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State of the Union
Interview with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC; Interview with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA; More Discussion of Mueller Report and Aftermath. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 24, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): That's a wrap: the special counsel issued his findings and signaled he won't take action against any member of the Trump family.
But what else will Congress and the American people learn?
Republican congressman Mark Meadows and Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal join us in minutes.
Plus in the clear? The Justice Department is not expected to seek any more indictments connected with the Russia probe.
What does that reveal about the special counsel's findings?
A Trump campaign official who was interviewed by the special counsel...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL: It has been like a long, two-year proctology exam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH (voice-over): Former campaign adviser Michael Caputo is next.
And unanswered questions: Republicans say the fat lady has sung and now it's time to move on, while Democrats pursue other investigations into the president and his advisers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This does not mean the end of investigations.
BASH (voice-over): Where does it all go from here?
BASH: Hello, I'm Dana Bash in for Jake Tapper in Washington and you are watching a special edition of STATE OF THE UNION.
At any moment, the Justice Department may relay the principal conclusions of the Mueller investigation to Capitol Hill. And if you look at your screen you're seeing the attorney general, William Barr, just leaving his house this morning. He spent some time at the Justice Department yesterday, nine hours to be exact, reviewing the Mueller report. And he could send the top conclusions to Congress again at any moment.
As the special counsel's probe ends and a political fight over its conclusions is just beginning the president and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle woke up this morning preparing to respond to the report, which comes after a 22-month investigation, notable for its discretion.
We do know however that Robert Mueller is recommending no further indictments. That's according to a senior Justice Department official. But it has some Republicans already declaring a win for the president after almost two years with the Russia cloud hanging over his head.
Now for their part, Democrats are demanding the full report be released and pushing ahead on their own investigations into the president and his associates.
At his Mar-a-lago resort, President Trump spent his Saturday golfing with Kid Rock. He's the guy in the pants there. He did break his Twitter silence this morning, wishing everybody, very plainly, a great day.
I want to go straight to one of the president's closest allies in Congress, Republican congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina. He is the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.
Thank you so much, sir, for joining me this morning.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Great to be with you, Dana.
BASH: Thank you.
The president has been uncharacteristically quiet on matters of substance since the Mueller report was submitted. You're close with him.
What is he saying about it so far?
MEADOWS: Well, I think everybody is waiting to see what the final report is today when attorney general Barr comes out. But I did want to compliment the attorney general. When he got the report, within minutes literally, he notified Congress not just on one aspect but on another aspect that is key to this whole thing, is the fact that President Trump did not put his hand and pressure them to look the other way and that there was no really involvement with regards to DOJ impeding the Mueller investigation.
So I think both of those things were key. But I think everybody is waiting to see what the facts are today. BASH: So Congressman, the president and allies like yourself have been relentlessly attacking the Mueller probe now for two years, trying to erode its credibility.
How do you come back from that if the Mueller report is indeed something that clears the president or at least comes close to that?
MEADOWS: Well, I don't think the Mueller report should have been really something we are discussing today. I don't think there should have been a special prosecutor. I think consistent with that from day one, we do know that there was bias at the Department of Justice early on. In fact, they were talking about a special prosecutor before James Comey was fired.
And yet here we are today, some 22 months later, talking about something about spending tens of millions of dollars on a narrative that Democrats put forth. They said this president colluded with Russians. In fact, some even went as far to say that he was an agent of Russia, which is just ludicrous.
And yet here we are today, trying to make sense of an investigation that happened 22 months into it. We need to go after the bad guys, which is Russia and not the president of the United States.
BASH: But will you concede that it would be inconsistent, when this report comes out, for Republicans to talk about it vindicating the president in any way, shape or form, if they called it a witch hunt and they called it not necessary and all of the things you just said?
MEADOWS: Well, I don't know how it could be inconsistent. We said that there was no collusion. In fact, I have come on your show before to say that there's not any collusion. And yet Sunday after Sunday, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and others said, oh, there's evidence, there's collusion and yet what we find is an independent investigator has said that there will be no indictments. You can't have it both ways.
I have been consistent, saying this president didn't collude. And now it appears that the facts will support that.
BASH: We should remind our viewers that we don't know what's in this report yet. And that's very important.
MEADOWS: Well, I do know that there is no indictment --
BASH: That's true.
MEADOWS: -- Dana, because we do know that. And so if there was collusion, either Bob Mueller decided not to actually prosecute somebody with evidence being there, which I find hard to believe that that would happen. BASH: Well, that's true -- listen, that's true for Don Jr. That's true for Jared Kushner. DOJ guidelines, as you know very well, say you shouldn't and can't indict a sitting president. So the indictment doesn't necessarily mean that we won't see intense criticism in the Mueller report which brings me to my next question which is you voted on a resolution to release the Mueller report this past week or two weeks ago.
