Return to Transcripts main page
Robert Mueller Testifies Before Congress; Democrats Proceed To Plan B; Robert Mueller Tossed With Left And Right Questions; Did Republicans' Questions For Mueller Sound Like Questions Fox's Sean Hannity Said They Should Ask?; Both Sides Declaring Victory In The Wake Of Mueller's Testimony; Joe Biden Fires Back At Booker And Harris Ahead Of Presidential Debate. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired July 24, 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.
Democrats planning their next moves tonight in the wake of Robert Mueller's testimony on Capitol Hill. His demeanor was somewhat shaky, his answers sometimes halting. But Mueller was clear in his testimony that his report did not exonerate President Trump. That Russia's election attack was not a hoax. And that his investigation was not a witch hunt.
The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying this tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The American people now realize more fully the crimes that were committed against our Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, now that Mueller's hearings are over, CNN's learning that House Democrats had a robust debate tonight behind closed doors about their next moves. They could include launching an impeachment inquiry and likely going to court this week to enforce a subpoena compelling Don McGahn, Trump's former White House counsel, to testify.
For his part, the president's claiming victory and slamming Mueller's testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think Robert Mueller did a horrible job, both today and with respect to the investigation. But in all fairness to Robert Mueller, he had nothing to work with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, I got to tell you, we've got a great group here to talk about all of this. Shimon Prokupecz, Chris Cillizza, Juliette Kayyem. Before I get to them, first I want to bring in John Pistole. John Pistole worked directly under Robert Mueller at the FBI as his deputy director.
John, it's always a pleasure and it's really important to have you on tonight and get your perspective. So, good evening to you. Let me get your take on the most significant moments from the hearing today. What do you think?
JOHN PISTOLE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR TO ROBERT MUELLER: Well, thank you, Don. I think it was really a tale of two testimonies. In the morning, after his opening statement and initial colloquy there with Chairman Nadler, I think he was not as focused or precise or, frankly, even in command of the facts as I think those of us who worked closely with him were used to seeing in his prior dozens of testimonies while he was the FBI director.
I think he was more focused, more precise and more in command of the facts in the afternoon session, and perhaps because that was an area of more comfort and familiarity to him than the morning session. And the whole idea of was there obstruction and were these overt acts in furtherance of a conspiracy, if you will, were those substantives?
And I think he addressed those in his succinct, sometimes terse answers, but the morning session was different where there was more just lack of focus, is the way I would describe it.
LEMON: You were on earlier with Anderson Cooper this week and you said you expected to see the Mueller who had testified before. Do you think this was the same Mueller you saw today? Because he was shaky at times. He appeared that he didn't know what was in the report. Has he lost a step? Is he the same person that you worked with?
PISTOLE: Well, this was not prime time Bob Mueller that I think, again, many of us would see who worked with him previously because, for whatever reasons, and was it the 448-page report and the level of detail and just the stress of the day and all that? I don't know. That's just speculation.
But, again, I think it's a matter of what he articulated in the report, and I think one of the underlying takeaways, one, is that he encouraged people to keep focused on the written word in the report and then, second, again, without specifically saying read the report yourself, people, that's -- whether members of Congress or everyday citizens.
If you want to know what's there then read the report and draw your own conclusions as opposed to being informed by people like you or me and those who have been opining about it all day. Read the report. Draw those conclusions and then figure out what takeaways you would like to see. What are the next steps from your own informed opinion --
[23:05:00] LEMON: OK.
PISTOLE: -- now as opposed to being told what the next step should be. LEMON: Well, John, you know, he didn't defend himself much, but he
did push back. It was really one of the longest answers that he gave. He did push back hard when members of his team were criticized for their connections to Dem politics. Listen to that and then we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, RUSSIA PROBE: We strove to hire those individuals that could do the job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half -- OK.
MUELLER: I've been in this business for almost 25 years and in those 25 years I have not had occasion once to ask somebody about their political affiliation. It is not done. What I care about is the capability of the individual to do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Listen, it's obvious, it was live and then there is a tape right there. He seemed to come to life when he was defending his team. Was that the Robert Mueller you know?
PISTOLE: Well, yes, and, again, as his deputy director for almost six years and then the head of national security and counterterrorism before that, so a total of nine years of working closely with him after 9/11, I never had an exchange with him where he asked me what my political affiliation was, what my political leanings were, it was always just the facts approach, and as the old colloquialism is that the FBI at that time, and I'm assuming still the case, I'm sure it is, was an equal opportunity investigator.
