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Robert Mueller Hearing; Report Doesn't Exonerate Trump; No Indictment Because of OLC Opinion. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 24, 2019 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:00:00] REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Thank -- thank you.

I wanted to ask you about public confusion connected with Attorney General Barr's release of your report. I will be quoting your March 27th letter.

In that letter and at several other times, did you convey to the attorney general, that the quote, "introduction to the executive summaries of our two volume report accurately summarized this office's work and conclusions?" End quote.

MUELLER: I'd have to say the letter itself speaks for itself.

DEAN: And those were your words in that letter. Continuing with your letter, you wrote to the attorney general that quote, "the summary letter -- letter that the department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24th did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office's work and conclusions," end quote. Is that correct?

MUELLER: I rely on the letter itself for its terms.

DEAN: Thank you. What was it about the report's context, nature, substance that the attorney general's letter did not capture?

MUELLER: I think we captured that in the March 27th responsive letter.

DEAN: This is from the 27th letter. What were some of the specifics that you thought...

MUELLER: I'd direct you to that letter itself.

DEAN: OK. You finish that letter by saying there is now public confusion about critical aspects as a result of our investigation. Could you tell us specifically some of the public confusion you identified?

MUELLER: Not generally. Again, I go back to the letter and the letter speaks for itself.

DEAN: And could Attorney General Barr have avoided public confusion if he had released your summaries -- and executive introduction and summaries?

MUELLER: I don't feel comfortable speculating on that.

DEAN: Shifting to May 30th, the attorney general in an interview with CBS News said that you could have reached -- quote, "you could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity," end quote, on the part of the president. Did the attorney general or his staff ever tell you that he thought you should make a decision on whether the president engaged in criminal activity?

MUELLER: I'm not going to speak to what the attorney general was thinking or saying.

DEAN: If the attorney general had directed you or ordered you to make a decision on whether the president engaged in criminal activity, would you have so done?

MUELLER: I can't answer that question in the vacuum.

DEAN: Director Mueller, again, I thank you for being here. I agree with your March 27th letter. There was public confusion and the president took full advantage of that confusion by falsely claiming your report found no obstruction. Let us be clear, your report did not exonerate the president. Instead, it provided substantial evidence of obstruction of justice, leaving Congress to do its duty. We shall not shrink from that duty. I yield back.

NADLER: The gentle lady yields back.

M. JOHNSON: Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, I have a point of inquiry, over on your left.

NADLER: Gentleman will state his point of inquiry.

M. JOHNSON: Was the point of this hearing to get Mr. Mueller to recommend impeachment?

NADLER: That's not a fair point of inquiry. The gentle lady from Florida is recognized.

M. JOHNSON: Mr. Chairman...

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Director Mueller, I'm to your...

NADLER: The gentle lady from Florida is recognized.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I thank you for coming here, you're a patriot. I want to refer you now to Volume 2, page 158. You wrote that quote, "the president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or exceed to his request? "Is that right?

MUELLER: That is accurate, and that is what we found.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: And you're basically referring to senior advisors who disobeyed the president's orders like White House Don McGahn, Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski. Is that right? MUELLER: We have not specified the persons (ph).

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, in -- in page 158, White House Counsel Don McGahn, quote "did not tell the acting attorney general that the special counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the president's orders." You also explained that an attempt to obstruct justice does not have to succeed to be a crime, right?

MUELLER: True.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Simply attempting to obstruct justice can be a crime, correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: So even though the president's aides refused to carry out his orders to interfere with your investigation, that is not a defense to obstruction of justice by this president, is it?

MUELLER: I'm not going to speculate.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: So to reiterate, simply trying to obstruct justice can be a crime, correct?

MUELLER: Yes.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: And you say that the president's efforts to influence the investigation were, quote, "mostly unsuccessful," and that's because not all of his efforts were unsuccessful, right?

MUELLER: You're reading into what I - what we've written in the report.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I was going to ask you if you could just tell me which ones you had in mind as successful when you wrote that sentence.

MUELLER: I'm going to pass on that.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Yes. Director Mueller, today we've talked a lot about the separate acts by this president, but you also wrote in your report that, quote, "the overall pattern of the president's conduct towards the investigations can shed light on the nature of the president's acts and the inferences can be drawn about his intent." Correct?

MUELLER: Accurate recitation from the report.

