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No Conspiracy Between The Trump Campaign And Russian Interference In The 2016 Election; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) Interviewed Regarding the Release of The Redacted Mueller Report; Redacted Mueller Report Doesn't Clear Trump of Obstruction. Aired 12- 1a ET
Aired April 19, 2019 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome, everyone. We're live here in New York where it is midnight. I'm Poppy Harlow. I'm glad you're with us. Four hundred and forty eight pages later, and we can now say this after finally viewing a redacted version of Robert Mueller's report, no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election, but at the same time, no exoneration when it comes to President Trump and the question of obstruction of justice.
The report paints a vivid picture of White House aides willfully and repeatedly ignoring or dodging some of the President's orders in the interest of saving him from himself and to save themselves from possible legal action.
If you listened this morning to Attorney General Bill Barr's press conference, you undoubtedly heard him give the President almost a complete pass on any wrongdoing and he repeated the oft used phrase from the President, "no collusion."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Put another way, the Special Counsel found no collusion by any Americans in IRA's illegal activities. In other words, there was no evidence of the Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government's hacking.
So that's the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right, the Attorney General Bill Barr also tried to make the case that he didn't have to release the report at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARR: I'm here to discuss my response to that report, and my decision
entirely discretionary to make it public since these reports are not supposed to be made public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: The President echoed similar thoughts this afternoon tweeting, "I had the right to end the whole witch hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone including Mueller, if I wanted, I chose not to. I had the right to use executive privilege, I didn't." Either way, many legal experts disagree with those two claims, the one from Barr and the one for the President here. But where is the President?
Well, tonight he is in Mar-a-Lago. He left Washington behind, and he will spend his Easter holiday there in West Palm Beach, Florida. He didn't leave Washington, though, before he rejoiced with an adoring crowd at the airport declaring, "Game over, folks," except there's still so much we don't know. Some 36 pages of that nearly 450-page report are redacted. So what are we not seeing?
For that and more, let's bring in my friends, CNN crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz. All right, big day, we've all been covering it since before the Barr presser this morning. What's the most important thing we learned? What's the most important thing we don't know?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I think in terms of just how much more there was in terms of the obstruction investigation than we were led to believe by the Attorney General in that four-page letter that he put out, just the constant information that just when you keep reading these documents and everything you're learning about contacts, the information that the President had, communications he had with people that were working for him, like the White House counsel and the things that he was asking them to do, fire Mueller, fire Sessions, told Sessions to resign and other things. And the idea that a lot of the people at the White House knew this was a problem.
They couldn't act on what the President wanted them to do and because they didn't act, because they didn't fire Mueller, because they didn't force resignations, they in a way protected the President. Yes, people like Don McGahn protected himself. But in the end, the President winds of winning and doesn't suffer the consequences of any kind of criminal charges.
HARLOW: Thirty six pages, about 12% roughly of the report redacted, what -- I mean, what are the big missing things?
PROKUPECZ: So the big missing things right now are the ongoing investigations, right? It is said in the report that Mueller referred some 14 investigations outside of his office to other U.S. attorneys perhaps.
[00:05:13] PROKUPECZ: That's what we don't know. We know that two of them are -- one of the most significantly is the Michael Cohen investigation that is still ongoing. The Southern District of New York is still involved in the hush money investigation. So there is potential for someone else in the Trump orbit, the Trump Organization even that could potentially face charges in connection with that. That is very much still ongoing.
And there are others. There are a lot of an investigation. Certainly, the number 14, seeing that number today, I think caught a lot of us by surprise. We did not think --
HARLOW: That they had referred 14 different --
PROKUPECZ: Fourteen different.
HARLOW: Investigations to the Southern District.
PROKUPECZ: Well, we don't know where.
HARLOW: And different districts.
PROKUPECZ: Different districts, we know of two, but one most significantly is the one in the Southern District of New York. And then you have the collusion. You know, a lot of the collusion -- what was really amazing in that is just how much the Mueller team and the FBI really learned about how the Russians really made such great efforts to try and infiltrate the campaign, trying to work back doors to get policy, favorable policy. They were reaching out to different people through cutouts through Jared Kushner, to other people, obviously, the Trump Tower meeting.
We learned that, you know, the Mueller team even considered at one point whether or not they could bring charges against anyone or in relation to that meeting whether or not Donald Trump Jr. could face charges for in essence taking a campaign contribution from a foreign entity. We really --
HARLOW: But they didn't.
