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Mueller Breaks Silence, Speaks on His Russia Probe Findings; Mueller; Russian Attacks Deserve Attention of Every American; Mueller Makes Clear that Congress Has Role on Trump's Fate; Professor Who Predicted Trumps Win Says Democrats Have to Impeach to Win in 2020; Acting Defense Chief Breaks with Trump Over North Korea. Aired 3:30- 4p ET
Aired May 29, 2019 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This is our breaking news today. What's been lost in today's unexpected statement by Mueller is really how extraordinary the moment itself was. He has been completely silent for two years. Hasn't said a word. And what he'd like to be his only and last public statement on the matter lasted just nine minutes.
Gloria Borger and Van Jones and Asha Rangappa back with me. And Asha, just to you on the extraordinary morning that was and really just how lawyerly -- is that the right word -- he was.
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I mean, he's a very stayed understated person. And I think what was striking about what he said was, he actually said nothing more and nothing less than what is in the actual report. The most quoted thing I saw on Twitter was his saying, if we could clear him from obstruction of justice, we would have done so but we cannot. He said that twice in the Mueller report on page eight and page 182 of volume 2 if you want to check it out.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
RANGAPPA: But I think what it goes to is how powerful it is to hear him say that in his own words.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATORANGAPPA: Yes, his own words.
RANGAPPA: And why it's impossible to know what the effects of actually having him come in and testify in person would be on the public opinion and consciousness about what to do about what the facts are in the Mueller report.
BALDWIN: So Van, for people wondering, all right, so why can't he just say, hey, Congress, it's on you. It's on you man, like you do the do.
JONES: Hey, if that would be great. Dudes, like, A-B-C-D all the way to I, impeachment. Like that would be like one way to -- but you can't do that. And part of the reason that his service to the country has been so great is that in this incredibly divided country, the only people at the very far extremes were saying this guy, I don't trust. This guy is terrible.
Most people had a confidence in him that he was laboring along. He was doing a good job and he kept silent and he wasn't leaking. He wasn't calling press conference and so when he finally released the report -- which most people have not read -- and to your point, read from it. It has weight. It has something called respect.
And in this disrespectful post-respect, post-ability world he's a rare treasure. And so, listen, other people have now got to figure out can they rise to the occasion but I thought he did a great job. He had a great service to the country. People keep brushing up, thank you for their service and rush to their own political agenda. We should take a moment as a country, to respect and appreciate what he did.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think the Democrats now have a big decision to make. Do they want to get in a fight with this guy.
BALDWIN: Do they force him to testify.
BORGERANGAPPA: Whom they believe is God and they have respect for him and you heard Nancy Pelosi talk about him.
BALDWIN: What do you think they should do?
BORGER: Well I think they have to have him testify.
JONES: They do.
BORGER: And the question is will they have to subpoena him. He becomes a private citizen now. I was communicating with a senior Democratic strategist earlier today who said to me, he has no basis on which to resist a subpoena to testify. There are a lot of unanswered questions. And he has to answer them. And he said, you guys are being too soft on Mueller. You're letting him off the hook here. That we have to know, why he decided not to interview the President. What does he feel about campaign finance violations. What about the office of legal counsel.
BALDWIN: He has to answer those questions. Maybe behind closed door but he needs to answer the questions.
BORGER: I think for the public, I do.
BALDWIN: You do?
JONES: Go ahead.
RANGAPPA: Well I would say even if the answers are literally reading from what he's already stated in the report, it's actually quite a lot. I mean, he lays out his legal theories and his basis for doing that and then people could hear it as opposed to having the responsibility of actually reading it.
JONES: Institutions matter. Institutions matter. And Congress as an institution has a role to play. And right now we're in the pin ball machine where Trump does something and Congress -- it almost feels like this kind of tit-for-tat and it could feel very petty. Folks at home, this is not petty. This is very important stuff. Congress cannot just say, well geez, you gave a press conference and you don't want to come. OK. That is fine with us. Who are we? We're just the elected representatives of the nation.
BALDWIN: They have to do their job.
JONES: Like they have to do their job.
BORGER: And they like him. Democrats like him. Which is why it is such a difficult decision.
JONES: Yes, they got to subpoena.
BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you very much. On more than one occasion Robert Mueller's statement clearly contradicted the message coming out of White House. But we still have a number of unanswered questions including why Mueller never insisted on the interviewing Trump. We'll talk about those questions with a man who wrote a book all about Bob Mueller. Next.
