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Arrests Made in Journalist Lyra McKee's Murder; Mueller Report Gives Dems a New Road Map; Political Costs of Seeking Impeachment; Yellow Vests' Concern over Notre Dame Donations; Columbine 20 Years Later; Judiciary Chairman Subpoenas Unredacted Report; Egypt Referendum; Emma Thompson Joins Demonstrators in London. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired April 20, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The killing of a prominent journalist in Northern Ireland sparks international outrage. CNN is live ahead, where police just arrested two suspects.
Plus, the U.S. president, lashing out at the Mueller report, as Democrats demand a full, unredacted version. But that's not all they're asking for.
Also ahead this hour, a fiery stadium-style debate. Ukraine's presidential candidates take fierce jabs at each other ahead of Sunday's election.
We're live at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN NEWSROOM starts now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
HOWELL: At 5:00 am on the East Coast, starting with the breaking news around the death of a slain journalist.
Police in Northern Ireland have arrested two men under the Terrorism Act in connection with the killing. Journalist Lyra McKee was shot while standing near a police vehicle during a riot in Londonderry.
But the timing is ironic. This happens as the world remembers the Good Friday agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland. CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live.
Nic, what more are you learning from investigators?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the police say they've arrested two men, one 18 years old, one 19 years old. They're taken to their police headquarters in Belfast, some hour and a half from Londonderry. Not clear why these two were arrested. But police did release video material showing the two, showing at
least two involved in shooting -- clearly, in the police video, you can see the gunmen. So perhaps that's some of the evidence here.
But also we should understand when the dissident Republican group, the new IRA had the car bombing in January, this is the same group or part of the group that police believe may be responsible for the shooting of Lyra McKee.
When police arrested the people in that car bombing, they arrested a number of people but released them very quickly. It's not clear if these men are the men the police are looking for but this does seem to be a step forward in the investigation.
And the outrage and upset and shock at McKee's killing is being felt around the world. Even President Clinton tweeted his heartbreak about it.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Where she was killed, a shrine to her short life is growing. Flowers left clustered around a forlorn lamppost, as cleanup trucks do their best to sweep the murder from the streets.
"Not in our name." Everyone here united in grief and shock at Lyra McKee's murder, few more so than her partner.
SARA CANNING, LYRA MCKEE'S PARTNER: The senseless murder of Lyra McKee has left a family without a beloved daughter, a sister, an aunt and a great-aunt, as well as so many friends without their confidante.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): McKee had been covering riding in the Catholic Creggan neighborhood of Derry. Police had raided a house; local youths gathered, throwing petrol bombs and firecrackers at their armored vehicles.
McKee, highlighted in this police video, was standing near their vehicles. She had tweeted, "Derry tonight. Absolute madness."
In the melee, a gunman, highlighted in this police video, can clearly been seeing shooting at the police. McKee was hit.
MARK HAMILTON, ASSISTANT CHIEF CONSTABLE, POLICE SERVICE OF NORTHERN IRELAND: She was taken away from the scene in a police Land Rover and taken to Gallegan Hospital but, unfortunately, she has died.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): She was a rarity here, well respected, an LGBT advocate, one of "Forbes'" top rated under 30 journalists. She reached across divides. In an incredibly rare act of unity, Northern Ireland pro-British and pro-Irish politicians issued a joint statement, "The murder was also an attack on the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic process. We are united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime."
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who visited the town earlier in the day, joined in condemning the killing of McKee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: -- and of course to extend the deepest sympathies and sadness to the family --
PELOSI: -- on this Good Friday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON (voice-over): A terrible irony that she was killed 21 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed. McKee would have been 8 years old then. The peace that ended three decades of sectarian bloodshed was intended to give her generation a chance to shine. She did. And that's the tragedy.
CANNING: We are all poorer for the loss of Lyra. Her hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act. This cannot stand. Lyra's death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else's life and her legacy will live on in the light that she's left behind.
