were a black box. So we spent a lot of time doing this.


BORGER: And look, I think that Mueller kind of lays it out in the report. Number one, he didn't want to go through a protracted legal fight, which could take so much time, and they wanted to contain this investigation, I believe, to before the election. And to give it some time before the election. And also, he said it was sort of interesting, he said kind of we thought we had everything we needed. That in a way, they didn't need Trump on obstruction. There was some line in it, where he sort of said it. And then there was one other point, which we all have to remember, if he were to go to get a subpoena and approval for a subpoena, it would have to go to Rod Rosenstein. I'm not so sure that Rod Rosenstein would have approved it. So I think --


BROWN: We know his view now on the obstruction case --


PROKUPECZ: The other thing I have thought about, if the president is the target, he's the target of this obstruction investigation, how are you going to get him to incriminate himself. What lawyer would allow -- the lawyers made it clear, we're not going to allow Mueller to ask questions about obstruction. So you know, in their mind, perhaps they say if we go and subpoena him, we would have to put him before the grand jury. He would have to take the Fifth before the grand jury. So what's the point?


PROKUPECZ: Besides creating an entire firestorm on the fact they have subpoenaed the president --


BOLDUAN: The only thing that sticks with me is if you want to get to intent or state of mind --


BOLDUAN: -- there's no better way than to sit with somebody.

BROWN: What was interesting is they address this in the piece. I, like you, was curious about that. There was a line where there are several obstruction cases where the prosecutor didn't sit down and interview the person who was the target. And they seem to lay out what they believed to be the intent here, why the president was acting out. Because the FBI may have uncovered information the president perceived was a crime or could be personally or politically damaging, which is contradicts what Bill Barr had laid out, this picture of a sympathetic figure who he believed was just fighting back on an investigation --


BROWN: -- he believed was a hoax. I think there are definitely competing views of why this started.


[11:15:11] BOLDUAN: I think anyone who obstructs justice begins with being frustrated.

BROWN: Another thing, quick. I know we have to wrap up. Mueller also didn't interview Don Jr and said in the report that Don Jr resisted That also, I think, is surprising they didn't pursue that further.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.


BORGER: What are we going to do now?


BOLDUAN: I'm sure we'll find something for you, Gloria. Don't you worry.

Coming up, forget President Trump. Democrats, they're taking aim at Attorney General Bill Barr in the wake of the Mueller report's release. Is the attorney general playing politics? What does it mean going forward?

Plus, now that the Mueller report is out, the great impeachment debate is renewed once again. One Democratic House chairman says the time is now, but some in the House leadership say it's time to move on. Where do things go from here? That's next.


[11:20:19] BOLDUAN: President Trump isn't the only person facing real and renewed scrutiny today following the redacted report's release. Attorney General Bill Barr's credibility under question today as well after his news conference yesterday, a news conference he held specifically and obviously precisely and intently before anyone could read the report.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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. And at the same time, the president took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.


BOLDUAN: And now, of course, we know that the Mueller report tells a different story than that. Not only did the president refuse to sit down for an in-person interview with the special counsel, an interview Mueller requested, but also Trump's responses to the special counsel they considered incomplete. More than 30 times he said he couldn't recall, couldn't remember or couldn't recollect information he was asked about. Does this mean anything now for the attorney general of the United States?

Joining me now is former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analysts, Elie Honig and Shan Wu.

Great to have you guys here.

What's your take now, Elie, from a prosecutor's perspective, on Bill Barr? From the four-page memo to the press conference yesterday, and then comparing that now to the redacted report?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think Bill Barr's credibility and independence are in the trash. I really think he's --


# Really? HONIG: I do. I think he's done lasting damage to himself and the

Department of Justice. It starts with the biggest move he made is when he intercepted the obstruction of justice question from Robert Mueller. I think he was a little sneaky about how he did that. In his four-page memo, he says, well, Mueller didn't decide, which leaves it to me as attorney general. Now it turns out, Mueller didn't decide for a very specific reason, because the memo that the DOJ policy said you cannot indict the sitting president. And it seems quite clear -- this is something I'm looking forward to seeing Robert Mueller asked about -- that Mueller intended to say, Congress, now it's in your court. You decide what to do. That was a huge game -hanging decision by Barr. We saw smaller examples. The clip we showed. He's going out of his way to make excuses and arguments that don't hold up and were contradicted by Mueller's report.

BOLDUAN: Shan, is there something between Barr doing political spin as an appointee of the president and an honest difference of legal -- honest difference of opinion on legal analysis?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there would be. But I don't think that's the distinction Barr is doing. The only thing that is transparent the way Barr was promising to be transparent is how biased he is. I have to agree with Elie. I think his performance is unconscionable. If you look at the legal analysis, you can look at that, and Barr, of course, had this audition memo that he put out his idea of what can be obstruction, the president can't be indicted for it, and he didn't mention that at all in his summary, didn't mention it in his press conference. If you read the report, the special counsel's office does a beautifully written, crafted analysis of the obstruction, and they completely repudiate Barr's stance.

BOLDUAN: Let's get to that, if I can get to some areas of legal language and have you decipher. Here is what they write: "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and applicable legal standards, however, we're unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about this president's acts of intent was a difficult issue that prevents us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. And, accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him."

Why is he laying out this way?

HONIG: It's like a triple negative. He says, well, if he was clear, we would tell you, and we're not saying anything. But I think what he's trying to do is work within the confines of the DOJ memo, the policy against indicting a sitting president. He says it earlier, basically, it would be unfair for us, we can't indict, but say we would indict when there's no mechanism for the president to defend himself as a normal defendant would in a court of law. So it's almost like Mueller sets up this thing, there's only two options, I will tell you no good, he's clear, or I'll tell you it needs to go to the next step, which logically here can only be Congress.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to jump ahead just for the Control Room to the one, interesting footnote, Shan, that I wanted to get to. Because footnotes are where all the interesting stuff comes out. Here's what it says: "A possible remedy through impeachment, for abuses of power would not substitute for potential criminal liability after a president leaves office." It goes on to say, to be written, "Impeachment is also a drastic and rarely invoked remedy and Congress is not to relying only on impeachment rather than making criminal law applicable to a former president as OLC has recognized."

This means what? I mean, are they suggesting this is not over once the president leaves office?

[11:25:30] WU: He's suggesting that one possibility is we've preserved the evidence. He also says that they want to preserve all memories are fresh, preserve documents, preserve grand jury testimony. That's the memories. And after he leaves office, he can be indicted.

BOLDUAN: A little ominous.

WU: Absolutely. He's been clear what his intention was, to tell everyone what can be done. He set the stage for that.

HONIG: It's a little ominous. A little bit of suggesting, hey, when this president is out of office, if there's a charge there, go at it. I think the counter to that is let's watch.

BOLDUAN: I also see a possible, he didn't have to say that.

HONIG: Right.

BOLDUAN: He didn't have to put that in.

WU: Yes. I think when you read the entire report, it's really, I think, they look back to the old Watergate blueprint that was put forth that way. That's what they did here. The analysis on obstruction, he lays it out for Congress to say, it's OK, you can make this criminal referral. It's OK, you have a constitutional mandate to look into this. And there's no problem constitutionally from their analysis.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating, guys.

Great to see you. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us still, the heated debate among Democrats on whether to pursue the president's -- whether to pursue the president's impeachment. Some want to move on. Others want to act now. That debate, that's next.