PROKUPECZ: But they didn't. And we also learned the issues that the Special Counsel faced in terms of the law, and the difficulty in proving a lot of these parts of this investigation and trying to bring it to a point where they could bring charges. So you really have got a really great window into what was going on here.
And then obviously, I think the biggest surprise, the other one, the way the Attorney General addressed the nation today when he stood before the podium at the Department of Justice echoed those words of no collusion. We've heard from the President saying several times that there was no collusion.
So that was certainly surprising to see someone in that position to say those words, almost -- not almost, defending the President, almost acting like the President's lawyer, in some ways, by those words. So we'll see. I think what we now have is that there's a lot for Congress to work with on the obstruction.
HARLOW: Right, and it was one important -- very important part of the Mueller report was laying out the ability for Congress to do that, right? And when Barr was asked that question in the press conference about did Mahler punt the decision on obstruction of Congress? He said, "No."
And when you read it, it's not that he punted it, but he clearly explicitly laid out the ability Congress has to pick up the ball.
PROKUPECZ: And the only way we're going to know that is if Mueller comes before Congress and testifies about that and says, "Yes, this was my intention." Barr is not very clear on that. He seems to indicate he doesn't think that that's something that Mueller wanted done.
But when you read the report, and you see what they're saying about how some of these issues are for Congress to figure out and the way they lay out this obstruction case, it's phenomenal. And you have to wonder if this was the whole point of this.
HARLOW: So let's ask a Congresswoman who is on the House Judiciary Committee, because as we know, Shimon, thank you very much -- as we know, Bill Barr will be back on the Hill, testifying before the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees at the beginning of May.
So joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Again, she sits on the House Judiciary Committee. Thanks for staying up late for us. We appreciate it.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Thank you so very much and we wish our friends and the nation and around the world, Happy Easter and happy Passover.
HARLOW: There you go. It's a weekend for a lot of people to be together. So let me ask you this Congresswoman, now that you have read the Mueller report, what are you going to do?
JACKSON LEE: Well, the first thing that I'm going to do is to demand as the Member of the Judiciary Committee and as our Chairman will do, that we get an unredacted copy, that we get all of the supporting documents, and that Mr. Mueller will appear before our committee along with Mr. Barr before the end of May.
The second thing, the second group of things that I want to do is to make it clear to the American people that what has transpired in the last 24 hours is unusual, and frankly disappointing. If President Dwight D. Eisenhower had come back to life and read the actions that were detailed in this report, he would not associate that with the President of the United States.
He could not comprehend that operatives in a presidential campaign, the highest office in the land had constant and continuous interaction with Russian operatives, military persons, hackers, and never once reported it to the FBI.
[00:10:11] JACKSON LEE: He could not comprehend it. And then secondarily --
HARLOW: I think the question becomes Congresswoman, excuse me for interrupting. Congresswoman, excuse me for interrupting you, I think the question becomes, what do you believe Democratic leadership will be supportive of doing because as you know, what Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker said back in March, is that, you know, it's not worth it. Impeachment proceedings right now, and then Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat, the House Majority Leader said today and I quote, "Based on what we have seen to date going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point." Is he right?
JACKSON LEE: Well, my analysis to President Eisenhower how looking at these facts is just to go to that very point. And secondarily, as it relates to the obstruction when Mr. Mueller said, if we have confidence that the President had not committed obstruction of justice, confident we would so state. So what we have Poppy is a roadmap, same kind of roadmap that Mr. Jaworksi did and gave to the Congress when the Watergate proceedings proceeded.
In that instance, there were Republican members of Congress, who felt that the line had been crossed. In this instance, the Judiciary Committee will open up investigations. We will proceed to peel back the onion and show the American people the details of this report. And frankly, I believe that what has been said by our leadership is that we don't want to make anything up. But if we are at a point where Republicans and Democrats are ready to accept the fact that something untoward has happened, then that will be the appropriate time for impeachment proceedings.
They are political, and they have to be nonpartisan or bipartisan. Right now, I think it's important to go to the facts. We have not unveiled all the facts and that's what the Judiciary Committee intends to do. We intend to unveil all of the facts.
HARLOW: It sounds like you're saying that at this point, what you have seen, what you have read in the report sans the 36 or so redacted pages is not enough yet to bring Articles of Impeachment. Is that your opinion tonight?
