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Robert Mueller Back To Private Life; Democrats Must Decide Whether To Push Through On Impeachment Or Let Trump Win; Mueller: Any Testimony Would Go No Further Than My Report; Robert Mueller: Multiple, Systematic Efforts To Interfere In Our Elections By Russians; Watergate 2.0. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired May 29, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
Robert Mueller setting the record straight. After two years of silence, the special counsel finally speaking out today about the Russia investigations and stating clearly for everyone to hear that he did not clear President Trump of a crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: If we 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)
LEMON: Mueller is saying his hands were tied due to Department of Justice regulations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: Under long standing department policy a president cannot be charge with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That comment from Mueller directly contradicts what Attorney General Bill Barr said under oath earlier this month. Barr claimed that those guidelines weren't a factor in Mueller's decision.
The pressure for impeachment is now ramping up on Capitol Hill after Mueller seemed to put the issue of obstruction to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But Mueller made it clear he has no interest in speaking with Congress. He says his 448-page report is his testimony.
As for Trump's favorite line claiming that the Russia investigation was a witch hunt and a hoax, Mueller laid out the evidence his team found showing Russia did influences the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: Russian intelligence officers, who are part of the Russian military, launched a concerted attack on our political system. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Yes. That does deserve the attention of every American. So why does seem the President of the United States is still in denial?
Here to discuss, Douglas Brinkley, also Allan Lichtman, the author of "The Case for Impeachment." Rick Wilson is with us as well. He is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
Gentlemen, good evening. Thank you so much for joining us.
Douglas, I'm going to start with you. Mueller was clear today if the president didn't commit a crime, he would have said so. And the Constitution require as process other than the criminal justice system to accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. Is he telling Congress to open an impeachment inquiry?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: If he is pointing towards the door and telling them to go through, in my mind. You know, one of our great founding -- founders of America, James Madison, used to talk about Constitution education that for democracy to work, we have to be aware of our checks and balances, what's in the Constitution.
I think today Mueller, getting to see him and hear his voice was starting a kind of opening salvo with the public that's post Mueller report saying this is something we need to -- the public needs to be part of this. Congress is the people's house and that impeachment is a very real option.
He was cryptic about it. He was understated about it but I think this is a historic day when the movement for impeachment has gained steam.
LEMON: Yes. That said, yes, Rick, I'm going to bring you in. I mean, because even before Mueller's comments today, there was this march towards impeachment. Should Democrats go for it or is it too politically risky to do so?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I've argued from the beginning, Don, that they need to take their time, that impeachment is a process not a thing. They need to move towards it strategically and that they need to make sure they're bringing the American people along with them in this process.
By building the case before you get to impeachment, there are investigatory benefits, there are political benefits and there are accountability benefits to continuing a set of investigations that hold these people to account, bring them on the deck, get their testimony and you start to build the atmosphere where if you do reach impeachment and I think that today Bob Mueller put the ball firmly in their court and said to you, over to you, Nancy.
If you do reach that point, you're ready to do. You've got it built up. You got the case made. Not only in the court of public opinion but in the political space in D.C. and beyond.
LEMON: Yes. Allan, I know you want to get on this. Because this is your expertise. You have correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections from Reagan in '84 to Trump in 2016. Nothing is final yet. But you are predicting that Trump will win unless Democrats impeach him. So, explain your reason.
[23:04:53] ALLAN LICHTMAN, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Real simple. Impeachment is not only right morally. The only way to hold a president to account who can't be shamed or embarrassed. It is right constitutionally. It is the constitutional remedy for a constitutional crisis and it is right politically.
You and Chris Cuomo were discussing the fact that sure, there are a lot of scandals swirling around and there are investigations and half a dozen different committees but that plays right into Trump's hands because he is so good at deflection distraction and obstruction.
Here's why impeachment is different. It would nail down a critical key on my system of 13 keys. It takes six keys to count out the president and he only has three keys down now.
LICHTMAN: Impeachment would be a fourth key and perhaps trigger other keys like a contest for his re-nomination. Here's why impeachment is different. It focuses everything in one committee. And articles of impeachment are not allegations. They are part of a formal process where the House is pointing a finger and saying we believe Donald Trump; you are guilty of these high crimes and misdemeanors and then you get a trial in the Senate which everyone is forgetting about. That's what is so critical.
