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President Trump Says He Won't Let Don McGahn Testify To Congress; Don's Take On The Legal Battle Over The Mueller Investigation; Nancy Pelosi Says Barr Lied To Congress And That's A Crime; Liberals And Conservatives Polar Opposites; William Barr's Handling Of The Mueller Report; Escalating Feud Between Attorney General Barr And The House Judiciary Committee. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 2, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Peace is temporary. We know that. Mental illness is too often forever. I'm sorry to be heavy, but I have never argued anything to you that matters more than this. That is all for us tonight, thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: We've all dealt with it, either ourselves or someone we love, someone in our family, friends, co-workers, we've all dealt with it and it's time for the stigma to go away. I was speaking on the plane the other day to someone who works with these sorts of things. And she said, and I hope I have it correct, she said this, it's a brain disease with behavioral and psychological effects. It's a disease of the brain.
And as long as we understand that and learn that, that there is no stigma, there's nothing wrong with going to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist for help, it's actually really good if you do that. There's nothing wrong with being prescribed by a doctor drugs for depression or for bipolar disorder or for anything. There's nothing wrong with that. We should encourage people to do that. So I commend you for what you just did. Let's take the stigma off of this. I know we say it, but darn it we should do it.
CUOMO: I think you're 100 percent and -- but, you know, you're an open person and you are not --
LEMON: I've dealt with depression myself so I'm not --
CUOMO: It makes you completely common, by the way, makes you completely common. And what really needs to change in society and it really has to be reversed that when you know somebody isn't OK, and often we do, you're not seeing anybody, you haven't gone to a doctor, if you saw me sneezing and blowing my nose all the time, you say, you need to go to a doctor, man, there's obviously something going on.
CUOMO: If you see somebody that is off and they're just not right, you want to approach them, you want to talk to them. We have to get to that point in this society where we're talking to each other about it where it's weird if you're not getting help, not weird because you are.
LEMON: So, I spoke with, you know, Riley Howell, you did a fantastic tribute of him last night. I spoke to his aunt, a couple of his aunts were there, as I spoke to them and they were so heartened by what you did last night and they mentioned it to me. And they wanted me to tell you thank you for what you did in your closing arguments.
CUOMO: Well, I know you, you're so good to people, I know that you thanked them.
CUOMO: Because that kid gave us a reminder of what there is potentially inside all of us.
LEMON: Real heroism. Thank you, sir.
CUOMO: Thank you, sir.
LEMON: Good to see you.
This is CNN TONIGHT. Oh, and I'll see you a lit bit later on tonight on one of those shows that you're going to be on later, Chris, is he there? He is gone. Make sure you watch Chris. I think he's going to be on -- Chris, are you there?
CUOMO: Oh, I'm always here.
LEMON: You're going to be on Colbert, right?
CUOMO: I am.
LEMON: And you did something -- is it going to be on air what you did to him?
CUOMO: Oh, yeah.
CUOMO: Let's get after it. The best part of the whole segment, you weren't mentioned.
LEMON: Ok, whatever.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. So, let's talk about this, the White House would like you to believe that it's all over, its (inaudible) complete. Nothing to see here, move along. But the legal battle over the Mueller investigation is really just getting started. The latest salvo is the president -- the president says he won't let Don McGahn testify before Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've had him testifying already for 30 hours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, is the answer no?
TRUMP: and it's really -- so I don't think I can let him and then tell everybody else you can't, because especially him because he was a counsel. So they've testified for many hours, all of them, many, many, many people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, as far as you're concerned it's really -- it's kind of done, it's done.
TRUMP: it's a blank, I did say, well, one can and the others can't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so, is it done?
TRUMP: I would say it's done, we've been through this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over.
TRUMP: Nobody has ever done what I've done. I've given total transparency. It's never happened before like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Congress had to see that coming after the president again and again ordered his aides to defy subpoenas. Remember when he said this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, we're fighting all the subpoenas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, none of that sounds like total transparency to me. So despite what the president says tonight, despite what Lindsey Graham said when he declared the investigation over yesterday. That is really just wishful thinking. The thing is just getting started. The question is, what will Congress do now?
House Democrats, although they lost the battle to get another day of testimony from the Attorney General today. Preferring to hold their fire for the unredacted Mueller report. The House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: The challenge we face is that if we don't stand up to him together today, we risk forever losing the power to stand up to any president in the future. The very system of government of the United States, the system of limited power, the system of not having a president as a dictator is very much at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And then there's the White House, accusing Robert Mueller's team of playing politics with the investigation. And the five-page letter released today, but dated the day after the redacted Mueller report was released.
