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tv   CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield  CNN  March 24, 2019 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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out the primary findings. he says he thinks this is a bad day for those hoping the mueller investigation would take president trump down. he congratulates mueller, saying he did a great job, and he says now it's time to move on, govern the country, and get ready to comb combat russia and other foreign actors ahead of 2020. so he's complimenting the president, someone who's just spent several hours with him on the golf course. >> we want to welcome our viewers here in the united states and around the world. very important, dramatic developments unfolding right now in the russia investigation. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. the special counsel, robert mueller, has submitted his report to the justice department, to the new attorney general bill barr. bill barr has just submitted a four-page, single-spaced letter to congress with a lot of details. his conclusions on what robert mueller and his special counsel team came up with. bottom line, he concludes there was no collusion. the president keeps saying no collusion. the special counsel concludes there was no conspiracy, no
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solution, certainly not enough to prosecute anyone involving the trump administration. terms of coordination with russia during the u.s. presidential election. there's not enough evidence to go ahead and find that anyone obstructed justice, that the president did not obstruct justice, that the bottom line, they quote the special counsel in this letter, as saying while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. that's a direct quote from robert mueller's findings after nearly two years. evan perez is getting more information for us. what else are you learning? >> well, wolf, again, the top line is really the most important part of this investigation, the 22 months, very exhaustive investigation that robert mueller and his team conducted. bill barr in his four-page letter to members of congress takes a quote directly from robert mueller's report. i think it's the most important one we have to read. it says, quote, the investigation did not establish
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that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in its election interference activities. that means nobody was involved in koocoordinating, conspireing with the russians on the disinformation campaign, the troll farms, as well as efforts to essentially weaponize stolen e-mails from the hillary clinton campaign. all of that was being investigated as part of this investigation. in the end, the special counsel determined that there was no collusion, there was no there, there. a lot of suspicion, obviously, but nothing there to prosecute. and secondly, on the big question of obstruction of justice, the special counsel did not reach, essentially, a conclusion on that. they left it up to the attorney general. the attorney general in his letter describes that he says while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. and it essentially describes, wolf, that a lot of the behavior that we saw, frankly, was all in public, the president behaving in a manner that a lot of people
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would consider to be obstructive. they also determined -- the investigators determined they couldn't find that the president was intentionally trying to obstruct this investigation. and that's a very important part of this conclusion, obviously. again, because mueller did not arrive at a specific finding here, it was up to bill barr and rod rosenstein, who are overseeing this investigation, to make that conclusion. and in his letter, he says they made that final determination. you can bet that leaves open for members of congress who want to know more about this investigation to try to find more about the underlying proof and evidence that robert mueller found because this is where they're going to start digging in. >> and reaction is coming in from members of congress. right now manu raju is on capitol hill getting more reaction from the chairman of the judiciary committee in the house. >> yeah, that's right. the house judiciary chairman jerry nadler trying to make clear he believes this report does not exonerate the president based on what is said in this
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letter. jerry nadler just tweeted moments ago, the special counsel clearly and explicitly is not exonerating the president, and we must hear from a.g. barr about his decision and see all the underlying evidence for the american to know all the facts. now n this report, in this letter, barr does not commit to releasing the full report. he says she's going to release as much as possible under existing law and regulations, but democrats are intensifying their calls to release the full report and the underlying evidence. at the same time, republicans have a very different reaction. they're sailing this as a victory for the president. lindsey graham put out a statement calling it a great day for the president, saying the cloud of russia collusion has lifted. doug collins, the top republican on the house judiciary committee, called on jerry nadler to drop his own investigation, the democrat-led investigation into potential obstruction of justice into the white house, saying there's no reason to go forward.
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doug collins says that he hopes the democrats recognize what may be good political fodder may not be good for the country. so you see the two different narratives coming out of this. democrats say there's a lot more we need to learn. there's a lot more information that has not been put out, and they're planning to go as far as subpoenas and further if they don't get everything they're asking for. republicans say this should put the end of it, let's move on. >> certainly not the end of it. the doctors will be pressing and pressing for a whole lot more information from robert mueller and his team. let's get more legal analysis. >> well, i think with respect to the conspiracy to defraud the united states and the so-called collusion with russia, the document is pretty clear, that the special counsel didn't feel like they could identify anyone in the trump campaign or any u.s. person who met the legal standard of prosecution. whether or not there was underlying communications or what the campaign knew about that is more fuzzy with this
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brief letter. on the issue of on struk, i hbs have to say the determination that the special counsel did not make the decision on obstruction is something that i was not expecting. i think that most observers were expecting that the outcome of this report would be that the special counsel, as the chief prosecutor in the case, would make the decision whether or not the facts supported what would have been a prosecutable case, even if they decided not to prosecute it because he was the president. and so i think from the perspective of members of congress who still have a job to do, they are going to hone in on that, and there are questions about when that decision was made for the special counsel, not to make that decision, that legal determination as to whether the president committed acts that would have made an obstruction case, why that decision was made, whether that decision was made before attorney general barr became attorney general or the decision was made afterwards. i think it raises a lot of
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questions. >> it's important, but elliott, it's important to note that there's no charges going to be filed against anyone as far as so-called collusion or conspiracy or coordination with the russians in connection with the 2016 presidential election. and no charges involving obstruction of justice. >> right, but i see this document as coming in two pieces. so set aside the collusion part because they are pretty unequivocal about that. if you really read closely here, there's some interesting language. number one, there's the sentence that everybody is latching on to, which is that it does not exonerate him. they also go into the -- >> let me read that sentence. hold on one second. while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. that's a direct quote from robert mueller, the special counsel. >> they also -- but the also place in the document, i think, and we're still reading it, where they really go into the reasonable doubt standard and talk about how -- so what would have to have been proven in order to convict someone of a charge where corrupt intent.
