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Robert Mueller Finally Speaks Out. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired May 29, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
The introduction to the volume two of our report explains that decision. It explains that, under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional.
Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.
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)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And while he will soon return to life as a private citizen, Mueller was clear that future actions could still be taken by those outside of the DOJ.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: The opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: His remarks will no doubt increase the pressure already on House Speaker Pelosi and her Democratic Caucus, which has been publicly split on the issue of impeachment.
Here is how Congressman Jerry Nadler, who would preside over any proceedings, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, answered that question just last hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Congressman, will you move then forward with impeachment proceedings? REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Thank you.
QUESTION: And given what Mueller has said, meaning that he feels as though the report says all that he needs to say, will you then subpoena him to testify in front of Congress?
NADLER: With respect to impeachment question at this point, all options are on the table, and nothing should be ruled out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's start with Jim Acosta. He's our chief White House correspondent.
And, Jim, listening to Congressman Nadler, obviously, he was careful with his words.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BALDWIN: But the White House essentially saying bring it on when it comes to impeachment. Tell me more about the White House's reaction to today.
ACOSTA: Well, first a couple of things, Brooke.
I mean, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, she gave one of those rare gaggles in the White House driveway just a short while ago, and she said over here at the White House they believe that the president was exonerated.
That is not exactly what we heard from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, when he said earlier today, if we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said that.
He also went on to say, as you were just playing a few moments ago, that they are guided by this Justice Department policy that the president cannot be indicted for crimes committed.
And I asked the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, that question earlier this afternoon. If Donald Trump were not the president, could be -- could he be charged with the crime? And here's what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: It does beg the question, if Donald Trump were not the president, could he be charged with a crime? What do you say to that?
SARAH HUCKABEE 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 not have taken place, collusion, conspiracy, obstruction. And, again, we consider this very much to be case closed. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, of course, Brooke they consider it to be case closed, but they don't see it that way among the Democrats up on Capitol Hill.
You're seeing Robert Mueller's comments really spark new calls for impeachment. And one thing that Sarah Sanders did say -- and I think this also was noteworthy -- was that she said that they are prepared for whatever comes and that they are essentially making preparations or have made preparations in the event Democrats do pursue impeachment.
Now, it sounds like they're prepared from a legal standpoint and a constitutional standpoint in terms of squaring off with Congress in that regard. But, as we all -- all heard from various sources close to the president inside the White House, outside the White House, they also see it as politically beneficial to the president if they go into this campaign cycle with Democrats clamoring for impeachment.
They feel like that works for the president. Whether -- they look back to what happened to Bill Clinton and say that that works for President Trump. Whether that is ultimately the case, of course, we're all going to find out over the next 18 months -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Nadler says all options are on the table. What does that mean? TBD.
BALDWIN: Jim Acosta at the White House, Jim, thank you very much.
Talk about the pressure, it is on for this woman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She is expected to respond on camera to Mueller's comments today. She has already released a statement thanking Mueller for his team's work that did -- quote -- "provide a record for future action, both in the Congress and in the courts, regarding the Trump administration involvement in Russian interference and obstruction of the investigation."
And she went on to say: "The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy." She says: "The American people must have the truth."
Phil Mattingly is our man on Capitol Hill.
And, Phil, I notice lawmakers are out of town, but you're in touch with them. And what what's their reaction to Mueller today?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, responses coming fast and furious.
BALDWIN: I'm sure.
MATTINGLY: But, Brooke, I want to hit on something you said that I thought was a really kind of keen observation. That was how careful Congressman Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the
Judiciary Committee, was when he was making that public statement earlier. Not only was his public statement written, and he read directly from it, but his responses to questions, predictable questions that he knew he was going to get...
BALDWIN: Was reading.
MATTINGLY: ... was also prepared for him.
And it's worth noting, what he said, all options are on the table related to impeachment, that's not actually a shift. That has been his position throughout, as his committee has gone through its investigative processes, wide-ranging, sweeping investigations into the Trump administration, into obstruction specifically.