LEMON: All right. I just want to talk about it. So, let's drill in a little bit more what you said because I've got the 13 criteria here or the 13 factors that you consider. And you said if Trump fails to satisfy six or more of these factors that he could lose. Right now, he is failing on three.
Party mandate, the GOP lost in the midterm. Foreign policy or military success which Trump has not seen much of an incumbent charisma. Trump's appeal to voters is limited. So how could impeachment lead to checking off more on this list? So, this one, especially the one when at least impeachment. Explain more to us.
LICHTMAN: Yes. It would check off key number nine, the scandal key. That's a fourth key. That gives him only a two-key cushion. If two things go wrong, he's out. If the economy tilts into recession. If there is a charismatic Democratic nominee or a big foreign policy failure. Any two of those he's out.
The keys also have trigger effects. This impeachment processes I've described, the three steps could well so weaken him even if he is not convicted by the Senate that it spurs a real challenge to his re- nomination. That's another key. Or a serious third party by someone like Justin Amash, which is a different key. It changes the whole political context.
And I'm afraid the Democratic leaders are going down the same trap they went down in 2016 believing the conventional wisdom and the polls and ignoring the real dynamics that drive elections as measured by the keys.
LEMON: Very interesting. So, Douglas, to Allan's point, impeachment is a process. So, tell me how this process works, how soon could it start.
BRINKLEY: Absolutely a process, Don. And we have to remember in 2018, the Democrats did pretty well. You wouldn't have Nancy Pelosi there and impeachment wasn't the big issue. Getting rid of Donald Trump is.
So, I do think there is a strategy that has to be decided on. You know, Nancy Pelosi is an interesting figure in U.S. history, Don. I mean, no Democrat has anything really negative to say about her. There's been a great trust in her leadership.
But she's in a Rubicon moment here right now. Whether to start, how do you use the impeachment word? I've noticed all the politicians today talking about starting an impeachment inquiry. And there's -- a lot of language being there.
I think the leaders of the Democratic Party, Pelosi and in my mind, Joe Biden now by his big lead in the polls, have to decide whether which line they're going to step on.
Are they going to join Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and do an all-out Democratic Party impeachment effort or are they going to try to not go forward with it? History is not a great guide. You know, I've heard today people talking about Leon Jaworksi and the Nixon years or Bill Clinton and Ken Starr.
I mean, Bill Clinton had a 60 percent approval rating going on. And this was very small potatoes in the Lewinsky affair compared to the potential obstruction of justice of Donald Trump.
Meaning, don't say just because Clinton went up in the polls, we shouldn't impeach Donald Trump. I think Pelosi is the key and she's go having to decide with Nadler, Biden, and some of the Democratic leaders whether they join the impeachment movement or not. I think they need to do it in the next few weeks and they've got to get Robert Mueller to testify in front of the congressional judiciary committee without a doubt.
LEMON: Yes. Rick Wilson, how do we know that Nancy Pelosi is right about this? She's got good track record and it's hard to argue against her instincts. But isn't it possible that she's wrong?
WILSON: It's also, Don -- I think the reason that she's pursuing the right strategy right now is also because we understand after almost four years now of Donald Trump in American political life that you can't shame the shameless.
[23:10:07] You can't -- you can't use normal moral suasion against this guy because he doesn't have any morals. And so, you've got to do something. If you're going to go after him, you know to quote the Wire, if you're going to go after the king, you best get it.
And in this case, she knows that she gets one shot at this. If she blows it, and they don't get him impeach in the House, they won't get him in the Senate, which is also a huge factor here. If they don't do the thing correctly in the House, they never get to go after him again.
He will romp on this and say I've been completely clear. They couldn't impeach me. We're done. So she knows that she's got one shot to make this work and I think the timing question is let's not -- you know, the advice that she's getting I think correctly is not to rush in to this thing, but rather to do it in a measured, sensible way that does more political damage to Donald Trump over time than a one in done.
LEMON: Maybe I'm reading you wrong, Allan, but you seem to disagree?