ROBERTSON: And another of the reactions you see here on the streets, where it's common to see pro-IRA graffiti, you see some of that defaced today. Where it's saying IRA defeated 2019 -- and it's really a clear message from the community here, that utter disgust with what's been done, the killing of McKee.
But the support that they might have felt, this terror group might have felt like it had in some tiny parts of this town, the message here is not any longer. Don't know how long that will last, however.
HOWELL: Nic Robertson, following the story for us, Nic, thank you.
HOWELL: Now to the Mueller report. The U.S. president and many Republicans are ready to move on after the release of that information. But congressional Democrats have a different idea. Here's a look at what they're considering.
They want the special counsel himself, Robert Mueller, to testify by May 23rd. They're looking into more probes, more investigations into President Trump's finances. And several former White House officials have been subpoenaed.
Last but not least, they want the full, they want the unredacted Mueller report. On that last item, the Justice Department did respond, offering to have some congressman read a slightly less redacted report.
Will that be enough?
Manu Raju takes a look at the Democratic demands.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The fight over the full Mueller record only just beginning, the Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee sending a subpoena to the Justice Department, demanding the full Mueller report, the underlying evidence, wanting all the information by May 1st.
But they are not expecting to get what they are demanding and that could mean that the court fight could take months and weeks to get what the Democrats want, if they are successful.
Also, they're planning on issues other subpoenas. They've already authorized to send subpoenas to five individuals, former White House officials, for records that they may have received from the White House, preparing to testify before Bob Mueller's investigation as it pertained to potential obstruction of justice.
One of those officials, Don McGahn, the president's former attorney, who, according to the Mueller report, was ordered by the president to fire Bob Mueller and, according to the report, resisted doing so.
Democrats want to learn more. Dividing the party in the days and weeks ahead, in the aftermath, is whether to pursue impeachment proceedings. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 presidential candidate, senator from Massachusetts, called on the House to open up impeachment proceedings.
House Democratic leaders are not so sure. Jerry Nadler said that's not his goal. He says it is to investigate what happened and for impeachment, they would make that decision after the investigation. Not closing the door but says he is not rushing into this at the moment -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.
HOWELL: Manu, thank you.
Some Republican allies of Mr. Trump claim the Mueller report exonerates him but one prominent senator, who is a frequent critic of him, is speaking not a statement.
The former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, writes this, "I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and the misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president."
And the president is lashing out in a series of angry tweets. Our Jim Acosta has this from the White House.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heading into a holiday weekend, President Trump is using some colorful language to blast the Mueller report, tweeting, "Statements are made about me by certain people in the crazy Mueller report which are fabricated and totally untrue.
"Watch out for people that take so-called notes, when the notes never existed until needed. Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the report about me, some of which are total bullshit and only given to make the other person look good or me to look bad."
ACOSTA (voice-over): But a former senior administration official confirmed one of Mr. Trump's comments in the report, when he reacted to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller by saying his presidency was over and that he was f'ed.
That official said the president, "wasn't whining. It was tactical bullying."
Mr. Trump's attacks on Mueller's team run counter to his comment last month, when he said this special counsel had acted honorably.
TRUMP: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.
ACOSTA: The president is also trying to shift the blame, tweeting, "Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 election was done while Obama was president. He was told about it and did nothing. Most importantly, the vote was not affected."
But former President Barack Obama says he warned Russia's Vladimir Putin against interfering in the U.S. election in 2016.
Also coming under heavy criticism is press secretary Sarah Sanders, who tried to explain an admission in the Mueller report that she was not telling the truth when she said former FBI Director James Comey was fired after losing the confidence of rank-and-file agents.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I said the slip of the tongue was in using the word "countless." I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot, like the Democrat Party. Director Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file within the FBI.
ACOSTA: Sanders made the comment both on FOX News and at the White House briefing.
SANDERS: Look, we have heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.
I said that it was in the heat of the moment, meaning it wasn't a scripted thing. It was something that I said.
