tv CNN Newsroom With Ana Cabrera CNN March 24, 2019 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
separate. >> and why -- your reporting is ev even -- he didn't read the letter and approve it. >> in the letter friday he said it would be mueller's principle conclusions. that's not the case. on page three he didn't have a principal collusion. it's barr's that there wasn't obstruction of justice. >> everybody stand by. this is cnn breaking news. >> i want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i am wolf blitzer in washington. after nearly two years, we now know the main conclusions of robert mueller's russia information. a four-page single-spaced summary was released by the attorney general of the united states, bill barr. part of the report reading and i'm quoting now. the investigation did not kid not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or
coordinated with the russians government in its election interference activities. rudy giuliani told us the findings were better than he expected and president trump just responded as well. >> it was a complete and total exoneration. it's a shame that our country had to go through this. to be honest, it's a shame that your president has had to go through this. this was an illegal takedown that failed. and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at the other side. >> it comes to the question of obstruction, the attorney general barr said mueller did not have enough evidence to prosecute but could not exonerate the president. this is all far from over. right now top democrats are already calling for the full mueller report to be released immediately. and the house judiciary committee chairman jerry nad ler says his committee will be
calling for the attorney general bill barr to testify soon. laura is over at the justice department. she's been watching all of this unfold. laura, what's the latest investigation you're getting? >> well, the latest we're getting is what happens next. as capitol hill is champing at the bit to get every last piece of the underlying materials here, this is not mueller's report. this is attorney general bill barr's report. and as he explains here, he's working with the special counsel as well as the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, and another select group of advisers trying to figure out what else can be produced here. the main issue on that is the fact that there is grand jury material potentially exposed by simply turning over the report. i'm told by a senior justice department official that this team of advisers is already working. that process has begun to try to figure out how to scrub the report and figure out what is left to be turned over to congress and by extension, the
public. the other interesting part about this four-page memo from barr that sort of lays out the obstruction of justice case ais to note how mueller punted on that issue even though he was the special counsel appointed to try to figure out what gets to the bottom -- what the president's intent on that issue is. it makes it pretty clear mueller says there's evidence on both sides. he punted to the attorney general to get to that question. and the attorney general found there wasn't corrupt intent and they couldn't make a nexus to a criminal proceeding. of course, he couldn't assess the criminal intent. mueller never sat down with the president. >> laura, sand tand by. manu raju is on capitol hill. >> top democrats are not satisfied with this four-page letter. they're saying they can't trust what bill barr said. they want to see all the
evidence that led bob mueller to reach these conclusions. they want to see the full report demanding the public release and release to capitol hill as part of -- as democrats try to pursue their own investigations in the days and weeks ahead. pelosi and schumer said it raises as many questions and answers. jerry nadler made clear he wants to hear from bill bar in a public testimony before his committee. he said in light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making of the justice department where mueller did not exonerate the president, we'll be calling attorney general barr in to testify in the near future. now, republicans have a much different reaction. they're saying this is a complete vindication for the president and exoneration. a great day for the mpresident. they're saying it's time to move on, not retrace the steps as
part of the obstruction investigation. lindsey graham saying in a statement good day for the rule of law. great day for president trump and his team. no collusion and no obstruction. the cloud hanging over president trump has been removed by this report. but, of course, a lot of questions about how bob mueller reached these conclusions. will the justice department provide congress with the full report or the underlying evidence? bill barr said in that letter he would -- his goal was to release as much as possible under the law, under the regulations and abiding by justice department policy. a lot of questions tonight about exactly what that means. >> we'll see how much he releases and what the democrats do about that. manu, stand by. abbie is with us. the president is clearly feeling pretty good about these findings. >> reporter: that's right. our sources are telling us the president who spent the weekend in florida is in a fairly jovial mood as he returns to washington
on air force one. he stopped and talked to reporters a little bit before he got on that airplane, and he said this was a complete and total exoneration. his campaign and his aides are saying it is a vindication for a president who has been saying no collusion and no obstruction for two years now. now, the white house is not making a distinction. that distinction you've been talking about between the findings on collusion and the findings on obstruction. because they're focusing on how they can use this to move the president forward. they're thinking about 2020 and they're thinking about how to fire back at a democratic majority in the house. wolf, i want to point you to two things the president talked about in his comments with reporters. he talked about the many people hurt by the investigation. many of his associates who were charged with crimes, are facing prison time as a result of some of the findings of this investigation. and he also asked why the justice department or people are not looking into the other side. now, it's likely that he's
referring to the clinton campaign which he's been saying the people colluding with the russians he said. but these are two points we should focus in on as we look at the next steps for president trump. president trump at this moment is not backing down on this. he called this an illegal attempt at a takedown of his administration that failed. and i think he is really planning at this moment for fighting back. he's not going to just let the mueller report go by the wayside. and it's worth noting he didn't talk about russian interfeern. that was part of the findings of the mueller report. he didn't thank robert mueller for his work. the president is irritated that as he said, he had to go through all this through the first two years of his presidency. >> important points. on by, i know you're getting more reaction. the president on his way back to the white house from florida. air force one should be landing fairly soon, we're told. our chief legal analyst jeffrey
toobin has been watching owl of th -- all of this. give us your perspective on what's folding in the united states over the last few hours. >> reporter: well, this has been an enormous investigation. and the first part of bob barr's letter really sums up the number of interviews. 500 interviews. hundreds of subpoenas. swarnlts. forei -- search warrants. the thoroughness of the investigations can scarcely be doubted based on what we know now. and there were two general areas that mueller was investigating. and they really never changed from day one. the first was what came to be called collusion. which was the involvement of the trump campaign or anyone connected to donald trump with the acknowledged efforts by the russian government and people and entities affiliated with the
