tv CNN Newsroom With Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul CNN March 23, 2019 7:00am-8:00am PDT
happening now. breaking news. principal conclusions. the attorney general is preparing a summary of the mueller report for congress. he may deliver it as soon as today. we're standing by for details on what the special counsel uncovered. waiting game. president trump is in florida, h huddling with his lawyers, gaming out responses. will he claim vindication or complain of a hoax? demanding transparency. top democrats are pushing for the full mueller report to be made public and for underlying evidence to be presented to congress. house democrats getting ready for a briefing on this turning point in the russian probe and what lies ahead. and unanswered questions. mueller's work is done but the
scrutiny of his investigation is just beginning. we'll breakdown all of the unresolved legal issues and new information we're looking to get in the coming hours. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we are following breaking news now in the hands of the attorney general, william barr. we could learn crucial details about the nearly two-yearlong investigation at any moment. barr said he may share principal conclusions of the mueller report as soon as today. we expect those conclusions to be made public. top house democrats scheduled a 3:00 p.m. eastern for the briefing for the caucus on what they know at that hour and what they do next. president trump is at his home in florida, surrounded by his lawyers. they're all waiting to learn specifics about the
investigation into possible collusion and obstruction that's hung over mr. trump for most of his presidency. this hour, i talk with house intelligence committee member chris stewart and our correspondents and analysts are standing by for this special edition of "the situation room." first, let's go to the cnn political correspondent, sara murray, covering the russian investigation from day one extensively. sarah, all eyes are on the attorney general, bill barr, saw him leave his home awhile ago. we are told he just arrived at the justice department where sources say he is reviewing the report. sarah, he is preparing to prepare robert mueller's key findings, principal conclusions as he calls them, and that presumably could happen very soon. >> that's right, wolf. a busy weekend for the attorney general. it all began yesterday when we saw prosecutors in mueller's office leaving unusually early, just hours after that the attorney general announced mueller had completed his nearly two years of work. now we wait to hear what the main conclusions are that
mueller reached. attorney general william barr announcing the end of special counsel robert mueller's 22-month russian investigation in a one page statement friday evening. he wrote to leaders of the house and senate judiciary committees he is reviewing mueller's report and i may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. a justice department official tells cnn those conclusions are expected to be made public. a senior justice department official also added there will be no further indictments from the special counsel. in a major victory for the president, mueller ended his probe without interviewing trump. the president answered only a set of written questions about russian collusion. none about obstruction of justice. in the hours before mueller officially ended his work, trump continued railing against the russian probe. >> there was no collusion, there was no obstruction, everybody knows it. it's all a big hoax. i call it the witch hunt. it is all a big hoax. >> friday evening, white house
press secretary sarah sanders had a more muted response. the next steps are up to attorney general barr. the white house hasn't received or been briefed on the special counsel report. while the formal investigation is over, speculation of what it found is only just beginning. barr told congressional leaders there were no such instances during the special counsel's investigation in which mueller's proposed actions were overruled by leaders at the justice department. barr plans to consult with the attorney general, rod rosenstein, and my ueller to se how much can be released publicly and to congress. >> my goal and intent is to get as much information out as i can, consistent with the regulations. >> but democrats demanded the report be made public in its entirety. >> now that special counsel mueller submitted his report to the attorney general, it is imperative for mr. barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying
documentation and findings to congress. >> trust, but we have to verify. so we will ultimately see the full report because the president is outnumbered. we have now the subpoena power. >> since being appoint in may of 2017, mueller remained silent, out of the public eye. >> the defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the united states. >> mueller's investigation led to charges against 37 defendants and netted 7 guilty pleas, as well as one conviction at trial. and long time political adviser roger stone is set to go to trial in november for lying to congress. also among those charged, 26 russians and 3 russian entities, many of whom mueller said worked to manipulate social media and hacked democrats to help trump. his campaign chairman, paul manafort. his national security adviser, michael flynn, and personal lawyer and fixer, michael cohen. >> i am ashamed of my own