[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Back to the breaking news. Special Counsel Robert Mueller speaking publicly for the very first time in two years about his long- awaited Russia report. But he also says he hopes this is the last time he will speak about the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:40:00] BALDWIN: CNN contributor Garrett Graff is with me now. He is the author of "The Threat Matrix, Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror". So, Garrett, here we have him, the man speaks today. You know, he says he hopes it'll be the last time he does so publicly. He's essentially saying that my report speaks for itself. But I know you have several unanswered questions. Let me just get you to each one. Your first big unanswered question. Did Mueller believe the President met the criteria for obstruction? Why is that important?
GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "THE THREAT MATRIX, INSIDE ROBERT MUELLER'S FBI": Yes, and this is where Mueller said today that he won't deal in hypotheticals. But I think it is really important to be pushing on this question of if the President wasn't President, would he have faced indictment here? And I think the reading between the lines of the report it seems like that's true in at least eight of the ten possible instances that Mueller looked at.
BALDWIN: The next one you point out. Why didn't Mueller push to question the President? Why not?
GRAFF: This is in some ways the most inexplicable of the decisions. Particularly because obstruction is so clearly based in someone's intent. Why was Donald Trump taking the actions that he did. And we don't know that from Donald Trump himself in this investigation. I think possibly the one and only answer here is -- not the only answer but one of the answers -- is that Mueller actually believed that he knew why Donald Trump took these actions and that he took them with the corrupt intent necessary to trigger an obstruction charge. That Mueller sort of felt he had all --
BALDWIN: But he had the answers --
GRAFF: -- that he would have needed.
BALDWIN: I got you. And then lastly, your question is, were any obstruction efforts successful?
GRAFF: Yes, and this is one of the things that I think a lot of people miss as they sort of skip through the -- well he didn't charge anyone with the underlying overarching conspiracy to collude with Russia during the 2016 election. But Mueller makes very clear in his report that he feels that he was not able to get to the bottom of some key aspects of this investigation. Including perhaps most notoriously the question of why Paul Manafort was turning over polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik and Russian officials in the midst of the election itself. And so, there sort of I think a big fundamental question here of whether the obstruction of Robert Mueller investigation was actually successful in preventing him from being able to charge an underlying crime.
BALDWIN: All great questions. All questions that I'm sure members of Congress would like to ask of him if, in fact, he does testify. Garrett Graff, good to see you. Thank you very much.
Coming up next, a history professor who correctly predicted Trump's win in 2016 and many wins before that. We'll join him live and we'll ask whether the Mueller statement today impacts Trump's chances in 2020 and why he actually thinks impeachment proceedings would help the Democratic Party.
[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: He studies the past for a living but professor Allan Lichtman has also made a name for himself by looking into the future. The historian correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections. Look at all of the faces on your screen he called. For Reagan in 1984 all the way through President Trump in 2016's biggest political upset in modern U.S. history. Now Lichtman says, albeit with caution -- since nothing is final yet -- but that Trump will win again. But the professor also believes Democrats do have a shot if they impeach him. So let's talk about that. Professor Allan Lichtman is with me now. Professor, good to have you on. ALLAN LICHTMAN, CORRECTLY PREDICTED WINNER OF LAST NINE PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS: Same. Good to be on.
BALDWIN: So you call it nine times, nine. And you say now -- and I know it's still early and this is not your official prediction -- but you think Trump is it 2020 unless what?
LICHTMAN: Unless the Democrats grow a spine and do their constitutional duty and move into an impeachment inquiry. And I think the evidence will show ultimately an impeachment. It's a false dichotomy to say Democrats have a choice between doing what is right and what is constitutional, and what is politically right. Impeachment is also politically right.
Right now, based on my system, there has to be six negative factors against the party holding the White House, the Trump party to predict their defeat. They're down only three. But an impeachment would nail down the scandal key, a fourth key, it might trigger other keys like a real challenge to his re-nomination or a third party, enough to defeat him.
And let's not forget, impeachment is not just a vote in the House. It involves public hearings, as part of the impeachment inquiry. And what everyone forgets, a public trial in the Senate in which House prosecutors present evidence, present documents, make opening and closing statements. Now Richard Nixon before the public revelations was at 67 percent approval. It was public revelations of his misdeeds that drove him down to 25 percent.