So, whether you're a Democrat, Republican, independent, no party affiliation, whatever, the idea was if there are credible allegations that you have violated a federal law that the FBI has jurisdiction for then the FBI would follow up and conduct a thorough investigation that is impartial without regard to politics or any outside influence.
And I think that's what he tried to adhere to, and I think that's what he did in his special counsel role, it just wasn't a tour de force in terms of his testimony today. So, no concerns about him getting an Oscar nomination for best performance in a dramatic series or anything because that was not his role.
He was never seen as -- as the spokesperson to be out there trying to carry the day, he was the person who could gather the facts, do the thorough investigation and then make sure that all the prosecutive avenues were examined and then as appropriate follow those that he believed were appropriate.
So, again, coming back to the OLC opinion about not prosecuting a sitting president, that would obviously frame so much of that part of the investigation as to what were the potential overt acts in furtherance of that conspiracy? Was there obstruction? And how did that play in that framework?
LEMON: Let's talk about the president today. The president was gloating on Twitter and on the White House lawn this afternoon, but Mueller testified that among other things the president welcomed Russian interference, lied about it, his encouraging WikiLeaks was problematic, that he was untruthful in his written responses, and that he was -- has not been exonerated on obstruction. Is the president celebrating too soon?
PISTOLE: Well, that obviously needs to be -- be seen as what happens in terms of next year's election. I think if -- if the president is re-elected then there is a question about, well, does the statute of limitations run out if he serves another four years and director Mueller did not have a precise answer for that, and so I think that is still to be seen, but clearly, the OLC opinion is --
LEMON: Do you have an answer for that? Do you know if the statute of limitations will have run out if he serves another term?
PISTOLE: I believe it will have in terms of -- well, if it's perjury, for example, if somebody can prove he lied under oath, which he wasn't, or that he objected justice that, no, I would not opine on that.
LEMON: OK. John, it's always a pleasure. Thank you so much.
PISTOLE: Thank you, Don.
So, let's get the big picture now. Joining me now is Shimon Prokupecz, Chris Cillizza, Juliette Kayyem. He is a good guest to have.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right.
LEMON: Right? Because he went there. And I saw you guys -- good evening. I saw you guys sort of -- your ears perked up when he said, you know, when he talked about the guy that he -- wasn't him.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. Not prime time Mueller.
LEMON: This isn't prime time. Why did you perk up when he --
CILLIZZA: Well, he's got a lot more experience with Bob Mueller, watching Bob Mueller than I do, but the two-year public perception of Bob Mueller -- I mean, what's difficult, you have to step back. Bob Mueller never spoke with very few exceptions in two years. It wasn't like -- he wasn't seen in public much, Don, so there was sort of a sphinx like who this guy was portrayed as sort of the Uber prosecutor. He's got the receipts.
And certainly, in the House Judiciary Committee a little less so in the intelligence committee, but certainly that perception didn't marry up with what you were watching.
[23:09:59] LEMON: And what was jarring --
CILLIZZA: It doesn't take away from what he did --
LEMON: Exactly. I agree with you on that. But it was jarring when you looked at, you know, just even in the early to mid-2000s, some of the testimony that he had and then watching the performance today, that was the sort of juxtaposition that I was --
PROKUPECZ: So, people that I was talking to today who worked with Mueller who know Mueller, people from the FBI, some are retired now, but people who were close to him were very surprised.
PROKUPECZ: No one expected this today and I think that's what is in the end is going to be partially the story line here. Is that, you know, we were expecting a much more crisp kind of --
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes.
PROKUPECZ: I think --
LEMON: Not that he would give much different information.
PROKUPECZ: No, but someone -- I think what Pistole said there about --
PROKUPECZ: -- this is what I said earlier, when you are in that position you have to have a command of the facts and he did not. You know, that is what I think was so interesting in all of this. Yes, this is a 400-page report --
PROKUPECZ: -- but you are the leader here. You are the one that's supposedly -- yes, you are doing this with your team --
PROKUPECZ: -- but you're the head guy here of this office.
LEMON: I want to move on but go on.
KAYYEM: No, to the what happens next. The story today is about the messenger. I think that the story is about the -- the long term is going to -- (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: Well, that's what I was going to say, you put that aside.
KAYYEM: Right. It's going to be about the message. And I thought what was successfully done and John picked up on it as well was by the intelligence committee hearing testimony. I thought Mueller masterfully turned the story from a -- really a question about law. Right? Which is really the volume two question, is there obstruction of justice, to a question about loyalty.