russian government to help trump win the election and hurt hillary clinton's campaign. and there were two criminal cases brought as a result of that investigation. one involving the use of social media to help trump and hurt clinton. and another involving the hacking of the e-mails by -- e-mails of democrats and people affiliated with the democrats. and there have been a lot of suspicion about that, about people like roger stone and paul manafort with -- who has some interactions with the russians. and of course, there was the famous trump tower meeting in june of 2016 with donald trump junior and the -- paul manafort and the president's son-in-law was there as well. the conclusion for all of that for mueller repeated by barr today was that there was no illegal activity there. that no one affiliated with the
president or his campaign directly or indirectly helped the russians sabotage this campaign. and it's an enormously important point. the second general area in the investigation is the one that prompted the appointment of mueller in the first place which is james comey's firing by donald trump as fbi director, and the question of whether that action and other actions that the president took were an obstruction of justice, a criminal act. and here the result of mueller's investigation is sufficiently -- is considerably more ambiguous, because mueller apparently, and this is a -- it's confusing as presented by barr here, did not reach a conclusion about whether there was a criminal act by the president. he apparently sort of turned over the evidence both pro and con to mueller himself, to barr,
and the attorney general himself to make that determination. mueller did not make a recommendation about obstruction of justice. barr in consultation with his deputy attorney general, rod rosen ti rosenstein concluded based on the evidence presented to him from mueller -- and he did it fast. he only got the evidence on friday. a two-year investigation, and he concluded today that there was no basis to pursue an obstruction of justice charge against the president. and it's very important that in mueller's letter, and what is certain to be a frequently quoted passage from mueller's report that was quoted by barr, he said while the report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. certainly congress is going to want to see the underlying basis for that conclusion and that is
sort of where we go now. congress is going to have to take over that part of the investigation if it's so inclined. >> it's very significant, because the -- as you connectly point out, the special counsel said that while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him, but then the attorney general bill barr and the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein in their analysis of what they got from mueller, they say they have concluded that the evidence developed during the special counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense. so that's what the conclusion of the attorney general and the deputy attorney general was the special counsel, he stopped short of that. >> reporter: that's exactly right. and what is different about what we saw and what we expected was
that it was barr and rosenstein, the president's appointees who made the ultimate conclusion about obstruction of justice. not the special counsel, mueller. and what's even stranger about that is that it was the whole reason why mueller was appointed was that the hierarchy of the department of justice has an inherent conflict of interest when investigating the president of the united states. so the issue of how and why it was barr and rosenstein who came to reach this conclusion about obstruction of justice and not mueller himself is something very much worthy of investigation. i'm not saying it's corrupt. i'm not saying it's improper, but it is certainly not required by the regulation under which mueller was appointed, and how it came to be that barr made the con -- reached the ultimate
conclusion about obstruction of justice and not mueller, that's something that congress is certainly going to want to investigate. >> very significant development indeed. gloria borger, let's get your analysis right now he's very firm, mueller in saying there was no collusion, not very 23ir78 on the issue of obstruction of justice. >> and i think to add onto what jeffrey is saying, i think what congress wants to get the answer to is why did the special counsel pass on the question of obstruction of justice? why did the special counsel -- we know that the -- from the barr letter that the special counsel views the difficult issues of law. in fact -- >> gloria, hold on for one moment. we lost your mike for a second. we're going to fix that. i want to go to david watching this unfold as well. and david, you have a unique perspective. you've seen a lot of these activities over the many years you've worked for four u.s. presidents. you've now gone through probably several times reading this
letter for the attorney general to congress. what do you think? >> reporter: well, i think overall it is very clear and very significant decision in favor of the president, and i think it's probably one of the most important things that's going to happen this term. it doesn't obviously change who he is. his temperament, his fitness for office on other issues, but this has obvious and clear implications for the 2020 race. beyond that, though, i think there are two other things that are significant. there was also good for the country in one fundamental sense. and that is it's important for us to not believe our president is a crook, that our president conspired. they didn't conspire. and that's a good thing. they did a lot of things that were suspicious, but they didn't conspire. i think that's healthy for the country. there's another group that won a victory here in this, in my judgment. that was the department of justice. the people have done this investigation and have been under enormous not only just pressure but all sorts of
attacks. they're angry partisan democrats. they were trying to bring down the president and low and behold, they defended the president and found him basically not guilty on count one, and i think that shows that this was an impartial group. then we ought to show a lot of respect for their findings. whether we like it or not, and there are many, many people out there that are going to be extremely disappointed by this outcome. but this was a way, a good way a country settles significant disputes. we do it through the rule of law, and i think that's to be celebrated. >> it's clear, david, that the democrats on capitol hill are not happy with this conclusion that there was no collusion or conspiracy or cooperation between the trump campaign and the russians. >> well, i can understand why they're disappointed. they thought this was -- there have been so many things that have been suspicious about this, and when the president today
which i thought was an inappropriate remark just a short while ago that this was an illegal takedown that failed. it's worth remembering that what set this investigation off, what triggered it was suspicious activity by people who worked in the trump campaign. and that was picked up by our counterintelligence people. that's when the ball started rolling toward this investigation. so i think we can question aspects of the investigation as jeffrey did and is an admirable summary of what was stated today. but i think nonetheless, we have had a fair now and a very thorough investigation, and on the fundamental question of a conspiracy, they just didn't find the evidence. and by the way, that's what the house intelligence committee has said, and the senate intelligence committee basically have said. they haven't found serious conspiracy. >> yeah. that's an important point as well.