LICHTMAN: I completely disagree. Not only is that an abdication of the independent oversight role of the House as put into the Constitution, but it's absolutely awful politics. The one thing I do agree with Rick, you can't shame this guy, you can't embarrass him. Allegations mean nothing. You've got to strike at his brand and his power.
And the only way to do that is the proper constitutional procedure of impeachment, which is a formal --
WILSON: you get a --
LICHTMAN: Let me finish. If you delay it, and you hum, and you ho, and you put your finger in the wing, you lose the moral authority and you lose the momentum. I'm not saying impeach him tomorrow but you need to start the three-step critical process.
LEMON: Quickly, Rick, I know you want to respond.
WILSON: My point, Allan is you start a whole series of things that are the predicates for impeachment. You go -- you make the investigations broad spectrum. You get to moving all the time, you hold people to account and what you're doing is making the life of -- everybody around Donald Trump --
LICHTMAN: You're not holding anyone to account.
WILSON: -- part of in the backseat of a cop car. I mean, you're just --
LICHTMAN: You're not holding anyone to account unless you have a formal process. Donald Trump doesn't care about contempt citation; he doesn't care about court decisions. He only cares about himself, his power, his legacy, his brand. The only way to hit that is for the House to assume its constitutional responsibilities. Otherwise you might as well forget the separation of powers.
LEMON: OK. To be continued. I'm out of time. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.
Did Robert Mueller finally speak out today because Attorney General Bill Barr mischaracterized his findings? Well, we're going to break down all the ways they disagree, next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: On his last day as special counsel, Robert Mueller laid it out, laid it all in line today he did not exonerate the president. But his boss, the president's hand-picked attorney general, William Barr, wasn't quite so forthcoming when he was asked about that at an event in Alaska tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attorney General Barr, Robert Mueller said today that President Trump was not exonerated of obstruction of justice. Why did you exonerate him?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, joining me to discuss is Matthew Axelrod, a former senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration. He didn't answer there, Matt. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. After hearing from Mueller today, is it even more clear that the attorney general, William Barr, that he worked over time to spin Mueller's report in the president's favor?
MATTHEW AXELROD, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Look, I think what is interesting is the contrast between the press conference that special counsel Mueller gave today and the earlier press conferences that the attorney general gave.
And if you look at what the special counsel did today, he stuck solely to the facts, no spin on the ball. Just straight forward, forthright presentation of what was in the report. And I think because it was his report, that was easy for him to do.
I think when you put it side by side with the earlier press conferences done by the attorney general, those had a different character.
LEMON: There was one, Matt, there was one crucial area where Barr and Mueller seemed to disagree. Watch this and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was talking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion and he made it very clear, several times that that was not his position.
MUELLER: Under long-standing department policy, a present president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, do you think Barr's mischaracterization of the importance of the OLC guidelines is part of why Mueller speak out today?
AXELROD: So, look, I know lot of people are putting those clips side by side and saying they're flatly inconsistent. I actually think if you look at them closely and parse them, they are reconcilable.
What Barr was sawing is that Mueller didn't make a determination but for the OLC opinion he would have affirmatively charged the president with a crime. And I think Mueller agrees with that. What Mueller is saying is because of the OLC opinion he didn't engage in the analysis of whether to charge with a crime or not.
So those things to me aren't flatly inconsistent when you read them closely. But the problem is you shouldn't have to parse when it's the attorney general of the United States talking about a report that no one in the American public had seen.
[23:20:04] And I think that the attorney general's comments were understood by the vast majority of Americans to mean something different from what evidentially his people are now saying he meant by that.
LEMON: But you know, he's saying that he didn't -- this is the way I interpret it. That Barr is saying that he didn't ever consider it. That he is saying it wasn't part of, he's saying I couldn't.
AXELROD: Yes. No --
LEMON: He is saying it did not factor. What Barr is saying is it did not factor into Mueller's conclusions and Mueller is saying I just couldn't do it.
AXELROD: So, look, Don, I totally understand that reaction and that's a reaction I think the vast majority of the American people had. I think if you, again, if you look at very carefully at what Barr said. He's saying something I think slightly a notch different. But that's not to excuse it.
LEMON: OK, I understand. I understand.
LEMON: So why couldn't he just say because of the DOJ guidelines, Mueller was not able to even go down that road instead of saying it the way he said it?