And he kept using this word loyal or disloyal. What did it mean to be a president of the United States and his family and what they did with the Russians? That's not a legal question. That doesn't require you to have a law degree.
And that, to me, is something that is graspable. That's something that I can explain to my mother or someone on the street. Do you think it's loyal of people to do what they did given what we now know that the Trump people and the Trump family and Trump himself did with the Russians?
And so, I think if you think about the narrative going forward, I've always -- I've always worried, I've always said to you that volume two took all the noise out of volume one. Because volume two is about Don Junior and all the politics or whatever. Volume one is about our democracy.
And if Mueller -- I think Mueller successfully turned the story to loyalty, and that, to me, is something that both Republicans and Democrats can, you know, Republicans who care can run with.
LEMON: All right. Everyone, stick around. I want to talk about Don McGahn and whether he'll testify. Next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, House Democrats may be looking for more big testimony soon. Back with me, Shimon Prokupecz, Chris Cillizza and Ryan -- I almost said Ryan Lizza. Sorry.
CILLIZZA: It's cool.
LEMON: No, no, no. And Juliette Kayyem.
LEMON: So, listen, Shimon, let's talk about this. Democrats repeatedly brought up the former White House Counsel Don McGahn and his place in the obstruction investigation. Let's listen and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Your investigation found that President Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire you, isn't that correct?
JOHNSON: So, it's fair to say the president tried to protect himself by asking staff to falsify records relevant to an ongoing investigation?
MUELLER: I would say that's my general summary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Shimon, looking forward, the House judiciary chairman says, Jerry Nadler says he's going to go to court to get a subpoena to get Don McGahn to testify. How important do you think it is for him to testify?
PROKUPECZ: I think outside of now Mueller I think he is the most important witness in all of this.
LEMON: But isn't he the star witness everyone says? Because he's the one that actually was there.
PROKUPECZ: He is the one who was there, he was the one who was dealing with it, he was the one that was communicating with the president and he was the one that the president saying I want this one fired, I want that one fired, I want you to do things.
LEMON: Put this into the record and I'll --
PROKUPECZ: Yes, and also, he cooperated extensively --
KAYYEM: With Mueller.
PROKUPECZ: Some 30 hours.
CILLIZZA: Thirty-plus hours. Right.
PROKUPECZ: So, there is a lot of information that he can provide to the committee, and I also think him testifying would be devastating for the president. I think much different than what we saw with Mueller today.
This guy's in the White House. He's directly communicating with the president. The president has given him commands. He's objecting to them. He's kind of saying, yes, yes, yes, I'll do this but then doesn't do it and is communicating with other people about this. He had memos about a lot of the interactions with the president, so he knows a lot. And I think this guy could potentially be very devastating. CILLIZZA: And just very quickly, it's difficult to say, Bob Mueller
underperformed expectations because Bob Mueller made clear he did not want to do this in the first place, right? When he gives that statement, he says the report is my testimony.
He wanted to say, here's this report I did, that's it. Whereas, McGahn, that would be a whole different thing. I mean, we don't -- you can -- Mueller's testimony effectively is that 448-page report. We don't have a 448-page report from Don McGahn. We know he was at the center of all of this stuff.
LEMON: So, as we're sitting here and Shimon was giving his answer, you know, we're sitting here pretending that what's in the report is not in the report because of his performance. And, how --
LEMON: And how the attorney general has shaped the report when all you have to do is read the report --
KAYYEM: Read the report.
LEMON: -- and actually listen to what --
KAYYEM: It's like this --
LEMON: -- the man actually said today.
KAYYEM: I mean, we're always waiting for these eureka moments about, you know, like --
LEMON: It's in the report.
KAYYEM: -- if only this witness came, then every -- and I think for -- I think for Republicans who clearly don't want to admit the eureka moment, it is there. I mean, I just keep going back to this. It is there in volume one. It is -- it is a president who, to quote Mueller, "welcomed to the Russians' assistance and a foreign entity that essentially is continuing to destroy our democracy."
That eureka moment is already there. The Democrats, to me, would be smart to focus on volume one, continue to focus on volume one. There is going to be no eureka moment with McGahn. Volume one, you get the head of the CIA in, yo get the head of ODNI, you get everyone in. Right?
LEMON: The voice of reason right there.
[23:19:59] KAYYEM: Yes. And you say what are we doing for 2020? And why did the Republicans two hours ago just veto two bills related to election security?
