Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY

Robert Mueller To Testify Before Congress; CNN Source Says Puerto Rico Governor Expected To Resign Today; Bison Charges Nine- Year-Old Girl At Yellowstone Park. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 24, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- surveillance video, those last few moments of the couple embracing and wondering why.

[07:00:05]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Why, indeed, chilling. All right, Paula, stay on this for us. Thank you very much.

We are here in Washington, history about to be made after two years. We are going to hear Robert Mueller answer questions for the first time. New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of New Day, live from Washington for an event more than two years in the making. We want to show you the scene right now in the hallway outside the hearing room. This is more than an hour-and-a-half before. It's 7:00 in the morning, Eastern Time, friends.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Yes. This is not a Who concert. This is the Mueller hearing.

BERMAN: No, it's the political version of The Who right now because they are lined up waiting for history. There are people there holding seats. Some of them have been there all night. There are people sleeping outside to get a seat inside this room for this moment in history. Why? Well, because after more than two years of the Russia investigation, even longer if you count from all the lists (ph) starting to begin, Robert Mueller will answer questions for the very first time. He will do it inside this hearing room before the House Judiciary Committee ultimately also before the House Intelligence Committee. These are live pictures.

First, the issue will be obstruction before the Judiciary Committee, and then the House Intelligence Committee, they will focus on election interference.

CAMEROTA: Now, as you probably know, Robert Mueller has said he will not go beyond this book, the 448-page report.

BERMAN: But it's a big book.

CAMEROTA: There's a lot to dive into here. And, of course, lawmakers will try to find inroads into new areas. Democratic leaders are hoping that today's hearing will bring the facts of this report to life for Americans who have not read it. Now, republicans plan is to confront Mueller about the legitimacy of the entire probe.

So joining us now, two key figures from the Watergate era, we have John Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel and CNN Contributor, and Carl Bernstein, Journalist, Author and CNN Political Analyst.

So, Carl, let's start with your top line feelings about this historic day.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is very much about the power of television. And it's a moment we haven't seen the power to be exercised in such a manner in a long time. And I think Donald Trump in his supposed nervousness understands that this is about the power of television and a witness who conceivably could move the needle of the 10, 15 percent of the American people who are undecided on these matters. And in addition to that, the difference between this and Watergate is.

In Watergate, you had a witness across the table from me here, John Dean, who was witness himself to the President's breaking of the law time and time again. We don't have that here. But what we do have, perhaps, is the one person who can convey to the American people, if he's willing, that we have a president who is contemptuous of the law, has not faithfully executive the law as he's supposed to do under Article 2 of the Constitution that he has been citing for so long.

So Mueller has enormous power here to move the perception of Americans, whether he exercises his or not. That, to me, is the big question.

BERMAN: I promise I want to come back and talk about Article 2, because I think you hit on something crucial, Carl.

But, first, John Dean, as someone who has made history in a committee hearing before, and you did, and you are part of history, what do you think democrats realistically should push for from Robert Mueller today?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think they obviously want the key issues of his massive report somehow coming out of his mouth, either in response to question or he volunteered an opening statement. But I think they'd like some sound bites.

BERMAN: What key issues would that be? What would be the sound bite?

DEAN: Well, first of all, was there collusion? And the report indicates there was collusion contrary to Mr. Trump's statement.

BERMAN: Not enough evidence to charge conspiracy.

DEAN: Exactly, exactly. No conspiracy, no criminal conspiracy, but certainly multiple contacts.

And the second is there was obstruction. And how far he'll go, he merely outlined the facts, the nexus, the intent, all the elements.

[07:05:08]

He didn't link them and say there was obstruction. But I think he'll be asked that and pressed that today.

CAMEROTA: Carl, it strikes me that if the democrats want to move the needle, as you're suggesting could be possible today, they couldn't have a worse witness than Robert Mueller because Robert Mueller is reticent in the extreme. You know, he has been described as everything from reluctant to uncooperative. He doesn't want to move any needles today.

DEAN: Well, we don't know what his purpose or mind really is and what he has is probity, which is the exact opposite of what the President in his dangerous words and actions and the way he comports himself in a reckless way, Mueller is exactly the opposite.

So in his very person, he has the ability to change people's perceptions, because there's so much at odds with what the President does, says and how he carries himself.