AXELROD: Look, that's the question. And I think he should -- look, I think have said it the other way. The other way the way you just framed it I think it would not have been misleading. Because the other thing that's important to remember is that the time the attorney general made that statement in his press conference, he had all the information.
And the rest of us out in the public trying to understand what the special counsel had found were at an entire information disadvantage. We didn't know. And so, of course there were going to be misunderstandings when the attorney general framed it that way.
LEMON: But wasn't that the whole point? I mean, you're saying -- but wasn't that the whole point. And you know, to, I think Mueller probably should have said something earlier, if not the same day the report came out shortly after and he and Barr should I guess been on the same page.
But Barr completely spun it whether you're saying, you know, those two are reconcilable. He spun a different narrative than what the special counsel actually said today. Isn't it important that the special counsel actually maybe even talks more and goes in front of Congress to testify?
AXELROD: Yes. So, the special counsel made clear today, he's hoping that that doesn't happen. But if he receives a subpoena, I'm sure he will obey and appear. And we'll see how that plays out.
But look, I think you and I agree on a fundamental point, which is that when it comes to the attorney general of the United States, it's important not only to be technically correct and accurate in what you're saying but also to be forthright and straightforward and so that there's no, sort of risk that was what you are saying is interpreted by the vast majority of people who are going to hear it as meaning something different from what the facts are.
LEMON: I think you're absolutely right and that's why I think if you and I are saying well, it needs more clarification, you can imagine what the folks at home were saying who don't follow it as closely as we do.
Thank you, Matt Axelrod. I appreciate your time.
AXELROD: Sure. Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Robert Mueller says he has no intention of testifying in front of Congress. But should he really be the one to make that decision?
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Robert Mueller returning to private life and making it clear he has no interest in testifying before Congress. During his public comments since the investigation began two years ago, he made that very clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: Now I hope and expect this will be there only time that I will speak to you in this manner.
There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.
I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But will this really be the last word from Mueller?
Let's discuss. Elie Honig is here and Harry Litman as well.
Good evening, gentleman.
So, Elie, let's start with you. Mueller says that this is the last we're going to hear from him. But you say that he should testify. Why is that important?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because the report needs to come to life. And I think we really saw that today. I think there's a little bit of an irony. And that Mueller said about and said it explicitly in the clip we just saw, look, I don't want and I don't expect to testify. But, boy, he made the case for why he needs to.
Because he talks for 10 minutes today and most of what he said is already in the report, but so few people in the American public and maybe even in Congress really understand what's in the report and understand the significance.
And I'll tell you, Don, it's one thing to reads about something on a piece of paper but it's really another thing to hear a witness get up, get behind the stand take an oath and talk about it. It drives at home. I saw it in trials many, many times and I think there will be a huge impact if he does testify in public. LEMON: Harry, a private citizen gets a subpoena from Congress
compelled to testify. Tomorrow Mueller will be a private citizen. Is the decision to testify or not his to make?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It's not. I mean, was in sort of opening negotiations. Please don't call me. I hope that you won't call me. But Elie is a 100 percent right. You know, he spoke for 10 minutes. He was low key on script and it was riveting.
We're talking about it 16 hours later. And it's the sort of television moment of bringing home to people just what is in his report that the judiciary committee hopes to achieve and why they're going to push.
He's saying it will be boring, it will be like watching paint dry. I'll say what I've said before but they don't think so, and basically, they're right. So, I doubt they are going to back off and we will probably see him testify in one form or another.
LEMON: Yes. So, listen, Elie, let's talk a little more about that. Because he is saying he might just repeat what he already said, right? We could read the report. But that still -- that will be impactful, right?
[23:30:08] HONIG: Yes, even if that's all he does. He basically said to him, look, I'll give you the facts, but I'm not going to give you any color, I'm not going to give you any sort of or pizazz here, but even if all he does is dry read the report, that will have a huge impact and by the way I do think there are legitimate questions even beyond the report that he should at least be asked.
I think, for example, how exactly did Bill Barr misstate the nature of context and substance of your findings? Right? That is the language --
LEMON: The letter?
