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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
DOJ: "No Conflict" Between Barr and Mueller on Policy Charging a President; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is Interviewed About Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Speech Today; Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is Interviewed About Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Speech Today. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 29, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:27] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
For the first time since being named special counsel, Robert Mueller spoke today publicly about the Russia investigation and his report on it. Everything about it was extraordinary, in particular how unpretentious and dutiful and serious Mr. Mueller was. There was no grandstanding, no puffed chest, no boast, no crooning about his accomplishments and how hard he worked and how hard the job was. There was no hurtling insults at anyone, even those who have been systemically trying to destroy his reputation.
No, listening to Robert Mueller today speak for just about 10 minutes, you knew you were listening to a serious person, a person of conscience, and a person who has lived a life of service to this country. Fifty years ago, that service took him to Vietnam. Today, that service ended with his call that we all take seriously, Russian interference in our democracy.
As I said, there was so much that was extraordinary about hearing from Mueller. There was the surprise of it, no big buildup, just word earlier today that he would speak at 11:00 a.m.
The content of it was extraordinary as well. What was less extraordinary is what happened as soon as it was over. The president and his allies completely contradicting and misrepresenting the words that had just left Robert Mueller's lips, trying to gaslight us and you again about what the report documents and what now private citizen Mueller said out loud today.
That in his word there were multiple systematic efforts to interfere in our election, that Russia attacked the Clinton campaign, that the Trump campaign welcomed the help, but that the investigation could not uncover significant evidence to bring charges of a conspiracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign's response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: He did not say "no collusion," as the administration says he said. The report does cite numerous instances of collusive behavior and would-be collusion. In addition, perhaps most importantly, and this is such an important point, Mueller today underscored his one conclusion that could result in President Trump's impeachment and removal from office if Congress takes up the gauntlet that Mueller seemed to throw down, namely that when it comes to obstructing justice, the president of the United States is not in the clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. Now, we conducted that investigation and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So me made it clear he could not say the president didn't commit a crime, but he then went on to speak at length about why he couldn't do anything about it. Couldn't do anything because of the rules barring the indictment of a sitting president that hemmed in the obstruction probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: The special counsel's office is part of the Department of Justice. And by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Listen to that. He and his team could not even consider charging the president with a crime. Those are the OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice rules that Mueller was operating under, that he accepted.
Now, before we go any further, just contrast what you just heard Robert Mueller say with Attorney General Barr's characterization, which makes it seem as though these guidelines did not drive Mueller's decision to neither bring charges or exonerate the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime, but for the existence of the OLC opinion. And he made it clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Again, though, here's what Mueller said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: The special counsel's office is part of the Department of Justice. And by regulation, it was bound by that department policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It sure sounds like he is emphasizing exactly what the attorney general said he wasn't emphasizing. Now, couple it with this and you get the picture he seemed to be painting today on obstruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: As set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:05:10] COOPER: And they did not say so. Did not say the president didn't commit a crime, not in the report and not today.
The president has been saying "no collusion," "no obstruction." Mueller didn't say that, which, of course, did not stop the president from tweeting just today, quote, nothing changes from the Mueller report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our country, a person is innocent. The case is closed.
That -- that is not true. What the president just wrote is not true. Robert Mueller didn't say there was insufficient evidence. He didn't. He said they couldn't bring any charge because of DOJ rules.
But you know the thing about gaslights, once they're lit, they're spread. Cue Sarah Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He concluded that there was no collusion, there was no conspiracy, and left the determination about obstruction up to the attorney general, because he couldn't find enough to make that determination himself. The attorney general and the deputy attorney general and other senior members of the department of justice made that determination, confirmed there was no obstruction, and the case is closed. And it's time to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. Keeping them honest, in order. He did not consider collusion, but found insufficient evidence of criminal conspiracy. Two, he left the obstruction determination to others not because of lack of prosecutable evidence, but lack of a mandate to prosecute. And Attorney General Barr did not, in Sanders' words, confirm there
was no obstruction, because Robert Mueller did not assert there was none. What William Barr did with Rod Rosenstein's help was decide, giving the president free rein to claim total exoneration, which is the one thing he did not receive, and could soon be the one thing for Congress to consider. The stakes are certainly high for Congress and the president, but also as this otherwise silent figure pointed out in closing, for the country and its institutions, as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: These individuals who spent nearly two years with the Special Counsel's Office were of the highest integrity. And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
One piece of breaking news just before airtime, the Justice Department and the Special Counsel Office putting out a joint statement on the apparent conflict between what Mueller said today about the rules against charging a sitting president and what Attorney General Barr said last month.