BERMAN: I think it's important to note that in the eight minutes we have heard from him out loud, he's already said something which is remarkable and historic in its own way when he said he could not exonerate the President. Just listen to this one more time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So there's already that, John.

DEAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Robert Mueller has already said that. What I think democrats want and what democratic activists desperately want is for Robert Mueller to answer the question, well, if this fact pattern were applied to someone who was not President of the United States, would you seek to indict him? Would a normal person face criminal charges for what the President did? They're going to push for an answer to that question. Will they get it?

DEAN: It depends upon when they do it, how artfully they word the question. He's clearly coming as a cooperative witness in the sense that he asked for the subpoena. He's now bringing a key aide who knows a lot of the details and minutia of assembling the report. That indicated to me that he wants to be responsive. So I think it's a matter of how he's handled and he could change the whole direction of the Trump presidency today.

CAMEROTA: You ask questions for a living as a reporter, as we do. What is the question would you lead with if you were on this hearing for obstruction? Let's start with the Judiciary Committee, the one that happens in about an hour from now. What would you begin asking Robert Mueller?

BERNSTEIN: I think I would ask whether or not your report, Mr. Mueller, does it show that the President obstructed justice in the way that most Americans believe the term would be defined? I'm not sure you'll get an explanation. I'm also not sure that our expectations aren't too high here.

But what's clear is the power involved in this hearing in this one witness to change the dynamic. Trump and the Attorney General of the United States have carried the narrative thus far. Trump has gotten what he has wanted thus far, which is half the people almost in the country are not that interested or they believe the President is not a criminal. They've gone along with his explanations no matter how untrue. This is a chance, a small chance to change the perception of that 10, 15 percent of Americans. And that could make a difference in the election.

It also could move Nancy Pelosi if this was a T.V. moment with a great change in dynamic that could move Nancy Pelosi to say, we do need to have an impeachment hearing.

CAMEROTA: Jerry Nadler talked about that yesterday. He said, if there was such a preponderance of evidence publicly that the public could get their arms around, that is what would change Nancy.

BERMAN: Well, it's in here. All the evidence that we will hear and see is in here already. So I don't know if we're going to get anything new.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, T.V. is a more powerful medium for this purpose.

BERMAN: Carl, you said something really interesting I want to follow- up if I can. You talked about what democrats want. You talked about the President getting what he wants, already getting what he wants about this. But what does Robert Mueller want, do you think?

BERNSTEIN: I don't know. I suspect that Mueller is offended by the way he's been treated by Attorney General Barr and the way Barr disingenuously and dishonestly characterized that report, held onto it for several weeks without Mr. Mueller's interpretation being conveyed, because Mueller conveyed his interpretation in the report, and it is devastating. But it's not what Barr represented it was.

So I wonder, and I've talked to people who know Mr. Mueller., whether or not he is deeply offended by the conduct of the Attorney General.

[07:10:04]

And, certainly, I think we know that he is deeply offended by the conduct of the President. It's in his report. But he is a prosecutor down the line and I think we can expect he is going to hew and stay very close to the facts in that report. How can he be drawn out of it is the big question. CAMEROTA: John, just give us some personal color. You were White House Counsel. He's, of course, Special Counsel. It's a little bit different. But in the hour before you were going before the committees, what are you doing?

DEAN: Couple things are very different. First of all, I would testify five days. I didn't know it would be five days. I didn't know when they went up that they'd ask me to read my entire statement. It was 60,000 words. Had I known it was going to be 60,000 -- or I'd have to read it, it wouldn't have been 60. It may have been six at the most. I was also in the witness protection program. So I was accompanied by marshals who dealt with the crowd.

But I think the most -- a friend to me said, I didn't realize how important your hearing was until I learned that John Lennon and Yoko had lined up to come to your hearing. Then I knew you were saying something important.

BERMAN: For that one day and that day only, John Dean, you were, in fact, bigger than The Beatles. That is something that we could say. Carl Bernstein, John Dean, thank you very much for the historical perspective here. We'll all be watching this very closely together.

CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, we have other breaking news to tell you about because a source tells CNN that Puerto Rico's embattled Governor, Ricardo Rossello, is expected to resign today. This comes after two weeks of those massive protests lining the streets, as you can on your screen, following this corruption scandal and then the leak of the thousands of chats between Rossello and some of his closest aides that were misogynistic and other things.

