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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Washington Post: Mueller Told Barr His Memo Failed to Fully Capture "Context, Nature, and Substance" of Mueller's Probe; Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) is Interviewed About Mueller's Objection to Barr's Depiction of Findings. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 30, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Good luck. USAFacts.org, people can go there and find out what's going on. I appreciate it very much.
STEVE BALLMER, FOUNDER, USAFACTS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, worried about Biden, the White House repeatedly bringing up the 2020 frontrunner unprovoked, why? Plus, new Republicans raising concerns about the President's pick for the Federal Reserve. This, CNN's KFILE unearths more damning comments from Stephen Moore. What's going on here? And a CNN exclusive, Boeing admitting a crucial safety alert didn't work on all the 737 Max planes, the same planes involved in two deadly crashes. Let's go out front.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Biden on their minds. The White House taking notice of the man who is now head and shoulders above his 2020 opponents now, Joe Biden. The former vice president about to speak to a crowd of supporters in the crucial state of Iowa. These are live pictures of the event. It'll begin any moment. As Biden today intensifies his attacks against Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: Limited to four years, this administration will go down in history as an aberrant moment in time, but give eight years of this administration in the White House we're going to forever and fundamentally change the character of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Biden's attacks frankly taking the White House off its game today. The President tweeted about Biden four times yesterday, but today when his top aide Kellyanne Conway was asked about infrastructure which was the topic of the day for the White House, she included this in her answer. Again, the question was how does President Trump plan to pay for his infrastructure plan, Kellyanne?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Middle-class is booming now despite what Joe Biden says. He also just sounds like someone who wasn't vice president for eight years, but him aside, his nonsense aside, why I'm on the subject of Biden since he's hovering over everything now. I'm just curious if he's dumped Obama, Biden - is he against infrastructure? He's been in government for nearly 50 years, why are the roads and bridges crumbling?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Did you hear the word infrastructure was actually in there? I'm glad it got in there. Look, again the question there to Kellyanne was about how Trump would pay for his infrastructure plan. It was not about Joe Biden. You sort of get the sense that Joe Biden is on her mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You brought up Joe Biden several times it was unprompted. Do you guys see him ...
CONWAY: How is it unprompted. He's a frontrunner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It was unprompted, Kellyanne, because no one asked you. But Conway is right, Biden is the clear frontrunner. As of now 39 percent of Democrats say Biden is their top choice. That's according to our new poll tonight which puts Biden more than 20 points ahead of Bernie Sanders, the closest competitor. And a new poll from Quinnipiac this afternoon mirrors CNN's results.
Arlette Saenz is out front live at Biden's rally in Iowa. So Arlette, what are you expecting from Joe Biden tonight?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Erin, Joe Biden will be taking the stage here in Dubuque in just a short while in his debut trip to Iowa as a 2020 presidential candidate. And earlier today he was very clearly trying to keep the focus on President Donald Trump going after Trump for his tax cuts to the same that he is a president that abuses power.
Biden has really refrained from engaging with his Democratic opponents like Bernie Sanders who over the past 24 hours has been trying to stake-out these clear differences between himself and the former vice president when it comes to policy, calling out - citing differences in their votes on NAFTA and the Iraq war. Today, Biden was directly asked about that criticism from Bernie Sanders as he stopped at an ice cream shop here in Iowa, reporter asked him about that and Biden simply said that he is proud of his record and that he'll be ready to engage with his Democratic opponents in those primary debates. That first debate being less than two months away.
But this is Joe Biden's third run for president. He's been here to Iowa countless times before, but he's never come to the state as a front-runner, leading that Democratic pack today. Biden did an interview with Radio Iowa here in the state and said that he doesn't feel any pressure as the front-runner but he is going to work like the devil here in Iowa to win. He told the crowd earlier today in Cedar Rapids that no one is going to work harder in Iowa than Joe Biden, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Arlette, thank you very much. And I want to go now to Troy Price, Chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party who worked for President Obama's re-election campaign and Hillary Clinton's campaign. All right, Troy, thanks for being with me.
So you heard Arlette going through what Biden told Radio Iowa today. "I don't feel any pressure. I'm going to work like the devil." Obviously, two polls today show him to be the front-runner by far. But the national polls as we know don't matter, what matters is the state. Is that the case in Iowa?
[19:05:01] TROY PRICE, CHAIR, IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, I think there's no doubt that Vice President Biden starts with an advantage. He has ran twice now in the State; 1987 and 2007. He's got a strong network in the state and he's going to be able to tap into that as he hits the ground here now.
But it's still very early and there's a lot of people out there, a lot of people I talked to who are undecided about who they're going to support on caucus day. So I think there's a lot of time left and I think we're going to have a lot of fun between now and caucus day.
BURNETT: I mean it's epic how long this thing is going to go on. I mean I'm sort of for parliamentary 1905 [00:00:30] system now. I'm sick of this like all we do is campaign, no one ever governs. That's an editorial note by me. OK, but Clinton won the Iowa caucuses, Troy, when you talk about who won by 0.3 of a percentage point over Bernie Sanders. OK.