ACOSTA: Sanders' deputy in an interview on CNN struggled to insist the president hasn't lied while in office, despite fact-checkers cataloging thousands of Mr. Trump's false statements.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did the president lie?
Did the president lie? (CROSSTALK)
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of -- I'm not -- no, I'm not aware of him lying. He hasn't lied to me.
COOPER: You're not aware of the president of the United States lying?
GIDLEY: He's absolutely coming forth and accomplishing all the promises he did -- he said he would do for the American people, whether it's building a wall or defeating ISIS, absolutely.
ACOSTA: The outgoing French ambassador to the U.S. tried to explain the president's behavior to "Foreign Policy" magazine, saying, "Suddenly, you have this president who is an extrovert, really a big- mouth, who reads basically nothing or nearly nothing, with the interagency process totally broken and decisions taken from the hip, basically."
The ambassador says White House aides don't know what the president is going to say and, if the president has said something, they don't know what he means.
Democrats say others in the administration also have some explaining to do, like Attorney General William Barr, who has repeatedly tried to downplay Mueller's findings.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, it was diminished yesterday. There was no reason for him to have that press conference and to try to explain away why the president did what he did.
And I think he did misrepresent the report, giving a partial sentence about some of these issues. It was just -- it was unnecessary. And I think -- I think he embarrassed himself. And I really think that's unfortunate.
ACOSTA: Later, the president posted a tweet, accusing unnamed forces of what he described as spying or treason. But like so many of the president's statements, he lacked proof or evidence -- Jim Acosta, CNN, White House.
HOWELL: Let's talk about it now with Natasha Lindstaedt, professor of government at the University of Essex, joining us from Cardiff, Wales.
Good to have you.
NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me on.
HOWELL: We heard in Jim's report how Mueller's report highlights a culture of dishonesty, not admitting mistakes, never apologizing. Sarah Sanders, in fact, we just her defending herself saying, I'm sorry, I was not a robot.
How does this wash over with voters as they look ahead to the next election?
LINDSTAEDT: I think it just affects voters in a very partisan way that we would predict, that Republicans don't seem to care about the lying or they don't think that the president is lying. They think he's authentic and that the full investigation was a waste of time and that Sarah Sanders is just doing her job.
I think that's one of the reasons why she's lasted in her position so long. It's that she has been willing to go to bat for the president and say whatever he has wanted her to say and has had no difficulty in doing so.
On the flip side, the Democrats are absolutely irate at how common it is for Sarah Sanders to just lie. She just does it with such ease and frequency to a level we haven't really seen before.
So the question is, how does this sit with independents?
It's not really clear how much they care about this. Looking ahead to 2020, if the Democrats focus on this too much it might backfire. They might need to really just focus on what they have to offer, instead of focusing entirely on, you know, the line, the constant line because it doesn't look like Republicans are really going to be swayed much by this.
HOWELL: Democrats point out that they do want to see more of that report, keeping in mind, Natasha, there are two lines of thought. Some are considering the path of impeachment. Others looking more toward investigations. A subpoena was recently --
HOWELL: -- filed. The DOJ calling that subpoena premature.
What are your thoughts about that?
LINDSTAEDT: Well, they need to subpoena the entire document because they want to have more information about what actually happened. Because a lot of information had been redacted.
And what the report seemed to be leaning towards is providing a lot of evidence that some kind of obstruction of justice had taken place. And there was a lot of instances of obstruction of justice that the Republicans had been aware of: the firing of James Comey; the FBI director Trump asking James Comey to be easy on Michael Flynn.
Of course, the instance in the report stated that Don McGahn, the counsel to President Trump, was asked to find a way to get rid of special counsel Robert Mueller and then asked to lie about it.
These are just some instances that the report mentioned. So if the Democrats want to get control over the report, read the entire thing without the redactions so that they can move ahead and figure out what they need to do next in terms of investigating.