So given that, would you support a subpoena if necessary to get the attorney general to completely release and be transparent with the Mueller report?
MEADOWS: Well, I don't know that we are going to need a subpoena because attorney general Barr has indicated he will do as much as he possibly can within the confines of the law to not only inform Congress but inform the American people.
So everybody talking about a subpoena, you know, I find that really rich when we are talking about transparency. And some of the very people that are talking about a subpoena, Dana, are the ones who didn't want anyone to know that Fusion GPS was actually hired to dig up dirt on the president.
They didn't want the Nunes memo released. I was one of the few that said release the Republican memo and release the Democrat memo. And so -- and, listen, transparency is good for everybody. I believe that we need to protect the innocent here. But to the extent we cannot sacrifice national security interest and release as much information as possible, I certainly support that.
BASH: You support it and you're close with the administration.
Are you confident that they will actually do that?
MEADOWS: Yes. I'm confident that attorney general Barr is really going to look at releasing as much as he possibly can within the confines. You know, Rod Rosenstein, who you know I'm not a big fan of, has said it, many, many months ago, is typically prosecutors do not release information that would be harmful to the innocent.
You know, there was an old Jack Webb "Dragnet," that says the names have been changed to protect the innocent. We need to make sure that we protect the innocent here but at the same time be transparent and make sure that the American people know the truth.
And when they know the truth, they will see that this president did not collude with the Russians on -- to affect the election in 2016.
BASH: So Congressman, you talked about Congress and the Democratic- led House and their investigations. Put that aside for a second. My last question for you is this, the president's own Justice Department, separate from Mueller also, is continuing to investigate lots of aspects of Trump world, whether it's the inauguration, his charitable foundation, businesses.
Do you think those investigations are legitimate? MEADOWS: Well, I think a lot of those are not legitimate. I think what we have done is we have thrown as much at the wall as we possibly can to make it as difficult on this administration and try to distract.
Certainly if there's wrongdoing, no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. But what we see is a pattern of harassment. When Jerry Nadler puts out and says we want to investigate 81 different things, you know, if we had done that to the previous administration, they would be crying foul everywhere.
And yet we see that this is just a large dragnet, trying to find something to investigate. You need to look at the crime and investigate the crime, not go out and use the power of the government to dredge up some kind of wrongdoing.
BASH: Congressman Mark Meadows, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.
MEADOWS: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: And joining me here in Washington is Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and co- chair of the Progressive Caucus.
First, your reaction to what you just heard?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA), PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS: Well, I just think that, first of all, to say there's no collusion when we haven't seen the report, I think you pointed that out, I think is disingenuous.
We need to look at everything, not just the summary conclusions but everything underneath.
And there certainly is precedent thanks to the Republicans for releasing even classified information, as we saw with over 800,000 pages of Hillary Clinton's e-mail's, Devin Nunes's actions. And I think if Republicans want to truly be transparent, they should be pushing with us to make sure that this attorney general releases everything. Second, Dana, I think that when we talk about what's happened, I am troubled there aren't more Republicans who are deeply concerned about what the Mueller investigation has already produced. Regardless of whether or not he is proposing indicting other people -- he's not but we don't know what the reasons are for that -- but there are 34 public indictments including six guilty pleas of top Trump campaign officials, people that were directly surrounding this president that I think Republicans should be extremely concerned about.
And yet we've seen every time this being called a witch hunt or saying we shouldn't have done this or it this is somehow a Democratic scourge on this administration. But we have constitution to uphold. And then third I would say as the Judiciary Committee, we've always been very clear -- for two years we've been clear that the Mueller investigation was a narrow investigation, it was focused on one thing. It does not cover obstruction of justice, abuse of power, public corruption. Those are things that we know there are crimes that have been committed and we do need to investigate them. That's what we -- that's what we owe to the American people.
BASH: So the Mueller probe was supposed to be narrow on the notion of whether there was conspiracy, basically, between Russians and anybody in Trump's orbit. The fact that yes, you said that there were people convicted and so forth, that wasn't on that -- that idea. And in fact, there was no -- nobody was either charged or convicted with criminal conspiracy -- an American with Russia.
JAYAPAL: But they were convicted of directly working with a foreign power -- some would say a hostile foreign power -- in order to influence the election and the decisions of the American government. And I think that is really significant. We have taken no steps on Judiciary Committee under Republican leadership for the last two years. It was incredibly frustrating to me that we have an election coming up very shortly. There have been no steps taken to ensure that that election is protected and if there is one thing that the American people expect of us, it is that they can vote and that that is not going to be interfered with.