[12:05:27] MUCARSEL-POWELL: Right, and on page 115, again, I think it's important for everyone to note that the president's conduct had a significant change when he realized that it was - the investigations were conducted to investigate his obstruction acts.

So in other words, when the American people are deciding whether the president committed obstruction of justice they need to look at all of the president's conduct and overall pattern of behavior. Is that correct?

MUELLER: I don't disagree.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. Dr. Mueller - Director Mueller, doctor also - I'll designate that, too - I have certainly made up my mind about whether we - what we have reviewed today meets the elements of obstruction including whether there was corrupt intent. And what is clear is that anyone else including some members of Congress would have been charged with crimes for these acts. We would not have allowed this behavior from any of the previous 44 presidents. We should not allow it now or for the future to protect our democracy, and yes. We will continue to investigate because as you clearly state at the end of your report, no one is above the law. I yield back my time.

NADLER: Gentlelady yields back. The gentlelady from Texas.

ESCOBAR: Director Mueller, you wrote in your report that you, quote, "determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment," end quote. Was that in part because of an opinion by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president can't be charged with a crime?

MUELLER: Yes.

ESCOBAR: Director Mueller, at your May 29, 2019 press conference, you explained that, quote, "the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing," end quote. That process other than the criminal justice system for accusing a president of wrongdoing, is that impeachment?

MUELLER: I'm not going to comment on that.

ESCOBAR: In your report you also wrote that you did not want to, quote, "potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct," end quote. For the non-lawyers in the room, what did you mean by, quote, "potentially preempt constitutional processes"?

MUELLER: I'm not going to try to explain that.

ESCOBAR: That actually is coming from page 1 of Volume 2. In the footnote is the reference to this. What are those constitutional processes?

MUELLER: I think I heard you mention at least one.

ESCOBAR: Impeachment, correct?

MUELLER: I'm not going to comment.

ESCOBAR: OK. That is one of the constitutional processes listed in the report in the footnote in Volume 2. Your report documents the many ways the president sought to interfere with your investigation, and you state in your report on page 10, Volume 2 that with a - interfering with a congressional inquiry or investigation with corrupt intent can also constitute obstruction of justice. MUELLER: True.

ESCOBAR: Well, the president has told us that he intends to fight all the subpoenas. His continued efforts to interfere with investigations of his potential misconduct certainly reinforce the importance of the process the Constitution requires to, quote, "formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing," as you cited in the report.

And in this - this hearing has been very helpful to this Committee as it exercises its constitutional duty to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president.

I agree with you, Director Mueller, that we all have a vital role in holding this president accountable for his actions. More than that, I believe we in Congress have a duty to demand accountability and safeguard one of our nation's highest principles that no one is above the law.

From everything that I have heard you say here today, it's clear that anyone else would have been prosecuted based on the evidence available in your report. It now falls on us to hold President Trump accountable. Thank you for being here. Chairman, I yield back.

COLLINS: Mr. Chairman...

NADLER: Gentlelady yields back.

COLLINS: Just one personal privilege (ph). You and I agree...

NADLER: One personal privilege (ph).

COLLINS: I just want to thank the Chairman. We did get in our time. After this was first developed to us (ph), we both didn't get in time. Our side got our five minutes in, also, Mr. Mueller, thank you for being here, and I join the Chairman in thanking you for being here.

[12:10:27] REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Thank you.

Director Mueller, we thank you for attending today's hearing.

Before we conclude, I ask everyone to please remain seated and quiet while the witness exits the room.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: More than three and a half hours after he walked into that room, Robert Mueller is now walking out. They're going to take a break for a little while.

The next session will be the House Intelligence Committee. They will have questions as well. We expect at least another two hours there.

You know, it's very interesting, Jake, on three major issues, he did make some significant news. He said that the report that he put -- prepared, 448 pages, did not totally exonerate the president, as the president has claimed. He says the president could be charged after leaving office, a sitting president, according to current Justice Department guidelines, can't be charged or indicted, but after leaving office potentially could be charged. And also that he wasn't charged specifically this time in response to questions from Ted Lieu, the Democratic congressman from California, because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion that a sitting president can't be charged. That's going to be pretty -- pretty significant, that statement that he made there.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes, with debate about whether or not he meant I would have charged if he weren't the president --

BLITZER: Correct.