He came in at 49.6, so obviously people know him, they liked him. Biden, as you point out, he's been to Iowa before, but the last time he competed there in 2008, he got 0.9 of a percentage point, finishing fifth. That is nothing to be proud of. The Sanders and others have a leg up. I mean if you're as well-known as Joe Biden, do you have something to be concerned about?
PRICE: Well, I think that - I mean, listen, there's no doubt that Senator Sanders also has a built-in advantage from the fact that he has infrastructure still in place from four years ago. But like I said, this is still anyone's race at this point and I think that the Vice President certainly has strong relationships here from those relationships from his past campaigns, plus also his time as vice president. He made several trips into the state both in 2012 and as vice president.
And so he's going to have a nice place to start off from, but like I said there's still a lot of time and this really comes down to who's going to build the infrastructure and who's going to put in the hard work to win voters ...
BURNETT: But the timing --
PRICE: ... in every county in the state. BURNETT: All right, so stay with me Troy, I want to bring in Jen
Psaki who knows Joe Biden very well and was the White House Communications Director for President Obama and obviously worked on his campaign, so has been up close with Joe Biden over many years. Bill Kristol Editor-At-Large of the Bulwark and founder of the Weekly Standard also with me.
OK. Bill, I know and our viewers know your feelings on the current President of the United States. You heard Biden, he is taking on Trump. He's doing it aggressively. That's his main focus. Would you vote for him?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE OF THE BULWARK; FOUNDER OF THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I might. I don't know if he's going to be the nominee, but look I think it's smart of him as a campaign strategy. One question about Joe Biden he's had two poor runs really for the presidency, successful vice president for eight years but that was really on Barack Obama's coattails, obviously. And so did he - whether you have a strategy apart from just I'm Joe Biden, I've been here a long time, I was Barack Obama's vice president, and he does have a strategy and his strategy is to run against Donald Trump not against the other 15 or 20 or whatever there are Democrats.
BURNETT: Nineteen, I guess, not counting him.
KRISTOL: He kind of ignore them and just take on Trump, be polite to everyone else and convince Democratic voters. And he's starting for a pretty strong place that he can be Trump, he can match up with Trump. He takes out Trump.
BURNETT: And that's all that matters.
KRISTOL: All of these other guys, they're nice guys, younger people mostly. They're going to squabble a little bit with themselves about this detail of policy or who's a little more liberal or progressive on this or that. And I don't think - I tend to still be a bit of a Biden skeptic, American politics usually go backwards, and elect someone who has been around for so long, who's vice president before so to speak.
KRISTOL: But I think he's running an intelligent campaign so far.
BURNETT: All right, so Jen to this point about going backwards and also as a nominee, nominating someone older, that's not the way Democrats usually go. You spent two campaign cycles on the campaign trail with Obama, Biden was obviously there. So as I've said, you know him very well. You've been with him. A lot has changed over just these past few years. Is Joe Biden ready for this?
JEN PSAKI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We'll see. I think part of what delayed his announcement was that he was talking to his campaign team about how hard this was going to be, that this is not going to be a coronation that there are a lot of candidates with a lot of excitement, a lot of support behind them, and that the gloves would be off. And they were right, the gloves have been off since the day he announced he was running.
I think what should be encouraging to them is in the CNN poll and some other polls, his support is pretty strong. It's also strong under some very important demographic groups including African-American women. Now, that's contrary to what you may see on Twitter, but that's encouraging for them.
I don't think right now he's running, as Bill said, this campaign kind of highbrow campaign against Donald Trump. He wants to position himself as being the best general election candidate. That's a strategy, but Bernie Sanders is running a brass knuckled campaign to take him out in the primary. You have to get through the primary to get to the general election.
So I think it's got to be more than that between now and the primary start. And I expect we'll see more than that.
BURNETT: And, Bill, here's the thing, Joe Biden is saying he doesn't want Obama's endorsement. Obama is sitting this out and to some that may sound strange, like if you can endorse Joe Biden and you're Barack Obama but nonetheless he said he's going to wait out the primaries. Joe Biden says, "That's fine. I don't need him." However, his new campaign video would uses Obama's voice and actually something Obama said when he gave Joe Biden the Medal of Honor. So here's Joe Biden's video today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:10:21] BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Joe's candid council has made me a better president. He could not have been a more effective partner in the progress that we've made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And then on the stump today, he continued. Here's Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We choose hope over fear. We choose unity over division. We choose truth over lies and we choose science over fiction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sounds familiar because it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We are choosing hope over fear. We're choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTOL: Yes. Well, look, why is Joe Biden at 38, 39 percent right now, not because he was a senator for 30 plus years because he was Barack Obama's vice president. Barack Obama is extremely popular in the Democratic Party, a two-term president and he's got to play that card first. I agree with Jen though, at some point he can do this for a couple of months maybe. I don't think he'll stay - he's built a nice little lead here.