JACKSON LEE: I think what we are concluding as we continue to read and reread this document that it is a well thought out written and investigated roadmap, same kind of roadmap --
HARLOW: But not enough yet for you to be comfortable with signing on to articles of impeachment, is that correct? Before we move on?
JACKSON LEE: Not enough for us to begin an impeachment proceedings, but enough to bring in witnesses to have more facts and evidence.
HARLOW: Sure, and to that point, Congresswoman, you told Politico earlier today, the Democrats, quote, "Have to engage in our own report and investigation." Is there something you think you can find that Mueller's team did not?
JACKSON LEE: Well, I think what we can find; one, Barr will be before us and we can ask the quizzical behavior of this morning as to why he pronounced that the President was innocent of obstruction of justice and that Mueller did not want to send this report to the Congress and why he misrepresented that statement. But we will ask Mueller of what his intentions were. Remember, he came to know a conclusion of suggesting that the
President was not in essence guilty of obstruction of justice, he couldn't confidently say that. We want to know why. And then, you know, we have issued 81 subpoenas, and those reports will come in. Michael Cohen has indicated that he has additional information that may impact this report and then there are 14 other investigations.
So I think I would say to you, is that yes, in the course of our investigation, we do believe we may unveil some information that has not yet been evidenced to the American people.
HARLOW: I understand that you have and you said it at the outset that you have invited in your committee Bob Mueller to come testify and you're demanding that he do so before the end of the May. How confident are you that he will and B., what is the single most important question you would ask him?
JACKSON LEE: Mr. Mueller is a man of integrity. We don't know -- have any information that he would not accept the invitation from the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we want it to be an invitation. I think that would be appropriate. He has done a yeoman's task in this work along with his investigators.
So I would ask the question, which I think is the chief basis of his determination to explain to the American people what is the difference in a prosecutorial approach versus an approach that he utilized.
[00:15:07] JACKSON LEE: But the most important one would be, is it because of the Department of Justice policy that a sitting President cannot be indicted? Was that the singular and only reason that you did not proceed to indicate that the President had engaged in obstruction of justice, because if he had said that, there would be no basis for which the President would be able to defend themselves in a trial.
And the only basis for that would be in a in a proceedings in the United States Congress. So I'd want to know why he did not go to the next step.
HARLOW: Let me end on this, and that is some recent polling that we have. It came out just yesterday, this is out of Monmouth University. And of course, I recognize that it came out before the full Mueller report. But after the four-page Barr summary of the top line conclusions. Of the American people polled 54 percent say that they believe Congress should move on; 39 percent say Congress should keep investigating. How do you weigh Congresswoman, numbers like that, as you head into another election?
JACKSON LEE: I think that's a very good question and the way we weigh into it, is to continue our agenda for the people. And we have had an enormous record, from violence against women and to gun legislation, to Equal Pay Act, and many other initiatives, and certainly fighting for the Affordable Care Act or access to healthcare and contain pre- existing condition.
But on the other hand, we are entrusted with protecting the Constitution and the rule of law. And that's what I'm saying, as we proceed without inquiry and our hearings, we expect that as more facts come out as the report sinks in, as people begin to read it, that there will be a sense that something has to be done to restore the integrity to the presidency of the United States, that the rule of law is important, that the Constitution is important. I have every faith in the American people that that will occur.
And so I understand the polling, and we have to be very cautious in how we proceed. It must be deliberate and diligent and respectful and thorough, and the witnesses must come forward and we must get the facts. And as that happens, I don't know whether the polling during Watergate was at a point where the American people were ready to move forward. It is a very challenging and mountainous effort if we were to proceed in a constitutional way.
But I believe if the facts are let out, we'll have maybe a different polling, but it doesn't mean that Democrats are not working for the people and fighting for a better quality of life for all Americans.
HARLOW: And Congresswoman, I think you said something really important there. You know, in the interview about do we have Republicans as well, right, who -- is there a Howard Baker equivalent who would ask that question and that that is a big question right now because you would need two thirds of the Senate.
I really appreciate you staying up late in Houston and joining us tonight, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Thanks so much.
JACKSON LEE: Thanks for having me. I have faith in the American people.
HARLOW: Aides who refuse to play along how the President tried and failed to ask them to fire for example, the Special Counsel, a live report ahead.
