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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Special Counsel Referred At Least 14 Other Criminal Investigations; Judiciary Chairman Nadler Issues Subpoena For Full Mueller Report And Underlying Evidence; Mueller: Trump Campaign Had Contact With WikiLeaks And Had Heads Up On E-mail Release; Mueller Found Russia Meddled In 2016, Will Trump Accept It?. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 19, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:30:43] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred 14 instances of criminal activity to other federal prosecutors across the country, but we only know about two of them. Twelve are blacked out in the report, suggesting they are ongoing matters. This comes as Mueller provides the public with extraordinary new details about the levels of contacts between members of the Trump team and Russians.
And as CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown reports, while those contacts do not rise to criminality, according to Mueller, they certainly paint a stark picture of unethical behavior by operatives on a presidential candidate.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Mueller report shows a total of 14 ongoing investigations, referred out to other offices, but because of the over 1,600 lines of redactions, only two are publicly known. The prosecution of Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I am ashamed of my own failings and publicly accepted responsibility for them.
BROWN: And the prosecution of former Obama White House counsel, Greg Craig, who was indicted for lying about working for Ukraine. Democrats are also hoping to learn more about Trump campaign associates' ties with the Russians, though the Mueller report says, quote, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the 2016 election, it contains a long list of contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.
Quote: Business connections, offers of assistance to the campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions.
Those contacts included communications between Cohen and the Russian government, regarding plans for the proposed Trump Tower Moscow, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos' contacts with associates of the Russian government regarding e-mails damaging to Hillary Clinton, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's meeting with his business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, and that infamous 2016 Trump tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Whether these contacts were sufficiently illicit or not to rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy, they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral, and unpatriotic.
BROWN: Those contacts continued after the election, including incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn's call to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions imposed by President Obama.
BROWN: So, the fallout of the report continues today, with not only Democrats, but also now Republican Senator Mitt Romney releasing this statement today after reading through the report, saying: I am also appalled that among other things, fellow citizens working in the campaign for president welcomed help from Russia, including information that had been illegally obtained, that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement. Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders.
Now, I've been speaking to White House officials who, of course, Jake, give a counterview. They say, no matter what you take away from the report, the good or the bad, the bottom line conclusions are the same -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks so much.
Let's chew over this with our panel.
And, Amanda carpenter, Mitt Romney in his statement, also said he was sickened, this is a quote, sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president.
What do you make of it, Amanda?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we all should be sickened, and I think this becomes a question for the Democrats. They're talking about impeachment, but I think they would do better to dwell on what everybody agrees on.
This is sickening. Listen, the bad judgment and the lies made our countries vulnerable to a foreign influence campaign. If the Democrats want to take this a step further and they want to go look into Trump's businesses, which I think they have every right to do, they can't just prove that he's a liar and has bad judgment and plays dirty. You have to show how that harms the country.
And I can tell you right now, for people that play by the rules and try to get ahead in this country, they don't get to live in Mar-a-Lago or Trump Tower or get to the White House.
[16:35:02] That's where the disconnect is. That's where a really winning political argument can be made.
I think they can win on that. I'm not sure on impeachment.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just want to note -- so all Democrats are not talking about impeachment. I think you saw Senator Elizabeth Warren come out and say what she said about impeachment, because it's actually how she truly feels. I don't think she's going to run a campaign on impeachment. I think she's been running a campaign on policy.
I think there's a range of emotions and feelings about impeachment on the Democratic side of the aisle. Democrats didn't run on impeachment on 2016, but what they did run on and what folks sent them to Washington to do was put a check on President Trump. Exercising oversight is, in fact, that check.
And I think that's why you saw Chairman Cummings just a moment ago say, look, I share concerns about maybe going too far, and I'm paraphrasing, but he doesn't necessarily say that, but -- it's not exactly what he said, but he said, look, I share folks' concerns about impeachment, but we have to look into this, and if there's a case to be built, if there are things to be uncovered, it's our job to uncover them. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.
And that's what House Democrats have been and I hope will continue to do.