KRISTOL: But at some point, the primary becomes a real primary, a real fight, and at some point he has to defend various votes, various positions, distinguish himself from other candidates. And I do wonder at that point whether as you've said earlier suggests the normal Democratic tendency which is to go younger when - the Democrats who replaced Republicans with Obama.
BURNETT: What Obama was, the whole hope and change, yes.
KRISTOL: A little bit backwards; Obama, Clinton, Carter, John Kennedy, even Franklin Roosevelt. I think all of the Democrats who've replaced Republicans in the White House in the last century, I think their average age is something like 48, I mean that's been the tendency among Democrats. So now look all the rules are gone and Trump ...
BURNETT: Who knows.
KRISTOL: ... changed everything and who knows. But I think Biden is up for a good start, but I kind of - I agree with Jen, he needs to have a pivot at some point where he explains, OK, going forward what's my visions.
BURNETT: Yes. Troy, does age matter? Obviously, Joe Biden is only a few years older than the sitting president, but does age matter from where you sit what you're hearing from voters?
PRICE: Well, I think what matters is who's going to put in the work and they want to know that someone who's going to be able to go out there and fight every day between now and the caucuses and fight every day from the caucuses to the general election. And then more importantly fight every day in the White House for them and fight on the issues that matter to them.
That's what people are looking for. That's what they're going to be looking at when they talk to these candidates and they size them up over the coming months. And I look forward to the conversations that Iowans are going to have with the Vice President and all of the other candidates that are running.
BURNETT: So Jen, obviously, it's purposeful. We choose hope over fear, unity over division. Those are exactly the words that Barack Obama used.
PSAKI: Pretty good line.
BURNETT: He's doing it on purpose, is that all good or does that carry though a great risk for Joe Biden? PSAKI: Look, I think right now he's wrapping himself in the cloak of
a popular former Democratic President. You always get more popular when you leave office. There's no doubt about that.
BURNETT: That's true.
PSAKI: And he remains very popular among the Democratic electorate. But if an endorsement of a popular Democrat wins an election, Hillary Clinton would be sailing to her reelection right now and she's not. So I think Joe Biden needs to be mindful of that and he needs to pivot to what he's about, what he's going to represent and how he's moving things forward.
He did a little bit of that today where he talked about the $15 minimum wage and buying into the public option. But I think when voters start to tune in, they're going to want more. I mean the poll today was interesting too because 97 percent of people knew him only 51 percent knew about his policies. So he's going to have to define that so that they have something to bite into when they're really making a decision down the road when people are really tuning in post Labor Day.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all. And next, more controversial comments surfacing from Stephen Moore as a growing number of Republicans are raising serious concerns about Trump's pick for the Federal Reserve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (D-TN): Comments like that sure don't make me happy. I'm sure they don't make you happy either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, a rare moment in Washington between Democrats and President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We agreed on a number which was very, very good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean it was all wonderful things, platitudes. What's going on? And then this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a time for us to address the ugly stain of slavery that is a part of our history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:14:44] BURNETT: Are reparations becoming the Democrats' litmus test?
[19:18:28] BURNETT: Tonight, a Trump pick in big trouble. Stephen Moore President Trump's pick for the Fed facing Republican uproar about his past more under fire for sexist comments. Some of the latest to be unearthed today come from our KFILE which found a comment in which Moore denounced the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. Writing the bill would be more efficient if it, quote, simply required every American household to write a $20 check to the radical feminist group of its choice.
Comments like these have Republican Senators like Marsha Blackburn not happy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKBURN: Comments like that sure don't make me happy. I'm sure they don't make you happy either. If he is the nominee, I will guarantee you one thing, this is something that will absolutely come up in that conversation, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Joni Ernst says she would be unlikely to vote for Moore if he were nominated and it isn't just women nor should it be just women who would be incensed by comments like those, Senator Lindsey Graham today describing Moore's potential nomination as very problematic. Moore tells CNN tonight that he wants to sit down with all of them and say, quote, I'm not anti-woman.
Manu Raju is out front. Manu, how much trouble is Moore in?
[19:19:40] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Significant amount of trouble. He is actually not even been formally nominated by the White House for this position, but already Republican Senators are saying, "Don't even bother sending up the paperwork to officially nominate him, because the chances of getting confirmed are incredibly slim."
That's because there are 53 Republican Senators, they would need to lose no more than three Republican Senators in order to get his nomination through and already more than three are signaling significant concerns. You name some of them including Joni Ernst to communicate with the White House that he'd be unlikely to get confirmed if he does actually get nominated and other Republican Senators saying that they will be unlikely to vote for him.
Now, Moore told CNN tonight that he does not plan to step aside at the moment but ultimately this will be a decision, Erin, for the White House whether they want to put their colleagues through this kind of fight which Moore would undoubtedly get scrutinized for his writings and Republicans could have to take a tough vote because Democrats are signaling that they are going to vote in unison against his nomination and one key Republican Senator, Erin, John Thune. Remember, two Republican told CNN you have to know you're going to
have - telling the White House they should know that nominees will get this kind of analysis or scrutiny. It'd be helpful if they knew that before they nominated these individuals, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Manu. I want to go to Joan Walsh National Affairs Correspondent with The Nation and Rob Astorino, a Member of President Trump's 2020 Re-Elect Advisory Council. Joan, these comments from Moore - this is the guy I've known a long time. Obviously, I've never personally heard him speak this way at all, but this is over many years. It's extremely consistent.
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: It's disqualifying. It's absolutely disqualifying. I think that we will see his nomination not come to fruition. Let's watch Twitter tonight and tomorrow, I think even this President is going to have a hard time with that. But I just have to say I think Steve Moore has been trying out on TV and in op-ed columns for this job and he impressed the President for his willingness to just back him whatever. He used to be a deficit hawk, deficits are terrible. Now, deficits are fine.
WALSH: He used to be hike interest rates under Obama. Now, the whole Fed should be gone. They should lower interest rates under Trump. So he's been looking for someone to do his bidding and he thinks he found him, but I don't think this is going to work.
BURNETT: I mean, Rob, just to remind people some of what Moore said, another column, this from 2000 he complained about his wife voting for Democrats writing, quote, women are so malleable. No wonder there's a gender gap. And then there are things like this on this show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MOORE, TRUMP'S FEDERAL RESERVE PICK: I and most Americans love a woman who stands by her man. That's what a wife should do and stand by her husband.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I wanted to make sure we extended it so you could see my reaction to that, Rob.
ROB ASTORINO, MEMBER OF THE PRESIDENT'S 2020 RE-ELECT ADVISORY COUNCIL: But the flip side of that is that a husband should stand by his wife too.
WALSH: Good one, Rob. Good.
BURNETT: Yes, there you go. OK, Rob, here's the thing, how does this happen that they even get to this point? They come out, they publicly say they want this guy, they're going to put this guy out and this is all sitting there.
ASTORINO: Well, I don't think they properly vetted somebody before they put him out here. But having said that, the question comes down to, well, 53 Senators or at least 50 in the Republican rank-and-file find this to be so onerous, find it to be so terrible that they would not vote for somebody who based on his background is very qualified.
The Club for Growth is a very mainstream conservative economic think tank which he started. Most of these senators I would guess all 53 have had interactions with not just Stephen Moore but with the Club for Growth throughout their careers. So he's not at the mainstream on economics, he would go and maybe disrupt the Fed a little bit, but he's one of seven so he wouldn't be the deciding factor to do something silly like the gold standard.
BURNETT: OK. But, yes, if this is your economic view, then you have some serious issues and I mean this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOORE: The male needs to be the breadwinner of the family and one of the reasons I think you've seen the decline of the family not just in the black community but also it's happening now in the white community as well is because women are more economically self-sufficient.
Can I say something politically incorrect? Republican women are so much beautiful than Democratic women. Much more important than that, Republican women are so much smarter than Democratic women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Wow. I mean some of this probably makes him more qualified.
BURNETT: I'm just saying, Rob, now jaw was open, Rob.
ASTORINO: No. I was waiting for Jo to respond.
BURNETT: Your jaw was open. Your jaw should have been opened.
BURNETT: The decline of the family is ...
WALSH: I mean, come on.
BURNETT: ... again, I've known Stephen Moore for a long time. I am shocked to see all of this stuff coming out.
WALSH: Also, I do have to take issue with some of what Rob said in terms of him being qualified. He is a partisan person. He is not an economist, someone with a doctorate who really has been studying the economy. He has been advocating for a long time, Rob, and you think the Club for Growth is mainstream. I call it extremists, but whatever we can disagree about that.
ASTORINO: Well, yes, that's the partisan eulogies.
[19:25:03] WALSH: But that does not qualify you to be on the Fed and I think I will be surprised if the President braves this storm and pushes him on Republican Senators.
BURNETT: Rob, OK, this is a fair points, but Rob let me ask you, because John Thune points out, "Come on, guys. Do your work before you put these people out here and put us in a horrible position." In other words take a hike, Steve Moore. But Rob, my question to you is why? Do they have a vetting problem or do they know about this kind of stuff and frankly not care because women is not an issue this president cares about?
ASTORINO: No. I disagree with that. And I do think, look, if they vetted him and saw some of these and didn't think it would be completely problematic, some are, some aren't, some people are going to be able to poo-poo it and say it was done in jest or humor. Some are going to have some serious problems with it and clearly we know which ones those are.
Are they a hurdle that he could overcome. I do think he can. it's not like Herman Cain where there were sexual abuse allegations or misconduct allegations.
BURNETT: How do you sit down, Rob - he says he wants to sit down and say I am not - what was the exact words here? I'm just looking here. I'm not anti-woman.
BURNETT: OK. When he says the male needs to be the breadwinner and the reason you're seeing the decline of the family and it's happening in the white community as well is because women are more economically self-sufficient. I don't understand, Rob, how one can recover from that. That was said on CSPAN, so it wasn't a joke.
WALSH: That's a focus on the family's point of view.
ASTORINO: In 2000 I think it was.
WALSH: But I mean that's a focus on the family. That's a kind of right-wing mainstream right-wing point of view, but that's really not something economists we should be advocating for.
ASTORINO: But look ...
WALSH: It's terrible.
ASTORINO: ... we're making it sound like everyone is at a point --
BURNETT: "Women are so malleable, no wonder there's a gender gap."
ASTORINO: But we're making it sound like ...
BURNETT: "Send $20 to your radical feminist group of choice."
WALSH: Instead of passing the violence against women. BURNETT: You think that surmountable, Rob? Do you think that a guy
can sit down and, yes, sure, he's a likable guy in person. I have people suddenly say, OK, water under the bridge --
ASTORINO: Look, I think they're going to be more - they want an explanation on what he has written and what he meant, but they're going to want more information on what his policies would be and that's what he would be doing on the Fed. To say that the Federal Reserve Board nominees of both parties are not political is a joke. Every one of those, every one of those appointees came through the system, came through their party and there's a reason they got the plumest of plum picks, it's because they donated to the party or the president, it's because they've come through the party and they've known people.
So it shouldn't be any different for someone like Stephen Moore, put aside for a second the things that he wrote. It shouldn't be any different that he was picked because he's been involved in conservative party politics.
BURNETT: Right. All right.
WALSH: They sometimes buck their president though, let's just say that.
BURNETT: All right.
WALSH: They do.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all.
WALSH: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next breaking news, The Washington Post reporting Robert Mueller took issue with Attorney General Bill Barr summary and told him directly that it failed to capture the, quote, context nature and substance of his investigation. This is just breaking at this hour, obviously, a hugely significant development. The reporter who broke that is out front next. And the debate over reparations, picking up steam in the Democratic primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Charlamagne tha God: What about straight cash payouts?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:31:37] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The breaking news, Robert Mueller raised concerns to the attorney general, to Bill Barr, and he raised those concerns about the letter. Remember the Barr letter, right? And Mueller said that the Barr letter, it claims the principal conclusions of Mueller's report, right? You remember that. That was the letter.
According to "The Washington Post", Mueller told Barr in his own letter that the depiction of his findings in that Barr memo failed to capture the, quote, context, nature and substance of the Mueller probe.
OUTFRONT now, one of the Washington reporters breaking this story tonight, Matt Zapotosky, and CNN Justice Department correspondent Laura Jarrett.
Matt, so, tell me what you know, when -- how Mueller did this, when? Give us the details as you have them.
MATT ZAPOTOSKY, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, you have to flash back to kind of late March when Mueller ends his investigation and a couple days later, Bill Barr writes a four-page letter to Congress that lays out Mueller's principle conclusions and those by Bill Barr's telling are Mueller couldn't find coordination between Trump and Russia and he didn't come to a conclusion on obstruction, that's it. I think there were two quotes from the Mueller report.
So, in the days after that, we're still in late March, Mueller writes a letter. So, Bob Mueller to Bill Barr saying for all intents and purposes, you've mischaracterized my work. This really jeopardizes public faith in investigation. This summary isn't fair.
They end up having a phone call, hashing this on even more. Mueller wants to release more information. They don't do that but eventually more information is released.
BURNETT: OK. So, he writes a letter to Barr, there is a phone conversation where they actually speak.
BURNETT: OK. I know you have a lot more of the letter. The letter, again, the letter Mueller writes to Barr also says, quote, there is now public confusion about critical aspects about the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine the central purpose which they appointed a special counsel to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.
Matt, can you lay out how unprecedented a move this is, to come from Mueller who never speaks, never says I want to talk about the significance that you are learning about it now. The fact that he sent this letter that he said Barr was mischaracterizing. He talked to him on the phone, how significant is that?
ZAPOTOSKY: So, Mueller is so buttoned up. He barely said anything about the course of his probe, except one time he kind of emerges to dispute a "BuzzFeed" story. So, any time Mueller said anything, he thinks about it at great length. It's of great consequence.
He surely knows putting this down in a letter is going to memorialize it. This is going to become a part of history. And he is for all intents and purposes disputing how Bill Barr cast his work.
I mean, everyone can kind of read his full report now and come to their own conclusion. But it's just a remarkable thing for a guy so chain of command, so by the book force go outside and kind of question his boss, like what are you doing? And do it on paper in a way that he knows it will become public.
BURNETT: Right. He knew that would eventually happen.
So, what do you know, Matt, of Barr's response when he gets this letter, and obviously, then, who chose to follow up with the phone call, what happened?
[19:35:02] But what was Barr's response?