TAPPER: Or, no matter what I wanted to do, my hands were tied. It's unclear exactly what he meant. It was, at times, aggressive performance, often a halting and stilting performance. More than 100 times he either refused to answer the question or deferred.

Let's check in with our legal experts about what they thought was the most significant.

And, Jeff Toobin, let me start with you.

You think the most important part of the hearing so far had to do when -- when the chairman, Jerrold Nadler from New York, asked Mr. Mueller whether or not he exonerated President Trump as President Trump repeatedly has claimed he did.

Let's play that clip and then get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): You were actually unable to conclude the president did not commit obstruction of justice. Is that correct?

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, we -- at the outset determined that we -- when it came to the -- the -- the president's culpability, we needed to -- we needed -- we needed to go forward only after taking into account the OLC opinion that indicated that a president, a sitting president, cannot be indicted.

NADLER: So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

NADLER: And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?

MUELLER: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Jeffrey Toobin, why is that significant to you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Because if you remember how this report became public, it was put forward by -- not by Mueller himself, but by Attorney General Barr in the context of a letter that he wrote that gave the very strong impression that this gave the president a clean bill of health. And the president, since March, has been saying over and over again that there was no obstruction, there was no --

TAPPER: Collusion.

TOOBIN: Collusion and that there was a total exoneration. Right at the beginning of this hearing, the director, Mueller, said that is not true. This was not an exoneration. And I think that is a very significant statement since he's the one who ran the investigation.

TAPPER: Although he did underline that the no collusion does seem to be generally correct. At one point a congressman pointed out that even though the report distinguishes between conspiracy and collusion, it also, at a different part, says that conspiracy and collusion colloquially can mean the same thing. And there was no collusion, at least according to the report.

TOOBIN: There was no criminal activity specifically --

TAPPER: Prosecutable.

TOOBIN: Prosecutable criminal activity involving the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian interests.

TAPPER: Right.

TOOBIN: That is clear. There was no crime committed there, according to -- according to Mueller. We'll hear more about that this afternoon.

TAPPER: And, of course, obstruction and whether or not the president was exonerated, a different matter. And there was a significant part -- Lauren and Preet, I know you want to talk about when Congressman Ted Lieu, who I believe is a former JAG, a former Judge Advocate in the military, in the Air Force, I think, talked to Mueller about whether or not the -- the reason he wasn't prosecuted, the reason he wasn't indicted was because he was a president or not. Let's roll that and get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): So, to recap what we've heard. We have heard today that the president ordered former White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire you. The president ordered Don McGahn to then cover that up and create a false paper trail. And now we've heard that the president ordered Corey Lewandowski to tell Jeff Sessions to limit your investigation so that he, you, stop investigating the president.

[12:15:22] I believe a reasonable person, looking at these facts, could conclude that all three elements of the crime of obstruction of justice have been met. And I'd like to ask you the reason again that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: That is correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And, Laura, why do you find that significant?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He walked through each of the elements to prove what it took to actually cause an obstruction claim to be raised against a human being. He went through each of them. Mueller followed along and then said, yes, essentially, and it -- but for this report, I would have indicted the president.

Now, that was the issue people think is ambiguous. But the idea here is, I walked through each of the elements. This OLC opinion tied the hands of the special counsel's office. It's not a -- it's not a common occurrence to say you have all the tools in your belt but you cannot use the ones that actually involve the hammer being thrown down. That's what Mueller was up against here. And he said, very clearly, (INAUDIBLE) to the actually walking through all the elements, I did not indict because the OLC opinion. That, along with every other element he actually raised and, of course, Lieu was talking about the notion of intent without saying the word intent by saying, I have all these contextual clues that show a pattern of behavior, a conduct that actually says somebody had the correct intent.

TAPPER: And though there are people saying that Mueller cautioned after that answer saying the only thing I want to add is I'm not -- I'm going through the elements with you.

COATES: Right.

TAPPER: That does not mean I subscribe to what you're trying to prove through those elements. He did say that.

But you think that it was pretty clear?

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I thought it was the closest thing to -- to something that's a bombshell, both legally and politically. I mean what's the purpose of this proceeding? The purpose of this proceeding for the Democrats is to make some case that they need to take some additional action. And so the question is, is someone above the law or not? And if it is true that Bob Mueller thought there was no crime, then there's no argument to be made necessarily that the Democrats do anything.