HONIG: Yes, that's the language of Mueller put in the letter to Barr. We have a sense of where they disagree, but look, I think he needs to lay it out specifically. Another question, he may not want to answer it, but would you have charged if not for this DOJ policy that we've been talking about, I think that is an important question and I think it's at least worth putting it to him and see if he answers, but as you said, even if he just reads the report, it's going to have a huge impact.
LEMON: let's talk about the White House is saying, Harry, the White House has again claimed that Trump has been exonerated. That's not really what Mueller said. Do the public need more clarification?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Not really, what Mueller said, it's the exact opposite really of what Mueller said. If you read things carefully and it's one of the reasons that Elie is 100 percent right. It really does come clear, there's really no other tenable conclusions. They know how to get to the probable cause or the indictable standard and they pointedly said, we couldn't exonerate him. They weren't dithering around with are we closing in the border, they
went over and they knew that meant they couldn't -- the most they could say was they couldn't exonerate him. That's one of the things the White House is afraid of, but it's one of the reasons that a close read of the report is so important. You look at some of the episodes as a former prosecutor or even as a person and it's 100 percent clear this was obstruction.
LEMON: So, OK, you said it needs to be cleared up, but did today's statement from Mueller leave you Harry, with more questions or no?
LITMAN: Well, it's funny. Look, you know, he was oracular by nature, and it mattered a lot what he said and what he didn't say. Sure, I would love, you know, to get him in a bar and ask him things for five days, but I feel that I really got a bigger sense of where he stands than I did before, even with his sticking to the four corners.
LITMAN: Like for instance, he really does expect this is now something for congress. He really does feel all American people should today take it seriously. Details and nuances like that did emerge. So, I'd say I have fewer questions.
LEMON: Elie, what do you think he intended for congress to do with this information?
HONIG: To do their jobs. All right, I think he said, I've done my job. I've given you the facts, I've investigated. I can't indict. There needs to be accountability somewhere and he even said there are processes outside off the criminal justice and those are the only processes that can insure accountability. There's only one process that can do that and that's impeachment. So Congress needs to make a decision and do its job.
LEMON: Thank you, Elie. Thank you, Harry. I appreciate it.
LEMON: Robert Mueller beginning and ending his statement today with a warning that he says quote, deserves the attention of every American. More on that next.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Special Counsel Robert Mueller beginning and ending his statement this morning with a stark warning about the threat pose by Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Russian intelligence officer who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online and identities and through the organization, WikiLeaks. 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)
LEMON: Let's discuss now. Phil Mudd is here. Garrett Graff as well. Garrett is the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."
Good to see you both of you gentlemen.
Phil, the president, and his supporters and even his Attorney General keep repeating the lie of no collusion, no obstruction. Mueller's laying out damming details about Russian attempts to disrupt our elections. Is that evidence of collusion?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think Robert Mueller would say its evidence. He would say, look, we found information that we couldn't perceive to determine whether it was evidence, because in the executive branch we can't hold the president accountable. Look, I worked -- Don, I worked for Mueller for four and a half years. Not the most subtle man I ever worked for. If he had come to a conclusions, he would have said so.
I know the American people can't see this, but in uncertain terms it may have appeared subtle today and uncertain terms, he said look, we found a bunch of information. We can't proceed to a case. There's one place that can proceed to a case that is the Congress. I'm not going to prejudge the decision but I'm going to tell you, we could not come to a determination. Because the president sitting in the Oval Office, somebody else should determine that. That is what I heard today, Don.
LEMON: All right. Well, Garrett, listen, this is Robert Mueller talking about the many efforts by Russians to influence the election. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: 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. And in a second volume the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:40:06] LEMON: So, we've heard that because -- Mueller said specifically that he didn't find enough evidence to move forward. This is what Phil was talking about, OK. To move forward with a crime of collusion for investigation of a Trump campaign, but is that the same thing as saying obstruction did not occur?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not at all. And in fact when you read the Mueller report carefully and this is the type of thing that is important that Mueller come out and say in his own words, whether before Congress or otherwise. That Mueller actually goes out of his way in the report to make clear that he felt obstructed in certain parts of his investigations that he was never able to get to the bottom of it.
