tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN April 18, 2019 2:00pm-3:01pm PDT
amendment right not to testify or incriminate themselves. whether they found is inadequate or not is frankly beside the point. that's a situation in which the president and this instance listened to his lawyers and got good legal advice about how to handle this. and he followed it. >> robert ray, thanks for your time. we appreciate it. our coverage on cnn continues right now. ♪ this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we're following breaking news. robert mueller's bombshell report is now out with the special counsel stating flatly that it does not exonerate president trump and is unable to conclude that the president did not commit obstruction of justice. mueller did find repeated efforts by the president to derail his investigation saying obstruction failed because aides -- aides to the president refused to carry out orders.
mueller's investigation lays out in stunning detail russia's sweeping and systematic attack on the 2016 presidential election here in the united states. but while the report finds that president trump's aides embraced russia's efforts to damage hillary clinton's campaign, on the issue of collusion, it did not find that americans conspired or coordinated with the russians. the president is proclaiming victory. while democrats are furious over the attorney general william barr's handling of the redacted report, they are demanding that the full version with all underlying evidence be released and demanding that robert mueller himself testify before congress. our correspondents, analysts and guests will have full coverage of the day's historic developments. let's go to our senior justice correspondent evan perez and our crime and justice reporter shimon prokupecz. the number of ways the president tried to interfere in the
russian probe, according to this mueller report, is truly extensive. but mueller didn't make a decision on the very sensitive, explosive issue of obstruction of justice. tell us why. >> well, wolf, this report really does go into chapter and verse of various ways in which the president essentially was trying to derail this investigation. and it wasn't for the lack of trying. it was simply because multiple people that the president was giving instructions to refused to carry out his orders. that begins with the white house counsel don mcgahn who repeatedly refused to pass on instructions to fire robert mueller. he tried to pass on messages to one of his closest aides, corey l lewandowski, to get jeff sessions to denounce the investigation. that instruction also went sideways. in another part of this investigation, the collusion investigation is very clearly throughout the period of 2016,
during the time of the campaign, there were multiple efforts by people close to then-candidate donald trump to try to essentially encourage the help of the russians, according to the special counsel report. the trump campaign knew what the russians were up to and thought they could benefit from it. in the end, the special counsel decided they could not bring or could not find enough evidence to bring charges of conspiracy or even of violating campaign finance laws. the obstruction of justice part of this investigation, wolf, is going to live on simply because, as you said, the special counsel could not or did not make a decision on whether or not the president broke the law. in essence, what the special counsel decided was to leave it up to congress. exactly what we heard the opposite of from attorney general bill barr. if you remember, he said that he made the decision there was no obstruction because the special counsel didn't make a recommendation either way. it's clear from this document
today, wolf, that the special counsel simply decided that, you know, there wasn't enough evidence to charge the president, but at the same time, they could not exonerate him, and they were leaving it up essentially to the political branchs to try to sort this out. >> shimon, mueller says the president's attempts to interfere in the russia investigation were unsuccessful because the people around him refused to carry out his orders. but the president still tried. how significant is that distinction. >> yeah, that distinction was something the mueller report really went into in great detail. and, remember, leading up to this, we had heard there were facts and legal issues surrounding this investigation which is, in part, why mueller cannot come to any kind of agreement. and when you read this report, mueller really goes into detail concerning that issue, wolf. specifically in the report he writes the president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful because of people like don mcgahn. don mcgahn who is white house counsel.
the president wanted him to basically fire sessions at one point. wanted him to do other kinds of things. and because he refused to carry out some of what the president wanted, essentially he may have saved the president. and the idea also is that perhaps some of these people knew they'd be breaking the law if they carried out the president's wishes. and so by not doing so, they may have saved themselves, obviously, but also the president, wolf. >> evan, investigators show the president was clearly fearful of mueller's overall investigation saying he thought he was f'd. used a bad word, f'd. what does mueller conclude about the president's motives? >> well, that's one of the most interesting parts of this investigation, wolf. the president doesn't fire mueller. and it's not -- obviously, not for the lack of trying. and one of the key moments that's described in the report is that example. is that episode. right after he learns that robert mueller has been
appointed by rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, the president sinks into his chair, according to an account that the special counsel received and said, oh, my god, this is the end of my presidency. i am f'd. and so that is where, again, the special counsel is looking at this and looks at it as certainly a description of an intent by the president to try to interfere with the investigation, but again, because in the end the special counsel was able to conclude this investigation, they had the white house was able to interview a number of -- dozens of witnesses, including people inside the white house. the president allowed all these interviews to take place. in the end, the special counsel and certainly the justice department decided that there was enough information that in the end, this was not considered obstruction of justice. again, it wasn't for the lack of trying that the president was trying to obstruct the investigation. some of it we saw in plain si t