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the problem --
TAPPER: And, Scott, let's just take -- go ahead, Scott. Or was that Robby?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'll defer to Robby. Robby had a comment.
Go ahead, Robby. Yes.
MOOK: No, I was just going to say, I agree with Senator Romney that this is sickening, I agree with him that it's incredibly troubling. I agree with him that it shows how untethered we've become, how unpatriotic people at the highest levels of presidential campaigns can be.
But I would just add quickly that I don't think this is just Russia with this administration. I think there are real questions about Saudi Arabia and other countries that have influence right now today on our foreign policy. And so, I would actually urge, along with what everybody else is saying, I think we need to do a big step back and look at all the ways that this president's administration could literally be corrupted by foreign influence. And we could answer these questions very quickly, if we could just see the president's taxes and he would just turn over information on the family's finances, because it's also not just him, it's his children, too. TAPPER: Scott?
JENNINGS: You know, I think we ought to take a big step back and look at Russia going all the way back to 2010. Why did the previous administration not prosecute Julian Assange when he engaged with WikiLeaks against our soldiers and diplomats and allies by leaking our secrets? Why did we allow Vladimir Putin to march into Crimea? Why did we let him pull our pants down in Syria? Why did we do nothing about the election interference?
Everybody in the previous administration and in this administration needs to understand, these Russians are not our friends. I don't care what business deals they're offering you, I don't care what they say, they are not our friends. I know you think maybe you can try to control them and get them in the Iran deal for Obama was a big thing, these people wish us harm. They are our number one political foe, and that's true today and we ought to treat them as such.
MOOK: I just --
TAPPER: Robby, before we run out of time, I wanted to get your take on something, because Mueller found numerous Trump campaign officials and advisers had more than 100 contacts with Russians.
Mueller exposed more detail about Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman, you're looking right there at Trump associates who had contacts with the Russians. Paul Manafort's ties to Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI says is a Russian intelligence operative, in August of 2016, according to the Mueller report, Manafort met with Kilimnik and told him about the Trump campaign's efforts to win the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, according to Mueller. Trump ended up winning three of those four states, almost won Minnesota.
Not normal campaign behavior -- and what do you make of it, Robby?
MOOK: Well, we just don't know, right? There's also evidence that information -- data was stolen from the DNC or potentially strategic products being created by our campaign in consultation with the DNC. I just don't know, right?
I mean, this is the problem, is we -- even this report that from Mueller that was supposed to reveal the truth, so much of it's redacted, the president himself won't speak. I don't know to the extent, you know, that these others were interviewed about the specific topics. So I just don't know is the point.
But, again, I will just -- I will just re-underscore, I think it's disturbing that all of this took place, and it's not illegal. And I think that's a really big problem moving forward. It should be.
SANDERS: So it probably should be.
So if Mitt Romney is very concerned, perhaps he and a companion in the House can introduce legislation to make this illegal. I mean, I am just aghast as Robby and so many other people about what nefarious activities went on and that the Trump campaign literally solicited and tried in many different ways to get help from Russia. And no one seems to be being held accountable for it, at the highest level.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks, everyone.
Robert Mueller providing a road map, referring 14 different times to investigations to prosecutors. Twelve of them are fully redacted. We're going to try to read between the lines next.
[16:40:01] Stay with us.
TAPPER: We now know that Special Counsel Robert Mueller viewed President Trump's written responses to his list of questions as, quote, inadequate. At least 30 times, President Trump responded with phrases such as, "I don't know" or "I don't recall" or "I have no recollection".
I want to bring in two people who worked for the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York: former prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers, and Joon Kim, who was SDNY's acting U.S. attorney.
Jennifer, let me start with you. Mueller's team referred 14 investigations to other U.S. attorney's offices. Twelve of those cases in the Mueller report are redacted.
Did you see any hints in the report about what those cases might be?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: All I saw were black lines, unfortunately. But one thing we can tell, these were matters described as things that were outside of the Special Counsel's mandate so they just uncovered these as part of their investigation but they didn't have anything to do with what they were looking at. So I do think that whatever they are, they're unlikely to be interesting as far as the Mueller report goes because they won't have anything to do with the Russia investigation or the obstruction leading from it.