The texts show them using all of this inappropriate language. So news of this potential resignation began spreading late last night, and it sparked a celebration by those who were protesting and lining the streets of Old San Juan.

Since Puerto Rico has no confirmed Secretary of State, the Justice Secretary, Wanda Vazquez, will be next in the line of succession.

BERMAN: So a transfer of power in Puerto Rico and a transfer of power in the United Kingdom, breaking news there. It is all happening right before us at this moment. You're looking at live pictures of the still but not for very much longer Prime Minister Theresa May addressing parliament. This will be last time she speaks to them before she resigns. May told lawmakers she is pleased to hand over power to Boris Johnson, who, in just hours, will be invited by the Queen to become the Prime Minister.

CAMEROTA: Here's some very disturbing video. A nine-year-old girl is recovering from injuries after a bison suddenly charged right at her family in Yellowstone National Park. We want to warn you, the video you are about to see can be disturbing. Here it is.

Okay. You see the little girl get tossed violently in the air. She was part of a group of about 50 people in the park's Old Faithful geyser area. There are more than 4,500 bison living in Yellowstone. Guests are warned to stay at least 75 feet away from them, and now we see why.

BERMAN: Yes, that was too close, too close to be sure, a horrifying video. We are glad the girl is doing okay.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: So only a handful of lawmakers will get to question Robert Mueller directly today. We will speak with one of them next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:00]

BERMAN: We are just little bit more than an hour away. You're looking at live pictures from inside the hearing room where Robert Mueller will be seated answering questions for the very first time since his Russia investigation began more than two years ago.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee who will get to question the former Special Counsel later today after House Judiciary.

Intelligence will focus mostly on Russian interference. Congressman, what specifically -- and you're going to get five minutes. What specifically do you want to press the Special Counsel on?

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): I think there are very important unresolved issues about why certain things were not done. In particular, I can't, for the fife of me, understand why the President of the United States was not put under oath and questioned just the way previous presidents were so that we could assess his credibility, so we could get at the insufficiency, Bob Mueller's word, of the written answers. Those are the kinds of things I and others want to focus on.

But, obviously, the much larger task of the Intel Committee is the threats to our country, the ongoing counterintelligence issues and national security threats, because the Russians haven't stopped.

BERMAN: Well, you're in luck on the latter point, because Robert Mueller has made clear that he would like the focus to be on that. In his brief eight-minute statement that he made out loud, he went to great pains to say, I wish we were focusing on the Russian attacks on the U.S. election system.

The first question, though, I'm curious in how he'll answer that. What if Robert Mueller says to you if you press him on those questions, what if he says, you know what, I'm not going to answer, that's not within the confines f this report?

MALONEY: Well, let me give you a good example of something that skirts along the edge of those two areas. You know, did you get the President's tax returns? Well, it's not in the report. And if you didn't, how do you know what the full range of Russian influence was over this administration? We know that money was at the heart of a huge number of these interactions with the Russians. Look at what Paul Manafort was doing. He was trying to get paid first and foremost.

And we know the President is motivated by financial gain. We know there are issues with many of his senior people that relate to money. If you don't have the tax returns, how do you know whether those people are compromised or not? So, you tell me, is that a new question about national security or is it a question about the report? That's what Bob Mueller is there to answer.

BERMAN: It won't be me who gets to tell you. It would be Robert Mueller who decides whether or not he answers that question.

[07:20:00]

You've been around politics for a long time. You worked in the Clinton White House. This is the first time that I have ever heard of House members practicing, rehearsing for a hearing before. I think that was more the Judiciary Committee than the Intelligence Committee. But what does that tell you? That you guys want to be ready for this and stay focused?

MALONEY: I think it's great that members are taking it seriously and want to be prepared. Look, the country has a huge national interest here. Now, we've spent a lot of time and a lot of taxpayer money on this and we need to get it right. And so I'm glad members are taking it seriously. I hope that that extends to both sides of the aisle and it's not agenda driven. I think if our agenda is to let the facts of this report get out, then that's a good agenda.

But if the other side is simply trying to tear down Mr. Mueller or to inject wild conspiracies into this, that's the wrong kind of preparation.

BERMAN: What's the best way to spend your five minutes or what's the message to your colleagues? Maybe fewer statements, more questions?

MALONEY: Well, thank you for saying that. I think that, you know, anybody who's been trained as a lawyer knows you have to listen as well as talk. And sometimes the best questions are because you heard the answer to the last one. And so I have the advantage of going relatively later in the day on the second committee.