HOWELL: One thing that became clear from the report, it really comes down to intent and execution. And it seems that many of the White House staff refused to carry out the orders of this president.
How important was that in all of this, especially for President Trump?
LINDSTAEDT: They saved him. They saved him from obstruction of justice because if Don McGahn, the counsel, had agreed to get rid of Robert Mueller, tried to get Rod Rosenstein to fire him, that would have been a clear case of obstruction of justice.
And they were able to step in, in key moments, to prevent him from basically killing himself. Because he doesn't really understand institutions, processes and how things work.
You can't just fire people when you don't like what they are doing. So he had some sound people around him that refused to do what he was asking them to do. In the end, that really, really saved him.
HOWELL: Natasha Lindstaedt, giving perspective today. We appreciate your time. Thank you.
LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.
HOWELL: Another weekend of Yellow Vest protests is getting under way in France. Police there are fanning out in force. This time, protesters are raising new concerns. We'll tell you why they are upset over donations to rebuild Notre Dame cathedral.
Plus, the world remembers one of the deadliest school shootings in United States history. Ahead, how the horrific Columbine massacre changed police response around the country. Stay with us.
HOWELL: In France, it's been 23 weekends in a row now, Yellow Vest protesters are on the streets, demanding social and economic reforms there. And a new concern of theirs, the huge donations that are pouring in to rebuild Notre Dame cathedral. Almost $1 billion have been pledged so far after that massive fire that destroyed most of the cathedral.
Some protesters feel their demands are not getting the same type of attention as it should. All of this comes as officials continue to investigate the cause of that fire. CNN live in the French capital with our Melissa Bell in Paris.
Melissa, this tragedy certainly was felt around the world when Notre Dame burned. But many of these Yellow Vest protesters, they feel the sympathy, they feel the money that's pouring in, could be better used on social issues that they are frustrated about.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, even before the fire on Monday night at Notre Dame cathedral, George, they have been calling this Saturday for a bigger protest than we've seen the last few weeks. Rather than tapering off since the 16th of March, the last day of violence.
You'll remember back in December, Paris suffered an awful lot of damage when those protests really got very violent. What the Yellow Vests are calling for is another big day of action, a Black Saturday.
This comes in the context of all that's happened since Monday, the extraordinary outpouring of emotion but also the investigation into what precisely happened at Notre Dame. That continues as well.
You can see behind me, the policemen around this, the Argatimes (ph). They've blocked it off to try to prevent too much trouble this Saturday. But, clearly, all eyes very much as well on what's happening at Notre Dame.
HOWELL: And, Melissa, specifically regarding that, more information from the investigators, I know that they're trying to get to the bottom of the specific cause of that fire.
BELL: That's right and there are a few leads. In fact, CNN has spoken to a police source involved in the investigation. We've managed to learn what they're focusing on. Investigators have really unable to get into the cathedral in the last few days because it had to be secured by the firefighters first.
We understood early on they were looking at it being accidental. That is what they thought happened. We understand the question is to do with an electrical fault, a spark perhaps caused by a short circuit. Renovation work was being done on the cathedral at the time of the fire.
We understand two elevators had been installed and the electrical equipment around that is one of the key questions that investigators are looking into. They're also looking into, George, the question of whether the fire sensors were operating properly.
According to CNN reporting, there was an alarm at 6:20 that allowed for the building to be evacuated. And there was another alarm at 6:43. And it was only then that the fire was spotted and fire services began to make their way to the cathedral to begin what was going to be a very delicate operation.
So the investigation continues. They've been speaking to any who was working on the site, also collecting amateur footage, photographs, video from tourists, anyone who might have been around at the time, to try to get a better idea of what happened.
And crucially, George, one of the construction companies said they installed a time-lapse camera on the day of the fire, completely by chance. That's been handed over to investigators and could provide some key clues. Beyond that, even as Paris braces for potential protests today, there
is a concert to be held here in Paris tonight for Notre Dame to kind of bring people together. And that big outpouring of emotion we've seen over the course of the last few days, tight security around that, as you'd imagine.