TAPPER: And Joon, Attorney General Barr said that by law he cannot release the grand jury evidence that is part of what's redacted in the report. Theoretically, though, he couldn't still ask the courts to change that, right? Do you think he should?
JOON KIM, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, SDNY: Yes. I mean, there -- he is correct in saying rule 6E does provide for secrecy and the Department of Justice generally takes the view that grand jury material should be kept secret. There's been a recent D.C. Circuit decision that actually held that the court does not have in inherent authority to release grand jury material. So he is correct in saying that there is law that precludes the disclosure of grand jury material.
TAPPER: And --
KIM: They could nonetheless ask for it. They could nonetheless ask for it and the House could subpoena it as they have and that's likely to go to court and the judge -- a court will decide.
TAPPER: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler earlier today issued a subpoena to try to obtain Mueller's entire report including what's been redacted and also the underlying evidence. Theoretically, that could mean more people with access to very sensitive information. And I guess the argument is -- against it is that could be dangerous for these remaining investigations of something is leaked, right?
KIM: Yes. I mean, that --
RODGERS: It could be but -- go ahead.
KIM: That's the basis --
TAPPER: Let's go to Jennifer for a second.
RODGERS: Sure. It could be. But you know, members of Congress handle sensitive materials all the time so while I think that's kind of a common-sense argument certainly for the Republicans like to make that it'll just leak and that'll damage everything, you know, really Congress has the right to see these things.
They handle classified another sensitive material every day. And so I don't think that that argument will win the day as far as a legal matter in front of the judge.
TAPPER: What do you think Joon?
KIM: I agree with that. I mean the argument about 6E is a very technical rule-based argument. It's not necessarily the case that every grand jury investigation will result in disclosure of information that will be dangerous to anyone or anything like that. So the argument is very much based on the rules and the fact that rules succeed doesn't have many exceptions.
TAPPER: Joon -- Jennifer, Mueller gave up on pushing for a one-on-one interview with President Trump even though he got what he called inadequate written responses. The Special Counsel's Office said "our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed the costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, that's referring to trying to subpoena Trump to testify, with resulting delay in finishing investigation."
In the end, President Trump's strategy worked. It's hard to argue anything other than that but do you think Mueller did the right thing?
RODGERS: It's really hard to second-guess him on that. You have to remember that they weren't ready to interview the President for the first few months of their investigation. You always want to gather as much evidence as you can before speaking to a central figure so that you can confront that central figure with what you've determined so far.
So by the time they were ready to speak to him, it was so far along in the investigation that I think they just felt the litigation would take way too long and it wouldn't be worth it in the end. I mean, they also were uncovering. You have to remember, nothing that pointed to the collusion side of things having to do with Trump himself all of the contacts were through other people.
So I think in the end they just felt like we're just going to let it go. It's not worth the time it would take and we're not going to come up with answers that are going to change the strategy anyway.
TAPPER: OK, Jennifer, Joon, thank you so much. Happy Easter to both of you. Last week, President Trump said WikiLeaks is not my thing. Now we know that was just another lie thanks to Mueller Report. Stay with us.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. The revelation from the Mueller Report contradicting this recent claim from President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: As CNN's Senior National Correspondent Alex Marquardt reports, not only was WikiLeaks was very much President Trump's thing, but the relationship between the two may have been much more cozy than originally expected.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On the campaign trail, then-Candidate Donald Trump made clear what a boost he felt WikiLeaks was to his campaign.
TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks. This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. Well, I loved reading those WikiLeaks.
MARQUARDT: Now, new details from the Mueller report showed the extent to which the campaign was eager for WikiLeaks to publish the Democratic e-mails stolen by Russia and given to them. The Special Counsel writing the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts. Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort according to then-Deputy Rick Gates expressed excitement.
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton is a disaster. She's been a disaster.
MARQUARDT: Days later, Trump publicly called on Russia to help find Clinton's e-mails.