sight, but in then, the special counsel decided there wasn't enough evidence here to bring a case of obstruction of justice against the president and just left it essentially open. >> all right. let me go to sarah maury. you've been going through this report. >> according to this report, the president said the special counsel being named was the first thing that ever happened to him and lays out in painstaking detail all the ways president trump tried to curtail this investigation. the special counsel's long-awaited report revealing just how deeply president trump feared the russia report and the length the president went to to try to influence the election. when trump learned robert mueller was appointed, he slumped back in his chair sd said, oh, my god, this is terrible. this is the end of my presidency. i'm f'd. mueller makes clear he could not clear trump of obstruction of justice writhe the president's actions and intent keeps us from
determining that criminal activity occurred. mueller writes the president was only unsuccessful because the people around him declined to carry out orders or cede to his requests. like june 17th, 2017, when trump directed white house counsel don mcgahn to have mueller fired. mcgahn declined to do so saying he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential saturday night massacre. and two days later, in a previously unknown example, detailed in the report, trump met with former campaign aide cory lewandowski and dictated a message intended for jeff sessions. in the message, sessions was told to publicly announce the investigation was very unfair to the president and he should not be subject to an investigation because he hasn't done anything wrong. the message was never delivered. still the redacted report concludes the trump campaign did not criminally conspire with the
russians, but trump had other reasons to dread the investigation. according to the report, the evidence does indicate that a thorough fbi investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the president personally that the president could have understood to be crimes or would give rise to personal and political concerns. cnn has reported at least 16 trump associates had russian contacts during the campaigner transition. according to mueller's report, the campaign expected it would benefit electoralally from information stolen and released through russian efforts. but the investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in its election interference. the june 2016 trump tower meeting just one of the moments the trump campaign appeared eager to accept russian assistance. but mueller's team declined to prosecutor donald trump jr. and campaign staffers saying a prosecution could encounter difficulties proving that campaign officials or individuals connected to the campaign willfully violated the law. the special counsel also
investigated the rumor that russia had compromising tapes of trump from previous visits to moscow. in october of 2016, michael cohen received a text from a russian businessman. it said stopped flow of tapes from russia but not sure if there's anything else. the businessman told prosecutors he was told the tapes were fake. mueller's team answering a key question. why didn't they interview the president? they believed the had the authority to subpoena trump and found his written answers inadequate, mueller's team believed it would delay the investigation. we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the president's testimony. while attorney general william barr has cleared trump of criminal wrongdoing, mueller points out congress can still investigate. congress has the authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice. barr, meanwhile, is already under fire for providing political cover for trump. in a press conference before the report was even released.
>> it has the special counsel's report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks. >> reporter: as the president today declared -- >> i'm having a good day, too. it was called no collusion, no obstruction >> reporter: bar using the president's words, too. >> special counsel found no collusion, no evidence of the trump campaign collusion, as he said from the beginning. there was, in fact, no collusion. >> reporter: now democrats are calling on mueller to testify and barr says he won't stand in the way. >> i have no objection to bob mueller personally testifying. >> bill barr offered a rosy assessment when he did that press conference with reporters. we'll wait and see if bob
mueller goes to the hill and if we'll hear from the man himself. >> thanks very much, sara. i want to bring in our political and legal analyst jeffrey toobin. on the issue of obstruction of justice, mueller in this lengthy report lays out 11 specific episodes, as he calls them, areas of investigation. we'll put them up on the screen as you can see all those various episodes they investigated. what's the strongest case that you see there against the president? >> there's a lot of competition. they're all bad. but the two i would focus on are the instruction to don mcgahn to fire -- >> don mcgahn the white house counsel? >> which is an out and out attempt to interfere with the investigation. unsuccessful because mcgahn resisted it. it's a crime to endeavor to obstruct justice, not just to obstruct justice. the other is the one that started the thing in the first place which is the firing of james comey which is not an
attempt. it is an actual act by the president. and it's those two are symbolic of all of them, but when you see 11, it's a pretty extraordinary record of interference and attempted interference in this investigation. >> how damning, laura coats, is the investigation against the president on this issue of obstruction. >> it's extraordinarily damaging. normally the idea of quality over quantity is going to be an issue. when you don't have the actual intent that the president was actually intending to obstruct justice, the overall culmination of these things, the quality and quantity is going to be very important here. we have overwhelming information, 11 separate categories. it removes the idea he's ignorant of the law of obstruction of justice. it shows that he endeavored repeatedly in the course of, according to barr, cooperating in other respects, and he was well aware his actions could be construed to violate the law. so in trying to find all these people, it's the sheer volume of the information around that. and, remember, part of it was
publicly known. other aspects of it were not. and the idea that robert mueller was wringing his hand somehow, confounded about what to do or whether there was obstruction is false. he was just trying to figure out with all of the information, coupled with the doj guidelines not to indict a sitting president, what am i to do? that's particularly damning. it's not confusion. it's a matter of your hands being tied. >> very quickly, dana, i want to make the point, it looks like potentially mueller was laying out a road map for congress to launch impeachment proceedings. >> he explicitly says that -- maybe not explicitly, but close to it that, as you said, his hands were tied because constitutionally, the structure of the government in particular when talking about the president of the united states, there's not much he can do, but it's the responsibility of the congress to take that question up. he says so very much in this