[22:05:02] The White House lawyer Emmet Flood writes that Mueller needed to -- and this is a quote "either ask the grand jury to return the indictment or decline to charge the case, even though that would expressly go against Justice Department guidelines." So, the guy who actually followed the regulations that say you can't indict a sitting president, the guy who is a straight arrow here, he is the one you're accusing of playing politics?
And there's more. Another quote. "Under a constitution of separated powers Justice Department officials should not be in the business of creating road maps for the purpose of transmitting them to Congressional committees."
Well, that is rich coming from a White House that has attempted to bend Congress and the courts to its will, a president who has trampled all over the separation of powers. And what Emmet Flood calls a road map is actually evidence, evidence gathered by Mueller and his team over the course of an almost two-year investigation which was his job.
Mueller never called it a road map. He called it an effort to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh. Mueller didn't tell Congress what to do with that evidence. All of this is just more gaslighting, frankly. After all the Attorney General proved in his testimony yesterday that he is in the president's pocket. When he should have said the president hasn't waived executive privilege he said, we haven't waived executive privilege.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, we haven't waived executive privilege.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He blatantly insisted that the president has been falsely accused even though what Mueller said was that he did not conclude that the president committed a crime, but he also did not exonerate him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: Most of the obstruction claims that are being made here, or episodes do involve the exercise of the president's constitutional authority and we now know that he was being falsely accused.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't agree with that, but that is OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He defended the president. Who once said flipping ought to be illegal. Defended him for praising Paul Manafort for not flipping.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: Discouraging flipping in that sense is not obstruction. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And the president who is ordering aides to defy subpoenas, to refuse to give Congress information must have liked the sound of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Did anyone, either you or anyone on your staff, memorialize your conversation with Robert Mueller?
BLUMENTHAL: Who did that?
BARR: There were notes taken of the call.
BLUMENTHAL: May we have those notes?
BLUMENTHAL: Why not?
BARR: Why should you have them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Remember when Barr pulled the wool over our eyes, talking in his confirmation hearing about how the Barr's and the Mueller's are such good friends?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: The president wanted to know -- he said, you know, Bob Mueller? How well do you know Bob Mueller? I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and how, you know the Barr's and Mueller's were good friends and would be good friends when this is all over and so forth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You've got to wonder whether they're such good friends now, now that Barr has disparaged Mueller's team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: I think that Mr. Mueller assembled what would be called a dream team, 19 all-star lawyers. Do you consider these lawyers to be the best and the brightest in the field?
BARR: Not necessarily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Downplayed his old friend's authority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a U.S. Attorney. He was exercising the powers of the Attorney General subject to the supervision of the Attorney General. He is part of the Department of Justice. His work concluded when he sent his report to the Attorney General. At that point it was my baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Even complained about the tone of Mueller's letter to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: The letter's a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: When is the last time you heard snitty? Snarky, maybe. Snitty, I haven't heard in a long time. I said it before, Democrats are going to have to decide if they're going to respond to all this at the ballot box or with impeachment. Nancy Pelosi still walking that fine line today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: Let's say sometimes impeachment is the easy way out for some of these people, because they know it will end at the senate's edge, but the fact is, is that we still have that responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:10:09] LEMON: Well, she is right. Congress does have that responsibility. So here's the question. What are they going to do now? What are you going to do now? Don McGahn has already spent 30 hours answering questions from Mueller's team and you've got to wonder, what's the White House afraid of now? We'll dig into it with Frank Bruni, Jennifer Rodgers, Max Boot, that's next.
LEMON: The president today firing off a new salvo in the administration battle with Congress, saying he won't let the former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with the subpoena to testify to Congress. Frank Bruni is here, Jennifer Rodgers, Max Boot. Max is the author of "Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Say it all together. I think we'll get some more sensitive tonight.
LEMON: Thank you all, but I'm going to start with Frank tonight. Listen, the White House is, I guess you can say, laying down the (inaudible), drawing a line here, saying they won't let McGahn testify, don't comply with the subpoenas. Why won't they let him testify? What are they afraid of? FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What are they afraid of? They don't
want people to hear what he has to say, they don't want him either reiterating what we know he said that's in the Mueller report or saying more than that. They don't want this story dragging out, they don't want these points made again and again. They want to turn the page.
But the White House is saying much more than that, if I heard correctly the interview that Trump did earlier, he was saying he doesn't want anyone to testify --
[22:15:06] LEMON: Right.
BRUNI: -- and he won't let anyone testify and if he lets McGahn testify, then how does he not let the others testify, so that's it, because, Don, he wants total transparency, to which I have two words, tax returns.