He has long said, if the evidence gets them there, it is on the table. And that, at least for the moment, has not changed. There's really two pieces here. And I think it underscores why Jared Nadler is being careful.
There's the impeachment piece and whether or not Democrats want to pursue that. And there's the whether Robert Mueller ends up coming to testify in front of Congress.
On the first, you note how key it is when Speaker Pelosi speaks. The reason why is because she and Chairman Nadler are the two people who really matter more than anybody else when it comes to impeachment. If they give the green light, it will start. If they do not, it will not, no matter how many Democrats in the caucus decide that they want to pursue that.
And to be perfectly clear, there have been a growing number over the course of the last couple of days, 10 days really, of House Democrats that wants to at least launch an impeachment inquiry. They are not a critical mass, though, and they are not a majority. We will see if that changes.
The other issue is whether or not Robert Mueller comes up to testify on Capitol Hill. The majority leader, Steny Hoyer, put out a statement saying today that he still believes that Robert Mueller should come up to Capitol Hill, even though Mueller said he hoped he would not have to. He believed the report spoke for itself.
But something to keep in mind here -- and a couple Democrats have been texting me about this -- the power of the visual, the power of the special counsel, even if he's just reading from the report, the individual on television being seen across the country, across the world, reading those things that perhaps other people haven't, or perhaps they have only seen summaries of, that is something Democrats want, not just for political reasons, but also to back up the investigations that they have got ongoing.
Expect a push to still have him Come up to Capitol Hill. But whether or not they will subpoena him, how the process will actually work, that is still being debated, Brooke.
Yes, talking to John Dean last hour, he says that Mueller has to, he has to go to Capitol Hill, maybe behind closed doors, but he has to testify.
Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.
Gloria Borger is CNN's chief local analyst. Van Jones was a former special adviser to President Obama and is host of CNN's "The Van Jones Show." And Asha Rangappa is a former FBI special agent and CNN legal and national security analyst.
Whew. Questions abound.
BALDWIN: Where to begin?
I just want to do a quick -- let me hit you all on a round-robin of biggest takeaways on Mueller speaking today.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Mueller made it very clear that he had his hands tied behind his back, in that he couldn't indict a sitting president, but said to Congress effectively, you don't.
And I think, reading between the lines of Mueller -- and you guys are the lawyers, I'm not -- it was pretty clear to me that what he was saying, if I could have, I would have.
BALDWIN: But I can't so, you need to.
BORGER: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Yes.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think we're in a really, really delicate place now. We're on the knife's edge.
And if you're Pelosi, you have two responsibilities that do not go together now. You have an immediate responsibility to just try to protect your caucus and make sure you're on track for a victory in 2020. That would argue for a certain kind of caution.
But if you're concerned about the republic, capital R, how is a republic supposed to function? BALDWIN: Speaking of Pelosi, perfect segue, here she is.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
QUESTION: ... Justice Department.
He's said that if he had confidence that no crimes had been committed, he would have reported that. He made a number of other statements about a president not being able to be convicted of a crime while in office.
Tell us -- I know you have made one comment already this morning. What is your reaction to his statements this morning?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Thank you, Gloria, for your question and for the invitation to be here today.
It's also wonderful to be at the Commonwealth Club with so many members of the club and concerned citizens, especially my family, my daughter Christine, her husband Peter, her father-in-law, Phil Kaufman, and my -- our grandson Octavio. And welcome.
PELOSI: And I understand that my son Paul -- our son Paul is here, Paul Jr., someplace.
In any event, this is a family affair for us always. We always like to hear, whether we're present or viewing or listening, to what is of interest to our community.
And I want to salute Gloria Duffy. She's just so remarkable and we're so blessed to have her in the role that we have.
PELOSI: While she mentioned what I was doing while they were having a late Central American-style dinner, I will tell you what she was doing during the day.
And this was so remarkable to all of us, because it was -- we were there to see what was happening.
BALDWIN: All right, so we have got an ear on this. The second she -- she gets to the answer, we will take it live.