failings. >> mueller never brought charges against anyone in trump's orbit for clueding with the russians to influence the election. remains to be seen if mueller found any direct evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice, it may be detailed in the confidential report delivered to the attorney general. now, justice department guidelines say you can't indict the president of the united states, but of course we don't know what all is in mueller's report. don't know if the president could have been implicated in inappropriate behavior or illegal activity. that's the position barr is in now, figuring out what to divulge to congress. maybe it won't be a difficult decision. maybe he will find the president did nothing wrong. >> we'll find out the principal conclusions that are about to be released. stay with us. dana bash is with us, kara skinnell is with us. how much will we learn about the mueller report once principal conclusions are released and
bill barr says they could be as soon as this weekend, maybe later today. >> wolf, all eyes are on bill barr. he is a few weeks into the job, has a historic decision how much information he will release to congress and the american public. he got the report from mueller's security detail yesterday just before 5:00 p.m. he was reviewing it last night. he just arrived at doj to continue to review it, as did rod rosenstein. one of the things in the one page letter that notifies congress about the report being finalized, he said he would consult with robert mueller and rod rosenstein how much can be made public. one wrinkle in the report, this is a counter intelligence investigation and a criminal investigation, there are issues of what can be made public, grand jury material and classified material, as sarah was saying, once they get their arms around what's in the potential realm of something they believe they can make public, all eyes will be on what
does it say about what the president did about his actions, big looming questions of collusion and obstruction of justice. >> we're showing viewers video of rod rosenstein, deputy attorney general and bill barr, attorney general, arriving at the justice department. there are incredible details that he has collected, especially russian efforts to interfere in the u.s. presidential election which the u.s. intelligence community has concluded there's no doubt the russians tried to do that. presumably, if all of that information is released, it could prove to be somewhat at least politically embarrassing for the president. >> absolutely. that's an important point. look, we have already seen by way of indictments the accusations and evidence that robert mueller's team believes that it has about how aggressive russia has been and was in 2016 to influence the election. and we should see more details about that in this report, assuming we see the details.
i want to note the fact that we saw both the attorney general and the deputy attorney general arriving today is another indicator that today is an important day, just like yesterday was, as you guys were saying, sarah, you reported that they are on high alert on capitol hill to get the so-called principal conclusions. i spoke to a source this morning, congressional source with every expectation that's going to come. maybe in an e-mail, maybe hand delivered. and that will be, now we have a one page letter from the attorney general, that will be the first real substance that we're going to have on what this is. and the most important maybe, the conclusions. after all that, what did you learn, why does it matter. >> bill barr, attorney general, will consult with rod rosenstein, deputy attorney general was about to leave that position and special counsel robert mueller who is leaving that position about how much he can make public in all of this. let's not forget, sarah, you have been doing a lot of reporting on this, that in
addition to the mueller investigation which we spent so much time focusing in on, there are a bunch of other investigations not involving mueller that are continuing. >> yeah. i think that's an important point, a point that's probably more concerning for the president in the long term. we have in new york, they're looking into trump business, into the inauguration, into the presidential transition, and southern district of new york, they're not just going to close up shop, say we have been looking into this a month or two, haven't found anything, let's shutter the investigation. the investigations will be on-going, probably on-going for the duration that donald trump is president, so that means when he is no longer president, when he is back to being a normal human being that could face indictment, that's a possibility on the table down the road. we can't forget what dana pointed out. the president was already implicated in a crime, michael cohen pled guilty to illegal campaign finance violation which he said and prosecutors agreed was done at the direction of donald trump.
so i think there's a lot for the president to worry about, even if he feels vindicated by the end of the mueller investigation. >> don't go far away. you're working sources and getting more information. at this pivotal moment, president trump is in mar-a-lago, his resort in palm beach, florida, also meeting with his lawyers and aides close by, awaiting the big reveal of mueller's principal conclusions. let's bring in white house correspondent kaitlan collins. he is at his golf club now. does the team see the mueller report as victory based on what they know so far? >> depends who you ask. some of the president's allies outside the white house are framing this as vindication for the president. but some in the white house are being more cautious. they know they still haven't read the report, they're waiting to see what bill barr has to say about this. it is noteworthy we haven't heard anything from the president yet since mueller submitted the report to the attorney general yesterday. he is down in palm beach at his
golf course where the temperature is in the 60s. we saw him on the way to the golf course reading the newspaper. presumably, wolf, still paying attention to headlines and what's going on, even if not tweeting about them yet. we know that not only is the president in palm beach, he is joined by several members of the legal team, including not only white house counsel pat sieve loan ee but emmitt flood that is charged with handling the response. emmitt flood got the call from bill barr's chief of staff to say mueller had submitted the report. sources who talked to cnn saw the president and flood talking yesterday at his mar-a-lago resort where they said the president seemed to be in a spirited mood as he was being kept updated on the developments happening yesterday after mueller submitted the report. now, one thing that allies are framing this as a victory is there were no more indictments. there are widespread speculation of people, not only including the president's son, donald trump jr. he wasn't indicted obviously,
they said no more indictments are expected. and donald trump jr. was a few tables from his father at mar-a-lago resort and has been tweeting several times today, essentially framing this as an exoneration for the president. continue to expect to hear more of that, wolf. we'll wait to see what the president's initial reaction to this will be. >> just curious, we saw the president reading a newspaper on his way to the golf course. do we know which newspaper he was reading? >> you couldn't tell exactly. we zoomed in on the president there, you see him holding the newspaper in the back seat. based on people that talk to the president, he reads "new york times," "the washington post," "new york daily news," several newspapers and looks at the headlines. and watches television constantly. you've seen the president tweet so many times in the last week and a half, behind the scenes quizzing members of the legal team, some of them down there with him about what the status of the mueller report was.
so he is very interested. week predict what the president will say about this, but we're waiting to hear from him in person. >> he has been silent so far, including twitter. we'll see if that continues. thanks very much. i know you're working your sources as well. let's go to capitol hill where democrats are demanding that the entire mueller report be made public and they want to see all of the underlying evidence for themselves. our congressional correspondent sun lynn serfaty is joining us. they are threatening subpoena power to get answers. house democrats are having a call this afternoon. will there be a push to start that process? >> there very well could be, wolf, up here on capitol hill. democrats have certainly been waiting for this moment, been preparing for this moment, and they're already signaling they're certainly ready to fight for the information they want. in a few hours, the entire house democratic conference will hop on a conference call. that will happen at 3:00 p.m. eastern. not only getting prepared for potentially receiving that anticipated new information from
the attorney general today but also preparing essentially for what will likely become a fierce, intense battle on capitol hill over access to the information. democrats have already been aggressive and clear already that they are pushing not only for the full mueller report to be released, but as you said, underlying evidence that mueller used in the investigation. jerry nadler, chairman of the house judiciary committee said in a statement last night we look forward to getting the full mueller report and related materials, transparency and the public interest demand nothing less. the need for public faith is the rule of law, must be the priority. this is also abse sentiment oth republicans share. i expect doj to release the special counsel report to this committee and the public without
delay. there will be a push on capitol hill to bring not only the attorney general barr but robert mueller to testify on capitol hill. at this moment, wolf, fair to say that capitol hill is essentially stuck in a waiting pattern. they're waiting for any information, that new information the attorney general will ultimately share as he promised to do in that letter he sent to capitol hill last night. notably, members and staff are back in their home district, they have been out on recess all week, it is unclear at this point how and when the information will be communicated. wolf? >> we're learning that the president's son-in-law, jared kushner, will be handing over documents to congress as requested by congress. what's the latest on that front? >> reporter: that's right, this is new information from gloria borger and manu raju, the headline being that jared kushner, the son-in-law and top senior adviser said he will hand over and provide documents that the house judiciary committee have requested of him.
keep in mind, you remember when the original request was made, that was from jerry nadler, he requested information from over 80 people in trump's orbit. certainly significant that now jared kushner has agreed to comply, related to time on the campaign, time in the white house during the transition. potentially a huge amount of information from jared kushner. again, it all underscores while we talk about the mueller report and what it could say or could not say, capitol hill has their own investigations going on and they'll continue doing that. >> that's a significant development. the senior adviser, jared kushner, getting ready to cooperate with congress on this front. thanks very much. joining us, congressman chris stewart, a republican. he serves on the intelligence committee. congressman, thanks for coming in on this saturday morning. let's get your reaction to what's going on. i know you have been watching it closely. the principal conclusions could come out at any moment, said
sometime as early as this weekend, today or tomorrow. we're anticipating it will be today. what are the most important questions you're hoping he will answer? >> we look forward to seeing the report obviously, we haven't seen it yet. i don't think we'll be terribly surprised by anything. i am relieved for the president and relieved for dozens of people that had the cloud hanging over their head for two years now. we know that innocent people were accused of treason. in fairness to them, it is important to get the report out, let the american people know that. i am relieved for the american people. again, wolf, i'm not surprised, house intelligence report, senate intelligence report, fbi agents themselves that were no friends of the pre, mr. mccabe said he doesn't think anything is there, now it appears mr. mueller has found the same. >> he hasn't said anything except for formal indictments he leveled and convictions, he hasn't accused anyone of treason. >> he has not. he acted responsibly. but there were dozens and dozens
of politicians and other people and people in media that made very serious accusations against carter page, for example. a great example of someone that had the cloud of serious accusations against him and others as well, including the president and his family. >> there will be no more indictments coming forward which is a significant development. the democrats as you know, your democratic, they're the majority in the house of representatives, they're now threatening to subpoena the full report if the new attorney general doesn't provide it to you and your fellow members of congress. would you support such a subpoena? >> i think the public has been clear on this, and we voted on this recently in the house, i think unanimous. >> 420-0. >> i have been saying it for months, national security isn't endangered here. these aren't nuclear codes, not revealing sources or methods. this is a political conversation, a political debate. i always said this should be released. all of this information should be released.
much of our committee work should be released. i think it is important for the american people to have access to all of this. one of the reasons is if the mueller report were redacted, if any paragraph or sentence in that were redacted, i'm afraid people point to that and say that's where the collusion is, they're not showing it. >> you told me last month, i hope they don't redact a single sentence, a single paragraph. and you still stand by that. >> absolutely. >> what if they decide they're going to hold back on certain sensitive information for whatever reason? >> i would ask what is that information, and we should have access to that, especially those on the intelligence committee and members of congress, should be able to look at that and make a judgment. i'm telling you almost in its entirety, it isn't endangering national security, this is a political debate we have been having. >> forget about the president. as you know, the u.s. intelligence committee, and you're on that committee, they agreed that russia did interfere in the u.s. presidential elections. this is something that your
committee is investigating. do you want all of the information mueller collected on russian, this was the main charge, on russian interference in the u.s. presidential election with the hope of helping donald trump as a candidate, that's what the u.s. intelligence community concluded, do you want all of that to be made available, not just to you and your committee but to the american people? >> absolutely. again for the same reasons i already expressed. all of that should be available. and for a couple of reasons, number one, the american people want to know and deserve to know. number two, they're going to do it again, when i say they, russia, they're going to try to interfere again. >> you accept the intelligence community conclusion, even though the president expresses doubt about it. >> yes. i think there's some nuance there, in its entirety on the whole i do. again, it is not just russia that seeks to interfere, other nefarious players as well. china, north korea, iran would try. i think part of preparing on how to protect ourselves is to have
a very open conversation about this is what we know happened, this is how they did it, this is how we think we can protect ourselves in the future. once again, we have an election coming, this president will be up for election, they'll want to interfere once more. >> would you want robert mueller to appear before the intelligence committee and testify in open session about what he's learned? >> i think that probably is a good idea although i don't think it may be necessary. >> he knows more about it than anyone, about his own investigation. >> he does. there's an implication in this, that is that for the last two years we have been told trust mr. mueller, trust mr. mueller, and i have. i always said i trusted him. i hope he completed the work and hoped he did it quickly. some cases people are saying we don't trust him, we want him to justify his conclusions and that's unfair to him, you didn't give us what we wanted, we're going to dive into it. on the whole, it is good to have him in front of the committee
and answer -- >> you know who said nasty things about mueller the last two years, the president of the united states, tweeting about a hoax, a witch hunt and all of that kind of stuff, just hired a bunch of democrats to be his prosecutors. >> he had concerns about him, no question about it. >> congressman chris stewart, thanks for coming in. appreciate it very much. chris stewart of utah. up next, the attorney general is over at the justice department now. he could share robert mueller's principal conclusions with congress soon. we're standing by for that. do your asthma symptoms ever hold you back? about 50% of people with severe asthma have too many cells called eosinophils in their lungs. eosinophils are a key cause of severe asthma. fasenra is designed to target and remove these cells. fasenra is an add-on injection for people 12 and up with asthma driven by eosinophils. fasenra is not a rescue medicine or for other eosinophilic conditions. fasenra is proven to help prevent severe asthma attacks,
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the next chapter? >> it is very much the beginning. it is actually not even the beginning of the chapter, we're still in the preface of the new book because what we still even have to know is what the general conclusions are, which hopefully we will find out today when the attorney general, deputy attorney general send that information to capitol hill. again, we expect it today. it could go later, they said publicly it will be over the weekend. then obviously there's going to be a fight over whether the full report will be made public, and then the whole fight over who, what, when, where, what happened in the past. already i'm hearing from republicans and you heard some of it today, how did this happen and why did the fbi launch the investigation in the first place if there was no real evidence of collusion. now, i think that's -- i know
that's premature because we have to wait and see what exactly robert mueller finds because collusion is not a crime and i think they're all preparing to celebrate but the fact that we haven't heard from the president on twitter or anywhere else let's you know that even he has been convinced take a breath, let's wait to see what it actually says. >> he has been thunderously silent. justice department official says there will be no more indictments from the mueller team, which is a significant statement. so does that mean neither the president nor his media famiimm family are not in jeopardy? >> that's not significant with respect to the president because of course the doj guidelines say he can't be indicted. that said, for individuals like jared kushner, donald trump jr.,
individuals that are deeply involved in having contacts with russian officials and had questions about whether or not they have potentially made false statements to investigators, i think they can all breathe a bit easier, but only with respect to this limited mandate of the mueller investigation. there are other investigations on-going. the southern district of new york has a broad inquiry launched now. that appears to be focused on the trump organization. we know they're looking into the trump inauguration, campaign finance violations, new york district attorney's office is looking at launching inquiry. all of the questions remain very much on the table, but legal liability wouldn't be involved for any of those. >> new york is looking into personal matters involving the president as well. shawn, barr says he'll release mueller's principal conclusions this weekend. only received the report yesterday. does that mean mueller may have prepared a summary of principal
conclusions he should be able to make public? >> i think there's no doubt mueller would have prepared a list of conclusions, based on what the evidence his investigators looked at told them and what the ultimate investigation found. if the reporting is correct on this, this report is comprehensive. that means what bob barr has in front of him, he not only has the set of conclusions that mueller would have come up with but also has all of the evidence to tell him how mueller came to the conclusions. what's unclear is whether bob barr will look at the information in the report and is going to agree with conclusions that bob mueller ultimately came up with or if he is going to look at those conclusions and based on what he sees in the report release or pass onto congress a different set of conclusions. >> bill barr. >> and throw in one of the things with the letter we got yesterday from bill barr, maybe small, but i thought significant, where he goes out of his way to say that there
were no differences between the mueller team and the doj. incredibly significant. the trump doj. no differences between his justice department and the investigation the president calls a witch hunt. >> that's one of the only pieces of information he was required to disclose. >> he had to disclose it to congress. >> he could have disclosed there were problems. >> but he had to answer whether or not they had overruled him. i agree it is incredibly significant that doj at no point impeded mueller in the investigation. >> as you know, the president always said no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. but in recent weeks also said no obstruction, no obstruction, no obstruction. it clearly is very much on his mind. >> that's right. there's a lot of shifting of the goalpost on both sides here. i want to stress these are uncharted waters. these are prosecutors that worked with mueller the past few days and they've said it is really possible there is evidence of crimes here and as
susan pointed out, the policy of department of justice is not to indict a sitting president. that does not mean the president hasn't exhibited criminal conduct here, which is why i think it is so important to congress right now, to republicans and democrats for the full report to be released. it's also unclear, mueller's authority going forward to recommend impeachment proceedings which again are political and conduct exhibited by the president doesn't necessarily have to reach a criminal statute. so there are so many questions here. collusion is out of the question as you have all pointed out for people like jared kushner, don jr., and other people that were pulled into this investigation. >> everybody stick around. there's more we are awaiting, principal conclusions from the mueller report. we have much more on the breaking news after this. chicken?! chicken.
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the xfinity store is here. and it's simple, easy, awesome. we are back with our reporters and experts. in his letter to congress, the attorney general said i may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. so these are the special counsel, robert mueller's conclusions, what he prepared as opposed to something barr will come up with. >> that's exactly right, and it is up to the attorney general to decide what in the report can be disclosed to congress. he is required to provide a summary as soon as possible, and i think it is important to note the break neck pace of all of this overall. i think it is unprecedented to complete a special counsel
investigation in two years. obviously barr is trying to push it forward as quickly as possible and it remains to be seen what he is going to summarize and remains to be seen what input the white house will have, what executive privilege they're going to assert and argue that the attorney general cannot disclose to congress, which is setting up the big battle we're going to see play out. >> there could be a huge legal battle over if the white house says you can't release certain information. >> there certainly will be a legal battle, to the extent the justice department attempts to remove a word of the record, that will be litigated by congress, questions of executive privilege, and not just executive privilege, the underlying investigative materials. this goes back to a couple months ago when devon nunez was the chairman of the intelligence committee, litigating over getting materials from doj related to the hillary clinton e-mail investigation. adam schiff warned you're setting a precedent. when it is our turn, we're going
after those materials as well. >> that's an important point. we're going to get the top lines, the mueller conclusions, what his team concludes is most important from the two yearlong investigation. then hopefully in the vain of transparency, we'll all see the actual report. then the question is what led to you saying x, y and z in the report. what are the investigative details that you all picked up. you're exactly right. the republicans have been screaming from rooftops about knowing the information about the hillary clinton investigation, and it is not a past tense thing. they're doing it now. they're reupping calls for investigation of hillary clinton. >> you worked on the u.s. intelligence committee, you heard chris stewart saying when it comes to russian interference in the election, he accepts the
conclusions of the intelligence community as opposed to the president who raised a lot of questions whether he accepts that conclusion. he wants to see every sentence, every paragraph, because it will help them better appreciate what the russians were up to in trying to interfere in the election with the aim of helping donald trump win the election. >> and he is absolutely right. no matter what the mueller report says, it remains the case that the intelligence community found without a shadow of a doubt that russia sought to interfere in our election. what we still don't know, we don't know the full nature of not only what russia did but also what, if anything, anyone in the united states did to facilitate their interference in the election. what the mueller report has done, even if he hasn't found anything that rises to the level of a crime, there's still lots of information that might help inform what others did in the trump campaign and what the russians did. so congress needs to see that information. we're going into the 2020 campaign, there are questions unanswered from 2016.
>> and you heard manu raju, gloria borger, their report that jared kushner is now willing to cooperate with the congress, with houd judiciary committee, provide new information. seems to be a significant development now. >> i think it remains to be seen how significant. the house judiciary committee requested documents. they have subpoena power. the fact that jared kushner has decided to hand documents over instead of attempting to fight, his team wants to couch that as him being cooperative, transparent. >> do you think he is willing to cooperate because the mueller report is over with? >> i think that's possible as to the timing. however, legally because the congress has subpoena power, he was going to have to hand them over eventually. >> significant because he is not just the president's son-in-law, he is a senior white house official that works with the president right now. >> yeah. i'm going to add the legal perspective, the political perspective, what's better knowing that you are sounds like
you're in the clear from an indictment from robert mueller, depending what's in the report, maybe more than that from being a participant inclusion, what's better politically than saying i'm not going to wait for a subpoena, i'm going to make a big announcement to say i am going to cooperate voluntarily. >> everybody stick around. correspondents are continuing to work their sources on the mueller report. we're following other important news. hours ago, u.s. backed fighters declared total victory over isis in syria. what does help for heart failure look like?
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[laughter] ♪ ♪ "i'm okay." ♪ ♪ we are awaiting word on when bill barr will brief lawmakers on the russian report. stand by for that. we're following breaking news in the fight against isis. u.s. backed kurdish forces in syria proclaimed victory. ben wedeman is in eastern syria for us. ben, what are you seeing right now? >> reporter: well, right now the
situation is very quiet, but overnight we saw intense u.s. aircraft conducting air strikes on the last bit of territory held by isis which was basically on a hillside overlooking the town of bahuz. we heard aircraft overhead but stopped bombing. within a few hours, there was announcement for spokesman for the syrian forces, he said the battle had come to an end, that isis had been 100% defeated. then we were actually able to get inside the isis encampment itself. what we saw was a scene of utter wreckage where the area had been under bombardment for weeks and weeks. what we saw were dead bodies. our camera woman mary rogers saw a suicide invevest by the side the road. we saw the u.s. backed syrian
democratic forces raising the large yellow flag that they have over the largest building in the village, proclaiming victory, victory that they have been fighting hard for for the last four and a half years with the backing of the united states and other members of the u.s.-led international coalition against isis, wolf. >> ben wedeman on the scene for us. thank you so much. stay safe there. also, awaiting word on when the attorney general will brief congress on special counsel robert mueller's russia report. details after this. my experience with usaa has been excellent. they really appreciate the military family and it really shows. with all that usaa offers why go with anybody else? we know their rates are good, we know that they're always going to take care of us. it was an instant savings and i should have changed a long time ago. it was funny because when we would call another insurance company, hey would say "oh we can't beat usaa" we're the webber family. we're the tenney's we're the hayles, and we're usaa members for life.
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as we await word of what's in special counsel robert mueller's russia report, we are following developments concerning north korea. let's bring in cnn's brian todd. what are you hearing? >> in the past couple hours, north koreans walked away from an important part of the diplomatic process. we have seen a confusing tweet from president trump about sanctions, and it left veteran diplomats worried whether the groundbreaking opening with kim jong-un's regime is unraveling. it appears north korea's ruthless young dictator pulled a powerplay against his neighbor to the south, sending an ominous signal to america. kim jong-un's regime, according to south korean officials, withdrawing representatives from an office it created with south korea near the dmz, designed to help the two countries communicate with each other. it was set up just seven months ago after kim met with the south korean president, moon jae-in. it comes after the u.s. leveled
sanctions on two chinese companies doing business with north korea. the first action washington had taken against north korea since the failed summit in hanoi. >> the unraveling started at hanoi. kim jong-un miscalculated, dug himself in a hole, is trying to dig himself out by escalating tension. >> reporter: hours after it was announced north korea was pulling out of the diplomatic office, president trump appeared to continue to court kim jong-un, initially signaling he could be reversing his own administration's policy. in a tweet, trump said the treasury department added additional large scale sanctions to those already existing sanctions on north korea. trump then said i have today ordered withdrawal of the additional sanctions. trump's aides struggled to explain the tweet, saying sanctions on two chinese companies would remain, and the president may have been referring to additional large scale sanctions that have been in the works. analysts saying taking any sanctions off the table is risky. >> that would be the wrong message to send to north korea. i mean, if that is the message,
then the north koreans will assume they can continue to make decisions along these lines and that the u.s. will continue to back down. >> reporter: the opening between the u.s. and north korea which showed such promise not long ago has been framed. since president trump walked out of the hanoi summit without a deal, north korea whipped up concerns about a possible missile or satellite launch, with activity at a key missile assembly site. one of the top diplomats threatened to suspend nuclear talks with the u.s., a far cry from trump's declarations about his friendship with the north korean leader last fall. >> then we fell in love, okay? no really. he wrote me beautiful letters. and they're great letters. >> reporter: a key question now, can the personal dynamic between trump and kim jong-un save the relationship and save the denuclearization process. >> yes, the personal relationship at this stage can save the whole issue. the fact is, we didn't have it before, and things escalated. we have it now.
hopefully it will prevent escalation, but it has to be done quickly. >> reporter: experts say the personal relationship could be more crucial now because they believe failure to reach a deal in hanoi left kim with wounded pride, a dangerous proposition. >> kim jong-un thought he had a deal and could get a deal from president trump wh. when he didn't get a deal, he had a long 60 hour train ride back to pyongyang. he wants to show he is tough, not going to compromise, and you're not going to win if i lose. that's his attitude now. >> reporter: analysts warn we're at a strikingly important crossroads. if trump and kim can't rekindle that dynamic and make progress towards denuclearization, we could be back to nuclear tests and missile launches from north korea, personal insults between the two leaders, and the threat of some conflict. >> significant development now. thanks very much, brian todd reporting. staying with us, standing by
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