LEMON: Or sit down in an interview with Mueller, right? So, listen I got to ask you, they're now -- Jennifer, they are now claiming executive -- that they can claim executive privilege, even though Don McGahn already testified in front of Mueller. So, is that going to work?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not going to work. You know, it would be one thing if they were trying to claim it after just letting him testify to the special counsel. But now that the report's been released publicly and all of that testimony is public, there's no way to --
LEMON: Do they know that and they're just trying to buy time?
RODGERS: I think so. I mean, all of this is just a stall tactics, really, you know, it's going to go to the courts, the court's going to litigate that subpoena and then we'll have an answer. And the answer I think is going to be that Congress is going to get what they want.
LEMON: Max, the White House is claiming now that Mueller is playing politics when he made the decision, or he was playing politics when he made the decision to prosecute or not, right? Why would they claim that when it's Barr, Barr gave them what they wanted? I mean, if Mueller has made a decision it may not have been what they wanted.
BOOT: I mean, this is so deeply disingenuous, Don, they're attacking Mueller for not making a prosecutorial decision about the president. Well, he could have made one if they had changed the Justice Department position which says that you cannot indict a sitting president. So, let's see Bill Barr and Donald Trump change that position, say OK, we're going to lie to you and indict the president if you want, then special counsel Mueller, you tell us what you want to do, do you want to indict or not?
Let's see them do that. They're not going to do that obviously, because it's pretty clear that if Mueller could indict Trump, he would have done so. In fact, there was a report that a couple of the lawyers on his team were quoted as saying just that. LEMON: This is a line from the White House counsel letter to Barr.
Frank, I'm going to give this to you, under a constitution of separated powers, inferior article II, officers should not be in the business of creating road maps for the purpose of transmitting them to article I committees. I mean, what do you think here, is the president scared that the report leaves the door open to impeachment, you think?
BRUNI: I don't know, but I just think it's whatever way they can they are trying to disparage and marginalize this report. And they are saying either this is a legitimate or that the investigation -- I mean, they're still hung up on the fact that the investigation should had never taken place. And we're going to hear more and more in coming days about spying again and this notion that the Trump campaign was wrong as opposed to the villain here.
But, you know, what's so infuriating here, Don, is that reports speaks for itself. The report clearly does not exonerate President Trump, maybe the dots didn't link up in a way that you can say, here is overt collusion, however you define that, but this campaign was receptive to working with a foreign government.
You know, this campaign was receptive to having that foreign government help them at the expense of their -- I mean, that's all in the report. So, I don't know what it is in a sense that we're all arguing about here. The report speaks for itself.
LEMON: It does, but most people have not read the report. He is out there --
BOOT: Well, I'm telling them what's in it. And we know that the report does not exonerate Trump because Trump is attacking Mueller. If you've actually been exonerated, you're not going to attack the person who's exonerating you. That's pretty basic logical that the White House is failing here.
LEMON: That's too logical. You're way too logical. Here's my question, Jennifer, if -- let's say Mueller had made a decision, right, on obstruction, could all of this have been avoided?
RODGERS: Well, I mean, what would have been avoided is this ridiculousness from the White House counsel now and all the, you know, whining and complaining about exoneration.
LEMON: Even if he ignored the DOJ's guideline about --
RODGERS: He can't -- he couldn't have. What he could have said is we find that there's enough evidence, we would have attempted to indict the president by putting all this before the grand jury for an indictment, but we can't because of the policy. That's what he would have said, so we would have avoided some of the nonsense, but we still would have had the president kicking and screaming and saying, oh, but now it's the angry Democrats and they investigate the investigators. I mean, all of that I still think --
LEMON: Because I hear people saying, oh, you don't -- I mean, if you read it, it seems like that's to me, and I'm not a, you know, a lawyer or a legal person, but is he saying all this in legalese and people don't understand that that's what he is saying?
RODGERS: Pretty much. I mean, what he does is he goes through the (inaudible) instructions, this 10 obstructive acts and for each of them he goes through the three elements of the crime. And on six or seven of those he finds evidence or substantial evidence that that element was met, which if you do the math means that on multiple counts he is finding that all the legal elements of the offense are met. So, yes, he did find obstruction.
LEMON: Should Mueller have pushed harder for Trump -- to interview Trump in person? Could that have helped his decision on obstruction?
RODGERS: I don't know. I mean, it's hard to second guess it now.
BRUNI: History will judge that is a big mistake.
