tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN May 29, 2019 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
this is cnn tonight. i'm don lemon. after two years of silence the special counsel finally speaking out today about the russia investigations and stating clearly for everyone to hear that he did not clear president trump off a crime. >> if we had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. we did make a determination as to whether the president did can commit a crime. >> mueller saying his hands were tied due to department of justice regulations. >> under long standing department policy a president cannot be charge would a federal crime while he is in office. that is unconstitutional. charge the president with a
crime was therefore not an option we could consider. >> that comment drelktly can contradicts what attorney general bill barr said under oath earlier this month. he claimed the guidelines weren't a factor in mueller pfrs decision. the pressure is ramping up after mueller seemed to put the issue of obstruction to congress. >> the constitution require as process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrong doing. >> but mueller made the clear he has no interest in speaking with congress. he says his 448 page report is his testimony. as for trump's favorite line claiming the russia investigation was a witch hunt and a hoax, mueller laid out the evidence his team found showing russia did influences the 2016 election to help trump and hurt clinton. >> russian intelligence officer os, who are part of the russian
military, launched a concerted attacken our political system. the releases were designd and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. that allegation is every american. >> so why does seem the president of the united states is still in denial? here to discuss brinkly and the author of "a case for impeachment" and author of everything trump touches dies. douglas, i'm going to start with you. the president didn't commit a crime, he would have said so and the constitution require as process other than the criminal justice system to accuse a sitting president off wrong doing. and he telling congress to open an impeachment inquiry? >> he's pointing towards the door and telling them to go through, in my mind. one of of our great founders of
america, james madison, used to talk about constitution education mp that for democracy to work, we have to be aware of our checks and balances, what's in the constitution. i think today mueller, getting to see him and hear his voice was starting an opening salvo with the public that's post mueller report saying this is something we need to -- the public needs to be part of this. congress is the people's house and that impeachment is a very real option. he was critic about it. he was ntd stated about it but i think hits the is a histor oic day when the movement for impeachment has gained steam. >> that said, yes, i'm going to bring you in because before mueller's comments, there was a march towards impeachment. should they go for it or is it too politically risky? >> i've argued they need take their time that it's a process not a thing. they need to move towards it strategically and that they're
bringing the american people along with them. by building the case before you get to impeachment, there are investigatatory benefits, political benefits and accountability benefits to continuing a set of investigations that hold these people to account, bring them on the deck, get their testimony and you start fwhild atmosphere and i think bob mueller put the ball firmly in their koertd and said to you, nangs a e. you've got it built up. you have your case made. >> you have predicted the last nine presidential elections to trump in 2016. you are predicting that trump will win unless democrats impeach him. >> real simple.
impeachment is not only right morally. the only way to hold a president to account. it is right constitutionally for a constitutional crisis and it is right politically. you and chris cuomo were discussing the fact that there are a lot of scandals swirling around and investigations and half a dozen different committees but that plays flight to trump's hands because he is so good at deflection d straction and obstruction. here's why impeachment is different. it would nail down a critical key on my system of 13. it takes six keys to count out the president and he only has three keys down now. impeachment would be a fourkt key and perhaps trigger other keys like contest for his renomination. here's why impeachment is different. it focuses everything in one committee. and articles of impeachment are not allegations. they repart of a formal process
where the house is pointing a finger and saying we believe donald trump, you are guilty of these high crimes and misdemeanors and then you get a trial in the senate which everyone is forgetting about. that's what is so critical. >> so let's drill in a little bit more what you said because i have the 13 criteria here or the factors you consider. if trump fails to satisfy six or more of these factors that he could lose. right now he is failing on three. party mandate, the gop lost in the midterm. foreign policy or military success which trump has not seen much of and incumbent charisma. his appeal to voters is limited. so how could impeachment lead to checking off more on this list? explain more to us. >> it would check off key number nine, scandal. that's a fourth key. that gives him only a ecushion.
ineeconomy tiltinize to recession. there is a charismatic democratic nominee or a big foreign policy failure. any of these and he's out. it could weaken him that it spur as real challenge to his nomination or a serious third party by someone like justin amash, which is a different. it changes the whole political context. and i'm afraid this is what they're going down on 7/16. >> very interesting. to allen's point, impeachment is a process.