HOWELL: Melissa, I'm curious to ask you, many of these things tied together. On the day that we watched Notre Dame burning, that was the day that the French president was supposed to address the French people on many of the issues, the frustrations that they're speaking out about on the streets, venting their frustrations there.
Where is that conversation at this point?
And will it be enough to satisfy, to quell some of these protests?
BELL: That's a really good question, George. On Monday night Emmanuel Macron had been due to address the nation. This is after these protests have gone on for 23 weeks. It was the end of November that they began. All kinds of measures announced by the government never seemed enough to pacify the Yellow Vests.
So the government created again this sort of great debate. Emmanuel Macron went around the country listening to people, speaking to them, trying to hear the concerns of the Yellow Vests.
BELL: The result of that, the beginning of his announcement and his measures were due to be announced Monday night. Clearly that was cancelled because he rushed to Notre Dame to see what happened and be on the ground.
That's been postponed until next week. So we're waiting to hear what's been announced but we've had some idea, because there had been leakings of what he was due to announce to the press, none of which, for the time being, seemed, from what they're seeing on social media, to be pacifying those calls for action.
HOWELL: As you continue to monitor events there, thank you.
Back here in the United States, the U.S. state of Colorado, 20 years ago, the world watched in horror, as two students carried out a massacre at Columbine High School.
And now, two decades later, CNN's Natasha Chen spoke to some of the survivors about the horror that they faced and experienced and how Columbine changed the way police respond to shootings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two suspects with multiple weapons.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): April 20th, 1999, 12 students and one teacher brutally killed by two students, heavily armed with guns and homemade bombs at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
It remains one of the deadliest massacres in U.S. history and shaped how first responders and educators handled mass shootings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have students trying to come out of the windows.
CHEN (voice-over): This student coming out of the window was Patrick Ireland.
PATRICK IRELAND, COLUMBINE SURVIVOR: I had been shot twice in the head and once in the foot. One of the buckshots went through the electrical center of my brain and paralyzed me on my right side.
CHEN (voice-over): Ireland struggled to the library window for three hours as first responders stood back, worried about undetonated bombs still in the school. Today, officers try to go in and confront gunmen on campuses immediately. Students nationwide also practice active shooter drills.
WILL BECK, COLUMBINE SURVIVOR: I actually feel really good that they're trying to do something because just sitting there and waiting for more people to die is a horrible solution.
CHEN (voice-over): There is no magic solution 20 years later.
BECK: I think we should look at every conclusion and try to evaluate to say, is this really going to make a difference?
And if it does, let's do it and think outside the box.
CHEN (voice-over): And because of Columbine, mental health, gun control and social media are now looked at with utmost scrutiny.
FRANK DEANGELIS, FORMER COLUMBINE PRINCIPAL: If these shootings continue to happen. But my response is, how many have been stopped because of things we're doing differently?
CHEN (voice-over): In Littleton, Colorado, I'm Natasha Chen reporting.
HOWELL: The Trump administration wants to close the book on Robert Mueller's Russia reports. The Democrats not ready to turn the page just yet. Details ahead on that.
Plus, William Barr's legal bar.
Did the attorney general let the president off the hook?
We'll explore that question as NEWSROOM continues. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:30:00]
HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. The headlines we're following for you this hour.
HOWELL: On the Mueller investigation, now that the Mueller report is out, the first thing Democrats want, the unredacted version of that report. Our Pamela Brown has more.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Democrats on Capitol Hill are focused on the parts of the Mueller report they haven't seen.
The chair of the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena today, demanding the full report, along with all the evidence collected by the special counsel.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We need the entire report on redacted and the underlying documents in order to make informed decisions.
BROWN: Among the 1,600-plus lines of redactions, a detailed list of more than a dozen cases that Mueller's investigation either spun off or referred to other U.S. attorneys.