And I'm quoting now from this joint press release: There is no conflict between these statements." We'll take this up with our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, in our next segment and something we'll ask our next guest about as well.
There's certainly plenty to talk about with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who joins us now.
Chairman Schiff, there are certainly various interpretations of what Mueller said today, one of which is that he was essentially calling on Congress to do their constitutional duty and begin impeachment proceedings against the president. Is that how you interpreted what he said?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, again, I think Mueller was more than capable of asserting that if that's the conclusion that he had reached, that the president should be impeached. But, no, he said, this is now in the hands of Congress. And I think that leaves it open to Congress to determine whether to investigate this through its oversight powers, whether to initiate impeachment proceedings.
There were really two things Bob Mueller was not prepared to say. He was not prepared to say that we were able to exonerate the president. He reiterated once again that while he didn't have the power to indict, he did have the power to say that we could not find sufficient evidence of guilt. And he declined to do so.
And similarly, I think what he decided to do here is he decided to say, the reason we conduct this investigation is to preserve this evidence for, among other reasons, I think he implied, the president could be indicted upon leaving office. But also, so that the Congress can take the matter from here and decide what remedy is appropriate.
COOPER: Did anything Mueller say today shift the calculus toward impeachment for you? Because both Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Nadler continue to be restrained on the topic today.
SCHIFF: I'm not sure that anything he said today really shifted the calculus that much, in terms of the substance of his comments. But, I will say this. I think that Bob Mueller has one more service to provide the country, much as he appears reluctant to do so, and that is, he really should testify before the Congress. So, people --
COOPER: He clearly doesn't want to.
SCHIFF: He clearly doesn't want to. And, you know, who can blame him at this point. He knows that he will be savaged by the White House for anything that he says that's critical of the president. And he wants to resist being drawn into this.
But if he wants his report to be fully understood, if he wants the seriousness of the allegations in the report about the Russian interference and our affairs, as well as a full understanding of all these connections between the Trump campaign and how they wish to make use of the Russian help, even if it fell short of that standard, the Department of Justice, that they needed proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order to seek a prosecution, then he ought to testify.
[20:10:20] And I think that's the last duty that he's called upon to make.
COOPER: One White House official told CNN today that any push towards impeachment was going to backfire, saying it would be a great way for Republicans to win back the House in 2020. So there's obviously -- I mean, there's the political calculation to it, as well.
I want to ask you, though, about this joint statement from the Department of Justice and the special counsel's office that I referenced earlier. And I just want to read the whole thing, because it's interesting that they both put this out together. It's not from Robert Mueller, it's from the spokesperson for the special counsel's office. It says -- and the Department of Justice.
It says the attorney general has previously stated that the special counsel will repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion, he would have found the president obstructed justice. The special counsel's report and his statement today made clear that the office concluded it would not reach a determination one way or the other, about whether the president committed a crime. There's no conflict between these statements.
Is that how you interpreted it, as well, that there's no conflict between their two statements?
SCHIFF: I'll tell you how I interpret it. But first, if I could comment on the politics of impeachment --
SCHIFF: -- I don't know, honestly, which way that cuts. There are good arguments to be made about how it will excite one base or the other if you do or if you don't bring an impeachment. But frankly, I think the issue is of such great importance, we need to look at it from an apolitical perspective, what's the right thing to do for the country. And at this point, I think we need to further develop the record before we make that judgment.
But as between those -- that statement and whether there's a conflict between what Mueller again had to say and what Barr has had to say, I think this was something that the Department of Justice, the statement issued today, was pushing the special counsel to sign on to, to say, there is no literal conflict between these two very specific statements. But the reality is that the entire impression Barr gave, the thrust of his comments was that there was no obstruction of justice, that Mueller intended for he, Barr, to make this decision, because for some inexplicable reason, not having to do with the OLC opinion, Mueller felt he couldn't make the judgment. And if that was his view, he should have never done the investigation.