[00:22:40] HARLOW: All right, welcome back. The Mueller team makes it very clear that the President's actions did not amount to criminal conspiracy with the Russians. But there were multiple occasions when the President intervened or tried to intervene in the investigation and those attempts failed.
The Special Counsel writes in the report largely because the President's aids refused to carry out orders that he gave them. Let me read you part of the report and I 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. Comey did not end the investigation of Flynn which ultimately resulted in Flynn's prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed but was instead prepared to resign over the President's order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President's message to Sessions, that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only, and McGahn refused to receive from his recollections about events surrounding the President's direction to have the special counsel removed, despite the President's multiple demands that he do so. Consistent with the pattern, the evidence we obtained, would not support potential obstruction charges against the President's aides and associates beyond those already filed."
Shimon is back with me. Also joining us Sam Vinograd, our national security analyst; Renato Mariotti, our legal analysts and former federal prosecutor, Governor Jennifer Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan; and of course, our senior political commentator, Scott Jennings, also our political commentator and former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.
So nice to have you all here. Sam, it's also important to note, the President aside what the Mueller report tells us about just how extensive the Russian efforts were to screw up the U.S. election and how far back it goes before the election?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I was really struck by the fact that in this report, it lays out the fact that Russia started this campaign at least as early as mid-2014. This was not something that started when President Trump announced his candidacy. This went back several years.
And from an intelligence perspective, something that I'm wondering is, why didn't the Intelligence Community pick up on it in mid-2014 or even late 2014?
HARLOW: But why? Why do you think?
VINOGRAD: It may be a massive Intelligence failure? I was no longer at the White House or in the U.S. government when this occurred. But I would imagine that the Intelligence Community is likely working backward and trying to figure out why they missed these glaring signs that Russia was attacking us.
[00:25:11] VINOGRAD: We learned from the Mueller report some really, really key details about how the Internet Research Agency send its agents on intelligence missions to the United States. There were visas that were approved by the State Department for these intelligence agents. So that's the Intelligence Community piece.
And then, of course, we have the social media piece, whereby the Internet Research Agency, the IRA again, was doing activities well before Donald Trump became President that these platforms didn't pick up on.
It's important to remember that Donald Trump was a tool for Russia. He was not the end game. He was a tool to undermine the legitimacy of our democracy. And they're still at it.
HARLOW: Scott Jennings, this is a point you make in your new op-ed out tonight as well.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I was struck by the fact that this goes all the way back to 2014. And that we knew, you know, pretty extensively if we want the Russians were doing by mid- 2016, but the U.S. government and the previous administration chose not to do anything about it, so Donald Trump wasn't the President then. Barack Obama was. I think, as we move forward, I know there's going to be a lot of analysis of the obstruction issue and we've talked about that all day long.
To me, as an American voter --
HARLOW: Hey, Scott, one second, Sam is shaking her head.
VINOGRAD: I just have to correct the record on something, we should look back with --
JENNINGS: Barack Obama -- are you going to correct the record on who the President was between 2014 and 2016?
VINOGRAD: Scott, I don't why you're being confrontational with me, Scott. We're here to have a discussion. You're not here to attack me.
JENNINGS: You're the one who interrupted me. Go ahead though.
HARLOW: I actually brought her in. I brought her in, and you'll have plenty of time. Go ahead, Sam.
VINOGRAD: I think it's important to distinguish two things. The first is that the amount of information that we currently have available about Russia's attack on our country is apples and oranges. When we look at what the previous administration under Barack Obama new in 2016, when it implemented sanctions against the Russians, and when it publicized Russia's attack on our country.
As I said, it is entirely possible that there was a massive intelligence failure that resulted in the fact that it took that long to see what they were up to. President Trump and his Intelligence Community and his National Security Council have the years more of evidence of what Russia is doing, and they had failed to deter that attack.
HARLOW: Scott, go ahead.
JENNINGS: Here's what I think. As an American voter, I want to know how the previous administration failed and how to stop them in the future. We haven't another presidential election coming up in 2020, and I know there's going to be a lot of legal analysis on the obstruction piece, and we've talked about that all day.
But what's the most important thing for the average voter out there is, well, if the Russians were able to do this, all these years, can we actually stop them in the future? So when Mueller gets called in to testify, I think I think they need to -- I think they need to spend most of the hearing on saying, look, we're really grateful that you delivered this roadmap on the Russian interference, can you help us come up with a prescription to stop it in the future?