KAYYEM: Is that troublesome, yes, it's troublesome.
CILLIZZA: And Juliette --
LEMON: I got to ask about impeachment so let's move on.
LEMON: Quick answers. Chris, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, she said -- I don't know, it's not the time now for impeachment.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
LEMON: So, what's next for the Democrats? Where do they go from here?
CILLIZZA: Short answer?
LEMON: I don't know.
CILLIZZA: More debate -- I don't know. I was going to try to go with yes or no. I don't know. Look, there's 92 --
LEMON: I told you.
CILLIZZA: -- ninety-two-ish House Democrats who say, think impeachment should begin. There's 235 of them total, that's not a majority, according to my math.
I think you'll probably see some more. I think it will go over 100. I think Pelosi is very much dug in on this position that Donald Trump -- remember her quote, he is not worth it. That give -- she believes trying to impeach him gives him exactly what he wants and that they should focus on healthcare and immigration policy and not get caught up in this. The question is can she keep her caucus in line?
CILLIZZA: I don't think today, by the way --
CILLIZZA: -- hurt that argument.
LEMON: All right.
CILLIZZA: I think there will not be a groundswell after today.
LEMON: All right. Thank you. I appreciate it.
CILLIZZA: That was not short.
LEMON: That was not short.
CILLIZZA: I should have just said I don't know.
CILLIZZA: I don't know. Back to you, Don.
LEMON: I said -- I said --
KAPPEM: Volume one, volume one --
LEMON: I was trying to help you out and you wouldn't listen.
KAYYEM: That's all --
CILLIZZA: Bang it.
LEMON: Robert Mueller declined to answer questions more than 200 times today but does his report really speak for itself.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, Robert Mueller's testimony today was the most anticipated in years. The pressure was on for the Democrats, really, Republicans as well and Mueller himself. So, who was the most effective?
Let's discuss now. Elie Honig is here and Jack Quinn.
Good to see both of you live and in person and in stereo as well. Let's start with you, Jack, and Robert Mueller. I think his demeanor throughout the day took a lot of people by surprise. What did you make of it?
JACK QUINN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It took me by surprise, that's for sure. I must say, he seemed unsteady from time to time. And I think that most notable and most unfortunate was the back and forth that he had with --
QUINN: I'm sorry?
LEMON: With Ratcliffe? No.
QUINN: No, with Ted Liu, the whole Ted Liu incident.
LEMON: Got you.
QUINN: Where, you know, he ended up correcting himself later. It really seemed confusing. It suggested confusion on his part. And I think it -- it was a big story line. Now, you know, and worst of all it makes so little sense. I mean, he's essentially saying, well, you know, we could -- couldn't
find -- we couldn't charge obstruction because we couldn't look for it because a long time ago two people who worked for DOJ wrote a memo saying you can't indict a sitting president and those people, by the way, worked for presidents who were under investigation.
And it was just -- it was a confusing mess and it just seemed on one of the most critical issues they had under discussion he was confused --
QUINN: -- by what they concluded.
LEMON: So, Elie, listen, this is by CNN's count, at least 206 times that Robert Mueller declined to answer a question from lawmakers.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wow.
LEMON: He obviously wants the report to speak for itself. That's a lot of times, though, right?
LEMON: Did he undercut his own investigation by refusing to elaborate on it?
HONIG: I think he did. He had a -- there are plenty of things in the report that are incredibly important, but there are also lot of open questions in the report. And he sort of, put this arbitrary box around his own testimony.
He declared when he spoke to us about a month ago. He said, I am only going to testify on what's in my report. That's actually legally incorrect. And Robert Mueller knows that.
Subpoenas, you don't get to pick and choose. And the fact that he almost arbitrarily today 200 times said I'm not going to expand, a, deprived us of a lot of important details, and, b, I think undercut his overall effectiveness as a witness. Because when any audience, whether it's a jury, TV audience, Congress see someone over and over 200 times say I'm not going to answer, you start -- you start to wonder, is he hiding something? Why not?
QUINN: If I may say --
LEMON: But there were many people who are saying, well, you guys were focusing on style and not substance. But that is substance.
LEMON: That's part of the substance. Not answering and not being clear on what's in the report.
LEMON: That's substantive.
QUINN: And the thing we were talking about earlier on obstruction, that's very much substance, it's at the heart of this thing, and, by the way, his -- Mueller's report without any doubt paints a picture of a president who has checked all the boxes on the elements of obstruction of justice.
QUINN: And so why, you know, the only thing I can -- I can figure out that he was trying to do is basically say I'm lateraling the ball over to you guys now because as he had said earlier, you know, there's a process for dealing with a sitting president, it's called impeachment. And he didn't want to come out and say it, but --
QUINN: -- there is no other explanation.
LEMON: But also, you talked about the, you know, the exchange on obstruction. There was also the collusion versus conspiracy exchange that happened with Georgia Republican Doug Collins. Let's watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Collusion and conspiracy are essentially synonymous terms, correct?
COLLINS: If no, on page 180 of volume one of your report, you wrote as defined in legal dictionaries, collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in a general federal conspiracy statute 18USC-371. Are you sitting here today testifying something different than what your report states?
MUELLER: I leave it with the report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There was rapid fire, like --
LEMON: But --
HONIG: So, what that was I think was trying to save the last of the big three because right off the bat we lost no obstruction, right? First answer I think Mueller gave all day was false. Second question was total and complete exoneration.
LEMON: Should they have just stopped at Nadler?
[23:29:58] HONIG: I mean, honestly, we were saying -- if they had said we rest,
HONIG: That's it. That might have been --
HONIG: -- but you knock out those two all you're left with is no collusion. So we get into this really sort of silly semantic game. And I think what Mueller was trying to say is legally conspiracy is a term, collusion is not.
But every day, colloquially the way that normal people talk, they're interchangeable. But this is a tactic that you see in criminal law sometimes when you got nowhere to go, which is attack the investigators, point the finger at the other side, at the prosecutors, and it can work sometimes.
LEMON: Yeah. So last night, Jack, on Fox News, Sean Hannity spent most of his opening monologue laying out a series of questions for lawmakers to ask Mueller. And today, some of the Republican questions were remarkably similar. Here's one. This is on Mueller's meeting with Trump. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Did he give you a reason why he fired James Comey? Yes or no, Mr. Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he mention the firing of James Comey in your discussion with him?
HANNITY: Is it fair to say, Mr. Mueller, that you're friends with Jim Comey?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and James Comey have been good friends, were good friends for many years, correct?
HANNITY: Were you aware that Weissmann was a devote Democrat who was at Hillary Clinton's victory party?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andrew Weissmann attended Hillary Clinton's election night party. Did you know that before or after he came on the team?
HANNITY: Were you aware that Jeannie Rhee, who worked for you, she worked for Hillary Clinton on the Clinton Foundation as her lawyer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware that Ms. Jeannie Rhee represented Hillary Clinton in litigation regarding personal e-mails originating from Clinton's time as secretary of state?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Hard to overlook the similarities.
LEMON: I'm just saying.
QUINN: I mean, how long did it take Sean to write those questions for the Republicans on the committee? Seriously.
LEMON: Yeah. Yeah. So, listen, let's talk about the Democrats. The president and his allies are out there claiming that it was a disaster for them. Was it a disaster?
QUINN: No. Let me say -- look, first of all, I don't think a lot of people watched it from beginning to end.
QUINN: Secondly, I think the chairs of both committees, and Jerry Nadler in particular, really set the table well and got answers that sort of got to the critical points in the early part of the hearing.
QUINN: But more importantly, this is not the end of the hearings. We're going to have hearings that are going to have witnesses -- star witnesses like Don McGahn and that's the meat of this thing.
LEMON: OK. All right.
QUINN: This hearing was not meant to sort of close the book on this.
LEMON: Quickly. Democrats?
HONIG: It was jarring to see the president come out on the driveway and declare victory and triumph on a day when the testimony was no obstruction, false. Complete exoneration, false. The president and the people around him welcomed election interference and lied about it.
HONIG: The president can be indicted when he gets out of office.
HONIG: And even if -- putting aside criminality, at the end, Mueller said he did things that were unpatriotic and immoral and dangerous.
HONIG: How is that a good day? I don't know.
LEMON: Not that he was going to charge him, but he couldn't if he wanted to anyway because of DOJ.
HONIG: He couldn't even decide.
LEMON: He couldn't even decide on it. All right. Thank you both. I appreciate if it. So in the wake of Mueller's testimony, how much pressure is Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, getting from her caucus to start an impeachment inquiry? We're going to dig into that, next.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Both sides declaring victory tonight in the wake of Mueller's testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been a very bad thing for our country. And despite everything we've been through, it's been an incredible two and a half years for our country. The administration, our president -- me -- we've done a great job. We've done it under this terrible phony cloud. A phony cloud, that's all it was.
And they should be ashamed of themselves, absolutely ashamed. And you know who knew it was a phony cloud more than anyone else? It was Schiff and Nadler and Schumer and Pelosi -- every one of them. They all knew it was phony stuff.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The American people now realize more fully the crimes that were committed against our Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, now what? What happens going forward and where does all this leave Republicans and Democrats with 2020 looming?
Let's discuss now. Max -- Mike Shields is here. This is why I said Max -- Max Boot, also here. He's the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." And Hilary Rosen is here as well.
Good to have all of you on. Good evening. Thank you so much.
Max, let's start with you. You know, I want to start with you because you're in New York tonight. I don't want you to get left out of this conversation. This is a headline. This is from your column today. You said, "Mueller wins on the facts but loses on TV." In the Trump era, you know, the reality show world we live in right now, have we gotten to the point where that's what matters, the court of public opinion, what the folks think?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's my fear, Don. I think what you saw today is that Robert Mueller is a great American, great patriot, great lawman, great investigator, but not a great TV performer. He certainly cannot match up with Donald Trump, who is not one-tenth the American that Robert Mueller is.
But Donald Trump knows how to perform on TV and Mueller just either doesn't know how to do it or refused to do it, whatever reason. So he was not very telegenic today. He did not get across his findings in a very forceful manner.
And, unfortunately, I think that gave a win to the Republicans, who are basically eager to obstruct justice and to defend Donald Trump at all costs.
[23:39:54] My real frustration was, you know, I wish that Mueller had channeled a little bit of his Joseph Welch, the army counsel during the McCarthy hearings who said, "Have you no decency, sir?" That's what I wanted him to say to all these Republicans who are impugning his integrity and impugning the integrity of his investigators.
BOOT: It was outrageous. Instead, he was more just Joe Friday, just the facts. So, it fell a little bit flat.
LEMON: Hilary, let's talk about the Democrats. They were disciplined. I was surprised. They were very disciplined. Did they accomplish what they wanted, do you think, even despite of the performance or whatever of Robert Mueller?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, you know, you had some democratic members on earlier. Clearly, the caucus is in spin mode, saying we got what we wanted out of it. I think what they didn't get out of it were a lot of changed minds. You know, Robert Mueller and his investigation were supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans throughout the entire time, and that is because people had faith in him.
I think what we saw today was everyone went back to their corners. You know, Democrats went back to their corners. Republicans went back to their corners. The facts in the Mueller Report are still that the president obstructed justice, but was it going to change the politics? No. It didn't change the politics.
LEMON: Do you think it moved the needle, Mike?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think that this blew up in the Democrats' face. I think they're actually worse off today than they were yesterday after doing this, and that's not what they wanted. I think their caucus is more split.
There's more pressure on Nancy Pelosi now from the people that -- they heard what they wanted to hear and they're going to be ratcheting up that we've got to impeach him. So she's back in that position again.
And in the meantime, the country, no voters really heard anything that was different. They've already digested as much of this as they can. I don't see how this could help them.
LEMON: Even hearing Robert Mueller say, no, I didn't exonerate him and --
SHIELDS: People have been repeating that line for Mueller for the last -- since his report came out. LEMON: Let me ask you about -- you know, when he started his testimony, he said, "Listen, I can't answer anything about the origins of the investigation, the Steele Dossier, whatever." The Republicans then continued to ask him about it. Do you think it was disrespectful? They had no other choice --
SHIELDS: I think it was theater on both sides. I think the Republicans have --
LEMON: You do? You admit you think it was theater?
SHIELDS: Well, of course, it was. This whole thing has been a circus from the start. I think Republicans want the country to understand something about the beginning of this investigation. Democrats are trying to have him literally just read his own report out. All the e- mail -- fundraising e-mails were written the day before this and people tried to make stars out of themselves.
Actually, I agree with you, Hilary, to your point, at the end of this, people go back and saw what they wanted to see out of it and that's not good for the Democrats. That's not good for the Democrats.
ROSEN: There was a lot of theater on the Republican side, for sure, because they really felt like they needed to undermine Bob Mueller. I actually think the Democrats might have done better if they had treated him like the reluctant witness he was.
ROSEN: If they had really forced him to kind of characterize issues not just respond to the report.
ROSEN: You know, because Bob Mueller is a patriot. And the behavior described in the Mueller Report, regardless of what you think, you know, of the facts that were uncovered, is wholly inappropriate for the president of the United States.
SHIELDS: Asking him to come was theater.