In response to Ted Lieu's question, which was -- which was pretty clear, he didn't say it was one of the reasons -- was a reason. He said, the reason --

TAPPER: Right.

BHARARA: The reason why he didn't indict Donald Trump was because of the OLC opinion. And -- and Bob Mueller, who sometimes paused and sometimes hesitated and didn't go along with lots of things that were put to him by both Democrats and Republicans answered immediately, that is correct.

Now, if it's the case that there's some ambiguity there, you would think that some Republican, given how I think significant that is, and how much of a basis it will give Democrats to decide, well, we can't have someone above the law. The only reason the president is not indicted is because of the OLC opinion, you have to hold him accountable. And we have impeachment as something as a backup for that. A Republican might have gone in and had plenty of opportunities to say -- go back to that and say, you know, I mean one -- one member, I think, tried.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Lesko from Arizona, I think.

BHARARA: Yes, and didn't succeed because there seems to be some conflict between this testimony that he gave to Ted Lieu and -- and a statement put out by Bill Barr, where Bill Barr said the -- the special counsel assured me that it was not but for the OLC opinion. I don't know how you square that. But I didn't see any Republican go in and try to, you know, muddy it up given how clear this was. And if they -- if they really thought that -- that Bob Mueller didn't mean to say this, you think they would have asked that question, because as it stands now --

TAPPER: Yes.

BHARARA: The record as it stands now is, the reason he wasn't indicted, one reason, the OLC opinion.

TAPPER: And --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the Democrats didn't want to touch it because they didn't --

BHARARA: They didn't (ph) have it.

BASH: Because they didn't want to -- they didn't want to ruin a good thing.

But I just wanted to add -- underscore something that you said, Laura, because afterwards, this might be a close that, right, maybe Robert Mueller didn't realize what he was saying, maybe, because he sort of wrapped it all up by saying, I want to add, I'm going through the elements with you. That does not mean I subscribe to what you're trying to prove through those elements.

It could be that when they see what Mueller sees, that this is how we are all interpreting it because that is what he said earlier, I would have indicted him if this wasn't the ruling, maybe they'll clarify.

TAPPER: Garrett, you -- you interviewed Bob Mueller. How did you interpret his response to that? Because as Preet points out, the question was pretty direct. The reason, again, you did not indict Donald Trump was because of the OLC opinion? It could have been -- it could have been qualified. You could not. Your hands were tied. No matter what you -- no, it was very direct and he said, that is correct.

GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "THE THREAT MATRIX: INSIDE ROBERT MUELLER'S FBI": Yes. And you saw throughout today that he was very quick to deflect or take issue with a question or try to clarify a question or sort of, you know, put -- put a box around an answer. That -- that was a case where -- and there were several others, including the Nadler exchange at the beginning where you really saw him take a very clear, definitive stance. And especially, I think, Preet, when you layer that answer upon sort of some of the other answers that he gave --

BHARARA: Right.

[12:20:05] GRAFF: Where he said later in the hearing, you know, it's not that we declined to prosecute, it's that we decided not to prosecute.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't -- but to be clear, his actual was, we made a decision not to decide.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.

GRAFF: Right.

SCIUTTO: And in an earlier exchange with Nadler, he said that they made that judgement at the beginning of the investigation.

BROWN: Earlier.

SCIUTTO: So it seemed that he was saying they didn't go there. He didn't make a judgment. I mean -- and this was later. This was in the last hour. We made a decision not to decide. In other words, he didn't make that judgment.

I defer to my lawyer what -- what -- my lawyer friends here whether that's the same thing as saying its the policy that was the reason.

BHARARA: So -- so I'm not saying it's 100 percent definitive. And in -- in a real courtroom, you would have more back -- in a real courtroom, you might have a judge intercede and say, let me just make sure I understand this and that you're saying what it sounds like you're saying.

But the other point I would make is, of all the things that people wondered what Bob Mueller thinks, of all the things that he was prepared for, of all the things that have been swirling around and confusing people, the central one was this, is the president not indicted because of that opinion, or is it something else? So it's hard to -- it's hard to imagine that on this one question where you'll be the most prepared and it's the most fraught (ph) question, you would misunderstand the question.

TAPPER: Yes.

TOOBIN: And can I just say why this is a big deal? I mean why we are focusing on this exchange with Ted Lieu? What it means is, if any other person had committed the acts that Robert Mueller identified, that person today would be awaiting criminal trial.