are how soon could it start. >> the democrats did pretty well. you wouldn't have nancy pelosi there. getting rid of donald trump is. no democrat has anything really negative to say about nancy pelosi. there's been a great trust in her leadership. but she's in a rubicon moment right now. how do you use the impeachment word? i representative noticed a lot of politicians talk about starting an impeachment inury. i think the leaders of the democratic party pelosi or in my mind, biden now, have to decide which line they're going to step on. are they going to join elizabeth warren and bernie sanders and do an all-out democratic party
imepeachment effort or not go forward it? history was not a great guide. i've heard people talking about leon juwasky and the nixon years and ben starr. this is small potatoes in the lewinsky affair compared to the obstruction of justice of donald trump. don't say because clinton went up in the polls we shouldn't impeach donald trump. i think pelosi is the key and she's go having to to decide whether they join the impeachment movement or not and i think they need to in the next few weeks and they've got to get robert mueller to testify in front of the judiciary committee without a doubt. >> how do we know that nancy pelosi is right about this? she's got good track record and it's hard to argue. but isn't it possible she's wrong? >> it's also -- i think the reason she's pursuing the right
strategy now is because we understand after almost 4 years of donald trump in american political life that you can't shaum the shameless. you can't use moral suasion against this guy because he doesn't have any morals. if you're going to go after him, you best get it. and in this case she knows she gets one shot at all this. if she blows it, they won't get him in the senate, which is a huge factor here. if they don't do the thing correctly in the house, they never get to go after him again. he will romp on this and say i've been comletely clear. they couldn't impeach me. year done. so she knows she has one shot to mock this work and i think the timing question is let's not --
>> you seem to disagree? >> i kumt pleatly disagree. not only is that an abdication of the oversight role but it's awful politics. the one thing i do agree is you can't shame this guy, you can't embarrass him. allegations mean nothing. you've got to strike at his brand and his power. and the only way to do that is the proper constitutional procedure of impeachment, which is -- let me finish. if you ham and ha and put your finger in the wing, you lose the moral authority and you lose the momentum. i'm not saying impeach him tomorrow but you need to start the three-step critical process.
>> my point, allen is you start a whole series of things that there the predicates for impeachment. you make the investigations broad spectrum. you hold people to account and what you're doing is making the life of -- it in the backseat of a cop car. you're not holding anyone to account unless you have a formal process. he doesn't care about court decisions. he only cares about himself, his power, his legacy, his brand. the only way to hit that is for the house to assume its constitutional responsibilities. otherwise you might as well forget the separation of powers. >> i'm out of time. did robert mueller finally speak out because attorney general bill barr mischaracterized his findings? ♪
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on his last day as spounszal, he did not exonerate the president. but it his boss, william barr, wasn't quite so forthcoming when asked about that at an event in alaska tonight. >> robert mueller said today that president trump was not exonerated. why did you exonerate him? >> joining me to discuss is a former senior justice department official in the obama administration. thank you so much. after hearing from mueller today, is it even more clear the attorney general, william barr, that he worked over time to spin it in the president's snavr >> i think what's interesting is the contrast between the press conference that special counsel mueller gave today and the earlier press conferences that the attorney general gave.
and if you look at what the special counsel did today, he stuck solely to the facts, no spin on the ball. just straight forward, forth-right presentation of what was in the report. and i think because it was his report, that was easy for him to do. i think when you put it side by side with the earlier press conferences done by the attorney general, those had a different character. >> there was one crucial area where barr and mueller seemed to disagree. >> we specifically asked him about the olc opinion and whether or not he was talking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of of the olc opinion and he made it very clear, several times that was not his position. >> under long-standing department policy, a present president cannot be charged with
a federal crime while he is in office. that is unconstitutional. charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. >> so do you think barr's mischaracterization off the guidelines is part of why mueller speak out today? >> i know lot of people are putting those clips side by side and saying they're flatly inconsistent. i actually think if you look at them closely and parts of them, they are reconcilable. what barr was sawing is that mueller didn't make a determination but for the olc opinion he would have affirmatively charged the president with a crime. and mueller agrees with that. what mueller is saying is because of that he didn't engage in the analysis of whether to charge with a crime or not. so those, to me, aren't flatly inconsistent. but the problem is you shouldn't
have to parse when it's the attorney general of the united states talking about a report that no one in the american public had seen and i think the attorney general comments were understood by the vast majority of americans to mean something different from what evidentally his people are saying he meant by that. >> he's saying he didn't -- this is the way i interpret it. that barr's sawing he didn't never consider it. he's saying i couldn't. what barr is isaing is it did not factor into mueller's conclusions and mueller is saying i just couldn't do it. >> i totally understand that reaction and that's a reaction i think the majority of the american people had. if you look at very carefully at what barr said. he's saying something i think slightly slightly a notch different.
but that's not to excuse it. >> why couldn't he just say because of the doj guidelines, mueller was not able to go down that road? >> that's the question. look, i think he should have said it the other way. would not have been misleading. because at the him to attorney general made that statement in his press conference, he had all the information and the rest of us in the public trying to understand what are the special counsel had found were at an entire information disadvantage. we didn't know and so of course there were going to be misunderstandings when the attorney general framed it that way. >> isn't that the whole point? and to i think mueller should have said something earlier, if not the same day the report came out shortly after and he and barr should have been oen the same pauj.
whether you're sawing those two are reconcilable. he spun a different narrative than what the special counsel said today. is it important that he talked more and goes in front of congress to testify? >> so as the special counsel made clear, he's making sure that doesn't happen. so if he receive as supeen i'm sure he will obey. i think you and i agree on a fundamental point, which is when it come thuzturny general of the united states, it's important not only to be technically correct and accurate in what you're saying but to be forth right and straight fearward so there's no risk that was what you are saying is interpreted by the vast majority of people who are going to hear it as meaning something different from what the facts are. >> i think you're right and i think if you and i are saying it
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would not go beyond our report. i would not provide information beyond that which is already public ibany appearance before congress. >> but will this really be the last word from mueller? good evening gentleman. so let's start with you. mueller says this is the last we're going to hear from him. why is that important? >> because the report needs tee come to life. i think there's a little bit off an irony in that mueller set it out i don't want and i don't expect to testify. he made the case for why he needs to. because he talk for ten min andts most of what he said is in the report and so few people in the public and congress understand what's in the report and understand the significance. it's one thing to reads on a piece of paper and another to hear a witness get up behind the stand and talk about it. i saw it in trials many, many
times and i think there will be a huge impact if he does testify in public. >> can compelled to testify. >> it was in sort of opening negotiations. i hope you won't call me but he's 100% right. he spoke for 10 minutes. low key on script and it was riveting. the sort of television moment of bringing home to people just what is in his report that the judiciary committee hopes to achieve and why they're going to push. he's sawing it will be boring, like watching paint dry but they don't think so and basically terrirr right.
i doubt they'll back down and he'll testify in one form oor oanother. >> that will be impactful, right? >> even if that's all he does. i'll give you the facts but not color or pizazz. but if all he does is dry read the report, that will have a huge impact and by the way i think there are legitimate questioness that he should be asked. for example how exactly did bill barr misstate the nature, context, and substance of your findings? that's the language mueller put in the letter. we have seines of where they disagree but i think he needs lay it out spiff clay. another question but would you have charged f not for this policy we've been talking about, i think that's an important question and at least wurblgt putting it to him and see eif he answers.
but even if he just reads the report, it's going to have a huge impact. >> the white house has again climed that trump has bing exonerated. >> not real a what mueller said. tlurts exact opposite of what mueller said. it's one of the reasons he's 100% right. there's no other tenable conclugsz. they know how to get to the probable cause or the indictable standard and thaw pointedly said we couldn't exonerate him. they weren't dithering round with are we close and on the boarder. they went over and they knew that meant they couldn't -- the most they could say was they couldn't exonerate him. er for that's one of the things the white house is afraid of and one of the reezans cloche read of the report is so important. you look at some of of the episodes as a former proskurts or a person and it's 100% clear this was obstruction.
>> did today's statement leave you with more questions or not? >> it mattered a lot what he said and didn't say. sure. i would love to get him in a bar and ask him things for five days. but i feel that i really got a bigger sense of where he stands than i did before, even with his stucking to the four corners. frainstance, he really does expect this is now something for congress. he does feel all american congress should today take it seriously. details and nuances like that did emerge. i say i have fewer questions. >> what do you think he intended for congress? >> to do their jobs. i've done my job. i've investigated. i can't indict. there needs to be accountability
somewhere and said there are processies outside off the criminal justice and throws the only ones that can insure accountability. so congress needs make decision and do its job. >> appreciate it. robert mueller beginning and ending his statement with a warning that he says kwet deserves the attention of every american. - i love my grandma. - anncr: as you grow older, your brain naturally begins to change which may cause trouble with recall. - learning from him is great... when i can keep up! - anncr: thankfully, prevagen helps your brain and improves memory. - dad's got all the answers. - anncr: prevagen is now the number-one-selling brain health supplement in drug stores nationwide. - she outsmarts me every single time. - checkmate! you wanna play again? - anncr: prevagen. healthier brain. better life.
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os part of the russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system. they stole private information and then released that information through fake online and joited and through the organization, wick withy leaks. i will close by saying there were multiple cyst maltic efforts to interfere in our election and that allegation deserves the attention of every american. >> let's discuss. phil mud is here. gar stht author off a threat matrix inside robert mueller's fbi and the war on terror. the president, and his attorney general keep repeated the lie of no collusion, no obstruction. mueller's lawing out damming details to disriment our elections. is that evidence of can collusion? >> i don't think robert mueller would say it's evidence. he would say we found
information we couldn't determine was evidence because we can't hold the president accountable. i worked for mueller for four and a half years. not the most subtle man i ever worked for. he came to a conclugsz, he would have said so. i know the american people can't see this but it may have appeared subtle. he said look, we found a bunch of information. we can't proceed to a case. and there's one place that can, that's congress. i'm going to tell you we couldinate come to a determination. someone else should determine that. that's what i heard today, don. >> this is robert mueller talking about the many efforts by russians to influence the election. >> this volume influids a discussion of the campaign's response. as well as our conclusion there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.
and in a second volume the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president. >> so mueller said specifically he didn't find enough evidence in the report. to move forward a crime of collusion for investigation off a trump campaign. but is that the same thing as saying obstruction did not occur? >> not at all. and in fact when you read the mueller report carefully and this is the type of thing that's important that mueller came come out and say in his own words, whether before congress or otherwise. he makes sure to say he felt obstructed. most famously the question of
paul manafort happeneding over polling data. so this is situation where can collusion is the activity, conspiracy is the crime. and one of the things that may have turned out is the obstruction may have been sufficient to prevent mueller from discovering the ntd lying crime here of conspiracy. indictments of half a dozen trump assoculates and dozens of russians. do you have any degree of confidence this administration takes russia's multiple attempts to interfere in our elections
seriously? >> this is one of the most dis pointing ash spects of the entire conversation today. in some ways and director mueller would never go after the oval office directly. but he said every american should pay attention to this. where is the only place that can get information and educate the american people? not the department of homeland security, not cnn, not fbi. that's the president of the united states who has i dont know how many millions of people on twiter to follow him. i was looking at mueller saying that's a plea to the oval office to say the moesz sacred right of the american has is to vote free and fair. that didn't hammon in some ways in the last election and nobody, including the president is speaking about it. it's a sad day in some ways, don.
he made clear. so why do you think it took so long for him to come out and say that after he laid out nine possible instances of obstruction in his report? >> took so long from when? when his report was turned over or the length of the investigation overall? >> barr sent out his summary -- birts been almost two months. >> and i think mueller has been trying to do everything he possibly can to avoid doing what he did today, which is can come out and speak publicly. this is someone who has gone out of his way for two years to avoid any public otherance, no matter how small. and if even the three major landmarks of his case, the two indictments of russian officials
and the internet research agency and the final report were press conferences hosted by others. rosen tine or bar and that and he wanted to work to speak for itself as he said today. >> appreciate your time. we'll see you next time. yeahhh! there we go! this memorial day, start your summer off right in a new chevrolet. oh, wow!! it's time to upgrade. you guys out did yourselves there. i'm gonna go and get a chevy. an exciting summer begins at your chevy dealer. and now, during the chevy memorial day sales event, get 0% financing for 72 months on these select chevy models. or current gm owners can get twenty seven fifty total cash allowance on this traverse. find new roads at your local chevy dealer. total cash allowance stand up to chronicerse. migraine with botox®. what if you had fewer headaches and migraines a month? botox® prevents headaches and migraines before
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watergate scandal that led to president trump nixon leaving office, it's a very powerful medium. in the future could have a huge impact. a former assistant watergate prosecutor and the former director of the nixon presidential library and the author of impeachment and american history. hello, gentleman. thank you, so much. solet me start with you, timothy. i want to talk nixon. just after starting a second term, his approval rating in 1973 stood at 68%. in may, the watergate hearing began being televised and then plummeted by 31%. does that speak to the power of televised hearings? >> no doubt about it. one reason i'm convinced that that trump white house is not allowing people to testify is
they're concerned that americans, when they hear descriptions of the things in the mueller report, when they hear people describe them, that they'll be upset or hear something negative they didn't expect would be there. by the testimony of john dean. of alexander butterfield, who revealed the existence of a taping system. the people who were involved in the dirty tricks campaigns. and many who voted for nixon, because nixon won in 1972 in a landslide, began to wonder, perhaps this is not the right man for the job. >> if i question is, nixon didn't have a cable news service and conservative media, basically being his trumpet, right? pushing his narrative out. does that make a difference? >> what richard nixon faced was three major networks and the beginning of pbs, which were putting out very simple coverage of the hearings. the hearings were not mediated.
there were no curators there was no filter. you got to listen to people testify. and these committee meetings were bipartisan. even though howard baker hoped the president would survive, howard baker was not afraid -- he was the minority leader in the senate, he was not afraid of asking the tough questions. that's what we're missing today. we're also missing a buy partisan culture of investigation. >> john, you've been sitting here patiently. you were a watergate prosecutor, you watched under special prosecutors, so, my question is, how important is it for, you know, we heard from polks publicly back then, how important it is for the public to hear directly from robert mueller? >> well, tim used the right word, that people were riveted to the tv sets, but we were -- i don't know if you believe this or not, but we in the watergate prosecutors office were not out to get the president. we really weren't sure. and we frankly had our doubts about john dean. the last time i was here with you, don, john dean was also a
guest, and it was the revelation of the tapes and all of a sudden, the tapes started to change public opinion. but i'll tell you what changed it. and i can tell you, because i was there. up until october 20th, 1973, there was no serious talk about impeepment, but the saturday night massacre, i was fired, along with mys bobosses. that's what changed public opinion. if the trump white house continues to maintain public opinion on their side, no matter how they do it, there's going to be no threat to the president. >> i'm just wondering how much, because the only republican, as you know, the justin amash, who is talking about the president's impeepme impeachment, you talk about the tide turning during the nixon hearings. do you anticipate more people doing what justin amash was doing? >> i was waiting to see after he came forward if anyone would follow him. after all, if you're a -- a conservative and a libertarian, president trump has actually
been expanding the size of government and is also making the federal government much stronger than they would want it to be. you would think that people like amash would actually be worried about obstruction of justice. but we haven't seen that happen. what we would need, i think, is something like trump saying no to the courts, the courts said to him, you must turn over yoshyour taxes, he defies -- >> he's trying now. >> he lost the first two cases. if he were to defy the supreme court or if he were to defy the appeals court, i think that might change the -- >> i'm just wondering, in this environment, if you heard mueller today, john, if you read the report, if you actually read the report, he is saying, we did not -- we couldn't charge the president and he's saying, basically saying, to me, when i heard it, well, the president may have committed a crime, but i just couldn't change him, or, he probably committed a crime and i just couldn't charge him. how long do you think -- what could be done to change the
minds of lawmakers? that seems clear. >> i'm going to take an issue with one thing. i don't think he probably would have charged the president. i think what we don't know, but what tim said is right on the money. it's that third branch of government. when i mentioned the saturday might massacre, it wasn't the firing so much, it was part of it, he ordered us, we could not go, and he was going to defy a court order. that's what changed the tide. if he does that now, he might -- >> no, he didn't say i would probably charge him, what he said was, if i could have cleared the president of a crime and i'm paraphrasing here, i would have. what does that mean to you? >> the fact that he didn't clear him doesn't mean he would have charged him. >> right. >> it just means what he said. and i don't think he's sending signals. everybody is saying bob mueller sends signals. i think he did anything but that. i think he said the report speaks for itself, it's in the eyes of the beholder. i don't think he was telling the congress, you should impeach, i think he's saying, that's your responsibility, take it or leave it, it's up to the congress. >> basically saying, there's no
mechanism within the law for this, considering the findings of the report. that's for -- he says that, again, i'm paraphrasing here, he said, that is for the political process. >> that's right. but that's the fact whether he said it or not. that's what the constitution provides. >> gentlemen, thank you. fascinating conversation. been an amazing day to watch all of this and there will be more. appreciate it. thanks for watching, everyone. our coverage continues. feel the clarity of non-drowsy claritin and relief from symptoms caused by over 200 indoor
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to save 30% on all the medications we carry. so go directly to petmeds.com now. good evening. for the first time since being named special counsel, robert mueller spoke today publicly about the russia investigation and his report on it. everything about it was extraordinary, in particular how unpretentious and dutiful and serious mr. mueller was. there was no grandstanding, no puffed chest, no boasts, no crowing about his accomplishments and how hard he worked and how hard the job was. there was no hurtling insults at anyone, even those who have been systemically trying to destroy his reputation. no, listening to robert mueller today speak for just about ten minutes, you knew you were listening to a serious person, a person of conscience, and a person who has lived a life of service to this country. 50 years ago, that service took him to vietnam.