report. what's interesting is that i spoke with the house majority leader just about an hour ago, steny hoyer, and he said to me that based on what they've seen to date going forward on impeachment, which is what we're talking about here is not worthwhile at this point because he said there's an election in 18 months, and the american people will make a judgment. so already we're seeing the leadership in the house try to stick with what they were talking about before the mueller report came out, which is that politically this is not the road they want to go down with an election coming up, but already you're seeing pushback from some of the rank and file and democratic grassroots saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, we're not there yet. >> i want to bring in democratic congressman jim himes. from your perspective, what's most concerning? what's the most concerning new information you learned in this 400-page report? >> well, i think i have two conclusions, and i've read most
of it, but not all of it. the conclusion is number one, the american people, each and every american needs to read this report so they see with the detail that's only been available to members of the intelligence committee and some select few in congress about exactly how russia attacked our election. how they used twitter and facebook and social media and fake rallies and the reason americans need to look at that is because if we don't sensitize ourselves to that, the russians will do it again. now there's a whole other piece on the attacks and we knew more about this, the attacks on the networks at the dnc and dccc. a lot of americans can do to stay more secure and keep their networks more secure. the other big thing, wolf, and you were alluding to it in your conversation there, what a remarkable description of just gangster-like behavior on the part of the president being rescued by the refusal of his subordinates to do things they felt were illegal or ill
advised, ordering people to give messages to jeff sessions. i mean, just lying, knowingly lying. the press secretary knowingly lying. again, i believe that the leadership in the house is probably very skeptical of impeachment because they know that there is no fact pattern. there is no crime that would cause republican members of congress and most importantly republican members of the senate to turn on this president. >> you need a majority in the house for impeachment but two-thirds majority. 67 senators to convict. but that's clearly not on the books. not likely to happen at least right now. what big questions, and i know you say you haven't read the complete report, but from what you read, what big questions are still left unanswered? >> well, from the standpoint of my committee, the intelligence committee, the work we have to do now is not to duplicate or to second guess the work of bob
mueller. one of the good -- we sort of have to take our victories as we can. the report got out. its redactions weren't as extensive as they might have been. it would appear the white house didn't demand the exclusion of material they'd exclude as a result of executive privilege. so what my committee now needs to do is to think about this from a counterintelligence standpoint. are there elements of the many interactions that donald trump and his people and his family and his campaign had with the russians that could provide the russians with something to hold over them, starting with the president? that gets to business dealings. it gets to possible financing mechanisms. and so my guess is that that is, in as much as anything remains to be checked that it relates to the counterintelligence questions around the very, very many contacts, many of them lied about, that the trump campaign had with russia.
>> where do you stand on the issue of beginning impeachment proceedings against the president? do you think the president of the united states, congressman, should be impeached? >> well, wolf, it's a terrible box to be in, right? it's clear to me from reading the report that mueller did not make a decision about criminality and obstruction because he understood the department he works for had a policy not to indict. so he basically handed it over to congress to make that decision. by the way, a whole other topic of conversation. that the attorney general decided he would weigh in on this issue after what mueller did and said is outrageous. but here's the thing. it's a terrible box to be in because the constitution would demand that impeachment proceedings at least be initiated. impeachment is not necessarily about removing the president. impeachment is a process whereby you review the data, the information and decide, collectively as a congress, whether the president should
remain as president. however, again, and maybe i'm cynical or maybe i just spend a lot of time around the capitol, there is -- i'm a subscriber to the fifth avenue theory which is that the president could kill somebody and the republicans would still line up behind him. so if you begin impeachment, even if you impeach in the house, the probability the senate would then convict is, i think, sadly, today, exactly zero. and so other than the need to sort of hold the president accountable and do that investigation, you've gone through a year, a year and a half of work where we haven't been working on infrastructure and retirement and student loans and all the things we should be looking on, only to have the senate do what is perfectly predictable and not, not convict the president. >> thank you for joining us. eric swalwell of california is joining us. also a member of the intelligence committee, the
judiciary and also a candidate for the 2020 democratic presidential nomination. thanks to you for joining us. the special counsel says there are gaps in the investigation due to lies and destruction of evidence by some witnesses. do you believe your committee can fill in some of those gaps? >> we absolutely have to, wolf, to understand if the russians are still in our democracy. this was essentially a termite report, and our democracy is rotting right now with the number of russians who worked with this president, his family, his businesses, his campaign, his transition and the administration. and they're not leaving unless we do something about it. so, you know, of course there's going to be a conversation about impeachment. but for me, what i'm most concerned about is, do we have a secure election in 2020. not just secure from what the russians want to do but all the other countries now who will look at us and ask, are they going to respond, or are they going to do nothing? they may see it as an opportunity to hack and interfere as well.