HARLOW: So let's talk a little bit more about that. Because Scott, I totally agree that that's a very important issue. I think every American agrees. But you don't dispute it all that Russia was the one doing this from the get-go, right? You totally believe it was Russia led by Putin, correct?
JENNINGS: Yes, I've said that repeatedly. I believe from the beginning the Russians interfered in the election.
HARLOW: Okay, no you have and here's why I ask because the President hasn't said as much. Let's listen to him on stage in Helsinki standing next to Vladimir Putin just a few months ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Do you think it's problematic that the President hasn't said anything to correct the record on that other than his team trying to spin it and say he actually said wouldn't? I mean, we all heard what he said, is that going to be problematic to getting to the point that you're saying we need to get to?
JENNINGS: Yes, absolutely. Look, I have not approved of the President's posture on this from day one. And I know it's because he thinks it somehow undermines his legitimacy as President and it no way undermines him.
At this point, he needs to acknowledge the intelligence community, acknowledge the Mueller report, but beyond that, take some action. Appoint a commission. Bring the people together that we have to bring together to give the American people the confidence that we're not going to let this failure to stop a hostile foreign power happen again. So that's the next move here.
Mueller has given us the roadmap. He told us how they hacked this, the social media, the agencies in Russia. He indicted the people that did it. They're never going to see the inside of a courtroom. But we can at least stop them in the future. And so that's on this President's shoulders to clean up that mess.
HARLOW: All right, so Governor Granholm, let me bring you in here. I was watching my friend and colleague Chris Cuomo's fascinating interview with Rudy Giuliani - Mayor Giuliani earlier.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Oh my God, I wanted to stab my eyes out. Anyway, go ahead.
[00:30:07] HARLOW: You did? All right. Well, we're glad you didn't, and we're glad you're here with us. Can we just take a moment and listen to this really short snippet that struck me tonight? Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: If we're going to start making moral judgments about everybody in public office, we'll have nobody in public office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: I mean, he's correct on the facts that, you know, the law is not about morality, but what do you make of that statement from the president's personal attorney?
GRANHOLM: I mean, come on. I mean, I think he's trying to defend Donald Trump, who has, obviously, serious problems with morality. I mean, there's not even a question about that, so it's a ridiculous statement.
Of course, we make judgments about people who are in office, and of course, we have high standards. There is an article today on the front page this morning, coming out in "The New York Times," where they are describing the culture of deception and lies, the poisonous culture inside the White House. Obviously starting from the top, Donald Trump, but also infecting the entire White House, which is -- an example of which is Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the lie that she was caught in. But she's just the tip of the iceberg. All of the efforts to try to get his staff to lie.
Thank goodness there are some -- there were some and, hopefully, are some that remain that try to restrain his terrible -- his terrible tendencies.
But can I just go back just for one second, Poppy?
GRANHOLM: I just wanted to jump in on the conversation you were just having about Russian interference. And I want to give an example for your viewers so they understand what happened -- happens when the Russians interfere.
In Michigan, of course, Donald Trump wins by 10,700 votes. In Detroit, the number of votes plummeted. Why? Well, one of the reasons might be -- now, there may be a bunch of reasons, but here's an example. People in Detroit were flooded with ads that looked like this. Oprah Winfrey's -- Oprah Winfrey holding up a sign saying, "First-time voter? You vote on Wednesday." Or Aziz Ansari. These are all Photoshopped, of course.
Holding up a sign saying, "Tired of the lines? You text your vote here."
Those are voter suppression ads. This is what the Russians are expert at, and they were amplified by bots. And thousands and thousands of them were sent to places like Detroit where they were really trying to suppress, particularly, the African-American vote.
So yes, Congress and the president and everyone has to get on this, because this will happen again in 2020 unless we step up.
HARLOW: Governor, appreciate you making that important point. Right. Regardless of party --
HARLOW: -- you don't want that happening, happening in American elections.
Everyone stay with me. First question to you, Renato, as soon as we get back.
[00:36:57] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.
Special Counsel Bob Mueller's redacted report did not clear the president of obstruction of justice, and that does leave the door wide open for Congress to keep investigating him.
House Democratic leaders not happy with the attorney general's interpretation of the report. Bill Barr has been accused of mischaracterizing Mueller's rationale for not making a determination on the obstruction front. And Barr is certain to face really important questions when he appears before both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in early May.