TAPPER: Well, and --

TOOBIN: But because of the OLC opinion -- TAPPER: Yes.

TOOBIN: The opinion of the Department of Justice, that presidents are, in effect, above the criminal law while they are in office, he didn't -- he didn't -- and that's a big deal.

TAPPER: And on that subject, Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado, Republican, showing why you don't ask a question in -- in a hearing unless you actually know the answer ahead of time, demonstrating that in the negative way. Asked a question about what could theoretically happen to President Trump were he to leave office.

Well, let's play that clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): OK. But the -- could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: Yes.

BUCK: You believe that he committed -- you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?

MUELLER: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, that -- it's theatrical, right, because there are no sealed indictments. So he did not charge the president. He could have done a sealed indictment, theoretically, no?

TOOBIN: I -- I -- I think the OLC opinion precludes sealed indictments of -- of sitting presidents as well.

COATES: Yes.

TAPPER: OK.

But -- so it's a theoretical --

TOOBIN: There is no sealed indictment.

TAPPER: It's a theoretical argument?

TOOBIN: Yes.

COATES: Well, it's actually -- he's quite direct. And that's why you don't ask the one question too many. The one that many Democrats avoided actually asking and sealing -- and putting a nice bow on their actual (INAUDIBLE). That's why they said things like, it seems to me we must do this. Because what he essentially said was, look -- and in his reporting confirmed it, I'm preserving evidence and the OLC opinion also says I can continue to investigate a matter. He was well aware at this time that there was a turf war going on between members of Congress and their investigation and the parallel track that was conformed (ph) by Robert Mueller. He was well aware of the stonewalling and that people were not going to be -- trying to be forthcoming when they had jail on one hand and they had a legislative action on the other. So he preserved evidence, put it forward and said, there is nothing about the OLC opinion ever that is said you cannot indict a future president as long as there is not a limitations period.

BLITZER: Let's ask a former prosecutor.

Would they preserve evidence looking ahead to after he leaves office?

BHARARA: Yes, look, one of the things that Bob Mueller said in the report --

COATES: Yes.

BHARARA: Is we did our investigation while memories are fresh and documents are available --

BASH: Right.

BHARARA: For some future person. That's not hypothetical.

The other thing I would say is, right now, the attorney general of the United States does not like this testimony that was given. It contradicts what he said that Mueller told him. It contradicts what the attorney general told the public. And it really undermines the position of the president. What is he doing right now between the time that that first hearing ended and the next hearing of the Intel Committee is beginning? Is he reaching out to Bob Mueller and asking to clarify? Is he writing a letter, is he putting out a statement, is the president telling Bill Barr to put out a statement? Because this testimony, as it stands, is really bad.

COATES: Yes, and --

BROWN: And a Republican congresswoman was pressing him at one point trying to get him to say -- it seemed goading him into saying whatever Barr said initially in the summary was accurate. And it was one of the more combative exchanges with Robert Mueller where he said, what you're not mentioning is my follow-up letter of the issues we raised with his characterization.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

TAPPER: And there were times -- there were times in the hearing when he was sharp as a tack. But we can't avoid the fact that there were times in the hearing that he was not. There were times in the hearing when he didn't seem to either -- either he couldn't hear what the question -- questioner was asking, and sometimes they spoke very quickly and they were not particularly polite to the -- and -- and respectful of the fact that this was a 74-year-old who obviously was having trouble --

BLITZER: Well, let's ask Garrett because he's written a book about him.

TAPPER: Have you --

BLITZER: You've watched him over the years.

TAPPER: But what I was going to say is, there are also times when it seemed like he was unfamiliar with parts of the investigation. Like he didn't seem familiar with the name -- with the - GPS, right, and he didn't --

[12:25:02] BASH: Or Corey Lewandowski.

BROWN: Or (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: Or he didn't -- when the -- when that name Lewandowski was mentioned, he didn't seem familiar with that.

Now, I don't know if he couldn't hear or if actually he is not as well versed with this report as -- as many of the people on this panel are right now.

GRAFF: It -- yes. And I think that I also saw a slightly different Robert Mueller in the second half of the hearing than we did in the first, where you sort of almost wonder whether there was a half time locker room talk to tell him to be a little bit more forceful, a little bit more -- to take issue with some of the questions that Republicans, particularly, were lauding at him because he -- in the first hour, first hour and a half, was very reticent to say anything more than a one or two-word sentence. But, really, when you saw that second half of the hearing, that was when he began to sort of punch back a little bit more in the questions.