LEMON: Max, I've got 20 seconds left. I'll give you the last word. Go on.
BOOT: I mean, we can talk about Bob Mueller's performance, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that he did document obstruction of justice on the part of the president, he did document collusion on the part of the president, he did document lying on the part of the president, and the Republicans couldn't care less about that.
BOOT: The only Republican who cared at all about the underlying charges was Congressman Will Hurd. The others, all of them, were basically in obstruction of justice mode themselves, and they were defaming an American patriot and hero in Robert Mueller. It was a disgraceful performance, I thought, by Republicans on both committees.
LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Thank you all. I appreciate it. The CNN Democratic presidential debates less than a week away, next Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit, and the fireworks have already started for some of the candidates.
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So we're getting a sneak peek at some of the fireworks we may see at next week's CNN Democratic presidential debates in Detroit. Most of the candidates are already in the Motor City for an NAACP convention. So joining me now to discuss is Bakari Sellers and Joe Trippi.
Gentlemen, good evening. Good to see you.
Joe, I'm going to start with you. Two of the most anticipated candidates at today's forum were Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris. Biden defended his civil rights record and fired back at Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Watch this and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You've got to find $30 to $40 trillion somewhere. And how are you going to do it? I find the people who say they are for Medicare for All but are not going to tax the middle class because you don't need to do that. Come on. Is this a fantasy world here? If you look at the mayor's record in Newark, one of the provisions I wrote in the crime bill, pattern and practice of misbehavior.
His police department was stopping and frisking people, mostly African-American men. We took action against them. The Justice Department took action against them, held the police department accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Hmm. So, listen, after the bruising he got from Harris at the first debate, do you think Biden was more prepared today going on the counterattack?
JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he was obviously prepared for it. I just don't know -- again, I think he's much better when he stays above the fray, but that may not be possible going into this debate. People are going to come -- I mean, for a lot of the folks, they're looking for that Kamala Harris moment that she had.
She's looking to do it again and the best place to score is with Joe Biden. But I think one of the things we need to, you know, the people lose sight of is the African-American vote in particular is not monolithic.
[23:50:05] I think older African-Americans give Joe Biden a more benefit of a doubt. The fact he was Obama's vice president matters more to them. He's got a little bit more protective tissue, I think, with older African-Americans. But the younger members of the community, they're different. I think more identifying with Kamala, with Bernie, with just about everybody else in the race right now. We'll see what happens.
LEMON: I wonder if it's smart lines of attack. One more for you, Joe, before I get to Bakari. There were smart lines of attack --
LEMON: -- for him because he went after Sen. Harris's support of Medicare for All and then criticize the New York Police Department's treatment of African-American men under Booker. Joe, smart line of attack?
TRIPPI: Yeah. I think the Medicare may well be. It turns out a lot of democratic voters and a lot of independent voters are worried about losing their private health insurance. And it also is there are a lot of -- African-Americans are more moderate than a lot of white progressives in the party, on issues like this.
TRIPPI: And so I think there's -- that might be a better line of attack than the attack that he did on Booker.
LEMON: OK. Bakari, I want to bring you in now. You're a Harris supporter. Biden is calling on Harris without naming her for backing a Medicare for All proposal, while so claiming that she would enact it without raising taxes on the middle class. Will she need to explain that because she's also flip-flopped on healthcare position? So, does she declare an answer on that?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not certain she flip- flopped, but I do think that she has to have a clear answer. She has to come out and state it, stand strong in it and back it up and not have to go and clarify the next day or question whether or not the question was heard correctly.
I think that Sen. Harris knows that she has to do that and has to get this healthcare answer correct the first time and nail it. I think that that is the ground that Joe Biden wants to play on in this debate.
And to go to one of the questions you asked Joe, he was absolutely right. You know, the vice president looked prepared today. I know he's been making rounds and making quotes that he won't be polite at the next debate.
But I think the people at the next debate just want Joe Biden to be prepared. It's one thing to have a canned statement to a press gaggle. They want him to be prepared to be able to take these sustained hits on health care, criminal justice or whatever it may be.
LEMON: Dou you think those are good lines of attacks for him? Good lines of attack for him that I mentioned talking about -- go on. SELLERS: I definitely think that there has to be clarity from Sen. Harris on her health care proposal. If there can be one weakness said about the campaign throughout, it has to be just standing in your health care answer, being able to explain and talk about how are you going to pay for it. That is going to be something that has to be answered next week.
