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House Democratic Leaders Respond to Mueller Testimony; Robert Mueller Testifies Before Congress; Interview wth Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-TX; Interview with Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT; Mueller: Trump Was Not Exonerated, Russia's Election Attack Was No Hoax and Investigation Was No Witch Hunt. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired July 24, 2019 - 18:00   ET



REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): This is our watch.

And, again, I am so, so very proud of Judiciary Committee. I am so very, very proud of the Intelligence Committee, because they went in and tried to pull out the facts, so that they could paint the picture, so that America can see it.

And, hopefully, there will not be ladies like the lady at Amash's town hall meeting who said they didn't know that there was something wrong that Trump did with regard -- in this Mueller report.

And so, again, we -- the speaker is absolutely right. She told us a little bit earlier that she wants to gather all the information and make sure that we have everything we need to paint that picture.

Now, what the American people do with it, that's another thing. But we will not stand by and fail to give them -- let them see the total picture.

And I want to thank -- I too thank Mr. Mueller for coming forward, for his service to our country.

But, last but not least, it is so interesting that when Mueller would make a decision that they liked, they said, oh, we love you, we love you, we love you, you're the greatest thing since ice cream.

But then, as soon as he says something they didn't like, oh, you're the worst. You're a bum. Come on now. We have to see through that.

Thank you.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Thank you very much.

Now, as we acknowledge the greatness of our chairs Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff, I also want to acknowledge the greatness of Elijah Cummings, the chair of the government Reform and Oversight Committee.

He has really won the first case, the Mazars decision, which his research enabled us to take to court. We won the case. The decision was a complete, beautiful statement on the ability of Congress to have oversight.

CUMMINGS: That's right.

PELOSI: And just a remarkable decision. And, now of course, the administration is appealing it.

But I thank you, too, Mr. Cummings, for your great leadership and where we're going next, because, as you know, the Mueller investigation could not do the president's personal or business connections.

And one of those connections could be to the Russians. And that's what we want to find out.

So, as we go to questions, I just want to say that I think -- I do believe that what we saw today was a very strong manifestation, in fact, some would even say indictment, of this administration's cone of silence and their cover-up.

This is about our -- the oath we take to protect and defend the Constitution, but some of the actions that the administration may have taken, we will see through our investigation, may have jeopardized our national security by strengthening Russia's hand in interfering in our elections, undermining democracy, not only in our country, but in other countries as well, upsetting our preeminence as a democracy in the world.

This is very serious. Today was very important. I again salute our chairmen, all of our six chairmen who have been involved in this.

And now we can take some questions.

So, who do you want to hear from first? You guys decide.


PELOSI: Wait a minute. How about a new person.

Katie (ph), OK, she's having a baby. We have to go there first.


PELOSI: As a mother of five, I yield.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Madam Speaker, what you saw today, did it change whether or not you think the House of Representatives should launch impeachment proceedings?

PELOSI: My position has always been that whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand. And we still have some outstanding matters in the courts. It's about the Congress, the Constitution and the courts.

And we are fighting the president in the courts. (CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Excuse me?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Some of your members told us over the course of today that they were expecting imminent action of some kind (OFF-MIKE)

PELOSI: No, I don't know why they did.

QUESTION: What are the...

PELOSI: I don't know why they thought that, but they came to me, and I said I don't know what.

Yes, again, the lawsuits as -- we have a number of lawsuits.

You want to speak to that, Jerry?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): The very next step -- I'm not going to talk longer range.

The very next step, either tomorrow or Friday, is, we're going into court to enforce -- to ask for the grand jury material and to enforce the subpoena against Mr. McGahn. And that's particularly important, because the excuses -- I won't call them reasons -- the excuses that the White House gives for McGahn not testifying and the nonsense about absolute immunity, et cetera, are the same excuses for all the other fact witnesses.


And if we break that, we will break the logjam.

QUESTION: Madam Speaker, what about -- where do you stand right now? What do you need to know on impeachment to say, OK, we don't know enough yet?

PELOSI: Did I just not say we're waiting to hear from the courts, so that we have our subpoenas in the court for -- the subpoenas are for information.

And when we get that information, we can make a judgment.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) telltale sign about whether or not you (OFF- MIKE)


PELOSI: We have several considerations. It's about what information is there. And this isn't endless. This isn't endless. Understand that.

But we have live cases in the courts. We have some that are going forward that Mr. -- Chairman Nadler just mentioned. It isn't endless, but it would strengthen our hand to get that information, remembering that in Watergate was when they got the information and the tapes that broke the case.

That wasn't just about changing public opinion. That helped change public opinion.

But it's not about me. It's about our caucus. It's about our country. As I say, there's a cone of silence in the White House that is engaged in a massive cover-up in the obstruction of justice. Those obstruction of justice charges, as has been demonstrated today in the hearings, are -- could be indictable offenses by anybody else not the president of the United States, and the president when he's no longer president.

But the American people -- I think that, if we go down that path, we should go in the strongest possible way. And that's all I'm going to say about the subject.

We have our distinguished chairs here.


CUMMINGS: May I say something? And I know Chairman Schiff and Chairman Nadler would repeat what I'm saying.

You know, the American people in the last election, even from Trump districts, said, we want to make the president accountable. A lot of people loved him. They like him, but they want to make him accountable.

And we have been stonewalled with regard to getting information, access to witnesses, and getting documents. All of us have. Remember, the president said, I'm not going to give you anything really.

And so, again, the speaker is absolutely right. We're going to -- we're gathering information. And we are met with significant force. But we're plowing our way through.

But all of that information, piece by piece, it's like a mosaic, paints the picture.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have long said that there's no point in moving forward with an impeachment inquiry because Republicans control the Senate. It's going to die in the Senate. Is that no longer your chief concern?

PELOSI: I had never long said that. I have never long said that.

If we have a case for impeachment, that's the place we will have to go.

The fact that -- why I would like it to be a strong case is because it's based on the facts, the facts and the law. That's what matters, not politics, not partisanship, just patriotism.

I don't care -- I would like the Senate to be responsible and honor their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, to see the challenge this is to our national security, what the Russians are trying to do to our country, but the stronger our case is, the worse the Senate will look for just letting the president off the hook.

QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi...

PELOSI: We have these great chairmen here who know so much. Please.

I'm going to start asking them questions if you don't.

QUESTION: Even after these hearings, the president said he's completely exonerated, despite what Mr. Mueller said.

PELOSI: Please. Come on, come on, come on, come on.

QUESTION: So, what have these hearings really changed?

PELOSI: Let me just say this.

You give me the opportunity to say this, and then I invite my chairmen to close.

We want to have the strongest possible case to make a decision as to what path we will go down. And that is not endless in terms of time or endless in terms of the information that we want.

But if it comes to a point where the cone of silence and the obstruction of justice and the cover-up in the White House prevents us from getting that information, that will not prevent us from going forward. In fact, it's even more grounds to go forward.

My colleagues?

CUMMINGS: I just want to the echo that.

You know, Martin Luther King said something that I -- that is in the DNA of every cell in my brain, particularly right now. He said, there comes a point when silence becomes betrayal.


And we refuse to betray generations yet unborn and the American people. We're not going to betray them.

And them more -- we're just -- we're accumulating information and doing the best we can. Again, with a force as great -- I don't know how many lawyers the president has, but he's got a lot of them. And they go against every single thing we do.

And so, again, we're not going to betray America. We're going to do our part to make sure that we have a democracy that's intact.

PELOSI: Jerry?

NADLER: The United States is a democracy. It must remain a democracy. A democracy acts through the elected officials, with the consent of

the people. The people cannot give that consent unless they know the facts. Today was a watershed day in telling the facts to the American people.

With those facts, we can proceed. And we face a time of great danger. Richard Nixon said he thought that the president was a dictator. He said, if the president does it, that means it's not illegal. President Trump echoed that yesterday.

He said under, Article 2, I -- that is he -- can do anything I want.

That is a totalitarian picture, not a democratic picture. The United States must be saved from this. So we have to paint the picture of what's going on, a picture of someone who gladly accepted help from a foreign power interested in subverting our election, our democratic election process.

And that's what it is, subverting our election process and taking the choice of our president to some extent away from the American people. That's what the Russians attempted to do. And that's what the Trump campaign welcomed them in doing.

A president who engages in crimes, repeated crimes to cover up these unpatriotic and dictatorial actions. And this cannot go on. And it's up to Congress to safeguard the Constitution. And we will do it.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): As I mentioned today during our hearing, I think the story of the 2016 election is really a story of disloyalty to country, about greed and about lies.

And if there's anything that I think symbolizes those three strands of the 2016 election, it was Moscow Trump Tower. It was this massive real estate project that the president was trying to consummate while he was running for president, and concealing it from the country.

This, I think, demonstrated disloyalty to the country by deceiving the American people about this massive business opportunity he was seeking while he was running for president.

It is certainly a vivid example of the greed of people involved with that campaign and an ample demonstration of all the lies that permeated the campaign and its aftermath.

That, to me, is the story of the 2016 election. We need to make sure that is not the story of the 2020 election.

And I will say this on the issue of impeachment, which I view in very much the same way as the speaker. Maybe I'm just an old prosecutor, but before I brought a case to indictment, I wanted to make sure that I had the strongest evidence possible.

I wanted to understand my case. I wanted to be able to make my case. Now, I tried an impeachment case in the Senate about 10 years ago, a corrupt federal judge, who was convicted. So I have some understanding of what it takes to get a conviction in the Senate. And I have no illusions about getting a conviction in the Senate. But there are two juries in an impeachment. There is the jury which is the Senate, which decides removal from office, and then there is the jury that is the American people.

And I'm most concerned about the jury that is the American people. And before we embark on a course as significant to the country as the impeachment of a president, I want to make sure that we can make that case to the jury of the American people.

PELOSI: One of the -- and I thank our distinguished chairmen. So proud of all of them.

But just following up on the last statement by Chairman Schiff, e pluribus unum, that's the guidance our founders gave us. They couldn't imagine how many we would be or how different we would be from each other.

They want us to remember that we are one. So, when we go down this path, we want it to be as unifying for our country, not dividing. And that's why we want it to be the strongest possible case.

Lincoln said, President Lincoln said public sentiment is everything.

Well, in order for the public to have the sentiment, the public has to know. So, I hope you will be messengers of the truth to the public. We think today was really a milestone in making that sentiment be more informed.


Thank you all very much.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And so there you have it.

I'm Wolf Blitzer here in THE SITUATION ROOM, where we have been following the breaking news.

The House Democrats, as you just saw, they wrapped up a news conference, about a half-hour news conference, in the wake of Robert Mueller's testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees earlier in the day.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, just said she's sticking with her relatively go-slow approach to building a case for impeachment, the start of formal impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives against the president.

President Trump at the same time -- and you heard him live here on CNN -- he's claiming that the Mueller hearings were a complete victory for himself and for the Republicans.

Leaving the White House just a little while ago, the president competitively dismissed what he called a ridiculous hoax. However, Robert Mueller told lawmakers specifically he did not totally exonerate the president, as the president has repeatedly claimed.

And the former special counsel agreed that the president wasn't always truthful in answering questions.

Let's go to our chief -- our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, who was there at the Nancy Pelosi news conference.

So we're getting a lot of reaction from these Democratic leaders.

RAJU: Yes, that's right.

And a lot of discussion about impeachment. This has been a topic that had actually been a significant one at a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting. And just moments ago, the speaker making very direct comments about impeachment, making it clear it is not off the table, while this is not the immediate course of action, making it clear that she wants to get more information in the courts.

How long that takes is still an open question. She said it would not be endless. And when I asked her directly about her contention for some time that the Republican-led Senate will not convict the president, making it unnecessary of sorts, or making it harder for the House to move forward with an impeachment proceeding, she pushed back and said that is not her standard, whether or not the Republicans go along with it.

She said it's about getting information.


RAJU: You have long said that there's no point in moving forward with an impeachment inquiry because Republicans control the Senate. It's going to die in the Senate. Is that no longer your chief concern?

PELOSI: I had never long said that. I have never long said that.

If we have a case for impeachment, that's the place we will have to go.


RAJU: So, she has in the past said very clearly that the Republican- controlled Senate is a place where impeachment essentially would go to die because the Republicans are unlikely to take it up.

That was part of what she has been saying for some time, but saying -- pushing back there making it clear that is not what she's concerned about. It was an interesting comment from the speaker. She says he does want to see what the court proceedings eventually draw out in terms of information.

Now, what that exactly means is unclear, whether or not that just simply would delay things even further. Court proceedings will play out for some time.

Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee , announced they are going to move forward on two lawsuits they have been planning to move forward with, one to get grand jury information related to the Mueller probe, and, two, to try to compel the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to turn over records and also to testify before his committee.

But those court proceedings could take some time. So what does that exactly mean for the speaker, if she will actually move a green light, an impeachment inquiry going forward?

We do know that more members of her caucus are almost certain to come out and support an impeachment inquiry. She is not there yet, but signaling, at least, that she wants to court to play out and see where that leads on the question of opening up an impeachment proceeding -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, is not there yet, either, as we just heard.

Manu, I want you to stand by.

Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, has been following all the details of these hearings earlier in the day.

Sara, Democrats, they were clearly hoping Mueller would provide some damaging testimony about the president. Did they get what they wanted?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I don't think they got the bombshell they may have been hoping for. They didn't even get a straight answer about whether the president committed a crime, whether this was meant to be an impeachment referral.

Instead, they got something of an uneven performance by Robert Mueller.


MURRAY (voice-over): With their prize witness on the stand, Democrats tried to drive home President Trump's alleged misconduct.

NADLER: The report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice; is that correct?


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


MURRAY: Former special counsel Robert Mueller neutered Trump's favorite line of defense.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no obstruction, none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration.

SCHIFF: Well, your investigation is not a witch-hunt, is it?

MUELLER: It is not a witch-hunt.

SCHIFF: When the president said the Russian interference was a hoax, that was false, wasn't it?



MURRAY: But Mueller may have failed to deliver the sparks Democrats hoped for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the point of this hearing to get Mr. Mueller to recommend impeachment?

NADLER: That is not a fair point of inquiry.

MURRAY: Mueller offered halting answers, often responding with one word, and frequently citing back to the more-than-400-page Russia report.

Critics of the special counsel tonight questioning parts of his performance and how well he knew his own report.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Robert Mueller didn't appear to have a good grasp of a report that he authored.

MURRAY: One questionable moment came after Mueller suggested the only reason Trump wasn't indicted is because he's a sitting president.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): I would 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?

MUELLER: That is correct.

MURRAY: Later, Mueller clarified.

MUELLER: We did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.

MURRAY: Still, it's clear Justice Department guidelines that a sitting president cannot be indicted weighed heavily on Mueller's decision-making.

REP. GUY RESCHENTHALER (R-PA): You had an obligation to either prosecute or not prosecute.

MUELLER: Well, generally, that is the case, although most cases are not done in the context of the president.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Could you charge the president with a trial after he left office? MUELLER: Yes.

MURRAY: Mueller also wouldn't say whether he intended for Congress to pursue impeachment proceedings.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): You never use the term raising to impeachable conduct.

MUELLER: Our mandate does not go to other ways of addressing conduct.

MURRAY: And even though Mueller believed he had the authority to subpoena Trump...

MUELLER: We understood we could subpoena the president.

MURRAY: ... he decided the inevitable delay wasn't worth it.

MUELLER: We decided that we did not want to exercise the subpoena powers, because of the necessity of expediting the end of the investigation.

MURRAY: Mueller was more expressive in his concerns over foreign powers interfering in U.S. elections. He appeared disturbed by Trump's prior praise for WikiLeaks.

MUELLER: Problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays in terms of giving some, I don't know, hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity.

MURRAY: And worried that future campaigns won't feel any duty to report foreign election meddling to authorities.

MUELLER: I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.

MURRAY: For their part, Republicans scoffed at the investigation.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): It's time for the curtain to close on the Russia hoax. The conspiracy theory is dead.

MURRAY: And pressed Mueller on its origins, particularly the dossier, which is under investigation by the Justice Department.

REP. GREG STEUBE (R-FL): You had two years to investigate. Not once did you consider it worthy to investigate how an unverified document that was paid for by a political opponent was used to obtain a warrant to spy on the opposition political campaign. Did you do any investigation in that whatsoever?

MUELLER: I do not accept your characterization of what occurred.

STEUBE: What would you -- what would be your characterization?

MUELLER: I'm not going to speak anymore to it.

MURRAY: While Republicans aimed to discredit, attacks on his team drew the strongest pushback. MUELLER: We strove to hire those individuals that could do the job.

I have 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.


MURRAY: Now, Wolf, where Mueller was a little bit more uneasy talking about obstruction, he was much more forceful when he was talking about foreign interference in our elections, saying, in some circumstances, it is a crime to accept that kind of foreign election assistance.

But he also seemed resigned when he said he hopes that this is not the new normal, but he's afraid that it might be.

BLITZER: Good point.

All right, Sara, thank you very much, Sara Murray reporting.

We just heard a little while ago from the president.

Our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, was among the reporters asking him questions about the Mueller testimony as he was leaving the White House for a fund-raiser.

Kaitlan, the president, he clearly was fired up.


And White House officials said before the president even came out to speak to reporters that he was in a good mood. And he made that pretty clear as he was speaking to us about what exactly how he saw things that have unfolded on Capitol Hill today.


TRUMP: 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.

You can be a builder, but if they don't give you the right materials, you're not going to build a very good building.

Robert Mueller had no material. He had nothing to work with. So, obviously, he did very poorly today.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, that is not the attitude the president had when he got up this morning, when my sources said he was calling people, talking to them, agitated about the fact that Robert Mueller was about to be on Capitol Hill. But now, after that performance, the president feels that the optics

were in his favor today, because he didn't think that the former special counsel had the performance he was fearing he was going to have, talking about the unflattering aspects of this report.


So, even though the facts of this report are no different, with the president now saying that, even though before he's relied on this report to say he was exonerated, now saying that Robert Mueller doesn't have the right to exonerate anyone, the president is viewing this as a win.

And he sees it as successful, because he feels like Republicans were able to successfully turn the tables on the special counsel, on the FBI and the DOJ overall, and that's not what he was expecting when he went into today.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, I want you to stand by as well.

I want to bring in our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. They have been covering the Russia investigation from the beginning.

We're also joined by our senior legal analyst, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

So the president is declaring, Preet, a complete victory today. Is that what you heard from the Mueller testimony?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's not shocking that the president has a conclusion that doesn't match what the testimony is, just like he had a conclusion that didn't match what the report said as an underlying matter.

Bob Mueller -- and I have heard people on social media and elsewhere making snarky comments about whether or not he was quick enough or sharp enough or forceful enough. The fact remains that the report was not undermined a whit today.

The report that said that Donald Trump engage in all this conduct, which, to my mind, but for the Office of Legal Counsel opinion, would mean that the president could be indicted, that all stood up.

You had dozens of Republican members of the House ask question after question after question with a lot of gusto to try to get Bob Mueller to back off on them. And he didn't. In fact, many of the questions went to the issues that are collateral and peripheral.

But very few people engaged with the conclusions in the report, the facts in the report, and all sorts of other things in the report that talked about the ways in which Donald Trump probably broke the law. And that remains.

And so if someone thinks that Bob Mueller right out of the box makes a statement about how he did not exonerate the president, which undermines the falsehood that the president has been saying for a long time, and all the other conclusions in the report remain unscathed, I don't know how you call that total victory.

BLITZER: And he specifically, also, Jim Sciutto, he made it clear that he believes the president potentially could be charged, indicted after he leaves office.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Easy to -- so much attention today on how Bob Mueller said the things he said, less attention what he said.

But let's just tick through a few of them, to echo Preet's point here, but specific to Russian interference. He made clear that the president welcomed Russian interference and lied about it. He made clear that his encouraging of WikiLeaks was problematic.

In fact, he said problematic was an understatement. He said that Russia interfered to help Trump because it believed it would benefit from Trump's victory. That's something that the current attorney general says he's investigating that portion of the intelligence community's conclusion.

But Mueller said, in his view, that's the case. And this is also important. He said that interference is taking place as we sit here today, that we have looked at 2016. Russia continues to try to interfere in the election.

What is the president of the United States doing to prevent that interference? There was no discussion of that today. In fact, the special counsel made clear that the president has raised the possibility of making that easier by making accepting foreign help the new normal.

The president has said very publicly, well, listen, if someone comes to me with information, I might very well accept it.

So on the issue of Russian interference in the midst of what may have been a halting testimony at times, what he actually said, the substance of what he said, the substance of this report, which is about Russian interference in the election, the president aided and abetted.

Whether it was criminal or not, no, but he aided and abetted and is not standing in the way of it today. That's damning.

BLITZER: That's an important point.

Pamela, the president said Mueller did a horrible job today. You heard him completely rail against Mueller in his comments over at the White House.

Who was a more effective messenger, though, today, the president of the United States or the former special counsel?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think bottom line is that Robert Mueller, he didn't really want to be any sort of messenger for anyone today.

He was a reluctant witness. He didn't want to do this. He made that very, very clear. And what was clear to me, in that there were certainly times that he didn't have command of the material, but also that he wasn't trying to sort of play politics or help one side or the other or play along or take the bait.

He was -- he seemed to be very committed to staying within the four corners of the report and not playing politics.

President Trump, on the other hand, this is all marketing for him. He's trying to frame it a certain way, as a win for him. They see some certain parts, such as when Robert Mueller said that his investigation wasn't impeded, even though it is still -- and, Preet, you know this -- a crime to endeavor to obstruct justice.

He seized on certain parts and tried To frame it as a win. And I think the bottom line is that people's views in large part were pretty much set before. And they will get continue to be.


And I think you heard that from Nancy Pelosi even today that this didn't move the needle in terms of impeachment for the democrats.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: The, you know, former Special Counsel repeatedly referred to the Office of Legal Counsel guidelines over at the Justice Department that a sitting president can't be charged, can't be indicted. If not for those guidelines, do you think the President would have been charged or indicted?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I do. I believe that to be so. I mean, we sat around this morning after the Judiciary Committee hearing concluded. And to a person, I think, around the table, myself included, we thought that it was very significant the way the Special Counsel -- former Special Counsel answered a question from Congressman Ted Lieu that basically said, the reason you didn't indict the President was because of the OLC opinion. Is that correct? And he said, yes.

Now, he walked that back later. But there are all sorts of indications that what he lays out in the report is clear that -- it's maybe not all 11 instances, but a number of the instances where all the elements seemed to be made out and laid out in great detail, that those will constitute (ph) obstruction of justice, and that Bob Mueller has gone out of his way, bending over backwards, notwithstanding the attacks he gets from the President and the President's allies, to be fair to the President in light of the OLC opinion.

And although there's this weird back and forth about whether or not but for the OLC opinion would he prosecute the President, I think based on the evidence in the report, based on the oddity of saying, we're not exonerating the President, and some that has come under criticism, which is arguable, and then the way he answered the question with Ted Lieu, I think, a couple of times, to me, indicates that but for the Legal Counsel opinion , he would indict the President, even though he's not comfortable saying that in a straightforward way.

BLITZER: What's going to be the impact on campaigns now down the road when a foreign government or a foreigner says, I have dirt on your opponent?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, the President said he would accept it. You've had sitting republican lawmakers say that they would accept it under some circumstances. And if they say it and they feel they're not going to face criminal charges, as this investigation showed, then this may very well be the new normal. And those were damning words and I think disturbing, sobering words that should be to Americans to hear the Special Counsel say, I fear that that is the new normal.

The law is clear on this. The law says, accepting things of value from a foreigner is illegal. It's hard to prove that in a court of law. The Special Counsel did not prove it about the President. But this may be the new normal for us.

BLITZER: Everybody standby because I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas right now. He's on the Intelligence Committee. He was asking questions earlier in the day. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

So you saw Mueller explain that from the outset of his team, ruled out the prospect of charging President Trump, based on Justice Department guidelines. Based on what heard today, do you believe President Trump would have been indicted if not for those Justice Department guidelines?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes. I believe that if Donald Trump was not sitting in the White House, that he would be sitting in a courtroom and he would be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. I also think it's very telling that Bob Mueller and his report and in his testimony today said that they didn't find sufficient evidence on conspiracy.

He didn't say the same thing with respect to obstruction of justice. In fact, he was very clear that the President was not exonerated. So it affirmed my belief that the Special Counsel's report essentially served up to Congress the job that it needs to do in opening an impeachment inquiry.

BLITZER: Well, you also saw Mueller, he did have to go back and clarify his comments, specifically he says that his comments did not reach a determination as to whether the President committed a crime. It's very different than saying they were ready to charge, but for the OLC ruling, isn't it? When he had to go back and clean that up?

CASTRO: On Ted Lieu's question, yes. I think he's obviously being very cautious and very careful and he's trying not to do the job of Congress. It's clear if something is going to be done, if there is a process, it's going to be undertaken to charge the President of the United States, who is sitting in the White House, that Congress has to do it, and he believes that it wasn't his job.

BLITZER: So where do you think this goes from here?

CASTRO: Well, I think that in the coming months, you'll see a growing support for opening an impeachment inquiry. That doesn't meant that, automatically, people will say, we should impeach the President, but that more and more people will believe that there should be an inquiry opened up, a process open up to make that determination.

BLITZER: You heard Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, say -- you know, basically reiterate her relatively go slow approach, it's not yet time to begin formal impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives despite all that we heard right now. You disagree with her?

CASTRO: Well, I have great respect for the Speaker and, of course, her perspective. And, look, ultimately, it is her decision about whether we start an impeachment inquiry or not. But we've seen the number of democrats who support opening that impeachment inquiry continue to grow.


And I believe that that will just grow larger in the coming months.

BLITZER: Congressman Castro, thanks so much for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Let's dig deeper with our experts and our analysts. And, Gloria, you were listening to all seven hours of that testimony earlier today. Do you think that that testimony really is going to have an impact in changing the Speaker's decision?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you heard her. I mean, she made it very clear she wants the legal process to continue. She didn't jump at the notion of impeachment any more than she has in the past. She didn't say, you know, we're ruling it out. She just said, as I think Adam Schiff said, you want to have the strongest case.

And she knows where her caucus is, she also knows she's got these 30 or so moderate democrats who won in Trump districts that she needs to protect. But she didn't rule anything out. She hasn't ruled anything out in the past and she didn't rule anything out today.

BLITZER: How did you see it?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I think the democrats got a little bit of what they wanted but they didn't get what they really needed, which was a narrative. In the morning, there was some strong questioning by Congressman Johnson from Georgia on the afternoon. I think Congresswoman Demings from Florida, the former Orlando Police Chief, got some good information out of Robert Mueller. But I don't this change the facts on the ground. I don't think this is going to move public opinion that much. And I don't understand why it took them so long to get this if that's all they got.

BLITZER: What was your bottom line, Jeffrey Toobin?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think things are pretty exactly where they were in the morning. I mean, the -- I don't think the people who were for impeachment got a great victory. I don't think people who are against impeachment will change their minds much at all. If you were familiar with the Mueller report, as journalists tend to be, you didn't learn very much.

But most people are not that familiar with the Mueller reporter. So if you heard for the first time Robert Mueller say, the President was not exonerated, we did not exonerate him, that's actually a big deal but it is something that is in the report itself and this is a demonstration, I think, of the importance of television versus a 440- page report.

BLITZER: I want to get some quick reaction from Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee. He was asking questions there. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

You heard the President a little while ago declare complete victory. But it was apparent today that Mueller didn't clear the President on the question of obstruction of justice. So would President Trump, do you believe, have said charges if not for the fact that you can't indict a sitting president?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): No, not at all. I mean, Mr. Mueller came back and corrected himself because there was some confusion about that. But in our committee, subsequently, he said twice that wasn't the reason why he didn't recommend or press forward with an indictment. It was -- it just simply wasn't.

But, Wolf, I mean, there just wasn't anything terribly surprising out of this committee. I mean, if you remember Oliver North, I mean, all of us remember that hearing. And there's been -- after the 9/11 hearing. So we all remember. I think a month from now, no one is going to remember this hearing because there wasn't any surprises, certainly no bombshells and not very much drama.

BLITZER: You know, obviously, Mueller clearly said the President could have faced charges -- could face charges once he leaves office, once he's no longer a sitting president. When the President claims victory today, is that more of a political victory than potentially a legal victory?

STEWART: Well, I think that's a fair description. And I don't know why or for what cause he would face charges after this. I think there's a lot of speculation in that. But, I mean, at the end of the day, Wolf, this really is a political endeavor we're involved with here. It's not so much legal because there are no legal proceedings pushing forward regarding the President.

But I've got to say this as well. I think the person who is most relieved tonight is probably Nancy Pelosi, because this took the air out of the sails for this push for impeachment. I think she sincerely believes it would be bad for her party if they were to push forward on that, I think it jeopardizes her chances of remaining Speaker or electing a democratic president in 2020. And I think the American people after today, I think, are even less interested in pursuing on impeachment than they were yesterday, and they weren't very interested in it yesterday. The polling on that is pretty clear.

BLITZER: Your committee, the Intelligence Committee, Congressman, was clearly focusing in on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Putting aside the President's conduct, is Russia's attack on our election an important area for your committee to address?

STEWART: Absolutely. And, Wolf, thank you so much for asking that question. I mean, absolutely, it is. And, by the way, it's not Russia, China and others are as well. The House Intelligence Committee released our report more than a year ago. Part of the reason was we had 47 recommendations that we felt we needed to start to implement so that we could protect ourselves in 2018 and in 2020.


The foundation of our democracy is built on this idea that the American people feel like their vote is manipulated, that their vote counts and that it's not changed. And if we lose that faith in our electoral process, if we lose our faith in democracy, this whole thing crumbles. And we have to restore that trust. And --

BLITZER: And I was going to say, Congressman, with all due respect, you believe that this is a real serious problem facing the United States, Russian interference? So why did you use your limited time today to attack Mueller's team instead of finding out what could be done to protect America from Russian cyber warfare aggression?

STEWART: Well, part of the reason, because I know what needs to be done. Once again, we spent more than a year looking at this, and we had our 47 recommendations. So there wasn't anything -- he was going to tell me that we didn't already know.

And I didn't attack Mr. Mueller. I mean, there are some concerns that we have that -- once again, there were a -- multitudely (ph), 25 leaks and we probably could have found more that were -- it came out of the Special Counsel's Office. They all were discouraging towards the President. American people look at that and say, that doesn't seem fair, that he's conducting this investigation and we have these selective leaks. And I just wanted him to have a chance to respond to that and say, yes, it was concerning to me. These are the steps that we took to try to correct that. But, you know, we never got to that point. And I wish we would had been able to get a response to that.

BLITZER: But how do you know that those leaks -- and I've been a reporter for a long time, and leaks come from all sorts of sources. You never know directly unless the reporter specifically says where that information is coming from. How do you know? Do you have any evidence that those leaks were coming directly from Mueller's team?

STEWART: Well, in almost every one of these cases, and maybe all of them, I thought, you know, reviewing them in my mind very quickly. But in most of our -- nearly all of these cases, the reporters quote someone close to the Special Counsel's Office and they were information that only the Special Counsel would have had. He was operating independently. He was conducting and interviewing people on his own accord, not in conjunction with the Department of Justice, not in conjunction with Congress. He was doing that on his own. He was the only one.

And when I say he, and I want to be clear on this, I'm not attacking Mr. Mueller. I am certain he didn't leak a single thing, but someone in the office did and it was information that only they had available. So it's just a fair presumption to say, yes, it came from the Special Counsel because the report has indicated it did and they are the ones that have the information, and usually the only ones that had the information.

BLITZER: Well, I will point out as a reporter who has covered these kinds of stories over the years and done a lot of reporting in these areas. When someone from the Special Counsel's Office, for example, goes out and interviews someone, that individual, who maybe an innocent individual, that person has that information as well, and that person can give a journalist some critically important information to pursue. I'll just point that out. So you never know for sure where that information is originating from based on these kinds of situation.

But let me get to another sensitive issue, Congressman, while I have you. Mueller testified that he fears that the Trump campaign may have created, in his words, a new normal by not reporting outreach from the Russians. Is that true? Would you, for example, accept dirt from a foreign source?

STEWART: Well, no. And I think we pretty much established that that's a terrible idea. And this idea of a new normal, it concerns me, Wolf. I think it concerns a lot of Americans, and not just in this area. There's so much about the last election where we seem to tear down standards and ideas that we've held for, you know, maybe since our inception for our history, and so many of them got pushed aside.

And I think we've got to pull back from that. We've got to put up some other guardrails that just seemed to have been shattered in the last few years.

BLITZER: Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah, thanks so much for joining us.

STEWART: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: All right. Let's go back to our panel. And, you know, Sabrina, as we watched all of this unfold, lots of unanswered questions, and the big question right now is where do the democrats go from here in the House of Representatives?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wouldn't really say if this has moved the needle on impeachment. In fact, she signaled that her position hasn't changed. And she was echoed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who said that they wanted to have all the facts and to be able to build a case before the American public.

Some news that Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, did make with saying that democrats do plan to go to court to enforce that subpoena of former White House Counsel Don McGahn, of course, their efforts to have him testify have been stonewalled (ph) by the Trump administration, and they also plan to go to court to access grand jury information.

But I do think this is going to be a real challenge for democrats, because, to Jeffrey's point, not all the American was following every twist and turn of the Mueller investigation. And so for him to sit there and to connect all of the dots, even if it's an understatement to say that he didn't do it in the most provocative way, that had some impact when you think about the fact that he laid out the extent of context between the Trump campaign and the Russians in 2016.

[18:45:04] He did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice and he reiterated many of the episodes or confirmed the episodes in which the president explicitly sought to impede the investigation. Democrats have to look at that on the substance and weigh how they want to proceed with the testimony Mueller provided today.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, Jim Baker, where do you think Congress needs to go right now based on what we heard today?

JIM BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Well, I don't -- I would start with what they have in front of them already. Look, they're about to go on recess. They'll come back in September. But during the month of August, I think they need to plan a series of hearings, you know, starting right away on securing our elections for the future which means in part that they need to look back and try to figure out what happened, and so you can call people in, you can have public hearings about that and discuss what did we learn from the past and how do we apply those lessons to the future? That's one.

And also look at tightening up the laws around obtaining things of value from foreign sources, especially. That was an issue in the Mueller report.

They said the law was a bit unclear in certain respects. OK, fine. Well, go back and hold some hearings that are directly focused, for example, on the meeting in Trump Tower in June of 2016.

Focus on that, figure out -- look at the Mueller report. How do the laws need to be changed? You can have a bunch of hearings on that. You don't need to wait -- in my opinion, you don't need to wait until you have an impeachment inquiry to start putting this information in front of the American people in a variety of ways, and I think they could do that right away.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Ryan Lizza, the president made it clear when he was asked if he regretted sitting down with Mueller for a formal question and answer session. He only did it in writing. The president says he did right thing.

Did he?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't know. I mean, Mueller seems not be very -- when he was asked about that today, Mueller did not make a big deal out of the fact that they did interview the president and thought that they could finish that investigation without that interview, right? He didn't pause to, you know, relitigate that.

I think the problem for this hearing was the expectations that Democrats set. You know, one staffer the other day said that nobody reads the book, so we're going to turn this into a film or something to that effect. Well, this was not -- this was one of the worst screen adaptations that I think any of us have seen, because the witness himself was not interested in any way in dramatizing quite frankly very dramatic material in the report.

And so, you know, Mueller -- as Congressman Castro pointed out a few minutes ago, Mueller is just not interested in doing the Democrats' job for them. If they want to convince the American people that the evidence in this report justifies pursuing impeachment, Mueller was not there to make that case. If they want to turn some of the raw material, some of the facts fortunate investigation into made-for-TV drama, Mueller was not there to do that for them.

He's basically saying, I gave you guys the information. You're Congress, it's your job as an independent branch of government to, you know, pursue impeach. So, I think they let expectations get way out of hand with what they could out of this hearing, or hearings.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, for Donald Trump, this was about Donald Trump. This wasn't about election interference. This wasn't about the larger issue of how to save our democracy. This was about how he saves himself. That's all he cared about today.

And what he came away with, if you look at his sordid tweets, well, the guy didn't lay a hand on me. He didn't. He couldn't.

But what he doesn't get is that Mueller wasn't punching. He wasn't punching him because what Mueller was concerned about, and he said it over and over again, was, as he called it, a living message that he was giving to the American public was they are doing it right now. Not just Russia but others who are trying to interfere with our election.

I mean, he threw shade at Donald Trump and his team. He said his investigation was hampered by their lies. He said that Donald Trump's tweets about Wiki was an understatement, they were disturbing and subject to investigation.

But his whole point was sort of, OK, I threw a little shade at Trump but that's over for me. What I care about is what they sent me to investigate, which is the attempts to influence the election which are ongoing. And not one comment from the president or his team about the need to fix that, about the need to delve into that. And that was his message, and the president, it seems to me, didn't care about it.

BLITZER: But there was one dramatic moment, and we were all watching this together and our ears perked up. The president, as you know, did answer written questions in the course of this investigation, questions raised by the special counsel, because special counsel today, the former special counsel Robert Mueller, suggested that they may not necessarily all that truthful.

[18:50:11] Listen to this.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Director Mueller, isn't it fair to say the president's written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn't answer many of your questions, but where he did his answers showed that he wasn't always being truthful?

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: There -- I would say -- generally.


BLITZER: How do you interpret that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it was a peculiar exchange. If you look at the transcript and see what Congresswoman Demings said and the answer it's that generally the president's answers were untruthful, that he lied to him, under oath. If that's true, that would be very inconsistent with how he answered all the rest of the questions over the course of the day.

So I'm not sure that means what we think it means. But if it is, it's a pretty extraordinary statement that the president lied under oath in the Mueller investigation.

BLITZER: Which potentially is a crime.

You know, Jim Baker, the former general counsel of the FBI, how did you interpret that?

BAKER: Well; two things.

One, I guess my assessment as a prosecutor, Mueller assessed, look, I'm probably not -- I have a lot of evidence already. I'm probably not going to get truthful information from the president. This -- if I try to litigate this and he is going to fight it, it's going to take me forever. At the end of the day I'll end up with information that doesn't help me advance my case other than perhaps a perjury charge with respect with the president. But I think he just assessed that it's a big waste of time.

Having said that, I mean, just backing up, as someone involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation, the notion that we could have closed that investigation without talking to Hillary Clinton, I mean, people would have lost their minds, right? I mean, they lost their minds -- they didn't like the way we did it anyway. But putting that aside, if we had tried -- if she resisted and tried to close the investigation without talking to her, getting her under oath, I don't think the public would have accepted that. And I'm quite confident Donald Trump would have been very angry about it.

BLITZER: Let me get your thought, Jim Baker, because you know -- you know Mueller. You worked with Mueller. You know Comey, the fired FBI director.

The president keeps saying, you know what, I invited Mueller in for an interview. He wanted to be the FBI director. I said no.

And today, we heard Mueller say he went in there just to give the president advice. He wasn't being -- he wasn't trying to become the FBI director. He had been the FBI director for 12 years.

BAKER: For 12 years. Right, I think he had had enough of that, exactly.

If I could add wolf -- if I have the floor or a second. I mean, let's step back. Bob -- the role Bob Mueller played post-9/11, starting the day of 9/11 -- I was with him on 9/11 and for years after that, that -- Bob Mueller is substantially responsible for protecting the American people through that very difficult time. And he made a big difference and is part of the reason why there was not another attack on the United States.

So I think all these comments about him and so on and so forth, some of the slams at his integrity over the past few days or so on, is just really inappropriate and doesn't give him credit for what he did to protect the country both after 9/11 and obviously serving during Vietnam.

BLITZER: Looking back, David Swerdlick, now on this important day, seven hours of testimony from Mueller. Did the Democrats succeed? Was it a good idea for the Democrats to press and press and press to get Mueller before Congress?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It probably would have been a good idea to press and press a couple months ago. Again, like everyone said, some information came out. If this was a bingo game they filled some spots on the card but I don't think they gave the American public a through line here. Part of that is on the way they questioned Special Counsel Mueller. I don't think it was always effective. It was only effective in spots.

Part of it was on Special Counsel Mueller. There were some instances where it made complete sense he didn't want to go outside the four corners of the report. Some of the other questions where he was asked for instance, you know, is flipping an important part of law enforcement? And he declined to answer that.

That made no sense to me. There were instances he could have gone out there and simply said, hey, listen, Congressman, you dragged me out here let me answer your question.

I know everybody mo knows him says that's not the way he operates. But at some point if he thinks it's important for the ball to move forward on this, you know, I think he could have leaned in a little bit more.

BLITZER: What do you think, Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: I think in some ways -- I think in some ways, the format was flawed. There were times when Robert Mueller was trying to expand on his answer but because of the time limits, they would move on to the next lawmaker, and therefore, there'd be on to another point of discussion.

Look, there is going to be a lot of talk about whether or not Democrats got everything out of this hearing that they wanted, in part because it wasn't really a made for TV kind of moment. That's just because that's how Robert Mueller operates. He was never going to come out with the kind of flair that James Comey had when he testified before Congress.

[18:55:05] But one of the most effective exchanges in my mine was when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff used his five minutes to really have Mueller piece together exactly what was going on in the 2016 election and really did build that through line where the Russians are trying to swing the election in Trump's favor.

The Trump campaign was receptive to help. When offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. said, if it's what you say, I love it. Meanwhile, then candidate Trump was calling on the Russians to hack the e-mails. He was pursuing a business deal in terms of the Trump Tower Moscow project. He praised WikiLeaks for releasing stolen those stolen emails that were, of course, hacked by the Russians from the DNC and Hillary Clinton.

And so, he really did paint a picture first of the contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow, and then, of course, acknowledged that both members of the Trump campaign and the administration have been charged, many convicted of lying to the FBI about the contacts with the Russians.

BLITZER: You know, Jim Baker, let me get back to you because you know these players. One of the more energetic moments that Mueller had today was when he offered a strong defense of his team, of lawyers and FBI agents that he put together. Watch this.


REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): You must be aware by now that six of your lawyers donated $12,000 directly to Hillary Clinton. I'm not even talking about the $49,000 they donated to other Democrats, just the donations to the opponent who was the target of your investigation.

MUELLER: Can I speak for a second to the hiring practices?


MUELLER: We strove to hire those individuals that could do the job. ARMSTRONG: 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 that do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity.


BLITZER: What's your response, Jim?

BAKER: Yes, I thought that was a particularly strong moment. I thought, overall, look, I mean, the Republicans have been trying to attack the investigation, the FBI investigation, the special counsel investigation for a long time.

I think that fell flat today. I think that line of attack from a variety of different folks on the committees just simply didn't get anywhere. So, I was -- I was grateful to see him do that. And I think it was one of the finer moments.


TOOBIN: That answer --

LIZZA: Wolf, could I say one thing --

BLITZER: Very quickly.

TOOBIN: That answer was one of the longest statements he made.


TOOBIN: I mean, he just did not talk that much. It was a lot of monosyllabic answers.

LIZZA: Imagine if he had dealt -- imagine if he had that amount of energy and the strength of his opinions when talking about some of the damning parts of the report. I think that's when a lot of people watched that and say, why didn't say -- why didn't he do the same thing about the obstruction of justice charges? Why didn't he do the same thing about some of the evidence he built against the president?

And for whatever reason he just decided that was not his job. And I thought at times it looked like he wasn't backing up his own report.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. Stand by, everybody. Because there is more news we are following.

I want to end all of this tonight where we began with the allegation of Russian interference in the election. Russia is reacting tonight to what we heard from Robert Mueller.

Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is joining from us live from Moscow right now.

So, what are you hearing over there, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the Russian reaction is similar to President Trump. Obviously, they believe this was a big victory for President Trump. It was quite interesting to see because on Russian state-run media, they were saying the Democrats were trying to twist Mueller's arms as they said for several hours to try and get something new out of this. But they feel in the end nothing new came out of it.

One of the interesting things, Wolf, that the Russians have been saying, Vladimir Putin in particular, he actually praised the Mueller report because he said it was an objective document but get this the reason he does is because the Russians are falsely claiming that the Mueller report that the Russians had nothing to do with election meddling.

I want you to listen real quick to what was said on one of the top political talk shows here tonight on this topic


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He already gave them the report which says Russians have nothing to do with it and Trump doesn't matter here either. But nevertheless, they have been talking to him for hours even though we haven't learned anything new from this. And Russia, I quote, is guilty terribly and systemically, though not clear what it is guilty of.


PLEITGEN: So the Russians essentially calling of in a hoax and certainly, Vladimir Putin doesn't seem to fear any backlash from President Trump if indeed there was any sort of meddling in future U.S. elections. You recall the two men met a month ago in Japan at the G-20 where President Trump in front of Vladimir Putin was asked whether he would ask Vladimir Putin not to meddle in the next election. Trump had turned around and said, don't meddle again in the election. Vladimir Putin was chuckling then. It seems as though tonight, he's probably chuckling as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume this is a big story in Moscow as well.

Certainly, a very big story here in the United States. Fred Pleitgen, thanks very much.

And to our viewers thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer.

Our special coverage continues with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".