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening. I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
[16:55:00] MARQUARDT: Aides later said Trump was joking, but Mueller reports said that five hours later, for the first time, Russian hackers targeted Clinton's campaign. The Trump Campaign then started planning a press strategy, communications campaign and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton e-mails by WikiLeaks.
Mueller in his report says Trump told Gates more releases of damaging information would be coming. Trump friend and associate Roger Stone who prosecutors say wanted information about the leaks to benefit the trump campaign was allegedly directed by a campaign official to seek out WikiLeaks. It is not known if Stone actually made contact.
MARQUARDT: And Jake, when the President was asked specifically by the Special Counsel's Office about communications between Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates with WikiLeaks, the President Trump answered in writing, "I do not recall." Jake?
TAPPER: As he did about 30 times. Alex Marquardt, thanks so much. Joining me now is Steve Hall who was the chief of Russian operations at the CIA. Steve, thanks for joining us. How big of a deal is it that the Trump campaign had a heads up on WikiLeaks at least according to the report?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's a pretty big deal. I mean, anytime that you have this type of either attempted contact with or an understanding or how the Russians are doing something like using WikiLeaks as part of a much larger, of course, campaign of their own to try to increase the likelihood that Donald Trump get elected and that Hillary Clinton wouldn't be, it's a big deal. And I think that's one of the reasons why Mueller looked into it.
It is amazing to me as some of your previous guests were saying that nothing that happened as a result of that was deemed illegal but that doesn't take away the counterintelligence issues that are associated with something like that.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that because the Trump team was, we should underline again, cleared of conspiracy, anything prosecutorial -- prosecutable essentially. But do you see any behavior by any members of the Trump team in this report that bothers you as a former U.S. intelligence officer and former station chief in Moscow?
HALL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I would not -- if I were in my old job, I would not hire any of these guys just based on security issues and counterintelligence issues. Look, just because you don't break the law doesn't mean there are all sorts of counterintelligence issues and security questions that need to be asked and that you know, dictate as to whether or not you should see classified information, whether you should be involved in you know, the national security of the United States.
And all of these people starting right at the top but going down through guys like Michael Flynn you know, any of the characters really that were -- that were involved in this, Manafort, Page, all of these people failed the counterintelligence test quite miserably.
TAPPER: Reading how extensive the efforts were by the Russians, they literally used a server in Arizona where you are now to interfere in the election. Does it surprise you?
HALL: In terms of how you know, big and effective their efforts were? Is that what you're referring to?
TAPPER: Yes. Yes.
HALL: You know, it doesn't -- it doesn't surprise me in terms of the Russian's capabilities and their intentions to go after the United States and to do really what they have succeeded doing -- in doing regardless of what this report says which is really divide us, find those areas where our society and our political system can be -- can be split because that weakens us vis-a-vis Russia. So it doesn't surprise me.
What does surprise me a little bit, since I retired from the CIA in 2015, is the fact that they would actually have the wherewithal to pull this off. That somebody would push the button, somebody being Vladimir Putin, saying yes, we're actually going to do this. We're going to do this. We're going to move forward and do this very widespread hybrid warfare attack on the United States starting with the 2016 election.
So the boldness of it is mildly surprising to me. And the fact that they carried off -- carried it off and that nobody apparently is going to suffer legally for it is impressive.
TAPPER: Speaking of Putin, last July in Helsinki, President Trump stood next to Putin, backed him up in front of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, Mueller's report firmly concluded, as had so many intelligence agency before, that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. The President tweeted this morning, "anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 election was done while Obama was president. He was told about it and did nothing. Most importantly, the vote was not affected.
You know, critics say President Trump is still diminishing what the Russians did. What do you think? HALL: He definitely is in denial, and as to why that is, we're going to have to keep trying to figure out. Other counterintelligence investigations will probably reveal why it is he is still like that?
TAPPER: You think there are other counterintelligence investigations of the President still going on?
HALL: Yes, I believe -- I believe there's a good chance that there are, based on the redacted -- the stuff that was redacted out of the report. I think -- I think that there are.
TAPPER: All right, Steve Hall, thank you so much. Happy Easter to you.