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Mueller Report "Does Not Exonerate" Trump And Is Unable To Conclude That No Obstruction Took Place; CNN Estimate: More Than 36 Pages Worth Of The 449-Page Mueller Report Is Redacted; Mueller Found Evidence Of Other Crimes And Referred 12 Investigations To Other Prosecutors, 12 Of Them Secret; Kremlin Spokesman: Mueller Report Of No Real Interest To Russia; Mueller On Obstruction: "Unable To conclude That No Criminal Conduct Occurred; Mueller: Trump Stated More Than 30 Times In His Written Responses That He Doesn't "Recall" Or "Remember"; Mueller Report: Trump Campaign "Expected" To Benefit From Russian's Illegal Action To Influence Election. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired April 19, 2019 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: All right, welcome back. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow. We are live in New York and it is 2:00 am here. We are still up and if you're up, we're glad you're with us. We're up because it takes a long time to go through 448 pages. That is the extent of the Mueller report.
We can say this after reviewing the redacted version of Mueller's report, it found 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 for the question of obstruction of justice. This 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 listen to Attorney General Bill Barr's press conference this morning, you've heard him give the President almost a complete pass on any wrongdoing and repeated the oft used phrase from the President, "No collusion." Here he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: To 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: Now, Barr also made the case that he didn't have to release
the whole report, listen.
(END 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. He tweeted, "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."
Now, some legal experts, by the way, disagree with those claims from Barr and the President. But the President left Washington. He headed to Mar-A-Lago where he'll spend the Easter holiday weekend but not before he rejoiced with an adoring crowd at the airport and declare, quote, game over, folks. Except there are still so much that we don't know and it's not over, some 36 pages of that nearly 450 page report were redacted. So what are we not seeing? Let's talk about that and more with our Crime and Justice Correspondence Shimon Prokupecz.
So 36 pages, Grand Jury information and other four topic areas that are redacted here. What's the biggest question that stands out to you that we can't see?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, certainly the Grand Jury material is going to be important and I think that's something that Members of Congress are going to want to see eventually and they may get their way and they may wind up seeing it. The other thing is the redactions as it relates to the other ongoing investigations.
These are investigations that Mueller and his team refer to other U.S. attorneys. There's 14, according to the report. We only know of two. One of those most significantly is the Michael Cohen investigation that is being conducted by the Southern District of New York. Other than that, there's one investigation out of D.C. that we know of and then the rest is really a mystery. We really don't know what these other investigations are.
HARLOW: Explain to our viewers on the obstruction front, how much more clear is it to you now why Bob Mueller did not come to a conclusion on the obstruction of justice charge when we know we looked at 10 different sort of series of events?
PROKUPECZ: It's hard to say, because there's a lot of gray area there and depending on different lawyers will have different ideas about whether or not they could have pursued obstruction of charges here. It's still very puzzling why the Mueller team decided, "We're just going to let the Attorney General make this decision in the end."
It does sometimes work that way at the Department of Justice, but certainly when you go through every instance of potential obstruction and the way Mueller laid it out and the evidence that they gathered and the way they describe what witnesses told them and how witnesses felt about what the President was that asking them to do, there was enough there.
[02:05:03] HARLOW: Did you read this as him laying out a roadmap for Congress?
PROKUPECZ: Potentially, because he does talk about Congress in the report, so it could very well be that he knew where this was going and what he needed to do to leave what kind of impression he needed to leave with the public and also with members of Congress. There's no doubt he knew that this report would be public, eventually.
HARLOW: Right. OK, stay with me. Let's bring in our other experts. With me now, CNN Presidential Historian Tim Naftali, former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library. Max Boot is here, Senior Fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations and CNN Global Affairs Analyst and also joining us from Boston tonight Michael Zeldin, former Federal Prosecutor and former Special Assistant to, who else, Robert Mueller at the Justice Department. Good evening, everyone.
Michael Zeldin, let me ask you, this is a burning question I have for you because you're a guy who worked for Mueller. Why is he so quiet?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, ROBERT MUELLER'S FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT AT JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Well, he's quiet now because he's letting Barr do that talking for him. It's a bit of a mystery to me, honestly, why it is that Mueller allowed Barr to usurp his responsibilities. It is his investigation. It is his report. If there was to be a press conference, it should have been from Mueller himself, but Mueller doesn't see it that way. He sees himself by the Special Counsel regulations as beholden to Barr and so he has issued his confidential report to Barr and now it's in Barr's court. This is a failure --
HARLOW: Wow. Remember, Comey - James, hold on, but a lot of people just ripped into James Comey because he held that press conference and didn't even tell Aretha Lindt (ph) that he was going to do it.