So what I'm going to be doing is listening to Mr. Mueller very carefully all morning and even to the other members who go before me, because I think at that point in the day, there are going to be some really serious questions about what is left to do.

BERMAN: Should people care that the Deputy Special Counsel, Aaron Zebley, will be sworn in sitting beside Robert Mueller?

MALONEY: You know, I'm not sure. I think it's a very important precedent that we get other members of Mueller's team to explain the work they did. So in that regard, I'm pleased with it.

I do think nothing should get in the way of Bob Mueller in his own words telling the American people what he did. BERMAN: I want to read you something that's inside a Washington Post piece by our friend, Rachael Bade, today, which has democratic activists disappointed with the House Democratic leadership in the way they have conducted oversight the last few months.

This is a quote from Ezra Levin, co-Executive Director for Indivisible, a political resistance group. The entire approach toward the administration from House Democrats has been one of weakness and fecklessness and mot the kind of fighters that people were hoping would come out when they were voting for democrats last November. They have made a strategic choice thus far at least to not fight for oversight.

MALONEY: Yes. You know, talk is cheap. I think that's the kind of comment that comes from people who only talk to people who already agree with them. You know, I think that if there were enough people who agreed with us, you know, we wouldn't have to talk to anybody.

I think the point is that you're going to have to grow the understanding of the American public for what is in the Mueller report. That's what today is about. You're going to have to run a fair process that demonstrates whether or not impeachment is the right way to hold the President accountable or we'll get an election in a year.

And the fact is that the Republican Party continues to be morally bankrupt down here in Washington on this issue. And so what people like that are calling for is ultimately a fruitless exercise. When some of us want genuine accountability, we want the truth out and we want the American public to know who they're voting for in the next election. And, by the way, make sure this isn't influenced again by the Russians.

BERMAN: You were not among the 90 or so democrats who are, at this point, calling for impeachment proceedings.

MALONEY: Right, and I'm glad about that because it gives me some impartiality when I'm questioning Robert Mueller today. I think I don't want to have prejudged what the Special Counsel is going telling us.

Having said that, I think the President deserves impeachment. What I'm talking about whether or not at this moment, we should be playing checkers when I want to play chess. I don't want to play into his hands and I want to find a way to hold this president accountable that is going to work. And I have real questions about whether going to Def Con 1 on a red team, blue team partisan circus called impeachment for the next year is the best way to do that.

BERMAN: Can I ask, though. If you think the President deserves impeachment, isn't it playing politics in a different way to not instigate proceedings?

MALONEY: The question is whether you engage in a fruitless exercise when what you want is real accountability. I want him held criminally liable, if that's appropriate, after he leaves office. I want to have his organization and his team similarly held liable now, because they don't have any immunity. And I want to have the American public know who they're voting for and I want to remove him from office with an election because I think that's what's going to work. And if I thought any of those things would happen with the Republican Party willing to have an open mind about this, I might change my mind.

But I'll tell you that I haven't ruled it out. I mean, what I'm trying to tell you is that if we get to that level, then so be it. But at this point, let's hear from the Special Counsel and let's hold the President accountable in the most effective way.

BERMAN: I've got 15 seconds left. Reasonable expectation for today?

MALONEY: Reasonable expectation is you learn more about the report. Maybe for the first time, a lot of Americans are going to hear things they have not heard because Bill Barr went out there and misrepresented it. And today, we're going to get the truth.

BERMAN: Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney from New York, great to have you here in the studio with us. We will be watching very, very closely today.

MARLONEY: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Well, we are just moments away from this historic moment in Washington, D.C. when lawmakers finally have the opportunity to grill or question, I guess, Robert Mueller.

[07:25:04]

So CNN's special coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper right after this.

BERMAN: I can hear him getting ready backstage.

CAMEROTA: They're being very loud at this --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. This is CNN special coverage of Robert Mueller under oath. Within the next hour, an extraordinary event is going to unfold on Capitol Hill. Former Special Counsel and FBI Director Robert Mueller will testify publicly about his investigation into Russia's election interference and President Trump's alleged attempt to obstruct that investigation.

I'm Jake Tapper.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Wolf Blitzer.

There will be back-to-back hearings today. Mueller will first be sworn in before the House Judiciary Committee, which will focus in on the episodes of obstruction. END