After the report was released, the president tweeted, "No collusion, no obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats, game over."
Meantime, the president has made his way to Mar-a-Lago. He arrived to a crowd of supporters gathered at the airport. He was noticeably silent as he departed the White House earlier today, taking no questions, making no statements to the press. The president will spend Easter weekend there in Florida, and that is where our White House reporter, Sarah Westwood, is.
Sarah, I don't know. Good night, good morning to you. It's 12:37 in the morning here. The president arrived a few hours ago. It is interesting that he didn't talk to reporters at all leaving the White House. Any idea why?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy.
President Trump had very little to say about this report, at least to the cameras. He was unsurprisingly active on Twitter today. He did not speak as he was leaving the White House, walking to Marine One to come down here to Florida; and he has no public events on his schedule for tomorrow. So we're unlikely to see him then. He'll be spending the day at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Now White House counsel Pat Cipollone did travel with the president down to Florida today; and that's significant, because Cipollone doesn't ordinarily accompany the president on these travels, especially not on these weekend trips. The last time Pat Cipollone did that was on March 22, the day that Attorney General Barr announced he'd received Mueller's confidential findings that the Russia probe was over.
But Trump did touch briefly on the report earlier today at a Wounded Warrior Project event at the White House. He said he hopes none of his successors would have to endure an investigation like the Russia probe. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm having a good day, too. It was called no collusion. No obstruction. There never was, by the way, and there never will be.
This should never happen to another president again, this hoax. This should never happen to another president again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: And President Trump was, I mentioned, active on Twitter today, touting the results of the investigation, claiming and suggesting that all along he's believed that the investigation was illegitimate. But of course, we now know that that's not exactly true. The Mueller report does describe the president's reaction in May 2017 to learning that Rosenstein had appointed Mueller special counsel. He thought that was terrible, that that could be the end of his presidency.
But Mueller's report does leave a number of questions unanswered, particularly on that issue of obstruction. So this could just be the start of some troubles for the Trump White House. Congressional Democrats, Poppy, vowing to look into the findings in Mueller's report.
[00:40:05] HARLOW: And when you have control of one of the chambers of Congress, as the Democrats do the House, you've got a lot of power in terms of holding hearings, who you subpoena, who you hear from, et cetera.
We'll see what's ahead. Sarah Westwood, appreciate the reporting from West Palm Beach.
Quick break. We're back on the other side.
HARLOW: All right. Welcome back to our special live coverage. My experts are back with me. Renato Mariotti, to you. So Bill Barr's going to have a chance to answer a lot of questions in a few weeks: May 1 and 2, he's back on the Hill before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. For him, what is the most important question you would ask him if you were one of those lawmakers.
And then if Mueller does agree to testify, what's the most important question you'd ask him? RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Great -- great question, Poppy.
I would have to say, although I think a lot of the questions to Barr are going to focus on his misstatements or misrepresentations, I think the most important question is who at the Justice Department was involved in making the decision not to have Trump subpoenaed?
In other words, we know that Mueller consulted with other officials at the Justice Department. Who played a role in that? How was he advised? I think there's more to that story than we know right now.
[00:45:03] HARLOW: Because Mueller, the report notes that the president's written answers were, in their words, quote, "inadequate" and that 30 times, the president said he did not recall or remember or have independent recollection of something.
MARIOTTI: Indeed, and in fact, what Mueller said was essentially that he believed he had the lawful authority to compel the president to testify, but he decided not to do it for two reasons. One, because he thought he had sufficient evidence of the president's intent. Which is interesting. It suggests that he had enough proof on obstruction of justice, potentially. I think that might be a question for Mueller.
But also, he said that it would take too much time. And I wonder --
HARLOW: He didn't want to delay it.
MARIOTTI: He didn't want to delay the investigation. And then for Mueller, I think the question I would ask him, aside from asking about that issue of interviewing the president, I think the question would be for Mr. Mueller is, "If you had to make a judgment, is there sufficient evidence to prove obstruction beyond a reasonable doubt?" I think lawmakers are going to be very interesting to get the answer to that question.
HARLOW: You know -- yes, Shimon.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The thing I want to bring out is, let's say if Mueller said, "OK, you don't want to come in." He gets permission from DOJ, of Rod Rosenstein, to say, "Go ahead; go subpoena him." What's going to happen?