But to your point, you were saying it's a delicate balance between responding to her caucus...
BALDWIN: ... because the cries have become louder in protecting the capital-R republic.
I mean, in other words, she, I think, in that kind of more of a mother hen role with regard to the caucus, is going to say, look, you guys may want to do all this stuff, but I know that it may be bad for us politically. We may hand the presidency back over to him in 2020. All kind of bad stuff could happen. I don't want to take that kind of risk.
But she has a responsibility to the republic, capital R, and whether you like Trump or you don't like Trump, if you just erase all the names and just say you have -- you had...
BALDWIN: Person X.
JONES: Yes, President X, you had an investigation where all these facts came out. And that investigation, however, could not lead to any kind of conviction or accountability by definition. The rules said you can't.
There's only now one body that can do an investigation with the gloves off, with...
JONES: And that is Congress, and that is her.
And so she has a big challenge today. And, in some ways, it's no win, because you got to sacrifice one for the other. But I don't think that -- I think she's being painted into a corner by the president's actions, Mueller's statement and by her caucus, and we will see how she handles it.
BALDWIN: I want to come back to that, but your takeaway, Asha?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Three takeaways...
BALDWIN: Three takeaways.
RANGAPPA: ... yes, that I think Mueller was saying here.
BALDWIN: It's been a big day.
RANGAPPA: First, he said no hoax. He said no coup. And then he said, you can impeach.
And the first two are just as important, because they are directly contradicting the narrative that has been put out by the White House. And with the third one, I think...
BALDWIN: Oh, sorry, sorry. Let's try again.
PELOSI: ... well, now, former special counsel Mueller and what he had to say, and, as Gloria indicated, he did say, if he saw any evidence that the president was not -- was innocent, he would have let us know.
If he had any evidence that the president was not guilty, he would have let us know. But he didn't. He didn't. And I think that was very, very important.
While I have the deepest respect for him, and thank him and his team for present -- the presentation of facts that will further lead us to help us in the Congress and in the courts -- this is a very valuable contribution -- I am gravely disappointed in the Justice Department for their attitude, their misrepresentation of the Mueller report to begin with.
They're hiding behind something that you could never find in the Constitution, that the president is above the law, and their misrepresentations, even under oath, by the attorney general to the Congress of the United States.
So we -- as we will continue on our path, which was led by our six chairmen, who are magnificent, Adam Schiff, who's coming, Jerry Nadler, Judiciary, Elijah Cummings of Government Reform and Oversight, Maxine Waters, Financial Services, Richie Neal, the president's taxes, Ways and Means, and Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs. All have a piece of this.
Last week, we had three victories in the courts. One, Elijah Cummings' court won, the president's accountant, that they have to share the information.
Two, Maxine Waters, the Deutsche Bank decision, which is they have to share the information. And, three, not related to the Russia investigation or that, but related to other problems we have with the president and his view of the Constitution, is that we have -- the court said that he cannot use Defense Department funds to build a wall, to use that money to build a wall.
PELOSI: We also had a victory and just committee, in that the Justice Department, under threat of subpoena and legal action, decided that they would give certain important documents to the committee. And that was a victory.
That was four days -- four decisions in five days, very important to advancing our getting the facts for the American people, getting the truth for the American people. Where it will lead us, we shall see. Nothing is off the table.
But we do want to make such a compelling case, such an ironclad case, that even the Republican Senate, which at the time seems to be not a -- an objective jury, will be convinced of the path that we have to take as a country.
QUESTION: So you mentioned the victories in court. You mentioned the various committees doing their investigations.
Some in Congress want to go further. Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee opened a dedicated impeachment inquiry, Judiciary Committee, potentially.
PELOSI: Judiciary Committee what?
QUESTION: Well, open a specific investigation of impeachment.
PELOSI: No, you mean he, as a member of the committee...
QUESTION: Yes. Yes.
PELOSI: ... because the committee has not taken that position.
QUESTION: So, there are Democrats in Congress who want to go further than the existing committee investigations.