To suggest that there's no conflict between that, that misleading representation by Barr and what Bob Mueller has to say, is completely bogus. It is in direct conflict with what Mueller has to say.
So, here, they're cherry-picking a statement to give the appearance of agreement when, I think, there really is none. And that, to me, was the big takeaway. There's a profound conflict between the attorney general and the special counsel on this.
COOPER: Yes, it certainly seems like that.
Congressman Schiff, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
COOPER: A lot more ahead tonight, including reaction from the congressman's Democratic counterpart on the Senate side. Also, we'll dig deeper into this joint statement tonight, what it says about what appears to be differences between Mueller and Barr and where it fits in the push and pull between the two.
[20:17:24] COOPER: OK. We're talking tonight about Robert Mueller breaking his silence this morning, what he said, what he left unsaid, and the work he seems to have left in the hands of Congress, whether it's in considering impeachment or battling the Russian threat he documented to American democracy.
A short time ago, I spoke to one of the lawmakers with responsibility on the national security side of the coin as well as one of a hundred votes, should it come to that on removing the president. He's Democratic Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
COOPER: Senator Warner, the special counsel closed his remarks today, reiterating, quote, there were multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election and that allegation deserves the attention of every American. I don't think anybody would disagree with that. But does that allegation have the attention of the president and the members of his administration that it needs to have?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): I don't think it does, Anderson. And it frankly blows my mind that we had a few weeks ago, the FBI director say that the Russians will be back.
Mueller today, both at the beginning of his statement and at the end of his statement said, hey, don't take your eye off the ball. Russians massively intervened. They did it with weaponizing of information. They did it by manipulating social media, they did it by undermining our very voting process.
And we've got a White House that, at least according to press reports, a number of weeks back when the then homeland of security director said let's have a cabinet meeting about 2020 election security, was told don't do it because it might offend the sensibilities of Donald Trump. I mean, that is a remarkable, remarkable item.
So what I would hope, and I would hope would be in a bipartisan way, we could disagree about whether Mueller was fully right or not on obstruction, but what we ought to do, when we come back is past at least legislation, and it would be bipartisan, that would secure our elections to make sure there's an audible paper trail after every vote. We ought to make sure that there are some rules of the road around Facebook in particular, so there's not the ability of Russians or others to create fake identities, to manipulate our political process.
And frankly, I've got legislation, as well, that says we ought to say if a foreign agent, a foreign government tries intervene in our elections on behalf of anyone, anybody that receives that kind of attempted intervention ought to report it to the FBI or the police. Those basic points, there ought to be some broad agreement about that, so that even if the White House won't step up and defend our country, we in Congress should.
COOPER: I mean, it is -- it is kind of -- it's a workaround, I get. But for the president of the United States, you know, everybody I've talked to, every national security official, former national security official have all emphasized, if the president is not the one setting the agenda on something like this and ringing the bell on it, all of these agencies and Congress can do what they can, but it doesn't get the marching orders that it would if the president -- I mean, I can't even remember anytime that he's actually held a press conference to specifically address, you know, what the U.S. is doing and to tell Russia publicly, don't do this.
[20:20:24] It just hasn't happened. WARNER: Anderson, you're right, and at the same time, the folks that
he's appointed in his administration constantly come back and warn us time and again, his FBI director, his director of negligence, the CIA director, have all indicated that what the Russians did in 2016, it was effective, it was cheap, they used the same tactics in the Brexit vote and the French presidential elections.
This is, in a sense, how conflict is going to take place in the 21st century. And we in our country have not done enough to protect ourselves on a going-forward basis.
COOPER: You know, Mueller was very clear today. He wants the report to speak for itself. He's said all he has to say in the report. It's all in the words, he said.
Do you expect him -- do you still want him to testify? Do you think he would testify?
WARNER: Anderson, I still think he would provide a great service. As much as I would like every one of the 320-odd million Americans ought to read the 400-page report, I don't think they all will.