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they're noting it's a high legal burden. what was found today was that the president or anyone connected to the campaign won't be charged by the state for things that could have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. >> that's really the important thing. when we were reading as we first got this, the quotes from barr, the way he distilled the idea of obstruction, saying that mueller couldn't find beyond a reasonable doubt evidence of the president's intent to obstruct, what he's laying out there is what he needs to have to prove a criminal charge. and we've been saying this for, you know, months now, but this is really, really important now because we're at that point. there is a very big difference between trying to get enough evidence for a criminal charge, president or not, and making a political determination on capitol hill whether or not the
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house democrats feel they will get enough information and they will get enough evidence, which they don't need it to be beyond a reasonable doubt, to start impeachment proceedings against the president for obstruction of justice. they have two different standards. very different standards. >> even if it doesn't reach the level of impeachment, there's still matters that congress and frankly the general public can look into. >> and nancy pelosi, the speaker, says she doesn't want to do impeachment unless there's bipartisan support for holding impeachment proceedings in the house of representatives. >> let me ask the lawyers a question here. the special counsel decided clearly not to come to a conclusion on obstruction, right. we don't conclude he committed a crime. it doesn't exonerate him. left it up to rosenstein and the attorney general. the attorney general said, well, we looked at all of this, and we have come to the conclusion not because you can't indict a sitting president, but we have come to the consideration that he shouldn't be prosecuted.
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is there a tension there between those two things, between the special counsel on the one hand and then the attorney general saying no? is that something that congress would then sort of start mining and say, well, why did the attorney general do this when the special counsel couldn't reach an exoneration? >> let me add jeffrey toobin to weigh in on this specific point. you're reading as closely as anyone. >> i think that's a significant point gloria raises. the issue of why the obstruction of justice decision was made by the department of justice, bob barr and rod rosenstein, and not by robert mueller is not explained in this letter. why that decision was made by barr. i think one possible explanation is that mueller said the magnitude of the decision to indict a sitting president is one that is simply too gray for
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me, the special counsel. you, the department of justice, have to recognize, you know, all the implications that there are there, including the policy that's been in place since the 1970s that a sitting president cannot be indicted. therefore, i am turning that decision over to you, main justice. and they said, in light of the evidence as we saw it, putting aside the whole issue of the policy of the president, whether the president can be indicted, we said it's not -- we don't think it's worth indicting. but that does seem like a pretty close question and worthy of further investigation. >> forget the bill barr memo saying that obstruction -- remember, before he was even attorney general, he said he didn't think it was a worthwhile investigation. he didn't think the president can obstruct justice. so you can imagine on the hill
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the democrats are going to say the man who said the investigation on obstruction shouldn't have happened in the first place is now the one deciding making this conclusion. yes, he did it with rod rosenstein, but that's what they're going to hone in on. >> this is typical of the way the doj works. aren't there situations where prosecutors want to bring charges, and they go to main justice and they say, no, you don't have enough. i think that's important for the public to understand. this is a very typical way in which investigations are done. i mean, i could be wrong. >> in a normal investigation, sure. a major investigation that would rise to the level of the attorney general, the attorney general would be the final decision maker, if that final decision had to be made. what's different about the special counsel is the special counsel, i think in this case, could have made that recommendation at least, whether or not the attorney general would decide to accept it might be a different matter.
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but i think we don't have a lot of precedent to go through in terms of this process with this special counsel. but the special counsel, i think, could have, and it would have been a legitimate use of that authority, made a recommendation to the attorney general. what looks like happened here is something went on behind the scenes. >> yes, absolutely. >> that caused the special counsel to decide. now, maybe that was made within the special counsel's office, that they just decided not to make the recommendation. >> dana, you're getting some new information. >> i just got a text from rudy giuliani, who says, briefly, it's better than i expected, statement asap. >> getting the white house response now. sarah sanders, press secretary, just tweeting, the special counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. attorney general barr and the deputy attorney general rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. the findings of the department of justice are a total and
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complete exoneration of the president of the united states. as we said, the white house hailing this as a win. >> but this is the first time the white house is publicly commenting on this. sarah put out that very muted statement on friday when mueller let barr know the investigation was over and he was done. this is the first time we've heard from them on this. now this is the first statement from sarah. you can expect to hear more from the president. >> this is why you're going to see democrats demanding the underlying documents. when you -- when the special counsel refused to say one way or another, for whatever reason, and maybe it's because he didn't interview the president of the united states. you know, that could be a reason here. we don't know. the democrats are going to now say, we want to see these underlying documents that convinced rod rosenstein, whom i will remind everyone the president once tweeted behind bars, convinced them to say no charges here. >> keep in mind, remember when
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they were going through the questioning of the president, what questions they can ask of the president. the lawyers for the president worked very hard to keep any questions out about the obstruction. >> absolutely. >> now we understand why. they were legitimately concerned about the obstruction issue. they knew on the collusion issue, they felt a little stronger about it. it seems even reading this report, this is where the special counsel's office, that's the position they took as well. >> and it may be the reason. that may be the reason it says we can't exonerate him, because they didn't talk to him. >> also, it says in cataloging the president's actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that in our judgment constitutes obstructive conduct. what was the other conduct that wasn't in public view? or was it conduct that's already been reported on? certainly the legal fight, when it comes to mueller, is over with. now there's this political fight that's looming.