PELOSI: Right. Right.
QUESTION: How do you feel about that? Do you think there's a role for an additional dedicated investigation?
PELOSI: Well, let me just say that I'm very proud of our House Democrats.
They have been very, shall we say, conscientious about how they have reached their decisions. And I think it's like 35 of them out of 238. Maybe it's 38 of them out of 238 have said that they wanted to be outspoken on impeachment.
And many of them are reflecting their views, as well as those of their constituents. Many constituents want to impeach the president. But we want to do what is right and what gets results, what gets results.
And we have to remember...
PELOSI: So, yes, there are some. And the press makes more of a fuss about the 28 than the 200, who are over half of the Congress. Half of the of the Democrats in the House sit on one of these six committees. So they're all on a path of finding more information.
Just to recall (INAUDIBLE) if you were not born then, but during the -- what would not become impatient, but the impeachment investigation of Richard Nixon, that took months and months of a Senate committee that was solely dedicated to researching impeachment, before they then decided to have articles of impeachment come from the House, which were never executed, because the House and Senate agreed.
And it was a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. We have a different scenario now. So, the case has to be very compelling to the American people. So, we are legislating. And we wish the press would cover more of that.
Thank you, Gloria, for pointing out some of the bills that we have passed and sent to the Senate about gun safety, women's rights, equal pay for equal work, Violence Against Women Act, gun safety. The list goes on, climate action now. The list goes on.
But in any event, we're legislating. We're investigating. And we are litigating. And we're going to, as we go down the path, make a decision based on the strongest possible case, to get the best results for the American people.
And the action taken by the special counsel today, I commend him for the work that they did to present the facts. Now, we have to get it unredacted for the public, but nonetheless -- and for the Congress, by the way.
They will say to me, oh, we will show you. And I say, that's not it. The American people to know. You're going to show me, and then I'm bound by classified rules of the House not to tell anybody? No, I don't think so. I don't think so.
PELOSI: But, in any event, I think that everybody wants justice.
Everybody wants the president to be held accountable in the most serious way. And everybody believes -- I mean, I'm talking tongue on the Democratic side -- that no one is above the law, especially the president of the United States.
QUESTION: We will come back to the remedies, the 2020 election, and the run-up to...
PELOSI: I'm sure there will be some questions further about impeachment.
QUESTION: Of course.
But let's talk about legislative priorities. You mentioned some of the bills.
So, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the target of key questions in the wake of listening to Robert Mueller this morning.
And I heard similar words spoken that would echo what we heard from Congressman Nadler on what we heard, namely, we will continue on our path, and nothing is off the table and no one is above the law.
So let me -- on the political piece of this, Gloria and Van, to you, why -- it sort of sounds like Nancy Pelosi, despite everything that we heard this morning, is like, slow your roll.
BORGER: She hasn't changed.
BORGER: She just -- she hasn't changed. And she also pointed out, we were laughing about this, that there are only 38 Democrats who have been talking about impeachment, not that she's counted.
JONES: Not that she doesn't have a list of their names.
BORGER: Out of all the Democrats. She's been on the phone with them.
And she made the point after that, we need to do what gets results. And she's very aware that you can't get impeachment approved in the Senate. And she said, if we ever went down that road, it seems to me we have to be able to convince Republicans to do that.
BORGER: And, of course, they're not there.
JONES: I think her caucus will feel that she's setting too high a bar, that you can't do the job in the House unless the Senate -- you're kind of handing a veto over to the Senate prematurely. So she's going to get criticized for that.
But there's some wisdom in what she is saying. This is a very big country. The number of people who are dialed into this, who've read the Mueller report, who are outraged, who are tweeting about this, compared to the country, is relatively small.
People are getting ready for graduations. People are getting ready for summer vacation. She's smart to say, you're going to have to do a massive education job. And don't forget, when you do it, you're going to be up against the buzz saw of FOX News and a very riled-up right-wing communication structure that's going to make it very difficult for you to make your case.