we're getting new information, significant information. pamela brown and laura are working their sources. pamela, first to you. >> we learned the special counsel's office deliberated with top doj officials about issuing a subpoena to interview president trump which would have been a significant investigative step. the decision was made to not issue a subpoena. we know robert mueller and his team had asked the trump legal team to interview the president on multiple occasions. they were rebuffed. they were sensitive discussions between robert mueller's team and doj officials about whether it was necessary to take that step in this investigation looking at possible collusion and obstruction of justice. but ultimately we're told that the officials, they weighed everything. they looked at what they had, and they didn't believe that the evidence had the merits to pursue a subpoena. that this was separate from the notion that you cannot -- that a
president cannot be indicted as is doj policy, but beyond that, we're told that they didn't feel like they had the evidence and the merits to pursue a subpoena. this is significant far couple reasons. the question has been raised by did mueller capitulate and he didn't pursue the interview. he was able to wrap up this investigation without getting that sit-down interview. we know written questions were submitted this last fall having to do with activity before the election, but nothing having to do with obstruction. now we're learning, our team, are learning that there were these deliberations internally to not issue a subpoena. important to point out bill barr in his letter to congress on friday said there were no requests denied. that is because these were just discussions. robert mueller never made the formal request to issue a subpoena and was rejected by the deputy attorney general at the time. >> very significant development. critically important issue why the president of the united states was not subpoenaed to
actually sit down and answer questions orally. did so in writing. written questions and answers but not an oral interview. laura, what else are you picking up? >> it's clear you see a glimpse of this in attorney general bill barr's letter to congress today. obviously he wasn't here at the justice department when all of these sensitive discussions are ongoing between the justice department and the special counsel's office on the other hand. but you see in barr's letter how the justice department really didn't believe they had a prosecutable case on collusion or conspiracy issues between the trump campaign and russian officials. on the obstruction of justice issue either. at least from barr's perspective. from mueller's perspective, he thought there was evidence on both sides of the question and so he left the question unresolved, punting to the attorney general bill barr because of their difficult issues of law and fact. so on the obstruction issue, he thought there was at least a close call there.
you see why they did at least raise the issue of the subpoena. it wasn't off the table. and that's something new. we didn't know before what exactly those internal discussions looked like, whether they thought it was even worth going down that road. ultimately they decided not to pursue it. but the fact that it was even raised at all is significant. >> it certainly is. evan, you're working your sources as well. this is an important new piece of information we're picking up. >> it is. and i think this is where certainly members of congress will have to ask more questions of what exactly these deliberations look like. what exactly happened behind the scenes. because we know that the president never sat down for an interview. we know mueller wanted an interview. we know all the way through october. again, for about a year there was these -- there were these negotiations back and forth about sitting down, having the president answer questions and it was the president's legal team that put rails around this. first they said he shouldn't
have to answer any questions before his inauguration. there was certainly a different standard with regard to a sitting president. and so one of the things that they did is again, some very good legal work from the team, and even going back to john doud and ty cob. there was good legal work that protected the president from his own behavior. in the end it looks like what happened is mueller raised the idea of a subpoena. rod rosenstein and his team looked at it. they had a back and forth, and mueller never formally made a request for a subpoena. >> that could be because there was potentially no charges to be brought. right? >> right. >> so because of that reason, what's the purpose of subpoenaing the president? it's significant that they even thought about doing this. we spent how many months trying to figure out if this was going to happen.
even up until i think last week we were wondering what could be the delay in this report? is there some chance that they're still trying to subpoena the president? and this was something that the president's lawyers -- as evan said, and people around him are always concerned. then the issue is going to be well, does the president take the fifth? do they allow him to go ahead into the grand jury alone without his lawyers and testify? but significant in that they even thought about it. obviously we don't know the deliberations that went into it and ultimately what was decided and we may never know. >> are we going to get the written q and a that the president did with the special counsel robert mueller? it would be really important to see that. >> because this investigation technically now is closed, wolf. we may see that. we may see that in some form as we did in the hillary clinton investigation. >> i'm communicating with sources involved in this peripherally and directly. and i think the feeling is that
if you have these informal discussions, and you're told informally you don't have enough for a subpoena, then you know you don't have enough to charge the president. and that if these conversations were going on, that helps explain why mueller was so vague in his report, because clearly he wanted to interview the president. he wanted to interview the president. and he wasn't going to get to do that. and so he wasn't going to reach a conclusion, and he left it up to barr, then, or the question that i have is did he really leave it up to bar or did he want to leave it up to congress to make that decision? and barr and rosenstein decided okay, they're going to make the decision. but it could have gone another way. . >> but in any situation, let's say he was trying to leave it up to congress. maybe that's technically his job, but in the real world levering
leaving it up to a partisan congress is risky business. >> and the idea you're subpoenaing someone who is part -- who is a target of an investigation. the department of justice, it's -- i don't know, it seems to me they don't normally do that. >> you don't normally do that. >> would they have done that in this case given he's the target. >> but they did ask written questions? >> they did. very different because it's not under oath. you can't -- >> but if he would have lied in the written answers, that is under oath. >> that was before -- that was -- >> you can't lie to the fbi. >> but that was about collusion, wolf. that was before he became president. >> phil mud is with us. i want to bring in phil mudd. he used to work at the cia. he's our counterterrorism analyst. phil, remember the first mission of robert mueller, he received a letter on may 17, 2017. his mission was to find, quote, any links and/or coordination between the russian government
and individuals associated with the campaign of president trump. well, we now know the answer to that. mueller has concluded there was no such coordination or links. >> that's sort of true. let's step through a few pieces. let me take three in particular. number one, the russian piece. the indictments by the mueller team clearly indicate that at the russian end there are people responsible for conspireing on the russia side to interfere with the elections in america. the special concluded that there are not individuals on the american side who are responsible for conspireing with the russians to undermine an american election, but there are other pieces of this. one, did people obstruct? obviously the special counsel came out in the middle and said we investigated this. we'll leave it up to the prosecutors, that is the attorney general to determine
whether we should prosecute something we think is a little bit questionable. the attorney general said no. there is one final question, wolf, and that is where i think the president has been genius. the question is not simply whether the law was violated in terms of whether people did things that were inappropriate with the russians. the question for the american people is do you think that the activities undertaken by people in the circle of the president of the united states or for a candidate to be the president of the united states, do you think those activities were appropriate? i think if you look at everything we've seen with the genius of the president, it's been to raise the bar to say i don't care whether the activities of don junior or other people in my circle were appropriate. the only bar is whether they are illegal. i think that's the genius of the president. the bar is now whether things are illegal, not just whether they're inappropriate. >> and the congress can investigate inappropriate activities, but for all practical purposes, phil, the justice department as a whole
has concluded it's over. >> sort of. i mean, if you look at the basic pillars of the investigation, collusion with the russians, the special counsel says no. obstruction, the special counsel as we just discussed says over to the department of justice and the attorney general, and i think he's supportable on this. i support him and rosenstein said no. there is one word that doesn't appear significantly in the special counsel's final four-page document interpreted by the department of justice. money. what happened to manafort? money. what happened to gates? money. what happened to cohen? dirty money. when we're talking about exoneration of the president and his circle, we could talk about participation and conspiracy related to the election. we could talk about obstruction of the investigation, but if you look at indictments already, several of them, the most significant including manafort are money, and if you look at what the southern district is investigating, i suspect money.
i agree with the president, and i agree with the white house. this is a victory in a sense. i don't think it's a victory for the american people. but it's a victory for the white house, but there is still an outstanding question. how much dirty money are we going to find and are there further indictments on dirty money? i'm not sure. >> there's a lot of other investigations that are still continuing. phil, stand by. i want to play with the president of the united states said as he was heading back from florida as he was about to board air force one. >> 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 happened, 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 exoneration. it's a shame that 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. and hopefully somebody is going to look at the other side. this was an illegal takedown that failed. and hopefully somebody is going to be look agent the othing at . so it's complete exoneration. no collusion. no obstructioobstruction.
thank you very much. thank you. >> april, what's your reaction? >> listening to what the president had to say, yeah, wolf, listening to what the president had to say, he is not fully exonerated. as we know, there are investigations still happening. but what we do know over the weekend is that the president and those around him were -- the mood was victorious. we were hearing there were high fives in mar logo ovw -- mar-a- over the weekend. the president has a brand victory. he also has a public perception victory. because the original mandate for the investigation was collusion. he is not found guilty of collusion in this report. but he was wrong talking about the issue of obstruction of justice. that is still lingering out
there, and now the question is if the house oversight government reform, if intelligence and if judiciary will decide to take this up. and nancy pelosi could actually offer more money for these committees to actually investigate. but the problem is and this is what the president is banking on and this is why he feels it could be a victory. because the messaging. if there is an overreach or perception of overreach, the president wins, because mueller's report said that he was not found guilty of collusion, but there is still obstruction of justice. the president is taking this as a big victory. >> he certainly is. and i suspect dana, we're going to be hearing a lot more from the president. he's about to land here in washington aboard air force one. he made that brief statement as he was boarding. he also made a quick little tweet, no obstruction, no collusion and all of that. but i suspect we're going to hear more. >> somebody was asking why
didn't he wait and do a big event? why, because he's the president of the united states who has been saying this mantra, no collusion for so long, and now he has this at least summary to help prove his point. to vindicate him, and so he has been champing at the bit to say that with this report, and he has the chance to do it. he's no question going to do it over and over again, and you know what? you can't blame him. >> yeah. i always suspected that if it was going to be really happy with the report and clearly he is, very happy with this report, gloria, that there would be an oval office address to the nation. that the white house would call the networks and say the president is about to make a statement. >> who knows? that didn't happen today. i was sort of wondering on the witch hunt question and the angry democrats on team mueller and everything else whether the president would actually say something about the justice department, but that didn't
happen. he started talking about the illegal investigation. >> and it is not. >> exactly. >> to be clear, this is a legal, important investigation. it's an important investigation -- >> the president you heard he said it was an illegal takedown that failed. >> he would not be so generous as to say that, in fact, the justice department had done its job. bob mueller had done his job. bill barr had done his job, and rosenstein who he once tweeted a picture of behind bars had done his job, but we're not going to hear any of that from the president. from the democrats, it's clear to me when you look at what schumer and pelosi released today, they do not believe that they have -- that this should end. and they're going to demand every piece of paper because the question out there, and i keep coming back to this question about the interview with the president. the question that is out there is about obstruction. and mueller did not come down
one way or another, and they want to know why, and they want to know why barr did without interviewing the president. i think that is -- the president's lawyers are to be commended on this for throwing themselves in front of this -- in front of a bus and saying you're not going to interview the president here, but mueller said i can't decide on this. you know -- >> especially -- >> or exonerated him and barr -- and rosenstein said we are deciding. >> especially if you consider that donald trump for the better part of two years has made so much about hillary clinton's interview. and the circumstances, and even made up stories about how, well, the fact that she wasn't under oath, which, by the way, doesn't matter. he's made such a big deal about hillary clinton's interview with the fbi in the fourth of july weekend in 2016. this is going to be a big focus for the democrats for the politics. >> and the statement from the
president's legal team, rudy giuliani, and others, concluded with the words this is a complete and total vindication of the president. >> for any attorney, you have to think of it this way. if it wasn't donald trump, it was someone else being investigated and you know your client has been investigated for two years and prosecutors, top level prosecutors at the department of justice, the attorney general says there's not enough here, we're not pursuing charges, yeah, it's complete vindication in their eyes. the other thing i want to make a point in what the president said. in talking about how people were badly hurt. he made a point to mention that in his remarks. and so now we look forward to when we talk about the future is pardons and whether or not people -- even michael fli-- fl, the president feels bad for bad for what happened to paul manafort. and roger stone.
that's ongoing. >> and rick gates. the deputy chairman. >> well, he's still cooperating. >> he hasn't been sentenced. >> not so much. >> not so much. >> but you know this is on the back of the president's mind. and his attorneys have done a tremendous job here in the end of trying to keep him from firing mueller, trying to keep him from pardoning people. keeping him away from the fbi agents and the special counsel team when they wanted to sit and talk to him. >> a lot of people made fun of the president's legal team. obviously there's a lot of people who declined the offer when the president wanted to hire them. >> at lot of people is generous. most people. >> they got very good lawyers who protected this president, even despite the president's own efforts to hurt himself. >> and don't forget, early on an interview was scheduled with the president. remember? we did that story at camp david in january. >> yeah. >> they were all set to do an interview, and then john doud pulled it back who was the
president's attorney at the time. you have these new attorneys coming, the raskins who have done a job and said we're not going to let -- and jay, we're not going to let the president anywhere near an interview. that was a moment when the president could have been interviewed, and he wasn't. >> you know what's interesting? there's the interview part, and then the idea of the president and his team, especially since it changed and they became so much more aggressive toward robert mueller, spent so much time trying to delegitimize his report and his investigation. now they're saying it vindicates him. can they have it both ways? >> they will. >> an -- i'm not sure. >> we're also getting reaction from the 2020 democratic presidential candidates, bernie sanders tweeted this. quote, i don't want a summary of the mueller report. i want the whole damn report.
kamala harris tweeted the mueller report needs to be made public. the juntds lying investigative materials should be made public. that's what transparency looked like. a short letter from the president's hand picked attorney general is not sufficient. what's the reaction? >> i think the democratic presidential candidates have been smart to issue those comments. the public does support giving over the report and making it public and transparent. the underlying part of it can be examined. i think that's reasonable. i must say on both sides some of the activists in washington, it seems to me, are creating narratives that they may welcome to regret. it's totally understandable as everyone is saying. that they -- the trump people are celebrating. i understand that. when the president calls it an illegal takedown, an illegal
takedown, that's a vindictive view. they'd be well advised to remember churchill. a little generosity would go a long way here. if they're going to come back and just be vindictive and continue on that train, i think there are going to be a lot of people in the middle who would be open to coming over and be more supportive of the president who will find that kind of argument insufferable. this whole investigation started because of suspicious activities about people around the president. and so it was important and legal to do it. now, the democratic side, i must say this obstruction issue, while i think it's important to get into it, i think the democrats are going to have a hard time getting the public to swing behind this, because there's no underlying crime. and they're going to say what difference? if there's partial obstruction, the critical question was was there a conspiracy?
and an exhaustive investigation found there was not. that's pretty darn important. i think the democrats are going to have to start thinking more 2020 and about what they have to offer the country as opposed to making this simply a referendum on trump. >> air force one has just touched down at joint base andrews outside of washington d.c. in suburban maryland. the president should be getting off air force one fairly soon. we'll see if he stops and makes another statement to reporters who will gather at the bottom of the stairs and see if he says something before getting off and heading back to the white house. jim acosta, our chief white house correspondent is joining us. jim, are you getting any indication we're going to hear from the president again? >> reporter: not just yet. it sounds as if he has more to say. he didn't say much when he got on the plane there in florida about an hour and a half ago. so i assume he'll have more to say if and when he lands over here at the white house.
in the mood to talk, i suppose. that really is the bottom line here. and what his advisers have been telling him on air force one on his way back to d.c. wolf, i spoke with trump advisers in the last several minutes who said listen, make no mistake, in the next several days in the fallout of the release of this letter from the attorney general about the mueller report, expect trump and his team to as this adviser put it, slam and shame the media. they feel very strongly inside trump world, trump campaign, inside the white house inside the president's legal team that the media is culpable in all of this, and that they plan to make this very clear in the coming days. you heard the president talk a little bit about his feelings of a couple hours ago when he got on air force one and said this was an illegal investigation, an ill legitimate investigation. i think you'll hear more language like that. in the words of the trump
adviser, this is al capone's vault all over again. that's in reference to the live tv expose about al capone's vault that ended up -- that's how they feel. i talked to a separate trump adviser source close to the white house who said listen, in terms of the next coming steps, they're just trying to enjoy this moment. they feel vindicated in all of this. there is going to be this question of pardons and will the president be issuing pardons in this investigation. according to the source, other source close to the white house i spoke with, it's way too early to have that conversation in terms of how the president is going to be doing all of this. but in the words of this other adviser, you're much better off being a paul manafort at this point than you are being a michael cohen has paul manafort demonstrated throughout his entire ordeal, he stayed loyal to the president, and obviously is in a much better position for
a pardon if the president decides to issue one than michael cohen. and nobody likes a rat in jail and so i suppose they still have some tough feelings about michael cohen. jerry nadler is speaking. >> outlining his summary of the report while making a few questionable legal arguments of his own. i take from this letter three points. first, president trump is wrong. this report does not amount to a so-called total exoneration. special counsel mueller was clear that his report, quote, does not exonerate, kwoclosed quote, the president. the special counsel spent 22 months uncovering evidence of obstruction and other misconduct. attorney general barr who auditioned for his role with an
open memorandum suggesting the obstruction investigation was uncon when shl and that it was almost impossible for any president to commit obstruction of justice since he's the head of the executive branch, made a decision of that in under 48 hours. his conclusions raise more questions than they an given the fact that mueller uncovered evidence that in his own words does not exonerate the president. it is uncon whenable that president trump would try to spin the special counsel's findings as if his conduct was remotely acceptable. second, given these questions, it is imperative that the attorney general release the full report and that underlying evidence. the entire unfiltered report as well as the evidence underlying that report must be made available to congress and to the american people.
as much information as can be made public should be made public without delay. i intend to fight for that transparency. we will ask the attorney general to testify before the house judiciary committee. we will demand the release of the full report. the american people are entitled to a full accounting of the president's misconduct referenced by the special counsel. third, the attorney general's comments make it clear that congress must step in to get the truth and provide full transparency to the american people. the president has not been exonerated by the special counsel. yet, the attorney general has decided not to go further or apparently to share the findings with the public. we cannot simply rely on what may be a hasty partisan interpretation of the facts. earlier this month the house passed a resolution calling for full and complete release of the special counsel's report by a vote of 420 to nothing.
we now call on the attorney general to honor that request to release the report and the underlying evidence and to appear before the judiciary committee to answer our questions without delay. that's the statement. thank you. i'll take a few questions. >> inaudible question -- >> i can't here you. >> the president's legal team is saying this is an exoneration. it's opposite the special counsel and what they're saying. >> well, as you point out, the president and his people are saying it's a total exoneration. that contradicts with the special counsel found. it's a lie about what the special counsel found, but we should not be surprised that they lie anymore. >> reporter: and you mentioned on twitter you're going to ask the attorney general to appear before the committee. >> yes. >> reporter: would you be willing to use subpoena power if
necessary? >> sure. i would hope that it would not be necessary to use subpoena power to get the attorney general to appear before the committee. we also want to see the full report and if necessary, we'll use subpoena power to get that, too. >> reporter: are you worried that executive privilege could be exercised in some of these unknowns on the inside? >> well, the president could try to exercise executive privilege, but it won't be successful. executive privilege must be asserted by the president personally, and as the nixon case in front of the court was decided 9 to nothing pointed out -- executive privilege cannot be used to shield or hide wrong doing. in the case of nixon, the tapes of his personal conversations with people were ordered revealed by the court. i don't think that executive privilege will be a successful defense here. >> reporter: can you -- >> other questions? there's other questions?
>> >>. [ inaudible question ] . >> it is fair. i questioned it if you listen to what i said. he auditioned for his job by writing a 19-page memorandum giving an extreme view of obstruction of justice and presidential power and saying basically that no president could -- >> all right. looks like we've lost that connection with jerry nadler. we got the gist of what he's saying. he's the chairman of the house judiciary committee. he wants bill barr to come before the committee and testify. there you see the president of the united states has just landed outside washington, d.c. in suburban maryland. i'm curious to see if the president in addition to waving is going to go over and speak to reporters, once again, as he did just before taking off from west
palm beach earlier in the day. he's going to be heading over to the white house. he's obviously right now, dana, very, very happy man, given the report that rod rosenstein released. the president clearly not speaking to reporters. looks like he's walking over to marine one that will take him from joint base andrews over to the south lawn of the white house. maybe we'll hear from him later tonight. abby phillip is over at the white house. what are you hearing? >> hey, wolf. just as air force one land aid few minutes ago, we're getting a little more information from the aides to the president who were on the plane with him. the first thing is that they still as of this moment have not read or been briefed on the mueller report. that was true on friday when we first learned that the mueller report was finished and as of right now, they still have not seen that entire document or have been -- nor have they been briefed on it. in the meantime, president trump is in high spirits, according to
his aides. he told his deputy press secretary hogan gidley, this is very good. you let them know it is good. that's the message he wanted to deliver to reporters. and as he was flying back from florida, the president was watching television coverage on all of this. he was talking to his aides about the findings. and interestingly, wolf, he was rereading that barr letter that outlined no collusion, and in his view, no obstruction. although i have to repeat, that was not as clear-cut as the white house and president want to make it. but the president is poring over that letter, according to his aides. and he's in a good mood. he wants that message out. and i think we can expect that this is going to be a constant, constant drumbeat. we'll be waiting to see if president trump once he lands here on the south lawn will once again take an opportunity to talk to reporters, and we'll bring that to you if and when it happens, wolf. >> we'll see if he speaks to
reporters, if he goes into the press briefing room or if he makes a statement from another room over in the west wing of the white house. we'll, of course, have live coverage of that. that marine one flight only takes about 10 or 12 minutes to get from joint base andrews to the south lawn of the white house. kerry, you're our legal analyst. there is a lot of legal stuff going on right now. at least according to mueller, vindication, no collusion. no vindication of obstruction. he left it up to the attorney general. the deputy attorney general. they say there was no obstruction. but he was not completely exonerated by robert mueller. >> he was not. and so one point on obstruction and one on collusion. on obstruction, we're operating under i think a little bit of an assumption that the attorney general made this decision on obstruction in the last 48 hours. from the time that he received -- formally received the mueller report friday evening to this afternoon when he released that letter. i think that's probably not
likely. i think he was briefed. i think it's most likely the more likely process is that he was briefed on what the findings of the mueller report were sometime over the course of whether the last week, two weeks or several weeks. and then he had already formed his decision and consulted with the deputy attorney general on his decision that the evidence that the special counsel had developed did not meet the statutory standards set for obstruction. on collusion, i think clearly the special counsel's report, according to this letter is very clear. that they did not think the special counsel's office did not think that the evidence established a criminal level of conspiracy. in other words, individuals on the trump campaign being part of the russian intelligence conspiracy to defraud the united states. but i think it raises a real question for 2020 about what is activity that is okay. because attorney general barr's letter says there were multiple