Most famously the question of Paul Manafort handing over polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik and the Russian officials in the midst of the 2016 campaign. So this is situation where -- remember collusion is the activity, conspiracy is the crime. That Mueller found collusion, but wasn't sure whether it rose to the level of a conspiracy. And in fact, one of the things that may have turned out between volume two and volume one is that the obstruction may have been sufficient to prevent Mueller from discovering the underlying crime here of conspiracy.
LEMON: Interesting. So, listen, Phil, also contradicting the president's claim of no collusion, OK? Indictments of half a dozen Trump associates, as well as all of these people that had been charged here which includes dozens of Russians. Do you have any degree of confidence that this administration takes Russia's multiple attempts to interfere with our elections seriously?
MURRAY: You know, this is one of the most disappointing aspects of the entire conversation today. In some ways and Director Mueller would never go after the Oval Office directly, but remember the last lines he said in what referring, talking about Russian interference in American election, he said every American should pay attention to this. Where is the only place in government that can get the American people's attention about Russian interference and educate the American people?
That's not the Department of Homeland Security, that's not CNN, that's not the FBI. That is the president of the United States who has -- I don't know how many tens of millions of people on Twitter to follow him. I was looking at Mueller today saying that is a plea to the Oval Office to say the most sacred right of the American has is to vote free and fair. That didn't happened in some ways in the last election and nobody, including the president is speaking about it. It's a sad day in some ways, Don.
LEMON: Yes. Garrett, let's talk about -- Mueller made clear here, OK, that wasn't made so clear before we just listen to Barr, he made clear that he felt bound by the Justice Department, office of legal counsel saying, a sitting president cannot be indicted, so why do you think it took so long for him to just come out and say that after he laid out nine possible instances of obstruction in his report?
GRAFF: Took so long from when? From when his report was turned over or the length of the investigation overall? --
LEMON: From the report came out and then Barr sent out his summary -- up to now, it's been almost two months.
GRAFF: Yes, and I think Mueller has been trying to do everything that he possibly can to avoid doing what he did today, which is come out and speak publicly. I mean, this is someone who has gone out of his way for two years to avoid any public utterance, no matter how small. And that even the three major landmarks of his case, the two indictments of Russian officials and the internet research agency and then the final report were press conferences hosted by others. Rod Rosenstein or Bill Barr and that Mueller just really wanted to let his work speak for itself as he said today.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate your time. We'll see you next time. We'll be right back.
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Special Counsel Robert Mueller breaking his silence today weeks after his redacted report went public. Everything he said today frankly we already knew. No matter how hard the Attorney General William Barr and President Trump worked to obscure it, it was all in the report, but as we have learned in the decades, since the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon leaving office, television is a very powerful medium. Hearing directly from Robert Mueller, both today, (inaudible) in front of Congress, in the future could have a huge impact.
So, let's discuss now. Jon Sale is here, he is a former assistant special Watergate prosecutor and Timothy Naftali, the former Director of the Nixon presidential library and the author of "Impeachment and American history."
Hello, gentleman. Thank you so much for joining, so, I really appreciate this.
So let me start with you, Timothy. I want to talk Nixon. Put this up, just after starting a second term, his approval rating in February of 1973 stood at 68 percent. In May, the Watergate hearing started being televised and his poll numbers started falling, by August President Nixon's approval rating had plummeted to 31 percent. Does that speak to the power of holding televised hearings? Hearing directly from people.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: There's no doubt about it. I mean, one of the -- one reason why I'm convinced that Trump White House is not allowing people to testify is they're concerned that Americans, when they hear descriptions of the things that are in the Mueller report, when they hear people describe them, that they'll be turn off, they'll be upset with the president or hear something negative that they didn't expect would be there.
[23:50:10] In 1973, the American people were riveted by the testimony of John Dean, of Alexander Butterfield, who revealed the existence of a taping system, of the people who were involved in the dirty tricks campaigns. And they began to wonder, is this what we expect from our president and many of them who had voted for Nixon, because Nixon after all won in a landslide in 1972, began to wonder, perhaps this is not the right man for the job.
LEMON: So, my question is, Nixon didn't have a cable news service and conservative media, basically being his trumpet, right? Pushing his narrative out. Does that make a difference? NAFTALI: What Richard Nixon faced was three major networks and the
beginning of PBS, which were putting out very, very simple coverage of the hearings. The hearings were not mediated. There were no curators there was no filter. You got to listen to people testify.