I think Mueller with his credibility, simply testifying to what's in the report, what I think one, drive home the point about what the Russians did, but also raise the legitimate questions that have been arisen about the president and others potentially obstructing justice.
COOPER: Senator Warner, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
WARNER: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, let's get more perspective now from CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Mueller biographer, Garrett Graff, who's author of the "Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terrorism" and has basically read everything Robert Mueller has ever said or written.
Jeff, first of all, how significant was what Mueller said today and what he didn't say?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it underlined the importance of saying things in public as opposed to in print. There was not a lot of significant --
COOPER: There's a certain power in hearing him say it.
TOOBIN: It's enormous power. It's just hugely significant. I mean, we live in the United States. Most people get their information from screens of one kind or another, not from the printed word.
And the fact that you now have Mueller on the record saying that the president has not been exonerated, think how different that is from the perspective that we were given from Attorney General Barr, on the day he first saw the report. I mean, it is enormously important. And I still think important for him to answer questions in front of Congress, because there's still a lot he could tell us.
COOPER: Garrett, I want to read something that you tweeted today. You wrote: Mueller is in his own Mueller-like work screaming for presidential impeachment proceedings but he's too respectful to say it directly as America needs him to say it.
Do you really think Mueller was screaming for impeachment proceedings?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: For the proceedings, not impeachment, which I think is an important distinction. But I do think that Mueller was trying as many different ways as he could to say, we didn't get to the bottom of this, we weren't allowed to get to the bottom of this, because we weren't able to adjudicate whether the president committed a crime. And this is now a matter for Congress to take up.
He said, we've gone out, we've done the work, we've preserved the evidence for future investigators and now it's up to the process that the Constitution sets out to adjudicate whether the president is guilty of a crime.
COOPER: So, Garrett, if that's true, why wouldn't Mueller be willing to be part of that process, to actually go and testify? I mean, I get all the reasons of he doesn't want to get drawn into the muck, it's going to be a circus, Republicans are going to be asking him how Strzok and Page, Democrats are going to be asking him about obstruction, it's going to be, you know, all over the place.
But if he really believes it's Congress' role, wouldn't he feel only obligated to just talk about what's in the report?
GRAFF: And I think he would. And I think as Jeffrey was just saying and as Mark Warner was saying before that, there's enormous power in him coming out and simply reading the things that he has already written down in this report. And I'm sure that if there's a formal impeachment proceeding for him to do that, he will absolutely participate.
COOPER: Jeff, this point that the Department of Justice, the statement, it's a joint statement that they just put out. The Department of Justice and the special counsel's office, does it make any sense to you?
TOOBIN: Anderson, I've been speaking English almost my whole life. I know all the words, I would say I'm fluent --
COOPER: You use the best words?
TOOBIN: I use the best words, I read the best words. I found that statement completely incomprehensible. I don't understand -- what it read to me like, it was negotiated with a bunch of lawyers so they could agree on something.
[20:25:06] And the word "not" appears about seven times in there. I mean, there's so many negatives and triple negatives. COOPER: The statement, for those who are just tuning in, is
essentially saying there's no agreement on a very limited statement about the characterization of Barr and Mueller see this.
TOOBIN: Why he didn't find obstruction of justice.
TOOBIN: But anyone who listens -- who has followed this story and read the Mueller report could see there's a huge conflict between them.
COOPER: Just what Mueller said today conflicts -- seems to conflict with what Barr has said.
TOOBIN: What Mueller said today, and remember, in the original four- page letter, where Barr says, I find no obstruction of justice, when Mueller did not reach that issue, one way or the other. I mean, there is obviously a huge difference between Barr and Mueller.
What that tells you is that Mueller should testify. He should answer questions. He could clarify that distinction.
But, you know, he doesn't want to testify. You know what, too bad? It's his job.
Jeff Toobin and Garrett Graff, thank you very much.
Up next, the White House trying to sell the message, case closed. More on that, ahead.
[20:30:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Shortly after Bob Mueller spoke today, Sarah Sanders did her best impression of the T.V. cop who says, move along, nothing to see here, move along. The White House press secretary declared to reporters, "There was no real news here," which is true except for the part about Mueller stating publicly that if his team thought the President didn't commit a crime, they would have said so.