ZELDIN: And he should have been fired for that, so it was improper behavior and Mueller is not about to become the next Jim Comey. And the problem here, Poppy, really is that the regulations that were put into place after the independent counsel statute expired handcuff Mueller from being able to be public and handcuff Mueller from being able to give to Congress ...
HARLOW: Can I --
ZELDIN: ... the report that he has.
HARLOW: Let me ask you this, because it was so clear so quickly this morning after we started reading the report that what Bill Barr said in his press conference was not fully transparent, especially when it pertains to the questions that were asked to him about the obstruction method right here and also what was said in the report, what Mueller did said about Congress. So knowing that that it wasn't - Barr wasn't - it certainly wasn't clear to me that he was channeling exactly what Mueller found in this report in that press, I think we saw that, that I just Wonder if you think as a guy who worked for Bob Mueller he's now really going to want to come out and accept this invitation from Congress to testify to set the record straight.
ZELDIN: Well, I don't know whether he views it as the need to set the record straight. We'll see whether he ascribes to the interpretation of Barr. But I think he will testify and he will have to answer the question of why did he ultimately not decide whether to bring charges are not bring charges but rather punted over to whomever, Congress or Barr, it's not clear who he was punting it to.
But I think that Mueller will be forthright in his testimony. That's his nature. But similarly, he's been a decision maker and so why he didn't decide in this case is really just the largest mystery of this whole investigation.
HARLOW: Tim Naftali, with your historian head on what will be remembered from this report 20 years from now?
TIM NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Well, I think what one of the things will be remembered is the absolutely appalling narrative of corruption, and deception that Mueller lays out in the second volume. I remember when I was studying Watergate, one of the things that struck me was a story that the President - as the Nixon's lawyer, Len Garment told, they were looking for a particular dicta about - that the president said he had made after meeting with John Dean, they couldn't find it.
So the President turned to them, to his lawyers and said, "You know what? I'll create one. Don't worry about it. I'll just create one and we'll say we found it." The Mueller team found at least four instances where the President created a false or attempted to create a false record. There was a conniving sense that the President understood he was creating something false. That to me is a sign of corruption. It's in the report.
I think what's going to happen is that people are going to ask themselves with the American people knowing this about President Trump. We don't know what's going to happen in 2020.
ZELDIN: Do the American people care?
HARLOW: That's what I was going to ask you. Will that be what's remembered if he wins in 2020?
ZELDIN: Well, if he wins in 2020 that's sending a signal I fear to future presidents that this kind of conduct is countenance by the American people.
[02:10:00] HARLOW: Yes. I mean we have this polling that I keep referencing tonight because it just came out yesterday from Monmouth University, Max, that shows that the majority of the American people want Congress to move on, 54% want Congress to move on, 39% want Congress to still investigate. Yes, this is before the full Barr, full Mueller report, the redacted version, but after the Barr summary. What does that tell you?
MAX BOOT: Well, I mean it's an understandable impulse because I think there's kind of a sense in the country, "Oh, we don't like this squabbling in Washington. Let's just deal with the people's business," and I get that. But on the other hand, the serious issue here is how are we going to hold the President of the United States accountable for conduct that is definitely unethical, and almost certainly illegal.
HARLOW: Well, people say that's what election do.
BOOT: Well, it is what elections do, but I think there has to be some question of what kind of signal does it send if conceivably Donald Trump actually could get reelected after doing this? That's not out of the question. But in the immediate term, I mean, there is all of this shocking misconduct and 10 instances that Mueller found were Donald Trump arguably committed obstruction of justice.
And if you actually read the details of the report --
HARLOW: Yes, I have them all right here.
BOOT: Yes, I mean, if you actually read it, you see this is not debatable. The evidence is there. Mueller really marshals the evidence and he walks through the arguments and shows why almost all of those cases that Trump defenses don't stand up and so what kind of accountability is that going to be?
HARLOW: So do you take that as the only reason he didn't think of the next step for recommending a charge on that was because of the OLC guidelines?
BOOT: Yes, that was my read. My read is that if Donald Trump or the Attorney General of the United States rather than the President of the United States, he would have already been indicted.