The report list two cases started by Mueller that are still ongoing and lists 12 others that were handed over to other jurisdictions. It's not clear where those cases stand. But, tonight, Democrats are raising concerns that those investigations will now ultimately be overseen by a Attorney General William Barr, who they say lost credibility by mischaracterizing the report in his letter last month and in a press conference Thursday morning.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's hard to imagine anyone trusts the attorney general after his performance so far.
BROWN: But a source close to Barr pushed back on the criticism, saying he followed through on his pledge to be transparent.
The report also reveals new details about the extensive interactions between the Trump campaign, Russians and WikiLeaks. Democrats are now demanding access to the information blacked out over more than seven pages covering the Trump campaign and, quote, "dissemination of hacked materials."
The heavily redacted section points to interest the campaign had in WikiLeaks' releases of hacked emails and mentions conversations the president had with deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, including one during a car ride to the airport, as well as with his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.
A few sentences that aren't redacted appear to suggest Trump may have had some knowledge of the WikiLeaks campaign.
TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.
BROWN: At one point, Cohen told the special counsel that after WikiLeaks released stolen emails in July of 2016, quote, "Candidate Trump said to Cohen something to the effect of" -- but then the rest of the sentence is redacted.
BROWN (voice-over): The report also details conversations between Jerome Corsi, an acquaintance of Roger Stone and former adviser to Trump and Ted Malloch, who has said he was an informal adviser to the Trump campaign. Malloch told investigators he and Corsi had multiple FaceTime discussions about WikiLeaks and says an unnamed person had, quote, "made a connection to Assange" about John Podesta emails.
That person, whose name is redacted, says the emails would be released prior to Election Day and would be helpful to the Trump campaign.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Whether these contacts were sufficiently elicit or not to rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy, they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral and unpatriotic.
BROWN: While the report says it could not prove a crime related to the contact it reveals Mueller's report may have been different with access to different information. The information was accessed by witness who lied, writing in the report, "The office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light or cast in a new light events described in the report. A portion of the report was redacted."
And attorney general Barr followed through on his transparency, extending an opportunity to view a less redacted view of the Mueller report. Democrats have declined that invitation -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Katie Cherkasky, a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, joining us from Los Angeles.
Good to have you with us, Katie.
KATIE CHERKASKY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good to be here.
HOWELL: So from what we've been able to read of this report so far, what are your key takeaways from it? CHERKASKY: The key takeaways that I would really home in on is the prosecutorial decision of AG Barr to decide essentially that there wasn't enough for an obstruction of justice. And I think that that is a very interesting legal call. I think that it was a very close call.
And I don't think that it necessarily exonerates the president, if you will, on the political side. But on the legal side, it absolutely seems to get him there, at least for the time being.
HOWELL: This report is about 10 percent redacted. Democrats want to see all of this report.
Should they be given access to the full report?
And do you believe that it would make a difference for these lawmakers, given what we already know and see?
CHERKASKY: Well, when you're dealing with anything from the government, there is going to be redactions. Some things have to be redacted as a matter of law. There is going to be more information that comes out. Congress is going to run their own investigations now and look into some impeachment potential.
So I don't know that it will make a big difference. There will be information that kind of spills out as other investigations close out. I don't think that it is ultimately going to change things legally for the president, at least at this point.
But for the purpose of potential impeachment, perhaps that would be something that should be looked into. So there are avenues for them to do that. And I don't necessarily think that it is futile altogether but I don't think that it will give us that much more necessarily.
HOWELL: So those redactions are said to be tied to at least 14 investigations, as Robert Mueller handed off other matters to other federal prosecutors. The Southern District of New York, for instance, investigators there may be looking into campaign finance violations.
How serious do you believe all of this is for President Trump?
CHERKASKY: Well, the Southern District has been looking into the campaign finance issues for quite some time. But the same policy is going to apply regardless of what federal district we're talking about. A sitting president cannot be indicted.