ZAPOTOSKY: So, this is just different people's perspectives, right? But from the Justice Department perspective, from Bill Barr's perspective, he is taken aback. He offered Mueller, by his account. He offered Mueller the chance to review that four-page letter that he sent to Congress and Mueller declined the opportunity to do so.
So, Bill Barr, the way it's described to us tonight is thinking, eventually, I'm going to release this report. Everything is good and then he gets this letter and is shocked, oh my gosh, I didn't realize there was this level of discontentment. He calls Mueller and they talk it out.
Mueller wants to release the executive summary, for people who've read the report, there's pretty extensive summary at the beginning of each section.
BURNETT: Yes, they are.
ZAPOTOSKY: Mueller wants to release those and even suggest some redactions so it's easier to do. But Bill Barr doesn't want to do that. He still wants to proceed on course to releasing everything at once, and eventually that's what happens just a couple of weeks ago.
BURNETT: So, do you have any idea why? So, Mueller feels Barr misrepresents the nuance, the substance, he feels that way. But you are saying Barr gave him the opportunities to review the summary.
Do you know why Mueller didn't take it?
ZAPOTOSKY: I don't know why Mueller didn't take it. Certainly the way the process would work is it's the attorney general's kind of decision on what to tell Congress and maybe Mueller as we've talked about. He's so by the book. He's so chain of command.
He figures Bill Barr is my friend. He's a Justice Department veteran. He's going to handle this the right way.
Then, it's handled in a way Mueller feels is the wrong way. He has to interject. But I'm speculating. I don't know why Mueller declines that opportunity. BURNETT: And one final question to you, Matt. When he takes issue,
do you know any specifics of the specific things he felt were mischaracterized? Was it all obstruction? Was it on how collusion was characterized or do you know any of those specifics?
ZAPOTOSKY: Yes. So for him personally, we don't know what's beyond the lettered and what we've reported in our story. Before this, we had reporting that members of his team were frustrated, particularly with the characterization on obstruction. They felt the case they laid out there was so much more damaging and compelling than Mueller couldn't make a decision, which is how Bill Barr described it. So, that was particularly frustrating to members of his team.
But as far as what was on Mueller's mind personally, we only know what is in that letter.
BURNETT: All right. Matt, thank you very much. Obviously, a hugely significant development in this story. I appreciate your taking the time.
Obviously, I want to go, we got a lot of people to talk through this because this is an important development.
Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean joins me on the phone first.
John, what's your reaction to matt and his team's reporting, again, Mueller telling Barr the depiction of his findings by Barr in that letter failed to capture the, quote, context, nature and substance of the Mueller probe?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL (via telephone): It's a pretty devastating report, particularly on the eve of Barr going to Congress to have to testify on this very subject tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's going to be grilled.
It's clear he was spinning what the special counsel did. He didn't do it accurately. The special counsel called him on it. He better have very good answers by tomorrow morning.
BURNETT: So, Barr obviously accused of misleading Congress when it came to the principal conclusions on the other matter when he was the A.G. On the central issue of, I know, Matt said it could be because he's by the book, right? But Barr writes the summary, he gives Mueller the chance to review it. Mueller does not. Then Mueller doesn't like it and proceeds with his own letter.
What do you think Mueller chose not the read it?
DEAN: Well, I think it was clear under the regulations, his requirement to turn the report over, his report to the attorney general and then for the attorney general to deal with it accordingly. And when the attorney general dealt with it publicly and inaccurately, he called him on it. And apparently from the reporting, not only was Barr surprised. But the people in the Department of Justice were somewhat struck by the, the result of the special counsel calling the attorney general.
They realized that he has probably misrepresented their work and now they were involved in this whole mess. So Barr is spinning this. He is taking -- he looks like he's ready to take a bullet for the president on this issue. He's let the president off scot-free and that clearly wasn't the findings of the special counsel's report we know now, particularly on the -- especially on the obstruction issue.
BURNETT: Issue of obstruction.
DEAN: That's a close call, yes.
BURNETT: So when they then have this follow-up phone call, according to Matt, Barr then calls Mueller when he got this letter and says we need to talk. And Mueller says, let's puts out the principle conclusion, which Matt accurately points out, they are incredibly detailed, they do bullet point. They give you a lot.
And Barr still says no, even though, according to Matt, Mueller suggested redactions with principles conclusions. Why would Bill Barr say no to that?
DEAN: He wants to continue to spin. In fact, Erin, when you have a chance to read the reporting on this on the next step how now the Justice Department is characterizing this whole incident, they're spinning it again, it is no deal. That these are two old friends, that they're going to get it right and if that isn't what's happening at all.
He's going to have to answer better than he has with further spin because Mueller is some day going to be testifying on this as well.
BURNETT: All right. Let me now go to the assistant House speaker, Democratic congressman from New Mexico, Ben Ray Lujan.
Congressman, good to have you. Your reaction from this reporting from "The Washington Post"? Bob Mueller says Bill Barr got it wrong.