And these committee meetings were bipartisan. Even though Howard Baker hoped the president would survive, Howard Baker was not afraid -- he was the minority leader in the senate, he was not afraid of asking the tough questions. That is what we're missing today. We're also missing a culture of bipartisan culture of investigation which you had in 73.
LEMON: So, Jon, you've been sitting back patiently here, because you were a Watergate prosecutor, worked under a special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and Liam Jaworski. SO, my question is, how important is it for, you know, we heard from folks publicly back then, how important it is for the public to hear directly from Robert Mueller?
JON SALE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT COUNSEL AT THE WATERGATE TRIAL: Well, Tim used the right word, that people were riveted to the TV sets, but we were -- I don't know if you believe this or not, but we in the Watergate prosecutors office, were not out to get the president. We really weren't sure.
And we frankly had our doubts about John Dean. The last time I was here with you, Don, John Dean was also a guest, and it was the revelation of the tapes and all of a sudden, the tapes started to change public opinion, but I'll tell you what changed it. And I can tell you, because I was there.
Up until October 20th, 1973, there was no serious talk about impeachment, but the Saturday night massacre, I mean, I was fired at the Saturday night massacre, along with my bosses. That is what changed public opinion. And that's what this is all about. If the Trump White House continues to maintain public opinion on their side, no matter how they do it, there's going to be no threat to the president.
LEMON: I'm just wondering how much, because the only Republican, as you know is Justin Amash, right? Who saying that -- he was calling for the president's impeachment, you talk about the tide turning, you know, the certain time at a certain point during the Nixon hearings. Do you anticipate more
people changing and becoming doing what Justin Amash was doing or no, not in this environment?
NAFTALI: Well, I was waiting to see after Justin Amash came forward, whether anyone would follow him. After all, if you're a -- a (inaudible) conservative and a libertarian, President Trump has actually been expanding the size of government and is also making the federal government much stronger than they would want it to be.
You would think that people like Amash would actually be worried about obstruction of justice, but we haven't seen that happen. What we would need, I think, is something like Trump saying no to the courts, the courts said to him, you must turn over your taxes, and then he defies --
LEMON: He defies that. He is trying now.
NAFTALI: He's trying, but he lost the first two cases. Now, if he were to defy the Supreme Court or if he were to defy the appeals court, I think that might change the (inaudible) --
LEMON: I'm just wondering, in this environment, because if you -- listen, if you heard Mueller today, Jon, if you read the report, if you actually read the report, he is saying, we did not -- we couldn't charge the president and he is saying, basically saying, to me, when I heard it, well, the president may have committed a crime, but I just couldn't change him, or, he probably committed a crime and I just couldn't charge him.
How long before you think -- what could be done to change the minds of lawmakers? Because that seems pretty darn clear.
SALE: First I want to take issue of one thing respectfully. I don't think he probably would have charged the president. I think we don't know, but what Tim said is right on the money. It's that third branch of government. When I mentioned the Saturday night massacre, it wasn't the firing so much, it was part of it that he ordered us, we could not go, and he was going to defy a court order. That is what changed the tide. If he does that now, he might --
LEMON: No, I'm not saying -- no, he didn't say I would probably charge him, what he said was, if I could have cleared the president of a crime and I'm paraphrasing here, I would have. What does that mean to you?
SALE: The fact that he didn't clear him doesn't mean he would have charged him.
SALE: It just means what he said. And I don't think he is sending signals. Everybody is saying Bob Mueller sends signals. I think he did anything, but that. I think he said the report speaks for itself, it's in the eyes of the beholder. And I don't think he was telling the congress, you should impeach, I think he is saying, that is your responsibility, take it or leave it, it's up to the congress.
LEMON: Basically saying, there's no mechanism within the law for this, considering the findings of the report. That is for -- he says that, again, I'm paraphrasing here, he said, that is for the political process.
[23:55:10] SALE: That is right, but that is the fact whether he said it or not. That is what the constitution provides.
LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you. Fascinating conversation. Been an amazing day right to watch all of this and there will be more. I appreciate it. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.