Sanders had an answer for that, though. She said, "If Bob Mueller had determined that there was a crime, he would have had a moral obligation to report it, he didn't." That's not really true. Mueller explained it because of the guidelines he was working under, no president could be unindicted. It would be unfair to the President or any defendant to be charged, but not able to have their day in court.
Mueller did report what could be considered efforts of possible instruction -- obstruction that could be determined defenses by Congress, but Sanders had none of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's real simple. I say what we have said is that they were looking at whether or not there was collusion. That would be the crime that would have been committed, collusion or obstruction, and all of those things have been determined to have not taken place, collusion, conspiracy, obstruction. And again, we consider this very much to be case closed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now -- again, what she said there is just not true, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, CNN Political Director David Chalian, Democratic Strategist and CNN Political Commentator Paul Begala, and former Republican U.S. senator and CNN Senior Political Commentator, Rick Santorum.
Senator Santorum, Sarah Sanders, you know, continuing to claim the President is exonerated. Mueller made it very clear today, he's not. The President tweeted out, well, it was just because insufficient evidence and in that country it means -- in this country it means not guilty, you know, not guilty. Mueller didn't say there's insufficient evidence.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I thought Mueller was a little twisted when it came to that whole issue, because before he talked about the President not being, you know, proven, that he wasn't convinced the President was innocent, he said that the Russians who were charged were presumed innocent. But then he goes on and says, well, we can't presume the President innocent, because we didn't find him innocent.
And then he goes on and says, it wouldn't be fair to charge him because you couldn't trial him, yet he basically lays out a charge. He says, well, we didn't find him innocent and he lays out all of these things and sort of gives the impression, I agree, that maybe there's something here. So, I just found him to be a little disingenuous in the way he phrased all of this.
COOPER: But he's talking about the Russians being presumed innocent because they have actually been charged and if it will be caught, we'll have their day in court. His point with the President is, he can't even be charged, and to therefore even say he's guilty would be unfair. I mean, its Robert Mueller saying it would be unfair to do that because then President Trump can't have a day in court these like these Russians could.
SANTORUM: Well, but, no, he said that the Russians were presumed innocent. I mean, whether they have their day in court or not -- well, they're presumed innocent until there's some adjudication. But what Mueller doing here is saying, well, we found him not presumed innocent, we don't think he's innocent, but we're not going to charge him and we're going to sort of leave it out there for the people to decide what to do with that. I find that to be, you know, giving the Russians the bigger benefit of the doubt than the President.
COOPER: Paul Begala, is that how you see it? I mean -- because, again, it just -- logically, it does seem like its Mueller saying the Russians can be charged because they can have their day in court and there's no law against charging Russians who have broken the law against the U.S. The President cannot be charged, therefore cannot have his day in court, so I'm not going to say.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Rick is confusing a presumption with the conclusion. The Russians will have a presumption because they will -- I'm sure Mr. Trump will be in Putin's face by the way to extradite those guys. You'll have a right over here defending America.
Set that aside, Mr. Mueller today said which -- by the way, it was exactly what he said in the report, those five of us who actually read the report know that. But he said, I can't conclude that the President's innocent of obstruction of justice. I can't. If I could have found it, if I could say it, I would.
But that's a conclusion that he can't act on that with an indictment, as he was clear today, as he was clear in the report, because of Justice Department rules that say, you can't indict a sitting president. So then he says, two options left, Congress can, under the constitution, impeach, and/or a prosecutor the day after Mr. Trump becomes a private citizen again, can indict him. And I think politically, that's where this is going.
I think people are going to start asking Democratic candidates for president, will you indict Trump? And I hope they don't reach, you know, jump to any conclusions. But that's what that's going to come to as a private citizen, if and when the Democrats defeat him.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Some have already been asked if they'll pardon Trump, and they've said absolutely not, right, so, yes.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's getting a little -- it was getting a little humpy (ph).
COOPER: You know, the two words I guess we've heard most frequently today from President Trump and allies are case closed. But, I mean, it's -- is it case closed?
BORGER: No, of course not. The case is wide open. Obviously, Mueller said today, he said the constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a president of wrongdoing. So, not case closed, just a different kind of case. And what he was doing, he wasn't -- he would never -- Bob Mueller would never instruct Congress and say, I think you need to impeach him. That's not who he is.