HARLOW: You also, Max, in your Washington Post column, you say the report does not absolve the Trump campaign of collusion.
HARLOW: I mean, that's --
BOOT: I mean Barr was being highly deceptive there because in fact he said no collusion repeatedly. If you actually read the report, Mueller specifically says we did not consider the issue of collusion. All we looked at was criminal conspiracy, but in terms of collusion the Mueller report finds numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
It finds that Donald Trump knew in advance about the release of WikiLeaks documents and it shows that there was in fact a nexus of interest between the Russians and the Trump campaign. The Russians wanted to elect Trump and the Trump campaign was eager to accept their help.
HARLOW: Shimon, how misleading, I'm sorry, I just have something in my ear beeping, I think they're going to fix that in the control room, how misleading was it and significant was it that Bill Barr in the press conference, the Attorney General this morning said the White House was fully cooperative, there you go, they're working on it, was fully cooperative. When the President wouldn't sit for an in-person interview, is that fully cooperate?
PROKUPECZ: And not only that, look, that is something that Barr could have addressed at the press conference instead of giving this defense of the President, which is ultimately what he did. He could have said more about how the President didn't answer questions. We know 30 times he said, "Oh, I don't recall. There's a lot in the written answers."
HARLOW: In the written answers.
PROKUPECZ: And he could have went into that. If you're going to sit there and say that the White House cooperated, everyone cooperated, the President did everything we asked him to do --
HARLOW: And they did give document and they did tell aides to testify, but it's not full cooperation if the President doesn't sit.
PROKUPECZ: Well, right. There was a lot of concern that if the President sat with them, he would be exposed criminally.
HARLOW: Tim to you, here the thing, I had Congressman Al Green, Democrat of Texas on who is adamant about impeachment. He says, "It is the duty of Congress to bring forth articles of impeachment. If they don't," he says, "Democrats will be waving the white flag of surrender." He is on in sort of an island right now. Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi are running away from the I word, if you will.
Talk to people about the difference between the Nixon administration, Watergate at that time, and when you had that critical question from Howard Baker, "What did you know and when did you know it, Mr. President?" How different is that from the Republicans in Congress right now?
NAFTALI: Well, there are a lot of things that are different. The first thing that is different is that --
HARLOW: But I mean in terms of the appetite of the Republican Party.
NAFTALI: It's the question of the evidence that's so important. You had tapes and you had a tape that the special prosecutor heard and the judge overseeing the Grand Jury heard and they both concluded the President had committed and obstruction of justice.
NAFTALI: The President was a criminal.
HARLOW: Right. NAFTALI: You've had no such piece of information that would have such
a shocking effect and by the way the people I'm talking about, one was the Republican, the other was a southern Democrat who tended to be more pro Nixon. What happens by the summer of '74 is that Southern Democrats and Republicans come to the conclusion that there is a pattern of corrupt behavior and that if they didn't penalize Richard Nixon, that would set a terrible precedent for the future.
So they felt they had a constitutional duty to remove him from office, but it took many, many months and they had to really sift through a lot of evidence. And at that point, they concluded this, the American people stuck by Nixon until he released the transcripts of the tapes. The ones that had exploitativedeleted. And a lot of Americans at that point thought, "This man is immoral."
But elected republicans waited until the summer and it was the cumulative effect of all this data that change their mind.
[02:15:36] HARLOW: Thank you for the history lesson, it's important. Max, is the Mueller report - and, again, it's still redacted. It's the Barr version, if you will, of the Mueller reports that the public is seeing today. Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning for the Trump presidency?
BOOT: Well, that's a great question. I think the real issue is, is this really going to change anything and I think it shows horrible behavior by the President, unethical behavior, lying, obstruction of justice. But there's kind of a sense in which most Americans already know this about the President for about 40% of the country. It doesn't really matter. I mean remember that Donald Trump said that he could choose somebody on Fifth Avenue.
HARLOW: Just going to say it.
HARLOW: You took the words out of my mouth, the Fifth Avenue.
HARLOW: And no one would pick --
BOOT: And that's one of the more accurate things he said. I mean, he lives a lot but that's true. There's about 40% of the country. It really doesn't matter what he's done and they will stick by him no matter what and I think the big difference Tim was talking about Watergate, the big difference is we just don't have as many Republicans in Congress who are centrist, people like Howard Baker who would really look at the evidence and draw their own determination.
HARLOW: Well, you also don't have the same, but to your point, Tim, about the evidence at that level.
BOOT: Right. Yes, there is not the smoking gun tape, but there's also not as many moderate Republicans. And two, remember in 1974 Democrats were in control of both Houses and today the Democrats could certainly pass an impeachment motion through the House.
BOOT: But there's just no chance they're going to get 67 votes in the Senate.
HARLOW: Right. Thank you all very much. We have a lot more discuss. Shimon, we're going to let you go to bed because you've been up for 22 straight hours. I'm thrilled to have you back on the air at 6:00 am. Thank you. Great job all day today. We appreciate it. We're back in a moment.
[02:21:32] HARLOW: All right, welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow live in New York. This is our special coverage of the Mueller report. The Special Counsel's redacted report did not clear the President of obstruction of justice. It left the door open for Congress to keep investigating him on that front if it so chooses and it is choosing to do so.
House Democratic leaders said to subpoena the full report. Also not happy with the Attorney General's interpretation of it. Bill Barr is certain to face sharp questions when he appears before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on May 1, and on the 2nd of May, the damage of fallout from the report still coming into focus.
There's no doubt about its verdict that Russia interfered heavily in the 2016 presidential election, in the words of Mueller and his team in a sweeping and systemic fashion. Among the report's revelations claims that Russia tried to hack Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016 just hours after then candidate Trump publicly called on those emails to get released.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Russia was listening. The Mueller report did not establish a criminal conspiracy of any sort between the President, his campaign, his associates and the Russian government. But it did lay out extensive Russian meddling in the election. The official Kremlin line tonight is that Russia doesn't care about the Mueller report. A Kremlin spokesman tell CNN the subject was of no real interest. So let's go to Moscow, our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is there with the latest. Not a surprising answer from the Kremlin.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. They've been trying to play down much in the same way that the White House has, the significance of this release saying that look it demonstrates that there was no wrongdoing that was done by the Kremlin. There was no collusion, of course. But they've been unable to say that the report underlines their central denial which is they didn't meddle in the election.
In fact, to the contrary, I mean, this is a report, the significance of which this Mueller report, it sets out in black and white the ways in which Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through a campaign, this disinformation campaign to sow discord the United States through its troll factory, its internet research agency as it was called in the Russian city of St. Petersburg and through the hacking of those Democratic Party emails and the release of those emails to damage the candidacy of the Democratic candidate at the time against President Trump, of course, Hillary Clinton.
Now, what was interesting, I think is that by accepting this Mueller report, Trump would also have to accept this idea that the Russians meddled in the election.
CHANCE: Something he's been very ambiguous about in the past. He said, "Look, maybe it was the Chinese, maybe it was some random 400- pound guy sitting on his bed." He now has to accept, I think, Poppy, that it was indeed the Russians that may have played a hand, played a role in this election.
HARLOW: Yes. They did. I mean I think that's a really important point, Matthew, because for everything that the President must have loved about Bill Barr's press conference on Thursday morning when he repeated no collusion, no collusion, Bill Barr also laid out the extent to which Russia meddled in the 2016 election. So there is the Attorney General siding with the intelligence community on that one and not the President who stood there as you know in Helsinki just few months ago and said essentially, "Well, why would Russia do that?" Right, Matthew?
[02:25:11] CHANCE: Yes. That's right. I was at that meeting in Helsinki.
CHANCE: And I was watching President Trump standing next to Vladimir Putin and actually saying that and seeing the shock amongst the press corps and everybody in the room that he would go against his own intelligence services while standing next to ...
HARLOW: Let's just listen to that.
CHANCE: ... the Russian leader.
HARLOW: Let's remind people of that moment, here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: 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: Right, Matthew, there was, it's so clear.
CHANCE: Absolutely incredible. I mean the other issue, this no collusion issue I mean what the report actually said, the line is that that the level didn't reach a criminal point. There was no criminal conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign or administration and the Russians. But it lays out again in black and white the extent to which members of the Trump team, if I can call it that, had meetings with Russians on multiple levels, I'm thinking of Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, the foreign policy advisors, Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump family.
It may have not reached the level of criminality, that's clear, but I mean morally, ethically, there are questions about whether those meetings should have gone ahead. They probably shouldn't have, frankly, but there you are.
HARLOW: It's an important point. We appreciate the reporting. There it is. It's Friday morning now in Moscow. Matthew Chance, thanks so much. Quick break, we're back on the other side.
[02:30:46] POPPY HARLOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: All right welcome back to our special live coverage -- continuing coverage of the Mueller report. If you're with us, maybe you've just finished reading. All 448 pages, it is extensive and significant. My experts are back with me, Michael Zeldin, Tim Naftali, and Max Boot. Appreciate having you all.
Michael Zeldin, to you, you know, that we just had this live report from my colleague Matthew Chance in Moscow who explains at the official Kremlin line on this is basically we don't care, we don't care about the Mueller report. It's not significant to us at all.
But yet, it laid out this sweeping nature of the extensive nature and long effort, you know back 2014 of the Russian interference in the 2016 election. And yet still. the president has yet to definitively say what Bill Barr said this morning which is, it was Russia, no questions about it.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It -- yes, and it's a mystery. Honestly, I'll be quite easy for the president to say that at this point. But he refuses to and it's hard to define for you why he would do that.
It is interesting to me that to Max, his point, while there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy or criminal coordination for Mueller's definition which is a tacit agreement to an express agreement between the parties. It is clear that there was overtures and acceptance of overtures.
ZELDIN: From the Russians and by the Trump campaign. And so, that's not collusion in a criminal sense, but is receptivity to overtures that should have been reported to law enforcement.
HARLOW: Right. Well -- And part of Max, I mean, part of the one of the many things instruct me reading through the report. All day to day, is that the Trump campaign expected that it would benefit from Russia's illegal actions.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right, exactly.
HARLOW: Not coordinated where to get it.
HARLOW: But did expect this will help us. And, by the way, remember all these people around the president than the candidate didn't run to the FBI. And say, hey, this is happening and were as a -- as a republic should be concerned.
BOOT: Right, exactly. And instead of saying, "Hey, this is a threat to our democracy, undermining our elections the response from the Trump campaign or was we love it. And let's have more of it. Let's see how we can take advantage of this Russian interference. And so, if this was not illegal behavior, maybe it wasn't illegal, but it was certainly unpatriotic, it was unethical. This is not how we expect a president to behave.
But if I could have one point, Poppy. One of the things that we still don't know even after 448 pages is, what was the exact nature of the relationship between Donald Trump and the Russians?
Remember, there was a counter intelligence component to this investigation, which has not been revealed today. And so, we still don't know about whether Donald Trump had a passed business deals with the Russians. Whether that of has affected the way he looks upon the Russians.
HARLOW: That's an interesting point.
BOOT: We don't -- you know, we don't know why, does he have this weird affection for Vladimir Putin. That has not been explained?
HARLOW: It -- It's an interesting point. Because, Naftali, you'll remember in that now famous New York Times interview that Maggie Haberman did with her colleagues. For the president called any investigation of his finances a red line, right? For Mueller. And Mueller didn't cross that red line here. He did not do what -- you know, the southern district look -- into Michael Cohen, et cetera. But Mueller did not go there on the finances. And that goes back to Max's point just about business dealings et cetera. Why do you think that is? TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, because I think the
Mueller teams laid out for us they're philosophy of dealing with the president. They did not apply certain prosecutorial approaches to the president. He was not a target of the investigation.
HARLOW: Because they knew or took from the OLC memo, you can indict a sitting president.
NAFTALI: So, you couldn't really charge. If he could defend himself in a court of law, you can't charge him. So, perhaps there were areas that didn't go into now. What they did talk about is the Moscow Tower. And I think it's extraordinary important for people to keep in mind that while the president is sending this signals to Russia, he is still interested in making a billion dollars in Moscow. And that means that his interest, are not those of the national security.
HARLOW: Except -- you know, for anyone who missed Rudy Giuliani's interview -- extensive interview with Chris tonight. Did Chris did a brilliant job on trying to get him this takes to the facts on? Giuliani says, there was no business in Moscow, all there is, is a signed letter of intent by the president, that's not doing business in Moscow, et cetera. I'm just -- I'm stating that for the record of that story.
[02:35:18] NAFTALI: Do you know it's -- and now what we can say, what so cool now, is we can say for the record, and we can quote interviews done by the Mueller team that proved that Donald Trump was interested in going to Moscow. And it's not just Michael Cohen who says so. There are others and they looked at Trump.
HARLOW: It's not illegal.
NAFTALI: No, but the timing is highly suspicious.
HARLOW: So, look! And Congress is going to keep going at this thing. We'll see. Max., all in all, the Kremlin's line is we don't care about the Mueller report. Was the Mueller report -- is the Mueller report a victory for Vladimir Putin? A defeat and nothing for occur for him?
BOOT: It's hard to say at this point, frankly. A lot of it depends on what happens. I mean, he out -- Mueller outlined the very extensive Russian scheme to penetrate the Americans electoral process and to influence that --
HARLOW: But -- and that's what I mean, is it he laid out how successful Russia was of that.
HARLOW: And by the way, Russia got what's it want -- what it wanted and that is Donald Trump as president.
HARLOW: So now, is it a victory, just having in out there in to world that Russia succeeded?
BOOT: Certainly, right. I mean, it certainly if there are not more consequences for Russia and if there are not more consequences for Trump, and you have to say, yes, in some sense, it is a victory, and it's a victory in other sense in that. We still have not really plugged the vulnerabilities that Mueller identified. And this is one of the major problems that we have here is that Donald Trump refuses to recognize the Russian attack.
And therefore, he refuses to martial a government wide response to it and to prevent in such attacks in the future. And so, we remain very vulnerable going to the 2020 election.
HARLOW: Is that really -- I mean is that really the -- it's true, obviously, that he is not acknowledging and that it was Russia definitively. But if you have the attorney general acknowledging it like we did this morning. If you have the I.C. committee acknowledging it, are we still more vulnerable because of the president does not acknowledge yet?
BOOT: I think we are, I mean, what -- you see is that the president subordinates have tried to take on this vulnerability on their own. But you really need a whole government effort which is catalyze from the Oval Office. And that is entirely lacking. And Donald Trump has never said to Vladimir Putin and to other countries around the world that if you do this, it is unacceptable. The message that he is sending is. I actually accept it, because it helped me.
HARLOW: Right. He didn't say those words. But I take your point. Yes, I take your point.
BOOT: No, that's the message that you see from him.
HARLOW: Before -- we get a quick break in here, Michael Zeldin, to you. Should we hear from Robert Mueller? Should he testify? What do you think the American people should expect from him?
ZELDIN: Honesty, transparency, and a clear explanation for his decision not to decide the obstruction case. Because I think that is the elephant in the room in his report. But I think Congress has said another duty to fulfill here which is. Tim spoke about the Nixon case and one of the things that I think distinguish Nixon from this case was that they were public hearings were witnesses came forward and spoke to what Richard Nixon had asked them to do.
Here all of the Congress did was to take this testimony behind closed doors. Where Congress to serve the American interest well here, I think what they would do is call Hope Hicks and Josh Raffel, and Corey Lewandowski, and have them say in public, what they said to Mueller in private. So we can understand what actually happened here in the level of sort of behavior that the president exhibited throughout the course of this two year investigation.
HARLOW: Thank you one and all, we have a lot more to get to obviously in this report don't go anywhere, our special live coverage continues after this.
[02:42:46] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back to our special live coverage of the Mueller report. Some 16 hours ago, the redacted Mueller report of the Barr version was release to the public. Our Pamela Brown was on the air pouring through when it broke and she breaks down to more than 400 pages for us. Here you go.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The more than 400 page Mueller report shows just how much the president feared the special counsel investigation when he first learned about it. "The president slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm F." And tonight were learning why. The special counsel's report saying, "A thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the president personally, that the president could have understood to be crimes or that would get rise to personal and political concerns."
The report contains a potentially damning list of ways the president tried to "influence the investigation, but was unsuccessful." Mueller writing Trump was said. Largely because the person who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or exceed to his request.
Those requests included asking then FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation, and to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. And ordering White House counsel Don McGahn to get Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Robert Mueller.
The report says, "McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday night massacre.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been totally exonerated.
BROWN: The special counsel's conclusion ultimately contradicts the president's claimed that he is totally exonerated on the issue of obstruction. Mueller writing "The president's actions and intent presents difficulty issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. 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 of the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.
Mueller telling Congress, it can go along whether the president obstructed justice, concluding. "That Congress has the authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, now request the Mueller testify before Congress.
[02:45:05] NADLER: Responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions.
BROWN: The report did conclude the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russians to hack the 2016 presidential election. But Mueller says, Trump's team knew, "It would benefit electorally from information stolen and release through Russian efforts. Mueller found the president's written answers on collusion between the campaign and Russia, "to be inadequate."
Writing, "The president stated on more than 30 occasions that he does not recall or remember or have an independent recollection of information called for by the questions. Other answers were incomplete or imprecise." But he ultimately decided not to subpoena the president. Writing, "It would result in a substantial delay." And adding, "We had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events."
The special counsel also revealed that the president and his then- personal attorney Michael Cohen had also heard the rumor that Russians had compromising tapes of Trump. Cohen received a text message from a Russian businessman that said, "Stop flow of tapes from Russia. But not sure if there's anything else, just so you know."
That businessman, later said he'd been told the tapes were fake. And a press conference held before the report was released, Attorney General Barr defended the president's actions.
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.
BROWN: Echoing President Trump's refrain.
BARR: Special Counsel found no collusion. There was no evidence of the Trump campaign collusion. No underlying collusion with Russia.
HARLOW: Pamela Brown, thank you for that reporting. Meantime, the Mueller report lays out in stark detail Russia's extensive efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. Let me read you another part of the report, and I quote, "One of the interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian affiliated individuals, the June 9, 2016 meeting between high-ranking campaign officials and Russians promising derogatory information on Hillary Clinton, implicates an additional body of law: campaign finance statutes.
Schemes involving the solicitation or receipt of assistance from foreign sources raise difficult statutory and constitutional questions. As explained below, the office evaluated these questions in connection with the June 9 meeting.
The office ultimately concluded that even if the principle legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving the campaign officials or individuals connected to the campaign willfully violated the law."
Back with me, Max Boot, Tim Naftali, Michaels Zeldin. Michael Zeldin, to you. CNN's reporting on top of what you just heard from the special counsel report is that others knew of Don Jr.'s efforts to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.
We know about it because of the e-mails, right? That were released. But, our reporting now is it, Rick Gates, of course, who is -- you know, a former associate of the president, it's been -- it charging all this. He all deputy campaign chairman. He also says that people like Don -- in addition to Don Jr. that Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner we're in that meeting in Trump Tower in June of 2016. How significant is that?
ZELDIN: Well, it doesn't both -- you know, it doesn't appear that Mueller is going to do anything with it. There are a lot of cases that have been referred to other U.S. Attorneys offices where it is redacted in the report.
So, we don't know whether or not Don Jr. has been referred to another U.S. Attorney's Office for consideration of this we know that Don Jr. was not interviewed by Mueller that could be because --
HARLOW: Just to be clear here, what -- just to be clear here, what the reporting is, is that they were in a meeting that Don Jr. was bragging about this, right? About getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.
ZELDIN: Right. That's right. There's no lack of clarity that Don Jr. was trying to obtain information from the Russians at that June 9th meeting and was coordinating with WikiLeaks to obtain information from them that would be disparaging of Hillary Clinton and helpful to the Trump campaign.
And Don Jr. was not interviewed by Mueller. So, either Mueller made a mistake in not doing that in relying on the congressional testimony. Or Don Jr. is a target of an investigation referred to by another U.S. attorney's office. HARLOW: There are 14 of those. But we have no evidence and no reason to believe that, that Don Jr. is a target. We don't know anything to that effect at this point.
And just to be very, very clear here, Tim and Max. This is before days -- before that famous Trump Tower, now famous, infamous Trump Tower meeting. That Don Jr. -- you know, ended up the statement misled. And said it was about adoptions. But again, we know from the e-mails, it was about trying to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Days before that, we know that Don Jr. announced a meeting of Trump campaign officials to sort of brag about and speak about. Well, hey, I'm pursuing dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And CNN's reporting lays out that these people were in the meeting, right? Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, and then joining late, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Is that relevant, does that matter?
[02:50:28] BOOT: Well, of course, it matters because this is part of this pattern of the Trump campaign being very eager for foreign interference on our election. This is highly improper now. Mueller went through the legal analysis and he determined why he would not bring charges including the fact that it's not clear that Donald Trump Jr. knew what he was doing was illegal.
So, in some sense, his cluelessness is a defense for him in this particular case. But stepping back from it, I mean, the broader picture is shocking that contrary to Donald Trump's denials of Russian interference, they knew the Russians were interfering, they knew that the Russians were trying to help them, and they were colluding on this. They were encouraging the Russians instead of blowing the whistle on them.
That is not a president who is defending the interests of the country. That is a president who was putting himself first, not America first.
HARLOW: Take a look at this. It just lays out how -- again, we know from Mueller report and our reporting beforehand that -- let me read to you this part, quote from the Mueller report. "The president told Hicks," meaning, Hope Hicks, "to say that Trump Jr. took a brief meeting and that it was about Russian adoption."
And the report, Tim Naftali, lays out sort of the back and forth to the president, Hope Hicks, Don Jr.
HARLOW: About -- well, Don Jr. wanted her to put in the word primarily about adoption, right?
NAFTALI: And the president edited the statement. It's another instance where the president wanted to create a false record. Why do you edit a statement and introduce falsehoods if you don't think you're covering up something important? What's striking really about the June meeting is not so much the information about it happening because we knew that, it's that Mueller is able to document the role the president played in trying to deny the American people the truth about that meeting.
In fact, the president assumed that the e-mails, his son's e-mails would never leak about the meeting. So, that he could lie about what actually happened. Never, never assuming that the truth would come out. That shows somebody who is covering up.
HARLOW: It's -- but it's not illegal, again to lie or mislead the people or the media.
BOOT: Right. But we got to be clear -- no -- you know,
HARLOW: I'm just asking you in the context politically as we head into 2020 and into an election.
BOOT: Right. No, I mean, we --
HARLOW: Do the American people care?
BOOT: We need a higher standard for our president, and you can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a criminal, OK? On the other hand, Mueller is also saying, "We cannot prove that he's not a criminal. In fact, we have good reason to believe that he is -- that he is, in fact, broken the law.
But in the particular case of collusion with Russia, I don't think it's acceptable to say, "Hey, we didn't break the law, so, of anything that doesn't actually break the law, that's OK. The president actually has an affirmative duty to the country as commander-in-chief, as a president, to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed.
Donald Trump has broken those obligations. He has lied to the country and he has shown no regard for the nation's welfare.
NAFTALI: And let's not forget which country were talking about. We're talking about Russia. A country -- a country that annexed Crimea. And that the U.S. government the Obama administration, the U.S. government viewed as a threat to our national security.
They're not just talking, they're not just playing footsie with any foreign government, they're playing footsie with an adversarial government.
HARLOW: Michael Zeldin, to you again, just to remind our viewers, you worked for Bob Mueller back at DOJ. And I'm interested at --
ZELDIN: And Bob Barr. I work for Bob Barr, Bill Barr, and Mueller.
HARLOW: Yes, that's true. Well, I'm so glad you're up with us at 2:53 in the morning. Given that expertise on all of this. My question to you was, do you believe that the -- Mueller could have done more? Could he have gone further here? Do you believe he had the sufficient basis to go further on the obstruction issue?
ZELDIN: Yes, I believe he did. And I don't understand the last statement in his report which said, essentially, "If I had more information or if I had more time, I might have been able to make a more definitive conclusion."
There was nothing that was preventing him from going forward with his investigation. And the notion that he didn't subpoena the president because he felt that was going to take time. The Nixon case went and he can confirm this with Tim from the time of the contest of the subpoena for the tapes to the Supreme Court resolution of it, was just a few months' time. It was not a lot of time.
And there's a lot that could have been done here. For example, you said, you asked the question about the Trump riding the Air Force One, denial the Jr. meeting. Remember, Mark Corallo, quit the administration saying that he thought it was obstruction of justice that he was witnessing obstruction.
[02:55:07] HARLOW: Yes.
ZELDIN: So, I think there's a lot more that Mueller should have and could have explained to us. And for some reason, he decided to stop what he did, and give it to Congress and say, you couldn't do that.
HARLOW: Oh, why do you think, you worked for them? You work for him, why do you --
ZELDIN: I don't know. You know, all of the time that I worked for him, the one thing that he was very good at was making decisions. Not always ones that I agreed with, but he was good at making decisions.
He is a marine. He makes decisions. And I just don't for the life of me understand why he didn't in this case.
HARLOW: I'm sure he will be asked. Should he choose to accept the invitation and testify before Congress? We know we will hear multiple times from the Attorney General Bill Barr. He is set to head to the Hill on May first and the second to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
This story is far from over. Thank you all for being with me. Gentlemen, I so appreciate your time and stand up late with us. Thank you for joining me, "EARLY START" is up next.