So she doesn't want to rush into this battle. I think there's some wisdom there. But for her to set the bar so high that it sounds like she's giving the Senate a veto before there's even been a hearing, I think she's going to get criticized for that.
BALDWIN: I want to hear from you. But I also -- I wrote down -- she didn't name-check Bill Barr, but she said, "I am gravely disappointed by the DOJ."
Well, I think that what Mueller did today, basically put out there -- you had the split-screens before -- that Barr lied when he gave his press conference...
RANGAPPA: ... that Mueller was not bound by the OLC opinion, which he clearly was.
RANGAPPA: But I think that, for Nancy Pelosi, what I would say to her is, you have got to name it to claim it.
And if that means saying the I-word and saying impeachment, that is going to strengthens Congress' position with regard to all of these other committees that she mentioned and the information that they are trying to get, because it is an explicit power that is mentioned in the Constitution that is Congress' sole province.
I also think that Mueller would be more forthcoming and more robust if he were asked to testify as a part of formal impeachment hearings, because his whole point is, in order for me to accuse or point the finger, there has to be a formal forum that has a process that ultimately results in the accused being able to clear his name.
And that would be...
BALDWIN: Let me -- because brought up a great point.
BALDWIN: I want to throw back up, in case you all missed it, the- side-by side, to your point about OLC policy, Bill Barr and Robert Mueller. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: There was no evidence of the Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government's hacking.
MUELLER: There was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.
BARR: The deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.
MUELLER: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Just again, to reiterate your point, Bill Barr, to quote you, is lying.
And to hear it from President Trump today and his tweet and the White House saying that case closed, move on, yet you have Bill Barr still investigating the investigators.
Which is it, to any of you? What's the deal?
BORGER: I mean, I think that's one of the questions Nancy Pelosi has got to answer.
And I think that what she is doing, I don't think she can come out right now and say the I-word.
BORGER: I don't.
BALDWIN: What's holding her back, for people wondering?
BORGER: I think what she's doing -- as a reporter, I'm going to use what I know.
BORGER: She's reporting the story. OK?
She doesn't want to jump to the -- to the final end of where the story is going to go until she reports the story. And what she's doing and what her committee chairmen are doing is, they have got them the Mueller report, but they're also reporting the story. And they want to have enough facts...
BALDWIN: Exhausting all the efforts.
BORGER: They want to have enough facts at their disposal so that when they get attacked by Republicans -- or maybe they will convince Republicans that they have enough, then maybe she will use the I-word, but I think she's being very methodical about this, because the last thing you want to do is jump into impeachment.
And she mentioned the Watergate example, which is, it took a long time.
BORGER: Took a very long time.
And Republicans were dragged kicking and screaming.
BALDWIN: Close this out.
JONES: Look, the thing that we got to keep in sight, though, is the other country here, which is Russia. OK?
JONES: Like, if you are Vladimir Putin, this is just great, because he put, frankly, modest expenditure, from his point of view, and created total chaos.
And I -- if I were President Trump, I would hope somebody is telling him, you know what, the best thing you can do right now is not be tweeting about this. You should stand up and say, I am going to crack down on Russian interference. I want the next election to have all of this lifted. You guys don't believe that I got it on my own the last time. I'm going to prove you're right.
He is leaving himself vulnerable to the idea that he got the word now that there's something desperately wrong with our elections and did nothing and profited from it.
From a capital-R republic point of view, that is incredibly irresponsible on the president's part. If the president wants to have the mantle of legitimacy, he should rise above all this stuff and go after Russia hard.
When he doesn't do that, we're going to be in this thing for a long time.
BALDWIN: You got the last word.
Van and Asha and Gloria, thank you all so, so much.
BALDWIN: I want to get back to Mueller saying that he could not exonerate the president, plus the times Mueller completely contradicted President Trump on several key issues.
We will be right back.
BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Talking all about this man, the now, I should say, former special counsel Robert Mueller. This is our breaking news today.
What's being lost in today's unexpected statement by Mueller is really just how extraordinary the moment itself was.