The president would have pleaded the fifth. It would have been a whole other political aspect. Because he goes -- they wouldn't get the answers from him, no matter what.
When you think about these questions that he answered, right, the take-home test, they let him have these questions at home. He was able to answer them with his lawyers. They went through various processes. So, like, it wasn't a very complicated interrogation. It was simple.
HARLOW: But they couldn't ask follow ups. Right?
PROKUPECZ: They couldn't ask, and that was important. HARLOW: And here's -- here's what I want you on. Because just
reading off the transcript of Barr's press conference this morning, let me read everyone part of it.
Barr, the attorney general, says, quote, "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."
While all of that may be true, there's one part that's not; and the part that's not is that it was full cooperation, because it wasn't. Because the president did not sit down with Mueller after repeated requests for an in-person interview, so we couldn't ask any follow- ups.
PROKUPECZ: That's exactly right. And then the other question to ask is why is the attorney general standing there saying this? Like, basically, making these arguments about the president and how he cooperated and defending his actions? I think that was what so strange about this today.
And in that same line of where he's addressing, at the press conference where he's talking, he talks about collusion. You know, one of the things, like, before he says what you just read about cooperation, he said, "Yet, as he has said from the beginning," meaning the president, "there was, in fact, no collusion."
He's standing there echoing what the president has been saying, almost like he is the president's attorney.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I want to also point out that this has -- may have implications -- I'll stress "may -- for future investigations that are maybe --
HARLOW: You mean precedent? Because it sets a precedent?
VINOGRAD: -- started under the Department of Justice. If the attorney general, standing before the American people on perhaps the most important day that's faced our country since President Trump came into office, and really parroting things that the president wants to hear, serving as his own -- as the president's defense attorney, I have to wonder, what does that mean for any misbehavior that the president may engage in going forward?
VINOGRAD: Whether it's related to election security, counterintelligence concerns, future obstruction of justice? I don't feel good that the attorney general is an unbiased interlocutor in that regard.
PROKUPECZ: And to that point, this is why -- think about this. The Southern District of New York, the investigations that are there, and the hush-money payments, they have not been telling main Justice, DOJ in D.C., what's going on. They've kind of kept it siloed. They've tried not to keep them informed on it.
And there is concern. There was concern, certainly, when Jeff Sessions was there, when Whitaker is there. And now, when we thought we have a new attorney general and things are going to get better, there may be a lot of suspicion now that, you know, maybe there's new concern now.
I think today, when we thought -- certainly for people at the Department of Justice, we thought they could move forward from the way things were and how political some of it was. Today could have been that turning point that maybe, you know what? That's not the case.
HARLOW: You know, there have been -- Governor Granholm, to you. I have a 2020 question for you. But just before I get there, this is not the first time an attorney general has been called political.
HARLOW: Think about Loretta Lynch on former President Bill Clinton's plane. This of John Ashcroft. Think of, you know, Kennedy with his brother. I'm just saying, this is not a first.
GRANHOLM: Of course.
HARLOW: But do you agree with Sam's point that there is concern here about precedent?
GRANHOLM: Absolutely. I mean, we all know that the attorney general is an appointee, a political appointee.
However, when you -- when you put that suit on, you are to put the suit on of an objective person so that you are trusted in the Department of Justice.
I say this as a former attorney general, as a former federal prosecutor. What Barr did today was give away the heft of being -- of the ability of being impartial, or at least of having some -- some integrity. He gave that away.
[00:50:07] And so future -- for the future, people are going to say, "How can we trust what he says?"
And Mueller, by the way, is the opposite example. Even though, I think, a lot of people on my team, team D, would have liked to have seen him come out stronger in terms of obstruction of justice or in terms of collusion, what he did was by the book. And the fact that he hasn't come out today and spoken before and let his -- let his report speak for itself, it is exactly the way a federal prosecutor should act.
HARLOW: We'll see if he comes to testify. I think he will.
GRANHOLM: He will. He will. HARLOW: Let me ask you this. Just for your party, as you head into
2020, there's also -- whether you proceed with impeachment proceedings or the House Democrats do that or not, it's a political -- it's a political decision. But the American people -- again, I'm going to point you back to this polling. It just came out yesterday. I understand that it's before the report, but it's after the Barr summary, right?