BASH: But -- who -- who -- who was convicted of working with a foreign power? You talking about Paul Manafort?
JAYAPAL: Yes, I'm talking about people who have --
BASH: But that was part of a -- part of a larger --
JAYAPAL: Part of a larger scheme for sure.
BASH: He wasn't -- I guess my point here is, is that neither he or anybody else in the Trump orbit was either charged with nor convicted for conspiring with Russians to change the election. You can say (ph) that.
JAYAPAL: Yes. And we're working the see what the full underlying information is within the Mueller report around that very question. I don't think we've gotten all of the information. However, we do know that there were over 130 contacts with Trump campaign officials and Russian -- and Russian government officials that people lied about. Why do you lie about those contacts? I don't understand that. Why surround yourself as a presidential candidate, now somebody sitting in the White House, with people who are clearly committing crimes against the American People, against our government and are, you know, some might say crooks and liars.
I -- I don't -- I don't -- I think that you can't say that the person at the center of all of that either knew nothing or even if he did know nothing, is not responsible for the actions of his team. Remember the buck stops here? What happened to the buck stops here. What happened to the idea that if you are the president of the United States or if you're the candidate running for president that you are responsible for the actions of those around you. BASH: Congresswoman, you supported already the articles of
impeachment against President Trump. You've done so for a long time now. Anything -- will anything that you learn in the Mueller report change that?
JAYAPAL: Well, I supported the articles of impeachment because Republicans refused to allow us to even have a discussion about the things that were out there and so this was to say let's bring this to the floor --
BASH: So now that you -- the Democrats --
JAYAPAL: -- let's have a discussion --
BASH: -- now that Democrats are in charge, are you pulling that back (ph)?
JAYAPAL: Now that we're in charge I feel like we now have a responsibility to conduct the investigations and that's what we're going. 81 subpoenas for information -- not new information, Dana, but this is information that has already been provided to the Southern District of New York, to the multiple investigations going into almost every Trump organization that is out there by people, not by Congress. So we just want that information, we want to lay it out. That is the --= that is the --
BASH: So you're cooling --
JAYAPAL: -- plan that we have.
BASH: -- cooling your heels, so to speak, on impeachment now. You know, I think -- I think people want to go to the end and -- of the -- of the debate and I want to start at the beginning, something we were never allowed to do under Republican rule.
I feel like now we have the gavel and we have a different responsibility, which is really to take in all the information, to lay it out for the American people and then to come to our own conclusions because as you know, even if we wanted to impeach -- and I don't think -- I don't think that's where the Democratic party is -- we want to stand up for the constitution. But no matter what, it is ultimately a political process. We need to get the information, we need to lay it out for the American people, we need to see where it leads and then be committed to putting -- putting country over party and really stand up for the constitution.
BASH: Well you heard your Republican counterpart, Mark Meadows and Ted Cruz also say that they want the full report to be released, so --
JAYAPAL: Well I'd love to see that.
JAYAPAL: Always an optimist. BASH: We're on our way there.
JAYAPAL: I'd love to see them with us on that and let's get the whole thing released.
BASH: OK. Thank you so much.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: Appreciate it. Thank you. And look, we keep checking our phones to see if the president's going to tweet about something rather than it being a nice morning. We see he's on the golf course but why is he being so cautious? Uncharacteristically so. Plus my next guest compare his interview with the special counsel's team to a proctology exam. The former Trump campaign adviser on the end of the Mueller probe. Coming up.
BASH: Welcome back to a special edition of STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash. Robert Mueller's team was so disciplined and secretive that they shocked the political world with nearly every indictment they filed. For nearly two years a team of CNN reporters tracked every single move of that (ph). And I am honored to have several of them here with me to talk about it. CNN's Russia investigative team, crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz, political correspondent Sara Murray, senior justice correspondent Evan Perez and journalistic legend, Carl Bernstein. Thanks, everybody, so much for joining me.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Thank you.
BASH: Do you feel -- I don't know, it's almost too good to be true that the end of this is near (ph) but the end -- but the end is the beginning. So we'll talk about that in a second.
Evan, 22 months ago, the special counsel's probe started. It's now ending without a single criminal indictment of anybody in the family, but more importantly a single criminal indictment of conspiracy on the underlying mission, which is collusion or, you know, to conspire -- an American to conspire with Russians. What does that tell you?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I mean, I think this was always the hardest question that was facing Robert Mueller in this investigation. I mean, even from the beginning when this investigation was ongoing as a counterintelligence investigation by the FBI in 2016, there were all these weird things happening. I don't need to remind you of how weird 2016 was, right, but you have all of these people around the Trump campaign who are doing weird things with Russians, and the FBI is watching all of this and wondering what does this all mean.
And so, you know, I think from the beginning the FBI was puzzled as to whether or not some of these people, some of these hangers on, some of these frankly grifters who were hanging on to the campaign were doing this because they were trying to make money, or were they in cohoots with the Russians, who as you know were attacking our election system, they were stealing emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign and people around her and weaponizing them to try to help Donald Trump get elected.
And so the FBI was very puzzled.
And so I think 22 months later I think one of the things that still puzzles us all is what was all of that about? And I think we're waiting for Mueller to tell us.
BASH: What was it about, and I think the point you're making is all these people who were convicted of crimes, many of them was about lying. Why were they lying?
PEREZ: Right. So many lies. Six of the 37 defendants ended up being people right...
BASH: So hopefully those will be some of the answers we get in this report.
Sara, you covered Donald Trump for a long, long time. You know, he has made a habit of making things worse for himself.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, he really has. And I think one of the big things we learned, you know, in Bill Barr's statement was that Mueller was never impeded in his investigation. But part of the frenzy about this really came straight from Trump. I mean, in the beginning when we had these suspicions about, you know, associates of Trump's be in contact with the Russians, at the same time Donald Trump was going out there refusing to acknowledge that Russia was meddling in the election, which added to the sort of conspiracy theories about whether, you know, there was actually collusion going on. Why was this happening.
Then he goes ahead and he fires James Comey. I was in the White House that day. I remember all of us being stunned. It was completely haphazard. They didn't have a good explanation for it. And then, sure enough, Donald Trump goes on TV later and says it was because of the Russia investigation.
And after that, he continued to fume to basically anyone who would listen about wanting to fire Bob Mueller, wanting to fire Rod Rosenstein. Part of the reason this cloud has been so large over the first two years of his presidency are of things that Donald Trump did himself that, you know, really just fueled speculation that there must be something bigger going on here because of how erratic he was behaving.
BASH: Carl Berntein, what are your thoughts this morning?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is a lot more to be known. And it's absolutely essential that the full text, with whatever excisions are necessary for national security purposes, that absolutely the full text of Mueller's report be released to the congress and to the people of the United States. We see that the special prosecutor has made a legal, legalistic determination, which seems to me that Americans need to accept because he's carried out his duties. What we really need to know now is what is beneath it all, how are those decisions reached, and what is the underlying information.
We have other investigations going on in various jurisdictions -- the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of Columbia, the Southern District of New York especially that will develop more facts that have arisen out of this investigation, that would have to do with Donald Trump, his character, his relations with other people.
But more what we're seeing now in this program and the guests on it, it seems to me, are illustrative of it, we are in the midst of a cold civil war in this country. And the impossibility of having a real, civil investigation by the congress of the United States, bipartisan, such as we saw in Watergate, which is absolutely essential, even now. And maybe the Mueller, maybe some Republicans and some Democrats can get together and find a basis for a civil discourse in a real investigation that will go to the heart of this matter.
We still don't know what the president's relations were with various Russians, why they were -- why he has lied all along about these matters related to Russia.
BASH: So, there were so many moments we have all witnessed and we have all covered over the past two years. And Simon, you, just for the record, for everybody to know, you are the one who had the reporter's instinct, you know, with some, you know, just shoe leather reporting to suggest, well, maybe we should be in Florida at Roger Stone's house, have a camera there. I mean, that was such a moment.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It was, because it really is the last thing we saw the special counsel do here. We were part of what happened in the beginning. We were the first to report on the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. And then, you know, we kind of were there when the last thing that the special counsel's office did, the FBI agents, the arrest of Roger Stone.
And that doesn't happen without this entire team. You know, we have a lot of people who have been staking out Mueller's office. We have people at the courthouse.
BASH: Every single day.
PROKUPECZ: And the details they would feed back was so helpful and essential for us to try and put pieces together, put the story together, and keep things moving. This was probably the most secretive investigation any of us have ever covered in our careers. And I don't know if we'll ever see something like this again. It was so hard and so difficult to try and information. You couldn't confirm anything, you couldn't get denials on anything.
So, every little piece that we were able to get was helpful.
BASH: It's such an important point is you, Shimon, and you Evan, I mean especially you have been covering the Justice Department in Democratic administrations and Republican administrations through investigations of everything under the sun. This is the tightest ship that you've seen.
PEREZ: It was the tightest ship. Let me tell you, a lot of these other investigations that I've covered, certainly, were a lot leakier. There was a lot more information to be gotten, at least sometimes you get a steer or a guidance that something that you thought was not true. That's helpful, often, even more helpful for reporter, then what is true.
PROKUPECZ: But this, just so to know, this investigation changed reporters' relationships with the Department of Justice.
BASH: How so?
PROKUPECZ: It became very difficult to get information out of officials that were once were, you know, could help. But after what happened to the FBI director, James Comey, the way the president was attacking the FBI, they weren't -- they were a little afraid to talk, because I think there was always concerned that someone else would get fired. Are we going to be accused of leaking? Are we going to be brought up on charges. And we saw a lot of that throughout this investigation, and that's what made it...
BASH: And the conversation, just to be clear, were not, you know, leak information, but to get context. And that's important.
Carl, I want to bring you back in here. David Chris, who is a former Justice Department official, said, you know, that so much of this is complicated, and people are trying to catch their breath and sort of survey the whole story, but the issue is that it's a drip, drip, drip. You know something about a drip, drip investigation in American history. Do you see that as well here?
BERNSTEIN: Yes, but this is a huge, sprawling story with a huge, sprawling investigation by the special prosecutor, part of which he's farmed out to, as I say, to other jurisdictions. And the reason that we need to see every bit of these underlying documents and the full Mueller report, is to avoid the drip, drip, drip, so people can take a step back on both sides of the political spectrum and look at all the evidence and say, oh, here is what happened. Here is who these people are. Here is an explanation for this, that, or the other thing. Here is an explanation that, indeed, does not wash.
But we need the information. We're still operating in the dark, both in the media, and the people of the country. We know a lot, particularly from the media, but what we don't know is what did the special prosecutor find, and we need every word of it to be a functioning democracy. If we're going to be a functioning democracy and follow up this report responsibly in our political system, we need every word of it.
BASH: I love that you're so idealistic.
Sara, let me just end with you, because we are -- we understand that the Attorney General is now at the Justice Department, we, again, have our amazing stakeout team there and captured his arrival. We're on pins and needles now. I mean at any moment the Justice Department could send over these principle conclusions.
You have two phones, you guys only have one. I'm sure you have some in your pockets, knowing you.
MURRAY: We are on pins and needles, and I think, you know, as Evan said, this has been going on for nearly two years now. So, we've had these drips and drabs, we've had the stories, we've had the indictments. We want to know now what were Bob Mueller's primary conclusions.
And I think are right in saying this really is just a starting point. I mean, this is going to be the beginning of a political and legal battle. And I think no matter how fulsome Robert Mueller and William Barr and Rod Rosenstein think they may be in these top line conclusions, we have already seen both sides of the aisle say they want to see the full report and they want more information.
So this will be the most communication we've seen from Mueller's team in two years --
PEREZ: -- theory that Barr will be a lot more fulsome than a lot of people are expecting. And I think he's right. I think that is one of the things that you can see from his letter on Friday, his pledge for transparency.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: I'm certainly optimistic. I think we all were a little more optimistic on Friday after the letter that he gave signals that he was going to do this quickly and that he was going to try to put out as much information as possible.
That line in that letter about the principal conclusions, I was surprised by that, that he would even talk about that. It's going to be an interesting day if this comes today.
BASH: And the fact that Ted Cruz said, with no caveats, this should be transparent and the report should come out and even Mark Meadows --
BASH: -- Justice Department would probably do. Let's be hopeful. Thank you, everyone. It has been great hanging out with you --
BASH: -- and we should also say thank you to our fearless leader on the Russia team, (INAUDIBLE). Thank you so much.
Now what was it like to be interviewed by the special counsel and know that the investigation is over?
How does that feel?
Well, we'll talk to somebody that was in the room with him -- next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. Our next guest compared his interview by Robert Mueller's team to a proctology exam. And with that let's just bring in former Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo.
We that hope you'll be a lot more descriptive on this day. Let's talk about your experience though with the special counsel's team. We have been following the case so closely; you have been living it
How do you feel now that the investigation is over?
CAPUTO: My family is relieved. We've had our lives on pause for two years. I've lost my business; we darn near lost our house. My children have been tortured by this in so many ways.
And with this Mueller report being filed with the Department of Justice, it's an important signal for us. I'm one of dozens of witnesses who have gone through this. And as just a witness, I'm going to be able to press play as soon as this is all out there. And I'm with the rest of it. I think everybody else, I wanted to let it all hang out. Just put this thing out there, do it. Don't waste time. Get it out there because two years is too long.
BASH: OK, so let it all hang out there. You have said there's a lot for it to hang out. He has a lot.
Do you, as somebody who has the experience of being a witness, sitting down with the special counsel, what was the interview like?
CAPUTO: Well, I'll tell you. Speaking of the materials that they may release, when I sat down with the prosecutor who interrogated me on May 2nd of last year, he had two stacks of paper about 7, 8, 9 inches each on either side and the two FBI agents sitting beside were dealing with, you know, three-ring binders that were like 6-7 inches thick.
They came at me with everything that they had and they had everything. They showed me copies of my texts. I didn't know that they were in my phone. They showed me copies -- asked me about emails that went back- and-forth between other people who hadn't yet turned in their emails.
They knew the answers to every question they asked. And I'll tell you, it is one thing to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee like I was. Those were very political. You know, it's all about destroying one party or the other. Really usually isn't about getting to the bottom of anything.
But the DOJ and the special counsel, that's a criminal thing. And even though I was a witness all the way along and there are dozens of other witnesses, in a special counsel environment just with the snap of a finger they can turn you from a witness into a target immediately.
So you're always working with these guys with the understanding that anything can happen. And that's why the legal fees were so much.
BASH: So based on the questions and the fact that they had so much, we know now what they concluded with regard to criminal indictments, that that's been done and, most importantly, there are no indictments on -- specifically on the notion of conspiracy between any American and anybody in Russia.
But that's not only what this report is about.
How is your sense of the Mueller report -- or what is your sense in terms of how critical it will, be knowing what you know about what happened?
CAPUTO: Well, I'll tell you, I've said this all along on CNN and every stage and every channel that I've worked with, I told the Mueller team this, the House and the Senate Intel Committees, of all of the people that worked for Donald Trump, I believe I had more contact with Russians than all of them combined.
I lived there for seven years. I was sent there in the '90s by the Clinton administration to meddle in the Russian elections. You know, I married a Russian. I have a Russian daughter. We speak Russian in our home
So I was always going to be in this jackpot because I've also known the president since 1988. So it's like being in a minefield all the way through the whole thing. It was very clear they were focused on Russian collusion during my questioning.
And, in fact, I know that they were interviewing witnesses just last week about potential Russian collusion. So they have been all about that all along. And we know that if you read the tea leaves and I, unfortunately, know more about this than I ever wanted to, they don't appear to be moving toward a report that says anything about Russian collusion, at least not the president's campaign conspiring with any Russians. And also even though we wouldn't know everything -- because the DOJ would never indict a sitting president, as we all suspect -- you know, I don't think there will be anything about obstruction, either.
CAPUTO: I do think we have to worry about the Southern District of New York. But from Mueller's standpoint, I think it will be an interesting report. But not a lot of there there.
BASH: So given what you just said, should the president have not gone after the report and the special counsel as aggressively as he did, calling it a witch hunt, calling it a hoax, trying to undermine the legitimacy of a report that you think actually might not hurt him?
CAPUTO: Well, I think the president has been aggressive because people have been aggressive with him. As you know, Dana, if he feels like he has been punched, he punches back twice as hard. And sometimes I've disagreed with some of the rhetoric. Love him or hate him. And a lot of times I've hated him. What they've done to my best friend, Roger Stone, with that raid in the early morning, what they have done to Paul Manafort, somebody I've known for 35 years, you know, I haven't -- I've not been a big fan of this investigation.
But say whatever you will, this is the most impressive array of investigatory talent the American government has assembled in the 21st century. And if they don't find what they were sent out there to find, it doesn't exist. And I don't care what the House Democrats want to go after from here forward, if Mueller can't find it, they're not going to find it.
BASH: Michael Caputo, thank you so much for joining me, happy birthday, appreciate it.
CAPUTO: Thank you very much.
BASH: And for months, Democrats have said impeachment can wait until the end of the Mueller probe, so now what are they going to do? That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So you think that the Mueller probe is legitimate?
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: I - not anymore, I don't. I did when I came in, but now I see - I see Spygate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: That was the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani just over a year ago telling me the Mueller investigation is not legitimate. Now that the investigation is over and Mueller is expected to issue no further indictments, will they regret saying that and other attacks on the - on the investigation?
We're back with our panel. Ken Cuccinelli, I'll put that question to you.
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, VIRGINIA: Yes, no, I think it actually validates it. I think witch hunt is a lousy phrase, but fishing expedition would be fitting.
On the other hand, it looks like Mueller - you know, we haven't seen the report, but he made decisions to go forward, we know about those indictments obviously and he made plenty of decisions where there was no basis to go forward and nothing they went forward on related to collusion between campaign members, including the president, and Russia.
They didn't even - they didn't even attempt to interview the president, which - which is very surprising.
BASH: Well that's - they did attempt to interview the president, they were told no.
CUCCINELLI: Not really, no, not on the subpoena. They didn't go the route they had the power to after Watergate.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FMR GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Well they - they would have had to go to court right, and it would have ended up at the Supreme Court and it's pretty clear -
CUCCINELLI: Yes, but we all know how that was going to end.
GRANHOLM: -- but when you say it's not a fishing expedition, of course. The fact that all of those -
CUCCINELLI: I said it was.
GRANHOLM: -- of those Russians were indicted though, don't you think that was healthy for us as a democracy -
CUCCINELLI: Sure, absolutely.
GRANHOLM: -- to see how Russia has been interfering in the election --
CUCCINELLI: Absolutely, absolutely.
GRANHOLM: -- and continuing to do so?
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That's why the declinations portion of the actual report will be so useful as to why -
BASH: Explain to non-lawyers what that means.
COATES: So essentially what were the reasons you chose not to go forward on certain actions? Why did you say I'm not going to pursue a subpoena as everyone thought he would if the president turned him down and asked him more than just a written question?
Why did you choose not to do so? Who did you choose to interview and who did you not? Was it because it may have been exercise of futility and you know you can't indict a sitting president, why go forward?
Or was there something else you were looking for? That's as important. And I find an issue with the notion of this all being a fishing expedition, because it was an investigation, which all of them are, and the open ended questions of what happened here.
We haven't heard from Mueller really directly except for who his - his indictments, and those to me were fruitful and they were founded in support of the evidence. So it's hard to condemn it without knowing all the facts met (ph).
BASH: And Mike Rogers, you have such a unique perspective on what Laura just talked about, you were not only chairman of the Intelligence Committee who dealt with what to put out and what not to put out on - with regard to classified information all the time, you were an FBI agent.
So do you think that we should see everything?
MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Candidly, no. I think we should see as much as humanly possible. Two things you don't want to do, I think - I'm an old fashioned justice person, I think, you know, justice should be blind.
So people who were non-indicted but in the report probably have the right not to get dragged through this - this political mess, number one. They should be protected I think. And secondly, any counterintelligence information - remember, the whole impetus of this was a counterintelligence investigation.
What - we knew that the Russians - I think this is widely known, accepted by both parties or mostly both parties, that the Russians were trying to influence the 2016 election. Doesn't mean they were successful, that's not the point that Bob Mueller was supposed to find out.
What he was asked to do is was the campaign, the Trump campaign, complicit with that counterintelligence operation by the Russians targeting the 2016 election. He answered that I think in this report, but there are certain things, sources and methods, that likely should not be disclosed in this report.
So I do think that they're going to have to take the time to (inaudible).
BASH: Did he - did he answer that by not issuing criminal indictments, or can we not make that conclusion until we see his conclusions?
ROGERS: I mean I think you'll have to fully see the report, but I would say that there was no indictment of even the people that they had the ability to indict without a core process, right, without doing - they didn't do any of that.
So anyone in the campaign, no one was indicted on the collusion piece, which tells me - and there was a lot of speculation on this. Listen, I think they made some bad decisions, some dumb decisions.
I think they made naive decisions about this. But it didn't appear that it was a - you know, that they were conspiring to work with the Russians to do this, and I think that report at least from the - what we know today says listen they weren't colluding, they weren't conspiring with the Russians to impact the election.
And I think that's really an important piece. I do think that hopefully Congress starts to focus on what are the Russians continuing to do.
BASH: So there's that and then there's the obvious political question about impeachment. As the Democrat at the table, I want you to listen to what several of the presidential contenders, people who hope to run against Donald Trump are saying about the I word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MA: This is a serious investigation, that report needs to be made public to the American people. When we get it, we will know what to do with it.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MN: What we have been waiting for is Mueller's report, and so what I want to see is all the transparency and accountability that Mueller's created.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D) NY, MAJORITY LEADER: We have to see what the Mueller report says I think before making any conclusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So what they're saying is nothing.
GRANHOLM: Well I mean they're rightfully saying let's see the report, number one. Number two, if the report in fact doesn't lend any credence to the notion of a conspiracy, I kind of think from a political point of view, I know this will be controversial to say, but from a - if you get on the balcony, this will free up the Democratic candidates for president to focus on the fact that there are children in cages or that the Trump administration has slashed - proposed to slash Medicare and Medicaid funding or, you know, making student loans -
BASH: They'll let it go.
GRANHOLM: So well I'm just saying that in the context of what matters to real people, if you look at the polls of what the top issues are, Russia investigation was, you know, of 12 issues that were tested by Gallup, Russia investigation was the 12th.
So people do really care about the real wrongs of this administration, but especially as it impacts their daily lives.
BASH: And yet it's -- you know, it is possible that both Ted Cruz earlier in the last hour and -- and Mark Meadows suggesting that we're just -- it's not going to be a fight, we're going to see this report or at least -- at least most of it. Could be. But it also could be that there's going to be a fight in the courts. And listen to what the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told me last hour on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: If we have to, yes, we will certainly issue subpoenas to get that information.