SELLERS: Is criminal justice a good line of attack for Joe Biden, on anybody? Hell, no. He doesn't -- he can't sustain those blows coming back. He does not need to be talking about anybody's criminal justice record when his hands are the dirtiest of anyone onstage. While we are having a conversation of all those people onstage, I'm a Harris supporter. I think Booker is doing well. I think Biden is doing well.
Julian Castro has also been doing extremely well. He'll be on that same stage when you're talking about criminal justice reform as well. So you better keep your good eye on Julian as well.
LEMON: Yeah. So, Joe, Biden also said that President Obama wouldn't have chosen him to be his vice president if he had -- if he was bad on civil rights. What do you think about that? You said he gets -- he gets a lot of leeway, you said, with older black voters. What you think about these comments?
TRIPPI: Look, I think sooner or later, we're going to see scenes of him and Obama looking out the Oval Office window together. Look, it is the strength of his, not just with African-Americans, particularly older African-Americans, but a lot of Democrats, that he was Obama's vice president. It's the stronger cards he's got, prepared for the job. We're going to keep hearing about that. I do agree to watch other people in this thing.
TRIPPI: Castro. But also, I think there are a lot of candidates who go into these debates. This is their last chance to make it into the next round for a lot of them and so I think it's going to be very aggressive. One of them is going to score.
LEMON: Yeah. Bakari, 10 seconds, what do you think? Do you think that --
SELLERS: I'm going to steal a line from a legendary Biden debate quote, I think. Right now, Joe Biden is subject verb Obama. And black folk and everybody will get tired of hearing that.
[23:55:00] SELLERS: He has to stop using Barack Obama as a shield. That is what he is using, his record, not continuous policy.
LEMON: I got to run.
SELLERS: Subject verb Obama.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Don't miss the CNN Democratic presidential debates next Tuesday and Wednesday night. Dana Bash, Jake Tapper, and this guy right here will moderate, July 30th and 31st, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well he essentially resigned in that video, Don. And he said after listing a long list of what he perceived as the greatest accomplishments of his administration he finally said he had discussed it with his family, they had listened to the people and he is resigning as of Friday August 2.
Now who will take his place, that is also a big fact (ph) that came out in his message, and that is the Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez. But I want to paint the picture of what it looks like right now in Old San Juan.
The streets that we have seen be filled with anger and frustration over the last 12 days have now become a party -- celebration. Fireworks have gone off, flags are waving, people are jumping and dancing, and celebrating, and hugging. It is a very festive, festive environment on the streets of Old San Juan at this very hour.
You know, what lead up to this I think it's important to mention you were talking about the chat (ph), that was the last straw -- I mean this is, for the people of Puerto Rico way beyond the chat that really did offend a lot of people when they were leaked, and you could hear -- or you could read the Governor speaking to his inner circle and exchanging the insults (ph) that he mentioned off the top there, Don.
But then this is about getting rid of corruption. This is an island that has had an economic storm, then a natural disaster with Hurricane Maria, and now this latest storm -- the political storm of Governor Ricardo Rossello sort of becoming the embattled governor that refused to resign for 12 days despite the growing demand on the streets.
I mean, there was a major highway that was shut down on Monday by the people, and truckers and there were more than 1 million people there who eventually made their way to Old San Juan to continue to protest at the Governor's mansion.
The protesters said that was not going away until he stepped down -- that was the promise.
SANTIAGO: And that's what we're seeing play out now, that the pressure was mounting and building so much that the Governor filmed a video, said he was resigning -- said Friday will be the last day and now it's a big party on this island, Don. It is a big party, but the question will be how will this island move forward? What will be next, now that the Governor has stepped down? LEMON: Yeah, according to the reporting and to Leyla (ph), he is --
Ricardo Rossello has announced that he will resign, it'll be effective Friday August 2 at 5pm Eastern time. He is resigning as the Governor of Puerto Rico, announced on a video message on Facebook. Just moments ago our correspondent Leyla Santiago watched that video. Massive protests were spurred as you can see, there are some right there -- and moments ago you can see people cheering in the streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Of course all of this was brought about, his resigning after more than a week of protests like you're seeing now. The protests were angry, these are celebrations now demanding that he step down over group messages that included homophobic and misogynistic language and jokes about Hurricane Maria victims.
We will continue to update you on this story as is warranted, but the Governor of Puerto Rico stepping down, effective Friday August 2 at 5pm.
I'm Don Lemon in Washington, I now go to my colleague Anderson Cooper -- his program already in progress.