And you've got 54 percent of Americans in this Monmouth poll saying that Congress should move on, versus 39 that say that Congress should still investigate it.
What would you say to fellow Democrats in office right now about how they balance talking about health care, et cetera? Pursuing policies?
HARLOW: I mean, how should they really do that --
GRANHOLM: Totally get you.
HARLOW: -- because the answer is always "We can do it all," but I mean, there's only so many hours in a day.
GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, I think you can still proceed down two lanes. However, the lane of kitchen-table issues is clearly the one that most people care about. I mean, we're speaking now on -- on the East Coast at 12:51, and I'm sure that not a whole lot of folks, at least on half of the country, are up watching this. But at least in the West --
HARLOW: They're all up, Governor. All of them.
GRANHOLM: They're all up watching. What am I saying?
But -- but you're right that these kitchen table issues are critical. Health care is critical, and we've got a great story to tell on taxes, et cetera.
But I will say this. I mean, Congressman Cohen (ph) was on earlier, and he was saying, "Well, why don't we at least pursue a censure?" The biggest issue for Democrats in 2020 is who is going to be able to beat Donald Trump?
And making sure that Trump stays soft, has a soft underbelly is critical. And so Congress can play that role and make sure that we're still talking about those kitchen-table issues.
HARLOW: What is to you, Renato Mariotti, to you, in your opinion, the biggest head scratcher for you out of this report?
I mean, you were talking earlier about are you a version one or version two? You know, volume one or volume two kind of person? Because that's how big it is. But what were you left scratching your head about most?
MARIOTTI: Wow. Other than the fact that Trump and his family weren't interviewed, I have to say, the conduct of the president's attorneys and some of the people there. I'm, as an attorney, I have certain ethical responsibilities I have. And to me, encouraging someone to lie, or trying to interfere with somebody's cooperating with federal prosecutors, I just can't imagine that.
And I'm often -- I just tried a case against the Justice Department. I'm often on the other side. I can't imagine trying to encourage somebody to reveal to me what a prosecutor is telling them. That's just not the way an attorney is supposed to act.
HARLOW: Scott Jennings, to you. I'm wondering if you are comfortable with two things that we've learned from this report.
Are you comfortable with the fact that we now know from the Mueller report that the president wanted the deputy attorney general and the acting attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to come out in a press conference to the American people and lie and say that it was his idea to fire James Comey? He refused, right? And Priebus was, according to this report, screaming about it, trying to get him to do that.
Are you comfortable with that? And are you comfortable with the president ordering Don McGahn, you know, to carry out the firing of the special counsel?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I'm not comfortable with it; and I'm glad that Rosenstein and I'm glad that McGahn made the decisions they did. Because it prevented the president's worst impulses in this case from coming true.
Now, I get the impulses. I think he was frustrated. I think that he didn't believe that he had colluded with Russia and that he was being unfairly targeted in this investigation. So I understand the emotion. But the impulse was incorrect.
HARLOW: But are those presidential -- so I'm just wondering if it concerns you, for someone who's running again for the highest office, right, because we hold presidents to have -- they should have better temperament than the rest of us, right?
JENNINGS: Yes, look, I think he needs to learn from this and -- and not make these mistakes again. I'm not going to sit here and defend those impulses, because they were clearly the incorrect impulses.
However, on the other hand, what he said from the beginning turned out to be the truth. There was no collusion. And I understand the human emotion of frustration when you're being publicly accused by all these Democrats for two straight years of doing something that you know that you didn't do.
So I think there's a balance here that we have to understand the frustration, but no, I'm not going to defend the impulse. And by the way, the people who work for the president -- Don McGahn, Rosenstein, the other people in -- Rick Dearborn, who I know and is a great guy -- all of these people who made the correct decisions, I think we need to make note of that tonight. [00:55:14] They did the right thing by the American people by not
carrying out some of these impulses. They did the right thing, and I'm glad they were there.
HARLOW: Appreciate you all being with me. We are live here on the East Coast. It is almost 1 a.m., and if you're just on page 447 of this report, you're almost done.
Stay with us. I'm back on the other side.
HARLOW: We are live in New York, where it is 1 a.m. in the morning. I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us.
If you have not read all 448 pages of the Mueller report, here are your headlines. The special counsel found no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia interference in the 2016 election, but at the same time, no exoneration when it comes to President Trump and the question of obstruction of justice.