SCIUTTO: I was keeping track of some of the standard charges against Bob Mueller. And, granted, if you were looking for a made for TV kind of character, Mueller was not -- not that perhaps today. But on those issues, over time, if you kept track, he hit back at them, the 14 angry Democrat thing, which we heard frequently from Republicans. He said, no, I only chose based on ability. He -- and he said in very clear terms, I never asked their party affiliation. That's not done.

On the idea that he wanted the FBI job, something the president has repeated without founding, that that's the reason he's conflicted, he said, no, I was asked to give input on what that job would take. He -- he contradicted that charge.

TAPPER: Steve Bannon backs him on that, by the way.

BROWN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Steve Bannon does back him on that.

And on the Barr letter, and you -- you bring this up as well, it was -- again, it was a Republican congressman, I don't think meant to go here, but he reminded her, hey, look back at my March 27th letter where he said, Mr. Barr, your report did not fully get the context, nature and substance of his report. So, again, in the midst of this very long four-hour hearing, he did hit back at those frequent charges.

BROWN: He did. It took him a while, I thought, to get there, to finally hit back. I think You make a good point. It seems like he had locker room talk and -- during the first break. But he was -- he was more emphatic when it came to how through his --

BASH: Not that kind of locker room talk.

BROWN: Not that kind.

SCIUTTO: Yes, watch the reference.

BROWN: You know what I'm trying to say.

BASH: A pep talk.

BROWN: A pep talk is what I meant.

BASH: There you go.

BROWN: Exactly. A pep talk.

TOOBIN: A double espresso perhaps.

BROWN: Exactly.

But, you know, he became more emphatic in talking about how thorough his report was, how his prosecutors acted with integrity.

BASH: Yes.

BROWN: And I think that's what we were expecting to hear early on. But he was pretty resolute in saying (INAUDIBLE) the four corners (ph).

BASH: Can I just point out something that I think is important about the very important discussion about whether or not the president can be indicted afterwards and whether or not there's evidence there?

We're missing the interim time, which is now, which is the whole point that -- of Congress and the House Democrats wanting this hearing and wanting him to come testify, which is, the Constitution says it is the House of Representatives first and then, of course, the Senate who will take up the issue. That is why the OLC opinion is that it's not a court of law, it is the Congress. That's -- that's the way it's set up to deal with whether or not a president commits a high crime or misdemeanor.

And those questions, the Democrats got some pretty meaty answers to, like you talked about Jeff on the issue of, no, I didn't exonerate the president. Yes, he did try to get me fired. And it was only stopped because the White House counsel said, no, I'm not going to do this. And several other examples, the five examples of obstruction of justice, the Democrats did go through. It took them a while. It wasn't obvious, but they did it.

BROWN: Yes. BLITZER: And, Jeffrey, you know, the -- he had gone into this testimony today, Mueller, saying he wanted to stick with the 448 page report. That was going to be his testimony. Did he do that? Did he stick to that or did he go beyond the words of the initial report?

TOOBIN: I think he overwhelmingly stuck to it. I mean I think -- you know, what was frustrating it seems to the Democrats was that as they went through these five -- what they consider the most important examples of obstruction of justice, they had to tell the story rather than have Mueller tell the story. And they would -- they -- they would read from the report. They would summarize the report. And -- and Mueller would agree that that was what was in the report.

But if you are telling a story, particularly through a congressional hearing, what you really want is the witness to tell the story. And he was not up there to narrate his report. He was there to verify when it was summarized by the questioners, which I think made it a little harder to follow, if you weren't already familiar with the subject.

TAPPER: And one other thing I want to bring up, which is, we've been talking about the substance of this hearing, the three and a half hour hearing. And there's obviously going to be another one in a few minutes. We've been talking about the fact that Mueller very clearly said the report does not exonerate the president. He's been -- he laid out a case that there was obstruction of justice, though he couldn't bring charges no matter what he would have wanted to do because of the OLC memo. Although perhaps he was saying as directly as that, that he didn't because of the OLC memo.

[12:30:01] And he also made the argument that they could not find any prosecutable evidence of conspiracy between the Trump team and the Russians. That said, there is another reality.