REP. BEN RAY LUJAN (D-NM): This is both concerning and not surprising, Erin. This is the problem when Bill Barr acts as the personal attorney to the president as opposed to the attorney general of the United States of America. And tomorrow, there is going to be a lot of very important tough questions that have to be asked and that must be answered.
It also shows the urgency of why the attorney general must also testify before the United States House of Representatives before Chairman Jerry Nadler and the Judiciary Committee.
BURNETT: Why do you think this is coming out tonight, right? I mean, this didn't happen yesterday. Mueller had this issue, they had this phone call, this happened.
Obviously, Bill Barr is testifying again tomorrow. So, some -- you know, there is obviously, it would appear very fair to ask if there is a method to the timing of this information coming out. LUJAN: Well, one thing I always appreciate is good journalism and
investigative reporting. And whenever we're able to be fortunate to learn the important stories of what must be told that matters. But people probably find out tomorrow morning, maybe a little bit more as to the timing of this nonetheless, this is important to the American people to find out. Those are the merits that should be talked about.
BURNETT: So should Democrats impeach Bill Barr?
LUJAN: Well, I think that Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said there are a lot of important questions that need to be asked. What is concerning now is that the attorney general has lied to Congress not just once but on several occasions and once we get to the bottom of the attorney general, whether it was misleading the Congress intentionally based on the conversation and the reporting with the special counsel, Mueller is concerned with the summary of the reports.
BURNETT: So you are not going there yet. You want answers before you go there?
LUJAN: I'm not going there yet. This is concerning when you have someone that lied to Congress not just once but on multiple occasions. And now, there are questions brought forward as to the intentions associated with that letter. We need to get to the bottom of that.
BURNETT: All right. So, the letter, the Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler who, of course, would oversee any possible impeachment proceedings just tweeted about "The Washington Post" report in which he says Mueller has written a letter of rejecting the Barr summary of his report because it did not fully capture the content, substance and nature of the investigation, that's the quote from Mueller to Barr. Nadler writes, I have demanded the letter and Barr must answer for this Mueller must be allowed to testify.
Is that now going to be the number one focus and battle for you all that you want Mueller to testify?
LUJAN: Well, I again, I fully support our chairman, Jerry Nadler, with his approach and the investigations. Jerry has been abundantly clear that both should be in front of the committee to testify. I think it's imperative now we identify where these lies are coming from and who was misleading the Congress and get them before the Judiciary Committee as soon as possible.
BURNETT: So, you were at the White House. You were with the president. There was that meeting on infrastructure. There were a lot of nice things that were said that was before this report.
Here are some things Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer said when they came out of that room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We just had a very productive meeting with the president of the United States. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): There was good will in this meeting. We
agreed on a number, which was very, very good, $2 trillion for infrastructure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Is that all now back to ancient history, now that this happened?
LUJAN: Absolutely not. It was a very productive meeting we had on infrastructure that took place at the White House today. And I came out optimistic that we can put together a bipartisan deal with investment infrastructure across the country. But we have many responsibilities.
BURNETT: So you're still thinking as working with this president and not impeaching him?
[19:45:03] LUJAN: I am still looking at working to pass an infrastructure package that will create jobs across America, while Congress also takes its constitutional oversight responsibility serious on behalf of the country. We can do both.
BURNETT: Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
LUJAN: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, our breaking news coverage continues. We are just learning new details about Mueller's objections to Barr's summary. What were they specifically?
Plus, just coming in: new calls from Democrats for Barr's resignation. 2020 candidate Julian Castro weighing in, first saying he must resign or face impeachment.
BURNETT: We are following the breaking news, CNN now learning Robert Mueller complained to Bill Barr directly about the attorney general's letter, the summary, in which he described the special counsel's principle conclusions of his report.
"The Washington Post" first to report that Mueller wrote a letter to Barr in which he said in part: There is now public confusion about critical aspects about the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel, to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.
Of course, the letter also said that Barr failed to capture the, quote, context, nature and substance of the Mueller probe.
OUTFRONT now, our justice correspondent Lara Jarrett.
So, Lara, obviously, this is a huge development.
[19:50:01] What are you learning as to why? What was it Mueller objected to in Barr's four-page distillation or summary?
LARA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, for weeks, we've heard Democrats complained about that four-page letter, saying that it mischaracterized some of Mueller's findings and generally just unhappy with how he rolled it out. And, of course, the press conference that came afterwards putting the president in the best possible rosy picture. People have been very critical for how the attorney general has rolled that out.
But we're now learning that it was the special counsel that also had misgivings about Barr's four-page summary and thought that it didn't fully capture the full nuance of what we all saw in those 448 pages. Obviously, it's very hard to distill hundreds of pages into a four- page summary despite the attorney general trying to do that over the course of that one weekend. And we're learning that not only he write a letter to the attorney general but he had a follow-up conversation the next day with him where he said, look, the press coverage here is misleading, inaccurate, it's not fully capturing the full scope of my findings.
And so, it's really causing a riff between these two men who have known each other for a very long time but also I'm told by senior justice officials that Barr has been frustrated about the fact that Mueller didn't reach a conclusion on obstruction. There are certainly issues on both sides here.
BURNETT: All right. Laura, thank you.
I want to bring in Jen Psaki, White House communications for President Obama, Bill Kristol, editor at large, "The Bulwark", founder of "Weekly Standard"; David Gergen, advisors to four presidents; and still with me, Matt Zapotosky of "The Washington Post" who, of course, first broke this story.
David, what's your reaction to this news, that Mueller says you did not get it right, Bill Barr?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: Very surprised. One would have thought there would have been complete coordination between the two sides. You know, Bill Barr testified, I believe that, I believe he was testifying, but he has said that he offered Mueller a chance to review his document before it was published.
GERGEN: And also talked about the redactions and that didn't happen.
So, to some extent, Barr would say, if there were differences it rested on Mueller. He didn't want to get involved.
Having said that, you know, there's no question that the Mueller letter gives ammunition to those who have been skeptical about Barr and about how he was analyzing the report.
BURNETT: Ammunition, Bill, or more? Does this change the game? You heard Ben Ray Lujan. He didn't take any avenue he was given here on impeachment.
But this is not a small development. This is the special counsel saying I spent 18 or 20 months of this country's time and money and what you said I said is not what I said.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK : When serious attorneys try to be impartial, read the Mueller report.
Putting aside Barr's letter and press conference, Mueller is at least inviting Congress to consider impeachment on the obstruction issue. He's not telling them to do it. He leads that open. That's Congress's judgment to make.
And I think Barr did succeed in coloring things sufficiently that the Democrats have been very timid to make that obvious statement, that, look, we at least have to consider this. We're not going to say impeachment. I do now think they have to think seriously about impeachment.
BURNETT: This is a game changer.
KRISTOL: I think it is. Mueller is basically saying, look, I knew what I was doing when I laid these out and for Barr to conclude it didn't mean obstruction and to color he did in his press conference, I don't think there will be a lot of fighting about Bill Barr. That will ultimately be a sideshow. This affects Trump ultimately.
And one last point, certainly, Barr spoke to the White House before writing his four-page letter, we know that? I believe we do. And he spoke with them before his press conference.
So, it's not like Barr is acting entirely absent from having consultations with perhaps maybe not the president directly or maybe the president directly. I do think this puts the question of impeachment legitimately, leaving aside politics, front and center for Congress.
BURNETT: Front and center. You hear Bill use the word timidity. And it's a fair word that got all kinds of reasons for it. But you are not getting it from leadership. And, you know, they had to digest this now too.
But you heard Congressman Lujan, right? It was -- he wasn't ready to do it.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's true, but I do think that's because their objective, even in leadership, is to lay the public case. They know that the public is not with them or with the supporters of impeachment at this point. They know they have work to do to bring the public with them on making the case.
And this is the kind of letter followed by Mueller testifying, which I expect they're going to step up their asks for and their public pushes for, that will help them make that case publicly, especially on the -- of course, on the obstruction piece. [19:55:02] BURNETT: So, Matt, obviously, you can't divulge your
sources in any way, but could you contextualize for us why you think this is -- you know, you've obviously been working on this a long time. You get this information now, the motive of why this is perhaps happening now that you're able to get this information.
ZAPOTOSKY: Look, the thing I would say on that is that Mueller put this down in writing. This was going to come out. When you do that, you kind of keep book on somebody, keep book on your thoughts, that you know it's going to come out.
Bill Barr has right now two congressional hearings scheduled this week, tomorrow and the next day. If the next day, one, actually happens, this is something that's certainly going to come up at those. I'm not sure it would come up before we reported it or not. It will certainly come up now. That's all I can say.
BURNETT: That is for sure. Look, this is going to be in a sense a seismic shift in terms of the questioning, right? It's no longer people, as Bill said, relying on lawyers and interpretation. It is now the special counsel himself saying, yes, I meant something different.
All right. Thank you all very much. Our breaking news continues. Stay with us.
BURNETT: Breaking news: CNN learning Robert Mueller took issue with Attorney General Bill Barr's summary of his investigation. Sources are telling us that Mueller told the attorney general that his initial four-page summary of the report did not accurately fully capture the nuance, the substance, the context of the 448-page report.
David Gergen is back.
And, David, you think this completely changes the discussion on Capitol Hill?
GERGEN: I do. Not that it leads to impeachment directly, you know, of the president or, in fact, of Bill Barr. I think it gives the Democrats ammunition to push. To get Bill Barr up there to testify and under scrutiny and get the other documents, they need to push forward with this investigation.
I think this gives them a lot more strength to do that. That does change the dynamics.
BURNETT: All right. David Gergen, thank you so much.
And thanks to all of you for joining us, as this story develops tonight ahead of Barr's testimony tomorrow. Obviously going to change that, perhaps completely.
"AC360" begins right now.