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the white house knows it. they are gearing up for a subpoena fight over the full report. that would lay out whatever this conduct is that special counsel says doesn't exonerate the president when it comes to obstruction. >> elliott, you need a criminal intent. clearly in this particular case, at least the attorney general and the deputy attorney general said they didn't have enough evidence to show criminal intent. >> i want to use the words very carefully. criminal intent that could have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. there's sort of two standards that we need to pay attention to here. what it takes to deprive someone of liberty under the law, to charge someone and convict them, and what it means for a president of the united states or a campaign for the presidency to have behaved in an inappropriate manner. take away the impeachment question. to paraphrase something from the campaign, congress, are you listening? you know, they will be paying attention to the underlying documents. one more point i'm curious about
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on this question of why barr made the determination versus mueller. perhaps if mueller were to have made a decision that barr had to disagr disagree with, he would have had to notify congress. what if they said, hey, do not put us in this position of having to overrule a special counsel. >> the president, by the way, is getting ready to leave florida right now. we got a live picture we'll show you of air force one out in west palm beach. the president will be leaving mar-a-lago mar-a-lago, his resort down there in palm beach, heading back to washington. we'll see if the president says anything to the pool of reporters who are standing by, to hear if the president says anything. i assume he's going to say something at some point, if not on twitter, at least to the pool maybe. but we'll find out soon enough. manu, any more reaction up on capitol hill? >> yeah, jerry nadler making clear the fight is just
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beginning to get the full report and get the underlying evidence. democrats have been foreshadowing this for days now in saying publicly and privately that they were going to fight to get every piece of document they can related to the mueller report. they say this letter certainly is not sufficient. this is what jerry nadler just tweeted. he said special counsel mueller worked for 22 months to determine the extent of which president trump obstructed justice. attorney general barr took two days to tell the american people that while the president is not exonerated, there will be no action by doj. so clearly there are a lot of questions about exactly what the special counsel was relying on and determining not to press a case against the president but also saying he wasn't exonerated. those are the questions democrats have. jerry nadler has launched his own investigation into potential obstruction of justice. the question is what did mueller find? how will that impact what congress is going to do going forward?
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mueller did this exhaustive probe and has not found any crime. there's no point in retracing these same steps, but democrats say we need to hear more. that's where this fight is coming, in the coming days. this four-page letter does not suffice for democrats here. expect much more in the days ahead from democrats. >> all right. stand by. evan perez is getting additional reporting as well. what are you learning? >> the decision on the obstruction part of this investigation was not made by robert mueller, was made by the justice department, by rod rosenstein, but the attorney general bill barr. one of the things they talk about is that obviously they were talking about the president -- they could not establish the president had corrupt intent as part of this obstruction investigation. this is where we have to remind people that beginning in january of 2018, robert mueller and the
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president's team of lawyers started talking about doing a sit-down interview with the president. it never happened. it was a request that was repeatedly made by robert mueller. so the question is, is the reason why they were never able to answer the question of corrupt intent because the president refused to sit down with the investigators to essentially discuss what he meant by his tweets, what he meant when he told comey that he should drop the flynn thing? what was going on in his mind? obviously that was the holy grail for the president's legal team. i think this was a huge victory, obviously, that cannot be understated. the fact that the president went through this 22-month investigation and never sat down with the investigators is something that i think made a huge difference here. one reason why robert mueller probably could not even get to a conclusion here is perhaps he was not able to complete the
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investigation as far as that's concerned. now, that's going to be a question, i think, for members of congress to try to get to the bottom of, but if you look at what bill barr is describing, he's describing a scenario where the investigation could not establish that there was corrupt intent by the president. again, one reason why perhaps the investigator couldn't get to that is because the president never sat down for an interview. he answered written questions about the collusion question, but he never answered questions about obstruction. even in the written test that we spent so much time talking about, he never answered questions about obstruction. that's a huge thing. it was a game changer for this investigation. i think now, as a result of this letter, i think you're going to see members of congress wanting to talk to robert mueller, wanting to talk to the investigators to find out exactly what was going on. did they try to get a subpoena to talk to the president, and how were those discussions handled behind the scenes at the justice department?
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we know from bill barr's letter on friday that they never formally rejected a request for a subpoena. so the question is, what were those discussions behind the scenes? clearly the investigators never were able to answer that question from their standpoint, wolf. >> very important point, indeed. pamela, we're going to hear from the president probably sooner rather than later, either on twitter or when he goes to air force one and meets with the pool of reporters who are standing by. i assume he's going to say, i told you so. i said there was no collusion. i said there was no obstruction. i don't know if he's going to say this was always a witch hunt, a hoax, or anything along those lines, as he's said so many times, but he's obviously going to be gloating. >> he is. and no mistake, this is a good day for the president. this is in some ways vindication. yes, there is this line in here saying that his behavior isn't fully exonerated, according to the special counsel. it is a good day, though, for the president. however, it is important to note that sarah sanders wasn't exactly correct in her statement that she released.
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of course, the white house press secretary said, the special counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. that's not fully accurate. you just heard it from evan perez. the special counsel did not draw on conclusion. we know the written questions did not have to do with obstruction. clearly the white house is trying to frame this as an overall win on both. i think the real sticking point moving forward, especially on capitol hill, is this question of obstruction and why didn't the special counsel reach a final conclusion? what was this behavior that was concerning? i can tell you from my reporting that the special counsel in interviewing the witnesses was focus focused on the president's maifr to lie to the public and having people around him lie. they viewed this behavior as potentially a way to limit investigators, to limit the investigation. in this letter from bill barr, it does say that there was a catalog of the president's actions, most in public view, such as presumably one of the
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things we know they were investigating, the trump tower moscow statement that the president dictated on air force one that was misleading. that was one of the aspects of the obstruction probe. as we've been talking about, the case is made that the legal bar is so high to bring an obstruction case, for one, that that wasn't done. they also said that the constitutional consideration of indicting a sitting president wasn't a factor in making this decision. >> very significant information. and dana, you and i are about to get a phone interview with rudy giuliani. >> i hope so. i'm trying to get him on text. you keep talking. >> we're working on that right now. he's going to call in. we're zbogoing to discuss all t and get his reaction to this news from the attorney general of the united states. >> i just want to make a point. for any defendant in any investigation, the fact when prosecutors come and say to you, well, we don't have enough evidence to show you committed this crime, it's a win. i mean, there's a high burden, certainly in an investigation like this, that prosecutors need to meet to bring charges.
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>> especially against the president of the united states. >> and obviously this is now going to be debated for months, for years to come, to try and understand what does this exactly mean. if we were sitting here discussing a different kind of situation, a different person who was under investigation, yeah, the person essentially, they say we don't have enough evidence. we can't charge you. so the president, his team, and his lawyers certainly, a lot of the lawyers we don't know about that have been working behind the scenes r feeling pretty good right now. they did everything they can to protect him certainly from the obstruction charges, and for them this is a victory. >> and i've been communicating with some of them. they believe, look, they believed all along that if they fought this interview, that bob mueller would never subpoena, get into a subpoena fight with the president. he didn't want to drag this out. it was a fight he could potentially lose. >> all right. rudy giuliani is joining us on the phone right now, the president's personal attorney.
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mayor, thank you so much for joining us. let's get your immediate reaction. you've read this four-page, single-space letter. what do you think? >> well, i'm here with jay sekulow, my co-counsel. we think it completely exonerated the president, no collusion of any kind, which raises the question, why did this ever start in the first place? >> as to the obstruction, wolf, the key there is that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general made the conclusion that you don't have obstruction when there's no underlying crime. i think that we've said from the outset that this was a situation where there was no collusion, there was no obstruction, and now we have the weight of the department of justice agreeing with us. >> very important, though, i want to get your reaction to one line in this letter. they quote the special counsel, robert mueller, as saying, as far as obstruction of justice,
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quote, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. what's your reaction to that? >> yes, but then if you go on to the next two paragraphs, wolf, the attorney general does kind of a brilliant analysis of it. he says that he and deputy attorney general rod rosenstein have concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish the president committed obstruction of justice. then he goes even further and points out that basically under settled law, it's almost impossible to have obstruction of justice if there's no underlying crime. then he concludes with a very strong statement, in cataloging the president's actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that in our judgment, that's rosenstein and barr, constitute obstructive conduct. that is a complete exoneration
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by the attorney general and rod rosenstein. >> mr. mayor and jay sekulow, it's dana bash. i want to drill down on what you just said about the fact that the letter, the part about the obstruction, is, to use your word, the analysis of the attorney general. we're already hearing from democrats as high as the house judiciary chairman that it's only that, that this is not the determination of the robert mueller but simply the analysis of the president's hand-picked attorney general. >> let me just say one thing. no one should be complaining an independent counsel statute, which is what ken starr operated under, and a special counsel on the regulations. he's part of the department of justice and is bound by the department of justice policies and guidelines and policies in this particular case on obstruction are very clear. that's what they followed. so what robert mueller apparently did was lay out, here are all the facts. we're not saying he committed a
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crime. we're not making an exoneration. what we're doing is saying basically the department of justice, you evaluate it. they made the conclusion that there was no crime. >> so you both know as lawyers that there are different standards, the criminal standards the department of justice follows, are quite different from the standard that the house of representatives, for example, might look to for potential action against a president. and so are you concerned that is something that could still happen because it's a different question about whether or not the department of justice sees any evidence beyond a reasonable doubt? >> well, if the democratic members of congress are willing to apologize for two, three years of saying there was evidence of collusion, there's treasonous conduct, they have direct evidence of collusion, he
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was involved in collusion, if they'll apologize for that, maybe we would have a sense they'd have an objective view of this. it's also absurd to premise an obstruction case when there's no underlying crime. i don't think any sensible lawyer would ever do that. look, no crime was committed. so what is he doing? obstructing an investigation of a noncrime. and finally, it's ridiculous to say there was obstruction. we wouldn't be vaccine the mueller report if there was obstruction. >> correct. >> so mayor -- >> no one did anything wrong. >> based on your interpretation of this four-page letter, and i'm assuming both of you have already consulted with your client, the president of the united states, does he still support releasing everything to congress and the american public as he said the other day? >> the president made his statement under the regulations, wolf. it is up to the attorney general
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to determine the way in which this is released. certainly as his private lawyers, we don't engage that. >> but would you like that to happen? >> sure. i mean, i'd like it all to happen because if it doesn't, somebody's going to say there's something hidden there. let me say this for the 400th time. the president did not do anything wrong. he didn't engage in collusion. i think now that's proven beyond any doubt. and he did not engage in any kind of obstruction of justice known to man. unless he can obstruct justice somewhere in the head, this is ridiculous. >> the attorney general has the authority to determine what's public. what we don't know is what's national security information. we certainly can't waive that. what might be executive privilege, that would have to be protected under executive privilege. that's not our decision.
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grand jury material, people that may have been looked at, you're not supposed to move that forward. >> i want to be precise, jay and mr. mayor. both of you say the president didn't do anything wrong as far as obstruction of justice or collusion. if he didn't do anything wrong, i assume he has nothing to hide and that all this information that robert mueller collected should be made available to congress. >> well, we can't say that because we don't know -- we understand the facts we know. we don't know what the grand jury material would be that would affect other people or declarations made to other people. that's not a situation -- >> it's a legal mine field. for example, if you violate rule 6c, it's a criminal offense. i've spent a lot of time with a watergate prosecutor. they went to court, the judge has to made a determination. and by the way, their report was
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never made public until 27 years later. >> well, their special counsel also got fired. maybe that's not a good analogy. >> but that happened here. where's the obstruction? >> it didn't happen here. can i ask you about the presidential interview process? you were both so involved in that. >> probably not at this point. woe don we don't have the time for that. >> real quick. one question. >> on obstruction of justice, the mueller team, robert mueller got no access to the president, either in writing or orally. so how much of a game changer was that, and how much did that determine the findings on obstruction of justice if they couldn't talk to the president? >> we can't comment on what impact that had on the attorney general -- excuse me, the special counsel. we gave the president our best legal advice as to how to
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proceed under the existing president and the d.c. circuit. let's not forget the president provided 1.4 million pages of documents, dozens and dozens of witness interviews, all of that went forward. to then say you have the right to subpoena the president, which by the way we never had to litigate that issue. there was no litigation over the subpoena issue. we felt confident from the outset that we met the standards, and if there was a request for a subpoena or demand of a subpoena or the issuance of a subpoena, we would have dealt with it. we didn't have to do that. >> mr. mayor, are we going to be hearing momentarily from the president? is he getting ready to make a statement eerither by twitter o an official white house statement or speak to the pool of reporters waiting near air force one as he gets ready to leave florida, head back here to washington? >> that's up to the president.
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>> what are you hearing? >> that's up to the president. >> you think he will be making a statement though? >> that's up to the president. i don't predict what he's going to do. >> are you guys flying back to washington with the president? >> no, we're in washington. >> oh, you are. you're in washington already. >> we didn't get any sunny time. >> you're both welcome, if you're in washington, to come here to our studios and we can continue this conversation. >> we're too pale. >> thank you, wolf. thank you, team. >> thanks so much for joining us. >> our producers are telling us that they've gotten word from the pool that the president will speak. >> not surprised. knowing the president as we do -- hold on for a second. knowing the president as all of us do, he's going to gloat a little bit and certainly has the right to go ahead and gloat. go ahead, jeffrey. >> in term of what mayor giuliani and jay sekulow said, understandably they're taking a
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great deal of pride and pleasure in the exoneration of the president. there's no other word for it. the exoneration for any involvement with the collusion with russia, any sort of conspiracy to violate the law with russian interests. that is an unambiguous victory for the president. on obstruction of justice, i think they are spinning the facts as lawyers do in a favorable way for their client. the decision not to charge or accuse the president of obstruction of justice was not made by robert mueller. it was made by the president's appointees, william barr and rod rosenstein. that doesn't mean it's a wrong conclusion, but it is a very different thing from an independent conclusion. second, their assertion that you can only have obstruction of justice if it's proven that there is an underlying crime is simply incorrect under the law. it is often the case that there is an underlying crime, and that
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can be used as proof of obstruction of justice. but the idea that it is exceptional or unfair or unprecedented to charge someone with obstruction of justice when you were not charging them with the underlying crime, that's not right, and that shouldn't color the whole issue. >> let me just get one clarification, jeffrey. you were a former u.s. prosecutor. if there is a very, very sensitive, very, very high-profile case and the prosecutors and the fbi come up with all their information, wouldn't it normally, under special counsel procedures and guidelines, go up to at least the deputy attorney general if not the attorney general to decide whether or not there should be prosecution? >> well, in the ordinary course of business in a very sensitive case involving a major corporation or even a major celebrity, of course it would go
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to the attorney general or at least the deputy attorney general. however, the whole reason there is a special counsel appointed in this case is that because the president's top appointees have a conflict of interest. they are answerable to the president. they are political appointees. now, it doesn't mean they don't have the right to review mueller's decision on obstruction of justice. robert mueller, unlike kenneth starr and other independent counsels, was an employee of the department of justice. he is a subordinate of william barr. but the fact that barr made this final decision raises the question of his independence to make that final decision. that's the whole reason why you had a special counsel appointed. >> don't you think this whole obstruction question that remains unresolved goes back to
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this question of the interview? and in this statement here, barr quotes the special counsel talking about difficult issues of law and fact concerning the president's actions and intent. whether those could be viewed as obstruction. and maybe those are difficult issues because the president did not get to interview -- the special counsel did not get to interview the president of the united states. and therefore could not draw a conclusion and therefore decided to hand it over to barr because he decided for whatever reason or maybe it was mutually decided behind closed doors for whatever reason not to get into a subpoena fight with the president. >> well, i think the decision on obstruction of justice underlines how wise rudy giuliani and jay sekulow were to throw their bodies in front of
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donald trump any time he even gave a thought to giving testimony under oath to the mueller investigation. i mean, it was extremely wise to keep him away from that investigation. >> for lots of reasons. >> from that sort of interrogation. as for the rest of the evidence on obstruction of justice, let's see. it is certainly very important to suggest, to think about what this might -- you know, to know what all the evidence is. it was obviously a very close question. mueller turned it over to the department of justice, the hierarchy. and also, just another point to remember about this whole investigation. the precipitating factor to appoint robert mueller was not russia. it was the firing of james comey, which was an issue of obstruction of justice.
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that was the focus of the investigation at the beginning. it expanded to the issue of collusion, but the original focus was the firing of james comey. that's what prompted rod rosenstein to appoint mueller, and that remains unresolved here two years later. >> evan perez is getting more information. what are you learning? >> wolf, i think one of the things it's important for us to correct for the record that rudy giuliani made a remark that there's no crime, underlying crime, that you cannot charge obstruction. that's not true. jeffrey just mentioned that. certainly martha stewart is one example of someone who was charged with obstruction who essentially went to jail, went to prison as a result of trying to obstruct an investigation. she wasn't charged with an underlying crime. but what bill barr does in his letter today is very interesting because he seems to be using
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essentially the argument that you heard from jane raskin, who's one of the trump lawyers behind the scenes that you never heard about. she did a lot of the legal work, a lot of the important legal work that today frankly the president is celebrating. one of the things barr says is that the report identified no actions that in our judgment constitute on bstructive conduc. that's the argument we've heard from the trump lawyers behind the scenes, special that they viewed that he didn't have to answer any questions about obstruction because they viewed there was nothing there to even obstruct. they were calling into question the fact that rod rosenstein didn't identify a crime when he appointed the special counsel. in the end, that legal strategy, led by jane raskin, jay sekulow and their team has won the day. jeffrey used the term throw their body in front of robert mueller. that's what they did and managed
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to save the president from himself. >> everybody stand by. >> evan is totally right about the obstruction part, but we're going to hear from the president any minute now. he's on the way to the airport. we're expecting him to speak, according to the white house. but i do not think that the president is going to focus on the obstruction part here. he's going to focus on the reason all of this got started, which was not only russian interference in the election but also whether or not anyone from the trump campaign colluded. the obstruction thing says it did not clear him, did not exonerate him, but it also didn't say he obstructed justice. when it gets to collusion, it's pri pretty cut and dry. it says the special counsel, not bill barr, not rod rosenstein, mueller did not find the trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the russian government in these efforts despite multiple efforts from russians. that's what the president is going to focus on. the question of his presidency going forward is what does he do and how does he respond to the special counsel's findings that, yes, russian government actors were successful in hacking into the e-mails of democratic officials and clinton campaign officials. that's something the president
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will have to confront with vladimir putin going forward. >> we just got the first official reaction from the president of the united states, of course, on twitter. let's put it up on the screen. you can see the president and his tweet, very simple. no collusion. no obstruction. complete and total exoneration. keep america great. that's the president. no collusion, no obstruction. complete and total exoneration. keep america great. to what we heard from the president's lawyers. >> sure. a few points. it's amazing they can get a letter that's this favorable and then still manage to say things that go beyond it and are exaggeration. so for example, it does not totally exonerate him because there is a line in it that says the special counsel said that while the president didn't commit a crime, it does not exonerate him. similarly with the comments rudy
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giuliani made earlier when he says you don't need a crime -- that you need a crime in order to launch an obstruction case, there were crimes discovered in the course of this investigation. whether the president was investigated for obstructing the michael flynn case, there were crimes that michael flynn pleaded guilty to and he was charged with. with respect to the overall russian interference in the election, there were crimes the special counsel prosecuted. just one other point. on the issue that pamela had raised much earlier on whether or not the special counsel's report can be provided to congress, i don't see anything in this letter that precludes information regarding obstruction being provided to congress. >> everybody stick around. momentarily, the president is going to be making a statement to reporters down in palm beach, west palm beach, before he boards air force one to fly back to washington. let's get more reaction. democratic congressman joining
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us, member of the house intelligence committee. thanks for joining us. the president just tweeted, no collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration, keep america great. your reaction? >> once again, i think he's read different material than i have. i've read the letter, which i think it's important to remind people, was written by attorney general barr, a political appointee of the president, and not special counsel mueller. it raises just as many questions as you might well imagine. for example, with respect to the conspiracy to interfere in the election, i thought it was interesting that attorney general barr specifically said no conspireing with the russian government. of course, what we know is paul manafort met with others to share polling information. he's not officially a member of the russian government but has tied to it as well as russian intelligence. secondly, on the question of obstruction of justice, he specifically said he was not exonerating the president. all of this, though, seems to beg the question, why is it then
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that so many people over such a long -- >> all right. hold on a moment. the president is walking over to the microphones right now. stand by. >> so after a long look, after a long investigation, after so many people have been so badly hurt, after not looking at the other side where a lot of bad things, a lot of horrible things happened, a lot of very bad things happened for our country, it was just announced there was no collusion with russia, the most ridiculous thing i've ever heard. there was no collusion with russia. there was no obstruction and none whatsoever. and it was a complete and total
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exoneration. it's a shame our country had to go through this. to be honest, it's a shame that your president has had to go through this for before i even got elected, it began. and it began illegally. hopefully somebody is going to look at the other side. this was an illegal takedown that failed. and hopefully somebody's going to be looking at the other side. so it's complete exoneration, no collusion, no obstruction. thank you very much. thank you. >> very brief statement from the president of the united states, but a very tough statement, not surprisingly. the president insisting once again no collusion, no obstruction, it's a shame for our country that the president himself and that others had to go through this. he also charged that this was an illegal takedown that failed. he's calling for a new investigation of why this entire
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russia investigation was even launched. strong words from the president. we knew he would be gloating as a result of this letter from the attorney general to congress, but it's clear how angry he is. >> how many times have we heard him say no collusion? i mean, it's his mantra more than or as much as make america great again. now he can say that with the goods to back it up. he can. >> we should say it's a good thing. >> absolutely. but i also want to add he also said, total exoneration, even on obstruction of justice. as we've been talking about here, that wasn't what this letter said. the letter written by his own attorney general. they said again, to reiterate, that they didn't have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt if they were to prosecute him in a court of law to prove that, but
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they didn't say he didn't obstruct. that is not there. that is a political question that the house of representatives, now run by democrats, are going to have to grapple with how much they want to address that with regard to oversight. >> i want to make a point about something else he said. he said people were badly hurt, right. who could he be referring to? think about paul manafort, roger stone. these are people he is associated with, who he has said have been unfairly charged in this investigation. so perhaps now we will look towards pardons, certainly for paul manafort. so that could be the next step in this. they were waiting for moouellero finish. >> he says the whole thing was an illegal takedown from the start. >> federal court judges upheld the appointment of robert muell mueller and his authority. just to put that out there to fact check. >> before it was assumed pretty
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universally there would be blowback. we not only heard that from democrats but a few republicans. given all of this from bill barr and rosenstein from the findings from robert mueller, would there still be such a blowback if the president does pardon people like paul manafort, roger stone if it came down to it? what would be tthe response be? >> i think the democrats are going to demand to see everything. every single piece of paper, every document, every transcript, grand jury testimony if they can get their hands on it and release it. i don't know that barr is going to want to do as much as the democrats are going to want to do, but given the fact that there are these, what mueller referred to as difficult issue of law and fact concerning obstruction, i go think that the democrats are going to mine that because again, as we've been saying all day today, this was
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bill barr and rod rosenstein's decision not bob mueller's decision. >> and bill barr had previously said it was a fatally misconceived investigation, before he was the attorney general, and the democrats pounced on that. remember during his confirmation hearing, that was a big point of contention. if you read it closely, page three of the memo, in some ways he is exonerated by his hand-picked attorney general. i think the attorney general put that line in that the special counsel states that while the report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him. put that in there because he knows one day the report could be made public. he'll say, look, i pointed out in my letter it doesn't exonerate him. he goes on to say in his words that his behavior did not constitute obstructive conduct. >> we can't forget under the law, these laws. and the president, if we were here covering a trial of someone that was acquitted, we would be