[20:35:09] But he would say, this is a -- this is a possibility because there is that process. So case not closed. If I were Congress, I would try to have -- get Don McGahn up there, get other people to testify and make their case to the American public.
COOPER: I want to play what Speaker Pelosi said today here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We won't be swayed by a few people who think one way or another, who are running for President, as much as I respect all of them. And they have the freedom to be for impeachment. We had the responsibility to get a result for the American people and that's what we're going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Chalian, who is -- what Democrats specifically she's -- I mean, I assume she's speaking about Democrats running for president.
CHALIAN: Clearly. Well, Cory Booker went farther than he had today. Elizabeth Warren has been up there. Kamala Harris went, Gillibrand was out there. I mean, one by one, these 2020 candidates after Mueller spoke today were getting much more aggressively on the impeachment train.
Nancy Pelosi, that's not who she's going to take her cues from. That creates a lot of noise. Those people have very big microphones. And it does create an environment where Nancy Pelosi is going to have to spend the rest of her days now constantly trying to balance between the sort of pro-impeachment factions and those that think it would be a political mistake.
But what will change the calculus for Nancy Pelosi is not the presidential candidates who need the base of the party and this is a very appealing message. It's those 40 Democrats that won Republican districts to flip the House to the Democrats. When those Democrats that are sitting in very competitive districts start going to Nancy Pelosi, if they do, and say, it's time we got to start this, that's going to change (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Senator Santorum, Congressman Amash has been obviously the lone Republican calling for impeachment proceedings. He's still the only one after the Mueller statement today. Do you -- I mean, you know this body better than anybody. Do you see it as likely any other Republican in Congress would follow his lead in the near future?
SANTORUM: No, I don't. And I think David is right that the only people that are relevant here -- I don't even think, even if another Republican, one or two, that would make any difference. Nancy's concerned about her people, her base, and those vulnerable Democrats and that's all she's going to focus on. And one or two Republicans is not going to give Democrats enough cover to make a difference.
BORGER: Well, I agree. I mean, the number Nancy Pelosi was very concerned about today was the number 38, because she said she was asked about what about those Democrats in Congress who want impeachment.
She said, oh, there are 38 of them. As if, who's counting? Nancy Pelosi is counting. And once that number reaches a critical mass, then she'll be concerned about it. But, you know, not now. And other Republicans are going to continue to hang back. The point she made today is that she's a practical person and if they make their case, she believes that they need to get some Republicans to go along. And you know, to Rick Santorum's point, right now, not there.
COOPER: How critical is it for them to get Mueller to testify?
BEGALA: I think it's very important. He's an American citizen. He's an American patriot. He has an obligation to testify, and he will. If they have to subpoena him, they will and he'll testify. But I think what will change that calculus, Gloria, is not raise it from 38 to 200.
BORGER: Yes, exactly.
BEGALA: Is if the President will continue to resist valid subpoenas by the Congress and if the courts -- when the courts then back up the Congress, then you'll have a constitutional crisis.
BEGALA: I don't support impeachment. But if this President continues to put himself above the law versus the Congress, as a constitutionalist, you have no choice but to support impeachment then.
BORGER: I agree with you.
BEGALA: And I think this President will, he will flout the law and the courts and the Congress will have to intervene to restrain him and maybe remove him.
SANTORUM: Paul, when has the President not gone along with a court order? I mean, they've done it on immigration, everything. They've done on things that are vitally important, very political, very important to his base. When the court said, Mr. President, you've got to do this, he's done it.
So, I think the idea that he's going to somehow or another go rogue on this is, again, that's -- if you want to talk about Donald Trump's track record, there's a lot of things you can criticize him on. I think taking him on, on this is the wrong move.
BORGER: Yes. But you know what --
BEGALA: You have greater faith in his fidelity to the rule of law. His hero is Andrew Jackson, who did violate the Supreme Court and that's what Trump's going to do.
BORGER: But he's also criticized Obama judges, don't forget about that. And he's also said, well --
COOPER: He's also got -- he's got more lawyers than Jackson had. I think he's in good hands.