RODGERS: If he interviewed him he would have had a separate perjury count is what he would have, because the president would have lied. There's no question to that, but he had enough on obstruction without the interview.
BOOT: And don't forget, aside from all the criminal conduct that Mueller found the report is full of impeachable conduct, such as demanding that the Justice Department investigate his political opponent Hillary Clinton, or his contacts with the Russians. All that stuff, the lying about what he was doing, all that stuff is impeachable even if it is not criminal conduct.
[22:20:15] LEMON: Nancy Pelosi did not mince words when she spoke about her thoughts on the Attorney General right after this.
LEMON: We're back with Frank Bruni, Jennifer Rodgers and Max Boot. OK, so Max, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had some really strong words today about the Attorney General. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: That is deadly serious about it. As the Attorney General of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That is a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, she really believes Barr committed a crime then what is she going to do about it? What can she?
BOOT: Well, this is the problem, Don, this is why I am filled with rage and despair about the state of our democracy, because you are seeing people like Attorney General Barr, obstructer general Barr really and President Trump get away with things that are against the law and they're not going to be any serious consequences. [22:25:00] Because you can debate whether Barr committed perjury or
not, but if even if you could prove the elements of perjury, how would you possibly prosecute the Attorney General? Who would do the prosecuting?
Would he appoint a special counsel to prosecute himself? I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. Remember that one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon was that he did not comply with Congressional subpoenas.
These guys are not complying with Congressional subpoenas, that's on top of all of the crimes under the criminal law and the high crimes and misdemeanors that are detailed in the Mueller probe. But there's not going to be -- they're not going to be impeached and removed.
There is no way for Congress to enforce its subpoenas, because if they refer them for criminal prosecution to the Justice Department, Barr will laugh at them and if they try to do it through a civil court case it's going to take years. So, there is not justice being done here, Don.
LEMON: You were ample taunting about this when I asked you about this in the break, you are like this --
BOOT: I'm filed with rage and despair. It's infuriating to me. The rule of law is the foundation of our republic and we have this criminal administration which is violating the law and they are not suffering any repercussions, because they are being protected by the Republicans in Congress and there is nothing we can do about it for the next 18 months until the next presidential election.
LEMON: So, where does this go then? I mean, you heard Max say, where does this go after that contempt proceedings, impeachment, what happens?
RODGERS: Yes, contempt proceedings, the subpoenas will be litigated. I mean, there will be no perjury case for the reasons that Max points out and also I don't think the legal elements of perjury are made out even though I think he did intentionally mislead Congress and the American people. It's a big mess, it really is. I don't know what else to say.
LEMON: You know, I said before this whole Barr equation, this last time, right, but I said that it looked like -- I was telling my producers, it looked like that Democrats didn't really have much of a choice, but at least to head towards impeachment, because then they would be sort of giving a break to the guy or ignoring the rule of law is what I said and the procedures. So, what do you think right now with Barr, if they don't take a stand with Barr, what are they -- are they risking anything here?
BRUNI: Well, what are they going to do? I mean, they are taking a stand in terms of what they're saying in public. You know, you heard, you know, Jerry Nadler threaten him with contempt, but there's a limit to what they can do in terms of consequences as Max was discussing. So they are litigating this in the court of public opinion, they will
litigate this in other courts, this will go on and on, but the reason impeachment is becoming so seductive to so many Democrats is because they feel so helpless and it's something they can do.
Of course, the irony, is it something that they can do that leads nowhere because once it goes to the Senate, there will be no conviction and once again Donald Trump skates away, one of the most -- maybe the most unethical president we've ever had and a man who by all measures seems to be amoral, just keeps skating away from things.
BOOT: And I want to say something here to America, the people watching out there, wake up, you are part of the problem too, because people are so (inaudible) about what Trump is doing to assault the rule of law. And the majority of the public is against impeachment. If you're against impeachment that means there will be no consequences for the most lawless president in our history. That is a threat to our democracy.
BRUNI: You know, they may be against impeachment, Max, because they think politically it's a bad bet. Some of them are against impeachment, because they want Trump defeated in November 2020 and they worry that the noise of impeachment and the recriminations of impeachment will, in fact, increase the chances that he gets a second term, which I think would be a disaster for this country.
LEMON: And then he gets the second term, then the statute of limitations will have run out and then he'll face no repercussions, but if he loses then maybe they can do something --
BRUNI: Maybe there will be cops waiting for him.
LEMON: The reason I asked that, that is because, I said that is because the administration, they're stonewalling Congress, but can they fend off the Southern District of New York and those investigations by the New York Attorney General?
RODGERS: Whether they can or not, I don't know. You know, there's a possibility they may try to interfere through the Justice Department, they can stop some of it, including subpoenas issued by the Attorney General of New York State. They have information from Deutsche Bank that the president has block Congress from getting. So, there are things that are proceeding that he at least hasn't yet tried to stop.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you all. I appreciate it, Max, you OK?
BOOT: Yes, I'm going to be OK. I don't know if the republic is going to be OK, Don.
LEMON: Well, listen, a lot of people feel the way that you do. You're voicing the rage of many, many Americans. Thank you all again, I appreciate it.
Democrats and Republicans are facing off over Attorney General William Barr and how he handled the Mueller investigation. Two people on opposite sides of the debate will weigh in. That is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[22:30:00] LEMON: Democrats and Republicans are polar opposites when it comes to Attorney General Barr's handling of the Mueller report, many Dems saying that he has no credibility and should resign, but many in the GOP are standing behind him. So I am going to bring in now John Yoo, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the George W. Bush administration, also Julian Epstein who was Chief Counsel for Judiciary Committee Democrats during the Clinton impeachment.
So this is going to be a fascinating conversation. So I hope everyone at home is watching. Good evening, gentlemen. John, start with you, I want to jump in to Barr's handling of the Mueller report. You I'm going to start with you. I want to jump in right in to Barr's handling of the Mueller report. And you say and this is a quote.
You say Mueller left a gap, Barr just filled it, and that criticism of Barr's summary makes much ado about nothing. Why do you support how he's handling this?
JOHN YOO, UC BERKELEY LAW PROFESSOR: So Don, first, thanks for having me back. And my first point is this fighting about Mueller's two- page, three-page summary of the Mueller report. It doesn't really matter, because the report's out. You can all look at the report and see if it aligns with Barr's description of it or not. That overlooks what's really important in that Barr letter.
And what I think we should be talking about, which is Mueller chose not to reach any conclusion one way or the other about obstruction, which is a very strange thing for a prosecutor to do. But then Barr stepped into that gap and he decided I am the chief prosecutor for the United States. I am going to decline to prosecute President Trump for obstruction.
[22:35:07] And I am settling the matter. As you heard in the hearings yesterday, he said the justice department's role there all this is finished, done. And so Trump can't be prosecuted, ever, for this.
LEMON: So you think Mueller's letter lines up with what's actually in -- because I don't think people -- I think people are arguing over whether or not he shaped a narrative that was false. So do you think it lines up with what's in the Mueller report?
YOO: I do. I don't think it's like a point by point summary. It is just, I think, you know, I read the whole report and I looked at the letter. The letter is just like a summary of the bottom line, you know, that President Trump wasn't going to be indicted either for collusion or for obstruction. So I think it lines up pretty well.
A lot of the controversy is over whether Mueller was ticked off afterwards and then sent these letters which were released.
LEMON: OK. We'll discuss that. I want to get Julian in. We'll continue. We have more to discuss. You disagree, Julian, and say Barr is in a bad place politically and legally. Why do you say that? JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSELOR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE DEMOCRATS
DURING CLINTON IMPEACHMENT: Yeah, well, first of all, I think the regulations provide for the Special Counsel provided the attorney general a report and then contemplates that that report would be made public. It does not contemplate the attorney general propagandizing the report. And I don't think it's as innocent as John makes it sound.
I think Barr clearly left the impression with the public that Mueller could not come to a conclusion as to whether the president obstructed justice. And that's not really accurate. What Barr says, what Mueller says in the report, and there are at least four instances, six by some people's count, were all elements of obstruction are met and that he would have brought an obstruction case but for the Department of Justice regulations.
And Barr purposefully glossed over that and kind of propagandized that and left clearly misleading impression. And that's not his role to do under the regulations. Everybody that has read the Mueller report comes to that conclusion, I think. And I think that's what Mueller and the staff were complaining about. And so there was a certain level of dishonesty.
You know in -- during the Clinton impeachment, when Clinton was subpoenaed by Ken Starr, we all told Clinton that he had to comply with the subpoena, one, which Trump is not doing here. Because that was the best way -- and they had to comply with all of the other investigatory requests because that was the best way to get this issue behind them and to win the public argument.
And the White House is doing exactly the opposite. They're propagandizing the report. They're stonewalling subpoenas. They're now attacking Mueller. And this seems to be completely unlearning the lessons of 1998 that we learned during the Clinton impeachment. A couple of weeks ago, the Democrats were very divided on the question of impeachment. The story was starting to die down.
What Barr has done by, I think, misrepresenting the report, and what the White House is doing by stonewalling and attacking Mueller, is they are breathing new life into this entire Russian controversy, the attack on the election, the illegal attack, which Trump cheered and benefited from. They're breathing life into it. So I think from a legal point of view, I disagree with John.
I think Barr was outside of his scope in how he characterized the report -- mischaracterized the report. Politically, I think they're doing all the wrong things and just breathing more life into a scandal that we're going to see on the front pages now for the next six to twelve months.
LEMON: So let's talk about that, because, you know, John said that this was, you know, a battle over, you know, this four-page letter. But I think it's so much more than that. It's not just the letter. As I said, you know, you're saying that the letter doesn't matter because the full report is now out. But it was nearly, John, a month between Barr's letter and the full report. The cake was baked. Trump had the ability to falsely claim full
exoneration. Doesn't any of that matter?
YOO: Actually. I think -- I agree with Julian. I disagree with Julian on one part that the Mueller report had to be public. The regulations don't require it. It's a good thing, though, that it was made public. But I agree with Julian. And I think what you're implying, Don, which is -- I actually think that using prosecutors in the criminal law to try to contain an abusive president has been a mistake. It's been a 40-year mistake. It didn't work with Whitewater. It barely worked with Watergate, because --
LEMON: John, not to cut you off here, but listen. I don't disagree. I think there are many people who don't disagree. You have to stop attacking -- you know people have to stop attacking political enemies. But that's not the subject that we're discussing here. I think people have the right to question and to understand whether a public servant who works for them has been misleading or obfuscating or has lied.
[22:39:55] So if, you know, if Barr misled the American public in his letter, if he misled the American public in his testimony, if he misled the American public in his press conference, I think the American people have the right to know. You don't have concerns that if that did happen there are no consequences for it?
YOO: I am sorry. I thought you asked -- I was answering a different question. I misunderstood your question. No, of course, the American people obviously have a right to know if the attorney general and what he's saying is a lie. I don't think he lied to Congress. I don't think a prosecutor -- I mean we could all say colloquially, I think he's lying, he's not lying.
He's not committing perjury to Congress. I mean he certainly doesn't seem to have the intent to lie. And if you look carefully at what he said, I don't, you know, think these comments of his, like I don't know if Mueller disagreed with me or not. That's not really the kind of lies you're talking about with perjury to Congress.
Julian served in Congress. I served in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the time of Whitewater. I don't think we would have gone after someone for perjury statements like that.
EPSTEIN: Can I agree and disagree with John here? I agree, and I think the speaker --
YOO: Julian, you fully agree. Come on.
EPSTEIN: I think the speaker overstepped today when she said that he had committed a crime. I don't think what Barr said yesterday was perjury. I just don't think it meets the element. I think Barr was clear that the complaint from Mueller's office was that more information wasn't put out. So I think let's put that to the side.
The issue here is Barr's honesty about the Mueller report. If Barr had said that in his summary before the Mueller report was released, that there were four to six instances in which Mueller thinks that all of the elements of obstruction were met, but he decided not to bring an indictment because Trump would not have his day in court and couldn't defend himself. And we disagree with Mueller on those four to six obstruction cases.
And we've decided we're not going to bring a case, the White House would be in a much, much better position right now. But there's a much longer narrative here. There's a narrative of a foreign government illegally attacking the United States, Trump benefiting from it, cheering it, and then trying to obstruct the investigation into it.
And then on -- when you put -- when you connect that narrative to Mueller propagandizing the Independent Council report as I just explained --
LEMON: Mueller or you mean Barr?
EPSTEIN: I beg your pardon. Barr propagandizing the report, as I just explained, and then all of these other extraordinary and really unprecedented efforts to stop Congress from doing its oversight --
LEMON: Julian, here's what I don't understand.
EPSTEIN: That's just -- that's just -- politically --
LEMON: OK. So you said propagandizing, but isn't propaganda a lie. It's not the truth in some ways. It's -- so maybe you could -- propagandizing maybe could be lying, but it doesn't rise to the level of perjury.
EPSTEIN: The accusation was that he lied yesterday when they asked him about whether he knew that Mueller was complaining and Mueller's staffs was complaining about omissions in his four-page summary. And he kind of danced around that, but I don't think it reached perjury grounds.
LEMON: All right.
EPSTEIN: I think whatever term you want to use, mischaracterize, misrepresented. He clearly left the public with a misimpression. And for what Mueller had concluded on obstruction, for an attorney general to do that on something so propitious and so important, as Max Boot was just talking to, alluding to very eloquently, is just outrageous coming from a law, you know, a law enforcement point of view.
LEMON: I want John to get in.
EPSTEIN: Rule of law point of view. But also my other point is just very stupid. Barr has made things much, much worse for this White House right now.
LEMON: John, was -- let's be honest. Was -- and I will let you respond to that. And my question is -- you're going to respond to whatever Julian said. But my question is was Barr calling balls and strikes in Trump's favor?
YOO: I don't think so, but suppose he is. I don't think, just looking at the way he's acted. I think what he's been trying to do is actually rush the report out. I think what he was thinking, and this is just speculation --
LEMON: Why then not put out Mueller's summaries that he had already written for his own report?
YOO: Because I think he thought it would slow down -- this is what he says in the hearing yesterday, is he thought it would slow down the process of declassifying and scrubbing the report. I don't know whether that's, you know, accurate or not. I wasn't there. None of us were there. But let me just say, Don. I agree with Julian, and I agree with you in this sense.
That, suppose Barr was making things up, suppose he was mischaracterizing, misrepresenting, suppose it shows a political teenier, I think that's all great in a way. Because I think the constitution makes impeachment the real mechanism for controlling a president. And we have been making a mistake by expecting -- and the (Inaudible) expecting prosecutors who work for the president to take on the job of curbing alleged abuses of presidential power.
That's not what the framers thought. That's not what the constitution says. So if Julian and you are right this has the effect of prolonging the story and throwing it into Congress' lap, in saying you do something about it. I think that's what Mueller was doing. He's saying here's all the evidence for obstruction. Congress can make use of it.
[22:45:04] He talks about impeachment in a footnote of his report. Then I think that's actually working out of the constitutional design. And so let's stop talking about prosecutors, worrying about how Barr characterized Mueller or not. The real question before us now is whether the evidence in the Mueller report is going to be used by the House to open an impeachment inquiry, and that's what the constitution really puts the responsibility.
LEMON: Listen. I think that everything is so politicized now. If you push something to Congress or to the Senate, it's going to be politicized. I think Americans had confidence in an independent or a Special Counsel that it wouldn't be political in nature and that they could get down to the business independently, of whether and how Russia interfered in the election, and if the administration or the campaign was somehow complicit in that. Thank you, both. I appreciate it.
EPSTEIN: Nice to be with you, Don.
YOO: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: You as well. Republicans are closing ranks, trying to make it seem like all of the investigations surrounding the president should be over and done now that Mueller's report is out. But is it the GOP? Is the GOP really OK with all of this?
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A feud is escalating between Attorney General Barr and the House Judiciary Committee, Barr failing to appear at a committee hearing this morning, and as Justice Department refusing to comply with Congressional subpoena to turn over the full un-redacted Mueller report. Let's discuss now, Ana Navarro is here, Rob Astorino. Hello.
ROB ASTORINO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hello.
LEMON: I hope you guys heard that fascinating conversation.
ASTORINO: Yeah, we were.
LEMON: Let's see if you can live up to that. Rob, House Democrats blasted the attorney general for refusing to appear at today's hearing.
ASTORINO: (Inaudible) fried chicken.
LEMON: Not a word from Republicans, so why is that?
ASTORINO: You know there gets to be a point where basically everything has been covered. It is pure politics. And it does go into the realm of not oversight, because there could have been a lot of it, but pure harassment. And I think we are reaching that point. I mean he sat yesterday. He answered all the questions. It's not going to be the end of this, and yet they...
LEMON: Can I just ask you a question?
ASTORINO: Go ahead.
LEMON: Did you say the same thing during Benghazi?
ASTORINO: No. But here's the funny part. They're treating this like it's the first time it has ever happened. Eric Holder, who called himself Obama's wingman --
LEMON: I know, and if he didn't comply, then he's --
ASTORINO: And he was held in contempt. He was the only AG ever held in contempt, because he --
ASTORINO: This is different. He's giving his opinions about a report that was issued. Holder was thwarting an investigation where weapons were --
LEMON: Allegedly. That never came to fruition.
LEMON: That never turned out to be true. That became one of those conspiracy theories.
ASTORINO: Oh, come on.
LEMON: Yes, it did.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What aboutism, what aboutism, what aboutism. You know, people -- and it's happening all over in our political system. Democrats who were against, you know, getting Bill Clinton to have to admit to things, to, you know, obstruction of justice, perjury. They are now not against it. Republicans, like my friend Lindsey Graham, who were leading the charge back then, all of a sudden have had this coming to Jesus where it's a completely different world.
And we see that happen, and it when it comes to the attorney general as well. Look, the Congress has an oversight duty. And it does not feel like under Republicans that oversight duty is being upheld. I adore Lindsey Graham. I've known him for years. And it pains me. It pains more than I can explain to you, because it almost feels to me like part of Lindsey Graham died with John McCain.
I don't recognize this Lindsey Graham that in charge of these committee hearings right now. And it does not feel like we're getting all the answers. It feels like there's this like systematic whitewashing and undermining of the Mueller report, beginning with Bill Barr, who unlike, you know, Jeff Sessions, is lending himself to doing this in order keep his job.
Just what he did of when he released this, the timing of it alone tells you everything. He waited until the day before Easter and Passover to release this, when he knew Congress was going to be out for the next two weeks in an effort to try to deflate the story.
LEMON: Do you think they have been doing everything -- everyone saying this isn't about a letter. It's really about the opportunity to shape a narrative, and then after hearing him --
ASTORINO: Both sides are trying to do that.
LEMON: Listen. So both sides would try to do it, but there's only one side that is doing it in the moment that --
ASTORINO: Well, here's where I differ with you on that one. What was the first thing you've heard out of the mouths of how many senators before anyone even spoke? Impeach, impeach. It's like they're trying to get their own narrative now.
LEMON: You mean impeach Bill Barr.
ASTORINO: Impeach anybody. I mean Blumenthal can't run fast enough to a camera to scream something.
NAVARRO: But the Democrat that most --
ASTORINO: What she said yesterday was a very strong allegation.
NAVARRO: But Nancy Pelosi, you that said folks said that before saying that report. Nancy Pelosi, before seeing the report, had completely squashed any effort of impeachment because she thought it wasn't politically expedient. It's after seeing the report and seeing all of these redactions and seeing the letter from Mueller and --
ASTORINO: There were very few redactions.
NAVARRO: What do you mean there are very redactions? Everybody has seen the pages.
LEMON: Let me ask you. The Special Counsel laid out 10 instances for Congress to investigate for potential obstruction of justice. Are Republicans OK with that?
[22:55:00] ASTORINO: Left out what?
NAVARRO: Obstruction of justice.
LEMON: He laid out 10 instances of obstruction of justice.
ASTORINO: Mueller, if he felt very, very strongly about it, he should have said, we believe that there's a case for obstruction of justice and we believe it should move forward. LEMON: Well, he said there was a case for obstruction of justice --
LEMON: -- basically under the DOJ guidelines, I can't --
ASTORINO: He should have gone straight at it, because --
NAVARRO: Mueller has been the honest broker in this entire thing. He laid out the case, but he, you know, he also understood that he was under this DOJ directive. And he also thought that he would be unfair to the president if he laid out the case that he did -- he obstructed justice, and then there was not going to be a chance for him to defend himself because he was not going to be indicted.
Bob Mueller, regardless of what side of this you is in or on, we owe that guy such a debt of gratitude for his commitment to country over politics.
LEMON: Last word.
ASTORINO: Look. I -- everyone's making it out like this is, you know, a slam dunk, obstruction of justice. It's -- I think that's insane. And it starts with the whole Comey, should he have been fired and what was his reasoning, something even Comey in testimony the president can fire me for any reason or none at all. And so, you know, the Democrats are nitpicking every little because they have to keep this narrative going.
Because they failed on the Russia collusion, so now they have got to keep moving this ball, because we are going into a presidential election.
NAVARRO: -- because we are going into a presidential race. It is so necessary that the things that happened in 2016, the -- you know, the corruption of the integrity of the Democratic election system not happen again. I live in Florida. We just learned the other day that there were election systems in Florida that were compromised. This is no longer theoretical.
ASTORINO: No votes changed.
NAVARRO: We don't know that. We don't know.
NAVARRO: They have not said anything.
ASTORINO: Nor were there any votes changed --
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Listen, I've got to do. But I just want to say listen. You
mentioned -- this is what Comey said a while back. This is what he said recently. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can't resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump, and that adds up to something that they will never recover from, basically. And then he goes on to say that Trump eats small bites of your soul.
You wrote this about Lindsey Graham. You're very passionate -- you said many of us respected and admired you. You tweeted this today. You rode the Straight-talk express. You used to put principle over politics. You were a truth-teller once, and now you're wondering what happened.
NAVARRO: It hurts me.
LEMON: I got to go.
NAVARRO: I remember when Lindsey Graham was willing to risk an election because he believed in immigration reform.
NAVARRO: And to see him put an election above national security and above what I felt he believed is very, very painful.
LEMON: Thank you, both. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.