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saying the person's been exonerated. so in the president's eyes, in his lawyers', the people associated, this is a win because they did not bring charges. >> elliott, what do you think? >> it's interesting. if you look at the comments of jay sekulow, rudy jougiuliani, the president, the main theme is the integrity. the takedown of the other side, who is the other side if it's not hillary clinton, the deep state, the unelected rod rosenstein. so what they're doing, rather than talking about the substance because they know frankly if they read the part on obstruction, they'd be wrong because they're essentially lying about it here, it's dropping public faith. i think the goal was to attack the public's faith in this. they're looking toward 2020 far more than winning any legal battles or winning anything in congress. this is speaking to voters and the president's base. >> can i just say something that's going to sound polly
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anna, but it's important? you said the other side. russia is the other side in this letter. on page two, it says very explicitly how the russian government hacked successfully into commuteputers and obtained e-mails affiliated with the democratic party. also, as part of the no collusion, no trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with russia. knowingly coordinated, not that russia didn't try to influence, which they did. >> someone will ask the question of the president at some point, what did you mean by the other side? >> i think he's been pretty clear he thinks that people like hillary clinton should be investigated. that's what he said all along. >> for getting hacked? >> he accused democrats of doing that. that's a point here. where it says that the trump campaign or anyone associated with it didn't collude with
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russia, right before that it says that, yes, russian government actors did hack into democratic e-mails, not only from the dnc but also from the clinton campaign. so saying that democrats did collude with russia as the president has said throughout the last year or so would seem to fly in the face of that. >> and it's important to note that in this four-page letter, the attorney general sent to congress, the attorney general quotes from the mueller report and says -- and this is from the mueller report. the investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in its election interference activities. shimon, that's a very, very hard statement. >> congress can do what they want. they can try to dive into this, but trust me. i think if the fbi thought that existed, they would not allow the mueller or the department of justice not to bring charges. for the fbi, this has been one of the most important in terms
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of russia interference and what the russians are doing. it's been one of the most important investigations for them. i want to make a small point. i think perhaps bill barr is going to take some heat for this in the way he wrote this. keep in mind that the special counsel team and the department of justice waited for bill barr to get in there, to be appointed before they made -- before mueller transmitted his report to them. they did not want whitaker, who obviously was there as the president -- >> but was mueller not done? >> he was done, but our understanding has been they wanted to wait for whitaker to get in there. ping t if there was some conspiracy here at the department of justice to now bring charges against the president, they could have done it when whitaker was here. >> denny heck, member of the intelligence committee, is with us. i still want to get your reaction to what we just heard from the president of the united states. he says it was a shame that our
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country had to go through this. he said it began illegally. it was an illegal takedown from failed. no obstruction, no collusion, complete vindication. that's from the president of the united states. >> well, obviously what the president said is demonstrably not true as it relates to the obstruction of justice exoneration because there was no exoneration, period, full stop. he did say something that i agreed with, however. he said that great harm had been done to america, but the harm that was done to america was during the 2016 presidential election. we simply cannot tolerate, allow, or abide by a foreign government interfering in our decision making. i want to remind the viewers that for months and months and month, the president claimed that there was no interference by russia, whatsoever. despite the fact his entire intelligence community concluded the opposite. so again, i think this begs the question as to why is it that so many people so close to the president are going to jail for
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having lied. he's also characterized this as a witch hunt. well, if it was a witch hunt, there were a lot of witches found. their names were flynn and cohen and manafort and right on down the line. >> the report from robert mueller specifically says there was russian interference in the election. the report outlines what the russian government did in connection with all of these efforts to influence the u.s. presidential election in 2016. but it then quotes from the mueller conclusion, saying, and i'll read it one more time, get your reaction, congressman. the investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in its election interference activities. so yes, the russians interfered, but robert mueller could not conclude that officials from the trump campaign coordinated or worked with the russians in that effort. >> actually, those are the words of mr. barr, i believe. >> no, that's a quote -- that's
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a direct quote from the barr letter. it quotes the mueller report. then it puts it in quotes. this is from the barr letter. quote, the investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in its election interference activities. that's a direct quote from the special counsel's conclusion. >> and on your show and others for a year and a half, i have been defending the honor, the integrity, and the professionalism of bob mueller. once i see his report, if that, taken within a broader context, is what he's asserting, then i'm more than willing to acknowledge it. this is a letter written by attorney general barr, selectively quoting that. i think it's very curious as to why he said russian government because as we know, oftentimes the way the russian government, intelligence community operates is through cut-outs or people who don't work specifically for the government but work on behalf of the russian government. it just begs this question again as to the importance and
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necessity for the entire mueller report to be revealed. it needs to be a transparent process. 80% of the american public wants this to happen, including republicans. the u.s. house of representatives unanimously passed a resolution calling for the report to be released in its entirety. >> all right. we've just lost our connection with denny heck, but a very important development unfolding right now. wement we want to welcome our viewers here in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. only moments ago president trump reacted to the summary of robert mueller's findings, claiming he was totally exonerated, calling it an illegal takedown, the entire russia investigation that failed. that's from the president of the united states. robert mueller did not find that president trump, his campaign, or his associates conspired with russia according the attorney general, william barr. barr also s

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