BEGALA: I don't know. I'd have Andy Jackson than Rudy Giuliani.
COOPER: Sorry, Senator, go ahead and then we've got to go.
SANTORUM: No. You have one judge who could be an Obama judge and its right for the President to criticize. There's going to be appeals and there's always the Supreme Court or appellate court rules that way. The President is going to do what they say. That's going to happen.
COOPER: I want to thank everybody.
We have breaking news to tell you about "The Wall Street Journal," fascinating story, just broke, says the U.S. military took big steps on White House orders to ensure that President Trump would not see the USS John McCain, the ship when he was in Japan, the warship that bears the name of the late senator, a freak target obviously of the President. This story just posted.
[20:40:06] The Navy was told by the White House to move the ship so that the President wouldn't even see it. I'll speak to one of the reporters who broke the story, next.
COOPER: There's breaking news tonight in "The Wall Street Journal" that seems to speak either to President Trump's insecurity and vanity or to the White House catering to perceptions of insecurity and vanity or concern about it.
The White House, according to "The Wall Street Journal," demanding that the USS John McCain, the warship, be out of sight during the President's visit to Japan, not for any military reason, just because they didn't want the President to see the USS John McCain, his name on a ship.
The late senator's daughter, Meghan, just responded on Twitter quoting that now, "Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dad's incredible life. There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won't let him rest in peace. So I have to stand up for him. It makes my grief unbearable."
Joining us now by phone, Rebecca Ballhaus, who shares a byline on "The Wall Street Journal" story. Rebecca, this story is bananas. The White House actually requesting the USS John McCain be out of sight during the President's visit. I mean, if true, and from all your reporting, it certainly seems to be, it sounds like one of the kind of smallest, pettiest things I've heard.
[20:45:01] REBECCA BALLHAUS, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (on the phone): Well, I think it's fair to say that it was something that really stunned a lot of the officials who were on the receiving end of the directives. We've reviewed some e-mails that were exchanged between various Navy commanders and officials for the U.S. Indo-Pacific command and both sides really seem taken aback by their requests, even the person who was conveying the request from the White House military office.
COOPER: So you've actually seen the e-mails or the directives, however they're sent?
BALLHAUS: That's right. We've seen e-mails where there are officials who are relaying the White House military office's request that the USS John McCain be out of sight. And we know that following up on those requests, there were a lot of check-ins to make sure that steps were being taken. It seems like the ship could not, in fact, be moved altogether, but there were a lot of steps taken to make sure that the name itself was obscured on the vessel.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, this is one of the things that is just so nuts, is that a tarp apparently was hung. According to your reporting, a tarp was hung over the ship's name, but sailors on the ship, who normally wear caps bearing its name, were given the day off during the President's visit. Is that accurate?
BALLHAUS: That's right. There seems to have been a couple of different attempts at, I guess, getting what the White House seemed to want here. They -- we know that they initially hung a tarp, I believe, on the Friday before the President's visit. It seems as if that tarp came down at some point over that weekend, and they subsequently moved a barge to be closer in front of the ship so that the name was obscured that way.
And we know that sailors were also directed to take off any coverings, and as you said, not to be working that day, in which case they would almost certainly be wearing caps that said the name of the ship on it. So it seems like there were a couple of different stabs at this.
COOPER: The tarp fell off, so they moved a barge to block the name from the sightline. I mean, this is incredible. The acting secretary of defense, did he sign off on this?
BALLHAUSE: Well, to me, that was really one of the more stunning details in the story, even, was that he was aware of concerns about the presence of this vessel and did, in fact, approve measures to ensure that I guess seeing the ship was not going to interfere with the President's visit in any way. So I don't know exactly which measures he did or did not sign off on, but we know that he was certainly aware and participating.
COOPER: In one of the exchanges I read in your article, basically, the response from -- at one point, I guess the White House office is saying make sure item number three is followed through on. And item number three is this. So this was a high priority.
BALLHAUS: That's right, yes.
COOPER: And the fact this came -- I mean, I don't even know what else to say about this. It's just -- I mean, I don't know if it should be surprising or not, but it's just, it's another day. Rebecca Ballhaus, it's a fascinating story in "The Wall Street Journal" right now, just broke. Thank you so much.