BALDWIN: But here's the "but," professor, because if you look at it the other way, and you, by the way, very well made be correct.
[15:50:00] But if you look at it the other way. If you consider that Trump is daring Democrats to impeach him, right. That he sees this as this potential galvanizing moment for his party and also those, importantly, who have been on the fence ahead of 2020, might that not backfire on Democrats politically?
LICHTMAN: Absolutely not. You know, why would Democrats believe an inveterate liar like Donald Trump? Obviously, he's trying to dissuade the Democrats from doing the one thing that could defeat him in 2020. He already has those committed Trump supporters. That's not nearly enough to win an election. And given all the evidence against him, not just talking about obstruction of justice, we're also talking about something Mueller did not opine on, possible collusion with the Russians. We're talking about two felonies that were -- in which Trump was implicated by the Southern District of New York for the campaign finance laws. We're talking about abuse of power for undermining the separation of powers. We're talking about violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
And in an impeachment trial -- which everyone forgets about -- Trump's lawyers have to make real arguments. They can't reline on Giuliani- type spin. And everyone thinks the impeachment of Bill Clinton backfired against the Republicans. But two things, the evidence and the gravity of the case against Donald Trump is infinitely stronger. And while the Republicans may have lost a few House seats after the impeachment --
BALDWIN: They won the White House!
LICHTMAN: They won the much bigger prize, the presidency, because the cloud of scandal blunted the vote for Al Gore.
BALDWIN: Professor Allan Lichtman, let's come back when it's prediction time, all right?
LICHTMAN: Anytime, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Deal. Deal. Professor, thank you very much.
LICHTMAN: Take care.
BALDWIN: Just into us here at CNN, the acting defense secretary breaking with the President on North Korea after his comments that he's worried about missile tests -- not worried about missile tests. Stand by for that.
[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: President Trump's acting defense secretary is breaking with the President over North Korea's latest round of missile tests. Patrick Shanahan telling reporters, quote, let me just be clear, these were short-range missiles. Those are a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
In that assessment is in direct conflict with what the President just said Monday while he was in Tokyo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently. I view it as a man, perhaps he wants to get attention and perhaps not. Who knows? It doesn't matter. All I know is that there have been no nuclear tests. There have been no ballistic missiles going out. There have been no long-range missiles going out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not bothered at all by the small missiles?
TRUMP: No, I'm not. I am personally not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is with me. And, Barbara, this isn't a slight difference of opinion, it is a complete contradiction.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well it is. And a lot of people might be scratching their heads saying, OK, why is this so important? Because on one side, you have John Bolton, the national security adviser and now the acting secretary of defense who is by the way is facing Senate confirmation hearings for getting the job full- time, if you will, on a permanent basis, in the coming weeks. They are on a very different page than the President.
The President sort of going down the diplomatic route, wanting to appear to give Kim Jong-un all the maneuver room that he can to get Kim back to the table. But Bolton and Shanahan taking a much tougher line saying, look, these recent North Korean tests were ballistic missiles. It is a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Not willing at this point to let Kim wiggle out of it.
It's going to be a very interesting dynamic. Shanahan very new to this inner circle of Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the President. He's got to navigation his way between all these major power players. And today, he appeared to take a step to do that when he made these comments to reporters on the way to the -- to a meeting in Singapore. Saying that he differed, that this was a violation.
It's going to be very interesting to watch Patrick Shanahan. A lot of Americans don't know very much about him. Is he really willing to give the President his honest opinion now, even when it differs from what Mr. Trump may want to hear -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: Well you mentioned the fact that he wants the job full-time, so he's not exactly seeing eye-to-eye with the President on this. Would this impact his confirmation?
STARR: Well it may. And when I say full-time, I should be more clear. On a permanent basis, he is working full-time, of course, as acting secretary. So, my apologies on that.
On a permanent basis, to be confirmed by the Senate to be the U.S. secretary of defense. Look, he knows when he goes in front of the Senate armed services committee in the next few weeks, they are going to ask, they are going to wonder, are you willing to counter President Trump? Are you willing to speak truth to power, if you will? Look, this is where Mattis, the last secretary of defense, had to resign. He felt he couldn't live with what the President decided. What will be Shanahan's red line. How far is he willing to publicly differ with the President.
Got it. Barbara Starr, thank you. And thank you for being with me.
I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.