We don't know whether those redacted portions of the report pertain to President Trump himself or to other individuals who are close to him. So it is not necessarily that he is out of the danger zone altogether. But on the prosecutorial side, it is really pretty much a done deal, as far as I can tell at this point.
HOWELL: Consider this opinion from Bret Stephens, who wrote the following in "The New York Times" editorial, about not firing Robert Mueller. It reads, "Trump's absolution by Mueller did not come about because
his intentions were innocent but because his aims were thwarted or his methods were incompetent. If his own staff hasn't blocked him from firing Mueller, he would have done so.
"If Don Jr. had been delivered a crate full of stolen Clinton documents at that Trump Tower meeting with a shady Russian lawyer, he would have taken it."
Legally, it comes down to the question of intent and execution. And there are indications that this could have gone very differently, Katie, had his staff carried out the orders of this president.
CHERKASKY: I think you're right and I think that even AG Barr's opinion might have been different if those items had been carried out because AG Barr's --
CHERKASKY: -- analysis of whether there was obstruction really comes down to whether there was intent on the part of the president that was corrupt.
And if there was a corrupt intent in what he did to obstruct the investigation, then that could have yielded a different outcome. Now obviously he still wouldn't have been indicted because he can't be, per DOJ policy.
But it would have been a lot different for potential impeachment proceedings and for other actions that could be taken in the future.
So I agree; I think that whenever you're looking at a case, you look at the facts as they are and perhaps President Trump lucked out because of insubordination, of all things.
HOWELL: And Mueller did not make a determination on obstruction.
What are your thoughts on why he did not cross that line there and, ultimately, how the attorney general framed that part of the investigation?
CHERKASKY: Well, Mueller made it very clear that he wasn't going to make a comment on obstruction or on any criminal findings whatsoever because he couldn't indict the president or recommend indictment.
And per the policy of the DOJ, it wouldn't be fair to make such a recommendation and not provide a forum in which for President Trump to clear his name essentially. So that was somewhat an interesting part of the report. I think it was somewhat expected from most people.
But he pretty much punted question because he found it futile to really go down that path. I don't know if he agrees with AG Barr's analysis or if he actually believes personally that obstruction was committed. I think that is the million-dollar question obviously. But he is never going to answer that for us because he doesn't think that it is necessary from his perspective. HOWELL: All right. Katie Cherkasky, thank you for taking time with us.
CHERKASKY: Thank you.
HOWELL: Still ahead, a stadium-style debate with one person who is president and another who played president on TV. The latest on candidates competing for Ukraine's runoff election.
HOWELL: In Egypt, voters are at the polls. They are deciding on constitutional changes that could affect every branch of government, including the presidency. That means Abdel Fattah el-Sisi could remain in office until 2030. Egypt's parliament is dominated by el- Sisi's supporters and there are concerns any change can could undermine freedom in Egypt.
Also in Ukraine, voters head to the polls Sunday for a presidential runoff election. And on the ballot, the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, is facing comedian turned politician Volodymyr Zelensky, who has never held public office.
The two sparred in a heated debate on Friday in front of thousands of people at a football stadium. Polls showed Mr. Poroshenko has an uphill fight against Zelensky. CNN's Phil Black is following this story.
Phil, this debate in a stadium, Zelensky's idea. Poroshenko agreed to follow suit.
Who benefited best in a stadium?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, it was a big, boisterous, noisy event. More than 20,000 people in that stadium. And incumbent Petro Poroshenko thundered confidently throughout. And the crowd, well, it was largely filled with his supporters and they clearly lifted his performance, I think.
But he failed to land a killer blow and, more crucially, his opponent, Volodymyr Zelensky, didn't mess up. The political novice held his own, largely throughout. So in that sense, he won, because nothing really changes. The political momentum stays with him. He remains on track for a pretty clear victory in tomorrow's presidential runoff vote.