BALLHAUS: Thank you.
COOPER: Still to come, Senator Mitch McConnell gives the White House a run for its money when it comes to hypocrisy. We'll tell you how, coming up.
[20:52:21] COOPER: So much still to discuss about Mueller's statements today, the responses to them. Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're taking it all on. We're unpacking it and we're looking at two different aspects. One is the ignored one that should matter the most, Anderson. You know, Mr. Mueller could have said a lot of things today but he ended by saying every American should be concerned about what Russia did and what they will do again. Everybody's on the same page on that issue except the President and nothing's being done.
Tonight, we're going to take that on and just show this hyperfocus on what should the Democrats do. Should they go after the President? Who knows where any of that leads? They know that if they don't act on interference it's going to be a problem. I'm going to argue tonight, it's an even bigger problem for the President.
We all assume he ignores it because he thinks it's bad for him. If it happens again, it's worse for him than anyone else. We'll have a key Democrat on and we got Chris Ruddy, the head of Newsmax, he was with the President today. He watched the President's reactions to Mr. Mueller and he knows where his head is tonight. We'll have him on.
COOPER: That will be interesting. Chris, thanks very much. See you in a couple of minutes, about seven minutes from now.
Coming up next, something that will maybe leave you scratching your head, "The Ridiculist" is next.
[20:57:04] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And look out Washington, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is talking about the Supreme Court again, and this time papa's got a brand-new bag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a Supreme Court Justice was to die next year, what would you do?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We'd fill it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. So, first of all, the Senate majority leader and essentially getting laughs off the prospect of a dead Supreme Court Justice could have answered that question by saying, you know, death is generally a bad thing and even conservatives salivating to fill another Supreme Court seat aren't relishing the possibility that one of the justices might soon die. But, no, he didn't say that.
In fact, Senator McConnell couldn't even really hide his turtle that ate the cat, that ate the canary grin in a way that sort of tells you everything you need to know, but also consider the next year is an election year and the Mitch McConnell you just saw is the same Mitch McConnell who along with his allies blocked President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, from even getting a hearing in early 2016 because it was, it's all flooding back to you, isn't it? That's right, it was 2016. It was an election year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: This nomination ought to be made by the next president.
The American people should have a say in the court's direction.
This decision ought to be made by the next president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Wait, what was that? The next president should decide? Voters should have an input? Senator McConnell seems to have dropped that material from his new grim reaper stand-up. How does he square his 2016 stance with the pledge he made yesterday? Well, it's easy, he can't. I mean, it is the literal definition of hypocrisy.
You can open up Merriam-Webster, I'm sure they have a copy of the Library of Congress if every shelf isn't now just "Art of the Deal" paper backs. And you can see the definition in the dictionary, "behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel." That is the definition of hypocrisy. And now, it's McConnell standard. Until, of course, it's not again.
Now, to be fair, then Senator Joe Biden said something similar, though not exact, about filling a vacancy back in 1992 only to distance himself from those comments in 2016. Of course, all this talk about timing may be moot. They're very well be -- may well be no vacancy next year or President Trump could win reelection or just lose and refuse to leave. Regardless, timing wasn't exactly the problem last time around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: We drank beer. I liked beer, still like beer. We drank beer. Yes, we drank beer. And I said sometimes -- sometimes probably had too many beers and sometimes other people had too many beers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you --
KAVANAUGH: We drank beer. We liked beer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Liked beer. P.J. likes beer. Timmy likes beer. And, of course, you know it, Squoi (ph). Squoi, I'm looking at you. I can't forget Squoi. Squoi likes beer too. Note to future nominees, don't forget to ask Senator Klobuchar how many times she's blocked out because that went over really well as well. The tea leaves for predicting a Supreme Court retirement much less deaths are notoriously difficult to read and maybe that's for the best. Anticipating death is part of a political calculus, I don't know. Call me old fashioned, but it seems kind of like a habit of poor taste.
The President may not view Congress as an equal branch of government, but when it comes to hypocrisy about Supreme Court justices, the White House may have just met its match in Washington and on "The Ridiculist" tonight.
And the news continues. Let's go to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time."