offers from russian-affiliated individuals to assist the trump campaign. it is silent as to whether they accepted some of that assistance. it just simply says that they didn't coordinate and they weren't part of the conspiracy. and so i think one question that congress is really going to have to wrestle with is what level of activity is acceptable. otherwise we could go into the 2020 election with campaigns being under the impression that communication, some level of being in receipt of offers from foreign powers is okay, even if it doesn't rise to the level of criminal conspiracy. and as a national security lawyer, that doesn't sound right. >> hold on one second. in the instructions that robert mueller received from the then agenti agent acting attorney general, rod rosenstein, his instruction were to investigate any links and/or coordination -- there wasn't a word collusion. wasn't conspiracy. it was coordination between the russian government and
individuals associated with the campaign of president donald trump. so they investigated that, and on the issue of coordination, he concluded, mueller, there certainly wasn't enough coordination to justify criminal charges. >> to justify criminal charges. so what i'm suggesting, there may be some gray space in between activity that is offers from a foreign power to assist a campaign. there is some space in between that, and what is criminal conspiracy. and i just think as a country, we need to think more about that. >> can i just back up what you just said, with a sentence from this report? because it's -- not this report -- the conclusions. the russians tried. they reached out. >> right. >> and it says, the special counsel did not find that the trump campaign or anyone associated conspired or coordinated with the russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from russian affiliated individuals to assist the trump campaign. >> and it's worth underscoring, we're not just talking about a foreign power. we're talking about a hostile
foreign power, right, that was trying to undermine our democracy. and the trump campaign folks, they got these treaties, essentially, from the russians. we know president trump was out there publicly encouraging it in essence, by saying russia, if you're listening to me. so, again, there's a lot of suspicious activity. and some of it, frankly, improper for a presidential campaign to be doing. >> he also -- you know, he also writes that they didn't conspire. >> right. >> so while, you know, donald trump junior had the meeting in trump tower, he didn't dismiss the meeting. he took the meeting, but mueller's finding is that he didn't conspire with the russians. >> commit a crime. >> and that didn't rise to the level of a crime. >> we can't forget the fact that a lot of people lied about all of this, right? michael cohen lied, papadopoulos lied. and we have to keep in mind what investigators must have been thinking when they're seeing all
of this suspicious activity and then when they start confronting people or start asking questions, people are lying to them. so, of course, your antennas go up as an investigator. there's got to be something more here. you know, it is -- this definitely is one of the things that -- the line you read, dana, goes to the trump tower meeting. >> and from our own reporting in 2016, we know that this is what propelled the fbi's suspicion and why they were investigating this. >> not the dassier. >> not the dossier. >> why wouldn't it? >> these people -- the russians were talking about what they were trying to do. the fbi knew what the russians had done to break into the e-mails, to try to weaponize it. and then there seemed to be behavior of people around the trump campaign and it raised additional questions. >> and the russians are talking about doing this, and talking about how they have people inside the trump campaign they can deal with and talk to. and the intelligence community, people who work for james clapper, are sitting there, monitoring this, listening to this, and they're like, what is going on here. and that is what launches this
entire investigation. >> so, kerry, are you saying that because they were willing participants in these meetings, even though they weren't conspiring, that something needs to be done legally to say, you can't do that? i thought you couldn't do that? >> it seems obvious. >> well, i think it's something for congress to think about. because, you know, remember when we all first started covering this investigation, there was the phrase, collusion is not a crime. >> right. >> well, then the special counsel came up with a legal theory that conspiracy to defraud the united states was the legal mechanism that they were going to use to prosecute this case. members of the trump campaign clearly, according to the special counsel's office, were not part of that conspiracy that met the legal standard that they could prove. and they weren't part of that actual legal conspiracy. but what i'm asking is, from congress' perspective and as a country, are we willing to go into another election cycle where it's okay to have meetings with a hostile foreign power, to take tmeeting, not report it to
the fbi? >> if you look at what the fbi did, and the way this investigation was handled, i think if anyone thinks about doing that again, or i think people should be very -- >> they would be very stupid. >> very stupid, right. and i -- >> it seems obvious. >> isn't this perhaps the vindication that it's okay to do? that's what i'm suggesting. isn't this result perhaps a suggestion that it was okay to take those meetings? >> it wasn't. i mean, it wasn't. and without informing counsel. >> it was not a crime. >> it wasn't a crime, but what we hear -- >> what we're hearing from the president is that i'm 100% exonerated. everything we did under the campaign was okay. >> right. >> and what i'm suggesting is it may not have been. >> and the question is, dana, very quickly, impeachment. are they going to do anything or listen to nancy pelosi and say, forget about it? >> we're not there yet. i think the most important thing that we're going to look for next is what jerry nadler just said, which is he's going to have barr come up, they're going to grill him on this, maybe even mueller. and then they're going to take
the next step. >> and i promise there will be live cnn coverage. >> we'll be here. >> before the house judiciary committee and reports on all of this. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. thanks very much for joining us. our breaking news coverage continues right now with my colleague, ana cabrera, in new york. ♪ it is 7:00 eastern, 4:00 in the afternoon out west. i'm ana cabrera in new york, you are live in the "cnn newsroom." our breaking news this hour, president trump, in his words, complete and total exoneration. that is his reaction to the robert mueller investigation that spent nearly two years looking for collusion. and according to the justice department, did not find it. here's the president just a short time ago. >> so after a long look, after a