The debate itself was pretty light on substance. It was not a heavy policy debate. It was more personal, vitriolic, with Poroshenko repeatedly attacking his opponent, saying he is weak, inexperienced, not fit to be president or commander in chief of a country that is still at war. And Zelensky said that Poroshenko represents the old, corrupt, ineffective political history in this country and he's got to go. Here's a taste of both opponents performing last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I'm not a politician. I'm not a politician at all. I'm just a human being, an ordinary human being, who has come to break the system.
I am the result, Petro Oleksiyovych. I am the result of your mistakes and promises. This is true and you know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Mr. Volodymyr, you said yourself that you are a cat in a bag. You are not a cat in a bag, you are a bag. And your bag today is full of demons and cats, including all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: So unless something really extraordinary happens in the next 24 hours, something extraordinary is going to happen. Zelensky is going to win, a professional actor and comedian is going to be Ukraine's next president, a man who has become famous in this country through his portrayal of a character in a TV series, who accidentally becomes president and then fights corruption and oligarchs and cronies.
He's now going to get to do that in real life. That's his goal, he says. But crucially we don't know how he's going to do it. He's campaigned largely on platitudes. Fighting corruption, fixing the economy, ending the war. There has not been a detailed plan from this candidate. But he is likable; he smiles a lot. He's clearly very good at entertaining.
And he seems to mean well and so for most Ukrainian voters, according to the polling, that's good enough for them right now. At least it's, from their point of view, much better than the alternative, which is more of the same, George.
HOWELL: It is interesting to see what will be more important to voters as the election or as the decision draws nearer. Phil Black following it all. We'll stay in touch with you, Phil.
Still ahead, a dose of star power as an Oscar-winning actress joins the climate change protests that have crippled London all week.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:50:00]
HOWELL: We are following events in London this hour. Live pictures that we have for you, where nearly 700 people have been arrested in London's climate change protests. And protests continue, as you see this hour.
Activists have crippled the city streets all week long by blocking traffic and lying on the roads, lying on the ground. Some even glued themselves to trains. It's all inspired an Oscar-winning actress to join that movement. Our Anna Stewart has the report.
EMMA THOMPSON, ACTOR: We're here in this little island of sanity...
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A boost of star power for Extinction Rebellion.
THOMPSON: -- to join you all and to add my voice.
What we're protesting about is saving this extraordinary home of ours and also celebrating the passion and the inspiring energy of this young generation.
STEWART (voice-over): Actress Emma Thompson climbed aboard the pink yacht at Oxford Circus to read a so-called love letter to the Earth. The crowd sat down in silence.
THOMPSON: I would watch you in your hundreds, criss-cross, hunt on the wing. But you are now so few.
STEWART (voice-over): Then, when she was finished, the police moved in.
The silence broken as well as the mood. Some protesters attached themselves to the boat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not done?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want the government to come down and speak to us, (INAUDIBLE) about this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you prepared to get arrested now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
STEWART: So this is a new peace tactic, around 50 policemen here surrounding the boat in a circle. And there are protesters that you can see chained and glued underneath. They have been told they can leave but they certainly can't come back.
Slowly this ring of policemen are moving, pushing their way backwards until all the protesters get pushed away from Oxford Circus.
STEWART (voice-over): A second larger circle of police surrounded this; those stuck in the middle were given the option: leave or be arrested. Then began the real work, unsticking and cutting loose those stuck under the boat, forcing its captain to abandon ship before finally taking the boat away altogether.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so sad the boat is gone. It was like the heart of our campaign. But the campaign still goes on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't really matter about the boat at the end of the day. That was a symbol of the rebellion but the rebellion is still going on.
STEWART (voice-over): Extinction Rebellion have lost Oxford Circus, a key battleground. But they say their war on climate change is not over. Arrests were also ramped up at Waterloo Bridge. It hasn't been cleared yet but this flotilla of specialist police units could set sail for those shores next -- Anna Stewart, CNN, London.
HOWELL: That wraps this hour of the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For those around the world "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead.