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Mueller Report: Obstruction By Pres. Trump Failed Because Others Refused To Carry Out Orders; Mueller: Congress Still Has Ability To Find That President Trump Obstructed Justice; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) Is Interviewed About The Special Counsel Mueller's Report. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 18, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

The Mueller report is out.

The good news is that it provides a detailed look at how the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election. And after an extensive investigation, Mueller's team, quote, did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russian government in their interference. That isn't just good news for the president and members of his campaign, it's good news for the country.

The bad news for the president is that despite his claims that he's been completely exonerated, that is just not true. The Mueller report explicitly does not clear the president of attempting to obstruct justice. In fact, it details repeated attempts by the president to interfere with the investigation, efforts to thwart a probe that the president saw as an existential threat.

Reading now from a Justice Department staffer's account in the report, when Sessions told the president that a special counsel had been appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and said: Oh my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm F'ed, using a curse word.

On page after page, Robert Mueller details the many ways the president tried to make it all go away, including rid of the special counsel. He documents orders that the president gave such as to fire Mueller which his subordinates did not carry out, but would have turned the White House politically radioactive. At least three people working for president declined potentially damaging directives from the president. Sometimes they said they would do it and just they didn't, hoping the president would forget about it, despite having the greatest memory what he had asked them to do.

There is also much in Mueller's 448-page document on episodes that we and others reported on at the time, stories that the president or the administration characterized as fake news. The funny thing, with some of those same people are under oath, they confirmed the so-called fake news was real. Sarah Sanders made up facts about why Comey was fired and under oath admitted she was, in the words of Mueller, what she said in the words of Mueller, quote, wasn't founded on anything. We'll get to all of that tonight. We begin with the report's bottom

line conclusion, how they compared to the attorney general's portrayal, and the president's long-standing claim, which he restated today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm having a good day too. It was called no collusion, no obstruction.


There never was, by the way, and there never will be. This should never happen to another president again, this hoax. It should never happen to another president again.


COOPER: Well, the president spoke just a short time after his attorney general did, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein standing behind him. But Robert Mueller notably absent.

William Barr, ahead of the release report, put his gloss on that report, echoing many of the president's talking points, illegal leaks, no collusion, everything but witch hunt and hoax.

Barr also advanced a novel explanation of why the president's actions did not amount to obstruction of justice.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: As he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion. And as the special counsel's report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere believe that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the special counsel's investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely and asserting no privilege claims.


COOPER: Well, we leave the legal for our team of lawyers and federal prosecutors to discuss. Mueller's portrayal of the Mueller report in advance and even today has become an issue reflecting on what role he is actually playing, as attorney general for the United States for the American people or for President Trump.

In Barr's March 24th letter, citing a line from the report, Barr wrote, I'm quoting now: The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. That is true. That's what I quoted at the top of the program. But now we know the full citation, which the attorney general had

access at the time. It's hardly that rosy. It reads: Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

Barr is saying in so many words, whatever happened, as unprecedented as it is, as wrong as you consider it to be or not, it didn't add up to any chargeable crime because the Trump campaign and the Russian government did not get together and agree on it, at least not that the available evidence showed and that the special counsel acknowledges that some of that evidence is simply not accessible.

According to the special counsel, some individuals associated with the campaign deleted communications. Some refused to speak, citing the Fifth Amendment. Others, he said, flat-out lied.

[20:05:01] In any case, the report certainly documents plenty of contacts with Russians. The traditional amount by the way is none.

Looking at the index, it starts on page 66 with the heading "Russian government links to and contacts with the Trump campaign" and runs another 102 pages into the transition and finally the White House. At least 16 Trump associates had Russian contacts during the campaign or transition, according to public statements, court filings and reports from CNN and others.

Some of the Trump aides lied about his contacts and were charged with lying to investigators and glossing over all of it. Attorney General Barr suggests the president has a clean bill of health. He also mischaracterized the special counsel's reasons for not reaching a decision on obstruction, suggesting that Mr. Mueller was not relying on Justice Department guidelines that a sitting president can't be indicted.


BARR: He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.


COOPER: That's misleading at best, as the attorney general should have known from reading the report, which states, and I'm quoting: Given the role of the special counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the special counsel's regulations, this office accepted the OLC's -- the Office of Legal Counsel's -- legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction.

So, at 9:51 a.m. Eastern Time, Attorney General Barr said one thing that would be easily checkable just an hour or so later, he also didn't mention this from the report: the special counsel writing, quote, if we had confidence after the thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.

We'll certainly talk about that tonight, and we'll also dig into what the Mueller document reveals about stories that we and others reported about that the White House, at the time called fake news, despite the stories being true. One involves a story in "The New York Times" back in January of last year that president Trump once asked White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller.

Here is what the president said about it at the time.


REPORTER: Mr. President, did you seek to fire Robert Mueller?

REPORTER: Did you want to fire Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: Fake news, folks, fake news.

REPORTER: What's your message today?

TRUMP: Typical "New York Times", it's a fake story.


COOPER: It was true. That was a lie.

The Mueller report works through the entire episode step by step, day by day as the president stews over it, tries to get Don McGahn to lie about it too, demanding he write a letter calling the story inaccurate, which it wasn't.

Finally, days later, the two meet. And I'm quoting from the report, the president asked McGahn, did I say the word fire? McGahn responded, what you said is call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the special counsel. The president responded, I never said that.

The report continues the president then asked, what about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who takes notes.

McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a real lawyer and explain -- you find that funny, Jeffrey Toobin?



COOPER: OK. Settle down. You have plenty of time.

TOOBIN: I know. Anyway, please continue. It's your program. COOPER: And explain that notes create a record and are not a bad


The president went on to say, "I've had a lot of great lawyers like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.

He also got disbarred if memory serves.

TOOBIN: That is correct, yes.

COOPER: It didn't end well for Roy Cohn.

Clearly, Roy Cohn was no Don McGahn. In event, this isn't only such incident. There is also the firing of James Comey and the bogus reason given for it at the time.


REPORTER: So what's your response to these rank-and-file FBI agents who disagree with your contention that they lost faith in Director Comey?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.

REPORTER: What led you and the White House to believe that he had lost the confidence of the rank-and-file of the FBI when the acting director says it's exactly the opposite?

SANDERS: Well, I can speak to my own personal experience. I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision.


COOPER: It turns out, there weren't countless FBI agents calling up Sarah Sanders at the White House to express their relief. Sarah Sanders speaking -- she was speaking, by the way, on two consecutive days for countless grateful members of the FBI allegedly whom she pulled out of her hat.

How do we know that? Because she said so under oath. Reading now from page 72 of the report, Sanders told this office that her reference to hearing from, quote, countless members of the FBI was a slip of the tongue. She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a statement she made, quote, in the heat of the moment that was not founded on anything.

Four hundred and forty-eight pages of accounts like that, of meeting Russians, of lying about it, of the president repeatedly answering questions "I don't recall" despite claiming to have the best memory. The report clears the president of criminally conspiring with the Russians.

[20:10:01] That is incredibly important and a great thing for the country.

Not, though, of seriously questionable contact. It clearly states what's the president has never fully acknowledged, that Russia interfered in the election to help him win. It speaks of 14 other cases in jurisdictions some of which are in detail behind black redaction bars. It is quite an effort, and we'll get to all of it tonight.

With us is CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who I think has been here since like yesterday, CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers, and former Trump campaign aide David Urban.

We appreciate everybody being here.

The last revelation that the president, which we didn't actual -- was something that hadn't been reported, that the president tried to get Rod Rosenstein basically hold a press conference saying that it was his idea to fire Comey and the White House press office tried to get him to at least make a statement to that effect, to which he said I don't think a press conference is a good idea because if I'm asked, I will tell the truth.

TOOBIN: Well, this incident, this Rod Rosenstein incident is a good metaphor for the entire report, which takes something we know, because obviously we know that rod Rosenstein wrote that famous memo giving one rationale for firing Comey, but the story is much worse, as it's spelled out. It is an active attempt by the president and by the White House to create a false reason, a false narrative for why James Comey was fired, and I think as we dig into -- particularly the ten different examples of possible obstruction of justice that Mueller outlines, in each one of them, there is a kernel that we were familiar with thanks to the excellent journalism of Maggie Haberman and many others.

But the full story that Mueller was able to get is a much more rich and much more incriminating story than we even knew. And that's true of the Rod Rosenstein story.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Can I just say something about Rod Rosenstein? It's interesting, by the way, that Rod Rosenstein was one of the people who decided there was no obstruction, and he is a witness, a very important witness in this investigation so far as it comes to obstruction.

TOOBIN: It's fitting that he was standing behind but not talking. He is the Selig of this story.

BORGER: Exactly.

TOOBIN: He is there everywhere. And of course he is the one who appointed Mueller in the first place.

BORGER: He looked like he wanted to throw up at some point.


COOPER: Again, you know, the president is using the term no obstruction. That is not what Mueller is saying.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: To the contrary, this is a narrative about a vast, sprawling, insidious cover-up by the president of the United States. That's what it is, and we see the act of the president, you just read it, one act after another, covering up, lying, making up stories, directing his aides to cover up. This is a terrible event, and it is all there in this report that the company has waited for.

Reading this report is exactly what the country needs. The information is there about the conduct of the president of the United States and how grievous it is. The information we now see is there also that shows the conduct of the attorney general of the United States this morning in context, as well as the conduct of Mr. Mueller and his investigators.

And finally, we get a look at what the conduct of the press has been through this whole two years. It's all here.

And open-minded people of both parties I would hope can make their own judgments. But this is the most damning document. In Watergate, we didn't have the document that became public. This is --

BASH: But you had the tape.

BERNSTEIN: Yes, we had a tape. But the tapes plural, most of them didn't come out until later. This is a sprawling account of an insidious event in our history such as we have never been able to press our eyes up to the glass and watch in real time as Mueller has laid out for us.

COOPER: David, I want you to get in (ph).

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, Carl and I are going to disagree. If it was so open and shut as Carl asserts, then director -- special counsel Mueller would have said so, right? He said, I don't clear the president.

BORGER: He kind of did.

URBAN: He didn't, though, Gloria. He said, look, I'm not going to say the president did nothing, but I can't prove that he did something is what it says.


URBAN: You can read it.

COOPER: He said he cannot be charged.

BORGER: That's right.

COOPER: He is backing up that. URBAN: It's a chicken and egg thing.


URBAN: You look at OLC, he's saying I didn't bother to go and investigate and bring charges because of the OLC opinion? I don't think so. I think he said that's out there.

BERNSTEIN: The chicken crossed the road.

URBAN: No, Carl, disagree.

BORGER: I think the point is it wouldn't be fair to charge him.

COOPER: He also specifically says that. To charge him if he is not actually going to be indicted or appear before a jury or judge, that's unfair.

[20:15:04] URBAN: But I think he would -- well, we'll hear. I suppose we will hear from him at some point directly when he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.

BASH: But we do see it in here. You can see my --

COOPER: We've heard from him in here.

BASH: -- in dog ears.

But in each of the cases, ten cases that he describes in detail with a remarkable narrative of the times where he looked into obstruction by the president of the United States, and a couple of them he says, you know, the intent maybe wasn't there. But in a lot of them, he does. The conversation that he apparently had with Don McGahn saying, you've got to fire this special counsel, trying to get Jeff Sessions to quit or at least to unrecuse himself.

And it goes story after story. And in it each one he takes the time to explain why legally this is obstructive behavior, not that he can prosecute him because --

URBAN: It may be ugly. It may be messy, but I don't think it rises, and I think this report says it doesn't rise to criminality.


URBAN: He essentially -- time and time again what the report is doing is essentially serving this up on like pooh-pooh platter to Congress, to -- if Congress wants to pursue this, Mueller is basically saying, I can't pursue this. It's a complex situation. Here's the information.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: How do you believe what you just said? You're a very smart person, and you can read what was in the report, and you know that a president can't be indicted. I mean, this is really basic.

I mean, it's pretty accepted, and this is clearly laying out a case without any real overt judgment to send to it the place should it go, to the political arm of the government that would make this decision.

I mean, this is how it was done in Watergate. This is how it's done. It's not a decision that's left as how it was done with Clinton.

It's not a decision that's left to the prosecutors to do.

URBAN: I think the special counsel is much more clear.

POWERS: It's a political decision. We all know that.

We know that this is how it is done. And so for you to sit here and pretend because he didn't prosecute him or say he should be prosecuted means he is somehow exonerating him. I mean, you know that's not true.

URBAN: I didn't say -- he said -- the report clearly says I'm not exonerating him. I'm saying he is saying I'm not making the case either way.

COOPER: The president is saying he is exonerating him.

POWERS: You certainly are saying if there was something that should have been prosecuted, it would have been prosecuted.

URBAN: Listen, there are 400 plus pages where the special counsel is very specific what he is saying. He does not mince words and pull punches on lots of this stuff. I think he clearly spells it out. We'll hear from him in a matter of few weeks.

BORGER: Well, here what he says. If we had confidence after a thorough investigation after an investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction, we would so state.

URBAN: Right, I agree, yes.

COOPER: Is this basically Mueller operating and acknowledging he is operating under very limited guidelines, that he cannot even consider charges?

BERNSTEIN: That's the way I read it. It indicates that repeatedly, but he also gives the reason for the cover-up. He says that there was fear that it might lead to other crimes and other acknowledgments of conduct unbecoming of the president of the United States were this cover-up not to have been engineered by the president of the United States.

URBAN: I would just say the White House cooperated extensively.


URBAN: Put forth tons of folks --

COOPER: But the president --

BORGER: As he is undermining it at every turn. URBAN: But there is no doubt that everybody in the White House was

told to cooperate fully and cooperate extensively. There is no assertion of executive privilege.

BORGER: That's right.

URBAN: So in terms of trying to obstruct justice, listen, I'd submit that currently this White House, they have gotten 81 subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee, and if they want to fight and kick and scream, they're doing it right now. They know how do it.


TOOBIN: The argument you're making is look at all the banks he didn't rob, you know?

URBAN: No, I'm saying that they clearly cooperated.

COOPER: But they also done --


BERNSTEIN: The president didn't cooperate.

URBAN: It was the key cooperator. He took the lead. The president told them to cooperate.

COOPER: And he didn't even agree to answer or have his lawyers answer written questions.

URBAN: Because he listens -- as Jeffrey note, he listens to smart lawyers --

COOPER: He didn't even answer written question.

URBAN: They did a very good job. They put enough evidence out that the special counsel felt this is all you can do.

COOPER: We have to take a quick break. The president just tweeted on this, surprise, we'll bring you this and talk to one of the spokespeople, Hogan Gidley is here.

Later, we'll dig deeper into the many instances that special counsel Mueller documented, of people acting to pull the president back from the legal brink.


[20:23:54] COOPER: You heard the president weighed in at the top of the program. Now he is tweet, and I'm quoting: Anything the Russians did during the 2016 election was done while Obama was president. He was told about it and did nothing. Most importantly, the vote was not affected.

Is that the most important thing? I guess so. Earlier he tweeted: I had the right to end the whole witch hunt if I

wanted. I could have ended everything, including Mueller if I wanted. I chose not to.

Joining us now, Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley.

Hogan, thanks for coming in.

I think it's important to reiterate what I did at the top and since the beginning of this that it's good for the country and the president and the people in the campaign were found to not be in a criminal conspiracy with Russia. That being said, why is the president and his allies saying he was exonerated of obstruction which is literally the opposite of what Robert Mueller decided?

HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first of all, I do appreciate you starting that way, because I think it's pretty obvious that so many in the media, so many on the left were actually upset at the fact that a man they had accused of treason for the better part of two years was innocent of that charge.

COOPER: No reporter at CNN ever accused the president of treason. There might have been pundits and analysts --

[20:25:00] GIDLEY: Yes, pundits and Democrats did that, absolutely. But the fact is we've seen 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witness, 500 warrants, 40 FBI agents, 19 attorneys and a partridge in a pear tree, all to find out there is no collusion. There is no obstruction, and it's --

COOPER: Wait, wait.

GIDLEY: -- a complete and total exoneration because --


COOPER: That's not true. Saying that is not what Robert Mueller said. He said I can't exonerate the president on this, and he pointed out some very detailed examples.

GIDLEY: Right. And prosecutors don't exonerate. Prosecutors prosecute if they have the evidence to do so.

COOPER: But they don't prosecute the president of the United States.

GIDLEY: Otherwise, we'd be talking about a president who's under indictment right now, not to mention his family.

COOPER: That's not true. The attorney general of the United States has said and said this in the memo in which he uninvited to folks in the White House that the sitting president can't be indicted. Robert Mueller accepted that so the idea that if there were things to indict, they would have indicted him, he can't be indicted.

GIDLEY: While that is what the attorney general believes, let's also be clear that Robert Mueller said that they didn't use that into consideration. COOPER: That's not true.

GIDLEY: When they decided -- he said that in the report, that he didn't use that in his decision.

COOPER: No, actually, he said --


GIDLEY: I think the important part is here, and this is something that I think your guests would appreciate, I'm reading from the report now.

The evidence we obtained did not establish that the president was involved in any underlying crime related to Russian election interference."

COOPER: Right. Yes.

GIDLEY: It can't be any clearer than that. If he had the goods on him, he would have used it.

COOPER: Actually, that's not the case. Time and time again in this report, he is saying it's essentially Congress which has the constitutional role here to play, and he is offering up evidence for Congress to fulfill constitutional obligations if that is how they see it. And in fact, in the report, he does say that he accepts the OLC finding from the department of justice that a sitting president can't be indicted.

Furthermore, he goes on the say that it would be unfair to charge the president given the fact that the Department of Justice would not actually indict a sitting president. So, to actually bring charges against him would be unfair to the president because the president wouldn't be able to have his day in court.

GIDLEY: It's interesting we're talking about what's unfair to the president after being accused of treason for two years, but I digress --

COOPER: Well, you can ignore what I just said.

GIDLEY: Robert Mueller, the regs of the special counsel are to actually issue a ruling. They did not. They chose not to do that.

COOPER: But you're ignoring --

GIDLEY: It was laden with some political statements. Let's go to the impeachment points because you brought it up.

Speaker Pelosi said it's not worthwhile, quote-unquote, at this time. And Adam Schiff on this very network, who has become quite a star over here, on Wolf Blitzer earlier today said he was not inclined to impeach either because, quote/unquote, we needed overwhelming and demonstrable evidence.


GIDLEY: He has been on your air multiple times saying he has that evidence.

COOPER: I wish you would acknowledge.


GIDLEY: So, where is the evidence if he has it? He doesn't have it. Neither did Robert Mueller. And so the president is clean and he is exonerated.

COOPER: I don't like talking over because it's rude to the audience, and I want to be respectful, but you stated that the OLC finding had nothing to do with what Mueller ended up doing and how he acted. That's simply not true. It says so in the report. It's a very detailed explanation of why he did that.

I'm wondering what you make now. We now know that Sarah Sanders admitted under oath that she made up statements about why Comey was fired. Not only that, the press office at the White House tried to get Rod Rosenstein to say something that wasn't true, that he was the one responsible, it was his idea about getting rid of Comey.

GIDLEY: First of all, I worked for Mike Huckabee when he was governor of the state of Arkansas. I've known Sarah Sanders since she was 19 years old.


GIDLEY: She can well defend herself. So, I'm not here to speak on behalf of Sarah Sanders.

COOPER: I'm not asking you to speak on behalf of her. But is Sarah Sanders going to acknowledge that she lies to the American people? OK.


GIDLEY: It's an honor to work for her and an honor to work for this president. And Sarah is going to defend herself later on tonight on another network. And the fact is what she was talking about being upset about is the phrase she used, countless. She has been clearly contacted by FBI agents. I've seen the text --

COOPER: Really?

GIDLEY: Absolutely. I've seen the text.

COOPER: That's not what she said under oath. She said it wasn't based on anything. There was no basis for what she said.

GIDLEY: That was what the conclusion was from the report, not what she said. What she was talking about that were in quotes was the word "countless" and the slip of the tongue was to use the phrase "countless." She will exonerate herself later this afternoon -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And your office, if this was before you were there, so I'm not pointing this at you, but your office according to Robert Mueller in sworn testimony tried to get Rod Rosenstein to lie. What's up with that?

GIDLEY: Again, this is so great that we're going to parse every word of this for the next --

COOPER: No, I'm not parsing. It's a pretty bald-faced lie. We just learned it.

GIDLEY: Here's the thing. If the president had done something wrong, he would be indicted right now.

COOPER: The president wanted to ask Rod Rosenstein to lie. The president --


GIDLEY: He didn't, so he hasn't been indicted. We've been dealing with this now for two and a half years. When are you people going to understand?

COOPER: OK, I know you want to ignore the fact that the guy you're working for lies --

[20:30:00] GIDLEY: If the President had done something wrong, he would be indicted right now.

COOPER: OK. If President wanted ask Rod Rosenstein to lie, the President --

GIDLEY: He's not going to be indicted.


GIDLEY: We've been dealing with these now for 2.5 years.

COOPER: I know you want to ignore the fact that the guy you're working forward lies like --

GIDLEY: I know you want -- look, I know so many reporters wanted the outcome to be the case that Donald Trump done something --

COOPER: I didn't want any illegal. I'm very happy as an American that he is not -- I'm happy as an American that the President of the United States did not collude with Russia.

GIDLEY: Did not collude with Russia. Absolutely.

COOPER: We are literally saying the same thing, talking over each other.

GIDLEY: I'm glad you are. COOPER: OK. I'm just surprised because this is the first time we've learned about it that the President of the United States actually asked Rod Rosenstein to hold a press conference and lie, and the White House press office also was pushing that. And Reince Priebus was screaming at some flak over at the Department of Justice to get Rod Rosenstein out in front of the camera so the guy could lie. I mean, that's normal behavior?

GIDLEY: No, look, that's absolutely --

COOPER: No, it's not. I agree.

GIDLEY: I understand where you're trying to go with this, but the fact is --

COOPER: I'm trying to ask. Where I'm trying to go is to get an actual answer from answer.

GIDLEY: Democrats have wanted for so long, is for Democrats to be guilty of --

COOPER: You won't answer that. You won't acknowledge the President lied about this. It's in the report. I get it. I appreciate you coming in. You're in a difficult spot.

GIDLEY: It's not. Look, if they had anything on him, he would be indicted today. He wasn't, because they don't have evidence.

COOPER: Did the President lie?

GIDLEY: They have to put up or shut up here, Anderson.

COOPER: Did the President lie? Did the President lie?

GIDLEY: No, I'm not aware of him lying. He hasn't lied to me. He's actually --

COOPER: You're not aware of the President of the United States lying?

GIDLEY: He is absolutely coming forth and accomplishing all the promises he said he'd do for the American people whether it's building a wall or defeating ISIS, absolutely. I remember a time when the President told us, that you can keep your health care, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. So don't give that to me. The fact is this has been well litigated at this point. Two years --


GIDLEY: -- $35 million, 1.4 million pieces of paper --

COOPER: I feel bad that you're scared to say that your boss lied. It just seems --

GIDLEY: There's nothing. I just said he didn't.

COOPER: I would not work in that situation. But, anyway, Hogan, I appreciate you're in difficult spot.

GIDLEY: You have a panel almost every night with people who lie. So I don't know how that's any different than what I'm talking about.

COOPER: Well, that's unfortunate that you would think that. But, anyway --

GIDLEY: I know it.

COOPER: -- thank you very much for being here.

GIDLEY: All right, thanks.


The list -- well, I won't be long. That gang joining us, CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen as well. Jeff, I mean, again, the argument that Mueller was not taking into account any guidelines, was not operating under specific guidelines and acknowledging those guidelines is simply not true.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's like criticizing someone for not running the speed of sound. It's like they can't. And the idea that Mueller should be, you know -- that it is somehow proof of innocence that Mueller didn't indict Trump is that Mueller couldn't indict Trump.

COOPER: And says so repeatedly.

TOOBIN: And everyone knew he couldn't --


TOOBIN: -- because he is an employee of the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice has this policy.

COOPER: But what's also particularly interesting about that is, for all the President's talk that Mueller was out to get him and that this was a witch hunt, Mueller is very clearly saying, Kirsten, it would be unfair --


COOPER: -- to go ahead and indict him because it won't be brought to court and he can't defend himself

POWERS: Yes. I mean, this is just crazy making. This is like saying Nixon didn't do anything because he didn't get indicted. I mean, we know that that's not the case. We know that Nixon did do something bad and that it was sent over to Congress to deal with it. So why are people saying this when you know that it's not true?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITCAL COMMENTATOR: Do you remember the entire news cycle today, the President is going to be indicted. That was coming out, that was a whole day.

POWERS: I never said that.

URBAN: The BuzzFeed story. It ran all day.


URBAN: It ran the whole day. I watched it.


URBAN: I watched it. So the notion that the President could be indicted wasn't so far-fetched.

BORGER: I never thought.

URBAN: Well I'm just telling you. Good back and play it.

COOPER: But Robert Mueller always was operating under this belief.

URBAN: But I'm saying that the notion, everyone in the world believed it wasn't crazy at one point.

COOPER: Right. But what everybody in the world thinks doesn't matter to Robert Mueller. This is what he's doing.

BORGER: Mueller told the President's lawyers according to our reporting early on, pretty early on that he did not intend to indict the President, period. That's right. And the President's lawyers were very happy with that, and in the report, he also says, look, this is what the office of legal counsel said, and we also recognize that if we did a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President, it would be difficult for him to govern --


BORGER: -- period. So -- But it's not impossible, and what we did was pursue this so that some time in the future you would have this voluminous record if anybody else decides to prosecute.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I've known Hogan for a long time. I met him when I first started covering Mike Huckabee when he is running for president 11 years ago. And that's also when I met Sarah Sanders who was very young. Maybe not 19, but very young.

[20:35:02] I say that because I think that is why he was answering the way he was when you asked him the very legitimate questions about Sarah Sanders and what it says in this report, but he was just wrong about what it says because I have it right here. What it says with a quote is that --

COOPER: I hate when you bring up original documents that actually have -- you know --


BASH: All right.


BASH: OK, OK, I'm kidding. So she says Sanders told this office that her reference to hearing from, quote, countless members of the FBI was a slip of the tongue. OK, maybe that she's going to talk about later. But then also says that she also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment that she made, "in the heat of the moment that was not founded on anything." Well, that's what it says. She spoke under oath.

COOPER: David Gergen, we haven't heard from you?

GERGEN: There is so much to say and so little time. Listen, the -- I think the critical thing is that after two years that Donald Trump escaped. I think he is now, you know -- people have investigated him there has been no -- they didn't find criminality with regard to conspiring with the Russians. I do think that the report is very clear, that it does not exonerate the President on the question of obstruction. That question is still out there. And nobody knows why Bill Barr jumped in and offered his own conclusion which seemed out of place and inappropriate.

But the critical thing is I think Donald Trump I think goes stronger into 2020 now. We're going to have continuing arguments. But I think impeachment had basically off the table, at least for now. There are 12 other investigations out there that are under way, some of which we don't even know what they are. If there is a bombshell that comes out of there, that's going to revive a lot of the interest in this. But base on what we have so far, there's not going to be an impeachment.

BORGER: You know, I think there will be congressional oversight.


BORGER: Which I will continue. And remember, the tapes, the existence of the Watergate tapes came because of congressional oversight. So they're going to continue doing their job. I think you're right about impeachment, unless they have the public with them on that, as Nancy Pelosi has said --

GERGEN: Exactly.

BORGER: -- they're never going to do it.

GERGEN: And Steny Hoyer.


COOPER: It's important also that this will probably be, you know, just in terms of a White House that functions.


COOPER: At least this cloud will not be -- I mean, the cloud of collusion will not be hanging over them, which is certainly a good thing. GERGEN: Just because we don't have the criminality does not mean this is not a scandal.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: It is a scandal, and this one is going to have lasting impact. And one of the things we've learned is that all these books that have come out that have had these tales from the White House and people inside who have said no, no, no, not true. What this comes up with is a very damning statement of incident after incident when people inside the White House have decided to lie.

COOPER: Without a doubt. I mean, that's, you know, it's -- you know, look, we all know, you know, Hogan's a spokesperson and he has a job to do.

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: But time and time again in this report, I mean, so many of these things the President saying fake news --

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: -- you have all the spokespeople coming out.

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: Categorically denying stuff, it's just not true.


COOPER: They were true and they were lying.

GERGEN: One more lie that is really I think needs to be emphasized, it turns out that the press was a lot more accurate than anybody in the White House would admit. This was not fake news. And I think just as in Watergate, the press was part of the checks and balances that worked against Nixon. I think the press has represented itself well in the sense of being a check and balance.

There are times when we get, you know, carried away with emotional aspects of this. But I think the reporting has been done by CNN, by "The Times," by "The Post", by others, has turned out to be very credible and I think should enhance the reputation of the press.

COOPER: I, you know, I doubt that will happen.

GERGEN: I agree.

COOPER: But I, you know, I think it's very easy also for people to see, you know, we have seen and we like to have a wide variety of opinion. And it's --

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: -- you know, David beyond saying no collusion and you'd have a Democrat on saying evidence of collusion, both of which --

URBAN: Sit next to me.

POWERS: No, that should be fair, I actually never said that.

COOPER: But there certainly were those who were saying that. But that doesn't mean that CNN is reporting that. We're --

POWERS: Right.

COOPER: -- you know, people have opinions and people are allowed to express opinions.

BORGER: The thing that I come away with is that there were guardrails inside the White House. There were people like Don McGahn, there were people like Reince Priebus and those folks who wouldn't do stuff --

GERGEN: Right.

BORGER: -- that the President wanted them to do, and you know there have to be guardrails. So you ask yourself the question, those people are gone. Who are the guardrails now?

URBAN: So listen, I would like to emphasize again at the beginning, the good news, right? There was no collusion. There was no concerted effort by the Trump campaign to work with the Russians to impact the election. I think that's something that should be celebrated.

COOPER: I agree with that. We've got breaking news to bring you. George Conway, the husband of Kellyanne Conway has dropped an op-ed piece calling Donald Trump a cancer on the presidency. Shades of John Dean obviously.

[20:40:03] I'll talk with a key Democrat about what comes next in the House of Representatives, because that of course is the big question. Robert Mueller has served this up to the Congress. What are they going to do about it? We'll talk to a key Democrat.

Will it find a way to take up obstruction of justice charges against President Trump? We'll be right back.


COOPER: Watching the lawyer George Conway has never been shy with his disdain for the President, who also happens to be his wife Kellyanne's boss. Tonight, though, he took it to another level with a Washington Post op-ed. The headline, "Trump is a cancer on the presidency. Congress should remove him."

Here's a sample citing the Mueller report. If we had confidence, and I'm quoting Conway, after a thorough investigation of the facts, the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Mueller did not so state. That's especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn't be and it isn't whether the President committed a criminal act. Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Himes, do you believe Special Counsel Mueller in the way that he wrote this report essentially handed the matter of obstruction off to Congress? And if so, what do you think Congress should do about it?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, I absolutely do. You know, having now read it, I'm sort of stunned by the clarity with which Bob Mueller said hey -- and by the way, this directly is contradicted by what we heard from the attorney general, who, you know, who said that Mueller had not been concerned with the fact that the Department of Justice has this policy against issuing an indictment against the President. There is no question that Mueller was teeing this up, was offering the facts, using the phrase that you just said, we would so state if we believed that he had not committed a crime.

[20:45:07] He has handed this to the Congress I think out of an understanding that the Department of Justice was not going to be the source of accountability for the President.

COOPER: Earlier today, you indicated that the Constitution would demand that impeachment process at least be initiated here. Do you want -- I mean, is that what you want? I mean, if the President potentially committed a crime, I assume, you know, could argue Congress is constitutionally mandated duty is to hold them accountable. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer just said I think to our Dana Bash based on what we've seen to date going forward on impeachment is not worth while at this point. Very frankly, there's an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment. Is he right?

HIMES: Yes. Anderson, I wish I could give you an answer with intense conviction. This is a really difficult box to be in for the Congress of the United States and certainly for the speaker of the House. You know, on the one hand, yes, Bob Mueller basically teed this up and wink, wink, you know, a crime may have been committed. And we're not going to seek accountability in the Department of Justice.

And so, yes, the Constitution would say you should at least begin the process of studying whether the President committed, you know, enough high crime and misdemeanor to warrant removal. So, you know, the Constitution would suggest that we start that investigative process, that deliberative process.

Here's the problem, Anderson. There is at least in my mind absolutely no question about how that ends, and that ends with the Senate not convicting.

COOPER: Right.

HIMES: So, again, I don't think there is a crime that this President could commit that would cause the Republican Party to turn on him. So I say with great certainty that we would get to a point after a lot of time, energy and resources only to have the Senate turn around and acquit him as happened in the Clinton administration. And then what do we have to show for it? The President can claim to have been a martyr. We will have been distracted from our other oversight tasks and will not have addressed the issues that we all ran on, transportation, education, retirement security, health care.

So, again, I wish I could tell you I know exactly the right answer. But the way impeachment proceedings would end, at least at this point, and remember, there's lots of other investigations out there, there is no question that the Senate would vote to keep, regardless of the fact pattern, to keep the President in office.

COOPER: It was reported today that the House Intelligence Committee's authorized subpoenas for five former White House officials, including white House Counsel Don McGahn. I wonder -- I mean, why call them in if at least at this point impeachment is not on the table. Why what is the point of further investigation? Because to the point of, you know, Democrats are in a tough corner, you know, if they go for impeachment and they can't get it in the Senate, you know, they've wasted time and the President can say he's a martyr, you can make the same argument about continuing investigations that are not going to have an end result in some sort of legal action or congressional action.

HIMES: Yes, I'm not sure I would agree with that for two reasons, Anderson. Number one, I was pretty small at the time, but when President Nixon resigned because he was facing imminent impeachment and almost certainly conviction, you know, right up until that moment it looked like there was no chance he could be impeached. And so new facts obviously historically have influenced the congressional temperament.

Now we live in different times where sadly the Republican Party has given itself wholly over to being a cult of personality for the President. But the other thing is there is a whole school of thought, and I think that Steny Hoyer is a member of this school of thought which is that there's still a political decision for the American people to make. And the more facts they have, the better they'll be in a position to make a decision in November of '20.

COOPER: All right. Congressman Himes, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

I want to check with Chris to see what he is working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Now we know. They tried. They denied. They cried. They lied, but now they cannot hide. We have it all set up here. We don't know some of the grand jury stuff yet, Anderson.

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: But we want to talk about how this starts. We're going to go all through with the President's lawyers tonight and some top experts and a big shot Democrat. Russia interfered. Will the President now admit it? The lies and cover-up all enumerated different types of what they did, different people they involved.

You want to talk collusion? We can because there's over 100 pages of it. Not criminal activity. Collusion is different. Special Counsel lays it out that way. Obstruction, look at all the incidents. They start with how it was done, what Mueller wanted to have happen, what didn't happen that he wanted, what will happen next, all the different parts, all broken down for people so we can just have the argument once and all. The President's lawyer is right, my friend. It is time to rumble.

COOPER: All right, Chris. Thanks very much. I'll see you then, just a couple of minutes from now, about 11 minutes.

As we said, Robert Mueller found no Trump-Russia conspiracy. What did the report say about those efforts that we didn't previously know? That's next.


[20:53:41] COOPER: As we said earlier in the program, Special Counsel Mueller documented numerous contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign including that now famous meeting of Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., other high ranking members of the campaign and Russian attorney about Don Jr. called negative information about the Clinton Foundation.

Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins me now. So Evan, there wasn't enough to bring criminal charges according to Mueller. He did layout a lot of communication between Russians connected to the government and the Trump campaign.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's clear, Anderson. That according to the special counsel they found that the Trump campaign knew that they could benefit from what the Russians were up to and essentially were tacitly endorsing all of that activity by the Russians.

In the end what the Special Counsel found that they couldn't find a criminal conspiracy because they couldn't find that there was an agreement between people who were associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians. And particularly they looked at a lot of different things, including beyond the conspiracy. The idea of perhaps of looking at a campaign finance violation whether or not perhaps that Trump Tower meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had organized, whether that was a violation of campaign finance laws because essentially it would be accepting a thing of value from a foreigner.

They even looked at whether or not disseminating and spreading some of the e-mails that had been stolen from the Clinton campaign, whether that would violate the stolen properties act. Again, that's a federal law that makes it a crime to do that.

[20:55:06] Again, they decided that this was not enough to prosecute anyone. They even looked at whether Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn after the President had essentially looked for Hillary Clinton's stolen e-mails or, sorry, deleted e-mails, they looked at whether or not Michael Flynn, you know, looked -- what he had done to try to essentially help find those e-mails, whether that violated the law. They ended up deciding there was nothing there to bring charges against him.

COOPER: I want to play what the President said in a press conference which is back July of 2016 when he brought up Hillary Clinton's e- mails.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


COOPER: You know, the White House said that was a joke, detail in the report is just how quickly Russia actually acted on that.

PEREZ: Right. It was almost instantaneous. It was about five hours afterwards. You know, Moscow is about seven hours ahead of U.S.-East Coast time, Anderson, and here's what the Special Counsel's report says. It says, quote, within proximately five hours of Trump's statement, GRU officers, that the military intelligence service, targeted for the first time Clinton's personal office after candidate Trump's remarks, unit 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 e-mail accounts to redact. Again, parts of this is still redacted as part of this investigation, Anderson.

COOPER: So they were listening. Evan Perez, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

One key member of the nation's intelligence committee who warned then President-elect Trump about Russian interference in the 2016 election is Retire Lieutenant General James Clapper. He was the Director of National Intelligence and ever since he's been a regular object of President Trump's criticism. He's the Author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence". He joins us now.

Director Clapper, what were your big takeaways from the report? Because one of the things I think that did not get a lot of focus on is the detailed analysis of how Russia interfered in the election.

LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, exactly Anderson. And that's what, you know, we can argue about obstruction or collusion until the cows come home but what was huge to me and where I think Special Counsel Mueller rendered a huge public service was in laying out in very rich detail what the Russians did to interfere in our election process in 2016. So I don't think there can be any doubt about what the Russian interference and I think it points out that there was good reason for intelligence and law enforcement to be concerned about whether or not there was some kind of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

COOPER: The President actually tweeted again tonight essentially saying he's sort of implying, you know, if Russia did interfere which it's not a relation of the question of (INAUDIBLE) anymore according at least to the Mueller report, he says, you know, it had no effect on the outcome. He said, "Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 election was done with Obama was President. He was told about it and did nothing. Most importantly the vote was not affected."

You were President Obama's Director of National Intelligence. What do you make of that?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, frankly, both assertions are absurd. President Obama did a lot -- most notably he directly confronted Putin and very poignantly asked him to stop the interference which is something that our current President hasn't seen fit to do. So I think that -- and I do think, frankly, when you look at the magnitude and the persuasiveness of the Russian effort, particularly the social media, just Facebook alone where he reached some 126 million Americans that suggest that they have no impact on the election stretches credulity.

The election turned on, listen, 80,000 votes in three states which Russian is targeted. And to me, in fact, I make that assertion in the book. I believe the Russians turned the election in Trump's favor.

COOPER: You really believe that.

CLAPPER: And I think what the Mueller report does is essentially substantiate that.

COOPER: Mueller is determined that no one from the Trump campaign conspired a coordinator with Russia, didn't determine as whether or not members of the Trump campaign may have been unwitting assets of the Russian government.

CLAPPER: Well, I think if it was an active collusion proven, then I think what we have here is a case of passive collusion where in some cases unwittingly to include candidate Trump himself who retweeted messages that had been planted by the Russians in social media. And so that's a small but important example of how members of the campaign were used and manipulated by the Russians.

COOPER: Director Clapper, I appreciate your time. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time".