>> we expectior committee, the intelligence committee, to get an unredacted version. there may be some stuff that's blacked out involving grand jury testimony, but all the classified information, for example, all the other information that was redacted will be made available on a confidential basis to your committee. you welcome that. that will help you, right? >> we want it all, wolf. the only way to protect future interference campaigns is to know who the russians worked with, how they did it and what reforms we have to put in place. we should see it all. the american people paid for this report. congress should see it and we should let the american people see as much as -- >> some of -- some of those redacted pages involving intelligence gathering, sources and methods, without revealing any sources and methods, what do you want to see? >> i want to see exactly who the russians worked with, how they did it on their end, what we know from our -- the way we collect intelligence. what do we know about what they are doing so we can stop it
going forward in the future. but there's also going to be an raerks era of reformation. because the president didn't meet the legal standard of collusion and because a prior congress did not imagine someone would conduct themselves the way the president's team did, doesn't mean we shouldn't write laws to protect this from happening. i've written "duty to protect" which says if you're offered illicitly obtained materials from a foreign agent, you have to tell the fbi. that's certainly should be the case knowing how many people on the trump campaign were offered dirt. >> we just heard your colleague jim himes, his thoughts on the possibility of impeaching the president, launching impeachment procedures in the house of representatives. what's your take? >> my take is that's a conversation we need to have now. we're not farther away from impeachment. if anything, when you read about this conduct, we need to figure out how we'll hold this president accountable. first things first, though. i think the attorney general should resign immediately. he can either be the attorney general of the united states or
the president's lawyer. he can't be both and he's been acting as the president's lawyer in the way that he applied for the job, the way he refused to recuse himself and the way he's accused the fbi and intelligence community of spying on the administration. and his mischaracterization today of what the mueller report actually shows. he should go. >> when you say he should go, what do you want? you want him to resign? >> i think attorney general barr should resign. i think he's lost the confidence of the american people. he can join the president's legal team if he wants but that's what he's doing now. and that's not what the attorney general of the united states is charged with. >> he's not going to -- clearly he's not going to resign. he is going to come before the judiciary committee, i think, may 27bd. the senate judiciary committee on may 1st. what's the single most important question you want to ask him? >> i want to know where does he differ in opinion with special counsel mueller because it looks like he has characterized the report in one way and the mueller report says something completely different. and, of course, i want to know,
now that you know the russians did this, what are you doing leading the department to make sure they don't continue to do this and that no other country does it again. this always has to be the future. we look to the past to inform us about how to protect us against future interference. and i want to know if he's capable of leading. >> on the senve issue of impeachment, the majority whip, steny hoyer, one of the leaders of the democratic party, the majority leader, i should say, he is saying it's not worth it to start impeachment proceedings right now. just wait for the next election. what's your reaction to that? >> well, we -- regardless of what happens if donald trump is still around in november 2020, we should remove him at the ballot box. but i don't think we should take impeachment off the table. this is very concerning. he is a double-digit obstructor by bob mueller's count. and the conduct during the campaign, the transition and even as president with the russians does not meet the standard of conduct we want from a president of the united states. i would not take it off the
table. >> going to let you go. i know you're campaigning in massachusetts, neighboring new hampshire, for the democratic presidential nomination. i'll let you go. congressman, thanks for joining us. >> my pleasure. let's get back to our panel. bianna, let me get your reaction to what we just heard from the democratic lawmakers. >> i think what a lot of people's reaction has been to barr's behavior and whether or not you can characterize his assessment from the get-go last month when he received mueller's report as misleading. and one of the reasons being compare that four-page memo he issued just two days after receiving the report to what we heard from mueller today. and that is this specific line. if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we could so state. that was put in there intentionally and for a reason, and there does seem to be at least the appearance that the attorney general cherry picked his words. in those four pages and even what we heard from him,
testimony before congress and this morning. >> phil mudd, what do you want to see if you had a chance from some of the redacted material on national security or intelligence? >> i mean, as an intelligence professional, i was actually surprised how much material showed up in the public domain today. i think the conversation i'd like to see is not the redacted material or the intelligence. it's the conversations at the department of justice between former director mueller, special counsel mueller and the leadership of the department of justice, in particular, rod rosenstein and bill barr about the decision not to move forward on obstruction of justice. i thought some of the information on russia was more interesting than i anticipated. i think it's been underreported today. but the obstruction stuff, including the legal conversation about what was appropriate to charge a president with was really interesting. and we don't get a flavor from the report about, a, why mueller chose specifically not to move forward there, in particular,
would he have moved forward if this hadn't been the president of the united states and what the flavor was of his conversation with the department of justice leadership. i look ford that when he does testimony. >> he clearly accepted the longstanding justice department guidance that a sitting president of the united states cannot be indicted. one of the reasons presumably why he decided, jeffrey toobin, not to recommend charges. >> and one reason why barr's two statements were so misleading, when you read the reasoning of mueller for why he expressed his obstruction of justice position the way he did, he said that he honored and would follow the policy that there was no -- that you can't prosecute a sitting president. so he said if i were to recommend a prosecution, the president would have no forum to defend himself against those charges. the charges would just sit out there. so he was simply going to lay out the evidence. that's very different -- >> very. >> -- from any sort of
exoneration. in fact, it's closer to an incriminating statement than an exoneration. and barr completely misled the public about that. >> can i follow up because i have that part right here. >> hold on. >> i have that part right here because he very, very explicitly says what jeffrey is alluding to that it's because of the legal standards that they are unable to reach the judgment that he should be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. but as i mentioned before, it says the conclusion that congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt -- applies with the principle that no person is above the law. explicitly says, this is for you, congress. >> congress, you carry the ball right now. samanth alet's not forget what the name of this 400-page report was. report on the investigation into russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. and if you read the first few pages, the bottom line conclusion of the mueller team,
quote, the russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. that's in contrast to so much -- so many times we've heard a very different assertion by the president of the united states. >> that's true, wolf. and it's also true there is no exoneration for president trump from the counterintelligence perspective. i read this document. i'm a pretty careful reader. i don't see anywhere in those pages, any indication that the counterintelligence investigation that was launched into president trump has concluded. we have not seen that in writing in this report, and potentially members of congress will ask bob mueller about that if he testifies. let's be clear. this report is a gift to the government of russia. this is a very proud moment for vladimir putin for several reasons. first, we know that he likes to use controversial and inflammatory issues as a weapon. he'll weaponize this report to continue to sow divisions, spread confusion and undermine
the credibility of our institution. reason number two, we have every reason to assume that president trump used this document as a green light to continue doing what he was doing on the campaign. he's claiming that because there are no criminal -- further criminal indictments against him or members of his team, he didn't do anything wrong. so we should expect him to continue this behavior going forward in the 2020 campaign cycle. and finally, wolf, as phil mentioned, this report lays out in excruciating detail a multipronged, sustained and systematic attack against the united states using all kind of tools. president trump was just one of them. from an intelligence operations standpoint, vladimir putin launched a very successful operation that is still ongoing. >> and you get more specifics from the president in particular. remember, he never wanted to accept publicly that the russians were involved, that the russians were attacking the united states in our voting system, even though not only his own intelligence community but
also those around him, his closest advisers all admitted, when do you think the russians did this, and he said yes and he was only as willing to go as far as, we'll acknowledge that we want to prevent russia from doing this in the future, for future elections but they had nothing to do with my victory. >> one of the russian goals was to sow division, discord in the united states. mission accomplished on the part of the russians. joining us now exclusively, in his first tv interview since the report was released, house intelligence committee chairman adam schiff of california. thanks for joining us. and i know you want to see the full unredacted mueller report, but let's focus in first of all on the information that was just made public, and there's a ton of information in that 400-page report. what's the most important new information that you learned today? >> well, look. i think the most important top line is the one you've been discussing, and that's that the
russians engaged in this sweeping and systematic effort to interfere in our eks lerks and they did so to help a person in donald trump this was pointed in the favor of one campaign and against the other. all the president's dissembling about how the russians interfered or preferred him, the special counsel came out and said, yes, they did, and it was to help the trump campaign. it also itemizes in far greater detail than has been public thus far, any number of interactions between trump campaign people and the russians. we learned for example, for the first time, that the campaign through manafort was providing polling data over an extended period of time to someone linked to russian intelligence. we learned more granularity about the trump tower meeting in new york and the president president's efforts to mislead the country about what that meeting was about. and, of course, most significantly, we learned about numerous acts of obstruction of justice by the president of the united states. and i completely concur with the
analysis you've been hearing that mueller seems to have wanted that issue to go to congress. bill barr ergated unto himself the decision that the president could nobt held liable for obstruction of justice. that was his appointed task. that's why he was picked by donald trump, and he did what he was appointed to do. and i think in his characterization, in his mischaracterization of the special counsel's work, both on obstruction and on conspiracy, bill barr has done a grave disservice to the country. >> what do you think should happen to him? >> well, look, there's not much that can happen to him. i mean, he's doing what he's doing because it pleases donald trump. that is sadly his aim. he views himself as the lawyer for the president, not the lawyer for the people of the united states of america. and that's the way the longevity in the trump administration. you sing along the president's songbook, whether that's making bogus claims of spying on the president's campaign or making
bogus claims of no collusion. in fact, bob mueller was quite explicit that he didn't reach whether collusion occurred as that term is known colloquially, only whether he could prove a criminal conspiracy in his attempts to sugarcoat what the president did. and gloss over the president's refusal to cooperate with the investigation, refusal to testify verbally, his efforts to try to get others to mislead the country. i think barr showed he should have never have been confirmed for the job in the first place. >> you've been investigating russian interference in the u.s. presidential election for two years. did anything that you read -- and i assume you went through most of the 400 pages so far -- really surprise you? >> you know, i can't say that it really surprised me because, although i certainly learned new things in the report, and i'm still going through it. i've gone through much of it but have more work to do.
what we see that we didn't know before is so consistent with what we did know. and that is that the trump campaign people were more than willing to have the help of a hostile foreign power. they were open to it. it's quite striking to see in black and white the special counsel, for example, say that in answer to this offer of help with dirt on hillary clinton, the president's son said, yes, he would accept that help. and with respect to all of these contacts, whether it's the details around the early interactions with george papadopoulos in which a member of the trump campaign was first made aware in april of 2016 that the russians had thousands of clinton emails and they could help the campaign by unanimously releasing them, from that point to trump, you know, egging the russians on to hack these emails, celebrating wikileaks dozens of times on the campaign trail, we see this pattern now in far greater detail of a campaign willing to act
unethically, unmorally, unpatriotically, whether it was a crime or not. >> the president didn't have a news conference at the white house before he left the white house for florida. but he did
just tweet this among other things. he said, i had the right to end the whole witch hunt if i wanted. i could have fired everyone, including mueller, if i wanted. i chose not to. i had the right to use executive privilege. i didn't. what's your reaction? >> well, from the first to the end, false statements. when he says he chose not to end the mueller investigation, that wasn't for lack of trying on his part. and what we learned from mueller was, in fact, he wanted mcgahn to fire him and mcgahn refused. so yet it's quite telling on the day of the issuance of this report, the president again faking false statements that are directly contra dicted by bob mueller. democrats have been pushing to see the full unredacted report. you're the chairman of the intelligence committee. you'll get almost all of it, except for some grand jury information, we're told. what key information was missing
from the version, do you believe, that was made public today? >> well, you can see there were sections of the report that were redacted that discuss why the special counsel made certain prosecutorial decisions, particularly around wikileaks and the trump campaign. now that may go to the ongoing case against roger stone but there were other sections that were redacted that concern other interactions between the trump campaign, some around that trump tower new york meeting. some involve grand jury material. we'll need to get all of that information that barr was sincere about wanting to be transparent, and clearly he's not. he would have sought the court's permission to share that. nonetheless, we'll make sure we get it. one other very important point, though, wolf, is the special counsel makes it clear that there was a counterintelligence investigation that was ongoing as well. and those findings, some of them are not included in this report. we need to see all of those
findings. we need to see them unredacted but also see those that didn't even make the report because that goes to information as to whether the president or people around him are acting in russia's interest and not our own interest, whether it's because of financial interest and wanting to build towers in moscow or for any other reason. the american people and the congress need to know. >> mueller doesn't appear to have pursued some areas of high interest, including the president's finances, his business dealings. what are the big open questions that you and your committee, the intelligence committee, are hoping to investigate? >> well, that's absolutely right. and it's clear because the special counsel sets out his scope in the beginning of the report that, at least the special counsel viewed it beyond his efforts. but nonetheless, if there are other financial entanglements between the president and russia, if the russians were laundering money through the business, or if others, like
kushner, were seeking business or financing in the gulf or elsewhere and that's influenced u.s. policy, vis-a-vis russia or saudi arabia or qatar or anywhere else, obviously, we need to know because it means we need to take steps to protect the country. so those areas of investigation are ongoing because, among other things, they simply were not ln the purview of what bob mueller did. >> steny hoyer said just a little while ago that pursuing impeachment in the house of representatives at this time wouldn't be worthwhile. do you agree? >> well, you know, that decision is above my pay grade, but i do agree that, as i've been saying for some time, and i think it's consistent also with the speaker's own view of the matter, the evidence would have to be quite overwhelming and demonstrable and such that it would generate bipartisan support for the idea that it renders the president unfit for office. many of us do think the president is unfit for office. but unless that's a bipartisan
conclusion, an impeachment would be doomed to failure. i continue to think that a failed impeachment is not in the national interest, and so we'll see what's been redacted from this report. we'll continue to do our own work. but barring a bipartisan consensus, it's very hard to see how that effort would be successful. >> it wouldn't be a successful conviction in the senate but impeachment in the house of representatives simply requires a majority vote, and the democrats have a clear majority. you don't think a majority of the democrats would vote for impeachment? >> i don't know the answer to that, but i do feel that much as i did when i was a prosecutor that you don't bring a case if you don't believe you're going to be successful with it just to try the case. we are going to continue to do our oversight and expose what's happened, although, frankly, a lot of the dramatically and i think corrupt conduct by the president is now out in the
open, through the mueller report and what we knew prior to the mueller report. but that fully needs to be exposed. and i think we can continue to do our oversight through the various committees. it doesn't have to be done through an investigation as part of an impeachment. so, again, my conclusion, consistent with what you're hearing from our leadership is, without the bipartisan consensus that would make it successful in the senate, there's little to be gained by putting the country through that wrenching experience. >> basically you agree with steny hoyer, the majority leader in the house of representatives, at least right now. don't start the house judiciary committee with impeachment proceedings. move on to some other issues but continue your overall investigation. >> wolf, i -- >> go ahead. >> i want to make one thing perfectly clear as well. and that is that it is not sufficient for the justice department to maintain that you can't indict a sitting president. and we're not going to share with you the grand jury material
that may be necessary for you to consider an impeachment unless you begin an impeachment. so i think we are at the stage preliminary to a judicial proceeding that entitles the congress to the grand jury material and, what's more, i think the intelligence committee as an independent basis because that grand jury material goes to foreign intelligence and counterintelligence that we have a statutory right to acquire. so that information needs to be shared with the congress, regardless of whether impeachment proceeding is commenced. >> the whole issue is not above your pay grade. i will say this, congressman. adam schiff of california, the chairman of the intelligence committee, thanks for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. let's get more analysis from our analysts and correspondents. the whole issue of impeachment right now, jeffrey toobin? >> that's always more of a political question than a legal question. i would just like to respond to something the president said in the tweet. >> let me read it again. i have the right to end the whole witch hunt if i wanted. i could have fired everyone, including mueller, if i wanted.
i chose not to. i had the right to use executive privilege, i didn't. >> that's not true. he can't do anything for any reason he wants. if someone walked into the oval office and said here's a suitcase full of cash, end the mueller investigation, do you think anybody would object to that? he can't act for any reason or no reason. the prohibition on acting corruptly, which is what's involved in obstruction of justice, applies to him like it applies to everyone else. the idea that he could fire mueller simply because he didn't like the russia investigation and he was worried that it would implicate him, that's not the law. and that's not right what he said. >> what i'll tell you jeffrey, and you probably had conversations similar to ones i've had in that i've talked to more than one trump attorney who has -- they've been telling the president effectively what he said. maybe not that starkly in his tweet for months, even more than a year that you are the president. it is -- you're in charge of the
executive branch and you have a right to hire and fire. he's been told that by -- >> but the issue has been is was the justication for it and his inner circle even advising him many times he brought up the conflict of interest he had with mueller and thus mueller couldn't oversee the investigation. his inner circle even said that was ridiculous. >> if anything you want to do is wonderful, he cannot do that. adam schiff had an important point here which is while obstruction of justice about the president is important, unless they give congress everything, they are obstructing an opportunity to have impeachment proceedings even begin. >> if they begin impeachment proceedings, they'll have a better argument to get some of that grand jury material. everybody stand by. much more on all the breaking news on this historic day right after this. if you have moderate to severe psoriasis
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we're following breaking news. the release of special counsel robert mueller's report. let's go to jim acosta. we learned that the president's aides refused to carry out some of his orders. tell us how significant that is. >> it's very significant. the president when he left the white house for florida did not take any questions from reporters, despite the fact top white house aides were telling us he'd do just that. it shows the president knows there are some tough questions out there that he doesn't want to answer, first and foremost, this revelation in the mueller report that he instructed his white house counsel don mcgahn to fire special counsel robert mueller. one thing we should point out, the white house held a conference call with some of its surrogates. we obtained some of the excerpts from that conference call. in this conference call, a white house official is telling some of the white house surrogates
one of the reasons behind this, and you just talked about this in the president's tweet. it says here, according to this conference call, white house official said the president did not fire sessions, mueller or rosenstein, even though he had the power to do so. the president basically just tweeted about that. so that gives us a sense as to how the president is going to respond to all of this. but, wolf, i also talked to a trump adviser who has been with the president, advised the president for a long time about this instruction to don mcgahn to get rid of special counsel robert mueller and it's a stunning admission according to this trump adviser from time to time, aides and advisers to the president do not carry out his orders. and say that essentially he's just talking out loud. and that this was the rational potentially behind what was happening wuths don mcgahn. clearly don mcgahn said he did not want to trigger some kind of saturday night massacre, but it's alarming, wolf. you know this from covering presidents for a very long time.
particularly when the commander in chief, when the president of the united states instructs an aides or adviser to do something, that order is carried out unless, of going on into some of the other parts of this briefing that was given to some of the surrogates earlier today, one of the questions came up about this issue of obstruction and how robert mueller did not clear the president of obstruction. according to a white house official talking with trump surrogates earlier today, quote, that was a political statement, not a prosecutorial statement. so wolf, we're just starting to get some early warning signs that some of the talking points that the white house is going to be using here in the coming days to explain all of this, but wolf, one thing that is i think extremely unavoidable in the days to come and that is we were here on a daily basis covering the white house. we were lied to, we were misled on a regular basis, in terms of what was going on with this mueller investigation.
you recall the instance in the mueller report that gets to sarah sanders making this stunning admission to the special counsel's team that she was not really telling the press the truth when she said the reason why jim comey, the former fbi director, was fired was because he had lost the faith of the rank and file fbi agents in the bureau. wolf, that is not the case, and sarah sanders admitted as much in this mueller report. so there's instance after instance after instance where the white house was just not telling the public the straight story, and that was happening to us over here in the press corps on a regular basis. >> it certainly was. stand by, jim. i want to go to capitol hill right now. our senior congressional correspondent manu raju is joining us. congressional leaders are now reacting to the mueller report. tell us what's you're learning. >> house democrats are planning to pursue their investigations on multiple fronts in the aftermath of the release of this redacted report. first off the bat, the house judiciary committee plans to
subpoena as soon as tomorrow for the full mueller report and the underlying evidence, also there are five subpoenas that are authorized to former white house officials including don mcgahn, in order that the committee has already authorized, those could still be served some time soon to get more information that could fuel the democratic investigation into potential obstruction of justice. now, at the same time, expect bill barr to face sharp questions when he appears before the house judiciary committee in early may. jerry nadler made it clear he's not happy with the bay bill barr has handled the process, even as a top republican in the senate defended him. >> so far refused to work with the committee to provide us with information. the kind of information that has been customarily provided in the past and to which the judiciary committee is entitled. these concerns and many others will be addressed when barr testifies before the committee on may 2nd. even in its incomplete form,
however, the mueller report incomplete because part of it is redacted, even in its incomplete form, it outlines disturbing evidence that president trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct. >> you could not have asked for more objective individuals to be involved in this process. this investigation could not have been handled in a better way. >> now, also, wolf, the house intelligence committee does plan to pursue its own investigations, also looking into finances and whether the president was compromised in any way as democrats believe he may have been tied to foerp interests, something they believe the mueller report didn't fully explore. that's still a line of inquiry in the months ahead even as republicans say it's time to move on. wolf. >> manu, thanks very much. bianna, if people thought that with the release of this report, all this was over, guess what, it's not over if you listen to the democrats in the house of
representatives. >> not over any time soon. i think going back to the question of whether democrats will pursue impeachment or at least start talking about impeachment on a more regular and consistent basis, they're pausing, and that's because one thing we haven't heard is republicans speaking out in protest against the president or changing their views on the president following what came out of this report. in fact, you had the gop come out and say once again he has been vindicated. if i could say one more thing i was a bit surprised by from going through the report and that is someone who came out at least rather unscathed versus others and that's jeff sessions. because he remained defiant, when he recused himself, and that was the most angry many had seen the president, when he recused himself, he stuck to it. he offered and submitted the letter of resignation. the president toyed with it and held it for a couple days. he said he would be a hero if he unrecused himself. i don't even know if that's something you could do, but he
begged him in multiple areas not to recuse himself. he stuck to his ground and said i'm not going to do it, and there's ample reason why i should recuse myself. >> jeff sessions does come across nicely. his successor, bill barr, does not necessarily, based on what he said today and over the past few weeks, does not necessarily come out unscathed. >> indeed. one of the things i was surprised by that congressman himes said is we want to call witnesses but we don't want to call anybody mentioned here. this is all done. why wouldn't you call don mcgahn and have him tell that story to the public? just because it's 400 pages that a handful of people might read, why don't you see, let people see in person what it was like to have the president of the united states tell you to fire robert mueller. why don't you call jeff sessions again and have him tell the story of how the president berated him constantly to unrecuse himself. the idea that this report is
somehow everything that people need to know in the form that everybody needs to know seems wrong to me. >> everybody stick around. there's a lot more we're following. much more on the breaking news, the release of the special counsel robert mueller's report. analysis of all the new details it provides and a closer look at what congress may do next. we'll be right back. s blow out e candles together! ok, let's huff and puff. like you do sometimes, grandpa? well, when you have copd, it can be hard to breathe. so my doctor said... symbicort can help you breathe better- starting within 5 minutes. it doesn't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden symptoms. symbicort helps provide significant improvement of your lung function. symbicort is for copd, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. it should not be taken more than twice a day. it may increase your risk of lung infections, osteoporosis, and some eye problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. symbicort could mean a day with better breathing. watch out, piggies! ask your doctor if symbicort is right for you.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room" with all the breaking news unfolding this hour after the release of the mueller report. the special counsel revealing in stunning detail why his investigation does not exonerate president trump of criminal conduct on the issue of obstruction of justice. the redacted report describes repeated attempts by mr. trump to interfere with the russia probe, efforts that largely failed, only because the president's aides refused to follow his orders. mueller advising that congress still has the ability to find that the president obstructed justice. although the special counsel did not establish collusion, the report says the trump campaign expected to benefit from russia's illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election. our correspondents, analysts, guests are standing by as we cover this major breaking