BASH: And you're going to be willing to take that all the way up to the Supreme Court if you have to?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUCCINELLI: I'm not surprised. But the -- the only -- the only wrestling match here I don't think is going to be with Congressional Republicans, it's going to be with Bill Barr's idealistic -- and I say that positively -- sense of the role of the attorney general. How much of this should I properly release? I don't think he's going to be influenced by President Trump, I don't think he's going to be influenced by anybody. I think he's going to make the decision and the two areas you can look for hold back (ph) are the ones that Mike identified, are the declinations and also anything related to revealing sources and methods on the counter intel front.
I think that's the only divisive point or point of disagreement that people are going to have but it's going to be a principled point focused on one man and that's Attorney general Barr.
COATES: You know, largely that's, in many ways, the Comey collateral damage, right? We do not want people to have information that's just negative and disparaging if there's ultimately not criminal conduct at stake.
BASH: You're talking about what he did back with (ph) --
COATES: With -- with Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, though, the notion that the American people don't care about the Russia investigation I think is disingenuous in the sense that the underlying theme about it, the reason you have polling in other areas, nothing will matter about other candidates unless Americans have the right to choose who is the president of the United States.
If there are foreign entities that who are trying to influence it, that is a problem that will continue. And one (ph) (inaudible) that I really think is an issue here is, remember when we heard information about Paul Manafort providing polling data to people who were tied to the Kremlin? It was part of a redacted portion in different pleadings. You have a number of things that are continuing to be redacted. What happened to all of those things? That's going to be as important as why was there still an incentive as recently as last week to suppress information from the public's eye and viewing.
That's what makes it so necessary to have this illumination from Mueller and of course from the Congress. But until all of that happens it will be wholly unsatisfying to figure out what Mueller has done for the last two years if it remains behind black lines.
BASH: And problem, respectfully, is that some times -- both parties have done this -- they keep things quiet under the guise of, oh, it's classified. ROGERS: Listen, I -- I do think that there -- there are legitimate
counterintelligence classification reasons. And again, I don't think it's fair to anybody in America -- and we should do this whatever your political leanings are -- to drag somebody out if they're not indicted, if there could be information that isn't flattering. I just think that's wrong and we shouldn't tolerate that whether Republican or Democrat or -- anyone of any scope. You know, Lady Justice should be blind. I will say I think it's really important if the only reason that people in -- in the voting public believe that this was about Donald Trump colluding with the Russians, America loses, and I'll tell you why.
The Russians have been doing this for about 70 years at different degrees of success. They were wildly successful at --
ROGERS: -- getting people pitted against each other. They were pitting them against white supremacist groups pitting them against black activist groups. We all ought to be absolutely outraged by this.
BASH: Unfortunately we have to leave the conversation there. Thanks. We'll continue it in the green room. You know --
BASH: -- (inaudible) tweet about it. The president is in Florida now -- most things (ph) -- with no more answers than the rest of us. How he's handling the weight, brand new details next.
BASH: President Trump spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort where he has been remarkably quiet about the Mueller report. CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins me now. And Kaitlan, you have some new reporting about why that is.
KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: They haven't seen it yet. So that's why the president really --
BASH: Which hasn't stopped him before.
COLLINS: No it hasn't stopped him before but the president is being told by allies that he should feel good about this yet he's still expressing some reservation, some caution here because they haven't seen it and they have not been briefed on this report still, even though Mueller submitted it on Friday. So that's the reason you haven't really heard a lot from the president. And there is this sense of uncertainty. The president has voiced skepticism to people while down at Mar-a-Lago that he doesn't know what the Attorney General Bill Barr is going to do next and White House officials feel pretty much the same way. They didn't know on Friday that Bill Barr was going to put out such a
lengthy letter saying what exactly he hoped to do, including that he hoped to brief lawmakers by this weekend, and so they were surprised by that. They thought it was just going to be this dry two sentence statement. So I think a lot of that has to do with why they haven't really said anything, is because they don't know much so they're trying to sit back, trying to wait and see what's going to come.
BASH: Right. But again, I guess the difference between all the other times he has not waited and now is that it's the end. This is -- this is -- this is no joke now.
COLLINS: Which he's relieved by. The president is apparently in good spirits that the investigation is over but he just feels the sense of reservation because they don't know what's going to come from this even though he's being told that the no indictments is a -- no indictments is a good thing, he still wants to see what exactly this report is going to say.
BASH: Yes. And you mentioned the fact that they didn't know at the White House what -- what the attorney general would do.
BASH: And that's protocol. You know? And that's -- that's -- that's what should happen. But when you talk about a president and an attorney general, it gets a little dicey with this guy. Thank you so much for that great reporting, Kaitlan. Thank you so much for watching. We are going to be back right here at noon. RELIABLE SOURCES starts right now.